Afterlife, Book of Isaiah, Coming of Christ, Hell, Holy Spirit, Indwelling Spirit, Isaiah 45:7, Kingdom of God, Underworld, World Religions
Hello and welcome-or welcome back-to Renaissance Woman where, this week, I am continuing to look at the final sentence of Isaiah 45:7: “I, The Lord, do all these things.”
In my last post I mentioned the book Gleanings from Gussie by Patricia Nolan Savas. The quote I shared in that post made me curious what more Mrs. Savas might have to say and so I purchased the book. I began reading it almost as soon as it arrived and, within the first few pages, read; “It’s all God. There is no dualism in the universe (Isaiah 45:5-7).”1 This idea of dualism is one I came across during my study of “evil”. Under the entry for “evil”, the Dictionary of New Testament Theology states, “Plato reached a synthesis of these two basic concepts by developing a metaphysical dualism of spirit and matter, with its ethical expression in a dualism of soul and body…In Zoroastrianism the question of the origin of evil found an answer in a consistent dualism.”2
The two concepts Plato was synthesizing was his belief that Man’s ignorance was the source of all evil and that enlightenment lead to knowledge that not only freed man from evil but caused him to do good whereas Zoroastrianism held that two opposed principles have been in conflict from the first. In Zoroastrianism, Mankind belongs to one or the other powers based on their moral behavior and will inherit after death either eternal bliss or eternal darkness. The Dictionary of New Testament Theology points out that, “Zoroastrian dualism found its way into Qumran and there are strong reminiscences of it in the Dead Sea Scrolls.”3
I found that last quote especially interesting because, as I’ve conducted this study, I have seen how the beliefs held by other religions have bled into Christianity over the centuries and are still being preached as the truth today in many pulpits. One such is the idea that Satan’s dominion is Hell and that he’ll both hold and torment a vast majority of humanity in Hell for all eternity. When I look at the different world religions, I find this belief of an underworld ruled by a god or goddess. In the Sumerian religion the underworld was ruled by sinister powers named Ereshkigal and Nergal. The Canaanite religion had Mot-Death or Sterility-who reigned in the underworld. It’s difficult to separate the Greek and Roman pantheon but in these religions the underworld was ruled by Hades/Pluto and Dis/Orcus, respectively. Egypt’s underworld was ultimately ruled by Osiris though it was Anubis and Maat who weighed the hearts of the dead.
The underworld wasn’t always a place of torment in all of these religions. The Greek and Roman religions spoke of the underworld having different levels and thus different experiences in the after-life depending on the level to which one attained. In Greek religion the underworld was comprised of Tartarus, the Asphodel Meadows, and Elysium.4 The Roman underworld was similar to the Greek in that it was comprised of the Fields of Mourning, Tartarus, and the Land of Joy.5 The Egyptians saw their afterlife as a continuation of their existence on earth in every respect, preserving social status, possessions, etc.6 What all of these belief systems have in common is that just where and how one ended up experiencing the afterlife depended on whether one had lived a good or bad life. Your place in the underworld was earned by how you lived and in some belief systems, how you died.
While our current idea of Hell does contain snippets of each of these religions, it is also drawn from Hel, the underworld in the Norse religion. Even our words are the same. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology points this out saying, “it was Hel and her ghastly home which were adopted by the Christians as the name for their realm of eternal damnation.”7 Hel the place was ruled by Hel the goddess and was a place reserved for those not fortunate enough to have died in battle and thus earned a spot in Valhalla with Odin. Again, one’s place in the afterlife was earned.
Dualism. Opposing powers. Earning one’s place in the after-life. There are few Christian denominations who will say they believe these things and yet the belief is made clear in their words and in their actions. I heard it said that there is nothing more to do-Jesus did it all-but you must believe. You must prove your faith is alive by your works. You must learn to fight the devil and kick him out of your life. You are the one who keep God’s commands because you love Jesus. The onus is on you and if you don’t choose/believe/have enough faith…Satan and his minions are waiting to parcel out your just deserts once you die and end up in Hell.
This is not Biblical. Satan does not rule anything now and, even before Jesus stripped him of all power and authority, Satan never ruled the underworld. The closest the Bible comes to expressing an idea of a power ruling the realm of the dead is Hebrews 2:14 which says, “…that through death He (Jesus) might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil.” Attributing an idea of the underworld as the realm of the dead to this scripture does feel like going too far. What is mentioned here is death, not an afterlife. Even so, Jesus Christ is the victor and whatever is meant by the “him who had the power of death” is no longer a valid concern because Jesus Himself is victorious over death.
That Satan did have a form of rulership on earth is clear in the Bible. He says as much to Jesus in the wilderness when he takes Jesus to a high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and says they are within his power to give if Jesus will merely fall down and worship him (See Matthew 4:8-9, Luke 4:5-6). Again though, with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, all authority has been given to Him and the Kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Matthew 28:18, Revelation 11:15). The Bible speaks of “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30) but is equally clear the ruler of this world is judged and will be cast out (John 12:31:33, 16:11). The Bible also refers to “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:1-3) and “rulers of the darkness of this present age…spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12-13). I find it interesting to note the spiritual hosts are said to be in “heavenly places” rather than Hell.
Satan, whatever his origins and regardless of what power he used to wield on the earth and among mankind was never equal nor opposite to God. There are two verses that are close to my study passage which make this clear. The first is Isaiah 40:25: “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. Isaiah 45:5 says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me.” I will agree the Bible speaks of Satan as a deceiver and certainly an enemy but he is utterly defeated. The word hell as it was originally brought into the English language is hele and carries the meaning of, “To hide, keep secret; to cover, cover in; to keep silent.”8 The unseen realm as described by the Bible has only one Lord and that is Jesus Christ. He declares it Himself to John the Beloved when He says, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:17b-18).
I find that, within the mainstream Christian messages I listen to, there is too much focus on the responsibility of us believers and way too much time given to the powers of Satan. There is a great deal of talk of “the finished work of the Cross” but very little faith put into just what Jesus accomplished there. Hebrews 9:26 says, “…but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” The New English Bible has it as, “But as it is, he has appeared once and for all at the climax of history to abolish sin by the sacrifice of himself.” The New American Standard has the word “consummation.” I often have to sit and marvel at this. The coming of Jesus wasn’t a blip in history where He came and died and rose and ascended but His real work will happen at the Second Coming. His coming was a climax of history, a consummation of the ages, the introduction of the New Creation. The stone has rolled into the Image and smashed it to smithereens. It is now growing until it will become a mountain that fills the entire earth. His Kingdom has come and continues to come in the hearts of humankind.
This Kingdom, the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. You do not have to wait until you die to get there. You have, in fact, already died because we each one have been crucified with Christ and the truth is it is no longer us who live but He lives in us. But how can He do that, since He’s returned to the Father? Through His Spirit. Everything Jesus has and did is ours via the Holy Spirit living in us. He is the One who opens our eyes. He is the One who gives us the faith of the Son of God. He is the One who strengthens us. We love Jesus because He first loved us and that love is lavished on us and in us via the Holy Spirit. This entire Christian life is not one where we do our best to live well enough to attain a place in the afterlife but is one lived from the finished work of Christ made our living reality right this moment by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
There is so much more to say on this subject and, if I don’t close now, I’ll just keep typing. I’ll close with this: has your denomination terrorized you with all that awaits you in Hell if you don’t get your act together? Come to the living Jesus Christ! His perfect love casts out all fear. You don’t have to try and clean yourself up before the Spirit will consent to live in you. He does so and the cleaning up-for lack of a better phrase at this moment-is His job. Patricia Nolan Savas writes, “This is My Day, and I would have you rejoice and be glad in it. Remember-Do not let anyone or anything rob you of the joy I have given you; it is part of your crown, which says to the crumbling world systems and those in distress: “Behold! Here is our God and He is Faithful and True!” I AM turning their hearts to Me through the purifying Fire of My Divine Love. I shall make all things new.”9
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen.
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
- Savas, Patricia Nolan, Gleanings from Gussie, CSN Books, San Diego, California, 2009, Page 24
- Brown, Colin, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume I, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1967, 1971, Pages 562-563
- Ibid., Page 563
- The Underworld in Greek Mythology – Greek Legends and Myths
- The Underworld – Religion in Ancient Rome (google.com)
- Cotterell, Arthur & Rachel Storm, The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology Encyclopedia, Anness Publishing Limited, London, England, 2005, Page 304
- Ibid., Page 200
- Shipley, Joseph T., Dictionary of Early English, Littlefield, Adams, and CO., Paterson, New Jersey, 1963, Page 327
- Savas, Patricia Nolan, Gleanings from Gussie, CSN Books, San Diego, California, 2009, Page 77
The Comprehensive Study Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984
The New Testament in Four Versions, Christianity Today, Inc., Washington D.C., 1965
Gray, John, Near Eastern Mythology, The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, Middlesex, England, 1969
Parrinder, Geoffrey, World Religions From Ancient History to the Present, Facts on File Publications, New York, New York, 1971, 1983
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