Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The intermediate state in Luke 16

It's one of the biggest questions that humanity asks - what happens to us when we die?  The Bible gives us the authoritative answer.  It affirms that there will be a resurrection of the saved and a resurrection of the lost, but it also assures us that everybody will be conscious in the intermediate state between death and resurrection.
Astonishingly there are people who say they believe the Bible but actually deny that souls are conscious in this intermediate state.  This is despite verses such as these: Luke 9 v 30; 23 v 43; Philippians 1 v 20-25; 2 Corinthians 5 v 8; 12 v 1-4; Revelation 6 v 9-11, and others.

But one of the most clear and explicit passages on this issue is Luke 16 v 19-31.  However, I want to point out another passage in Luke 16 that perhaps gets missed in the discussion, yet is very strong on the issue - Luke 16:1-9:
He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.  So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg.  I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’  And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’  Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’  So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home..."
The point is this, the Lord is telling us that we ought to use our money for the furtherance of the Gospel and the salvation of souls, so that when we fail (i.e. die) these friends we have made will receive us with joy into our everlasting home.  It doesn't say we will be received when we rise from the dead, but when we die.

Now there is a significant textual variant which changes the last verse from "when you fail" to "when it fails", but it makes no difference to the point I'm making.  If the text should indeed read "when it fails" it is clearly a reference to when your worldly goods are of no further value, i.e. when you leave the world (see 1 Timothy 6 v 7).  Luke is drawing a contrast with the rich fool who used his riches only for this world, and they were of no use to him on the other side of the grave (12 v 13-21).

So the start of the chapter is as clear as the end, there is no soul sleep.