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The theory that we all have to lie around in the dirt for some period of time before finally being resurrected to meet the Lord is one that was very popular among certain New Testament Jews (those who sided with the teaching of the Pharisees). But it’s interesting to note that the Jews didn’t think the soul was also stuck in the dirt. When Lazarus died, for example, the belief was that after three days of mourning over the loss of its host body, Lazarus’ soul finally went on to a spirit dimension called Hades. Hades was believed to have good and bad sections to it–which one you landed in depended on what kind of person you’d been on earth. It was because the Jews would have assumed that Lazarus’ soul was in another dimension and no longer with his body that Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus was such a shocking miracle. Only a true God like Yahweh was believed to have the power to bring a soul back from Hades–yet here Jesus was doing it. And Jesus made sure to stall around for four days in order to leave no doubt in Jewish minds that Lazarus’ soul was definitely gone from earth. The Jews believed that the soul could take up to three days to leave, because by three days, it would be forced to face the fact that the body was decomposing.
Now if we flip over to Revelation, we’ll find that both Jesus and Yahweh are playing off all of these superstitious views about the afterlife when They show John images of eternity. John sees the dead rise from Hades (the spirit world) and “death” or “the grave” (which would be the earthly tombs where the bodies are).
Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works. (Rev. 20:13)
It’s interesting to note in Revelation that death is always a “two parter” for the Jews. You can’t just say Death, you need to specify that there’s one section where the bodies are and another section where the souls are. This is why there are two scary horseman managing the killing duties in Revelation: Death (who takes the bodies) and Hades (who takes the souls).
And I looked, and there was a pale green horse. The horseman on it was named Death, and Hades was following after him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill by the sword, by famine, by plague, and by the wild animals of the earth. (Rev. 6:8)
If Jesus is going to communicate “I have ultimate power” to New Testament Jews, then He can’t just have control over the grave or Hades–He has to control both. So Jesus says:
“I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of Death and Hades.” (Rev. 1:18)
Let’s recap. The New Testament Jews had this whole theory worked out that the body and soul took three days to separate from each other. The soul would go on to a spirit realm (Hades), while the body would stay in the ground. Resurrection was when the soul and body were reunited, and then moved on to Heaven.
So were they right?
No, they were confused the whole way through. When you die, your soul doesn’t have the option of hanging around in this dimension until it feels emotionally ready to leave. Death is when God whisks your soul out of your earthsuit and immediately transfers you on to a totally different dimension. If you’ve taken care of business with God on earth, then the dimension you end up in will be a very positive one which Christians today refer to as Heaven. But the label doesn’t tell you much, because the truth is that we don’t really know what to expect in Heaven. We just know that there are two possible places to end up after here and we really want to be in the good one.
So what about your body? It’s irrelevant. When you die, your soul moves on and ceases to care about your earthsuit. Your body will decompose and that will be the end of it. There won’t be any physical resurrection. If you’re a Christian in God’s eyes, then you aren’t going to be stuck in some strange limbo waiting for Jesus to return to the earth and resurrect you because you’ll already be with Jesus having a grand time. Resurrection is just another superstition the Jews got hung up on in Bible times, so Jesus and Yahweh used it to Their advantage when speaking to the Jews about eternal matters. But today it’s nothing you need to be concerned with. When you die, you’re going to immediately receive the consequences of the soul choices you made while you were here on earth. You want those consequences to be as positive as possible, which is why you need to be holding nothing back in your submission to God.
What Happens After Death
Who raised Jesus from the dead?
Trapping Jesus – Part 2: The Sadducees Ask About Resurrection
The Dreaded Day of Judgment: Is God going to humiliate us in Heaven?
Your New Name in Heaven
Honoring God with Our View of Heaven
Courtroom Drama: A Metaphor of Heaven that Insults Yahweh
Better than Heaven: Pursuing What Really Matters
Soul Attitudes That Please God: What They Are & How We Develop Them
Salvation: How do you know when you’ve met God’s requirements?