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Sitting across from me in my office was an older middle-aged man who had just read my draft commentary on the Book of Revelation. He had come from Queensland to visit friends in Tasmania and while in the neighbourhood, dropped in to see me to have chat and get a later edition of my book. He asked a lot of theoretical questions and we discussed the implications of what we discussed. Not until he returned to Queensland did I get an email regarding the chapter on the Resurrection. It was at this point that he confided in me that he was in the advanced stages of cancer and that his query was far more than theoretical.

For some the question of where are the dead is indeed far more than just an exercise in theological speculation…

Jesus unites, doctrine divides!” I wonder how many people who espouse this anti-doctrinal statement realise that it is ironically a doctrinal statement? The fact might actually be that this statement is exactly wrong. The true identity of Jesus has been dividing people for two millennia! And various doctrinal positions have been unitingpeople for nearly that long as well. When it comes to controversial doctrinal positions that Christians feel strongly about, we may never come to complete agreement or resolve every Scriptural difficulty, but at the least we can become familiar with the various positions held and test them against Scripture, history, experience, and logic. By doing this we may not necessarily conclude the same things, but at least we can be better positioned to defend our particular doctrines and know why we believe what we believe. To do this requires “Positive Exegesis” and “Negative Exegesis”. The latter concludes what the Scriptures are not saying, while the former concludes what the Scriptures are saying. All Bible students should be good exegetes. This demands that the student knows how to do positive and negative exegesis. That is, when interpretting a text we need to determine what the text doesn’t say and explore the possibilities of what it could be saying. Using this same principle of both Positive and Negative Exegesis we can at least dispense with bad doctrines (those doctrines that can not be supported from the Scriptures or can even be disproved from Scripture). We may not be able to be conclusive about what is the proper Biblical position on all issues. In those instances where there is reasonable disagreement we should at least be able to make a reasonable case for our doctrinal position and understand the contrary positions of others.



Despite the advances in medical science, the death-rate is still 1:1. “What man can live and never see death?” asked the Psalmist (Ps. 89:48a). To the ancients this was only half of the inevitable destiny of people. The other half of the given was stated by the same Psalmist in the same verse-

“Who can deliver his soul from Sheol?”
Psalm 89:48b

The ancients believed that death was merely a change of location for the soul of a person. The place of the dead was called “Sheol”. When Jacob thought his son Joseph was dead: “All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.” (Gen. 37:35 ). When the judgment of God came upon Korah and his rebellion-

So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.”
Numbers 16:33

Sheol was variously referred to with other names depending on the literary genre. These included ‘Abaddon’ (Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the LORD; how much more the hearts of the children of man! Prov. 15:11); ‘the grave’ (Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? Psalm 88:11); ‘Hell’ (The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me. 2Samuel 22:6 KJV). These Old Testament passages consistently teach that the dead did not go to their ultimate eternal destiny. That is, during the Old Covenant Age the righteous did not go to heaven, nor did the wicked go to eternal damnation. This perhaps gives us some understanding into the ideological origins of ‘soul sleep’ and ‘purgatory’.

The New Testament somewhat enlightens this when it introduces us to the revelation that Sheol has two compartments: Hades and Paradise. It also makes two overt claims that were previously just assumed in the Old Covenant. The first is that death is not the end, it is merely a ‘separation’.

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James 2:26

When a person physically dies their spirit is separated from their bodies. Their lifeless body decays while their spirit lives on. What many people who have come back from the dead have testified about seeing a bright light and tunnel seems to be in agreement with what the New Testament says about angels carrying the souls of the dead to the place of the dead.

The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried
Luke 16:22

The second overt claim of the New Testament is that all dead people will one day be resurrected – physically. But I will deal with this revelation in a moment. For now, let’s examine what the Scripture reveals about the place of the dead as we seen thus far-

The story that Christ told in Luke 16 of the rich man and Lazarus is very revealing about the destiny of the dead. He described the two compartments of Sheol separated by a great chasm. The question that we should ask and explore is whether this is still the case since the Cross, or whether the New Covenant has made any difference to the destiny of the dead. What might surprise people is the difficulty in identifying exactly when the Old Covenant actually ended. How many people would consider John the Baptist a New Covenant prophet because they have assumed that the Old Covenant ended with the close of the Book of Malachi? How many people assume that the commencement of the New Covenant at the Cross automatically cancelled the Old Covenant when the Book of Acts records the apostles continuing to worship in the Temple and partake in its Old Covenant ceremonies?

Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.
Acts 21:26 (Note also- Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:21, 25, 42)

Here we have the author to the Galatians partaking in Old Covenant ceremonies some twenty or more years after Calvary! When the disciples asked Christ about the end of the Old Covenant Age, He told them in Matthew 24 that it would coincide with the destruction of the Temple-

But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”
Matthew 24:2-3

The writer to the Hebrews stated that the New Covenant had made the Old Covenant obsolete, but that it was yet to be done away with. This suggests a temporary overlap of Old and New Covenants-

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrews 8:13

In Revelation 6 we are shown a glimpse of those who had died during this duality of Covenants. Following on the heels of the Four Horsemen (the rider of the white horse= Caesar Augustus; the rider of the red horse= Caesar Tiberius; the rider of the black horse= Caesar Caligula; the rider of the pale horse= Caesar Claudius, who coincides with famine according to Revelation 6:8 and is noted as being fulfilled in Acts 11:28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius); and then the fifth seal coincides with the martrydom of Christians, Rev. 6:9). These deceased believers are then given a robe of white (which we might understand as a temporary heavenly body) and told that their wait “under the altar” would not be for much longer, before (presumably) they were to enjoy God’s presence in heaven with their temporary heavenly bodies as soon as the Old Covenant was wound up.

With the close of the Old Covenant came the close of Paradise component of Sheol. Believers who died in Christ from that point could enjoy what Paul the apostle looked forward to even prior to the resurrection, that he would “be with Christ”.

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Philippians 1:23

Therefore, the issue is not really about the location of the deceased believer, but the relationship of the deceased believer with Christ, forever. On “the last day”, the great final eschaton, will come the Resurrection and judgment of everyone.

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6:40


Therefore, for those who have died in Christ we can be comforted that they are with the Lord. And perhaps of more comfort is the knowledge that our devotion to Christ in this life is not in vain in the next. What awaits the believer and the rejector of God, heaven and hell, is the topic of the next installment.

© Dr. Andrew Corbett, September 25th 2006, Legana, Tasmania, Australia(αω)

Roman Catholicism Compared With Christianity

Any discussion about religious wars, clergy violations, or child abuse, and it won’t be long before the The Roman Catholic Church unfortunately features. But I want to have a different discussion. And unlike most of the ‘discussions’ of this nature, I’m not on a mission to attack, ridicule, or mock anyone. Rather, I want to look at what the Roman Catholic Church officially teaches and asserts and compare it with the Bible’s teaching.

I’ve been a denominational minister for over two decades, so I know that it is possible to be a part of an organisation with which you disagree on some points.  I understand that this is certainly the case with the Roman Catholic Church as there are many priests who do agree with all that their Church asserts. For the purposes of this discussion, I have chosen to take the official Catholic positions on the matters I am comparing with the Biblical data. It is my hope that my Roman Catholic audience will acknowledge that I have represented their views fairly – but it is also my hope that I can appropriately demonstrate how these core views compare with the Biblical prescriptions.

Soli Deo Gloria

The final statement in The Five Pillars of Biblical Christianity is Soli Deo Gloria – for the glory of God alone! The reason we are saved is so that we can glorify God. In one sense it is true that reason Christ died for us was to save us from our sins and the just wrath of God for our sin. But the main reason Christ died to redeem us was for the glory of God.

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
John 5:44

The glory that comes from God is when we give God glory. One of Christ’s last prayers was that His disciples would see His glory (John 17:24). Therefore God’s glory, His radiant magnificence, is visible and apprehendable. God’s glory is described several times in Scripture. In this sense, God’s glory is a visible reality (a noun). God’s glory is variously described as being like a cloud (Exodus 16:10), a devouring and consuming fire (Exodus 24:17), fire and smoke-like cloud (2Chronicles 7:1), and a brightly glowing cloud (Ezekiel 10:4).

Where Are The Dead?

Sitting across from me in my office was an older middle-aged man who had just read my draft commentary on the Book of Revelation. He had come from Queensland to visit friends in Tasmania and while in the neighbourhood, dropped in to see me to have chat and get a later edition of my book. He asked a lot of theoretical questions and we discussed the implications of what we discussed. Not until he returned to Queensland did I get an email regarding the chapter on the Resurrection. It was at this point that he confided in me that he was in the advanced stages of cancer and that his query was far more than theoretical.
The ancients believed that death was merely a change of location for the soul of a person. The place of the dead was called “Sheol”. When Jacob thought his son Joseph was dead: “All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.” (Gen. 37:35 ). When the judgment of God came upon Korah and his rebellion.

TULIP, The Essence of The Reformation

Jesus Christ taught that following Him was only possible through the miracle of conversion. He taught that for someone to authentically claim to be a Christian they needed a spiritual encounter that changed their heart and mind. Without such a miracle, known Biblically as ‘regeneration’, no one could merely decide to be a Christian.
It’s important to appreciate the geo-socio-politico conditions at the time of the Reformation. This was the time when John Calvin, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and others dared to defend the Biblical revelation against a militant Papal Church which had previously executed similar voices (Wyclif, Tyndale, Savonarola, to name a few) for daring to defy the teaching of the Papacy. One of the central claims of the Papacy was “Universalism”, the doctrine which taught that Christ’s sacrificial death was repeated over and over through the celebration of the Mass and was effective in saving all those in communion with the Roman Catholic Church (thus, universal salvation was activated by works). Since Salvation was universal (everyone is automatically saved), the Papal Church was more concerned about administering this salvation through having people in communion with it, or alternatively, disfellowshipping (or, ex-communicating) those who it disliked. Calvin on the other hand saw that Scripture did not teach universalism, but conversely- that not everyone would be saved.

Leadership Lessons From Shackleton

Sometimes when the going gets tough, you just have to keep going. In fact, success in life – no matter how you define it – can only be achieved with endurance. Surely one of the greatest examples of endurance (if not the greatest) is the story of Ernest Shackleton and his expedition to the Antarctic on the ship: The Endurance. While we ordinary mortals may never have a death defying adventure like Shackleton and his 28 men, we are already in the midst of our own great adventure called life!

Some people want to live their lives by seeking their maximum comfort and avoiding all risks. But this is not the Believer’s lot. We are called to follow Christ- who even though He is entirely consistent in character, is somewhat unpredictable in his plans for His followers. The New Testament calls this “walking by faith” (2Corinthians 5:7). This is why for the Believer, Life is the Greatest Adventure.

When was the last time you did something for Christ that required “great faith” (Matthew 15:28)?

How Pagan Is Christianity? A response to Barna and Viola

It’s rare that a Publisher commences book with a disclaimer by virtually saying we are publishing this even though we don’t agree with it. This type of disclaimer is especially rare for a publisher such as Tyndale. After reading this book I understood why Tyndale were so apprehensive in publishing it. While this was puzzling, what I found most puzzling was that George Barna put his name to it! One can only wonder at the damage this book has done to his reputation.
A “Pagan” is someone who is either ignorant or has wilfully rejected the truth and as a result is an idolater (worships idols). This is the word that the authors have chosen to use to describe modern Christianity. It is, as they admit, an outrageous claim.

Religion and Politics Don’t Mix

This is an introduction to the theology that leads to political engagement by Christians. It explores the notion of the separation of Church and State, how this has been misapplied and re-thought of by significant Christian leaders in the 18th, 20th, and 21st centuries. I conclude with a personal experience of what I consider positive political engagement looks like. 

They say art is the thermometer of culture. In this sense, politics might be seen as the barometer of culture. And we might add that Christians should be the thermostat of culture (not the thermometer of culture). By this we mean that art in its various forms – literature, music, visual art, movies, poetry, photography, and fashion, reflect what culture finds acceptable, disturbing, desirable, praiseworthy, and even beautiful. And politics is the popular affirmation (the essence of democracy) of a set of legislative policy agendas that give direction to a culture.

The Leadership Key of King David

Success often results from being able to get along with others. Real leadership success can only be achieved by working with others. And this type of spiritual leadership is prescribed in the Bible as “partnering” with others. This is why we regard Partnering as the ‘art of leadership’.

We work together as partners who belong to God. You are God’s field, God’s building—not ours.
First Corinthians 3:9

Churches need leaders. Jesus called His original disciples to “shepherd” (not “sheep-herd”) His sheep. In John 10 Christ labors this point that his servants will lead His people as ‘shepherds’. This is not the type of leadership that domineers and exploits for personal gain. This is called despotic leadership. Rather, the type of leadership that Jesus calls for is ‘God-Partnering’ leadership: the kind of leadership heart that God has toward His people. This is why First Corinthians 3:9 says that church leaders work together with God (“labourers together with God” KJV). As leaders with God we are to treat people as if they were God’s (“God’s field/building”). If you are called to lead people within a church, whether as a senior pastor or someone helping their pastor to lead, it is important to realise that we lead with God as well as for God, and that it is His Church.

What Do Christians Really Believe? (You might be surprised!)

What is the popular perception of what Christians believe? If we are to believe what the popular media reports, Christians are known far better for what they are against than what they actually believe. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most people think that Christians are essentially homophobic, misogynists, who seek to control people through the medieval superstitious beliefs. This new uninformed perception of Christianity is perpetuated by politicians who, while claiming to be Christians, actually espouse views and values antithetical to Christianity. This was seen dramatically in both the US Presidential elections of 2008/12 and the Australian Federal election of 2013. In both campaigns major candidates claimed to be adherents of Christianity yet they ridiculed the Bible and asserted that it endorsed their particular views on issues such as marriage and sexuality, and what constituted ‘Christian’ social justice. Most recently in Australia, the Opposition Leader, Mr Bill Shorten, speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby National Conference, claimed to be a Christian yet asserted positions foreign to classic Christianity. So just what do Christians really believe?

Examining The Prosperity Gospel

“Give to my ministry” announced the Televangelist, “and Lord will cancel all your debts!” These and other claims by ‘Prosperity Preachers’ are also suspiciously linked to the size of the “seed” someone “sows” into their ministry. In more recent times this prosperity teaching has even been linked to the collapse in the sub-prime mortgage market and the eventual global economic melt-down! But if the Prosperity Gospel was only about money, we could perhaps tolerate it. But it encompasses much, much more dangerous dogma than that!

In a recent Time Magazine Online article, it questions the influence of Word of Faith preaching on the Sub-Prime Mortgage collapse. Before this article appeared though, many pastors, Bible teachers, and theologians were screaming from the roof-tops about some of the dangers of the “Prosperity Gospel”. But such roof-top screaming fades into a whimper compared to the massive media resources available to the super-preachers of the Prosperity Gospel. This “Gospel” not only baptises materialism and avarice but it denies some of the most essential Christian doctrines and replaces them with what can only be described as cultic teaching and practice. The Prosperity Gospel is also known as “Word of Faith” theology, or the “Health, Wealth, Happiness Gospel”. Its most public proponents are all televangelists who appeal to their audiences for donations- with promises of God’s miraculous financial blessing according to the amount donated. All of these preachers have testimonials from people who have given to their ministry and allegedly miraculously prospered as a result. There are some televangelists who are probably charlatans because they have discovered that Christians are gullible cash-cows. But many of these Prosperity Preachers are sincere, genuine, and nice people- its just that their theology is fatally flawed with dangerous errors!

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