Post-Death Consciousness

5th issue in series (find the other parts here.)

Post-Death Consciousness (Leg 3)

(. . . Dear Mark . . .)

By reading your paper, I’m guessing you would call post-death Rachel “weeping for her children” a parable, metaphor or figure? Fine, but it was prophecy given in the Old Testament, which the New Testament claims is fulfilled in a peculiar way: (Jeremiah 31:15-16 (and onward) says:)

This is what the LORD says:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning[1] and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
This is what the LORD says:
“Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,”
declares the LORD.
“They will return from the land of the enemy.
So there is hope for your descendants,”
declares the LORD.
“Your children will return to their own land.
“I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
because you are the LORD my God.
After I strayed,
I repented;
after I came to understand,
I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
Is not Ephraim my dear son,
the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I have great compassion for him,”
declares the LORD.

 

Now all that would be very fine if the matter rested there, but (ultimately) it does[2] not. According to Matthew Chapter 2, this prophecy of Jeremiah had its fulfillment as follows:

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

 

coda-logo-2639340658-3_avatar.png (Coda)[3] I am not intending to touch on whether deceased Rachel was personally mourning, or whether her living offspring—the then current Jews of the city in which (or near which) she was buried—were (by representation) the prophecy-fulfilling mourners. I want, rather, to explore: From what “land of the enemy” will these (slain)[4] offspring of Rachel return? The obvious answer is Death.

That is enough to make a person think of other prophecies that may have left what would seem to be their Old Testament moorings for deeper waters. One that comes to mind is the “worm that dies not” of Isaiah’s prophecy “

“Then [survivors] will go forth and look
On the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm will not die
And their fire will not be quenched;… [5] (Isa. 66:24 NASB).

To the left of the Cross in Earth’s timeline that prophecy looks like punishment of a purely physical reality—death, with gross, defiling indignity therein. Progressing to and past that prism of the Cross, however (where both blessing and curse are exponentially stepped up[6]), Jesus pronounces a new inflection, showing intensification of punishment, should the long-awaited Savior suffer rejection[7] upon His arrival! Should the most precious gift the Father had to give be . . . mistreated by the recipients!

“If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes,[8] to be cast into hell,[9] where ‘THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED (Mark 9:47-48 NASB).’ ” (Jesus is the Father’s spokesman; not His own.)[10]

Death is Man’s enemy.[11] If you suppose I am saying God is punishing the slain boys of Bethlehem, I am not. I mean only to establish that consciousness exists post-dying.[12] In fact, I think those awaiting salvation—such as these murdered children—are enjoying their stay wherever they are. These murdered children have consolation as they await God avenging their murders and restoring their lives.[13] They are consoled as they await joy unimaginable in resurrection Life.

Judas, by contrast, who, according to Peter, has “gone to his own place,”[14] would be happier if he had not been born.[15] That, as far as I can reason, may be his current state. Yet we know that “all Israel will [eventually] be saved (Romans 11:26),” and that Judas was presumably included[16] in the “you” of “you . . . shall sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28).”

But let us try one additional attestation from Scripture. To do this properly we first we need to reset the stage. Please re-read either from the inception of this post up to and including the paragraph with the (coda) marker in front of it, or, if you are convinced you will remember the whole thought process up to that point, begin with that paragraph itself. Either way, after reading that paragraph (ending in the bold, red word Death), skip down from there to the last paragraph. Almost ready.

The first direction we took from that exact thought point was to go on (from the wonderfully cryptic and expansive prophecy in Jeremiah) to a similarly astonishing prophecy in Isaiah. This time, instead of heading off to Isaiah to prove one point, let us angle off in a different direction to clinch-clench another: the in-context[17] meaning of Deuteronomy 30:4, the text of which I have placed (to compose the final paragraph) below. What if, after the paragraph ending in the word Death, we had gone this different route, reminding ourselves that Death is in fact the very “most distant land under the heavens” to which God has yet banished the disobedient? —Reminding ourselves that we already know that nations lie in state within Death (see Leg 1). With that exact build up, we are ready. Okay, go ahead: After reading through the post to the word Death at the “coda sign” paragraph, skip to the concluding paragraph below.

 

“Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back.”

 

Sincerely,

Martin D. Carlson

 

 

[1] Or heavy mourning (an anagram for Unvarying Home) and/or heaviness of mourning (possibly anagrammatically rendered As Feverish Mooing Nun or its  non-Catholics counterpart A Fee Virgin Shuns Mono—and you know what a fee virgin runs these days); may be a word play for “Light of morning,” in other words, the renewing mercy invoked in mid-Lamentation/s.

[2] Okay, technically it did, but it doesn’t.

[3] Unawareness of the sheet music instruction “coda” or its symbol (coda-logo-2639340658-3_avatar) does not need to throw you off. I am simply announcing that we will return here (to this very point in our discussion) to go a different (thought) angle off of it.

[4] To be crystal clear, I mean that the parents (I called them “the then current Jews of the city”)—Rachel’s descendants—might have fulfilled the prophecy by mourning for their own slain children—who were also Rachel’s (physical/spiritual) descendents.

[5] Hell (Greek Gehenna from Hebrew Hinnom Valley). Old Testament concept: Your body will be cast ignominiously in the continually smoldering Hinnom Valley garbage dump, where you will be worm food. New Testament (intensified) concept: No! If you reject God’s precious Son—Gifted Salvation—the undying worm is your (post-death) soul, and the fire is (at least representatively) physical and/or mental anguish. (See also Isaiah 50:10-11.)

[6] Hebrews 10:26-31, focusing on verse 29. The next three references I am about to give you are good, but if you intend to look up only one, make it this one! (Regarding amplification of blessing, read the whole chapter.)

[7] John 1:11; 15:22-24; 2 Peter 2:21. But, only in addition to Hebrews 10 (focus on vs. 26-31, but especially v 28-31)!

[8] Don’t let your clear view get “tripped up” by discussions of eyes and stumbling here. Only the second half of the passage (the consequence) is particularly relevant to our discussion.

[9] Remember that hell is only the pre-judgment jail (see Leg 2). (Jesus seems to suggest consciousness is there.) The post-judgment prison—ultimate punishment—is the lake of fire, into which hell is later cast (Revelation 20:14).

[10] John 12:49-50; 8:28. (Please do not find my words to say Jesus Self-aggrandized.)

[11] By Death here, however, I mean the reality and end state of mortality. I do not mean that to die is necessarily an unhappy event. (See Philippians 1:21.)

[12] Full consciousness? I don’t know. But to such level and quality (positive or negative) as God sees fit.

[13] Not giving references here, but biblically, caught thieves are required to repay 7-fold, and God is not mocked. Conclusion? I am not talking about mere restoration, but, augmented restoration—at perpetrator/s’ expense.

[14] Acts 1:25

[15] Matthew 26:24

[16] Okay, okay, that may be stretching things a bit. I do not insist on this, but it bears consideration.

[17] Certainly room exists for arguing that I am taking this out of context, but I believe that I am not.

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2 Comments

  1. Greetings M. I think you and I are pretty much in agreement about not agreeing with the “soul sleep” of humans between death and resurrection. Like you, I see this as one of the countless non-essential issues within the Christian faith. I mean, what does it matter what happens between death and resurrection? The more important issue is what happens “after” resurrection. Will we spend eternity in heaven or hell? What concerns me more about the 7thDA’s is their belief in annihilation of the soul of non-believers after the resurrection. So, there is no eternal punishment for unbelievers, they say. Again, I don’t see this as heresy. It’s just simply unbiblical. Anyway, I think all Christians need to focus more on the basic Gospel message (the person and work of Jesus — and the salvation He offers). When unbelievers see us debating small points of doctrine, I think they just roll their eyes at our foolishness. I’ll backtrack a bit and say it’s “okay” to debate minor points, but more as a form of entertainment than of theological importance. I definitely believe in good, wholesome entertainment, dear M. I’m looking forward to spending a blissful and “conscious” eternity with you.

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  2. Hello M. My previous reply may have given the impression that I see little value in “minor” doctrinal issues. Actually, truth, whether small or big, is God’s truth, and should not be ignored. I’m occasionally interested in hearing different theological viewpoints, even when practicality is in question. I do have a tendency to tune out those who are overly passionate about things that I consider minor issues of the faith. One person’s non-essential is another person’s essential. Of course, my essentials are the true essentials. Just joking, sort of.

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