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A few weeks ago, I got the results of a CAT scan in which it was revealed that the aortic valve in my heart has created a dangerous aneurysm. Four years ago, and only six weeks after my wife passed away from cancer, I had open-heart surgery—specifically, a Bentall procedure—to replace a defective heart valve and to deal with an aortic aneurysm, a condition I had inherited from my mother’s side of the family.  I opted for a pig’s valve as a replacement, because I didn’t want to be on blood thinners for the rest of my life, something required for an artificial heart valve. Unfortunately, the replacement valve is liquifying—a very rare circumstance in which the valve loses structural consistency. In short, it could blow at any time.

So, on May 7th, 2021, which is the date I also plan to release this video, I’ll be back under the knife getting a new type of tissue valve. The doctor is very confident that the operation will be a success.  He is one of the leading surgeons for this type of heart surgery here in Canada. I am very optimistic that the outcome will be favorable, but regardless of what happens I am not worried. If I survive, I get to continue to do this work which has given my life so much meaning. On the other hand, if I fall asleep in death, I will be with Christ. That is the hope that sustains me.  I am speaking subjectively, of course, as was Paul in 62 C.E. when he was languishing in prison in Rome and wrote, “For in my case to live is Christ, and to die, gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

We tend not to think too much about our own mortality until it is forced upon us. I have a very good friend who has been incredibly supportive of me, especially since the time of my wife’s passing. He has suffered a great deal in his own life, and in part due to that, he is an atheist. I would joke with him that if he is right and I am wrong, he’ll never get to say, “I told you so.” However, if I am the one who is right, then upon his resurrection, I will most definitely tell him, “I told you so”.  Of course, given the circumstances, I doubt very much he will mind.

From my previous experience going under anesthesia, I won’t realize exactly when I fall asleep. From that point, until I awaken, no time will have passed from my point of view. I will either wake up inside a recovery room in the hospital, or Christ will be standing before me to welcome me back.  If the latter, then I will have the added blessing of being with my friends, because, whether Jesus returns tomorrow, or a year from now, or 100 years from now, we will all be together. And more than that, lost friends from the past as well as family members who passed on before me, will also be there. So, I can understand why Paul would say, “to live is Christ, and to die, gain.”

The point is that speaking subjectively, the time span between your death and your rebirth with Christ is non-existent.  Objectively, it may be hundreds or even thousands of years, but to you, it will be instantaneous.  That helps us to understand a controversial passage in Scripture.

As Jesus was dying on the cross, one of the criminals repented and said, “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.”

Jesus replied to that man saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

That is how the New International Version renders Luke 23:43. However Jehovah’s Witnesses translate the verse this way, moving the comma to the other side of the word “today” and thus changing the meaning of Jesus’ words:  “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.”

There were no commas in ancient Greek, so it is up to the translator to decide where to put them and all other punctuation marks.  Almost every version of the Bible, puts the comma in front of “today”.

I think the New World Translation has it wrong and all the other versions have it right, but not for the reason the translators think.  I believe that religious bias guides them, because the majority believe in an immortal soul and in the Trinity. Hence the body of Jesus and the body of the criminal died, but their souls lived on, Jesus as God, of course.   I don’t believe in the Trinity nor in an immortal soul as I’ve discussed in other videos, because I take Jesus’ words at face value when he says,

“. . .For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” (Matthew 12:40)

In that case, why do I think the New World Translation has the placed the comma incorrectly?

Was Jesus just being emphatic, as they assume?  I don’t think so, and here’s why.

Jesus is never recorded as saying, “truly I tell you today”, as a form of emphasis.  He says, “truly I tell you”, or “truly I say” about 50 times in Scripture, but he never adds any kind of temporal qualifier. You and I might do that if we’re trying to convince somebody of something we’re going to do that we failed to do before. If your mate tells you, “You promised to do that before, but you didn’t do it.” You might reply with something like, “Well, I’m telling you now that I’m going to do it.” The “now” is a temporal qualifier used to try to convince your mate that this time things will be different. But Jesus is never recorded doing that. He says, “truly I say” many times in Scripture, but he never adds “today”. He has no need to.

I think – and this is just speculation admittedly, but so is everyone else’s interpretation of this – I think that Jesus was speaking from the point of view of the criminal. Even in all his suffering and anguish, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, he could still dig deep and say something motivated by love and guided by the immense wisdom that he alone possessed. Jesus knew that the criminal would die shortly but would not go into some afterlife of hell such as the pagan Greeks taught and so many of the Jews of the time also believed. Jesus knew that from the criminal’s point of view, he would be in paradise that very day. There would be no gap in time between the moment of his death and the moment of his resurrection.  What would he care that all of humanity would see thousands of years go by? All that would matter to the him was that his suffering was almost over and his salvation was imminent.

Jesus didn’t have the time nor the energy to explain all the intricacies of life, death, and the resurrection to the repentant man dying next to him. In one short sentence, Jesus told the criminal all he needed to know to put his mind at rest. That man saw Jesus die, then shortly afterwards, the soldiers came and broke his legs so that the full weight of his body would hang from his arms causing him to suffocate to death quickly. From his point of view, the time between his last breath on the cross and his first breath in paradise would be instantaneous. He would close his eyes, and then open them again to see Jesus extending a hand to raise him up, perhaps saying, “Didn’t I just tell you that today you would be with me in paradise?”

Natural people have trouble accepting this point of view. When I say “natural”, I’m referring to Paul’s use of the phrase in his letter to the Corinthians:

“The natural man does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is not subject to anyone’s judgment.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15 Beroean Study Bible)

The word translated here as “natural” is /psoo-khee-kós/ psuchikos in Greek meaning “animal, natural, sensuous” relating to “physical (tangilble) life alone (i.e. apart from God’s inworking of faith)” (HELPS Word-studies)

There is a negative connotation to the word in Greek which is not conveyed in English by “natural” which is usually viewed in a positive light.  Perhaps a better rendering would be “carnal” or “fleshly”, the carnal man or the fleshly man.

Carnal people are quick to criticize the God of the Old Testament because they cannot reason spiritually.  To the carnal man, Jehovah is wicked and cruel because he destroyed the world of mankind in the flood, wiped out the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from heaven, ordered the genocide of all the Canaanites, and took the life of King David and Bathsheba’s newborn baby.

The carnal man will judge God as if he were a man with the limitations of a man. If you are going to be so presumptuous as to pass judgment on almighty God, then recognize him as God with the power of God, and all the universal responsibility of God, both to his human children and to his celestial family of angels. Do not judge him as if he were limited like you and I are.

Let me illustrate it to you this way. Do you think that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment?  Are you one of those people who thinks that a lifetime in prison is a kinder form of punishment then taking a man’s life by lethal injection?

From a carnal or fleshly point of view, a man’s point of view, that may make sense. But again, if you truly believe in God, you have to see things from God’s point of view. Are you a Christian? Do you truly believe in salvation? If so, then consider this.  If you were the one facing the option of either 50 years in a prison cell followed by death of old age, and someone gave you the option of accepting immediate death by lethal injection, which would you take?

I would take lethal injection in a New York minute, because death is life. Death is the doorway to a better life. Why languish in a prison cell for 50 years, then die, then be resurrected to a better life, when you could die immediately and get there without suffering for 50 years in prison?

I’m not advocating for the death penalty nor am I against it.  I don’t get involved in the politics of this world.  I’m only trying to make a point about our salvation. We need to see things from God’s point of view if are going to understand life, death, the resurrection, and our salvation.

To explain that better, I’m going to get a little “sciency” on you, so please bear with me.

Have you ever noticed how some of your appliances hum?  Or when you’re walking down the street by a power transformer up on a pole feeding your house with electricity, have you heard the hum it makes?  That hum is the result of electrical current alternating back and forth 60 times a second. It goes in one direction, then goes in the other direction, over and over, 60 times a second. The human ear can hear sounds as low as 20 Cycles per second or as we now call them Hertz, 20 Hertz.  No, it has nothing to do with the car rental agency.   Most of us can easily hear something vibrating at 60 Hz.

So, when an electrical current runs through a wire, we can hear it. It also creates a magnetic field. We all know what a magnet is. Whenever there is an electrical current, there is a magnetic field. Nobody knows why. It just is.

Am I boring you yet? Bear with me, I’m almost at the point. What happens if you increase the frequency, of that current, so that the number of times that current alternates back-and-forth goes from 60 times a second to, say, 1,050,000 time a second. What you get, at least here in Toronto is CHUM AM radio 1050 on the radio dial.  Let’s say you raise the frequency even higher, to 96,300,000 Hertz, or cycles per second. Well, you would be listening to my favourite classical music station, 96.3 FM “beautiful music for a crazy world”.

But let’s go higher. Let’s go up to 450 trillion Hertz on the electromagnetic spectrum.  When the frequency gets that high, you begin to see the color red. Pump it up to 750 trillion Hertz, and you see the color blue. Go higher, and you don’t see it anymore but it’s still there. You get Ultraviolet light that gives you that beautiful sun tan, if you don’t stay out too long.  Even higher frequencies produce x-rays, gamma rays.  The point is that all of this is on the same electromagnetic spectrum, the only thing that changes is the frequency, the number of times it goes back and forth.

Until recently, a little over 100 years ago, the carnal man only saw the tiny part that we call light. He was unaware of all the rest of it. Then scientists built devices that could detect and produce radio waves, x-rays, and everything in between.

We now believe in things we cannot see with our eyes or feel with our other senses, because scientists have given us the means to perceive these things. Well, Jehovah God is the source of all knowledge, and the word “science” is derived from the Greek word for knowledge. Therefore, Jehovah God is the source of all science. And what we can perceive of the world and the universe even with our devices is still a tiny, infinitesimally small part of the reality that is out there but beyond our grasp. If God, who is greater than any scientist, tells us something is there, the spiritual man listens and understands. But the carnal man refuses to do so. The carnal man sees with eyes of flesh, but the spiritual man sees with eyes of faith.

Let’s try to look at some of the things God has done that to the carnal man seems as so cruel and evil.

Regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, we read,

“. . .and by reducing the cities Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them, setting a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come;” (2 Peter 2:6)

For reasons God understands better than any of us, he has allowed wickedness to exist for thousands of years. He has a timetable. He will not allow anything to slow it down or speed it up. If he had not confused the languages at Babel, civilization would have advanced too quickly. If he had allowed gross, widespread sin like that practiced in Sodom and Gomorrah to go unchallenged, civilization would have become corrupted again as it was in the pre-flood era.

Jehovah God has not allowed humanity to go its own way for thousands of years on a whim. He has a purpose to all of this. He is a loving father. Any father who loses his children wants only to get them back. When Adam and Eve rebelled, they were thrown out of the family of God. But Jehovah, being the foremost of all fathers, only wants his children back. So, everything he does is ultimately with that goal in mind. At Genesis 3:15, he prophesied about the development of two seeds or genetic lines. Eventually, one seed would dominate the other, eliminating it entirely. That was the seed or offspring of the woman that had God’s blessing and through which all things would be restored.

At the time of the flood, that seed had been almost eliminated. There were only eight individuals in the whole world still forming part of that seed. If the seed had been lost, all humanity would have been lost. Never again would God allow humanity to go so far astray as in the pre-flood world.  So, when those in Sodom and Gomorrah were duplicating the wickedness of the pre-flood age, God put a stop to it as an object lesson for all generations that followed.

Still, the carnal man will claim that is cruel because they never had a chance to repent. Is this God’s idea of acceptable losses, collateral damage to the greater mission? No, Jehovah is not a man that he is limited in that way.

Most of the electromagnetic spectrum is undetectable to our physical senses, yet it exists. When someone we love dies, all we can see is the loss. They are no more. But God sees things beyond what we can see. We need to start looking at things through his eyes. I cannot see radio waves, but I know they exist because I have a device called a radio that can pick them up and translate them into sound. The spiritual man has a similar device. It’s called faith. With eyes of faith, we can see things that are hidden to the carnal man. Using eyes of faith, we can see that all those who have died, have not really died.  This was the truth that Jesus taught to us when Lazarus died.  When Lazarus was seriously ill, his two sisters, Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus:

“Lord, see! the one you have affection for is sick.” But when Jesus heard it, he said: “This sickness is not meant to end in death, but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. However, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he actually remained in the place where he was for two more days.” (John 11:3-6)

Sometimes we can get ourselves in a lot of trouble when we get hyper-literal.  Notice that Jesus said this sickness is not meant to end in death.  But it did.  Lazarus did die.  So, what did Jesus mean? Carrying on in John:

“After he said these things, he added: “Lazarus our friend has fallen asleep, but I am traveling there to awaken him.” The disciples then said to him: “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will get well.” Jesus, however, had spoken about his death. But they imagined he was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly: “Lazarus has died, and I rejoice for your sake that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”” (John 11:11-15)

Jesus knew that the death of Lazarus was going to cause his two sisters great suffering. Yet, he remained in place. He didn’t cure him at distance nor did he leave immediately to heal him. He set the lesson he was about to teach them and indeed all his disciples as of far greater value than that suffering. It would be nice if we never had to suffer at all, but the reality of life is that often it is only through suffering that great things are achieved. For us as Christians, it is only through suffering that we are refined and made worthy of the greater prize being offered to us. So, we look at such suffering as inconsequential when compared with the overwhelming value of eternal life. But there’s another lesson that we can take from what Jesus taught us about the death of Lazarus in this case.

He compares death to sleep.

The men and women of Sodom and Gomorrah died by God’s hand abruptly. However, if he hadn’t acted they would have grown old and died in any case. We all die. And we all die at God’s hand whether it be directly by, for instance, fire from heaven; or indirectly, because of the condemnation of death upon Adam and Eve which we have inherited, and which came from God.

By faith we accept Jesus understanding of death. Death is like being asleep. We spend one third of our lives unconscious and yet none of us regret that. In fact, we often look forward to sleep. We don’t consider ourselves to have died while we are asleep. We are simply unaware of the world around us. We wake up in the morning, turn on the TV or radio, and try to find out what happened while we were asleep.

The men and women of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Canaanites who were wiped out when Israel invaded their land, those who died in the flood, and yes, that baby of David and Bathsheba’s – all of them will wake up again. That baby for instance. Will it have any memory of having died? Do you have any memory of life as a baby? It will only know the life it has in paradise. Yes, he missed out on life in the turbulent family of David with all the misery that went with it. He will now enjoy a far better life. The only ones who suffered by that baby’s death were David and Bathsheba who were responsible for much misery and deserved what they got.

The point I’m trying to make with all of this is that we have to stop looking at life with carnal eyes. We have to stop thinking that what we see is all there is. As we continue our study of the Bible we will come to see that there is two of everything. There are two seeds warring with each other. There are the forces of light and the forces of darkness. There is good, there is evil. There is the flesh, and there is the spirit. There are two types of death, there are two types of life; there are two types of resurrection.

As for the two types of death, there is the death you can wake up from which Jesus describes as being asleep, and there is the death you cannot awake from, which is called the second death. The second death means total destruction of body and soul as if consumed by fire.

Since there are two types of death, it follows that there should be two types of life. At 1 Timothy 6:19, the apostle Paul counsels Timothy to “get a firm hold on the ‘real life.’”

If there is a real life, then there must also be a fake or false one, by contrast.

As there are two types of death, and two types of life, there are also two types of resurrection.

Paul spoke of the resurrection of the righteous, and another of the unrighteous.

“I have the same hope in God that these men have, that he will raise both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15 New Living Translation)

Obviously, Paul would be part of the resurrection of the righteous.  I’m sure that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah killed by God with fire from heaven will be in the resurrection of the unrighteous.

Jesus also spoke of two resurrections but he worded it differently, and his wording teaches us a great deal about death and life and about the hope of the resurrection.

In our next video, we’re going to use Jesus’ words regarding life and death and resurrection to try to answer the following questions:

  • Are the people we think are dead, really dead?
  • Are the people we think are alive, really alive?
  • Why are there two resurrections?
  • Who comprises the first resurrection?
  • What will they do?
  • When will it occur?
  • Who make up the second resurrection?
  • What will be their fate?
  • When will it occur?

Every Christian religion claims to have solved these riddles. In fact, most have found some pieces to the puzzle, but each has also corrupted the truth with the doctrines of men.  So no religion that I have studied gets salvation right.  That should not surprise any of us.  Organized religion is hampered by its main goal which is to gather followers. If you are going to sell a product, you have to have something the other guy doesn’t have.  Followers mean money and power.  Why should I give my money and my time to any particular organized religion if they’re selling the same product as the next guy? They have to sell something unique, something the next guy doesn’t have, something that appeals to me. Yet the message of the Bible is one and it is universal. So, religions have to change that message with their own personal doctrinal interpretation to hook in followers.

If everyone just followed Jesus as leader, we would have only one church or congregation: Christianity.  If you are here with me, then I hope you share my goal which is to never again follow men, and instead follow only the Christ.

In the next video, we’ll start to tackle the questions I’ve just listed.  I look forward to it.  Thank you for being on this journey with me and thank you for your ongoing support.

 

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.
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