"What Is It Like To Die Or To Be Dead?" Part Two.....
Keep in mind that ONLY the body dies at physical death and that EVERY soul lives on either in an environment of conscious blessing in which one is in fellowship with God, or is in an environment of conscious suffering in which one is out of fellowship with God. There is no soul in any coffin, urn, cemetery, or other "container" as a result of what was or what was not done with one's bodily remains.
I like the term "remains" as it best conveys that what is buried, cremated, or otherwise disposed of is what was left behind by the departed soul. The ONLY significance of what was left behind is that it becomes the seed from which the resurrected body will be raised at the Rapture. What was (or was not) done with the bodily remains has got nothing to do with God's ability or plan to raise the bodily remains up at the Rapture.
Final arrangements can provide such things a closure for those we leave behind, but is of NO benefit to the departed soul. I am not sure that "closure" is the message that my earthly departure sends to those I leave behind. "Closure" implies an end, whereas for believers, one's departure is merely a temporary separation.
This "temporary" separation can involve decades of "time", but once time has passed it will seem like only day has gone by until the believer is reunited with fellow believers in glory.
The only circumstances that make the separation imposed by physical death permanent is when the departed souls of an Earthly relationship end up different eternal locations (Heaven vs. Hell). The reality of this principle is perhaps the number one reason why newly born again believers can be so zealous when it comes to sharing the TRUE Gospel with spiritually dead family members and friends. Seasoned veterans of spiritual combat have come to the reality of the inherent obstacle (Mark 6: 4) associated with the evangelization and spiritual edification in such scenarios.
(Luke 14: 26) makes it clear that to favor a relationship with people over a relationship with God is what disqualifies a person from discipleship. Being disqualified from discipleship has both temporal (Hebrews 12:6) and eternal (1Cor. 12:15) consequences, but such consequences do NOT include the loss of salvation (1Cor. 3: 15).
Don't wait until Eternity to discover that no matter how great interpersonal relationships may or should be here on Earth, no human relationship is worth diminishing his/her relationship with the Lord.
A believer should be at peace with others (Romans 12: 18) to the extent that one's relationship with the Lord permits (Romans 12: 18), but there comes a time when discipleship requires that things must be said and/or done that are going to "offend" others. Especially in the case of f pastor-teachers, unless we want the "blood" of others to be on our hands (Ezekiel 3: 20), we must say and/or do what needs to be said and/or done to evangelize the unbelievers and to spiritually edify the believers that God places within the circle of our personal, social, and/or professional peripheries.
It is NOT the function of a disciple to try to force or pressure anyone to do anything in the spiritual realm, but its the disciple's place to prepare himself and to inform unbelievers of the true Gospel Message, and believers of the appropriate principle(s) of Bible Doctrine, when God gives us the opportunity to do so (1Pete 3: 15).
When God (not we) arranges for the Gospel and/or an edifying passage of Scripture to be conveyed, the recipient has been prepared to receive it. This does not mean that the recipient will accept or apply it, but what any recipient chooses to do with what he is given is between the recipient and God and NOT between the recipient and us!
If a believer finds that he/she does not have the answer to give to questions that others present him/her with, this is God's way of bringing to light area(s) of disciplehip that each one of us need to master. If we DO have the answer, but do not convey it to others when God gives us the opportunity, we fail as disciples.
We will never know (this side of Heaven) if we were the last opportunity that God had for any given soul to be saved, or if we were the last opportunity that Had had in mind to edify a believer is some area of his/her post salvation spiritual life.
The unbelievers in our periphery can (and will) go to Hell and the believers can (and will) go to Heaven without reward, if that is what they choose to do, but never let it be said that our own failure to convey the right information at an appointed time played a part in it!
If I am called home before the Rapture takes place, I am giving serious thought to having Luke 24: 5 engraved on my head stone as my last testimony to anyone who may take notice of it before their own time of departure comes. "Why do you seek the living among the dead-Luke 24: 5 KJV."
In context, this passage was referring to the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it could also be used to teach the fact that there are NO souls in caskets, tombs, urns, or cemeteries, or the bodily remains or what it left of them.
Did not the Lord Himself advise an inquirer to let the (spiritually) dead worry about burying the (physically) dead, as the disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ has more important (eternal) things on which to be focused? "Let the (spiritually) dead bury their (physically) dead; but go thou (disciple) and preach the (Gospel of the) kingdom of God (Luke 9: 60 KJV)".
Because human viewpoint perceives the grave to have been the last point of contact, humans tend to equate visiting the graves as a way of reuniting themselves with the departed soul. The truth is that the soul departed the bodily remains at the moment of physical death and NEVER even entered the grave. The living part of the person is not there and is not there and never was. The soul has moved on, and when the grieving process is over, so should the survivors.
Rather one's final arrangements was one of grand or humble means, private or public, or even non-existent, such things have NOTHING to do with impacting or changing where the soul that has already gone, or the environment he/she is experiencing.
Equally so is the fact that regardless of what is (or is not) done with one's bodily remains, such things do not aid God's knowledge or ability to raise up the body of a departed believer in resurrected form when the Rapture (1Thess. 4: 15, 16) takes place.
These Biblical truths can be a source of great comfort to survivors of victims when circumstances do not allow for the recovery of their bodily remains.
There are different opinions about what (if any) awareness there is concerning earthly activity that takes place after the soul has departed. I tend to question how the environment of Heaven could be experienced if one is aware of all the adversity that the loved ones he/she has left behind is made known to the souls in Heaven. If such knowledge is known, perhaps it is because of the level of spiritual maturity one will have as of the experience he encountered upon passing away, the earthly adversity that the loved ones we leave behind experience will be seen and understood with divine viewpoint.
One position is that the earthly adversity experienced by loved ones we leave behind is under view by the departed souls as being among the many in the Hebrews 12: 1 cloud of witnesses.
While I do not completely dismiss this possibility, I believe that these "witnesses" are the angels, fallen and elect, who observe and take daily note of the decisions made by humans souls that either glorify or fail to glorify God in the midst of the ongoing adversity of the angelic conflict.
The observation by angels of such activity is documented is such areas as how (or not) wives, who claim to be believers, honor the marital authority of the husband (1Cor. 11: 10). The destruction and/or redesigning of the family unit and its system of authority has been a part of the devil's agenda throughout the course of human history.
It is the daily, free-will decisions of the human souls here on Earth that is at the heart of the Angelic Conflict. Choosing to make the right decisions in the midst of spiritual warfare is what glorifies God. While the spiritual significance of many of the decisions we make on a daily basis are beyond the scope of human comprehension, there is no such thing as neutrality in the spiritual realm.
During the Old Testament dispensation, the departed souls of unbelievers in the Torments of Hades could see the departed souls of believers in the comfort of Paradise in Hades. Interaction between these two groups was not allowed (Luke 16: 26).
Seeking guidance and/or intervention from departed souls was prohibited during the Old Testament dispensation (Leviticus 19: 31).
Note that this passage does not state that such communication is or is not possible, but that believers are NOT to engage in it.
IN fact, there is one time in the Old Testament (1Sam. 28), when the permissive will of God allowed such communication between the living souls here on Earth, and the departed soul of Samuel. Note, however, that this was one of the final SINS that King Saul engaged in before committing suicide to prevent the humiliation and suffering of capture (1Sam 31:4).
Seeking favor with God through the intervention of departed human souls (saints) is a practice that continues to be in place in at least one large sector (Roman Catholicism) of the Christian Community. This practice is NOT Biblically ordained. Praying in this manner violates the method of prayer that was laid down in Scripture that directs prayer to God the Father (Matthew 6: 9), in the name (authority) of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14: 13), and in the power of God the Holy Spirit (John 15: 5).
It is only fair, to mention that the Roman Catholic sector of the Christian Community claims to have documentation of miraculous activity concerning the making of "saints" that requires documentable evidence of such activity during both the life and after death of the "sainted" individual.
At the same time, the devil has a long history of producing activity that the appearance of being equal to activity that was produced via divine power (Exodus 7: 11). Scripture also teach that the devil will produce activity in the END TIMES (Matthew 24: 24) that will have the appearance of having been produced by divine power.
Both GOD and the DEVIL produce "miraculous" activity to lend credibility to their spokespersons. One of the ways to discern one from the other is by examining the message that these workers of miracles glorify.
Frankly, I do not see what anyone would expect a departed soul (saint) to do, that God, who has given us direct access to His throne, would not do for us. Just as human parents would not be happy when children go to "others" seeking things that they must fear that the parents won't give or approve of, God our Heavenly Father would view such things the same way.
Since Scripture (Phil. 4: 19) has promised me that God will supply ALL my needs (Phil. 4: 19), I choose not to go outside of the plan of God rather than obtain anything by engaging in activity that I am better off leaving alone.