Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Blessed State Of The Righteous Dead

Revelation 14:13

In describing the Revelation that was shown to him, John heard words of comfort.... Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the
Lord from now on.’” - Rev 14:13a. “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” - Rev 14:13b. What else does the Bible say about the state of the righteous dead...? What else does the Bible say in regards to the intermediate state, that period from the moment of one’s death until the resurrection of the last day? The answer depends upon what covenant was in force. But in both testaments we find words and imagery that suggests a condition of blessedness for the righteous dead.

Consider what we find during the Old Covenant. We can find word’s that comforted. The death of God’s saints was precious in His sight - Psa 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” The death of the righteous was rest and peace, confronting evil no longer - Isa 57:1-2 “The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.” -- Such words hinted of a blessed condition of the righteous dead in OT times.

We find imagery that consoled in the Old Covenant. The beggar Lazarus was consoled and comforted - Lk 16:19-22 ‘"There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried,” 25 “But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” The reference to Moses places this during the Old Covenant - Lk 16:29-31 “But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'" Jesus’ account accords somewhat with Greek concepts of Hades. The Greek conception of Hades was that of a locality receiving into itself all the dead, but divided into two regions, one a place of torment, the other of blessedness. - ISBE. Greeks referred to the place of torment as Tartarus; Peter did also - 2 Pe 2:4 “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;”. Jews viewed the place of blessedness where Abraham was as Paradise - Barnes. Jesus later promised the thief that he would be in Paradise - Lk 23:43 “And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."’ Which between His death and ascension must have still been in Hades. For after His death Jesus descended to Hades - Ac 2:27 “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.” Yet after His resurrection He had still not ascended to Heaven - Jn 20:17 “Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" -- The story of Lazarus and the promise to the thief on the cross illustrates the blessed state of the righteous at that time.

While the Old Covenant was still in effect, little was revealed about the state of the righteous dead. We now live under the New Covenant, where more is revealed and the blessedness is even greater. We find words of comfort used as Paul viewed his impending death as a departure, using “a metaphor drawn from loosing from moorings preparatory to setting sail” (Thayer) - 2 Ti 4:6 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” Peter used the Greek word exodos (translated “decease”), meaning “exit”, the same word used to describe the Exodus of Israel from Egyptian bondage - 2 Pe 1:15 “And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” Paul wrote of death as a gain, something far better than living - Ph 1:21,23 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” He looked forward to being with Christ, at home with the Lord - Ph 1:23 “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”; 2 Co 5:6-8 “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Paul described the righteous dead as asleep in Jesus , yet living with Him, and coming with Him - 1 Th 4:13-14 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”; 5:9-11 “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Paul described Paradise as now in the third heaven (the presence of God!) - 2 Co 12:1-4 “I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows-- and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.” Could the location of Paradise have changed from Hades to heaven? Many believe that such occurred at the ascension of Christ, as suggested in Ep 4:8-10 “Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." (In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)” -- Death for the righteous now promised something far greater!

Also in the New Covenant we find imagery that consoles. Jesus made promises that clearly refer to the eternal state, after the Judgment. We will examine these promises in part two of our lesson.