Do Angels Have Bodies?

 

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Throughout the biblical narrative, God often chose to reach out to human beings through His special messengers—the angels. Both the Hebrew and Greek words (malak and aggelos) we often translate as “angel” literally mean just that: “a messenger.”

While they so frequently appeared to the various biblical characters, in what way did they appear? Do angels have bodies of some type, or are they completely immaterial and unembodied?

Well, there seems to be two streams of thought on this: the biblical view, and an alternative perspective put forth by those who claim to follow the biblical view. There is what the Bible describes, and then there is what many people take from that. The Bible presents us with beings who have bodies and physically appear to human beings, while a sizeable number of interpreters present us with just the opposite.

Let’s begin by looking at just a few of the more notable times that angels appeared to people in the Bible.

Two angels appeared to Lot, prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:1-29). They even ate dinner with him. Strange . . . how would an unembodied being eat solid food?

An entire army of angels appeared to Elisha and his servant, with flying vehicles no less (2 Ki. 6:15-17)! Were immaterial beings piloting material vehicles? (And yes, this was essentially a UFO event, which I discussed in the last blog)

An angel appeared twice to the prophet Elijah, shaking him each time to wake him up (1 Ki. 19:5-7). Can an unembodied being physically touch others? It is worth noting that Elijah would later be carried off to heaven by a whirlwind, accompanied by yet another angelic vehicle (2 Ki. 2:11-12). (This was also a UFO event)

The angel Gabriel appeared to both Zechariah (Elizabeth’s husband) and Mary, prior to the births of their incredibly important sons (Lk. 1:5-38). As we know, Elizabeth would give birth to John (“the Baptist”) and Mary would give birth to Jesus (the Son of God). In both instances, Gabriel physically appeared and spoke to them as one person would to another.

On the evening of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds who were tending their flock received an incredible shock, as an angel appeared before them with a blinding light (Lk. 2:8-9). Afterwards, an entire group of angels appeared and proceeded to shout praises to God (2:13-14).

An angel appeared to Peter while he was imprisoned (Acts 12:6-11). The angel proceeded to loose Peter from his chains and sneak him out of his cell to safety.

Obviously, there are many other examples that could be mentioned. By my personal count, there are at least twenty unique events in the Bible where angels physically appeared to individuals. This does not count the numerous other examples that might qualify, but may also be visions of some sort. In all of these instances, the angel/s arrived in physical form. They spoke to, touched, and even sometimes ate with the human beings they were visiting.

While this is what the Bible presents us with, many Christian thinkers have taken this information in a much different direction. The complete opposite direction, actually.

Take William Lane Craig—perhaps the most influential Christian apologist of our time—for example. He had this to say concerning the angels and their role as God’s messengers:

“What is described here is this higher order of spiritual beings that dwell in the very presence of God and then serve his purposes . . . we are talking here about incorporeal beings (beings without physical bodies) or minds, as it were, without bodies (unembodied minds) who serve the Lord.”

You may be trying to figure out what an “unembodied mind” actually is. I have never figured it out myself. More than that, you are probably questioning how angels could be incorporeal and unembodied, when they always show up with bodies in the Bible. Not to worry—there is standard response for this too. The following explanation comes to us via the well-known apologist, J. Warner Wallace:

“Angels are immaterial, spiritual beings. But when they appear to humans, they typically take on our form. Why would they do this? Perhaps it is because they love us and want to connect with us as created beings.”

Well, it could be because they love us and want to connect with us. Or, it could be that angels appear to us with bodies because they, well . . . actually have bodies. But Wallace’s explanation is far from new, of course. The almost deified Christian thinker, Thomas Aquinas, made similar comments almost 800 years earlier:

“Consequently, since the angels are not bodies, nor have they bodies naturally united with them, as is clear from what has been said (Article 1; I:50:1), it follows that they sometimes assume bodies.”

According to these sources, the angels only take on physical form when they interact with us in our world. They do not really possess bodies or have physical appearance. This is all a good show for us humans. After they materialize to us, they leave and return to their good old immaterial, unembodied, incorporeal selves. But is that true? Is that even a conclusion one could rightfully reach from the biblical accounts?

If you ask me, all of this is amounts to what philosophers call “special pleading.” This occurs when someone cites an example as an exception to an otherwise general rule, without providing sufficient reason why that is the case. In these instances, angels are considered to be unembodied beings, even though the Bible consistently describes them as having bodies.

The reason why a plain reading of the text is rejected in all of these instances is almost entirely a philosophical (rather than a biblical) matter, one which I do plan on discussing at another time. Essentially, it boils down to an obsession with immaterial things and a disdain for material ones. For now, suffice it to say that viewing heavenly beings as immaterial and unembodied has more to do with Plato than it does with Paul.

It’s good Greek philosophy, but crummy biblical theology.

It is important to note that if you were only considering the Bible, and allowing it to speak for itself, you would very naturally come to the belief that angels have bodies. I am thoroughly convinced that so many have come to believe differently not based on Scripture, but on the outside influences of certain philosophical and theological perspectives.

It is equally important to remember that the Bible was written by two categories of people: 1) Those who personally experienced the events described, and 2) Those who knew the people who personally experienced them. With that in mind, ask yourself a very important question: how would the biblical characters have understood their interactions with angels?

Perhaps Lot thought to himself, “It only seems like those two angels are eating with me.” Perhaps Elijah said, “It only felt like an angel touched me, and that whole ‘chariot of fire’ thing was just a good show.” Perhaps Jacob believed he was wrestling around with a hologram: one that happened to physically dislocate his hip. Perhaps they all believed that what they were seeing was a temporary illusion of some sort.

Perhaps . . . but it would really strain credibility.

But it could be that the simplest answer makes the most sense of these events. Maybe it really is just as the biblical writers understood things, and the angels appear to us in physical form because they actually have bodies. The apostle Paul very carefully described the types of bodies they have (and we will someday have) in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49, and they are most definitely not completely identical to our own. However, they are bodies of some form or fashion nonetheless.

Based on the biblical descriptions, it is fair to say that the angelic form is not so radically different than our own that they are unrecognizable. They are at least somewhat human in appearance. That is consistent throughout the entire Bible, and is even true of Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances. He didn’t look quite like the Jesus of old, but he also didn’t look like some other type of creature altogether. He was still human-like in certain respects.

As I have touched upon before, one day we will also have the type of body that both Jesus and the angels possess.

In the end, it seems much more logical to accept the multitude of biblical accounts about angels as they were written and as they would have been understood by the biblical characters, rather than turning each one of them into some type of heavenly mirage.

Angels are not immaterial beings; they have bodies.

 

 

For more on these issues, and a host of other interesting phenomena, see my new book God Made the Aliens.

 

 

References

Craig, William Lane. “Doctrine of Creation (Part 20)”. Reasonable Faith. https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-2/s2-doctrine-of-creation/doctrine-of-creation-part-20/

Thomas Aquinas. The Summa Theologica, 1:51:2. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/a/aquinas/summa/FP/FP051.html

Wallace, J. Warner. “Why Did God Create Angelic Beings?” Cold-Case Christianity. June 6, 2014. http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/why-did-god-create-angelic-beings/

The Bible is Clear: UFOs Exist

 

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Just a month or so ago, I saw what I deem to be the second UFO I have ever personally witnessed. The object was an extremely bright light that would disappear and reappear in an instant. It would also jump great distances very quickly. There was no trace of man-made vehicles or debris anywhere in the area: just the lights. My wife and daughter saw this as well, as did many other people in the surrounding area. You can verify this here.

I saw my first UFO twenty-five years ago, as a child, while on vacation at Lake Erie. My entire family saw it—a circular object with lights, which hovered in one spot for hours until it utterly vanished. I have seen other objects/phenomena that may well have had an otherworldly origin, but nothing I feel strongly enough about to classify as such.

I know full well that many people do not believe in UFOs. I can understand the hesitation, even though the evidence is very strong in favor of their existence. That will likely be for another blog, however. For now, I am more interested in what the Bible says about the issue. I have come to find that deeply religious people are often more opposed to believing in UFOs than any other group.

This really puzzles me, because the Bible has quite a lot to say about the matter. More than that, it is pretty clear on what it offers.

The two Hebrew words we often translate as “chariot” are rekeb and merkabah. Rekeb, and its variants, is used a substantial 120 times in the Old Testament. Merkabah, and its variants, is used 44 times. When used, both words always make reference to an actual transportation device: a “vehicle,” if you will. In God Made the Aliens, I make the case that the term “chariot” is exactly equivalent to our “vehicle.”

We all know about the great chariots that the Egyptians used in chasing after the Jewish people during the Exodus. All the surrounding cultures had similar chariots, and most of the biblical references concern earthly transportation devices. It was the official term of the period for anything human beings rode in.

However, human beings were not the only intelligent entities who had chariots; these were not solely used to travel on the ground. In the case of the angels, chariots were flying vehicles. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some examples.

Having royally frustrated the King of Aram (one of Israel’s enemies), the prophet Elisha and his servant found themselves surrounded by an Aramean army:

“Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Ki. 6:15-17).

Just like that—and in a flash—the angelic army appeared!

Interestingly, this is strongly connected to Jesus’ statement to his apostles (that they should sheathe their swords) when the Roman soldiers came to capture him: “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mt. 25:53) The angelic army that Elisha and his servant saw was likely the same group Jesus was referring to.

Some time before Elisha and his servant saw the angels, the prophet Elijah—Elisha’s spiritual mentor—was taken away to heaven, with a “chariot” accompanying him (2 Ki. 2:11). The incredible event caused Elisha to cry out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” (2:12)

Of course, most of us are aware that the prophet Ezekiel had an encounter with something strongly resembling a UFO. The account can be read here. Clearly, the prospect of spinning wheels, flashing lights, glowing metal, and plenty of fire (exhaust?), all allude to some type of flying craft. Throw the “four living beings” (pilots?) into the mix, and that conclusion seems inescapable.

Furthermore, both Isaiah 66:15 and Jeremiah 4:13 describe the Lord’s return with “fire” and “chariots.” David’s instructions to Solomon regarding how to construct the temple also involves these vehicles. 1 Chronicles 28:18 describes the cherubim on the ark of the covenant as being somehow connected to a chariot. The angels spreading their “wings” of course implies flight as well.  Visions of heavenly chariots also occurred, like in Zechariah 6:1-9.

What these otherworldly vehicles that the angels are piloting actually are, of course, remains somewhat of a mystery. However, we can have little doubt that they possess flying crafts of some sort. Prominent biblical figures saw them, wrote about them, and even physically encountered them. As the Bible explains things, they are real.

It may be difficult for some of us to imagine that our most cherished text–one of the strongest foundations for belief in all the world–speaks about UFOs this way. But it does; it simply does. If we feel uneasy about this proposition, we can always close our Bibles and stop searching for the truth on the matter. That would be our only course of action, if we are going to believe in the Bible but reject what it says about otherworldly vehicles.

But that may not stop any of us from seeing a UFO–or should I say, a UFA (Unidentified Flying Angel)–as it hovers in the night sky, or streaks over our heads.

If you do happen to encounter one of these UFAs, send my regards to the prophet Elijah, if you please.

 

 

For more on these issues, and a host of other interesting phenomena, see my new book God Made the Aliens

 

 

References

Rossiter, Brian M. God Made the Aliens: Making Sense of Extraterrestrial Contact. Amazon, 2018.  https://www.amazon.com/God-Made-Aliens-Extraterrestrial-Contact-ebook/dp/B07JVCRV8D/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Strong’s Hebrew Concordance. https://biblehub.com/hebrew/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Feathered Serpent: Deity or Devil?

 

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The people of Teotihuacan were an extremely interesting group, to say the least. Nowhere is this more evident than in their adoration of the “Feathered Serpent.” This mysterious creature—which was also popularly called Quetzalcoatl, by the Aztecs—grew to nothing short of god-like status to many people living near the pre-Columbian Americas (collectively referred to as the “Mesoamericans”).

But was the Feathered Serpent really a god . . . or was it a devil?

This entity was typically depicted as a long, serpent-like creature that possessed feathers (or wings) on various parts of its body. As the picture on this blog shows, the feathers are especially prominent around its head, making it somewhat resemble a lion. It is almost universally accepted that the serpent aspect is supposed to display its relationship to the  “earthly realm.” It moves along the ground like all other worldly creatures.

While putting wings on a serpent may seem very out of place, it actually makes a great deal of sense in this case. Like many other cultures of that day, the people of Teotihuacan believed they had been placed on Earth by “sky beings.” That is, entities from somewhere else in the cosmos were responsible for their creation. The feathers, or wings, prove that the Feathered Serpent also had supernatural powers and that it could ascend to the greater realm of existence. The Feathered serpent had roots in our world, and also in the world of the heavenly beings.

At the surface-level, the Feathered Serpent should have us scratching our heads a bit. It has to be remembered that communication across distant lands was far, far different in that day and age. There were no telephones or telegraphs, no airplanes or helicopters, or any of the like. There were also no known land bridges between the continents at that time, and few cultures (if any) were able to traverse vast oceans via ship. It was absolutely nothing like it is in modern times.

Yet, serpent figures were revered around the world by geographically separated peoples. Teotihuacan—which was located in the modern-day Valley of Mexico—is nearly 8,000 miles away from, say, ancient Israel. The people who were worshipping the Feathered Serpent lived on the opposite side of the world from the Jewish people of the day. Without question, the serpent is a tremendous character in the Bible as well. A serpent deceived Adam and Eve, causing sin to enter the world (Gen. 3). That same serpent is later identified as a horrible and treacherous monster (Is. 27:1). In due time, we came to understand that the serpent is Satan himself: a fallen, evil angel who possesses incredible power (2 Cor. 4:4, Rev. 20:2).

Homage to great serpents was also paid in Africa, Egypt, Asia, and even North America. Just a short drive from where I live, the Great Serpent Mound is evidence of the latter. It was constructed by the Adena culture, or perhaps an earlier group of Native Americans, to house their dead.

All of this becomes even more unusual when you consider Teotihuacan’s greatest architectural structures, and how they correspond to others around the world. I wrote about this extensively in this blog, and in God Made the Aliens.

There is an incredible difference here though: Mesoamericans deified the Feathered Serpent, while the Jewish people living in the Middle East viewed their serpent figure as the complete antithesis of God. The enemy of Yahweh and His people was thought to be a savior of sorts by the Aztecs, Mayans, and other groups.

This is where things get particularly interesting. The Temple of the Feathered Serpent—which is thought to have been built near the end of the 2nd century BC—has some really mysterious qualities to it. Beneath the pyramid is a series of interconnected tunnels, all leading to a three-chamber core in the center. The people of Teotihuacan sprinkled powdered pyrite on the ceilings, in order to create a “starry sky” appearance. On the ground were rigid carvings that mimic Earth’s terrain, and statues of people gazing at the stars above. Strangest of all is that the chambers were intentionally flooded with liquid mercury, in order to create a massive underground lake. This was a very extensive process.

But why do all of that? What is the significance? It is believed that they did this to create a mini-cosmos in the depths of the ground: a miniature “underworld,” so to speak. The Feathered Serpent was thought to have come from (and to have preferred) this watery underworld, but was able to ascend or descend to all three great realms of existence: the underworld, the earth, and the heavens. It was thought to seamlessly slither (and sometimes fly) between the three locations. That being the case, it had power over the whole universe.

Curiously, the Feathered Serpent was chiefly a figure of the underworld. It was a creature with its origins in death. Recall the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio, which was intended to house the dead. Moreover, many cultures—including the Mesoamericans—often made human sacrifices in order to appease the serpent god. Nothing short of human blood would satisfy its thirst. This theme is pretty consistent with all prominent serpentine figures across the world and throughout history (the Greek “Medusa” even comes to mind).

If we really think about it, the Judeo-Christian faith affirms these same ideas. Does the Bible not depict Satan (the “great serpent”) as being connected to the underworld? Does the Bible also not depict Satan as a figure of incredible power, who has a connection to the heavenly realm? Is it not said that Satan is “roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it” (Job 1:7)? In effect, isn’t the “angel of light,” as Paul called him (2 Cor. 11:14), connected to the same three major realms that the Feathered Serpent is: the underworld, the earth, and the heavens?

The parallels are absolutely unmistakable, if you ask me.

In conclusion, this shows us some very interesting things. The first is that there is a cross-cultural consensus that a powerful, otherworldly figure exists who is strongly associated with a serpent. The reasons offered for why the serpent figure is used vary, but there is no mistaking this point. This is further evidence that the same supernatural beings have visited the entire world. Not only do other beings exist, but they have shown themselves to us in many, many ways.

Second, it shows that this figure is also viewed as being strongly associated with dark or malevolent forces. While the Bible portrays this figure as the antithesis of good, and the opponent of God and His people, this same figure came to be worshipped by other cultures.

Third, it shows that the Feathered Serpent is more devil than deity. It is an evil entity that was able to convince a great many people to worship it as God, sometimes even demanding its followers to sacrifice their fellow man for its glory.

It pains me to say it, but the same force that propelled the worship of the Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan is still very much at work in the world today. While the statues may not exist in plain sight, its power among the people certainly does.

In fact, the Feathered Serpent may now be showing its face in more ways than ever.

 

 

For more on these issues, and a host of other interesting phenomena, see my new book God Made the Aliens.

 

References

“Quetzalcoatl.” Encyclopedia.com. https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/history/mesoamerican-indigenous-peoples-biographies/quetzalcoatl

“Mythical Beasts: Blood for the Snake God.” S1E5. https://www.sciencechannel.com/tv-shows/mythical-beasts/

Rossiter, Brian M. God Made the Aliens:Making Sense of Extraterrestrial Contact. Amazon. 2018. https://www.amazon.com/God-Made-Aliens-Extraterrestrial-Contact-ebook/dp/B07JVCRV8D/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

A Flood of Evidence

 

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Like most of us who believe in the Bible, I have always thought that a massive flood once took place on our planet. It is true that I have gone back and forth at times on the matter. I have wondered if said flood literally encompassed the entire Earth, or merely covered the area that the ancient Hebrews regarded as the “world” or the “earth.” I have geared towards believing that the Great Flood actually only occurred near the ancient Middle East. I held to this largely for scientific reasons, but I shouldn’t have. As with almost everything else in science, the data about a great flood was sure to change. It was also fabricated to begin with.

I have come to believe that the entire Earth—every last bit of it—was once flooded. While the “scientific evidence” had me believing otherwise, that same evidence now has me thinking differently. Two things changed. The first was my realization of the extent to which marine fossils exist all over the world, from the highest mountains to the driest deserts. The second was the prevailing scientific ideas about how that actually happened. They are bad, and that is putting it mildly.

At more than 29,000 feet in height, the summit of Mount Everest is the highest point above sea level in the entire world. We have all heard of it, and some of us have heard of those who seek to someday scale the giant mountain. Far fewer realize that the remains of sea creatures have been found there. The remains of crinoids—marine animals that are a class of echinoderms (like starfish)—have been discovered on Everest. Larger and far more advanced creatures have been found on the Himalayas too, like the “world’s oldest whale.”

So, marine fossils clearly exist atop the very highest places on the planet. Most of us know that such relics have no business existing on of our most prominent mountains ranges. But ask the mainstream scientific community how that may have occurred, and you will be stunned. Their answer? The shifting of tectonic plates and the movement of the Earth’s crust. You guessed it: as these phenomena occurred, giant pieces of land literally burst forth from hundreds (or even thousands) of feet below the sea.

We now find marine fossils on the tops of mountains because they all once existed beneath the oceans. You know, where sea creatures live.

Putting aside the fact that something of that magnitude—a mountain anywhere near the size of Everest emerging from the sea—has never happened in recorded human history, there is another massive problem here. Simply put, most of our spectacular mountain ranges (like the Himalayas) are believed to be more than a billion years old. Sometimes, much older. Hmmm . . . the mountains are that old, but they existed beneath the sea when ancient whales, dolphins, and myriad other types of sea life were swimming around.

Something smells a bit fishy, if you ask me.

Considering the fact that whales, for example, are generally believed to have arisen around 55 million years ago, we have a giant issue on our hands. The whales arose 55 million years ago, but the mountains we have found them on came to exist more than 1 billion years ago (at least). Math is not my strongest suit, but that is a separation of at least 945 million years, give or take. It seems to me that the whales would need to have existed before the mountain ranges did, if they were to have become fossilized on them. Right?

There is absolutely no way that marine fossils could exist on mountain ranges, if the mountain ranges came to exist hundreds of millions of years before the sea creatures themselves! The mountains would have existed very long before creatures like whales were ever around. Yet, whale fossils (and others) exist on our highest mountains.

I simply don’t see a reenactment of Free Willy, where a giant whale jumps 29,000 feet out of the water and lands on a mountain. But that’s just me.

More than that, we have found ancient whales, dolphins, large fish, and aquatic sloths in abundance in most of the world’s deserts. Chile’s Atacama Desert and the Pisco-Ica Desert are two very notable examples.

But how do we explain that particular phenomenon? That’s simple: a bazillion kajillion years ago, the Earth was a very different place. Our deserts were underwater. Our mountains were beneath the sea. Most of our seas were actually dry land. Waterfalls flowed up from the ground, and toilets even swirled backwards!

Oh, the stories our mainstream scientific community will tell us. Ask yourself this: do these explanations make sense of the marine fossils found all over the globe, from the driest deserts to the highest mountains? Or, might something else be just a little more logical: a little easier to swallow?

Perhaps our most basic intuitions are right on this one. Maybe the Earth was once covered with water because of a cataclysmic event; that is how the remains of deceased sea life ended up scattered almost everywhere imaginable.

But where have we heard that before?

 

For more about the Great Flood and a host of other interesting phenomena, see my new book God Made the Aliens

 

References

Connor, Steve. “World’s oldest whale is found in the Himalayas.” Independent. 22 December 1998. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/worlds-oldest-whale-is-found-in-the-himalayas-1193848.html

Khot, Mishana. “Why Are There Fish Fossils High Up In The Himalayas?” The Weather Channel. 29 June 2018. https://weather.com/en-IN/india/news/news/2018-06-29-fish-fossil-himalayas

“Whale Evolution.” American Museum of Natural History. https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/whales-giants-of-the-deep/whale-evolution

“Why are there fossils on the top of Mount Everest?” Answers. http://science.answers.com/Q/Why_are_there_fossils_on_the_top_of_Mount_Everest

Hey Paul, what about the dead?

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One timeand one time onlya prominent figure in the Bible was asked specifically about what happens right at death. This person was the apostle Paul, and he was responsible for roughly half of the material in the entire New Testament.

Next to Jesus himself, Paul was the perfect person to talk to about such matters.

The believers at the church in Thessalonica, like a lot of us, were very concerned about what would happen to them at death. They were particularly concerned because many years had passed since Jesus’ resurrection, and there had been no sign of his return. Along the way, their fellow believers had passed from this world.

This situation lead them to asking Paultheir spiritual guide and mentora very important and succinct question: what happened to all of the believers who have died?

This was Paul’s chance; he could settle the debate once and for all, right here and now. But what would he tell them? These are his exact words:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 The 4:13-18, NASB)

The following is taken directly from The Death Myth, and it describes the significance of what Paul was telling them.

“If Paul’s perspective was that the human soul would enter into a conscious existence elsewhere after the death of the body, then it is worth wondering why he took such pains to not say that. Paul could very easily have said something like this:

‘But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who have died, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For we know that those who have died in Christ are already present with him, enjoying the heavenly existence that was promised to us.’

Clearly, the words in italics are my own and not Paul’s, but any statement of the sort would have clarified that the dead consciously reside in heaven (or elsewhere). I would suggest that if Paul had said such a thing, whether in this passage or another, then there would be no need to debate the nature of the interim period at all. But instead of attempting to discuss the dead in any sort of conscious way, Paul compared death to sleep. Moreover, Paul placed the entire basis of our hope in the afterlife in the future: at the return of Christ. It strikes me as odd that when the opportunity presented itself—and again, presented itself perfectlyto affirm that believers enjoy a conscious, heavenly existence at death, Paul clearly chose to go a different direction. If he believed that, he really blew the opportunity to say it! . . . it is certainly worth remembering that Paul was unwilling to openly state that the souls of the dead enter into a conscious existence after death, even when the opportunity to do so was slapping him in the face.” (pp. 19-20)

I find this to be fascinating. Where is the talk of becoming immaterial spirits after death? Where are the statements about realms for the dead, and life between this world and the one that is to come? Indeed, if that was Paul’s view on the matter, he really missed his chance to say it. He missed the best chance that anyone in the Bible ever had to say it.

There is no better example in all of Scripture to point to. The biblical view of the afterlife is all about the resurrection and the return of Christ. Like Paul’s words to the Thessalonians, immaterial spirits and interim periods should not enter the picture.

They simply aren’t a part of it.

 

 

Thank you for reading! If you found this blog interesting, please see all the other posts on this site. You can purchase The Death Myth by clicking here.

 

References

Rossiter, Brian. The Death Myth: Uncovering What the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife. pg. 136.  iUniverse. Bloomington, IN. Copyright, 2018. Print.

 

Near-death Experiences: Evidence of What?

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One of the most interesting occurrences that are used to prove that we exist after death are near-death experiences (NDEs). If some aspect of a person survives at death, then the afterlife must be real. For anyone who has read my writings, it is obvious that I believe in what the Bible actually depicts as life after death—the new heavens and new earth.

Of course, NDEs are also used to prove something else: that we are all souls that temporarily live in bodies. It is believed that what survives death during these events is really our immaterial souls, which have been “liberated” from these earthly tombs.

But do NDEs actually prove this view of the afterlife? Do they actually support the notion of a soul that can live apart from the body, or a biblical view of these matters? Personally, I don’t believe so. Here is a piece of what I wrote in The Death Myth concerning near-death experiences:

“Take the case of Howard Storm, for example. Storm, a former atheist professor turned Christian, received a lot of notoriety for his account of traveling to hell during an alleged NDE. In his book, My Descent into Death, Storm describes a horrific place of torment where some type of entities attacked and mutilated him . . . Another well-known example of a near-death experience is Colton Burpo’s account of seeing his deceased grandfather—whom he would later identify in a family photograph—during an emergency surgery. It’s worth noting that a very similar story, which is documented in the book, The Boy Who Went to Heaven, was officially denounced as a hoax in January of 2015.

Furthermore, NDERF (the Near Death Experience Research Foundation) has documented thousands of NDEs from across the globe. A short sampling of these otherworldly experiences yields no shortage of variation. In one account, we read about a woman who turned into a “golden orb,” and later proceeded to converse (in Orbese, I suppose) with other orbs before returning to her body. Another account described a man who flew around his city with an unknown companion before coming back to his body. Yet another story described a woman’s heavenly “playtime,” in which she jumped around on the clouds like a child before coming back to earth. Thousands of others could be mentioned, but the point should be clear enough.

While there seems to be at least a degree of continuity within some NDEs (like visions of tunnels, lights, deceased relatives, etc.), the problem is that such accounts are far too disparate to be taken as concrete evidence in favor of the TDP. One person reports having gone to heaven, another to hell, another to infinite darkness, another to a place resembling a hospital waiting room, and so on. Within these different locations, the type of existence recounted by the revived individual also drastically varies. Some claimed to have a body, others only a soul, and still others report all sorts of things in between (recall the glowing orbs).

Furthermore, some report to have seen Mohammed, while others saw Jesus, while still others saw the gods or goddesses of pagan religions, and all manner of other prophets and deities. While it would be rash to dismiss every person who claims to have had such an experience, it is also clear that not all of these realities can be valid at once” (pp. 41-42).

If you read my blog entitled “Afterlife Confusion,” you would recall the particular case I made there. I said that those who think the Bible tells us about an immediate afterlife (as a soul) are willing to throw competing examples together to prove it. Some go to heaven, some to hell, others go to Hades, and some venture to Abraham’s bosom or paradise; all are apparently supposed to prove that we will live as disembodied beings after we die. Of course, they actually don’t prove that at all. Instead, the “evidence” fights against itself, pointing towards no exact view of life after death.

This is an enormous problem for NDEs as well. How can seeing Jesus or Mohammed, going to a waiting room or hell, living as an orb or as a soul, and all of these variations, prove any particular view of the human soul or the afterlife? Should a Christian expect to encounter Mohammed, or to become an orb after death?

Put another way: can all of the doors really lead to the same room?

I am not trying to say that strange things do not sometimes occur at death, or that there are no documented cases where people were revived with knowledge of things they should not have known. Like UFO sightings or the many known attestations to miracles, some are undoubtedly true and some are undoubtedly not.

For my part, I believe the valid examples of NDEs are much better explained as visions. These can be seen in biblical events like John’s “in the spirit” moments of Revelation (1:10, 4:2), and in Paul’s heavenly experience in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. God has caused the person to see or to know things they would not have known, rather than pulling an immaterial soul out to some literal location.

Many people hinge quite a lot on near-death experiences, and I have read many books seeking to prove their validity. Like many other things, there is a place for these events. But I would caution any of us on using them too fervently, and without the proper grain of salt.

After all, they seem to prove about every concept of the afterlife out there, not just a biblical one. Throwing them all together gives as much credence to Islam or paganism as it does to Christianity.

Is that the type of evidence we want to give to others?

 

Thank you for reading! If you found this blog interesting, please see all the other posts on this site. You can purchase The Death Myth by clicking here.

 

 

References

Rossiter, Brian. The Death Myth: Uncovering What the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife. pg. 136.  iUniverse. Bloomington, IN. Copyright, 2018. Print.

Soul Damage: the Solution

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In the previous blog, I broached a very difficult subject. This is true in two major ways. First, severe brain injuries and disorders are horrible realities for both the people who have them and those who love them. Second, these issues show a glaring problem with the typical Christian view that we will go on to live as disembodied spirits or souls when we die.

That entire idea was built upon the Greek (and sometimes, pagan) view that people are really spirits with a bodily covering. “You” are an immaterial spirit or soul that happens to live in a body during this life. When you talk to someone, you are not really talking to the thing you see in front of you. Instead, you are talking to the being that lives inside that body. The “ghost in the machine,” if you will. This body keeps us (the soul) trapped inside of it until the day we die.

In some sense, the body is a temporary and restrictive tomb for the soul.

But as I said at the end of my writing, “If someone gets hit hard enough in the head, their soul changes. Why should that be possible?” If I am actually the soul living in my body, why would a physical injury change who I am? The same would apply to any type of disease that can affect the brain in powerful ways.

On that note, it’s interesting to wonder why the body can die in the first place, since the soul within it is alleged to actually be the “living you.” The notion that you are an immaterial being that is presently getting packed around in an outer shell (the body) makes less and less since the more you think about it. It really does.

Let’s look at this practically. When we communicate with people, we don’t think we are talking to the soul inside that person; we believe we are literally speaking to that physical person before us. Right?

But what if there is no separate “being” inside of that body? What if the soul is not like that at all? What if the soul is like everything else we understand in our world?

What if the soul is more like a type of information? Not a little you. Not an immaterial version of you. Not some person that is trapped within the body, or any of the sort.

The soul is the information of your life.

Consider this: information drives everything in existence. Your computer, Kindle, smartphone, you name it, are all powered by information or data. This is why I repeatedly say that the body and the soul work very much like the hardware and the software of a computer. Both are necessary pieces, and neither can function without the other.

As the esteemed philosopher of science, Stephen Meyer, tells us, information explains everything about who we physically are:

“After the early 1960’s, further discoveries made clear that the digital information in DNA and RNA is only part of a complex information processing system—an advanced form of nanotechnology that both mirrors and exceeds our own in its complexity, design logic and information storage density.”

In other words, all of your genetics is written in a type of code (hence the term, “genetic code”). Everything that is expressed in your physical body—from the color hair or eyes you have, to the types of diseases you are predisposed to—is determined by an informational code. If you don’t believe me, go send your DNA to 23andMe. You cannot imagine just how many things are determined by your genetic code (information)!

By far the most interesting thing about information is that it is real, but it is not in any way tangible. I pointed this out in the book, when I said:

“As we are all aware, we cannot hold information with our hands; information is simply not a tangible reality. Yet, it powers our world and indeed the universe around us. It runs our computers, powers our digital devices, explains our languages, codes for our DNA, and so much more” (pg. 127).

You may see where I am going with this. The soul is actually information. As I call it, it is “identity information.” The soul is our characters, our personalities; it is what makes us “us.” This changes over time, as our lives progress and we accumulate information. Clearly, our personalities change as time goes on.

In some sense, the soul is the data of our lives. This data begins to develop at conception (I believe) and ceases to develop at death. You are the sum of your life’s experiences!

The informational code written in our genetics primarily determines our physical existence, and the informational code we call the soul primarily determines our identities. But clearly, the two work and function together.

As strange as this may sound at first, it is consistent with everything else in reality. Perhaps more importantly, this gets us out of that nasty little problem I spoke about in the last blog.

Traumatic brain injuries and the various forms of dementia change us because these issues alter both our physical and spiritual information. Our life’s data has changed, not some immaterial being within the body. Again, that type of  “soul” should remain unchanged by physical damage!

When the physical brain is disturbed, it naturally changes the immaterial information associated with it. When the body changes, “we” change. That is why a perfectly normal adult can become a perpetual child after a major car accident, and why a brain disease can turn someone into a completely different person in an instant.

All of this information (the soul) will return to God at death, when the breath of life leaves us. At the resurrection, when God provides our perfected bodies, He will reunite the soul with a body that is fit to live for the rest of eternity.

Between death and the resurrection, there is no life. There is no immaterial being that goes on to live by itself. There is no living “you” inside the body.

But there is plenty of identity information.

 

Thank you for reading! If you found this blog interesting, please see all the other posts on this site. You can purchase The Death Myth by clicking here.

 

 

References

Meyer, Stephen C. “Not by chance: From bacterial propulsion systems to human DNA, evidence of intelligent design is everywhere.” Discovery Inistitute. Dec. 10, 2005. https://www.discovery.org/a/3059/

Rossiter, Brian. The Death Myth: Uncovering What the Bible Really Says about the Afterlife. pg. 136.  iUniverse. Bloomington, IN. Copyright, 2018. Print.