Greek Philosophy’s Impact on our Understanding of Death

Much has been written on the subject of death, primarily because so many Christians have been led to believe that we don’t really die but go on to live with Jesus in Heaven. In John W. Schoenheit’s book “The Christian’s Hope,*” chapter 7, The Origin of Orthodoxy he says,

The vast majority of Christian denominations teach that there is no such thing as death (if “death” is properly defined as “the total absence of life”). Instead, according to their teaching, when the body dies, the “soul,” the “real you,” goes to heaven or hell and keeps right on living either in bliss or torment. Therefore most Christian’s do not believe that people actually experience “death” when their body dies.”

“Since a major part of the Devil’s agenda was, and still is, to convince people that “You will not surely die…Genesis 3:4,” it is not surprising that most Christian believe that, in some way, “you” go on living even after you die. Whether that you is your spirit, your soul, or some other “essence,” the bottom line is always the same–“you” are fully conscious after death, and not in fact, “dead” (i.e., without life). THIS BELIEF HAS NO BASIS IN SCRIPTURE.” .

God designed humans as integrated beings with a body, soul, and spirit that together make a whole individual. Adam’s body was fully formed, but just dust until God breathed life into it (Genesis 2:7).

Adam’s “life” (whether it be called “soul” or “spirit”) had no consciousness or life of its own apart from his body!. The idea that the soul or spirit is like a ghost that can separate from the body and still have consciousness and movement without the body was introduced into Judaism after the Babylonian captivity and came from there and other religions into Christianity. (Only under Persian and Greek influence was the Platonic notion of the divine pre-existence of the soul, its imprisonment in the human body, and its immortality taken up in Judaism. This occurred at a late stage and on the periphery of Judaism. Karl-Joseph Kuschel, Born Before All Time? The Dispute over Christ’s Origin (Crossroads, New York, 1992), p. 184. The idea of a disembodied living soul did not come from the text of Scripture!”

“According the the Bible, a person who dies, is dead until he or she is raised to life by the Lord Jesus and made to stand at one of the Judgments. Revelation 20:4-6 speaks of some of the dead “coming to life” to reign with Christ, while others do not yet come to life.

Revelation 20:13 states that the sea and the grave will give up the “dead” who are in them so they can be judged. If people are judged when they die and consigned to either heaven or hell, then there is no reason to get them up from the dead for “a day of judgment.”

Why drag someone out of heaven or hell and judge him again, if he had already been judged at the time of his death?”

“In The Early History of Heaven, J. Edward Wright addresses the biblical conception of what happens to the dead:

Two verses from the book of Psalms summarize the biblical conceptions of the afterlife and of humans’ place in the heavenly realm: “Heaven is Yahweh’s heaven, but the earth he has given to humans. The dead do not praise Yahweh, nor all those who go down in silence” Psalm 115:16-17.

These verses pointedly indicate what the biblical thought about humanity’s place in the heavenly realm–they have no place there!

“It is noteworthy that belief in a “heavenly” afterlife……spread after the death of Malachi, the last of the writing prophets. After his death, there were few people left who could oppose the incursion of false doctrine into Judaism. The impact of Greek religion and the Greek language on the doctrine of life and death among the Jews cannot be overstated. Alexander the Great conquered Israel in 332 BC. As a result, by 250 BC there were so many Jews speaking Greek (many of whom could not read Hebrew) that it became necessary to develop a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.

This translation is called the Septuagint. It is significant that the translators chose the Greek word “Hades” to translate the Hebrew word “Sheol” in the Hebrew text. This choice had a very powerful impact because the souls in Sheol, according to Scripture, are all dead, but the souls in Hades, according to Homer and other Greek and Roman writers, are all alive! Thus by the stroke of a translator’s pen, everyone throughout the “Old Testament” who had died was granted life in the grave.”

Death/Sleep/Sheol/Grave/Hell/the Pit/Hades

Many times God refers to death and dying as sleep and sleeping and even being asleep. In Deuteronomy 31:16 God told Moses that one day he would sleep with his fathers. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers;” He told the prophet Nathan to say the same thing to David in 2 Samuel 7:12: “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers,”

In Psalm 13:3 David asked God “…lighten mine eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death.” Jeremiah, in speaking about Babylon in 51:39 says “…sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake..” Acts 13:36 says, “ …David fell on sleep and was laid unto his fathers and saw corruption (rotted away.) In 1 Corinthians 11:30 Paul says “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep.”

1 Thessalonians 4:14 says, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. Vs. 15 goes on to say that “we which are alive and remain shall not precede them that are asleep and vs. 16 goes on to say that “the dead in Christ shall rise first.”

Not only does The Word say David slept with his fathers, but also that he saw corruption, which means he was dead and buried over 3 days and 3 nights. We know this because the Lord Jesus Christ was dead and buried 3 days and 3 nights and did not see corruption, rot away. Now, since King David is asleep in the grave with his father and all the fathers of fathers before him, including Moses, where do we come off thinking that when we die, we go to be with Jesus? Being dead is synonymous with being asleep in this context.

  1. Psalm 6:5, “For in death there is no remembrance of thee (you have no memory): in the grave (Sheol) who shall give thee thanks.”
  2. Psalm 49:14-15 “Like sheep they are laid in the grave (Sheol😉 death shall feed on them (gross); and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume, (decays,) in the grave (Sheol) from their dwelling, (residence.) But God will redeem (in the future at the Resurrection of the Just, the First Resurrection, see Revelation 20:5,6) my soul from the power of the grave (Sheol🙂 for he shall receive me. Selah.
  3. Psalm 30:3 speaking of the raising of Jesus “O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.” Verse 9 goes on to say, “ What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?” No, it won’t.
  4. Ecc. 9:5,6 “For the living know they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward (hire, wages;) for the memory of them is forgotten. (We haven’t forgotten them, they’ve forgotten us.) Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy is now perished; neither have they any more a portion (share) forever in anything that is done under the sun.”
  5. Ecc. 9:10, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work (labor,) nor device (reasoning or reckoning,) nor knowledge (or understanding,) nor wisdom(skill) in the grave (Sheol, Hades, Hell, Pit,) whither thou goest.”

Not only do we see all the “attributes” of death, but we also see how Sheol is translated in the KJV as Grave, Hell and The Pit. In reality, everyone who has ever lived and died, believer or not, goes to Sheol, which The Bible also calls Hell, Hades and the Pit. Hebrews 9:27 tells us, “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” With the exception of Jesus Christ, everyone who has died, is still dead and still in the grave and will be in the grave until one of the Judgments or The Rapture of The Church. This verse tells us that until there is a judgment everyone is dead and fortunately, the dead don’t even know it!

In 1 Corinthians 15:26, the Apostle Paul wrote by revelation from Jesus Christ, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Death is and always will be an enemy until it is destroyed!

Death is not the immediate doorway to a new life with God, Christ and the Angels in Heaven. If that were the case, I would hardly view death as an enemy. I know what some of you are saying now, what about Enoch? Wasn’t he translated? Where on earth did the “Translators” come up with “translated?” “Translated” is the word Metatitheemi, which means to transfer, to change, to transpose. Please see this post on what happened to Enoch, Did Enoch go to Heaven? The simple answer is no, he died like everyone else.

We have read this scripture the wrong way due to our teaching on death. You can read this account in Hebrews 11:5, then you can read vs. 13 where it says, “These all died…..” The same holds true with Elijah.

I know this Doctrine flies in the face of practically everyone and especially those who call themselves Christians. If “the dead” were somehow happy and alive now, in Heaven, the whole Bible would fall apart. I get a great degree of peacefulness knowing that when I die, I am going to sleep the soundest sleep I have ever slept and wake up totally refreshed, meeting the Lord Jesus in the air, along with every other born again believer who has lived or died since The Day of Pentecost. That could be days, months or years; I don’t know and neither does anyone else. But, the next thing any believer is aware of after they die, is that moment, “in the twinkling of an eye,” when they will be united with their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In closing this essay, I cannot help but to quote some other verses from 1 Corinthians 15,

1 Corinthians 15:20-26

20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (The Rapture of the Church.)

24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. Revelation 20:14

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery (secret;) We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we (who are alive) shall be changed.

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be you steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

So, in a sense of time, when a believers dies, it will seem, to them, like they died and went immediately to the Lord, because they will be in soundest sleep they have ever been and won’t know anything else before then! But, to those loved ones whom they leave behind, it will seem like an eternity passes; they are those whom “death stings.” In reality, everyone who has ever lived and died, with the exception of Jesus Christ is in hell, the grave. No unbelievers are in a place of eternal torment and no believers are in a place of bliss. The only ones for whom a place of eternal torment is reserved (you could say they have reserved seats) are the devil, the beast and the false prophet. (Ezekiel 28:18 says that even the devil will be turned to ash). This place is called the Lake of Fire and you can read about it in Revelation 20:10-15. You will also see in verse 14, that after these 3 were cast in, that death and hell were cast in as well. This is after the Millennial Kingdom.

This should tell anyone that hell and the lake of fire are not one and the same. Yes, it is true that many unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire, but it never says they will be tormented day and night, as most of the Church believes they are experiencing as you read this. This is not the will of a just God. It’s not God’s will that anyone else at all should be there.

2 Peter 3:9

9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

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