Bounced out of Heaven?
January 21, 2008
I used to work with a young woman who’d been brought up without religion. She knew God’s name was Jehovah because she’d seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And from Dogma, she knew that God’s original purpose was for humans to live on earth forever; our planet was never a launch pad to heaven or trap door to hell. And that angels were a separate creation; they weren’t former "good people" enjoying their reward for being good.
From two movies she had more Bible knowledge than 90% of church folk who’ve spent a lifetime butts glued to pews! If you don’t approach the book determined to read in teachings that aren’t there, it becomes much easier to understand.
For instance, just try to reconcile the heaven/hell dogma with John chapter 11, which relates a resurrection Jesus performed:
He [Jesus] said these things, and after this he said to them: “Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.” Therefore the disciples said to him: “Lord, if he has gone to rest, he will get well.” Jesus had spoken, however, about his death. But they imagined he was speaking about taking rest in sleep. At that time, therefore, Jesus said to them outspokenly: “Lazarus has died, ……
Consequently when Jesus arrived, he found he had already been four days in the memorial tomb. …….
Hence Jesus, after groaning again within himself, came to the memorial tomb. It was, in fact, a cave, and a stone was lying against it. said: “Take the stone away.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to him: “Lord, by now he must smell, for it is four days.” Jesus said to her: “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Therefore they took the stone away. Now Jesus raised his eyes heavenward and said: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. True, I knew that you always hear me; but on account of the crowd standing around I spoke, in order that they might believe that you sent me forth.” And when he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice: “Lazarus, come on out!” The [man] that had been dead came out with his feet and hands bound with wrappings, and his countenance was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said to them: “Loose him and let him go.” John 11:11-44
He’d been dead for four days. Where was he during this time?
You don’t think if he’d been in heaven he would have said something upon being dragged back to earth? When Johnny Cash had a near-death experience during surgery and imagined he’d seen heaven, he was steamed to wake up again in the hospital. Even with his sweetheart June around. Yet Lazarus had been there four days, long enough to check out his room and settle in, if it really is so that the good all go to heaven.
For non-judgmental types, let us allow that even if he’d not gone to heaven, but spent those four days in hell, and Jesus still brought him back, letting bygones be bygones, Lazarus still did not mention a thing. And he didn't right away run for a bucket of water to sit in, as you can be sure I would have done.
No, the account suggests that Lazarus was nowhere during those four days; he was DEAD, non-existent, not conscious of a thing. Didn’t Jesus suggest as much when he likened the man to being asleep and not conscious in some other realm?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are unique among Judeo-Christian groups in not buying into the heaven/hell routine. For them, a future resurrection (foreshadowed in places like the above passage) is the hope for all who have died, or nearly all. In the meantime, dead people really are dead; they don’t exist; they’ve gone back to the dust from which they came.
Once we get this through our heads, so many scriptures make instant sense. Like this one about John the Baptist, one of the nicest people around, in fact, the fellow who baptized Jesus:
Truly I [Jesus] say to you people, Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is. Matt 11:11
No one of humans better than John. Yet the janitor in heaven is higher up than he. So John didn’t go to heaven. And if he didn’t, being top of the heap, no one else did, either.
Or this one about David:
It is allowable to speak with freeness of speech to you concerning the family head David, that he both deceased and was buried and his tomb is among us to this day…..Actually David did not ascend to the heavens….. Acts 2:30-34
Or this one:
All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going. Eccles 9:10
Many Bible translations render sheol in this passage as “the grave;” but the New World Translation simply transliterates the original Hebrew word, for which the Greek equivalent is hades. Although sheol and hades are two of the three wordsoften rendered into English as “hell,” their actual meaning is “place of the dead“, without reference to being good or bad during life.
All basic scriptural teachings, which you could have learned by staying out of church and going to the movies.
Hey, Tom, I said I'd drop by this weekend, and here I am!
Reading this post makes me think that, if your voice is up to it (of course, I've never heard it to judge one way or the other), it (the post) could be a radio hit, along the lines of Oral Roberts's classic "Now, my friends, put your hands on the radio and let's pray together!"
In other words, good writing! I'm impressed.
Of course, I'm still shaking my head how you can believe this stuff [smile].
Posted by: Moristotle | January 26, 2008 at 10:22 AM
Moristotle: Actually, I thought that you might semi-approve of it. Yes, it has some baggage you don't agree with, but it makes some steps in agreement with your position, namely, that the immortal soul going to heaven or hell is nonsense, also that the true condition of the dead is one of non-existence<
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | January 26, 2008 at 03:25 PM
Can someone please tell me where in the Bible are the words 'immortal soul'?
Posted by: jklace | January 27, 2008 at 02:21 AM
Actually, Tom, you're right, I do agree with you on portions of those particular points. I trust that you'll forgive me for not saying so.
One portion on which I don't agree, of course, is your implication that people have an "immortal soul." I don't know what JK Lace's position on it is, whether she would agree with me, or with you if only she could be assured that the Bible authorizes the phrase.
Also, I suppose, since you say that the "true condition of the dead is... non-existence," that you mean by "the dead" the dead's consciousness. The atoms of a dead person continue to exist; they "go back to nature."
Posted by: Moristotle | January 29, 2008 at 09:09 AM
No, no, no, no, no, Moristotle, you misunderstand my meaning. We do not believe that people have immortal souls. That's consistent with the statement that once dead, people really do die, cease to exist, not conscious of anything, sleeping in the grave (like Lazarus), etc.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | January 29, 2008 at 02:04 PM
Ah, thanks for clarifying. So, you were referring to "immortal soul" as part of the conceptual package that you disagreed with part and parcel.
I (obviously?) took "the immortal soul['s] going to heaven or hell is nonsense" as denying that "the immortal soul" goes to heaven or hell, but not that it doesn't "do" something else...such as be resurrected later to continue living here on earth. (In fact, isn't that what you believe? You've not only cited the story of Lazarus's being "raised from the dead," but you've also emphasized that "we" live forever [haven't you?].)
I guess I'm in need of further elucidation as to just what you do believe.
Posted by: Moristotle | January 29, 2008 at 04:08 PM
You are correct that we believe in a future resurection for most of those who have died. That idea is not compatable with an immortal soul, which cannot die, hence cannot be brought back from the dead.
I know, I know, it probably strikes you as splitting hairs, but you asked for a clarification.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | January 30, 2008 at 10:53 AM
No, I don't think that's splitting hairs. So the soul isn't immortal, but it can, after dying, be resurrected to live again? Pretty neat. You're counting on this courtesy being done [for] yourself, I suppose?
Posted by: Moristotle | January 30, 2008 at 11:56 AM
I confess I would be happy were that to come about. It beats the alternative.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | January 30, 2008 at 08:21 PM
What IS the alternative (so far as you're concerned, I mean)?
I hope (after I've heard what you think it is) that I'll be able to understand how it beats being resurrected.
Also, you speak SUBJUNCTIVELY of its coming about on your behalf. So, you don't know that it's assured? Is there nothing YOU can do to secure it? What, then, will determine whether (or not) you are resurrected?
Posted by: Moristotle | January 31, 2008 at 09:17 AM
Again, Moristotle, I fear I did not speak clearly. At least, I did not get my point across. I do not feel the alternative beats being resurrected. I feel that being resurrected beats the alternative. The alternative to being resurrected, of course, is not being resurrected. Now, I kind of like life, and I would be happy if my death (only two or three decades away) is not the final curtain. I'd rather live longer.
"What, then, will determine whether (or not) you are resurrected? " I'm not exactly sure what you are asking. To answer, I would have to "get religious." Is that what you want?
To put matters in the briefest of nutshells, God's original purpose was for humans to live forever on the earth kept beautiful under his rulership. For various reasons history did not turn out that way. Yet, God has installed an arrangement through which that original purpose will be realized. I have taken time to learn of that arrangement, I have accepted it, and I do my best to live up to it. So yes, I have reasonable confidence of being among resurrected ones upon my death. But there's no sense getting cocky. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Or even my own estimate of myself today? Of course, should I be alive when God replaces existing human rule with his own kingdom, then my hope would be, not resurrection, but living right on through that period into his new order of things. That would be okay, too, but again, there's no sense getting cocky about it.
Does that answer your question? I've written of these things in more detail, only not here, as I'm not sure that is what you're asking about. But if you wanted the added details, you could find some here:
and probably some other places.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | January 31, 2008 at 10:57 AM
Ooh, sorry, my mistake. When I wrote, "...how it beats being resurrected," I reversed what you'd said (and I understood). I should have said, "...how resurrection beats it."
Okay, sure, people who die before they're worn out and through enjoying life would presumably all say they'd like to go on for a while (or be resurrected to go on).
But go on beyond the point of enjoyment, pleasure, vitality? I have no desire to live beyond my time of being "viable." I've seen people (such as my father) who had a miserable final years.
I'm a little puzzled by your statement that, "[t]o answer [my question about whether there's anything you can do to ensure your own resurrection or how it's determined that you will or won't be resurrected], [you'd] have to 'get religious.'" I mean, I'm talking about how you KNOW [that "God has installed an arrangement through which that original purpose will be realized"].
Do you have to "get religious" to explain how you know? I'm really not anxious for you to get religious on me; I'd much rather you didn't.
But I suppose that, in some sense, you'd HAVE to "get religious" to do so, for you cannot possibly KNOW any such thing. I doubt that "getting religious" would be of any help to you at all, except that it might make you THINK you'd succeeded in explaining it. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't make ME think so.
Posted by: Moristotle | January 31, 2008 at 01:40 PM
Tom, as I wrote you privately in an e-mail, in Bertrand Russell's "A History of Western Philosophy," there's a passage on "how to read philosophy" that really struck me. He was addressing the difficulty of getting into something that just seemed utterly wrong. He suggested reading such things with a view to understanding what it was about the writer and what he was writing that MADE the writer believe it.
That seems relevant to the conversation we've got going on here. I am quite certain that you can't at all KNOW that "God has an arrangement [for resurrection]." That is, I think you are "utterly wrong" to think you can know it. So the question is, How can I understand what it is about what you believe and your situation of believing it that MAKES you believe it?
From what you've told me before (or, that is, from what I remember of what I understood of it), I believe that you were persuaded by the [alleged] remarkable prescience of Biblical prophecy, isn't that right? Something about 1914 having been foretold in enough specificity to make it virtually IMPOSSIBLE to think that 1914 was NOT really foretold?
Plus, now, I understand that you have a personal stake in resurrection's having "been arranged," because you desire to live forever. That is, your DESIRE that it be true inclines you to believe it for the sake of avoiding dejection at the thought that it is almost certainly not so.
Posted by: Moristotle | January 31, 2008 at 02:52 PM
Okay, I read as much as I could tolerate of "Why Do Bad Things Happen?" I can't even commend the fantasy stated there as "nice," I find the concept of "the need for obedience [to God]" so utterly repulsive. The fantasy seems to me to be not only not nice at all, nor even adolescent, but simply infantile.
I guess that I've proved your good sense in not suggesting that I'd REALLY want to read the "more details" you've provided elsewhere. (Or that, should Brandon return, I've given people who believe as he does fodder for another charge of wanting to believe what will take me off "God's" hook. Which, when you think about it, is about as crappy psychological intimidation as can be imagined.)
Still! I plan to go now to "The First and the Last Adam" to see whether I can tolerate anything there. Wish me luck, for I'll probably need it.
Posted by: Moristotle | January 31, 2008 at 03:57 PM
P.S. I'll most likely respond to your other points soon. Time's a little tight right now.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | January 31, 2008 at 10:14 PM
Thanks, good Tom. I was able to read more of "The First and the Last Adam" than of "Why Do Bad Things Happen?" I was fascinated by your skill as a theological thinker. I mean, in explaining how the mythical Adam and the mythical Jesus were "pure" and what this "fact" means, you sounded like a profound theologian. You sounded as though you had it all figured out and all's right with the world.
I admit, though, that I couldn't bear to read it closely, as I would if I wanted to critique it point by point and get argumentative with you. (In times past, when I still thought there was a subject matter, I used to display my own skill at theological reasoning.)
Good on you.
Posted by: Moristotle | February 01, 2008 at 09:23 AM
Ah. Glad to see I have partially redeemed myself. Thanks for your (in this case) kind words. The explanation's by no means original, though. Any of Jehovah's Witnesses, Brandon included, could have related it.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | February 01, 2008 at 11:22 AM
Ah, so like you Tom, in modesty! I admit that I did wonder whether it was your own "theological reasoning" or...JW boilerplate, but I hoped it was your own. At any rate, I'm confident that you improved on the original with your skilled wordmanship.
I acknowledge too, with shame, that indeed not all of my words are kind (in the sense that I don't cloth them in wool to euphemize their frank meaning).
I am, alas, simply not as courteous as you are. I am grateful not only for your courtesy but also for your forbearance. (Not that you can't be bitingly sarcastic on occasion, but I'm not good at remembering instances, able to retain only a vague sense that there were some.)
Posted by: Moristotle | February 01, 2008 at 12:40 PM
Be assured, Moristotle, that I can also both speak and write words that I later come to regret. I'm afraid nobody has a monopoly on that count.
This statement strikes me as strange, though, and I'm not sure there's not some deep philosophical meaning in it somewhere, just as not long ago, you thought it psychologically significant that I should be attracted to a body of teachings that "delivers" what I want, namely everlasting life (I'll respond to that in time, but probably in brevity, or maybe just by citing other posts):
"I admit that I did wonder whether it was your own "theological reasoning" or...JW boilerplate, but I hoped it was your own."
Why? If the idea (to a limited extent) impressed you, what does it matter who came up with it? Why is it "profound" when I say it, but "boilerplate" crap when they do? The notion that one should pay attention, not to WHAT is said, but to WHO said it, strikes me as very odd. (sorry for capitals....tags don't work on Typepad replies)
Alas, theologically speaking, there's not much that's original on my blog. It's all JW. Of course, applications, illustrations, arrangements and rebuttals are mine (usually) and a certain amount of creativity within the framework of JW teachings, but not the teachings themselves.
I see nothing wrong with that.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | February 01, 2008 at 07:33 PM
Tom, hardly anything could be easier than to answer your questions (and for that I'm glad because commenting here now is the first thing I've done on my computer today besides logging on, so I'm not warmed up yet).
The answers are: Just because something is boilerplate doesn't make it crap. That was your inference, but not my implication. It is still "theological reasoning." I admit, though, that I threw "profound" in as an emblem of my affection for you. I of course wouldn't use that word to describe JW doctrine.
But you not only inferred that wrongly, you also implied wrongly (or at least presumptuously) that I would come to regret what I say when I refrain from clothing my frank meaning in wool. (Or did you maybe mean that theologically, in the sense that I'd get my comeuppance from Jehovah on Judgment Day? [smile])
Posted by: Moristotle | February 02, 2008 at 02:54 PM
No, I meant neither of those things. I was referring only to the change of tone I thought I saw in two succeeding comments: the most recent demonstrating that affection you speak of, but the preceding one downright hostile. Or at least that's how it seemed to me....That's what I thought you might regret: the hostility, not the content.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | February 03, 2008 at 06:53 AM
Tom, I went back and read my comments to see whether I could spot anything that might have appeared hostile. I honestly could not. I maybe brushed against a particularly sensitive button?
I assure you that I harbor only affection for you, but certainly not for religion. My jibes and broadsides against various aspects of religion are not meant as personal attacks on you. I can appreciate, though, that your identification with some of the things that I attack might make it a little difficult for you to tell the difference (between my attacking them or attacking you).
Fortunately (as you have pointed out), we agree in condemning a number of things about religion and about the behavior of believers.
Posted by: Moristotle | February 03, 2008 at 10:26 PM
Okay. I may have erred. Sorry.
It's not easy to infer emotion (or lack thereof) from the printed word. I've made that mistake before, and I've notices other people do as well.
If you say no ill emotion was intended, that's good enough for me.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | February 04, 2008 at 04:39 PM
Yes, and let's always take each other at his word, my estimable friend. All the very best to you today, in all things great and small....
Posted by: Moristotle | February 05, 2008 at 09:11 AM