Monday, May 15, 2006

Beyond - Part 4 - Eternity: Resurrection vs. Reincarnation

Steve's series, Beyond: The afterlife and the Bible, is now over. That was a fast four weeks. I learned a lot of good stuff and I always look forward to Steve's take on all these topics.

Here is Steve's study guide for this week:

Memory verse for the week: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, TNIV).

Monday: Matthew 11:11-15; John 1:19-23. Christians who find the idea of reincarnation appealing often cite Matthew 11 to support the claim that John the Baptist was the reincarnation of the prophet Elijah. But first we have to determine if Jesus was speaking literally or metaphorically about John being Elijah. If Jesus meant it literally, the expectation was that Elijah would return physically from heaven (since he had not died but was taken up to heaven), not that he would be reincarnated. However, based on John 1 where John the Baptist clearly says he is not Elijah, I believe we are to understand that John merely fulfilled the role of Elijah. Reincarnation is an idea foreign to the Bible.

Tuesday: Luke 24:35-49. Jesus’ buried body was gone, as witnessed by the women (Luke 24:3) and Peter (Luke 24:12). If you die today and are resurrected tomorrow, your body will be transformed into a resurrected body. You will get up, and your casket will be empty. Resurrection is a physical miracle. When Jesus appeared to his disciples Easter evening, he invited them to touch his hands and feet for two reasons: first, to prove that he was physical and not just a spirit or vision (which is also why he ate in their presence), and second, because the wounds on his hands and feet were further evidence that it was indeed he.

Wednesday: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians may be the earliest written piece of the New Testament. These Christ-followers expected Jesus to return very soon within their lifetimes (as we all should). So when members of their congregation began dying, they worried, Will these deceased sisters and brothers in the Lord be denied when Jesus returns to take us home? Paul reassures them that when Christ returns, the dead will rise first before the living are taken up. Then “we who are still alive” (v. 15, 17) will join them, an event known as the rapture of the church.

Thursday: 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. Paul describes our current bodies as tents, shelters we live in temporarily and not permanently. After tent camping for a while, you start longing for home. In the same way we long to live not in this temporary body but in our “heavenly dwelling” (v. 2), which will be much more permanent and solid. Paul contrasts between being “at home in the body” (our mortal temporary bodies) and being “at home with the Lord” (vs. 6, 8). When we die, we will not be stuck in an unconscious “death sleep” until Christ returns, but we will be alive and at home with Christ.

Friday: Revelation 20:11-15; 21:1-4. This begins with the judgment of the dead when evil will ultimately be destroyed so that God’s kingdom will be complete. We will be the bride of Christ, beautifully adorned for him. We will be purified, not because we have been able to clean ourselves up, but because we belong to the One who took our stains upon himself in death. Our robes are white because they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:13-14). One of the great promises is that in the next life, we who belong to Christ will experience complete transformation.

Any comments or thoughts about the Beyond series? Post them here!


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