Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Where Do Dead People Go?

I don't just not know where the angels sleep. I also don't know what happens to a soul when someone dies. I do however wonder and let my mind wander about what happens.

There are sort of two major views from Scripture. The first view is that people go to a place of pre-judged Judgment. Jesus tells a parable in Luke 16 about the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Rich Man is in "Hades" (not necessarily Hell), whereas Lazarus is in "Paradise" (not necessarily Heaven). And all of this is taking place in a timeline that pre-dates the Day of Judgment.

The second view is that the dead simply sleep. Paul seems to use that language in his letters quite often. Check out 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV):

13Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage each other with these words.

Lots of references to sleep in there. There are other places where Paul also talks about sleep, or "rest."

It's sort of an interesting debate. I like what I heard F. LaGard Smith say about it once. It's a debate where people can tend to get impassioned about their view. And usually you don't reach resolution if you encounter someone who doesn't share your view. And no matter what view you hold, whatever actually happens is going to happen irregardless of whatever we so passionately think or believe.

I've wondered about this debate in only an intellectual sense before. But now I have more of an emotional investment in the topic. Because now I wonder where my Mom is.

If she's in a place of pre-judged judgment, then she might be able to see what's going on. It certainly seems like the Rich Man had an awareness that his brothers still needed to repent.

If this is true, then it's sort of like when you're playing that game "Mafia." If you've ever played, if you get killed or voted out, you still get to watch what happens even though you can't participate. If you get killed or voted out early (as often happens to me), it's fun to have other people join the club & to watch their reaction to finding out who the mafia really is. Usually it is some level of shock or just a matter of fact nod in a way of thinking, "I knew it..."

I wonder if Mom is in Paradise with a front-row seat of everything that's going on. Rooting me on when I succeed; hoping desperately for me to do better when I fail. If so, she'll have so much to share with me whenever I get to speak with her again.

But, if Mom is merely asleep, then she doesn't see anything that's going on. She's at rest. I could imagine spending the first few hours of the next life with her anxiously asking me, "What happened? How did it all go without me?" And I will try to fill her in on the more salient details of my life. I could imagine us spending the next few years together with me occasionally bringing up stories that I just hadn't gotten around to telling her yet, trying to fill in the blanks & share important parts of my life with her.

I can even imagine that scenario happening with people who have already died. I could imagine Ben Franklin waking up & wanting to know, "That little 'America' experiment of our's... how did it all turn out?" I could imagine long suffering Red Sox fans -- the poor souls who died before October 2004 -- waking up eagerly wanting to know, "How did it all end? Did we ever stick it to the Yankees?" And gleefully being able to fill them in -- telling the story of the 2004 ALCS with ALL the giddy details, including Dave Roberts' steal, Curt Schilling's bloody sock, and the emergence of a legend we now call "Big Papi."

But I don't know which scenario is true. Either way it'll be fun. Either way, in between all the time we spend worshiping God, I imagine that we will gregariously enjoy regaling one another with stories from the days of yore.


Justmatt said...

Good post III... I like it. You got me thinking.

Mark said...

I've wrestled with this a lot. It does seem to me that Scripture is not completely coherent in the picture it presents about "where we go" until Christ returns. I'm convinced that his return has to matter, so there must be something we're still waiting on. At the same time, some scriptures point to the idea of us being at peace or at least being comforted. In the end, I guess we're all in the hands of a merciful God. Hope I'm ready when my time comes...

Anonymous said...

I love this topic, Philip. Every now and then, I have dreams about the end of time, and I had one just the other night. In the dream I always find myself wondering (or scared, more like it) if I'm going to "make the cut."

In any case, great thoughts and I do look forward to seeing how it all plays out.