Friday, March 04, 2005
While talking about Eternal Security, I started thinking about the concept of Purgatory, as it would seem especially necessary if we can sin to no end so long as we've accepted Christ and still go to Heaven. Try this: don't think of it as an eon of burnination called Purgatory. What if we called it "Final Sanctification" and allowed that it could be instantaneous, painless, and not occur in a specific place? How would that work. After all, few if any of us are completely sanctified by the time we die. However, we can't be allowed into Heaven until our sinful nature has been removed. Therefore, there must be something between physical death for believers and admission into Heaven. Of course, one could also argue that Purgatory is just the outermost portion of Heaven, not truly in God's holy presence, and thus not subject to the prohibition of sinfulness. It may well be. The point is, some sort of purging/purification must take place after death.
Thinking about areas that aren't earth, Heaven, or Hell also got me thinking about Sheol. Traditionally, this is where the Jews believed that those who were faithful to God (and trusted in the coming of the redeeming Messiah) went after they physically died, as Heaven was closed off to mankind until after Christ's Atonement. They weren't yet fit for heaven, having not yet been Redeemed, but certainly didn't belong in Hell. So, the Bible says that they slept in Sheol, which means "the grave" in Hebrew. This may also be the same as the Roman Catholic idea of Limbo, but I don't know. In any case, when God the Father showed Moses and Elijah to Jesus, Peter, John, and James, where did they come from? They could not have come from Heaven, and certainly not Hell. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, where was Lazarus for those four days? To believe he was in Heaven brings up the image of an angel tapping him on the shoulder and saying "I've got some really bad news, man." And in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (which is probably about a different Lazarus), the rich man goes to Hell but Lazarus goes to "the bosom of Abraham." If this meant "into the presence of God," why not say so? Instead, it implies that Lazarus was wherever Abraham was. And, when God says that He IS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it means that they're still alive. They're obviously physically dead, but God is speaking of the spirit, as when Christians are declared the children of Abraham. On the cross, Christ told the Good Thief (traditionally known as Dismas) that he would be with Him in Heaven that very day. Christ died before Dismas, thus opening up Heaven and releasing those in Sheol. The logical consequence of this is that people can no longer be raised from the dead, as they would either go to Hell or to Heaven (through Purgatory), and would not be simply waiting in Sheol. Now, it could also be argued that, similar to Purgatory, Sheol is simply part of earth, and I wouldn't object to this, though I don't know that it's correct.
I don't know how sure I am of these two doctrines. On the Fran Sciacca-meter, I'd be willing to take a few punches for these two doctrines. I wouldn't really be willing to get seriously beaten up for them or die for them, at least not yet. And, these two seem to me to be more a matter of how things work, rather than essential or very important to the Gospel. Still, they seem to make sense to me at present. If you can find a flaw, let me know, and I'll be glad to either address it or recant. I simply want to teach what's true, whether it reflects well on me or not.