I've been thinking about the after-life lately, and wondering if we ourselves, as believers in the fulfilled kingdom of God ( aka, full-preterists ) aren't focusing on the physical a bit too much ourselves, by thinking that there must be an after-life yet to come, after we have shed this 'husk' of flesh that we now inhabit. IS this all that we can expect, as some people are reported to teach ( Heaven Now ), or can we expect to someday, as we all dream about ( I know I do ); be literally free of this 'body of death', to be without all of our physical ailments, including the lusts which ravage our flesh, to be pure spirit ( as I've been known to speculate ) and more free to worship, and commune with Christ, not having the 'flesh' present with us to vie for our attention?!
Let me quote a fairly lengthy passage here, from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 20;
27 "Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, 28 saying: Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife, and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second took her as wife, and he died childless. 31 Then the third too her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. 32 Last of all, the woman died also. 33 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife. 34 Jesus answered and said to them, 'The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection'."
This may open another whole 'can of worms', but I must quote the next two verses also;
37 "But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord 'the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob', 38 For
He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him."
Jesus told them ( Sadducees ) and reminds us, in language reminiscent of Matthew 24: 37 & 38; that the sons of the age in which He lived in the flesh ( the Old Covenant age ) were focused on the physical aspects of life, marrying and giving in marriage; while those who were counted worthy ( notice; He didn't say 'those who are found worthy' ) to attain that age ( the everlasting age in which we as Christians live, ie., His kingdom ) would be focused, not on the physical aspects of life, but on the spiritual aspects of true life, in and for Him! Notice too; that He equates 'us' ( the sons of 'that' age ) with the angels, and, in language reminiscent of John 11:25 & 26; that 'we' will never die!
Here is another lengthy quote: this time from Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, and the fifth chapter;
1 "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 for we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality might be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord."
I think that the traditional ( futurist ) understanding of this passage is that Paul is speaking of his physical body, and the 'fact' that, while we are in this physical existence, or this body; we cannot be present with the Lord, but I find it interesting that Paul speaks of being in this 'tent' or 'tabernacle'. I know that Paul, earlier in I Corinthians 6:19 and later, in Ephesians 2:21, says that their bodies were now the 'temple of the Holy Spirit' and that they were being 'built up' into a holy temple for the Lord ( not just His Spirit; notice! ); but remember that the writer to the Hebrews wrote to them that 'the way into the ( true ) Holiest of all was not yet made manifest while the first temple was still standing' ( Hebrews 9:8 ), which temple, I would propose to you, was the same temple that Paul spoke of, in II Corinthians 5!
Paul further told them how much he desired, not 'to be unclothed, but further clothed', that 'mortality (or this 'simple' human existence ) may be swallowed up by life ( true life, in Christ-please read "The Meaning of Life' and 'A Spiritual Body' by this same author )'. Paul desired, not to exit this physical existence, but rather to be further clothed ( with Christ )! He further says, reminding them, that God has ( already ) prepared them for this very thing!
So, when Paul says, in the next verse, that while they were at home in the body, they were absent from the Lord; I think that he was saying, not only that while they made their home, or found their rest, or comfort, in the flesh, that they were absent from the Lord; but also as the writer to the Hebrews wrote above; that while 'the first temple was still standing' the heavenly
( or true ) temple, or their 'habitation from heaven' ( see also Deut. 26:15 & Isa.63:15 ) had not yet been revealed.
Let us go a little further now, in chapter five;
7 "For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him."
Combine with this the last two verses of the preceding chapter;
17 "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
If we have been 'further clothed' with our 'habitation from heaven' ( which I think, most of my readers will agree-we have! ); then what further awaits us? What further biblical hope of an 'after-life' do we look for?
Do we now walk by sight, waiting for an after-life in Heaven, or do we still walk by faith in the
( true ) life that we now live in Christ? ( see "The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven" by Ward Fenley )
As the author to the Hebrews wrote, in chapter 11;
1 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Admittedly, in the context of this passage, the author was speaking of the faith ( in Christ ) that the Old Covenant 'saints' had, before Christ ( the Messiah, or 'Anointed One' was 'incarnated in the flesh'; but even though this 'hope' has been fulfilled in the Coming of Christ ( full and final ), our faith in His fulfilled Kingdom, though 'realized' by many, is still 'the evidence of things not seen'! As Jesus Himself said, in Luke 17:20 & 21;
20b "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, 'See here!', or, 'see there!', For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."
It would seem like some un-realized hope for an after-life ( and like I noted before-I'm as guilty of this as ANYBODY! ) among ( especially ) 'preterists', or believers in Fulfilled Eschatology
( among other things Fulfilled ) is akin to 'our' own special kind of focus on the physical!
In his letter to the Philippians, chapter one; Paul again speaks, almost in the same vein as in
II Corinthians 5, of his overwhelming desire to 'depart and be with Christ';
21 'For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless, to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again."
From a cursory reading of this oft-quoted passage; one could easily read ( understand ) that Paul is looking forward to departing this ( physical, temporal ) life to be with Christ, but when read in the context of other passages like the one I just quoted; might not Paul 'simply' be speaking of the 'change' that he spoke of in I Corinthians 15:52, of what I like to call the 'changing of the guard', or the full implementation of the New Covenant economy, as opposed to the Old Covenant economy which Paul lived in, and fought against? If 'the flesh' which Paul ( in particular ) refers to in his writings, is speaking, not of our physical bodies, but of the Old Covenant economy, or system, under which he labored: why would it be strange to think that Paul's dilemma was not whether to give up his ( physical ) life, so that he could be with Christ, or to stay alive ( physically ) so that he could further minister to the Philippian believers; but rather, as he hints at in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9;
19 "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law ( not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak, I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
Now, I think this is pretty self-explanatory, but lest some wrest this from it's historical context: we must remember that Paul was speaking of the coming conflagration, under which those who still clung to the remains of the Old Covenant economy would forever be shut out of the New!
Let's return now, to the passage in the letter to the Philippians, for a bit more context;
In speaking of the glorious blessing of the gospel 'simply' being preached, Paul wrote;
19 "For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death."
Now, I will freely admit that it looks more and more like Paul is speaking here of physical death, but would it not be a safe 'bet' to say that Paul looked for the same 'deliverance' that we now enjoy, that he spoke longingly of in passages like Romans 7:23-25, and the 'change' that he mentioned in I Corinthians 15:52?
In words not unlike those to the Corinthians, chapter 15: 33 & 34, Paul wrote to the Philippians;
27 "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in the Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in anyway terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God."
Like I wrote, in a previous paper, I think that these two verses are a 'turning point', like
I Corinthians 15:33 & 34, in Paul's discussion: Paul is admonishing the ( new ) Philippian believers to walk according to the Gospel which he taught, thus seeking the deliverance
( salvation ), or the 'change' that Paul taught the Corinthians to hope for, the very same 'change' that believers received, and still receive, in Christ!
I hope that I have sufficiently noted the conjunction between these two passages
( II Corinthians 4:17-5:9 and Philippians 1:19-28 ), so that we can see that Paul was not 'simply' looking forward to departing this life ( or normal human existence ), in order to be with Christ,
' which is far better', but he was looking forward to, and rejoicing in, his deliverance
( full and final ) from that Old Covenant, or Mosaic economy, 'that of the letter, and not of the Spirit' ( II Corinthians 3:6 ).
My point, in this little study; is that 'we' as believers in Fulfilled Eschatology, Redemption, etc, need to 'realize' that we are IN the after-life! In other words, Christ is the after-life!
I have come to see now, that any ( biblical ) hope for an 'after-life', or life after death
( remember John 11:25 & 26, et al ? ) was, and is, fulfilled in Christ, who is 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life", and, as He told Martha, 'the resurrection and the Life'!
My hope ( and for some it may be a 'realized' hope already ) is that my writings here, will not only bring glory to His Name, but that they may help others begin to 'realize' that God's Kingdom and the after-life are synonymous terms, and that we need to begin to live our lives for His glory alone, and not in some hope for a ( future ) 'after-life'!
( please read "The Fulfilled Life' by this author )
As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, in chapter one;
3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."
Are these ours now? Do we truly have every blessing ( in Christ ), or do we 'look for another'?
in His Kingdom,
and for His Glory,