To Be Absent From the Body – Part 1

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Continued from Part 1

POSTED 16 AUGUST, 2017


POSTED 16 AUGUST, 2017

Death is one of the most difficult topics that any human being ever has to deal with. None of us likes dealing with the death of a family member, a close friend, or even people we do not know but still admire. Many people regularly visit the gravesite of a loved one, whereas others have their remains cremated and scattered into the wind. Even if you do not regularly visit a cemetery where your loved one may be buried, thoughts and memories of the deceased will undoubtedly still come to your mind from time to time, and the last memory you may have of such a person—that of your loved one’s funeral—is perhaps what you remember.

The Holy Scriptures give us as Believers a great deal of comfort, as we know that we will see those who die in the faith again. Those of us who believe in the doctrine of resurrection know that a gravesite is not the final destination. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Thessalonicans who had not largely originally grown up in a culture of resurrection, corrected them with this instruction:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

The doctrine of resurrection is comforting, because the process of decomposition will be reversed. No matter how hard the funeral industry may try to retard decay via embalming, the placement of a body in an hermetically sealed casket, and then the placement of a casket in a heavy airtight vault—a corpse will still decay. But as the Scriptures so properly put it, “I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:6). Isaiah 26:19 likewise says, “Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy.” The resurrection of our Lord Yeshua should assure us that those who have died in faith will also be resurrected, with bodies that will live and breathe again: “Messiah has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

The doctrine of resurrection is something very important for each of us to believe, especially as it concerns salvation and what Yeshua has accomplished for us (Hebrews 9:28). Yet undeniably connected to the doctrine of resurrection is what happens to the deceased in the interim. What is the intermediate condition of those who have died? Are our friends and loved ones, who knew the Lord during their lives and were saved, simply waiting in the ground for that day of resurrection, their bodies decaying? Or, are our friends and loved ones, who knew the Lord during their lives and were saved, in the presence of the Lord, awaiting to be reunited with their bodies on that day of resurrection?

Belief in a post-mortem afterlife, where deceased Believers wait in Heaven in the presence of the Lord until the time of resurrection, has come under considerable attack in the past century, primarily from theological liberals, but now even from some purported theological conservatives.[1] Even in our own Messianic movement, the idea that “going to Heaven when you die” is not a Biblical teaching, has gained much ground in various sectors, even though there has been little detailed engagement with the ramifications of such a view. The words of the Maccabean martyrs, “For if we so die, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will welcome us, and all the fathers will praise us” (4 Maccabees 13:17; cf. 9:8-9), are not heard. Ignored are the countless testimonies of faithful Believers who have lived their lives knowing that once they die, they will meet their Savior, having glimpses of Him in their twilight moments. And what of the conviction of those who know that when they worship the Lord, they join in with a company of angels and saints who are in Heaven right now worshipping the Lord (Hebrews 12:22-23)?

While he firmly held to the doctrine of resurrection, Paul’s own words “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23, RSV), or perhaps more significantly, “I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8), get quickly left out of the discussion. Frequently, it is not until one is facing death—either the death of a loved one, or one’s own personal death—that the subject comes up. Many, because of all of the rhetoric that has been floating around, are confused and do not know what to believe about the time between death and resurrection. They do not know what to think between hearing things about Hellenistic philosophy, the different dimensions of life and death, Sheol and the grave, and whether or not the human being is unique among God’s creatures in comparison to the animals.

It is easy to say that this is a topic worthy of our discussion, lest we be confused any longer. An evaluation of the subject matter, and an impetus not to oversimplify things, is needed. The subject of death and resurrection is supposed to be something elementary (Hebrews 6:1-2), meaning that it is to already be understood by mature men and women of God. Is our inability to understand this properly as Messianic Believers an indication that we are not as mature as we should be? What are the motives of Believers who are convicted that when they die they will be immediately transported into the presence of their Savior, and the motives of those who think that they will just fall asleep into sheer unconsciousness and be buried?

Stopping the Confusion

When surveying the debate over the intermediate state between death and resurrection, there are people in today’s independent Messianic community who are confused. Most of Messianic Judaism’s position on the intermediate state between death and resurrection has been the same as most of evangelical Christianity: a Believer in the Messiah departs this Earth for the presence of the Lord, with the person’s consciousness (sometimes called a “soul”) to be returned to his or her reanimated physical body at the time of resurrection.[2] Today, however, instead of hearing things like “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places…” (John 14:2), many independent Messianics will instead declare “…the dead do not know anything…” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

The doctrine of psychopannychy—more commonly known by the vernacular “soul sleep”—is often not viewed as heresy in today’s evangelical Church, but is instead viewed as a theological aberration.[3] I would not consider Messianics who believe in what is commonly called “soul sleep” to be heretics, but I would consider their interpretations of Scripture to be questionable, misguided, usually materialistic, and a bit one-dimensional (in view of the over 100 billion galaxies in our known universe, and especially in light of diverse scientific research proving the existence of multiple “universes”).

To further complicate things, some of the passages, that psychopannychists bring to the attention of Bible readers, have sometimes been viewed as being anti-resurrection. Today, a sizeable number of independent Messianics believe in psychopannychy, or at least concede that it has valid points. Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics have never advocated any kind of “soul sleep,” always firmly adhering to the Bible’s complete teaching of an intermediate afterlife for all people (whether in the presence of the Lord in Heaven or separated from Him in Hell) until the resurrection. But, perhaps contrary to popular thought, we have always affirmed the reality of a future resurrection, never advocating a permanent disembodied afterlife.

It has been our observation that as the independent Messianic movement has expanded, people from traditions outside those of mainline Judaism and evangelical Christianity have brought their theology of psychopannychy with them.[4] They frequently make it their duty to “correct” everyone. This influence is often coupled with a wide amount of disrespect that has been encouraged toward our Christian theological heritage, and is now being coupled with disrespect toward our Jewish theological heritage (in particular, the beliefs of the ancient Pharisees). The doctrine of psychopannychy is now an avant-garde teaching in many sectors of the Messianic movement, with some actually claiming that it is “revelation” that the Father is restoring to His people.

It has become quite en vogue in parts of today’s Messianic movement to advocate that any belief in a disembodied afterlife is one of the so-called “lies” of the Christian Church that must be discarded, with information on this subject presented in a very harsh manner. When people hear this—especially those who have lost loved ones and have had to go through some kind of grief counseling—they can be easily confused and not know what to do. C.J. Koster, founder of the Institute for Scripture Research, is quite direct in stating,

“One of the most popular doctrines of the Church is that of ‘going to heaven.’ Nobody is going to heaven. The Reign (Kingdom) of heaven is coming to earth – that is what we read in Scripture! The ‘going to heaven’ was a popular Pagan doctrine.”[5]

For some of today’s Messianics, this is all that needs to be said. They think that Born again Believers being transported into the presence of the Lord at time of death is a pagan doctrine, and thus it must be rejected. We who believe in a disembodied intermediate time in Heaven are said to be denying the blessed hope of the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We are said to be denying the reality that Heaven is coming to Earth, and that Yeshua the Messiah will reign over this planet. We are said to have denied that God is concerned about restoring the whole human person (1 Thessalonians 5:23). They think that further examination with Scripture passages that strongly point to Believers departing to an intermediate time in Heaven prior to the resurrection is not necessary.

Yet this kind of argument leaves out some very important data: it assumes that everyone who believes in a disembodied intermediate state for Believers in Heaven denies the doctrine of resurrection—which we surely do not! No one should ever deny the fact that the orthodox Jewish and Christian traditions—which today’s Messianic movement largely benefits from—are united in their shared conviction that there will be a resurrection of deceased bodies in the eschaton (Daniel 12:2). The doctrine of resurrection sets the Biblical message strikingly apart from paganism, because it advocates that our Creator is very much concerned with the physical human body every bit as much as He is concerned with the immaterial human consciousness.

It is right to say that various Christian teachers and pastors have overemphasized “going to Heaven” in popular preaching—perceived as some form of endless disembodied bliss in the clouds—at the expense of underemphasizing the Second Coming of the Messiah, where physical bodies of deceased persons will be resurrected and His reign will come to Planet Earth. It is not incorrect to assert that some have adopted a dangerous Platonic idea that matter is evil (discussed further), and that instead all we need to be concerned about is something spiritual or metaphysical. N.T. Wright, among today’s evangelical scholars, has been correct to remind us, “The meaning of ‘resurrection’ as ‘life after life after death’ cannot be overemphasized”[6] (emphasis mine). As the people of God, we are responsible for remembering that the world God has made is “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and that physical matter is by no means inherently evil. If we can view physical matter as “very good,” it will lead to us properly fulfilling His mission and our dominion over the Earth, rather than spurning it.

It is also important for us to remember that those who believe in psychopannychy have often been divided into two sub-groups: sectarian cultists who deny key Biblical doctrines such as Yeshua’s Divinity, and theological liberals. For almost two centuries, liberal theology has widely advocated that Holy Scripture should be treated as some kind of inspirational theology, but not as accurate history.[7] Liberals have to often deny an intermediate state for the dead, because if Believers are waiting in the presence of the Lord in Heaven prior to resurrection, then unbelievers must be similarly waiting in some kind of intermediate punishment prior to their resurrection and final sentencing. (Their actual position on the doctrine of resurrection is frequently uncertain.) Sectarian cultists, however, are simply guided by an ethos of wanting to inflict as much damage as they can on what they perceive as any cardinal doctrine of evangelical Christianity.

Messianics who have recently adopted a belief in psychopannychy are largely those who want to give evangelical Christianity a similar kick in the tuccus, not often being guided by wanting to constructively discuss the issues. Frequently, they are very contentious and mean-spirited about their newfound “Truth,” and want everyone to know that they now deny some kind of “pagan belief” of going to Heaven. This approach breeds nothing less than confusion among brethren, and does not encourage an objective analysis of the Scriptures. It certainly does not help those who are grieving over the loss of a loved one who knew the Savior.

In contrast to this, we should be those who want to give a fair hearing to the issue, examining what the Scriptures say about the human constitution, the intermediate state of the dead prior to resurrection, and the ideology of a person wanting to go to the presence of the Savior at time of death or just to a place of burial. Denying something simply because “the Church taught it” is insufficient; what matters is that one’s convictions are confirmed by a fair examination of Biblical texts. I have discovered via experience that not all Messianics who embrace a belief in psychopannychy hold to it indefinitely, as there will often be a reevaluation of the view when a relative or close friend dies, or when one’s own self is struck with the question of death. Many realize that they get caught up in a fad, and that they have been influenced by sensationalistic rhetoric of little substance.

Interpretational Issues

Those who believe in the doctrine of psychopannychy are often marked by failing to consider a wider scope and selection of Biblical passages, including the principle of progressive revelation whereby statements made in the Tanach may be clarified by further statements made in the Apostolic Scriptures (Hebrews 1:1-2). Messianic advocates of psychopannychy often base their arguments entirely upon what they read as stated in the Tanach. Robert A. Morey rightly observes in his book Death and the Afterlife, “we cannot base our understanding of death and an afterlife solely upon passages found in the Old Testament…we must recognize that the vision of the Old Testament prophets was intrinsically blurred and, as a result, was vague on most of the details.”[8] Only focusing on the Tanach is a serious problem even for those who just hold to a doctrine of resurrection, and deny any kind of disembodied post-mortem state for the interim.

The principle of progressive revelation should not at all be difficult for us to understand, because as Believers in Messiah Yeshua we stand on the firm conviction that He is the dénouement of the Tanach Scriptures (Luke 24:44; cf. Romans 10:4, Grk.). Prophecies that speak of Yeshua’s Messiahship in the Tanach are made clear by specific examples we see in the Gospels of His ministry and atoning work for us. In a similar way, it should not be a stretch for us to see that vague or unclear statements regarding death and human destiny in the Tanach, have greater clarification when the testimony and the events of the Apostolic Scriptures are taken into account.

Those who advocate the doctrine of psychopannychy do not typically consider a wider array of Scripture passages regarding the post-mortem state prior to resurrection. They often give an obscure text like the Book of Ecclesiastes more theological weight in the discussion of the state of the dead, than texts like the Gospels or the Epistles. A clause such as “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, RSV/NIV) by the anonymous Qohelet, is believed to take vast precedence over statements by known people such as those of Yeshua the Messiah (Luke 23:43) or the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 5:4-10; Philippians 1:19-24). Furthermore, they often read Qohelet’s words with the wrong presuppositions, failing to take into account its rather late acceptance (and somewhat controversial place) into the Tanach canon (m.Yadayaim 3:5; cf. m.Eduyyot 5:3).

One issue that absolutely requires us to not ignore the testimony of the Apostolic Scriptures is actually the doctrine of resurrection itself. Some passages of the Tanach could be read from the perspective that there is no resurrection. Genesis 3:19 says, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Ecclesiastes 9:2-3 says, “It is the same for all. There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked; for the good, for the clean and for the unclean…they go to the dead.” And perhaps among the most problematic could be Psalm 78:39: “Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.” Are these just reminders that human beings are but the created, or are they assertions that people live their lives, die, and that is it?

Various people reading these verses would say that this indicates that there is no resurrection after time of death, as all die and there is no return from decomposition. No psychopannychists would argue that this is what these verses indicate; they would instead say, and rightfully so, that these are all general remarks made about how all people die. They would also rightly argue that a larger scope of Scripture passages needs to be taken into consideration in order to confirm a theology of resurrection, including those in the New Testament (even though they frequently do not do this regarding the discussion of a post-mortem afterlife prior to resurrection).

It is not unimportant that for some interpreters of the Hebrew Bible, there is only one verse which unambiguously endorses the doctrine of resurrection. Daniel 12:2 says, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” Passages such as Isaiah 26:19 or Ezekiel 37:6 (previously quoted) may also give credence to a belief in resurrection, but as Benjamin D. Sommer concludes, these verses are better taken “as a metaphor for national renewal” of Israel “as they return to their land to reestablish a commonwealth.”[9] For such an interpreter, being stuck with the Book of Daniel alone for Tanach support for the doctrine of resurrection may indicate that this view was something which came very late within the Biblical period. While conservatives will often date the composition of Daniel to the Persian era (500s B.C.E.), liberals will frequently date Daniel to as late as the Maccabean era (164 B.C.E.).[10] In such a schema, this would place the doctrine of resurrection less than two centuries prior to the ministry of Yeshua! One could view the doctrine of resurrection as a rather late arrival in the scope of Biblical revelation.

For many interpreters of the Tanach Scriptures, “Evidence for belief in resurrection in the OT is scarce and often ambiguous” (EDB).[11] To the mix of Scriptures we could probably add Job 19:25-26, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God,” but even Job has been dated by some to as late as the post-exilic period,[12] which again for some makes the doctrine of resurrection a late invention. So in the words of George Robinson’s Essential Judaism,

“Belief in the resurrection of the dead, a key element in traditionally observant Judaism’s vision of the Messianic age, dates from the period of the Pharisees, and may be an outgrowth of Greek or Persian influence…According to at least one Jewish historian…the idea of resurrection of the dead gained its first currency at the time of the Maccabees, around the second century B.C.E., a period of great suffering for the Jews. In the face of such trauma…the notion of another life after death promised a final, cosmic release.”[13]

I personally accept Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:6; Daniel 12:2; and Job 19:25-26 as supportive of the resurrection of individuals and that the doctrine of resurrection appears in the Biblical narrative much, much earlier than the post-exilic period. Yet it is absolutely true that the debate over the resurrection did not come to major fruition until the Second and First Centuries B.C.E., with this doctrine being a major division between the Sadducees and Pharisees. The former group did not accept the doctrine of resurrection because they did not see it in the Torah,[14] with the latter group accepting it and making it an integral part of their teachings. If the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, we should not be surprised how the Rabbinic tradition, while asserting “All Israelites have a share in the world to come,” lists the first group as those who will not share as “He who says, the resurrection of the dead is a teaching which does not derive from the Torah” (m.Sanhedrin 10:1),[15] a direct assault on the Sadducees.

If the doctrine of resurrection did not become firmly developed within Jewish theology until the centuries immediately prior to Yeshua, then should we at all be surprised that a similar theology of intermediate afterlife—and even views of a Messiah to come—were developed and refined at the same time? Should this at all disturb us? For the Believer in Yeshua, our conviction of the doctrine of resurrection does not come from the Tanach Scriptures alone, but the significant host of passages in the Apostolic Scriptures that attest to its validity—most especially because He has been resurrected![16] In a similar way, placing ourselves within that same pro-resurrection First Century Jewish theology, tracing the same history of interpretation, do people such as myself believe in an intermediate afterlife in the presence of the Lord until the time of resurrection. The doctrine of an intermediate afterlife can be traced along the same path as both the doctrine of resurrection and the expectation of a Messiah to come.

A widescale failure to give the First Century Pharisees their rightful place in today’s Messianic theology has evidenced itself quite steadily over the first decade of the 2000s (due in no small part to the growing influence of the Karaite movement), because when properly considered it will affect what we believe about the post-mortem state of the deceased. This is a theological strata that Yeshua the Messiah instructed His Disciples to follow (Matthew 23:2-3), and that the Apostle Paul was a part of specifically because of the doctrine of resurrection (Acts 23:6).[17] In addition to firmly believing in the resurrection, the Pharisees also believed in an intermediate afterlife prior to resurrection. The testimony of the First Century historian Josephus was that the Pharisees did “believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life…the former shall have power to revive and live again” (Antiquities of the Jews 18.14).[18] The Talmud similarly indicates that the Pharisees held that in death the body sleeps, but that the consciousness of a person would go to the presence of God until being restored to the body at resurrection:

“When someone gets up, he says, ‘My God, the soul that you put in me is pure. You formed it in me. You breathed it into me. You keep it in me. You will take it from me one day but restore it to me in the time to come. So long as the soul is in me, I thank you, Lord my God and God of my fathers, master of all ages, lord of all souls. Blessed are you, Lord, who restores souls to dead corpses’” (b.Berachot 60a).[19]

That the ancient Pharisees believed in both the doctrine of resurrection and of an intermediate, disembodied post-mortem state, is something that few scholars dispute. John W. Cooper summarizes in his book Body, Soul, & Life Everlasting, “without exception the evidence we have supports the judgment that the Pharisees not only affirmed the resurrection of the body but the temporary separation of the soul as well. Many scholars suppose that during the first century A.D. these beliefs were found among the common people as well.”[20] The Pharisees may have believed in a kind of dualistic view of human composition, but in stark contrast to their Greek neighbors (discussed further), it was one that included the acceptance of a doctrine of resurrection. The need for us as Messianics today to follow the Pharisaical lead in determining our theology and halachah can be best seen in all of the parallels between Pharisical theology and the Apostolic Scriptures. Menahem Mansoor indicates,

“Pharisaic doctrines have more in common with those of Christianity than is supposed, having prepared the ground for Christianity with such concepts as Messianism, the popularization of monotheism and apocalypticism, and with such beliefs as life after death, resurrection of the dead, immortality, and angels” (EJ).[21]

The party of the Sadducees, who largely made up the Temple priesthood, were the only major group among the First Century Judaisms who denied any kind of existence after this life, be that a temporary disembodied post-mortem state, or the doctrine of resurrection itself. The testimony of the Apostolic Scriptures is unanimous in that the Sadducees denied the doctrine of resurrection (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 23:6, 8). If we are to reject the theological lead of the Pharisees as Messianics—as it is undeniable that many Messianic advocates of psychopannychy follow their Karaite successors—are we to then follow the theological lead of the Sadducees? As Josephus recorded, “They….take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards…” (Jewish War 2.165).[22] Not that unlike the Epicureans of Ancient Greece (the third group to be denied a place in the world to come in m.Sanhedrin 10:1), the Sadducees believed that a person got a single chance at life here on Earth, and that was it—with no rewards, resurrection, or any kind of existence to follow. Human life and animal life were quantitatively indifferent.

The belief in the doctrine of resurrection is unique to both Judaism and Christianity, having been significantly developed by the party of the ancient Pharisees. Wright is correct to assert, “the early Christian belief in hope beyond death belongs demonstrably on the Jewish, not the pagan, map.”[23] The First Century Messianic movement, as is evidenced by the Apostolic Scriptures, developed its theology of the intermediate state prior to resurrection from the same Pharisaical forbearers. Forgetting this presents the danger of today’s Messianics accepting Saddusaical beliefs that deny not only an intermediate afterlife prior to resurrection, but the doctrine of resurrection itself.

What does it mean to bear the image of God?

Advocates of psychopannychy commonly argue that those of us who believe in an intermediate disembodied state for the dead, prior to resurrection, have accepted a view of immortality which is not Biblical. It is fiercely argued from 1 Timothy 6:16, for example, that God “alone possesses immortality.” They miss some qualifications that go along with God’s immortality that need not be forgotten: “who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion!” (1 Timothy 6:15-16). Here, Yeshua’s exaltation in Heaven is magnified, and He is designated as One who possesses a status that no one else can ever possess, because He is a member of the Godhead. From Paul’s point of view, no one on Earth has ever seen the Lord in His complete exaltedness, clearly because He is immortal and human beings are mortal. The vantage point is how Moses was unable to fully see God when he approached Him on Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:20).[24]

The type of immortality that defines who God is, without beginning or end, is not something that any human being possesses—but this does not all of a sudden mean that the human being made by God is no different than the animals. Morey describes how “Some are thinking of ‘essential immortality,’ which refers to a life having neither beginning nor end. According to the Bible, only God has essential immortality as an attribute of His being (1 Tim. 6:16). Since man begins at conception and does not come from eternity, he does not have essential immortality.”[25] No man or woman ever born by normal means is exalted over the cosmos and is the source of salvation, as Yeshua the Messiah is (Philippians 2:5-11; cf. Isaiah 45:23), nor does any man or woman possess the Divine qualities of omniscience or omnipresence. Yet, it is true that the Father has “seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Messiah Yeshua” (Ephesians 2:6), and that we have access to the realm of Heaven right now via prayer. It is entirely inappropriate for a Bible reader to equate man’s fate as being the same as the animals, if somehow his purpose for being created is associated with an outside dimension in addition to the present one.

The Scriptures are clear that human beings are different from the rest of God’s Creation. It is only of man that God says, “Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26, TNIV). Elohim—actually speaking to Himself—says “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (NRSV), b’tzalmeinu k’demuteinu. The human being who possesses God’s image would be able to have dominion over God’s Creation. In the words of Nahum M. Sarna,

“A human being is the pinnacle of Creation. This unique status is communicated in a variety of ways, not least by the simple fact that humankind is last in a manifestly ascending, gradual order. The creation of human life is an exception to the rule of creation by divine fiat…Human beings are to enjoy a unique relationship to God, who communicates with them alone and who shares with them the custody and administration of the world.”[26]

The human being is of extremely high value, especially in comparison to the rest of Creation. Being made in God’s image (Lat. imago Dei) obviously means that human beings possess unique qualities that those of the animal kingdom do not possess. As Bruce Milne describes it, “Much is inherently finite, and that is ‘good’ if so appointed by God. Human beings, however, are uniquely appointed as divine ‘imagers’ and hence, if God so wills it, created immortal in reflection of one of the primary attributes of the Creator.”[27] Any kind of immortal component that a human being possesses comes as a reflection of his Creator, and would allow for a degree of continued existence after death. Those who have experienced redemption via the gospel, and who have access to a God who sits in Heaven (Hebrews 4:16; 10:19), need to understand this very clearly as they consider their role in His Creation.

Psalm 8 picks up on the theme of man made in God’s image, and specifically on the fact that God made man to rule over His Creation (Psalm 8:6-8). But the Psalmist’s assertion is a very important one that cannot be overlooked: “You have made him a little lower than God” (Psalm 8:5a) or “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings” (NIV). The Hebrew clause of interest is m’at m’Elohim, “lower than God,” rendered in the Greek LXX as brachu…par angelous, “a little less than angels” (LXE), due to the ambiguous nature of Elohim.[28] Regardless, though, the lot of humanity is not cast with the animal kingdom but instead with the Heavenly host; the Psalmist did not say that man was made “a little higher than the animals.” Any kind of intermediate disembodied post-mortem state is a direct result of an association with the Heavenly host originating from our fashioning by God, a testimony to our uniqueness among His creatures.

Throughout history, human culture has demonstrated a number of unique qualities, bearing witness to God’s imprint, including:

  1. awareness of a moral code “written” or impressed with a conscience
  2. concerns about death and about life after death
  3. propensity to worship and desire to communicate with a higher being
  4. consciousness of self
  5. drive to discover and capacity to recognize truth and absolutes[29]

Indeed, it is only the human race among God’s Creation that possesses intelligence, a capacity to reason, and verbal speech—making it different when compared to the animals. Do we really think that a human being is unique compared to the animals, or is no different than a dog or cat (or apes and monkeys)? Do we realize that each of us has a connection to the Heavenly dimension?

Consider the thoughts offered by Creationists Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross in their co-authored work Who Was Adam?:

“While humanity shares physical qualities with animals, people stand alone in terms of their spiritual nature. Bārā’, used in both Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 5:1-2 with reference to humanity’s creation, suggests God’s origination of something new. Not only were Adam and Eve fashioned (in an ‘āśâ manner) from pre-existing material, but they were also created (bārā’) as something new—something that never before existed. Both passages identify human beings alone as creatures made in God’s image. In this sense, people were made distinct from the animals God formed.

“Other verses emphasize this point. Genesis 2:7 describes how God fashioned Adam and then breathed life into him. When God formed the animals and birds from the ground (Genesis 2:19), He did not impart to them this ‘breath of life.’ People stand apart from animals in that humankind alone received spirit life from God. Only humans concern themselves with morality, purpose, destiny, hope, questions about life and death and judgment after death, and questions about God’s existence and character.

“Humanity’s uniqueness is also implied in Genesis 1:28 and Psalm 8:6-8. These verses state that God made people as His representatives on Earth, placing them as rulers over the animals. According to Genesis 2:19-20, God brought the animals and birds to Adam to name. This signifies Adam’s sovereignty over them. In Hebrew thought, names can be conferred only by someone in a position of authority.

“If only human beings bear God’s image, then culture and technology should make a dramatic appearance in the archaeological record. As a corollary to this prediction, humans should be culturally and behaviorally distinct (in ways that reflect God’s image) from all animals…”[30]

Those who believe that when we die, we do not go anywhere until the resurrection except the grave, skew the uniqueness of man, as the makeup of a human being is depicted as being not too different than that of an animal. In his book Immortality or Resurrection? Samuele Bacchiocchi describes what psychopannychists instead believe:

“If at death the soul of the believer goes up immediately to the beatitude of Paradise to be with the Lord, one hardly can have any real sense of expectation for Christ to come down to resurrect the sleeping saints. The primary concern of these Christians is to reach paradise immediately, albeit as a disembodied soul. This concern leaves barely any interest in the coming of the Lord and the resurrection of the body.”[31]

It is true that there has been an overemphasis in much popular (and sometimes overly simplistic) preaching on a disembodied state following death, and that the future resurrection of the deceased and the Second Coming of the Messiah to the Earth does not get discussed to the degree that it should. As Wright notes, too many believe in “a future expectation that bears far more resemblance to Plato’s vision of souls entering into disembodied bliss than to the biblical picture of new heavens and new earth”[32]one that surely does need to be corrected. But from the Biblical testimony of the human being made different in comparison to the animals, is it right to assume that when a person dies he or she suffers the same fate as the animals? If man was made a little lower than God and/or His Heavenly host, should we not more fully consider how this affects our composition? It is notable that we consider how psychopannychists have, perhaps unknowingly, cast their lot with materialistic atheists and agnostics who deny that humans are spiritual creatures, being no different from the animals as just “advanced animals,” rather than with the Bible which does teach that humans are different from the animals.

If human beings are only one-dimensional creatures, with no significant Divine imprint upon them, then psychopannychists are right: at time of death human beings die, are interred in a grave, and return to the base elements. A higher being might possess the power to resurrect or recreate the human being, but man is solely of this dimension. The Scriptures, however, do not teach this. Man’s rule with God extends to the Heavens as much as it extends to Earth, as the author of Hebrews testifies “in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him” (Hebrews 2:7). Our rule beside God extends far beyond Planet Earth and this dimension. Those who believe in psychopannychy, the view that once a human being dies that he or she just goes to a place of burial until the resurrection, have denied the Biblical reality that we are different, something realized by the image of God placed upon us. Morey rightly describes,

“In the light of the dignity and worth of man as the unique image-bearer of God, we cannot accept, therefore, the idea…that man’s death can be reduced to the death of brute beasts. What they fail to realize is that man is far too wonderful to die like a dog. A conscious afterlife is exactly what we would expect of such a wonderful creation as man.”[33]

It is very true that the reality of a bodily resurrection is not emphasized as much as it should be in much of today’s contemporary discussion regarding the death of Believers. This does need to seriously change. But belief in the resurrection of the dead is by no means incompatible with a belief in an intermediate disembodied state. The image of God placed upon the human race shows that we are different among His Creation, and thus our death should be considered something different than the death of animals. Are we the pinnacle of God’s Creation, or are we not? When we can understand what being made in the image of God is all about, then it allows us to see that people are not one-dimensional beings solely of this Earth, but they indeed do have a connection to a Creator in another dimension.

Are human beings just animated chemicals?

There is perhaps no bigger debate surrounding the intermediate state than what composes a human being. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.” The sanctification of oneself that is portrayed in the Scriptures is one where a whole person—not just the physical body and neither just the immaterial consciousness of a person—is to be changed by God. Theological proponents of either psychopannychy, or of an intermediate afterlife prior to resurrection, recognize this fact. The debate, rather, is focused around whether the various components of a person can be separated at all, existing in multiple dimensions, or whether the various components of a person can only exist in this dimension.

Psychopannychists argue a position of monism regarding the human person. They believe that the human being made up of body, soul, and spirit can only exist in this present dimension of Planet Earth. Advocates of an intermediate post-mortem afterlife prior to resurrection, by the very nature of holding to such a view, have to believe in some kind of dualism for the human being. Human beings are made up of a material substance of this dimension, as well as some kind of an immaterial substance of another dimension, with one substance that can be separated and exist outside of the body in some form, even if intended just for a limited time.

The majority position present throughout the orthodox Jewish and Christian theological traditions is sometimes called holistic dualism. Another description sometimes used is that humans are “souled bodies.” A human being should be perceived as being a single entity—a person who will be fully reconstituted and restored at the time of resurrection—but a separate part(s) of the human being can exist independently of the body, the “essential soul” if you like, even though in being absent from the body such a part would be different, and the person would be incomplete. Cooper explains this kind of holism:

“It views an entity as a single primary functional system, not as a compound system constructed by linking two or more primary functional systems…It implies that parts do not operate independently within the whole, and that they would not necessarily continue to have all the same properties and functions if the whole were broken up….[But] holism does not necessarily imply that if the whole is broken up, all parts disintegrate into chaos and nothingness. Secondary systems might continue to exist, although without all the properties and capacities they had when integrated within the whole…On this view, souls, spirits, minds, or persons might be able to exist without organisms, although they would be deprived by the loss.”[34]

Cooper suggests that this kind of existence, albeit temporary, could be likened to how given the right conditions organs can sometimes survive outside of a body, such as those that will be medically transplanted. Likewise in today’s computer age and what we can do with transferring software and files between an individual personal computer, mainframes, servers across the Internet, and now even to our mobile phones and PDA devices, the extra-body survival of a human consciousness allowed by an Eternal God (in a different dimension with different rules of existence) is not that difficult for us to perceive.

Both monists and dualistic holists appeal to the creation of Adam in Genesis to make their case. After announcing His intention to create humanity in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), God creates Adam. Genesis 2:7 says “the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Both monists and dualistic holists agree that one part of the human being, the body, is clearly of this Earth. They diverge on what it means for the human being to possess “the breath of life,” which makes a person “a living being.”

The Hebrew of Genesis 2:7 says v’yipach b’apayv nish’mat chayim v’yehi ha’adam l’nefesh chayah, or God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (KJV). To psychopannychists, the issue is closed. A human being is the combination of a physical body and a physical breath, which results in a soul. A human being—a soul—is thus entirely of this dimension of Planet Earth.

To their credit, psychopannychists have helped in wanting to get others to see that the human being does not “have” a soul, but rather “is” a soul—a nefesh. Thus, when the Scriptures commonly speak in terms of “that day there were added about three thousand souls [psuchai]” (Acts 2:41), it was not three thousand immaterial consciousnesses that were saved, but three thousand people. When a “soul” is talked about it is frequently in reference to what a person is. Yet, there are questions that need to be asked regarding what components make up this “soul.”

Is it significant that in the creation of the animals it is nowhere said that the animals had nish’mat chayim, “the breath of life,” implanted into them?[35] Both Jewish and Christian commentators have frequently thought this is significant. The Keil & Delitzch Commentary on the Old Testament makes the point, “the vital principle in man is different from that in the animal…The beasts [only] arose at the creative word of God.”[36] Sarna’s view is, “The uniqueness of the Hebrew phrase nishmat ḥayyim matches the singular nature of the human body, which, unlike the creatures of the animal world, is directly inspirited by God himself.”[37] Victor P. Hamilton similarly indicates,

“Unlike rûaḥ, which is applied to God, man, animals, and even false gods, nešāmâ is applied only to Yahweh and man…Thus 2:7 may employ the less popular word for breath because it is man, and man alone, who is the recipient of the divine breath.”[38]

The Orthodox Jewish ArtScroll Chumash commentary considers the nish’mat chayim to be “the life that is unique to Man,” resulting in a person being a “rational soul that includes the power of intelligent speech. This is what elevates a human above animal life.”[39]

It is not at all a stretch to conclude that the nish’mat chayim breathed into man indicates that he does possess a uniqueness specifically endowed by his Creator, a part made not of this Earth. The Hebrew language has no specific word for “mind” or “consciousness,” but it is safe to say that this neshamah or specific “breath” from God would constitute it or give rise to it. This unique “spark” helped make Adam different from the animals. The combination of a physical body made of this dimension, with a special breath made of another dimension, produces the “soul” or the human being. When this combination is brought together, an essential human person is formed.

In its totality, the “soul” or nefesh is not something entirely immaterial or entirely material, although psychopannychists argue that a nefesh is entirely material. One of the common appeals is made to the Torah’s decree that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11; cf. Genesis 9:4; Deuteronomy 12:23), indicating that “life” is something solely of this dimension. The nefesh or “soul” of a creature is in its blood, right? The problem with making this assessment is not that blood pumping throughout a creature indicates that it is physically alive; the problem is that eating the flesh of animals is what is in view in those passages, and that human life and animal life are equated by psychopannychists as being exactly the same. While humanity’s dominion over the Earth demands that we respect blood, especially those of the animals we kill for food, we are nevertheless different than the animals and were created for a bigger purpose. The “soul” that is the human being is not the same as the “soul” that is an animal.[40] A human being, most unlike an animal, is much more than the sum of its parts!

Messianics who have adopted a view of psychopannychy are often frequently unaware of how much flexibility the Hebrew word nefesh actually possesses in the Tanach. To demonstrate the difficulty of this term, we see that “It may be used at one extreme to denote the principle of life in man or animal…and at the other to speak of a dead body.”[41] Many have over-simplified this term, failing to recognize how it can be used, believing that it can only concern physical life, and not anything more. The CHALOT lexicon actually provides nine different definitions and applications available for the interpreter to pick. These include: “throat,” “neck,” “breath,” “living being,” “man, men, person, people,” “personality, individuality,” “life,” “‘soul’ as seat & support of feelings & sensations,” and “someone dead.[42]

One of the most frequent usages of the term nefesh is how it simply represents people (Genesis 36:6; Ezekiel 18:4), including dead people (Leviticus 21:1, 11). This common usage leads many to conclude that nefesh only relates to physical creatures, but as Morey points out, this “is based on the hidden assumption that once the meaning of a word is discovered in a single passage, this same meaning must prevail in every other occurrence of the word,”[43] which is an hermeneutical mistake. The life principle or nefesh does take on a different dynamic in regard to humans, versus the animals. The nefesh as the seat of emotions worships God (Deuteronomy 10:12), sorrows (Leviticus 26:16), feels bitterness (1 Samuel 1:10), misery (Judges 10:16), grief (1 Samuel 2:23), or alienation (Ezekiel 23:17-18). On the Day of Atonement, God’s people are told to “humble your souls” (Leviticus 23:32), involving not only mental or spiritual humility, but also physical humility via fasting (cf. Acts 27:9).

These emotions that can compose the human soul are definitively different than animals which act solely on instinct, lacking God’s image. God Himself is even considered a nefesh, as He cries in Isaiah 1:14, “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me” (KJV). Given the variance that we see here, Morey is correct to conclude that the term nefesh can “transcend the mere principle of physical life,”[44] so when a human being’s “soul” cries out to God, something more than just a being of this dimension is intended to be portrayed.

As the “soul” is usually what is used to represent the person, it should be no surprise that nefesh is used to define the post-mortem state as well. The Psalmist, appealing for deliverance, cries out that “God will redeem my soul [nefesh] from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me” (49:15). He speaks of the possibility, “If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there” (Psalm 139:8). Also to be considered could be the death of Rachel, where “It came about as her soul [nefesh] was departing (for she died)” (Genesis 35:18). Likewise, Elijah called out to God to revive the widow of Serapta’s son: “‘O LORD my God, let this child’s soul come into him again.’ And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul [nefesh] of the child came into him again, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:21-22, RSV). While psychopannychists commonly argue that nefesh only relates to physical life and/or physical breath departing and coming, equally to be considered is how the nefesh as the essential person can be seen departing and coming—the result of what was created by combining a physical body with God’s immaterial breath. This would be most especially the case if Sheol in the Tanach is indeed the netherworld, and not just “the grave” (discussed further).

The variety of applications that surround the Hebrew nefesh are carried over into the Apostolic Scriptures via the Septuagint, as the LXX largely translated nefesh as psuchē.[45] Morey makes the important point that “the Septuagint never used bios, the Greek word for physical life, as the equivalent for nephesh.”[46] Similar to nefesh, psuchē can speak of physical life animating both animals and man (Revelation 8:9; 16:3; Matthew 2:20), refer to Earthly life (Matthew 6:25), or simply to people (Luke 12:19; Acts 2:41). God likewise is associated as being a psuchē (Matthew 12:18; Hebrews 10:38).[47] And even though the “soul” or psuchē is rightly associated as being the whole human person, Yeshua does indicate that God has the power to punish both a person’s body, as well as his soul or what he is (Matthew 10:28). This would indicate a nuanced form of dualism, where at final judgment a whole person must be punished, but similarly where the essential person as soul can exist separately from the body.

A similar, and related term to nefesh that appears in the Tanach to describe human beings is ruach or “spirit.” This is something that psychopannychists often solely see as relating to a person’s physical breath, and nothing more. But will this stand up to the scrutiny of its uses? Ruach is used to refer to physical wind in weather (Genesis 8:1). Our invisible and immaterial God Himself is described to be a ruach (Isaiah 63:10), with His angels being called ruachot or “spirits” (Psalm 104:4). The life sent by God to both mortals and animals is “spirit” (Genesis 7:22). A person’s own self is considered to be his ruach or “spirit” (Psalm 77:6; Proverbs 29:11), one that goes back to God or His dimension at death (Psalm 31:5; Ecclesiastes 12:7), not supporting any kind of post-mortem extinction until the resurrection.

The Apostolic Scriptures follow the lead of the LXX once again, where ruach was frequently translated as pneuma. Pneuma can refer to physical breath, similar to how the false prophet will make the antimessiah’s idol appear living (Revelation 13:15). Pneuma is used to describe both God as spirit and His angels (John 4:24; Hebrews 1:14). Yeshua Himself considered a pneuma or spirit to be an immaterial being (Luke 24:39). Pneuma or “spirit” is sometimes used to describe various character traits of a person such as pride, humility, or fear (1 Peter 3:4), and the seat of his emotions (Mark 8:12; Mark 2:8; Matthew 26:41). And, pneuma is used to describe the deceased (Hebrews 12:23; 1 Peter 3:19), sometimes being believed by people to be some kind of ghosts (Luke 24:37).

Foremost of all, both ruach and pneuma are used throughout the Scriptures to refer to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is far more than just some kind of “breath” or force emanating from God, as within His people it is His distinct presence which takes up residence inside of them.

The deceased in the Hebrew Tanach are not depicted as “souls” often for the reason that a specific term is employed instead. Departed spirits are labeled refaim (sing. rafa), “shades, ghosts,” and refaim is the label given for the “name of dead in She’ól” (BDB).[48] Psalm 88:10 asks, “Dost thou work wonders for the dead? Do the shades [refaim] rise up to praise thee? Selah” (RSV). Speaking of the adulteress, Proverbs 2:18 says, “her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the shades [refaim]” (RSV). When the king of Babylon dies, “Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come, it rouses the shades [refaim] to greet you” (RSV). As Cooper concludes, “in reality the Israelites did affirm the existence of the departed,”[49] even if they were just refaim or shades of their Earthly selves in Sheol.[50]

Given the diversity of usages of nefesh/psuchē, ruach/pneuma, and refaim seen in the Scriptures, those of us who believe in a temporary disembodied state for the deceased prior to resurrection have drawn conclusions based on how these terms are used within the Biblical text. They do give support for the premise that the consciousness of a human being who dies can exist outside the body. The human being may be a combination of a body from Earth and a breath from God—giving rise to the soul—but such a soul or essential person is a product of his or her Creator. While the body may be the frame on which the soul is formed, producing a human personality that we would know, possession of the Divine image gives a human soul unique qualities that an animal soul simply does not possess.[51]

The contrast to the human being as a combination of elements, from this dimension and the dimension where God resides, is that the human being as a soul is a combination of a physical body and physical breath, being a creature entirely of this dimension. Bacchiocchi does not hide the view of psychopannychists in saying, “both man and animal are souls…The term soul-nephesh is used for both people and animals because both are conscious beings. They both share the same animating life-principle or ‘life-breath.’”[52] So here, the life of human beings and animals is equated as being exactly the same. Even though the psychopannychist would insist that human beings are different because they do possess intelligence and verbal speech, the reality is that the human being is no more physically different than a dog or a cat or an ape. From the place of the psychopannychist, a human being is entirely a corporeal entity. The human person is largely just the result of highly advanced chemical processes in the brain, which would obviously be more advanced than one’s pet, but chemical reactions nonetheless. As Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy describe it:

“Modern research into the brain has generally supported the monistic view of the self. All consciousness, thought, and even emotion is rooted in the brain’s neurological activity. When scientists interfere with the neurological activity in a person’s brain, the person’s awareness changes, and he or she thinks or feels differently. Whatever other conclusions and/or problems these findings present, they suggest that human consciousness and mental activity is inextricably connected to the physical brain. This supports the…view that people are not conscious after death and will not be until God resurrects them in the eschaton.”[53]

Advocates of psychopannychy, arguing that the human person is a creaturely entity entirely of this dimension, often have to rely heavily—or even rely exclusively—from scientific arguments that suggest that a human soul is simply the result of the processes found in the brain, and less on the testimony of the Holy Scriptures. And, some of this science does come from those who deny a Divine Creator. While the psychopannychists, believing in a Divine Creator, would say that these advanced processes come from God’s ultimate imprint on men and women—it is unavoidable that many of the conclusions of monism are quite consistent with Darwinian evolution.[54] Those who believe that the human race came about via millions of years of evolution certainly argue that we are simply the result of advanced chemical reactions that are able to manifest themselves as a “soul.” Detailing this perspective, Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne summarizes how,

“Four thousand million years of evolution produced man, a body and soul in continuing interaction. A human soul is more dependent for its development on its own states than is an animal soul, for it has complex beliefs and desires kept in place and changing in accord with other beliefs and desires….When the body dies and the brain ceases to function, the evidence suggests that the soul will cease to function also.”[55]

Even though they may believe that the chemical processes in the brain are not as random as evolutionists may believe, psychopannychists still have to rely on a great number of evolutionary and materialistic presuppositions to advocate that human beings are entirely one-dimensional. (In so doing, it is likely that most Messianic psychopannychists are unprepared to join into the debate between evolutionary science and intelligent design over human origins.) It is not at all a coincidence that Christian theologians who have moved steadily toward a position of monism and psychopannychy, believing that the human soul is simply the result of combining a physical body with physical breath, often (staunchly) advocate some kind of theistic evolution.[56] (Many of them also have, at times, entertained ideas that what we commonly consider to be “sinful activities” are just the predisposed genetic dispositions of a person, for which an individual should not ultimately be held responsible.) Those of us who would affirm that Adam and Eve were created by Divine fiat are not unjustified to ask ourselves whether or not God’s imprint upon us is one-dimensional or multi-dimensional, and whether human beings are just animated chemicals—or not. Yet even those who believe in theistic evolution often recognize the uniqueness of the human being. Swinburne’s remarks on how the relation of a Creator to a human may change the nature of one understanding the concept of “soul,” are quite revealing:

“God, being omnipotent, would have the power to give to souls life after death (and if there is no natural law which ties the functioning of a soul to the operation of a brain, God would not need to suspend natural laws in order to do this)….If God did give to souls life after death in a new body or without a body, he would not in any way be violating natural laws—for, if I am right, there are no natural laws which dictate what happen to the soul after death.”[57]

Our God as all-powerful Creator certainly possesses the ability to create the human person with a consciousness that can exist absent from the body in another dimension. This may not necessarily be the ideal condition for a person, nor would it be the permanent condition for a person in the eschaton—and Paul might even call such a state nakedness (2 Corinthians 5:3)—but it is by no means impossible for God to allow. Our argument for an intermediate afterlife, especially for redeemed Believers, has been consistently based on the premise that the human being is unique among all of God’s creations. Man is not just a pile of animated chemicals.

One who holds to a holistic form of dualism, would recognize and emphasize that the separation of the consciousness from the body at death is something temporary, to be kept in a holding place in another dimension until the resurrection. One who holds to monism, thinking that the physical human person of body and breath is all that we are, advocates that each person will be essentially “recreated” at the resurrection. Yet at the time of the resurrection, will this lead to the reanimation and reconstitution of the same person who had lived and then “fell asleep” in unconsciousness—or is the resurrection simply the making of a new person, an essential replica or close duplicate produced from the bodily remains of one who had previously lived on Earth? This is where the monist position has some serious philosophical problems.

How does God preserve a person, or the memories of a person, who lived on Earth and then dies? Monists often make it sound as though death is just as simple as being turned off, and resurrection is as simple as being turned on, with only God knowing where “the switch” is. This would be pretty easy if human beings were just animals, because all that would have to be preserved would be basic instincts hard-wired into the brain itself, like: eating, sleeping, mating, exercise, and protection from predators. Human beings, though, are not animals. We have complex emotions and reasoning and artistic abilities, not to mention life experiences and significant accomplishments, that we remember and expect to carry with us—if we are at all theistic—beyond death.

Some form of re-creation from individual extinction at death does not at all account for how the memories and personality of someone will be stored. What we consider “memory” to be is chemically stored in engrams found in the brain. Such memory engrams will decompose along with the body after death. Human beings do not possess android, robot bodies that are inorganic and that would only need some heavy maintenance after going offline and then being reanimated. While some human remains decompose at a much slower rate than others, due to the conditions and climate of the place of internment, the patterns of human memories have to be stored somewhere after death if any kind of resurrection is to take place. This is especially true if resurrection is to be considered a reanimation of a legitimate person who had lived a life on Earth previously—and not a recreation or cloning of a person. Mick Pope legitimately asks, “if I cease to exist at one moment, and am totally recreated at another after a soul sleep, is it the same me?”[58] William Hasker points out the main problem with a monistic view of human composition, stating,

“[I]t is…nonsensical to assert that God creates out of nothing a person that has already lived, died and completely passed out of existence…[I]t…is essential…that we should hold that in some way the ‘core person’ survives bodily death and continues in existence.”[59]

Re-creation from individual extinction, as psychopannychists advocate, is really not the same thing as resurrection. It involves the recreation of a body from decomposed/decomposing remains, and then God allowing that body to have the memories of someone who had previously lived, which He knows—resulting in the probable production of a (close) replica of someone who had once lived. From a vantage point of monism, those of us who are seen here on Earth today will only get one chance to genuinely live, and then at death our lives will be over. At the time of the resurrection, some kind of copy or clone of us created from our remains (or an imposter created from our remains?)[60] will enter into the eschaton, experiencing either the rewards or punishments that we incurred for it. That copy might think that it is us, but there will be reasonable doubt to question whether it truly is.

There is only one undeniable way that the person who is resurrected at a future point in time is the same authentic person who once lived on Earth—experiencing the rewards and punishments the person deserves, which are not to be passed on to some copy: a temporary, disembodied afterlife. With the human consciousness removed from the body at time of death, being transported to a holding place in another dimension (i.e., Heaven or Hell), that consciousness can then be returned a reanimated body at the resurrection. The person remains the same whether the reanimated body has only partially decomposed and is revived, or the body has to be totally recreated as the corpse has decomposed completely into base atoms. The person would possess the memory of having died, having gone to another dimension after death, having experienced either refreshment or some kind of penalty, and then having returned to the body the final rewards or punishment can be issued. Pope, interestingly enough a theistic evolutionist by trade, confirms that this is the only way that he, and not some duplicate of him, will be resurrected:

“If the soul is emergent from the brain, how is it stored apart from it?…My suggestion is that it is more like moving than copying, for the process occurs at death then the brain is dying, my soul is not both in my brain and preserved…by God….In short, I think we need to…expect to be with the Lord at death and wait for our new bodies. If God can create us in His image through evolution, and raise Jesus and us from the dead, He can sustain us with Him until Jesus’ return.”[61]

A re-creation from the (scant) remains of a person, with some kind of memories left by the deceased person implanted from God, runs the philosophical risk of us wondering if the man or woman resurrected is really the same one who lived—or a facsimile. A resurrection involving the re-creation/reviving of a person’s remains, and the reintegration of a disembodied consciousness from another dimension into a reanimated body, leaves no doubt that the person who once lived is the same authentic man or woman to be resurrected.

If a human soul is something entirely of this dimension, a combination of a physical body and physical breath, then we also need not avoid how this may cause some to look at people. A great deal of the contemporary literature which today examines the concept of the “soul” is actually not as much focused on the exegesis of what nefesh or refaim or psuchē means, nor that much about the post-mortem state, but is more focused on the ethical controversies that can ensue—especially if we are just one-dimensional creatures.[62] If the neshamah of God, for example, is solely the physical breath of a person—some could take the possible position that a human life begins when a newborn child takes its first breath outside of the womb. Until that point, some may see the fetus as just being a pile of chemicals inside the female uterus—chemicals which can be jettisoned at any time prior to first breath. While no psychopannychists that I have ever encountered in my Messianic experience would support abortion, it is unavoidable that they may have unknowingly opened up a very dangerous door.

Psalm 139:13 is clear “You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” This is a very tenable position to hold to if the neshamah or breath that God gave Adam (Genesis 2:7), is something more than just a physical breath. In this instance, human life begins at the moment of conception. While such life may not be fully developed or mature, a fetus is still nevertheless a living being even without having taken its first physical breath. In my own assessment, viewing the human person as being solely of this dimension is degrading to the value of human life.[63] It skews the Psalmist’s assertion that man was made just lower than his Creator (Psalm 8:5-8), and frequently gives court to Darwinism. While God is indeed concerned about the whole human to be redeemed, including a man or woman’s physical body in the resurrection (Romans 8:23), this is by no means incompatible with a temporary disembodied state. Our Creator made us more than just animated chemicals! He gave us multi-dimensional capacities that the animals noticeably lack. Ross provides us an excellent summary of this:

“The human spirit manifests itself, at least in part, by humans’ unique consciousness. While no reputable scholar disputes that human beings are uniquely conscious beings, many scholars hesitate or refuse to give God credit for that conscious nature. Some of this generation’s most brilliant researchers have tried valiantly to find within matter, energy, and the natural biochemical processes of our space and time dimensions a hypothesis for the origin and operation of the human consciousness, but none of their efforts has come close to succeeding. In fact, their findings only help build the case for a supernatural origin….

“[B]ecause we are spirit beings, we humans, alone among all earthly creatures, possess the capacity to experience life beyond physical death, life that survives outside the physical body we now occupy. God says we will witness His eventual creation of a new universe to replace this one. The new one will function with different physical laws and occupy different space-time dimensions…Because we humans are spirit beings, we can make this transition to life beyond our earthly body and earthly dimensions, either life without end in the new creation…or death without end in the lake of fire…”[64]

Following the Fall

What we believe about the post-mortem state is undoubtedly affected by the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the introduction of their sin to the rest of humanity. Both psychopannychists and those who believe in an intermediate afterlife appeal to Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.” Adam and Eve introduced death to the human race, yet those who welcome the gospel can have eternal life. Psychopannychists conclude that physical death and physical life are entirely what are being described here, whereas those of us who believe in an intermediate disembodied afterlife would argue that something more than just physical life or physical death should be considered. Are “life” and “death” one-dimensional, or multi-dimensional concepts as seen in Scripture?

While Adam and Eve were certainly created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), did they possess the ability for their bodies to live forever prior to the Fall? Some may get the impression from reading Genesis chs. 1-3 that Adam and Eve initially possessed an immortality of their bodies never dying, but this is actually not the impression that we get from what God Himself says in Genesis 3:22: “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” Adam and Eve would have had to have eaten from the Tree of Life in order for their bodies to live forever.

The instruction that was given to Adam in the Garden of Eden, by God, was “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). No one denies the fact that physical death is a definite part of the consequence of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. In Genesis 3:19 God is clear to say, “By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” But was the penalty that Adam and Eve incurred for their sin solely physical death? Psychopannychists say a resounding “Yes,” and as Bacchiocchi would specifically argue, “people [often] believe Satan’s lie that no matter what they do, they ‘shall not die’ (Gen 3:4),”[65] which means that those of us who believe in a temporary disembodied afterlife have obviously been beguiled by the serpent just as Eve was:

“The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.”’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die!’” (Genesis 3:2-4).

Satan tempted Eve by telling her that if she ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that she would not die. Of course, we know that Adam and Eve did die subsequent to eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 6:5). Yet in a particular way, the Adversary was actually correct in telling Eve that when she would eat the fruit she would not “die.” God was clear to say ki b’yom akholkha m’menu mot tamut, “for in the day of thine eating of it—dying thou dost die” (Genesis 2:17, YLT), meaning that within a reasonable scope of time from committing the sin Adam and Eve should have died. They are confronted by God for the crime that they committed against Him:

“Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate’” (Genesis 3:9-12).

The serpent is chastised for his temptation of Eve (Genesis 2:14-16), and then the penalty for eating the fruit is laid upon Adam and Eve:

“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it”; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return’” (Genesis 3:17-19).

Adam and Eve are told that their future will not be as glorious as their past, but it is clear from the text that they did not physically die at the time they ate the forbidden fruit. What happened instead? “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7). Something spiritual took place within both Adam and Eve when they ate the forbidden fruit.

As a direct result of their sin, they are ejected from the Garden of Eden: “therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken” (Genesis 3:23). From reading the account of humanity’s Fall, Adam and Eve did not “die,” at least in the context of what psychopannychists advocate, because Adam and Eve were still physically alive with their hearts and their brains still functioning. Instead, they found themselves ejected out of Paradise. Their innocence was gone and they could no longer fully commune with God. Wright observes, “In Genesis, and indeed much of the Old Testament, the controlling image for death is exile. Adam and Eve were told that they would die on the day they ate the fruit; what actually happened was that they were expelled from the garden.”[66]

Adam and Eve did not “drop dead” from committing the first sin, but they were instead cast out of the Garden and removed from God’s presence. Yeshua the Messiah would have to come on the scene in order to restore humanity back to the condition of being in such full communion with the Father (Genesis 3:15; 1 Timothy 2:15, Grk.; cf. Revelation 12:17). His work will be completed with the manifestation of the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation chs. 21-22), and redeemed physical people will be entering back to an Edenic type of state—meaning not just the redemption of the human consciousnesses, but of the whole person. Wright comments, “the promised final future is [not] simply that immortal souls leave behind their mortal bodies,”[67] because God’s plan of salvation history includes the abolishment of physical death at the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:26; cf. Romans 8:23; Hebrews 9:27). Yet, such life and redemption can begin and be partaken of long before the resurrection.

Advocates of psychopannychy only look at death in terms of physicality, equating animal death and human death as being the same. The death that Adam and Eve would have experienced would thus have only been physical. Yet, the Apostle Paul only makes the point that with the introduction of sin “death spread to all men” (Romans 5:12), eis pantas anthrōpous or “to all humans,” as animal death was something entirely different and independent of this.[68] In Scripture, we do see that “death” involves something much more than the stopping of one’s heartbeat and brainwaves. The unredeemed state of a sinner is being “dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1, cf. 2:5; Colossians 2:13), particularized in how “she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives” (1 Timothy 5:6), clearly depicting a condition that exists even when a person is physically alive. One who lives in sin is removed from the life of God.

The “life” that God promises to us is something that we can experience now—even prior to the resurrection—which is being restored to communion with Him! Yeshua the Messiah asks, “everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:26). He also says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). Born again Believers physically die all the time, requiring us to look at the “death” and “life” of human beings in something more than just physical, one-dimensional terms. Morey notes, “The ‘life’ which we receive at regeneration is not to be a temporary existence. The life which we receive is described as being ‘eternal.’”[69] This is why our Lord says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10), and while surely He does want us to be physically fit, He more especially wants us to be in an intimate relationship with Him!

If we have properly interpreted the Creation account, Adam and Eve experienced God’s life and God’s presence inside of the Garden of Eden, and upon sinning were ejected into a condition of death and separation from Him. This death would involve their physical bodies ceasing to function, but it would primarily include the end of their intimate communion with Him. It is a mistake to limit the “life” of a human being entirely to physical life on Earth. While physical death is something to be conquered via the resurrection, the dominion of death can be conquered now by the power of the gospel and people receiving salvation. Eternal life is not exclusively being given a resurrected and restored body to exist in the New Heavens and New Earth; it is primarily being restored to an intimate communion with the Lord. As the author of Hebrews says, “let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16), a life of communion with God that was lost because of the sin of Adam and Eve, but can now be restored to men and women by the sacrificial work of Yeshua.

Messianic psychopannychists often have a problem recognizing that when Adam and Eve “died” at the time they ate the forbidden fruit, they did not “drop dead” in medical terms with their hearts and brains ceasing to function, but instead were ejected from the Garden of Eden and God’s presence. But some think that they have an easy answer for this. Genesis 5:5 says “Adam lived nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.” They connect this to Psalm 90:4, “a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by,” and believing that humanity has only been granted a 6,000 year cosmic week to inhabit Planet Earth, Adam clearly died in the first so-called “day” or 1,000-year period. While this is a convenient way for Messianic psychopannychists to dodge the reality that the “death” Adam and Eve experienced was primarily their ejection from the Garden, it has some problems attached to it.

While it cannot be denied that belief in a 6,000 year probation on Earth was a view of some Sages (b.Sanhedrin 97a-97b), with Psalm 90 offered as a substantiating text, Psalm 90 itself does not speak of a 6,000 year cosmic week for humanity. The overarching theme of Psalm 90 is God’s timelessness compared to man’s temporality: “Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God…For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:2, 4). A thousand years passes by God like it is no time at all, even when people are able to live, if strong, for eighty years (Psalm 90:10).

Messianic psychopannychists who believe that Adam died in the first “day” of 1,000 years rely heavily on the work of Seventeenth Century Archbishop James Ussher, who determined that the Earth was actually created in 4004 B.C.E. This chronology, however, was pieced together using presuppositions that interpreted the genealogy listings of Genesis chs. 5 and 11 incorrectly, failing to consider the use of any telescoping, and is a chronology that lost considerable support among conservative theologians in the Twentieth Century. Furthermore, anthropological data available to us since the Seventeenth Century does clearly show us that the human race is over 6,000 years old. Creationist Hugh Ross indicates, “attempts to spread the Christian gospel in Asia were stymied because Chinese historical records gave a date for the origin and spread of civilization that preceded Ussher’s date.”[70] When we see human cave paintings, such as those in Lascaux, France from an estimated 16,000 years ago[71] (with some of the other cave paintings in France and Spain dating to as many as 32,000 years ago), the 6,000 year chronology that so many Messianics hold to is not at all easily sustainable.[72]

Unless “life” and “death” are only things to be considered in entirely physical terms, then we have adequate proof from the Fall that the death introduced to humanity by Adam is first and foremost an unredeemed person’s separation from God, present in those who live in bondage to the realm of sin. This is a separation that can be remedied, however, by men and women receiving the salvation available in Yeshua. When a born again Believer dies, his or her consciousness will be transferred into the presence of the Lord—surely a desirable condition if one’s communion with Him has been restored to a heart that is then filled with great love for Him (Deuteronomy 6:5; Philippians 1:21-23)—with the salvation process fully consummating at the resurrection. It is not unimportant at all that human death is differentiated from animal death (Romans 5:12). Advocates of psychopannychy have done a disservice in viewing “life” and “death” in only one-dimensional terms. By so doing, it has been my experience that Messianic psychopannychists seem to not possess a significant knowledge of the spiritual realm, or for that matter of the communion that they should desire to experience with the Lord.

What is Sheol? What is the grave?

Within the Hebrew Scriptures, the place where the deceased go is called Sheol, translated in the Septuagint by the term Hadēs, whose usage carries over into the Apostolic Scriptures. In most of today’s English translations of the Bible (i.e., RSV, NASU, NRSV, ESV) both Sheol and Hades appear in the text, leaving the reader to decide what is being spoken of. (David H. Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible similarly just uses Sh’ol). Versions like the NIV, however, often render Sheol as “the grave.” With this, Ecclesiastes 9:10 would say “for in the grave [Sheol], where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (NIV).[73] Yet there is a huge debate in today’s Biblical scholarship whether Sheol is actually “the grave,” meaning just a place of internment for dead bodies. The newer TNIV renders Ecclesiastes 9:10 with “in the realm of the dead, where you are going,” which indicates doubt that Sheol is not necessarily “the grave.” So is Sheol/Hades the grave, or is it an extra-dimensional place where the consciousnesses of the dead can be held prior to resurrection? The New Interpreter’s Study Bible provides us with the following summary of options:

“The Hebrew term [Sheol] refers on one level to the depths of the earth, literally, since it was where the dead were buried. On another level, it was the dwelling place of the dead (see ‘shades’), who experienced a state of being considerably less than earthly life but not nothingness. Sheol was not the exclusive abode of the righteous or the wicked, but of everyone, and it is often used as a synonym for death, as in Isa 28:15 (cf. 1 Sam 2:6; Job 21:13; Psa 6:5).”[74]

Psychopannychists argue that Sheol/Hades is exclusively the grave, whereas those of us who believe in an intermediate afterlife prior to resurrection argue that it is an extra-dimensional realm of the dead.

Sheol is depicted as a place from which no one comes up (Job 7:9), seemingly requiring some kind of resurrection, causing many to conclude that it is only “the grave.” Some think that Sheol can mean either the netherworld or the grave, dependent on how the term is used. Yet, is it at all important that the location of Sheol is often contrasted to be as low as Heaven is high (Deuteronomy 32:22; Isaiah 7:11; cf. Job 11:8)? This could depict Sheol at one end of the cosmic spectrum, with Heaven at the other end, and with Planet Earth somewhere in the middle. Heaven is surely in another dimension than Planet Earth, so why would it be a problem if Sheol were also in another dimension (or at least the same dimension as Heaven)?[75]

Expositors often do not disagree with the conclusion that Sheol and the grave are connected, as the power of death is in view, yet “the degree to which [Sheol] is identified with the grave has been debated” (ABD).[76] Is Sheol a synonym for the grave, or is it a companion for the grave—so that while one’s body decays in a tomb, one’s consciousness is reduced to a shade of its former self in Sheol? Strong evidence is offered on both sides, with many simply concluding, “At most it is a place of confinement away from the land of the living” (ISBE).[77] One’s presuppositions relating to whether Sheol is just the grave, or an extra-dimensional holding place, will affect how one interprets Scripture passages that portray the deceased in Sheol.

One fact that can easily escape us is that the Scriptures do possess specific terms for a place of interment, a tomb or an actual gravesite. The Hebrew qever means “grave, sepulchre” (BDB).[78] When the Torah says that one is rendered unclean by touching a grave, a place of burial, qever is what is referred to (Numbers 19:13-18). Qever is used to describe how the king of Babylon has “been cast out of your tomb” (Isaiah 14:19), and while the other “kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb” (Isaiah 14:18), the king of Babylon does not have a proper burial in a qever, instead being brought down to Sheol (Isaiah 14:9) where he is welcomed by the kings who preceded him. A common Messianic passage, Isaiah 53:9, details how “His grave [qever] was assigned with wicked men.”

In Greek, a term of specific interest to us would be mnēma, often meaning a memorial, and hence “gener. grave, tomb” (BDAG).[79] In the period between His death and resurrection, Yeshua’s body was placed in a mnēma (Mark 16:2; Luke 8:27), yet as the Apostle Peter would testify “HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY” (Acts 2:31; cf. Psalm 16:10). Yeshua’s body was not placed in a mnēma long enough to decay, while the Lord was not left as a permanent resident of Hades (or Sheol; cf. Luke 23:43; 1 Peter 3:19).

While these are important examples to consider regarding what Sheol/Hades is, it behooves us more than anything else to examine the varied usages of Sheol as seen in the Tanach. This is largely because psychopannychists make their arguments about the post-mortem state almost entirely from the Tanach. (Regardless of what side one takes, interpreters are widely agreed that the usage of Hadēs in the Apostolic Scriptures concurs with the Tanach usage of Sheol.) So does the Tanach depict Sheol as a place of internment, or as a holding place for the consciousness of the deceased prior to resurrection?

The first place Sheol appears is in the Patriarch Jacob’s lament for his son Joseph, of whom he cries out “A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!” (Genesis 37:33). Mourning for his lost son, Jacob is overcome so that all he can say is ki-ered el-beni avel Sheolah, meaning “I will go down mourning to my son in Sheol” (Genesis 37:35, NJPS). While it would be very easy for one to simply conclude that this means “in mourning will I go down to the grave” (NIV), it is not insignificant that we point out how—believing his son was eaten by a wild animal—Joseph would have had no place of burial. Morey indicates, “He…speaks of ‘going down’ to reunite with his son, because it was assumed that Sheol was the place of departed spirits, probably a hollow place in the center of the earth.”[80] Similarly, commenting on this verse, Sarna describes,

“[Sheol] is the most frequently used term in biblical Hebrew for the abode of the spirits of the dead. The region was imagined as situated deep beneath the earth, enclosed with gates. It was a place of unrelieved gloom and silence; it received anyone, good and bad, great and small. All were equal there, and none who entered it could leave”[81] (cf. Amos 9:2).

The first Biblical usage of Sheol allows for a belief in a disembodied post-mortem state, something even reflected in today’s somewhat progressive Jewish theology.[82]

For the most part regarding Sheol, though, we find a series of Tanach passages that are undeniably affected by one’s presuppositions. If Sheol is just the grave, they can be viewed this way—or if Sheol is a holding place for the human consciousness prior to resurrection, they can likewise be viewed this way. The following are a selection of passages to be considered. Thankfully, most Bibles do leave Sheol as is, leaving the reader to decide what is being communicated:

“For Sheol cannot thank You, death cannot praise You; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness. It is the living who give thanks to You, as I do today; a father tells his sons about Your faithfulness” (Isaiah 38:18-19).

“The strong among the mighty ones shall speak of him and his helpers from the midst of Sheol, ‘They have gone down, they lie still, the uncircumcised, slain by the sword’” (Ezekiel 32:21).

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

“For there is no mention of You in death; in Sheol who will give You thanks? I am weary with my sighing; every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears” (Psalm 6:5-6).

“Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I call upon You; let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol” (Psalm 31:17).

“As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd; and the upright shall rule over them in the morning, and their form shall be for Sheol to consume so that they have no habitation. But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Selah” (Psalm 49:14-15).

“Let death come deceitfully upon them; Let them go down alive to Sheol [realm of the dead, TNIV], for evil is in their dwelling, in their midst” (Psalm 55:15).

“For Your lovingkindness toward me is great, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol” (Psalm 86:13).

“For my soul has had enough troubles, and my life has drawn near to Sheol. I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength, forsaken among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more, and they are cut off from Your hand. You have put me in the lowest pit, in dark places, in the depths” (Psalm 88:3-6).

“What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah” (Psalm 89:48).

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You” (Psalm 139:7-12).

“If I look for Sheol as my home, I make my bed in the darkness; if I call to the pit, ‘You are my father’; to the worm, ‘my mother and my sister’; where now is my hope? And who regards my hope? Will it go down with me to Sheol? Shall we together go down into the dust?” (Job 17:13-16).

From the variety of usages seen here, it is not difficult to see how some interpreters can view Sheol as being “the grave,” and yet how other interpreters can see Sheol as a shadowy netherworld for the deceased where there is a quasi-existence of being cut of from Earthly experiences. Psychopannychists would view the varied references to Sheol in a poetic or non-literal sense, whereas those of us who believe in an intermediate post-mortem state would view Sheol as a literal holding place for the consciousness of the deceased. Both psychopannychists and those who believe in an intermediate post-mortem state are agreed that Earthly life is contrasted with the existence of the deceased. But what kind of existence of the deceased is implied in the sorts of passages above? Milne indicates that while “Its etymology is disputed…many scholars favour a root meaning such as ‘the desolate realm’, or the ‘un-world’.”[83] Sheol and the grave are undoubtedly partners, but to what extent? Morey summarizes some thoughts that need to be kept in mind:

“Once in Sheol, all experiences related exclusively to physical life are no longer possible. Those in Sheol do not marry and procreate children because they do not have bodies. Neither do they plan and execute business transactions. Once in Sheol, they cannot attend public worship in the temple and give sacrifices or praise. There are no bodily pleasures such as eating or drinking. Those in Sheol do not have any wisdom or knowledge about what is happening in the land of the living. They are cut off from the living. They have entered a new dimension of reality with its own kind of existence…”[84]

If Sheol is portrayed as a quiet place of relative inactivity, but from where there can be a degree of conscious interaction among its inhabitants, then it need not be viewed as “the grave.” When living people prefer to rest today, they like to be in quiet or serene places. In the case of Sheol, it is portrayed more as a place where the deceased are left alone more than anything else. In the view of Peter C. Craigie, “In Sheol, persons were believed to exist in a form of semi-life, at rest, yet not in joy, for they had not the fullness of life which made possible the richness of relationship with the living God. Death was thus to be dreaded.”[85] Even if spite of a level of consciousness, the shades in Sheol could not experience all of the things that Earthly life offered.

Advocates of psychopannychy like Bacchiocchi, however, do believe that Sheol is just another term for “grave.” He provides Numbers 16:31-33 as his support, saying “Perhaps the clearest example of the location of sheol beneath the earth is the account of the punishment of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who had revolted against the authority of Moses.”[86] These verses tell us,

“As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.”

This was quite a dramatic scene, as those opposed to God’s servant were swallowed up by the ground. Bacchiocchi’s view is that “This episode clearly shows that the whole person, and not just the soul, goes down to sheol, to the realm of the dead.”[87] What he has failed to tell us, though, is the fact that being swallowed up by the ground is not the normal way that people die. Numbers 16:30 is clear to specify that this judgment was “something unheard-of” (NJPS) or “unprecedented” (HCSB),[88] so that Moses’ credibility could be confirmed to the Israelites. There is no major issue here if an Israelite had already believed that the consciousness of the deceased went to Sheol, because the rebels going down with their possessions would make the Israelites realize that what had made them prideful against Moses could not help them in the face of God. On the contrary, the Psalmist even says that one’s bones “have been scattered at the mouth of Sheol” (Psalm 141:7), supporting the view of Sheol not being “the grave,” but instead a holding area for the consciousnesses of the deceased where physical elements are not allowed. The rebels opposing Moses would then be swallowed up and killed, ultimately ending up as just refaim or shades in Sheol.

Those of us who believe that the evidence points to Sheol being a temporary holding place for the disembodied deceased until resurrection, can point to usages of the term that can be read from the perspective of an extra-dimensional post-mortem vantage point. Morey provides a list of twenty reasons in his book Death and the Afterlife pointing to Sheol being an extra-dimensional netherworld, notably including: unlike a grave (Exodus 14:11), Sheol is never localized; Sheol can never be bought or sold (Genesis 23:4-20), unlike a place of entombment; humans can place a dead body in a resting place, but not in Sheol (Genesis 50:13); humans can touch a gravesite (Numbers 19:19), but not Sheol; remains in a grave can be removed or uncovered (2 Kings 23:16), but humans are incapable of removing or uncovering anything in Sheol; humans can beautify or decorate a gravesite (Genesis 35:20), but not Sheol. These facts can only lead us to one conclusion: Sheol is an extra-dimensional netherworld.[89] As he further concludes,

“Sheol is ‘under the earth,’ or ‘the underworld,’ while graves were built as supulchres above the earth, or caves, or holes in the earth. Sheol is called the underworld in Isa. 14:9. It is also called ‘the lower parts of the earth’ (KJV) in Ps. 63:9; Isa. 44:23; Eze. 26:20; 31:14, 16, 18; 32:18, 24. Sheol is the opposite of heaven (Ps. 139:8). One must go ‘down’ to get to Sheol (Gen. 37:35).”[90]

While the linguistic debates over what Sheol is do rage on, there are some specific instances where death is portrayed in the Tanach that will give us a fuller picture of the subject, because as Cooper notes, we can often be stuck with “the indeterminacy of poetic language.”[91] It is incumbent upon us to see what the Tanach actually tells us about the death expectations of Ancient Israel for us to have a fuller picture.

Death Expectations in the Tanach

When reading the Tanach, it is not difficult for one to see that it is more concerned about regulating human life on Planet Earth, than it is concerned about the hereafter. Cooper indicates, “The Old Testament is resoundingly this-worldly. The fullest possible extent for a human being is to live an earthly life as God created it to be lived.”[92] Many people when reading the Tanach get the impression that it has no expectation of any kind of intermediate afterlife, or for that same matter, a resurrection of the dead. The Tanach does certainly affirm the reanimation of physical bodies in the eschaton (Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:6; Daniel 12:2), but what does it say about the expectations regarding death? Does it conclusively speak against the concept of a disembodied post-mortem state? Psychopannychists certainly believe so, but those of us who do believe in a temporary disembodied state prior to the resurrection are not convinced. The following are some passages that need to be weighed into our discussion, especially in terms of whether or not the Tanach supports psychopannychy.

Genesis 37:35

“Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, ‘Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.’ So his father wept for him.”

The first place where the Hebrew word Sheol is encountered in the Scriptures, appears in the Patriarch Jacob’s response to the news that his beloved son Joseph has been attacked and eaten by wild animals. Upon seeing the evidence, Jacob exclaims, “It is my son’s tunic. A wild beast has devoured him; Joseph has surely been torn to pieces!” (Genesis 37:33). Naturally, “Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days” (Genesis 37:34). Joseph was the son of Jacob from his dear wife Rachel, and his father Jacob knew of the dreams that Joseph had (Genesis 37:1-11) and had an inkling of the future God had intended for him. With Joseph now reported to be dead, this was all wasted.

Without expelling a huge amount of investigation, it is easy for some readers to see what Jacob says, and then encountering a version like the NIV just assume he means “in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.” Those who read a little more closely, noticing what Jacob thinks has occurred, as wild animals have not only murdered and eaten—but by this time had also excreted a great deal of Joseph’s body—should easily recognize, though, that Joseph had no place of burial. The Hebrew clause ki-ered el-beni avel Sheolah is best rendered as “I shall go down to Sheol to my son” (RSV). While Jacob will be mourning for the loss of Joseph and not be able to see him grow up and accomplish his full potential, the two of them will be reunited in death in Sheol. But even such a reunification in death will not compensate Jacob for his loss. Walter Brueggemann offers these thoughts:

“So much had been entrusted to that young body. The body torn by the beast carried the future of the people. The ‘added’ one is irreplaceable [cf. Genesis 30:24]. No ritual covers it. No other children can substitute.”[93]

With Jacob thinking that Joseph has been consumed by wild animals, having no place of burial (qever), the only thing left for the two of them is Sheol. Genesis 37:35 includes an important clue for later reading that Sheol is not a place of internment, but rather the shadowy world of the dead, a realm of another dimension. At the very least, as Hamilton indicates, Sheol “is a proper name denoting the netherworld, which, in essence, was an extension of the grave.” He advises us to look at the term Sheol here as like the “vague [descriptions] ‘the great beyond’ or ‘afterworld.’” No one who accepts an intermediate afterlife between death and resurrection would argue, solely on the basis of Genesis 37:35, that Sheol is not a partner along with the grave, nor that everything known about Sheol is seen here. As Hamilton further directs us, “The question” of what this actually is “can only be answered…by an investigation of all OT references to death, Sheol, resurrection, and the like.”[94]

Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Isaiah 8:19-20

“Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:31).

“As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people” (Leviticus 20:6).

“When they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isaiah 8:19-20).

Moses’ Teaching specifically forbade the Ancient Israelites from consulting mediums or necromancers (Heb. sing. ov),[95] with capital punishment specified for those who would employ the services of such individuals. It almost goes without saying that a prohibition on consulting the dead presupposes the belief in some kind of continued existence of the human consciousness after death. Those who would consult a necromancer would do so with the express intention of communicating with a deceased person in the netherworld, who was to some degree aware of what existed beyond physical death. While the Lord certainly did not want His people engaging in these activities to open themselves up to demonic activity, the intention for visiting a necromancer would have specifically been for not communicating with angels or demons, but instead with deceased humans. The only means for people to communicate with Him, of course, were via worship and prayer; the means by which the departed were to be consulted were via occultic and forbidden practices.

It is indisputable that “There is abundant evidence for cults of the dead in the pagan world that surrounded Israel” (ABD), existing in Mesopotamia in the time of Abraham, in Ugarit, and in Canaan. There was an “ancient view that the dead as spirits maintained an ongoing relationship with the living, albeit in a weakened state of existence” (ABD).[96] While visiting a burial site was not uncommon for any ancient or modern culture, many ancient societies visited burial sites to do more than just remember and honor the deceased, but instead perform religious rituals to try to communicate with them and curry favor from the beyond. The rites of these cults, often trying to communicate with the deceased, were strictly forbidden for Ancient Israel.

The employment of terafim or various household idols were commonly employed in necromancy (Genesis 19:13; Judges 17:5; cf. Isaiah 29:4). Food offerings to the dead are prohibited (Deuteronomy 26:14; Psalm 106:28), as they were believed necessary for the ongoing nourishment of the departed. And it has even been suggested that one of the reasons that pork was off limits for Israel’s diet was how “the sacrifice of a pig was closely connected with rites for the dead (Isa 65:4)” (ABD).[97] Yet, the witness of the Tanach does indicate that the Israelites, even though prohibited from consulting necromancers, did try to communicate with the dead in Sheol. Some even assert, “The Hebrews in the remote past carried on an organized cult of the dead, especially of their ancestors” (ABD).[98] As Cooper concludes, “surely if the Israelites did not believe that the dead existed or that they could be consulted, there would have been no need to warn them against such practices.”[99] Clearly, a different kind of instruction would have probably been given if communication with dark spiritual forces or principalities were only the issue.

Numbers 16:30-33

“‘But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD.’ As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.”

We already addressed this passage in the previous section on Sheol, answering the claim of psychopannychists that Korah and the rebels were only transported to the grave, and not a holding place of disembodiment. The ground opening up and swallowing the discontents and their possessions is said by Moses to have been “something unprecedented” (HCSB) or a “miracle” (REB), meaning that this was not the normal way that people die. The view that the rebels could have been physically killed by this, with their consciousnesses transferred to the netherworld of Sheol, is not at all a far stretch of the scene, especially if God wanted to emphasize how their possessions would not save them.

It is not unimportant that in the view of some, Korah and his company going down alive into Sheol indicates that they may have never died. Philip J. Budd indicates how “The common death experienced by men in general is the withdrawal of breath and divine spirit (cf. e.g. Job 12:10; Ps 104:28). This is clearly distinguished from the abnormal intervention on God’s part anticipated here.” He lists one view, which asserts, “Since they ‘go down alive’ it may mean that they feel deprivation there, and suffer in a way that the dead do not.”[100] They do, after all, represent the first direct challenge to Moses’ authority, and to the establishment of the fledgling nation of Ancient Israel.

With this considered, the possibility that Korah and the rebels could have been taken into Sheol without experiencing physical death may serve as an antithesis of individuals like Enoch (Genesis 5:24) or Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) being translated by God up into Heaven.

1 Samuel 28:13-15

“The king said to her, ‘Do not be afraid; but what do you see?’ And the woman said to Saul, ‘I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.’ He said to her, ‘What is his form?’ And she said, ‘An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe.’ And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage. Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’ And Saul answered, ‘I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I should do.’”

King Saul visited the witch of Endor with the specific intent of communicating with the deceased Samuel, a significant problem for him as he routed all necromancers out of Israel, yet promised this medium that she would not be harmed (1 Samuel 28:9-10). As she performs her rituals, she says elohim ra’iti olim min-ha’eretz. Because the scene depicts some kind of spectre being called up and speaking to King Saul, psychopannychists have to immediately discount the possibility that this is actually the Prophet Samuel, as it would easily support the view that the consciousness of the deceased can exist outside of the body. Psychopannychists insist that this being, labeled as “elohim” by the witch of Endor, was only a demon impersonating Samuel and not the Prophet Samuel himself. Yet this has a problem when the rituals associated with the Canaanite cult of the dead—which we may safely assume this medium was practicing—are taken into proper consideration. Wright explains,

Elohim normally means ‘god’ or ‘gods’; this usage presumably reflects Canaanite belief in the divinity of the dead, surviving here as a kind of linguistic fossil. Here it seems to mean ‘a spirit’, ‘a being from the world of the gods’.”[101]

For some reason or another, God allowed the rites of this medium to work, and the Prophet Samuel communicates a rather ironic message to King Saul: “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has departed from you and has become your adversary?” (1 Samuel 28:16). Obviously, if the Almighty Himself is unwilling to help Saul, then Samuel in the netherworld cannot help Saul, either. And what is Samuel’s word to Saul? Samuel says, “tomorrow you and your sons will be with me” (1 Samuel 28:19), as they would be killed in battle and join the company of departed refaim or shades in Sheol. This is not just a poetic way of Samuel saying that Saul and his sons would die. Cooper notes, “[H]e expects Saul and his sons to be joining him. That would not be true if he were [just] in some special state of suspended animation provided by God for this unique occasion.”[102] The opinion of the Septuagint translators was, in fact, that the Prophet Samuel himself via a wizard, did communicate with King Saul:

“So Saul died for his transgressions, wherein he transgressed against God, against the word of the Lord, forasmuch as he kept it not, because Saul enquired of a wizard to seek counsel, and Samuel the prophet answered him: and he sought not the Lord: so he slew him, and turned the kingdom to David the son of Jesse” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14, LXE).

The being which identified itself as the Prophet Samuel had a self-awareness as being the authentic Prophet Samuel. But, if for some small chance the critic is correct in suggesting that this was really some demon imposter, psychopannychy still is insupportable. The demon imposter saying “tomorrow you…will be with me” would mean that King Saul and his sons would still be transported to another realm. Demonic spirits are not native beings to Planet Earth, but rather to another dimension or spirit world. Such a condition requires disembodiment.

Isaiah 14:9-11, 18-20

“Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; it arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; it raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones. They will all respond and say to you, ‘Even you have been made weak as we, you have become like us. Your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to Sheol; maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you and worms are your covering’…All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb. But you have been cast out of your tomb like a rejected branch, clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword, who go down to the stones of the pit like a trampled corpse. You will not be united with them in burial, because you have ruined your country, you have slain your people. May the offspring of evildoers not be mentioned forever.”[103]

The death of the king of Babylon is an intriguing passage, because we see Sheol or the netherworld,[104] and qever or the tomb, depicted together. When the king of Babylon dies, “Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come, it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth” (Isaiah 14:9, RSV), as the refaim or departed spirits of the kings who preceded him in death actually welcome his arrival into this new realm. They tell their new companion, “So you have been stricken as we were, you have become like us!” (Isaiah 14:10, NJPS). In spite of the great power he may have wielded in life, the king of Babylon is not immune as death is the great equalizer, and he is certainly no all-powerful deity as he might have imagined. What we see can clearly be interpreted as a disembodied post-mortem state in Sheol, actually described by J. Alec Motyer to be “the half-life of Sheol.”[105]

Isaiah 14:11 adds a physical dimension to this because when the king of Babylon dies, he has “been brought down to Sheol; [with] maggots…spread out as your bed beneath you and worms are your covering.” Each of the kings who have preceded the king of Babylon in death have their own place of internment, their own “house” (Isaiah 14:18, KJV) where their remains rest among their people and they can be remembered and honored. The king of Babylon, in contrast, has “been cast out[106] of [his] tomb [qever][107]” (Isaiah 14:19) and “will not be united” with the kings who preceded him “in burial [b’qevurah], because [he has] ruined [his] country” (Isaiah 14:20). The king of Babylon has no burial in any tomb or grave, but instead is given a bed of maggots and covering of worms. Consider the reaction of those who witness the fall of the king of Babylon:

“Those who see you will gaze at you, they will ponder over you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities, who did not allow his prisoners to go home?’” (Isaiah 14:16-17).

In spite of the great power and influence he wielded in life, the evil actions of the king of Babylon catch up with him in the end. John D.W. Watts explains, “The observations of those who view the corpse reflect their astonishment and horror. The body has not been buried, but abandoned like garbage (v 19). He shares the fate of the dead among the poorest people: like the aborted fetus, like the clothes of one stabbed in a brawl, one killed in a fall, one trampled by a mob or on a battle-field, he is simply dumped in a pit and left to the birds and animals.”[108] Rather than having a tomb where he can be honored and remembered by his people, all the king of Babylon has is a place among the shades in Sheol, where he can be chastised by those who preceded him in death. His mangled corpse disappears into history.[109] Motyer suggests, “Stripped of his royal robes, the king now has nothing to clothe him but the bodies of those who died in…battle, heaped together ignominiously.”[110]

Advocates of psychopannychy do not see this scene as depicting any kind of literal descent of the consciousness of the king of Babylon into Sheol, but instead conclude that the king of Babylon dying and being greeted by previous kings in Sheol is just a poetic taunt, not to be taken with any kind of literalness. Previously, trees have been depicted as speaking (Isaiah 14:8), so why should we take the shades of the kings in Sheol as being anything more than just metaphor? Sheol here is simply thought to be a synonym for the grave. But it does matter that people taunt the king of Babylon. In James 5:4, for example, while the unpaid wages of laborers figuratively cries out against the ungodly rich, so do the laborers themselves cry out to the Lord. No one argues against the laborers themselves being real people:

“Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”

In the full picture of what we see in the king of Babylon’s downfall, what we actually see are Sheol and the grave contrasted. The taunt of the kings in Sheol is precisely that the king of Babylon has no grave, while the rest of them do have graves! The praises and fanfare that this monarch received in Earthly life have now shifted toward an existence of being ridiculed by those who predeceased him. At the very best, what the remains of the king of Babylon have is a kind of sofa made of worms and maggots, resembling the kind of soft cushions he would have been able to rest upon as monarch. Morey states, “the king is cast out of his grave (kever) in order to be thrown into Sheol where the departed spirits can rebuke him (vv. 9, 10). In this passage, Sheol and kever are opposites, not synonyms,”[111] even if they might work together as partners in the death process.

The point made in the taunt is that the king of Babylon joins the other kings in Sheol or the netherworld—not that he joins them in burial. If there is any metaphor that needs to be understood from Isaiah 14:9, it would not be the taunting of the king of Babylon by the shades of the other deceased kings, but rather how these kings are depicted as rising up from thrones that they sit upon. This should be taken as symbolic language depicting these shades asserting some of their previous authority or reputation, not that they actually had real thrones or chairs of some sort to sit upon in the netherworld.

There is hermeneutical difficulty for the psychopannychist who believes that Isaiah 14:9-11, 18-20 is simply a symbolic way of describing death, but no post-mortem disembodied state. What is keeping us from interpreting Scriptures where they consider that the literal condition of the dead is complete unconsciousness in a similar poetic or symbolic way? Cooper notes that their “objection cuts both ways. It is also a problem for those who argue from Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes that pure unconsciousness is the literal Hebrew belief about the dead. Those texts [could not] be taken at face value either.”[112] It is disingenuous of the psychopannychist to just allegorize as poetry all references to Bible passages which depict people in a post-mortem, disembodied conscious state prior to resurrection.

Psalm 146:2-4

“I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.”

Psychopannychists often think that they have a very strong case from Psalm 146:2-4, as v. 4 obviously describes what happens to a person at death: someone’s breath leaves, his body decomposes, and his brainwaves or thoughts cease. No conscious post-mortem state is seen. These conclusions, however, fail to take into consideration the actual message being communicated by the Psalmist.

The Psalmist declares how he will praise the Lord with his being: “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!” (Psalm 146:1). The Psalmist refuses to place his trust “in the great, in mortal man who cannot save” (Psalm 146:3, NJPS). This is because human beings die and decompose, unlike a God who is the Eternal Creator and who demonstrates consistent faithfulness (Psalm 146:5-10). On these points psychopannychists and those of us who believe in an intermediate afterlife are not in disagreement.

What is to be made of the Psalmist’s assertion that when a mortal man dies “in that very day his thoughts perish”? Some suggest that the scene here is Israel trying to seek its deliverance from allies of other nations, something that indicates distrust in God and will not benefit them. Others would simply say that this concerns individuals placing their trust in princes or political leaders. Yet regardless of which view one takes, esh’ton is more concurrent with one’s “plan” (HALOT; cf. RSV, NIV, NRSV, ESV, etc.),[113] as opposed to his thoughts being his consciousness. Leslie C. Allen explains, “Their creatureliness spells the transience of their policies: in spite of their apparent power, from a long-term standpoint they are powerless.”[114]

We have good reason to believe that Psalm 146:2-4 does not concern the consciousness of a person ending at death, but instead the plans of any mortal sought out for salvation—over and against a God who should be praised and who alone can provide salvation. Only the Lord, because of who He is, is worthy of such praise and the Psalmist’s trust, something that will last b’odi, as long as the Psalmist can “exist” (Psalm 146:2, YLT/NJPS). While limited mortals who may be sought for salvation will fade away, the ability for the Psalmist to praise God is notably something that will not end, as ‘od frequently regards “a going round, continuance” (BDB)[115] or “permanence, constancy” (CHALOT).[116] In spite of what happens, the Psalmist’s praises or acclamations to God, and the confidence placed in Him, will not stop with his Earthly life—even though the plans of princes will—likely necessitating some sort of ongoing, presumably post-mortem existence for the Psalmist,[117] especially when read in concert with other passages.

Ecclesiastes 3:18-22

“I said to myself concerning the sons of men, ‘God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts.’ For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth? I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?”

In examining the works and teachings of psychopannychists, it is not difficult at all to see that there is perhaps no more favorite book of the Bible for them than Ecclesiastes. For some reason or another, they feel content in giving this anonymous and controversial book more weight than many other texts of Scripture.[118] Few Messianics who have adopted the doctrine of psychopannychy are aware that Ecclesiastes was one of the last books to be included in our Bible, for the specific reason that some viewed it as being anti-resurrection. Tremper Longman III indicates how throughout both Jewish and Christian history, “The book was accused of contradictions, secularity, and even outright heresy”—precisely because “According to Qohelet, death is the end” and no resurrection (at least from some readings of it) is to likely be anticipated.[119]

The Mishnah records the debates that occurred between the Pharisaical Schools of Hillel and Shammai over Ecclesiastes’ usefulness: “‘[The Book of] Qohelet does not render the hands unclean,’ according to the House of Shammai. And the House of Hillel say, ‘It renders the hands unclean’” (m.Eduyyot 5:3).[120] Shammai considered the text to not render one’s hands unclean because Ecclesiastes was not intrinsically that holy, whereas Hillel viewed the text as being holy. Debate over the holiness, or unholiness, of the Book of Ecclesiastes was still going on until the late First Century C.E. (m.Yadayaim 3:5), well after Yeshua the Messiah had come on the scene. The Apostle Paul’s reference to Ecclesiastes 1:2 in Romans 8:20 assured Ecclesiastes a place within the Christian canon, but much of the Church has viewed Ecclesiastes with some of the same skepticism as the Rabbis.

Any difficulty those of us who believe in a temporary disembodied post-mortem state may have, however, needs to be resolved from the text of Ecclesiastes itself, and not us just dismissing or ignoring this book as somehow not being Scripture.

Here in Ecclesiastes 3:19 it is directly stated, “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal” (NIV). Upon first reading, it appears that the consciousness of a human being does not go to an extra-dimensional holding place at the time of death. To the psychopannychist, those of us who believe in a disembodied post-mortem state have obviously got it all wrong.

The cotext of Ecclesiastes 3:19, though, gives us a little fuller picture of what Qohelet is saying to his audience—an audience that likely needs to be encouraged to live a godly life, rejecting hedonism. Qohelet has stated just earlier, “I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-11). Gam et-ha’olam natan b’libam is a unique statement to consider: “Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart” (ESV), or “he has given human beings an awareness of eternity” (CJB). While limited creatures that they are, a human being is to understand that there is something beyond Earth. Life on Earth, while possessing good things (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13a), pales in comparison to how “everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14). A life lived without Him as the emphasis misses the point! People must turn to God to be shown all the wonders of His work.

Qohelet returns to his largely pessimistic method of reasoning with the crowd. The cycles of human life repeat themselves (Ecclesiastes 3:15), but he adds something: “in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness” (Ecclesiastes 3:16). Resha is present in places where it should not be (cf. Micah 6:10-11), and so what happens is “‘God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,’ for a time for every matter and for every deed is there” (Ecclesiastes 3:17). This could be read as a hint of a future resurrection and judgment. But what follows are the difficult words that have stirred unbelievable controversy among many examiners of Ecclesiastes, as Qohelet asserts,

“As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like animals. Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless [hevel; more accurately meaning ‘transitory’]. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:18-21, NIV).

These are the kinds of sentiments that one might expect the Sadducees of the First Century C.E. to say, those who categorically denied the resurrection. Does Qohelet deny the resurrection? Some interpreters actually say yes—so whether one is a psychopannychist or one believes in a temporary disembodied afterlife, as we both believe in the resurrection—this forces us to interpret the Book of Ecclesiastes within the scope of the wider Biblical canon.[121] When we consider the larger Biblical message, and the setting of Ecclesiastes as the period of opulence and corruption reflected in the Books of Amos and Micah, I would suggest that Qohelet’s purpose is not, in fact, to equate the fate of human beings and animals as being the same. Instead, he wants to get his listeners to see that there is more to life than just fulfilling one’s sensual desires—things that are transitory and not permanent. Qohelet says that God will bring people to justice who commit wickedness (Ecclesiastes 3:17). Wicked people who think they can get away with sinful deeds are really no better than the animals, thinking that once they die they will face no consequences for their actions before a Higher Power.

From this angle, Qohelet cynically says, “For who can prove that the human spirit goes up and the spirit of animals goes down into the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:21, NLT). Rather than speaking indisputable facts about how human beings and animals are compositionally indifferent, could it instead be that Qohelet is really trying to get his audience to think about their wickedness, and if they really do face the same fate as the animals? After all, who can really prove that there is something more than this life? His line of reasoning is for them to simply enjoy life on Earth now, because after all, how can we really know what happens next? He says, “I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?” (Ecclesiastes 3:22). No consequences after death, right?

Within the larger Biblical canon we know that there are definite consequences after death, and that the fate of human beings is entirely different from that of the animals. The Apostle Paul is clear on how “each one [of us will] be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Ecclesiastes 3:18-22 presents no problems to those who believe in either the resurrection and/or the resurrection and an intermediate afterlife if the text is approached with the right presuppositions. Qohelet desires that his audience not allow the wickedness he has seen on Earth persist, and he asks them rhetorical questions to really think about whether their lives face no consequences after death, and whether or not their destiny and composition is the same as the animals.

Ecclesiastes 9:5-10

“For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun. Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.”

This section of the Book of Ecclesiastes is probably the most frequently quoted Scripture by psychopannychists toward people who believe in an intermediate afterlife prior to the resurrection. Ecclesiastes 9:5b says “the dead do not know anything” or “the dead know nothing” (RSV/NIV). Sometimes this is screamed at people who are grieving the recent loss of a loved one. While Qohelet is not screaming this at his audience, we need to once again understand his intention for making this remark, and seeing whether or not it really does support psychopannychy.

Qohelet is tempered by wisdom, as he says “I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God….It is the same for all. There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked; for the good, for the clean and for the unclean; for the man who offers a sacrifice and for the one who does not sacrifice” (Ecclesiastes 9:1-2). The power of death is something that will affect each and every person, as “there is one fate for all men” (Ecclesiastes 9:3). Qohelet’s emphasis here is what happens to evil people, and while “insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead” (Ecclesiastes 9:3b). You almost see a chance for possible repentance in his claim, “whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion” (Ecclesiastes 9:4). One might be weaker and righteous before God while living, as opposed to having died strong but with no hope of restitution before Him. What follows are some more words from Qohelet that have been strongly debated among interpreters:

“For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6).

Psychopannychists will take the short clause “the dead know nothing” (RSV/NIV) and then claim that anyone who believes in an afterlife—in either Heaven or Hell—between the time of death and resurrection is in severe error for believing so. Yet this is not the context of Qohelet’s words. Qohelet is speaking on how the dead cannot participate “in all that is done under the sun,” tachat ha’shamesh, things done on Planet Earth.[122]

Those who believe in psychopannychy often base their doctrine on half-verses such as Ecclesiastes 9:5b, which say “the dead do not know anything.” Yet this is not definitive evidence of no intermediate post-mortem afterlife, as the verse continues describing human life on Earth, and how the dead do not know of any of these Earth-bound things: “their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5c-6, NIV). Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 does not say anything about the condition of dead persons or where they are, but instead lists specific things that they cannot do precisely because they are dead.

The things Qohelet lists such as love, hate, and zeal are things that these people had time to participate in on Earth or “under the sun,” but cannot participate in beyond the veil of death, hence not “knowing” about them. Once a person is dead, his or her fate is sealed before the Almighty, and no chance of restitution remains. A life of these specific worldly experiences is over. (Consider how one of the greatest gifts that God has given to the human race, the pleasures of marital sexual intercourse, can no longer be partaken of once a person dies.)

And so what is one to do while living that life “under the sun”? Is it a life of no value according to Qohelet? No. He says, “Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works” (Ecclesiastes 9:7). Now is the time to live a life pleasing to God, where one can enjoy future blessings—and not condemnation—from Him! Qohelet says to “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:9-10). Life on Earth, in spite of its imperfections, indeed has its rewards that God wants people to take advantage of—especially those who are living a life of obedience to Him. These are things, though, which are no longer available after death.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 says that the joys God has created to be experienced on this Earth cannot be enjoyed when a deceased person goes to Sheol. While versions like the NIV render this as “for in the grave where you are going…,” as previously discussed this more accurately means, “for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (TNIV). A deceased person joins the refaim or shades in Sheol, an extra-dimensional holding place for the consciousness, and is not completely what he was on Planet Earth. Ecclesiastes 9:5-10 and Qohelet’s assertion “the dead know nothing” presents no problems for those of us who believe in an intermediate disembodied afterlife, if we can see how he substantiates what knowing nothing about really involves.[123]

 

There are no major passages in the Tanach which conclusively prove that when a person dies there is no disembodied intermediate post-mortem state. There are passages in the Tanach, though, that do prove that life on Earth is something to be enjoyed to its fullest. Our purpose for living here on Earth should not be to just die and escape to the hereafter; such a view is absolutely foreign to the Tanach. Human beings have been given dominion over Planet Earth, and we should take advantage of all the wonderful joys in nature and in this world. As the Psalmist so aptly puts it, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:3-4). God will shower us with rewards in this world if we trust in Him and love Him! We do not have to wait for the eschaton to experience such treasures. Ross’ thoughts are excellent as we consider the joys of the current Creation, and the great things that people get to experience on this Earth:

“Today, with a human population topping six billion, Earth still offers plentiful supplies. In fact, the universe and Earth seem lavishly over-endowed for humanity’s survival. There is enough here for people to enjoy a magnificent environment, eat delightful food, spend quality time with others, access technology, and experience pleasure of all kinds—spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical. We easily could get by with less…..

“The first creation is ‘very good’ (Gen. 1:31). It’s the best possible realm to encourage as many people as possible to choose something far better: an eternal relationship with the Source of all goodness. This creation also equips and trains individuals to receive the roles, rewards, pleasures, and relational fulfillments of the new creation. It’s the best possible place to bring about, part of that preparation, a rapid conquest of anything less than perfect goodness, and that of course includes evil.”[124]

Continue Reading with Part 2


NOTES

[1] In my experience at Asbury Theological Seminary (2005-2008), at least one prominent faculty member, Joel Green, was an open psychopannychist, although this would largely only be known from his various writings. I doubt if many of the average students knew of his position on the intermediate state, and I do know that if some of my friends at seminary knew of this—they would be shocked and horrified.

In my own personal assessment, Green, especially given the various statements he makes in his book Body, Soul, and Human Life, is basically a liberal theologian in evangelical garb.

[2] Consult David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1995), pp 134, 594.

[3] Everett F. Harrison, “soul sleep,” in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), 492; Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985), pp 447-459.

Samuele Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny (Berrien Springs, MI: Biblical Perspectives, 1998), 189 actually considers any kind of dualistic view of human nature to be a “deadly heresy.” Contrary to this, Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, pp 447-459 only considers the views of Bacchiocchi’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church in this regard to be an aberration, and states quite clearly that he does not consider the Adventists to be a cult. I largely concur with Martin’s conclusion,

“The question of soul sleep…should cause no serious division between Christians since it does not affect the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith or the salvation of the soul. It is merely an area of theological debate and has no direct bearing upon any of the great doctrines of the Bible. The ground of fellowship is not the condition of man in death but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the love He commanded us to have one for another (John 13:34, 35)” (Kingdom of the Cults, 456).

[4] These groups include, but are by no means limited to: the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, various offshoots from the Worldwide Church of God (Armstrongism), and various Sacred Name Only cults.

[5] C.J. Koster. (n.d.). Replacement Theology-Part 2. Qodesh Publishers. Retrieved 04 February, 2009, from <http://www.qodesh.co.za/>.

[6] N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 31; see also Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), pp 151, 169.

[7] For a presentation of this point of view, this writer recommends you peruse Marcus J. Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001).

[8] Robert A. Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1984), 23.

[9] Benjamin D. Sommer, “Isaiah,” in Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 834.

[10] Consult the entry for the Book of Daniel in A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic.

[11] David Rolph Seely, “Resurrection,” in David Noel Freedman, ed., Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 1120.

[12] Consult the entry for the Book of Job in A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic.

[13] George Robinson, Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs, and Rituals (New York: Pocket Books, 2000), 192.

[14] Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God, 138 discusses how the doctrine of resurrection may have threatened the relatively aristocratic position of the Sadducees, and how “they thought such beliefs might lead the nation into a clash with Rome…People who believe that their god is about to make a new world, and that those who die in loyalty to him in the meantime will rise again to share gloriously in it, are far more likely to lose respect for a wealthy aristocracy than people who think that this life, this world and this age are the only ones there ever will be.”

[15] Jacob Neusner, trans., The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1988), 604.

[16] Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40; John 5:25, 29; 11:25; Acts 2:32-36; Romans 1:3-4; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 20-22, 42-46; et. al.

In a very similar way, Believers in Yeshua have a safety net from the Apostolic Scriptures that Moses was involved with the composition of the Torah (Mark 12:26; Luke 24:27; John 1:45; 5:46; Romans 10:5; 2 Corinthians 3:15), as opposed to some disparate JEDP sources compiled after the Babylonian exile.

[17] Consult the author’s article “You Want to be a Pharisee.”

[18] Flavius Josephus: The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987), 477.

[19] The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary. MS Windows XP. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005. CD-ROM.

Cf. “soul,” in Jacob Neusner and William Scott Green, eds. Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), 599.

[20] John W. Cooper, Body, Soul & Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 100.

[21] Menahem Mansoor, “Pharisees,” in Encyclopaedia Judaica. MS Windows 9x. Brooklyn: Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Ltd, 1997.

[22] The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, 608.

[23] Wright, Surprised by Hope, 40.

[24] The term Paul employs for “unapproachable,” aprositos, is similarly used by Philo in describing Moses’ ascension of Mount Sinai:

“[H]aving gone up into the loftiest and most sacred mountain in that district in accordance with the divine commands, a mountain which was very difficult of access [aprositos] and very hard to ascend” (On the Life of Moses 2.70; The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, trans. C.D. Yonge [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993], 497).

[25] Morey, 23.

[26] Nahum M. Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 11.

[27] Bruce Milne, The Message of Heaven & Hell (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002), 67.

[28] The author of Hebrews associates Psalm 8:4-6 with Yeshua the Messiah and His Incarnation (Hebrews 2:6-10), whose ministry and service for the world restores redeemed humanity as second only to God in Creation.

Consult the commentary Hebrews for the Practical Messianic by J.K. McKee for a further explanation.

[29] This list of five character traits is taken from Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis, second expanded edition (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001), 55.

[30] Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross, Who Was Adam? A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2005), pp 49-50.

[31] Bacchiocchi, 30.

[32] Wright, Surprised by Hope, 80.

[33] Morey, pp 37-38.

[34] Cooper, 50.

[35] Isaiah 42:5 concurs, “Thus says God the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and its offspring, who gives breath [neshamah] to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.”

[36] E-Sword 8.0.8: Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament. MS Windows 9x. Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation, 2008.

[37] Sarna, 17.

[38] Victor P. Hamilton, New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 159.

[39] Nosson Scherman. ed., et. al., The ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition, 5th ed. (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2000), pp 11-12.

[40] The Torah prescribes capital punishment for those who commit murder (Exodus 21:12), yet the person who is responsible for the death of an animal only has to provide for restitution (Leviticus 24:18).

[41] Robert B. Laurin, “soul,” in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, 492.

[42] William L. Holladay, ed., A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden, the Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1988), pp 242-243.

[43] Morey, 44.

[44] Ibid., 47.

[45] The BDAG lexicon offers just as wide a variance of possible definitions for psuchē: “life on earth in its animating aspect making bodily function possible,” “seat and center of the inner human life in its many and varied aspects, soul,” “an entity w. personhood, person” (Frederick William Danker, ed., et. al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, third edition [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], pp 1098-1099).

[46] Morey, 49.

[47] Cf. Isaiah 42:1; Habakkuk 2:4.

[48] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 952.

[49] Cooper, 60.

[50] Another term that may be employed, specifically for the deceased, is neveilah, “carcass, corpse” (BDB, 615).

[51] This is concurrent with a view proposed by Christian philosopher William Hasker, called emergentism, where the human person or “soul” comes forth from an interaction between mind and body, and is not solely material or immaterial.

Cf. William Hasker, Metaphysics: Constructing a World View (Downers Grove, IL: 1983), pp 72-76.

[52] Bacchiocchi, 48.

[53] “The Human Constitution Debate,” in Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pp 97-98.

[54] Consult the useful summary in Cooper, “The Scientific Challenge to Dualism,” pp 22-24.

[55] Richard Swinburne, “The Soul Needs a Brain to Continue to Function,” in Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, David Basinger, eds., Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, second edition (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 459.

[56] It is to be noted in fairness, though, that there are many theologians who believe that humans possess a non-corporeal element, who are theistic evolutionists as well.

[57] Swinburne, in Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, pp 466, 467.

[58] Mick Pope, “Losing our souls?” in Iscast Bulletin No. 40 Autumn 2003. Accessed 01 March, 2010 from <http://iscast.org.au>.

[59] Hasker, Metaphysics, 80.

[60] Cf. Ibid., 79.

[61] Pope, “Losing our souls?”

[62] Useful studies include J.P. Moreland & Scott B. Rae, Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000); William Hasker, The Emergent Self (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1999).

[63] And to the psychopannychists’ credit, solely viewing the human person as being of another dimension is equally degrading to man’s uniqueness.

[64] Hugh Ross, Beyond the Cosmos: The Extra-Dimensionality of God (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1996), pp 122, 123.

[65] Bacchiocchi, 16.

[66] Wright, Surprised by Hope, 95.

[67] Ibid., 15.

[68] Animal death, being something independent from human death, would have been a necessity in order for God to prepare Planet Earth for man’s eventual habitation, specifically for the formation of various precious metals, rare jewels, and fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. This took place during Creation periods or yamim Five and Six, likely beginning around the Cambrian explosion of some 543 million years ago.

Cf. Hugh Ross, Creation as Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation/Evolution Wars (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006), pp 138-141.

[69] Morey, pp 97-98; cf. 1 John 5:11-12.

[70] Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy (Colorado Springs, NavPress, 2004), 23.

Ross also discusses how geneticists have traced mutations in mtDNA and Y-DNA for the common male and female ancestors of humanity to a distance somewhere between 37,000 and 50,000 years ago (Ibid., pp 224-226; The Genesis Question, pp 107-112).

[71] Information on visiting the cave of Lascaux can be accessed on the French Ministry of Culture website: <http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/arcnat/lascaux/en/>.

[72] Consult the FAQs on the Messianic Apologetics website “6,000 Year Teaching” and “Genesis 5, 11 Genealogies” for a further explanation.

[73] “NIV prefers to translate she’ôl as ‘grave’…and place the name itself in a footnote, a procedure that is neither helpful nor justifiable” (“Sheol,” in Merrill C. Tenney, ed., The New International Dictionary of the Bible [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987], 932).

[74] Walter J. Harrelson, ed., et. al., New Interpreter’s Study Bible, NRSV (Nashville: Abingdon, 2003), 2291.

[75] In the estimation of Daniel I. Block, “The Old Testament on Hell,” in Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), pp 50-51,

“The Israelites shared with their ancient Near Eastern neighbors the perception of a universe consisting of three tiers of existence that may be portrayed graphically as follows:

——————————————–

Heaven: The Realm of Deity

——————————————–

Earth: The Realm of the Living

——————————————–

Sheol: The Realm of the Dead

——————————————–

“In death a human being passes from the realm of the living to the realm of the dead.”

[76] Theodore J. Lewis, “Dead, Abode of the,” in David Noel Freedman, ed., Anchor Bible Dictionary, 6 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 2:103.

[77] D.K. Stuart, “Sheol,” in Geoffrey Bromiley, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 4:472.

[78] BDB, 868.

[79] BDAG, 654.

[80] Morey, 75.

[81] Nahum M. Sarna, “Genesis,” in David L. Lieber, Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2001), 232.

Also indicated by H.F.W. Gesenius: Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, trans. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 798 as “a subterranean place, full of thick darkness (Job 10:21, 22), in which the shades of the dead are gathered together.”

[82] “[A] netherworld where the dead live an ethereal, shadowy existence. A vast region location deep beneath the earth, She’ol was enclosed with gates and a place of eternal silence” (Ronald L. Eisenberg, The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions [Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2004], 114).

[83] Milne, 27.

[84] Morey, 79.

[85] Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 1-50 (Dallas: Word Books, 1983), Prolepsis database.

[86] Bacchiocchi, 159.

[87] Ibid., 160.

[88] Heb. beriah.

[89] See Morey, pp 76-77, for his full twenty reasons on substantiating why the Hebrew Sheol cannot mean “the grave,” but an actual netherworld.

[90] Ibid., 76.

[91] Cooper, 64.

[92] Ibid., 41.

[93] Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Genesis (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982), 305.

[94] Victor P. Hamilton, New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 537.

[95] The term necromancer is derived from the Greek nekros, meaning “dead.”

[96] Charles A. Kennedy, “Dead, Cult of the,” in ABD, 2:106.

[97] Ibid., 2:107.

[98] Ibid., 2:106.

[99] Cooper, 64.

[100] Philip J. Budd, Word Biblical Commentary: Numbers, Vol 5 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984), 188; cf. Timothy R. Ashley, New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Numbers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 318.

[101] Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God, pp 93-94.

[102] Cooper, 65.

[103] The TNIV tries to correct some of the mistakes of the NIV, by rendering Isaiah 14:9 with “the realm of the dead,” where Sheol appears, but still renders Sheol as “grave” in Isaiah 14:11.

[104] Sheol is rendered as “nether-world” in I.W. Slotki, Soncino Books of the Bible: Isaiah (London: Soncino Press, 1983), 68, a Jewish commentary.

[105] J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), 144.

[106] Heb. verb shalakh; appearing in the Hifil stem (casual action, active voice), meaning either “throw down” or “throw away” (CHALOT, 372).

[107] “sepulchre” (RSV); “grave” (ESV/NRSV).

[108] John D.W. Watts, Word Biblical Commentary: Isaiah 1-33, Vol 24 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1985), 211.

[109] The condition of the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:9-11, 18-20 is no different than the later condition of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler (1889-1945). With the defeat of the Third Reich imminent, the customary view is that Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide and were hastily burned so that his corpse would not be put on display in a museum by the Soviets like was done with Vladimir Lenin. To this day, the man who almost conquered Europe has no honorable burial place. Furthermore, various figures who served alongside him, like Heinrich Himmler, were given unmarked graves (surely fitting of those who tried to implement the extermination of the Jewish people!).

[110] Motyer, Isaiah, 145.

[111] Morey, 76.

[112] Cooper, pp 63-64.

[113] Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, eds., The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2001), 1:898.

[114] Leslie C. Allen, Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 101-150, Vol 21 (Dallas: Word Books, 2002), Prolepsis database.

[115] BDB, 729.

[116] CHALOT, 267.

A further definition of od is offered by Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, eds., Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), 811,

“It indicates repetition and/or continuance of something. It expresses the fact that something continues to happen.”

[117] As recognized by various historical commentators (John Gill, Adam Clarke).

[118] Even those who hold to traditional, Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes, are largely aware that it has some issues. In Martin’s estimation, “It is almost universally agreed among Biblical scholars that Ecclesiastes portrays Solomon’s apostasy and is therefore questionable for determining doctrine” (Kingdom of the Cults, 454).

[119] Tremper Longman III, New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Ecclesiastes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), pp 26, 273.

[120] Neusner, Mishnah, 653.

[121] For a further discussion, consult T. Longman III, “Ecclesiastes 3: History of Interpretation,” in Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns, eds., Dictionary of the Old Testament Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008), pp 140-149.

[122] The clause tachat ha’shemesh appears throughout the Book of Ecclesiastes, forcing any responsible reader to see that Qohelet’s vantage point is life as experienced on Earth: Ecclesiastes 1:3, 9, 14; 2:11, 17ff, 22; 3:16; 4:1, 3, 7, 15; 5:12, 17; 6:1, 12; 8:9, 15, 17; 9:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 10:5.

[123] For a further discussion, consult the entry for the Book of Ecclesiastes in A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic, and the article “The Message of Ecclesiastes” by J.K. McKee.

[124] Hugh Ross, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), pp 149, 185.


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