GOD'S CREATION 7: THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD
PART 2--The Fall of the Spirits from Heaven
Christianity has lost the depth that it once had long, long ago. Christianity, in its modern guise, fails to adequately answer the big questions of life concerning human existence and its relationship to pain, suffering, and trials. It fails to sensibly connect the dots of God, human existence, the here, and the hereafter. For this reason, thirsty souls look elsewhere for their spiritual journeys and end up embracing non-Western expressions of spirituality that often times incorporate karma, pre-existence, and reincarnation into their explanations of things on Earth. Modern Christianity explains human existence as a one time experience: you come into existence for the first time when you are born as a human being, you live on Earth for a while, then you die. Your destination in the afterlife is determined by the life you led while on Earth, and you either end up in hell for all of eternity, with no chance of getting out, or you end up in heaven for all of eternity. No pre-existence. No reincarnation. This, however, was not the belief of the earliest Christians who, in fact, did have concepts of pre-existence and reincarnation (as did the ancient Israelites) for the explanation of a human being's role in Creation and his or her relationship to God. Also, early Jews and Christians did not believe that "hell" was eternal without end. For instance, Jonah 2:6 reads, "I descended to the roots of the mountains, to the land closed in upon me forever. Yet, you brought me up, my life, from the Pit, O Yahweh, my God." Notice that "forever" here is not eternal without end, for Yahweh raises Jonah from "the Pit," a term used for "Sheol" or the netherworld (translated as "hell" in older English versions) to which he is said to have descended ("roots of the mountains" and "the land closed in" are parallel phrases to "the Pit"). In fact, the Hebrew word translated as "forever" is 'olam and means "indefinite futurity" or an indefinite extended period of time. Jonah's stay in the netherworld, as a spirit, was not without end.
For Jews and Christians, the Creation encompassed spiritual worlds, both "high" and "low", both "good" and "evil," both "living" and "dead," both "of God" and "of Satan," of which the physical world was a very small part. The physical world, as a part of the lower spirit dimensions, was believed to be the playground of the evil spirit world. Humans were themselves spirits, but incarnate unlike the discarnate evil spirits and good spirits. As inhabiters of Earth, humans lived in a dimension under the sway of the evil spirits whose Salvation had to be secured by a Redeemer known as the Messiah. What is the mystery behind human beings living as incarnate spirits on Earth while disincarnate spirits may have their way with them? What is the mystery behind the imperfections of physical creation and our life in this creation? This mystery can be summed up in the phrase "the resurrection of the dead."
Many people claim that "life begins at conception." If this is true, and if there is a benevolent and just God who created us, then the questions arise: Why would God create some who are born with terminal diseases and others who are perfectly healthy? Why would God allow a child to be born in a poor environment, in an abusive household, or some other wretched place while others are born into nice families, or wealthy families? Where is the fairness in this? Aren't all children born innocent? What sin has a day-old child committed to warrant being born blind or with terminal cancer? Is this simply God's roulette wheel? Is God this trivial with His sons and daughters? With His children? If the God of today is the God of love and justice and mercy and of all power, then the obvious answer is No, God is not trivial with His children. Then, another age-old question arises: Why is His creation, the Earth, full of pain and suffering and evil and deception? Is such a world meant to exist apart from heaven? Can such a world be called "God's world"? If He is the Creator, then why did He create such a world of turmoil? The Christian is assailed with such questions and, unfortunately, many are driven away from Christianity because of the seemingly unanswerable nature of these questions. If God is good and just, and there is a heaven to which the good and just go to upon death, then why didn't God just create each of us as one of the angels to grow and mature in heaven? Wouldn't this secure our fate with Him since, after all, He is the God of All men and women?
A common response by many modern Christians would be that the world is the way it is because humanity is in a "fallen state." We bare the stain of the fall of Adam and Eve. But this is not logical. How is a newborn guilty of another's sin? If God created the newborn at conception or a little thereafter, depending on your persuasion, how is it that a new creation of God is guilty of a sin that was committed by someone eons ago? Has the newborn had any chance to commit the sin of disobedience, if we understand that life begins at conception? Certainly not. The transfer or the inheritance of sin through Adam cannot fit the position of a just God. This is not even a biblical position, for the sins of the father are not inherited by the son, and the sins of the son are not the fault of the father (see Ezekeil 18). So, too, the sin of Adam is not simply "passed down" to the rest of humanity. Biblical texts seem to point in another direction: humanity did not inherit sin; rather, humanity was born sinful. What can this possibly mean? What God creates must be pure and sinless. As the psalmist stated long ago, "Behold! In disobedience (iniquity) I was brought forth, and my mother conceived me in sin" (Psalm 51:7). This text implies that newborn babes are not so innocent as they seem to appear. To be "brought forth into disobedience" means two things: 1) disobedience was committed before birth; and 2) it is because of this disobedience before birth that one must be born as a physical human being on the Earth in the first place. Christians do not believe and teach that a person existed before their birth, but the biblical data supports this idea, that is, pre-existence. Pre-existence also implies existence again from the previous life, that is, reincarnation. These two concepts are at odds with Christian doctrine, but not because Christian doctrine is right on the matter of the role of the human being in Creation, but rather because Christian doctrine confuses "resurrection" and "reincarnation" on the one hand and Christian doctrine has an incorrect idea about resurrection on the other hand.
The phrase "resurrection of the dead" implies that one had to fall before they could be raised. "The dead" are almost always thought to be the dead bodies lying in the cemeteries waiting to be raised out of their coffins or tombs. Those who have fallen, have fallen to the ground in a physically dead state. But this is not what "dead" referred to in the phrase "resurrection of the dead" among the earliest Christians. The word "dead" is used in the sense of "separation" or being "cut off from" in the phrase "resurrection of the dead." The "dead" are such because they are "separated" from God. The essay below will show that the phrase "the resurrection of the dead" summarizes the purpose of God's Plan of Salvation: to allow His children to re-enter the portals of their heavenly home from which they were banished long ago because of the sin of disobedience. This sin involved the rejection of that spirit whom we know as "Christ" by a large part of the heavenly spirits who were enticed to follow that spirit whom we know as "Lucifer." By siding with Lucifer and rejecting God's law that all heavenly spirits bow down to Christ as King of the Heavenly spirits, these spirits became "cut off" from the Kingdom of God because of their disobedience. Lucifer and his Henchmen were now looked upon as the ring leaders who misled a large number of spirits by promising them positions of authority and autonomy if they bowed down to him as King. Lucifer attempted to usurp his older and more venerable brother, Christ, and went to God with his wish to be King along with a throng of heavenly spirits that formed his "support team." Through this disobedience these spirits became "dead" in the sense of being "severed" from God and His Kingdom, for God would not allow His Son, Whom He had crowned as King of the Heavenly worlds, to be usurped by this spirit, Lucifer. Thus, Lucifer, his Leiutenants, and all of the other spirits who sided with them were cast out of the heavens to a much lower dimension that matched their attitude and disposition. In this sense, the spirits "fell" and became "the dead," i.e., those cut off from their heavenly home. These spirits were never extinguished or wiped out of existence, for God's mercy extended to them even in their fallen state, even after their new home became what we now call "Hell."
The phrase "the resurrection of the dead" refers to the resurrection or the "raising" of these spirits from the lower dimensions of "the dead" to the heavenly dimensions of "the living." This understanding puts Christ's life and mission on Earth into a much clearer perspective and makes it all the more meaningful for us today. His resurrection from "the dead" paved the way for the fallen spirits to begin making their own journey from out of the depths of the abyss back to heaven. His rising from "death" implies his descending unto the dead, and so He did as we shall see below. We are those very spirits who broke arms with Christ and sided with Lucifer. We are those spirits who were banished from heaven. We are those spirits who were dead but are now making our journey back to heaven. It was for us that Christ came, taught, suffered, died, and rose again. God had forgiven His erring children, and Christ decided to play the leading role in bringing them back since the revolt in heaven had been against him. That is why the Earth was created and that is why the Earth is the way it is: we are reaping that which we have sown in times past. Evil is the result of our own doing. The Earth serves as a school in order for us to learn from past mistakes and for us to learn to choose Christ again. These lessons begin with how we think about ourselves, about others, and about God. As human beings, we are spirits incarnate, residing in a physical body for the purposes of purification. As human beings, we have no memory of our previous existences. There is good reason for this as we shall see below.
Pre-existence: The Fall of the Spirits from Heaven--Evidence in Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Empedocles
The idea of pre-existence is considered incompatible with the Bible and with Christianity by Christians. "Man dies once" says the author of Hebrews 9:27. But consider the following position:
Here we are on earth, going through a set of experiences in physical form along with millions of others. We were born into these conditions, into a particular nation and a particular family, without, so far as we are aware, having had any opportunity of choice in these matters. Let us look particularly at the tragic side of life, because this presents the thoughtful person with doubts and problems far more than does the attractive and happy side of life. We see children born into the world under the greatest variety of conditions. Some have sound, healthy bodies with good brains, keen, alert and capable, when fully matured, of sustaining great thoughts. Others are handicapped from the beginning with unhealthy bodies, blindness, deafness, disease and defective intelligence. For some the environment is one of security and affection, encouragement, culture and aesthetic interest; for others it is depravity, squalor and ugliness, and one of indifference or gross cruelty by the parents. For some, opportunity stands knocking at the door waiting to welcome and assist; for others it passes by, or knocks too late. Are these things just chance, or are they "planned by God"? If neither of these alternatives is acceptable, what explanation have we to offer which carries with it the reasonable assurance that we live in a just world? If God is just, and good and all-loving, the person who supposes each soul born into the world to be a new creation of God is faced with a real dilemma. There is no doubt that the conditions into which some souls are born preclude their proper development in this life. In some cases the physical body is a wretched tenement: consider the imbecile and the Mongolian idiot. In other cases the environment of fear, cruelty and brutality is calculated to crush and brutalize before the child's personality can possibly resist it. Is it conceivable that God is capable of doing something which any ordinary decent person would do all in his power to prevent or mitigate? The Christian, at least, should remember the words of Jesus, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?" The commonplace orthodox answer to this dilemma is quite frankly an evasion. It runs something like this. "Certainly there is inequality, but in the light of a future state there is justice too. Life, we must remember, is a handicap race. To whom much was given, from him much will be required. Shakespeare and Newton must make good use of their talents. The idiots, the suffering and crushed must do their best, realizing that God is just and merciful, that He only expects achievement commensurate with their talents, and that in the end all will have been found to be worthwhile." However true these affirmations may be, they do not face the problem, which is concerned not with compensations in a future state, but with an explanation of the present state. There is an obvious way out of the difficulty---namely, to abandon the idea that each soul born into this world is in some mysterious way a fresh creation of God. If we do so we need not assume that chance or accident is an alternative "explanation" of the gross inequalities at birth. We can take our stand on the Law of Cause and Effect, and say that all these grossly unequal conditions of birth and childhood are the results of prior causes. Since these causes are not by any means apparent in the present lives, this involves as a logical necessity the pre-existence of souls. It is then possible to affirm that we are the product of our past, that present circumstances arise as the result of self-generated forces in states of prior existence. It is curious that in the West we have come to accept the Law of Cause and Effect without question in the scientific domain, but seem reluctant to recognise its sway on other levels of significance. Yet every great religion teaches this as part of its ethical code. "Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap" (Matthew 7:2, 16-18; Galatians 6:7-8). . . . . Such a viewpoint is logical, and avoids the incredible supposition that God places one newly created soul in a position of advantage and another in a position of extreme disadvantage, and in effect tells them both to make the best of it. If we suppose that a man is born an idiot because of his activity in previous lives it may seem brutal, but let us be clear that it is not the explanation which is brutal, but the facts. (Raynor C. Johnson, The Imprisoned Splendor [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1953] 376-78).
The illustrious scholar, known to us as Saint Jerome, the patron Saint of the academic discipline of Biblical Studies, relates that certain Christians of his day held the very belief for pre-existence and its rationale that Johnson gives above. In his Letter to Demetrias (Letter CXXX), Jerome describes these Christians' doctrine: "Why, they ask, was a particular soul born in a particular province? What is the reason that some are born of Christian parents, others among wild beasts and savage tribes who have no knowledge of God? . . . 'Is it for nothing, think you,' thus they argue, 'that a little child scarcely able to recognize its mother by a laugh or a look of joy, which has done nothing either good or evil, is seized by a devil or overwhelmed with jaundice or doomed to bear afflictions which godless men escape, while God's servants have to bear them?' Now if God's judgments, they say, are 'true and righteous altogether,' and if 'there is no unrighteousness in Him,' we are compelled by reason to believe that our souls have pre-existed in heaven, that they are condemned to and, if I may so say, buried in human bodies because of some ancient sins, and that we are punished in this valley of weeping for old misdeeds. This according to them is the prophet's reason for saying: 'Before I was afflicted I went astray (Psalm cxix. 67), and again, 'Bring my soul out of prison' (Psalm cxlii. 7). They explain in the same way the question of the disciples in the gospel: 'Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' (John ix. 2) and other similar passages. This godless and wicked teaching was formerly ripe in Egypt and the East; and now it lurks secretly like a viper in its hole among many persons . . ." (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 6.269-70). The "they" that Jerome accuses of holding this "godless and wicked teaching" are Christians who subscribed to some of the early writings and teachings of the church father Origen who had beliefs of the soul's pre-existence and fall from heaven (see Part 3, this website). But, is this a wicked teaching? Origen was, indeed, careful to note in his writings that pre-existence was not a dogma of the church, but that, nevertheless, it should not be overlooked and cast aside without consideration (see Gudel, Bowman, and Schlesinger, "Reincarnation--Did the Church Suppress It?" Christian Research Journal, Summer 1982, 8-12). The reader should know that this article, although worth-while for the texts that it presents, is anti-reincarnation and too conservative to appropriately treat the matter that it attempts to treat. Let us see if pre-existence is really a "godless" idea.
If we pre-existed, then why can't we remember any of our past lives? First of all, would we want to recall any of our past lives? What if our remembering past lives impeded in some way our present life? What if we had been a murderer, or a king, or a famous historical figure? How would this influence us today? Guilt, hubris, fear, etc.?; all of those qualities that the present life is meant to eradicate within us. But there is a deeper reason why we lack memories of our past lives, a reason that conforms to the laws of the incarnation of a spirit being into a body of flesh in this dimension: once the spirit incarnates, all prior memories are "emptied" and the spirit no longer possesses memories from past lives, in the same way that it was even said of Christ upon His incarnation: "He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found in human appearance" (Philm 2:7). The "dense" and "low vibration" of the atmosphere in the physical world acts on a spirit's faculties and mental capacities; the physical body and atmosphere "dumbs" down a spirit considerably as it says in Wisdom 9:15, "For the corruptible body burdens the soul, and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns." In Plato’s Republic, 10.620E-621B, the souls preparing for incarnation on Earth are said to pass beneath the "the throne of Necessity." This was the threshold from which the souls then made their way to the "the river of Forgetfulness" where all memory of their existence as souls in the Beyond would be abolished so that, as mortals, they would not remember anything of their previous existence. This temporary erasure of any memories of our past lives, both in spirit and physical form, is really a merciful act by God on behalf of our recuperation from the Fall eons ago. Who would want to have memories of Sodom and Gomorrah? Or memories of torturing somebody to death? Or any number of unpleasant activities that humans and spirits have carried out since the Fall? For we are all guilty as we shall see below and in Part 3.
The pre-existence of a human being is explicitly given in the gospel of John 1:1 where Christ, called "the word" (ho logos) is said to have been with God "in the beginning." While Jesus was on Earth, he pre-existed as the mighty Spirit he had been in heaven, "the Son of God," before his incarnation. Why should his pre-existence be unique and restricted to him alone? Is there evidence for the pre-existence of other human beings in the Bible? The answer is, Yes. King David made references to having been brought up from "below" (Psalm 30:3,4), while Isaiah (Isaiah 49:1,5), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5), and Paul (Galatians 1:11-17) all aver that they were known to God and their missions were assigned to them before they were born on the Earth in human bodies. While Christian doctrine drives the way people understand the Bible, it is not surprising that pre-existence is never heard in Christianity today. A few biblical scholars, however, are recognizing what Jews and Christians believed long ago: humans are spirits, and as spirits they existed before incarnating into physical bodies (see D. S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic: 200 BC-AD 100 [Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1964] 147; and and Joel B. Green, "'Bodies--That is, Human Lives': A Re-Examination of Human Nature in the Bible," in Warren S. Brown, Nancey Murphy, and H. Newton Malony, eds., Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature [Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1998] 149-173, who states, ". . . that humans have 'souls' and, . . . that these 'souls' had a prior existence before taking up residence in material bodies. This way of thinking may have roots in the Hebrew Bible, e.g., Jer 1:5," p. 161).
The idea that persons existed "before the foundation of the world" is a theme found in Hebrew, early Jewish, and early Christian literature. For example: Isaiah 40:21, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the Earth?"; 2 Enoch 24:4,5, "For all souls are prepared for eternity, before the formation of the world"; 1 Corinthians 2:7, "We proclaim . . . a plan . . . which God established before time began in order to lead us back to glory"; Titus 1:2, "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began"; 2 Tim 1:9, "Who has served us . . . according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began"; 2 Thess 2:13, "Brothers beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you"; Ephesians 1:4, "According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world"; and 1 Peter 1:20, "[Christ] Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world." Certian persons, other than Christ, were also said to have existed prior to their earth life: Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet unto the nations"; and Job 38:4, 21, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you know. . . . . You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!"; and the Isaiah 40:21 example mentioned above. Pre-existence of persons other than Christ is established in these texts. In the 2 Enoch text the possibility for all of humanity, "all souls," existing not only prior to their earth lives, but prior even to the formation of the earth, is strong. Where did these spirits exist prior to their earth lives? Why did they have to become human beings on Earth in the first place if they already existed as spirits in a spirit world? Why was the Earth even formed if these spirits were already existing elsewhere? The answer to these questions can be found in the following texts.
The fall of a heavenly divine being into a physical body is often thought of as a purely Gnostic idea (Gnostics were esoteric Christians living during the 2nd and 3rd centuries after Christ). Kurt Rudolph, an authority on Gnosticism, once stated, "The idea of the fall of a heavenly being and his dispersal in the earthly world is one of the basic conceptions of Gnosis and received its most sublime and clearest formulation in Manicheism" (Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism [San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1987] 93). While this is indeed true, the idea of the fall of divine beings from a higher spiritual dimension, their original home, to a lower spiritual dimension, their exile, in not unique to Gnosticism. It is found much earlier in Hebrew thought and Greek thought.
Occasionally, we see in the Old Testament that those who are cast down into Sheol, the Hebrew netherworld of spirits, were once inhabitants of "the heavens." We see this explicitly in Ezekiel 28:11-19, Ezekiel 31, and Isaiah 14:9-15. In Ezekiel 28, the king of Tyre is said to have once been "full of wisdom and flawless in beauty," and that "you were in Eden, the garden of God," and "resided on God's holy mountain." Clearly, these are references to a prior existence in a celestial kingdom. This prior residency is heaven is reinforced in verses 14 and 16 where the king of Tyre is said to have been originally created by God as "a cherub," a term that references angelic beings. But this cherub was not to remain a resident of heaven, for it is said of the king of Tyre, "you sinned. So I (Yahweh) have struck you down, from the mountain of God" (v. 16). The destination of the fallen cherub is given in verses 17,18, "I have cast you down to the earth . . . I have reduced you to the ashes of the ground." The terms "earth" and "ashes" are actually Sheol motifs, i.e., the cherub fell to Sheol.
A similar context is found in Isaiah 14:9-15. The king of Babylon is being addressed and is told of his fall from heaven down to Sheol. The rephaim, "netherworld spirits," greet him in Sheol. They tell the king that he has been stricken down just as they were and that he has become one of them. The king's former glory in heaven is then stated, "You are fallen from heaven, O Shining One, son of the Dawn! How you are felled to the earth. . . . you are brought down to Sheol, to the bottom of the pit" (verses 12,15). Notice that this Fall narrative gives both the place from which the king fell, "from the heavens," and the place to which the king fell, "you have fallen to the earth . . . down to Sheol . . . to the pit." The king of Babylon was once in heaven but was evicted to place out of heaven.
Ezekiel 31, the Allegory of the Cypress, preserves a Fall narrative that echoes the two above. Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and his hordes are being addressed. Heaven and its inhabitants of divine spirit beings are referenced by images taken from the flora and fauna of ancient Palestine. Heaven is "the garden of God" and the heavenly inhabitants are "cedars in Lebanon." The king of Egypt is said to have surpassed many in stature and in greatness during his previous stay as "a tree in the garden of God," i.e., "as a spirit in heaven" (v. 8): "Cedars in the garden of God could not compare with it; Cypresses could not match its boughs, and plain trees could not vie with its branches; No tree in the garden of God was its peer in beauty. I (Yahweh) made it beautiful. . . . And all the trees of Eden envied it in the garden of God" (verses 8,9). Notice that literal trees cannot "envy"; that is a personal vice possessed by living, intelligent beings. Then, after all of this lofty, high brow talk of the king of Egypt, the tone of the allegory drastically shifts in the same way that we have seen above: Yahweh banished the spirit from heaven: "I banished it (the cedar who is the king of Egypt)" (v. 11). "Fall" language is found here as well in verse 12: ". . . its branches fell." The place to which the cedar and its branches fell is called "death" and the Hebrew text says that they fell "to death" (lamut), "the lowest parts of the earth," "the pit," and "Sheol" (vv. 14-17). The hordes of the king of Egypt are also said to have suffered the same fate as Pharaoh: "You too shall be brought down (lit, 'made to fall') with the trees of Eden to the lowest part of the netherworld. . . . Such is Pharaoh and all his hordes" (v. 18). The transcendent being in heaven is the same being that enters into Sheol.
In all three texts we see an antithetical opposition between two things: 1) "the heavens" and "Sheol"; and 2) those who once existed in heaven (king of Tyre as a cherub, king of Babylon as a shining one, and Pharaoh as a tree in the garden of God) are now fallen to Sheol. In all three instances the reason for their Fall is the same: hubris. Usually, the biblical fall is explained as occurring on the planet Earth from the Genesis fall narratives. But the fall narratives discussed here are not a fall from an earthly garden, but rather a fall from a heavenly dimension to a nether dimension, a dimension that was later inhabited by the Earth. The fact that the Old Testament uses historical figures as examples of fallen heavenly beings raises the prospect of the pre-existence of human beings. Once the earth dimension was created and the planet Earth was made fit for spirits to incarnate upon it, the spirits could not return to heaven upon death. Instead, they returned to Sheol from which they incarnated. This is expressed in the following texts: "Then I shall bring you down with those who go down to the pit, to the people of old, and I shall make you dwell in the lower parts of the earth . . . with those who go down to the pit" (Ezekiel 26:20); "The grave (Sheol) below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you" (Isaiah 14:9); and "The wicked will return to Sheol, even all the nations who forget God" (Psalm 9:17).
Pre-existence in Sheol before physical birth on earth is indicated in the following texts: "For great is your mercy toward me; and you have delivered my soul from the lowest hell" (Psalm 86:13); "O Lord, you have brought up my soul from the grave (Sheol)" (Psalm 30:4); and "My substance (bones) was not hid from you, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth" (Psalm 139:15). This last text reflects Job 33:28-30 where we read that a person might be brought back from the realm of the dead (= "cut off from God" or Sheol) more than once: "He (Yahweh) redeemed him from the Pit; he will enjoy the light; Truly, God does all these things, two or three times to a man, To bring him back from the Pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of the living (= God's holy spirits)." This implies two or three different incarnations from up out of Sheol onto the earth, in spite of Job 7:9 that is much more futile, "Those who go down to Sheol do not come up."
In the Greek world contemporary with Isaiah and Ezekiel we find a very similar scenario of a fall from heaven in the fragments of two poems by the Greek writer Empedocles, who flourished around 450 BC. A citizen of Agrigentum in Sicily, he relates the doctrine of the exile of the spirits from heaven and their transmigrations as various living things on the earth in order to regain their former heavenly status. The term that Empedocles uses for the fallen spirit is "daemon" which in Greek simply meant "a divinity." The two poems, "On Nature" and "Purifications," correspond on how the sphere of the gods (spirits) was broken apart, the consequent fall of the spirits (daemons), and their appearance as physical beings on the earth with their eventual return to the sphere of the gods to remain there.
In the "Purifications" the exiles from heaven are called "daemons" who, as one-time residences of the sphere of the gods, are now made to wander through all forms of physical life as a punishment. Empedocles implicates himself as an exile of the gods; as a daemon he is a wanderer who passes through various stages of mortal life or incarnations, "I, too, am one of these, an exile from the gods and a wanderer, trusting in mad strife." Empedocles uses himself in other parts of this poem to illustrate not only the fate and the transmigration experiences of daemons who were exiled from heaven but also to suggest that human beings on Earth are, in fact, these very daemons or spirits who fell and who are making their way back to a heavenly dimension ruled by Love. A few examples are: Empedocles' previous incarnations as a boy, a girl, a bush, and a fish (not exactly in that order, fragment 117), a contrast between the former celestrial abode and the dreary reality of being born as a mortal (fragment 118), reminiscences of a former happy state as a heavenly resident of the gods (fragment 119), the physical world is a "cave" (fragment 120), "strife" in the heavens that brought about the necessity for physical existence for daemons (fragment 124), and the incarnation of the daemons into physical bodies as a result of their exile from heaven (fragment 126). Despite the varied incarnations of the exiled daemons, their individuality is not compromised but remains intact throughout the transmigratory process until the time comes for them to rejoin the gods and enter into their celestial residence from which they fell.
The spirits were exiled from heaven and made to pass through various incarnations of plant, animal, and finally human life because of their "trusting in mad strife" (fragment 115). Empedocles elaborates on just what this means in his poem "On Nature." Before the creation of the physical universe, the whole cosmos is understood as a rejoicing god in which every spiritual being is brought into unity through the principle of "love" (phila) and friendship. Four roots or elements existed singly as gods yet were blended in a harmonious fashion: earth, air, fire, and water. Then, by some artifice, "strife" entered the spheres of harmony breaking the elements apart. As a result harmony and love were shattered and different forms of life emerged as a consequence. In "Purifications" the heavenly sphere was infiltrated by "strife" that overwhelmed a number of spirits (daemons) there and who gave into it, committed sins, and consequently were separated from their peers. Strife necessitated the creation of the physical universe so that the daemons, now fallen spiritual creatures, may be born in different physical life forms. Now love and strife co-existed in the daemons. Transmigrations through different physical orders and kingdoms, from the mineral kingdom up through the human kingdom, were necessary in order to root strife from out of the daemons if they were to regain their former heavenly status. Humans are these fallen daemons or spirits. It is not our physical life form that is evolving but rather humans are spirits who are evolving through the different physical life forms in order to make its return into heaven. The fallen daemons (us) are being "raised up" back to their former glory through their transmigrations of different physical forms of life. The human form is the "highest" physical form of life that a transmigrating spirit could achieve in the physical dimension in order to be made fit to return to the higher spiritual dimensions. Empedocles more than suggests this in "Purifications" fragment 146: "at the end they [daemons] come among men on earth as prophets, minstrels, physicians, and leaders, and from these they arise as gods, highest in honor." Such is the story of the Fall and of the "rising" (resurrection) of the exiled spirits in Empedocles. Notice how very similar this is to the Hebrew conception of the Fall found in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, 31.
Almost always, Christian doctrine refers to the "dead" as those physical bodies that are lying in their graves in the cemetery waiting to be revived and raised up not unlike the story we are given in Matthew 27:51-53, which reads more like an insertion than it does the original reading of the narrative. But the "dead" are the fallen spirits from heaven who populate both the lower spiritual dimensions and the Earth as incarnated spirits, i.e., "human beings." We need only to reflect a little on Christ's identity as "first born from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:20 and Colossians 1:18). "Dead" in this title cannot possibly mean "physically dead." If so, then Christ cannot have been the "first born from the (physically) dead," for Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus had experienced that earlier, not to mention the episode of Elisha and the dead boy in the Old Testament (2 Kings 4:32-35). This phrase denotes Christ's resurrection from "the dead" and thus refers to something other than the "physically" dead, for he would not have been called "first born from the dead" if his resurrection was like that of Lazarus and the dead boy that Elisha brought back to life. "Dead" here must mean something else.
A little reflection on Hebrews 9:27 will also indicate to us that "dead" cannot mean "physically dead": "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after that the judgment." If this verse has the meaning usually ascribed to it by Christian doctrine, that of physical death, then Lazarus, whom Jesus brought back to physical life, must still be alive in the world today. Otherwise he must have died once again, and died twice which contradicts the usual meaning of Hebrews 9:27. The same can be said about the daughter of Jairus and others who were brought back to physical life. Are these people still alive today? If not, then they died more than once, and the usual interpretation of Hebrews 9:27 fails. On the other hand, neither Enoch nor Elijah died even once. They were transported directly into heaven, and so the usual meaning of this verse in Hebrews again fails. "Dead" and "death" really mean "separation" or "cut off from" or "severed." The word "deceased" means physical death, and this is not what "the dead" usually means in the Old and New Testaments.
In Isaiah 26:14, the author names the dead by the term rephaim which means "netherworld spirits" or spirits in Sheol, "They are dead, they will not live; they are rephaim, they will not arise." The dead do exist but they exist in a state divorced or severed from God who is the source of "life": Psalm 88:11, "Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the shades (rephaim) rise to praise you?"; and Proverbs 9:18, "But he does not know that the rephaim are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol." It is the soul or spirit that is cut off from God. In this sense, the spirit is "dead" as we see in Psalm 30:3-4, "O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit." Sheol is cosmologically opposite to the heavens (Job 11:8; Psalm 139:8; Isaiah 7:11; and Amos 9:2). This does not diminish God's sovereignty over the Earth and Sheol (Psalm 95:4). But the dimension of Sheol is not one of the high heavenly dimensions; rather it is a spiritual dimension wherein the faculties of the spirits who reside there have been dulled: "For there is no remembrance of you (Yhwh) among the dead; in Sheol, who can acclaim you?" (Psalm 6:6). In Psalm 88, Sheol (v. 4) is parallel to the terms "the pit" (v. 5), "the grave" (v. 6), "the dead" (v. 6), "darkest places," (v. 7), "the depths" (v. 7), and the "land of forgetfulness" (v. 13). Thus, it is figuratively said that "the dead know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5). For this reason, it was to Israel's spiritual advantage and welfare that they not "consult the dead" (Deuteronomy 18:11).
The dead are often known as "those that sleep." In Psalm 30:4 the dead are those that "sleep." The sleeping ones are thought to awaken at some future point in Daniel 12:2, "many who sleep in the dirt of the earth will awake." Superficially, the phrase "in the dirt of the earth" gives a false impression of an earthen grave dug for a corpse that will "awaken" one day. We see that in the Old Testament "dirt" and "earth," however, are used for destinations of the "soul" and as synonymous parallels with Sheol: "Our soul lies prostrate in the dirt" (Psalm 44:26); "My soul clings to the dirt" (Psalm 119:25); and Psalm 30:10 recalls that which Sheol will not do: ". . . will the dirt praise you (Yhwh)?" Dust is the abode of the dead in the Old Testament. There is a fluid relation among the terms grave, earth, dirt, dust, and Sheol. Dust and dirt are categories for the dead. In the Old Testament, the nether world of fallen spirits who are cut off from God is described as "the country consisting of dust." We see this clearly in Psalm 22:16, "You (Yhwh) commit me to the dirt of death." And "death" is none other than Sheol itself: "From the hand of Sheol I will save them, from death I will redeem them" (Hosea 13:14).
It is clear that the physical body neither goes "up" (see Ecclesiastes 12:7) nor "down" (see Psalm 30:3-4); in both the former and latter texts, it is the "spirit" (ruach) and the "soul" (nephesh) that continues on into the afterlife: "Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes downward to the nether world?" (Ecclesiastes 3:21). Dead means "severance from God" as we see in Hosea 13, "When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died." Release from Sheol is possible and is often expressed in the Old Testament as "raised" or "brought up from" Sheol, but this does not indicate reentry into the heavens. This was the understanding of the earliest Christians when Luke writes that "David did not ascend into the heavens" (Acts 2:34; see Psalm 88:4-10) despite the fact that the Psalms attributed to David speak of his being "brought up out of" and "raised" or "delivered" out of Sheol: "From the depths of the earth you will raise me up again" (Psalm 71:20); "For great is your mercy toward me, and you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol" (Psalm 86:13). The author of these psalms is writing from the perspective of a human being on the Earth. Thus, his earthly residence is the place to which he has been delivered from the depths of Sheol. The dead had some maneuverability within the lower dimensions of the dead; the Earth dimension, itself a part of the dimensions of the dead, seems to have been the "highest" point to which the dead from Sheol could ascend. So how might the dead "resurrect" beyond the earth level and begin their way back to the heavens from which they fell? How might they return "to life" once more? "The Lord deals death and gives life, He casts down into Sheol and raises up" (1 Samuel 2:6). A Redeemer was needed to live on earth, proclaim the good news (= the gospel) of the release of the spirits from the lower dimensions under Lucifer (the "gospel" is summed up in "the resurrection of the dead" which is Salvation for all of the Creation), die by the hands of the evil spirits, and if successful against the onslaughts of the evil spirits during his stay on earth up till his last breath then he would mount an offensive as a conquering spirit on Lucifer's kingdom of the dead (Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, the Pit, the dead, etc.). This is the narrative we find in the New Testament.