What Really Is The Meaning of Life?
Life's Big Question: What Happens After Death?
Which of us hasn't asked ourselves the question: what happens when I die ?
Christianity Teaches Heaven & Hell
Most Christian churches teach that after death, we either go to heaven or hell, depending upon how well we've lived our life.
Heaven represents a perpetually peaceful existence in the presence of God and is often associated with being surrounded by angels and the strumming of harps.
Hell, by contrast is associated with a continuing eternal torture perhaps amongst fire and brimstone, or as in the particular case of the illustration by Gustav Doré for Dante's Divine Comedy below; where theives are perpetually attacked by serpents.
Is God, who claims to be full of lovingkindness and tender mercies, really torturing vast tracts of humankind, whilst there are millions of individuals sat around on clouds strumming on harps - as you're reading this...now ?
No Man Has Gone to Heaven
Actually scripture says quite explicitly that apart from Christ himself, no-one has gone to heaven; not even David, a man after God's own heart. And even our concepts of hell are a substantial distortion of what scripture says about life after death.
Traditional Concept of "Hell" Influenced by Greek Mythology & Popularised by Dante
In fact, most of our concepts of heaven and hell are heavily influenced by Dante Aligheri's Divine Comedy; a poem which describes Dante's imaginary journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Within the Divine Comedy, Dante incorporated numerous mythological references as Gustave Dorés rich illustrations show. Perhaps this begins to explain how the concept of hell in particular seems to have been so heavily influenced by Greek mythology's "underworld". Reassuringly, you'll probably be relieved to hear that what scripture actually says about heaven and hell is surprisingly different from what most people suppose (in a good way).
There are three groups of words which have been translated "hell" in English.
Hell Translated from "Sheol" and "Hades"
In the majority of cases the Hebrew word "Sheol" and the Greek word "Hades" for hell are translated into "hell". It might be tempting to think: since the words in the Greek scriptures translated into "hell" (ten times) were originally written as "hades", then perhaps "hell" does have characteristics of the underworld from Greek mythology. However, a simple comparison of Greek and Hebrew scriptures indicates that the two words are simply equivalents. Interestingly, Sheol is just as often translated "grave" (thirty one times) or "pit" (twice) as it is "hell" (thirty one times) in the Hebrew scriptures. Context shows that "sheol" is better translated as "grave" or "pit" and is therefore sometimes used as a euphemism for death itself. The same then appears to be true for the occurrences of "hades" in the Greek scriptures. Arguments that either "Sheol" or "Hades" mean a place of perpetual fiery torture are (reassuringly) weak.
Hell Translated from "Gehenna" and "Tartaros"
There are twelve occasions when "hell" is translated from the Greek word "Gehenna" and one occasion when "hell" is translated from the Greek "Tartaros". These need to be considered individually.
Introduction to God's Purpose for Mankind
When writing to the congregation of saints (I Corinthians 1:2, I Corinthians 2:1) in Corinth about the meaning of life, Paul explains that God's purpose is beyond our human comprehension.
1 Corinthians 2:9
But as it is written:
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him." NKJV
Man Was Created After God's Own Image
Scripture indicates that God created man, distinct from the animals and extraordinarily, after "His own image" or likeness...
26 ¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Genesis 1 tells us that the animal kingdom were made after their "kind".
11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good........
......21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters ......24 ¶ And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
When you think about it, there's a considerable amount of emphasis on this point isn't there, given that this brief chapter records the origins of life from God's perspective. Why should this be the case ?
Perhaps Genesis 1:26-27 (above) is telling us that in contrast with the animal kingdom, man was was created after the God "kind"?
God is Our Father/Children of God
Moreover, in communicating a sense of what the meaning of life is, God characterises himself as our Father and us as His children and scripture shows that "we shall be like Him".
1 John 3:1-11
3:1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Not Only Children But Heirs of God
Not only are we "sons" or "children of God" though, we are also "heirs of God", and "joint heirs with Christ".
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
So is God Fathering A Family ?
If we're prepared to take scripture at face value it would seem that God's intention is to have a family of immortal Spirit children and heirs.
14 ¶ For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
Resurrection From Death
The process whereby the "sons of God" realise their "inheritance" involves being resurrected from the dead...
1 Corinthians 15:35-54
35 But someone will say, "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?" 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. .........42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
...to be reborn as incorruptible and immortal Spirit beings.
Reborn As Spirit Beings
Scripture shows us that God is Spirit and that to enter the Kingdom of God we too must be born of the Spirit.
24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Intriguingly Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica, very clearly explaining that, from his perspective at the return of the Messiah, those who were "asleep" would be raised (from the dead) in contrast with those who will remain alive.
I Thessalonians 4:
13 ¶ But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Those who are resurrected are "caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air" and then remain with Him. However, Zechariah 14: shows Messiah doesn't say that those who are resurrected are taken by Messiah to heaven. In fact Christ's return to earth is to save Jerusalem from a siege by "all nations".
1 ¶ Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.
2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
Moreover in verse 9 we see after lifting the siege of Jerusalem, Christ becomes "king over all the earth".
9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
He then begins to fully establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
Daniel 7 then explains that the Kindom shall be given to the saints; which, in the beginning of each of Paul's epistles, he explains are the members of the assemblies to whom he was writing.
27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
IGo back to the start of Judianity - A "Third Way" Between Judaism or Christianity ?
Does Galatians really mean the Mosaic law (the written Torah) is " done away" especially if, in the predominantly Jewish New Testament church, no fuss was recorded about it, yet in Acts only one small and predictable change about the circumcision of gentile proselytes caused massive turmoil.
Go next to the Meaning of Life: No-one's gone to Heaven ?
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