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A Dictionary of Death, Resurrection, and Judgment

I created this short glossary as an aid in studying the topics of death and the afterlife in Scripture. Although it is based on extensive reading in the Bible, I am not a scholar of biblical languages or ancient cultures, so it is almost certainly erroneous in some respects. I will make changes as I learn more.

Please feel free to offer your own thoughts in the comments, with the understanding that I am looking for truth, not mere mythology. I’m sure that the beliefs of the Norse and the Navajo concerning what happens when we die are fascinating, but they are irrelevant to this glossary unless they can help us to understand what the Hebrew prophets knew about these things.

  • Book of Life – A listing of the names of all those who will be granted eternal life at the Final Judgment. It doesn’t contain merely their first and last names, the written and spoken labels by which we all address one another, but the sum of each person’s character. This is one writing in a collection kept in Heaven, the other members of which apparently describe the deeds of each person, righteous and wicked alike, in more detail. See Daniel 7:10, Revelation 13:8, and 20:12.
  • The Final Resurrection – The resurrection of all who remain in Sheol at the time of the Final Judgment. See Daniel 12:2 and Revelation 20:12-13.
  • The First Resurrection – The resurrection at the time of Yeshua’s Second Coming of faithful believers who were killed during the Great Tribulation. See 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Revelation 20:4.
  • Gehenna – Literally, the Valley of Hinnom, apparently once known as the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom. See 2 Chronicles 28:3.
    1. Literally this is the Valley of Hinnom, where the Canaanites and idolatrous Israelites made human sacrifices long before the Babylonian dispersion, and which was later used as a public dump for garbage and corpses, both animal and human. It was a place of decay, stench, and fires. Even now, landfills are subject to frequent spontaneous fires that can burn beneath the surface for months or even years.
    2. Figuratively, Gehenna refers to a place of fire and destruction where the wicked are sent after judgment. See Lake of Fire.
  • The Grave – See Sheol.
  • The Great Tribulation – A period in which the earth is subject to waves of devastating plagues, wars, natural disasters, and the reign of two figures known as the Beast and the False Prophet. See Daniel 7-9, Matthew 24:21-29, and Revelation 11-13.
  • Hades – See Sheol.
  • Heaven – The seat of God’s court and location of his putative residence. The skies are also called “heaven” and the ancients believed that God’s Heaven was located somewhere in the sky. However, God’s Heaven is not a physical place that a person could see through a telescope or travel to in any vehicle that could be made by human technology. It might exist in a higher dimension (whatever that means) or in some other universe or it might simply be a realm of pure spirit, undetectable in any direct fashion by beings with physical bodies.
  • Hell – See Lake of Fire.
  • Lake of Fire – A place of darkness, fire, and destruction where death, Sheol, Satan, Satan’s angelic followers, and all whose name is not found in the Book of Life will be thrown at the time of the Final Judgment. What most people think of when they hear the word “Hell”. See Matthew 13:40-43, Revelation 19:20, and Revelation 20:7-15.
  • The New Earth – A physical planet earth that will be newly created after the present earth is completely destroyed. See Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1.
  • The New Heaven – A physical universe that will be newly created after the present universe is completely destroyed. See Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1.
  • The New Jerusalem – A massive, cuboid city made of precious metals and stones that will descend from the sky to take the place of the old city of Jerusalem on the New Earth. See Revelation 21.
  • Second Coming – The return of Yeshua to earth following the Great Tribulation to reign personally from Jerusalem for one thousand years. See Matthew 24:30, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, and Revelation 19.
  • Sheol – The Hebrew word for the place where the spirits of the dead go to await resurrection. Equivalent to the Greek word Hades. Sometimes translated as “the grave”, “Tartarus”, or “Hell”, but most people today use the word “Hell” to refer to the Lake of Fire, which is not the same as Sheol. See Genesis 37:35, 1 Samuel 2:6, and Luke 16:19-31.
  • Soul – The entirety of a living being, including body, spirit, and mind. We are a soul and we are partly made up of body and spirit. Animals are souls, because they are living beings. The Hebrew word used in Scripture for soul is nephesh, translated variously as soul, creature, being, person, etc.. See Genesis 2:7 and 27:4, for example. Most English speakers, including Bible translators, use the words soul and spirit almost interchangeably, but that makes it difficult to talk about two distinct Biblical concepts, for which we would otherwise not have distinct terms. For the purposes of this discussion, I intend to use the word soul to refer to the whole being and the word spirit to refer only to that aspect of a person which continues to exist as a distinct entity after the physical body has died.
  • Spirit – Usually translated from the Hebrew word ruach but sometimes also from neshamah. Although the second meaning below is probably the most common usage in Scripture, for the purposes of this discussion, I will be using the first definition.
    1. The incorporeal component of a living soul that continues to exist as a distinct entity after the physical body has died. See Job 32:8 and Psalm 31:5.
    2. The morale and/or motivating will of a person. See Exodus 35:21 and Proverbs 17:22.
    3. A state of mind or strong tendency. See Exodus 28:3 and Numbers 5:14.
    4. A non-human spiritual being that does not normally have a physical body. See 1 Samuel 16:14 and 1 Kings 22:21.
  • Tartarus – See Sheol.

Watch the Afterlife category for upcoming related articles!

The Prophetic Significance of Hanukkah

The Prophetic Significance of Hanukkah

 

Hanukkah commemorates a miracle at the Temple after the “abomination that brings desolation” prophesied by Daniel was removed and the Temple cleansed. After Yehudah the Hammer (aka Judah Maccabee) chased the Greek interlopers out of Israel, the Temple was cleansed and rededicated.

In order to put the Temple fully back into working order, the menorah had to be lit. It took about 8 days to make a batch of the sacred oil, but there was only enough left to keep it burning for a short while. They decided to light it anyway, trusting in Providence. They weren’t disappointed, as God kept the menorah burning for eight days until a new batch could be made.

The victory of Yehudah and the Jewish freedom fighters over the Greek armies of Antiochus is real history. The miracle of the Menorah isn’t so well established. It’s still a great story, though, and the miraculous liberation of Judah is worth commemorating.

One of the most well known Hanukkah traditions is the lighting of a hanukkia, a special menorah with eight candles for the eight days that the oil lasted, plus an extra candle for lighting the others.

Interestingly, the number 8 is often associated with new beginnings in the Bible.

Hanukkah is mentioned once in the New Testament at John 10:22. Yeshua had come to Jerusalem for the holiday, referred to as the Feast of Dedication, and spent much of his time at the Temple.

Like so much else that has happened to God’s people, the events preceding and during Hanukkah were a shadow of greater things to come. The Abomination That Brings Desolation came once under the rule of Antiochus, but Yeshua said that it would come again. Some say that happened when the Roman general Titus invaded Jerusalem. Perhaps it did, but I think it will happen again.

Like birth pangs, each of these prophetic fulfillments is larger than the one before. Antiochus set up an idol in the Temple and sacrificed a pig. Titus tried to set up an idol, but destroyed the Temple before it could be done. They were both antichrists, shadows of the Antichrist prophesied by John. What form will the abomination of that one take?

Watch for a Jewish Temple to be rebuilt. The world will almost certainly be enraged. If an outsider then manages to take it over and defile it, watch for the ensuing bloodshed to be like nothing Israel has ever seen before.

Our salvation won’t come through arms or stockpiled food, but only through the miraculous intervention of Yeshua, Messiah son of David. He will rescue his people, cleanse the Temple, and fill it with new light.

Yet, there is more to Hanukkah than war and blood. It is a celebration of light and God’s Spirit, and there are types and shadows within types and shadows.

The menorah is a type of the Holy Spirit and we are the Temple. After having come to belief in our Messiah, if we were left to ourselves to make our own way to holiness, we would be hopelessly lost. When we are reborn, we have no power in ourselves to accomplish anything. We have no oil of our own, and we can do nothing in ourselves.

Whether in war or acts of kindness, there is no circumstance in which we are capable of acting in any truly meaningful way without the aid of our Creator. It is only God’s mercy which fills us with his Spirit and allows us to be a light to the world.

Note: Although I believe Hanukkah has prophetic significance and its celebration honors God, it is not one of God’s commanded feast days. If you choose to celebrate it, great! If you don’t, that’s great too!

God’s Timing and the Greater Exodus

God’s timing rarely aligns with ours. When God decides it’s time to move, it’s never what we think is the right time. Allow me to explain by way of an example.

God told Abraham that his descendants would live as foreigners for 400 years and that they would be mistreated and enslaved during that time. God promised to punish the nation that mistreated them and to rescue the people. (Genesis 15:16) Certainly the wise men of Israel living in Egypt prior to the Exodus knew of this promise and they probably put on prophecy conferences and published endless pamphlets claiming that “This is the year. Surely this is the year that God will rescue us!”

And the same thing the next year and the year after that. Some bright individual must have thought, “Well, God said ‘in the fourth generation.’ He didn’t mean the fourth from the promise, so maybe it’s the fourth from our enslavement. And how long is a generation, anyway? Forty years? One hundred years? Is it four hundred years from when we were first enslaved, when we entered Egypt, when Joseph was enslaved, when we were enslaved, when God made the promise to Abraham, or when Abraham first came to Egypt? Oy vey!”

Sound familiar? I’ve heard the same kinds of thing about the establishment of modern Israel and the Second Coming for as long as I can remember. Talk of blood moons and Russian tanks in Lebanon will get little more from me than a skeptically raised eyebrow.

We know from Exodus 12:41 that it was precisely 430 years from the day God gave Abraham the promise until the day the promise was fulfilled, but God told him it would be 400 years. If “400 years” was ever meant to be taken literally, then the clock didn’t start ticking until some unspecified date later, and God didn’t tell anyone when that day was. At least it’s not recorded in Scripture. Prophecy is always this way. If it’s from God, then you can count on it being true, but you can’t necessarily count on this or that day. God does this deliberately, I believe to keep us from thinking we can get away with anything we want so long as we straighten up before the deadline. He gives us signs to watch for, but not a specific date.

Stephen told us in Acts 7:17 that, when the time grew near for God to fulfill His promise, the people multiplied, and only then were they enslaved. The Hebrews lived free and prosperous lives in Egypt until after Joseph died. In fact, when God decided it was time to rescue them, they didn’t even need to be rescued. The fulfillment of God’s promise began when he made them to prosper beyond all expectations so that the Egyptians would become jealous and turn against them. By that time, they had probably decided they didn’t need God’s promise after all. Who would want to leave such a great setup? Sometimes God turns the world against us to remind us of who we are or so that we will be able to appreciate the greater things He has in store for us down the road.

When the time was right, the Hebrews multiplied. The Egyptians grew jealous and enslaved them. The Hebrews cried out to God. Then God destroyed the Egyptians and rescued Israel.

There was nothing any of them could do to stop or even slow the inexorable approach of God’s day of redemption. When God decides that He needs to teach the nations a lesson, He will make sure the lesson is delivered and learned. There are no snow days in this school. The Hebrews could not have failed to multiply, the Egyptians could not have set them free ahead of schedule, and they could not have kept them past the due date.

So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. -Deuteronomy 26:8

As with everything else that happened to the patriarchs, the Exodus was a prophecy of an even Greater Exodus yet to come. Jeremiah and Isaiah (among others) write of this future Exodus as a time of great suffering followed by great revival and restoration. As a mixed multitude left Egypt and was absorbed into Israel (Exodus 12:38), so will a vast mixed multitude leave the world and be absorbed into Israel in the last days (Isaiah 60:4-9). As Egypt practically begged the Hebrews to leave and to take as much gold and silver as they could carry with them, so will the world send the throngs of returning Israelites, both natural and adopted, back to the Land along with whatever financial, material, and technical resources might be required to accommodate the massive numbers of new Israelites. (Isaiah 60:9-16) Just as Egypt suffered even more for refusing to let the Hebrews go, so will those nations who refuse to cooperate in the Greater Exodus suffer more than others. (Isaiah 60:12)

When will all this happen? I’m sure that nobody alive today knows. We have been told to watch for signs, but the signs are ambiguous. Wars and rumors of wars have been with us since long before Nimrod built his cities. Will it be one generation from the establishment of the modern state of Israel? How should we count a generation? How do we know that this Israel isn’t just another Maccabean revolt destined fade away or to be crushed by the next iteration of the Roman Empire? I don’t know the answer to these questions and I am suspect of anyone who claims they do.

Here is something I do know, however: Our God lives and His promises are sure. He never fails and even if He waits longer than we would prefer, He never forgets.

Here is another thing you can count on: God’s promises concerning the New Covenant and the Greater Exodus were made only to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. (Jeremiah 31:31-32) There is no “church” in that equation. God’s promises were not made to Rome or Babylon or Washington, D.C. If you want to be a party to the New Covenant, then you must become a Hebrew. (Notice that I did not say you must become a Jew!) You must cross over from Egypt to the Wilderness, from then from the Wilderness to the Promised Land.

What does this mean in practical terms? It means acknowledging your personal failure to live up to God’s standards and throwing yourself on His mercy. Ask His forgiveness and commit to keeping His commandments.

Obedience to God’s Law is not required to leave Egypt. Remember that the Law wasn’t given to Israel until three months after they had crossed the Red Sea and arrived at Sinai. But also remember that God still expected them to keep it. Nobody would be cut off from the nation for an occasional lapse, but total rejection of God’s commandments did bring either death or being “cut off from the people.” We don’t obey to be saved from sin (Egypt). We obey because we are grateful for God’s salvation and because we love Him.

I strongly recommend reading all of Jeremiah 31 and Isaiah 56 for some perspective on God’s covenant with Israel and what He requires of gentiles who wish to be made party to it. “Let no foreigner who is bound to Adonai say, ‘Adonai will surely exclude me from His people.’ …And foreigners who bind themselves to Adonai to minister to him, to love the name of Adonai, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—-these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.”

With freedom and citizenship comes responsibility. We are no longer slaves to sin (Egypt), but we have voluntarily made ourselves slaves to our Creator and Messiah Yeshua. If we serve Him faithfully, if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.

The first Exodus was merely a dress rehearsal for the Greater Exodus described in Isaiah 60.

The Shemitah & the Four Blood Moons

Blood Moons & the Shemitah? I'm not impressed, but I've been wrong before.
Blood Moons & the Shemitah? I’m not impressed, but I’ve been wrong before.

A few days ago my mom asked me what I thought of all the talk about the Shemitah and the blood moons. Because I know that many other people are very concerned about these things, here’s what I told her:

Although I don’t believe the Shemitah is commanded outside the Land of Israel, I think keeping it is probably good business and good land management. Shemitah and Jubilee are likely designed to work in conjunction with natural boom-bust cycles. Ignoring them causes “bubbles” and unhealthy accumulations of wealth in fewer and fewer hands until something breaks, like the Great Depression and World War 2.

The blood moons aren’t a totally unique event. Passover and Sukkot are always, by definition, on a full moon, and they’ll land on lunar eclipses in the same pattern every so often. I’m not aware of any world-shattering events that they signified in the past, though I admit I haven’t looked into it too deeply. Signs in the heavens mean things, just not always the spectacular things we expect. On the other hand, sometimes they mean really spectacular things, but they’re on a time delay, like the birth of Yeshua. There was this big, bright star and all kinds of astrological shenanigans going on, but nobody noticed anything significant on earth for another 30 years.

My usual approach to all things eschatological is this: Understand the patterns laid out in Scripture and history and you’ll be better prepared when you see those same patterns unfolding around you. Live to honor God today and you won’t need to scramble to fix all your messes at the first note of the Trumpet, whatever that Trumpet signifies.

I’ve been wrong before, but the Fall Feasts are just days away. I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

Even As Christ?

Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself as the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

A husband is to love his wife, being willing to give up his life if necessary to allow her to become more “holy and without blemish.” What if she doesn’t want to become unblemished? What if she wants him to give up his life so that she can be more comfortable or more “appreciated?”

Although the answer can be found in Paul’s writings, we have something better. In Revelation 2 and 3 Yeshua told us exactly what he would do in such a case:

Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and will remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent….

Repent! But if not I will come to you quickly, and will fight with them by the sword of My mouth….

But I have a few things against you because you allow that woman Jezebel to teach, she saying herself to be a prophetess, and to cause My servants to go astray, and to commit fornication, and to eat idol-sacrifices. And I gave her time that she might repent of her fornication, and she did not repent. Behold, I am throwing her into a bed, and those who commit adultery* with her into great affliction, unless they repent of their deeds….I will give to every one of you according to your works….

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth….

That doesn’t sound like the eternal, all-enduring love I’ve always heard preached in our churches. God is patient and forgiving, but only to a point, and only with those who are truly repentant.

*Adultery? Then the woman is married, but to whom? I say she was married to Yeshua. In Biblical usage, adultery can only be committed between a married woman and a man who is not her husband. Those who commit adultery “with” her are not the male perpetrator, but co-adulteresses with Jezebel. Yeshua would not be so harsh with her if he was not claiming the place of her husband. Therefore, this Jezebel was an accepted member of his corporate bride, and Yeshua is threatening to divorce her with all her co-conspirators.