Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, January 31, 2021

Shavuah Tov,

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)

Sun 31-Jan-2021 18th of Sh’vat, 5781

Ex 18:1-12 2 Ki 3 Ps 122-123 Jn 6:37-71 (1 Ti 1)

The Four Stages to Eternal Life (Part 2 – Second Stage of the Journey)

by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: In this four-part RR series, I discuss four stages the Believer will encounter in his/ her journey from mortal life on Earth to immortal life in Heaven. For most readers, this will be a review of old knowledge. A review can be useful, however, as previous knowledge can be reinforced or updated and even new knowledge may be acquired. In today’s RR, I discuss the stop in Paradise for important events, after Believers are called from Earth. God must surmount tremendous logistical obstacles, providing a way for each Believer to leave his/ her earthly life (which was lived in a mortal body) to enter eternal life in an immortal body. In this, the second, RR, I discuss a Believer’s next step into eternity.

THE SECOND STAGE OF YOUR JOURNEY TO LIFE IN HEAVEN: In last Sunday’s RR, I outlined the first stage of your journey to Heaven (resurrection or rapture). The second stage of a Believer’s journey is time spent in the intermediate state (intermediate life) in Paradise. Recall from last Sunday’s RR that a Believer’s mortal (earthly) body will be united with his/ her spirit (soul) in a moment of time (“twinkling of an eye”). Together, the re-combined body and spirit– the glorified body– will rise to meet Yeshua and angels in the clouds. (From last Sunday’s RR, I asked whether these “clouds” could be masses of white-robed angels, which would appear as clouds from a distance.) With Yeshua, resurrected/ raptured Overcomers will be transported to the next stage in the journey into eternity. I will discuss this next stage (Paradise) in three parts.

SIDELIGHTS: *** Keep in mind that while Believers (the redeemed) are in Paradise, non-believers (the unredeemed) are still on Earth, living under Unholy Trinity tyranny in an unprecedentedly hellish time– the Tribulation.

*** Yeshua confirmed a separation of persons after death into two sides in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31). Lazarus, a good man, was a poor beggar, who longed to be able just to eat crumbs from a rich man’s table. The rich man had everything, except love for God and his neighbors. Beggar Lazarus died and was carried to “Abraham’s side” (the Jewish name for Paradise). The rich man also died and went to Sheol (the Jewish name for Hades, or the abode of the dead– the opposite of Paradise). Lazarus lived in comfort and joy in Paradise, but the rich man was tormented with flames in Sheol. A great chasm (gulf) separated the two, but the rich man could see the comforts Lazarus enjoyed. He begged Father Abraham to let Lazarus place a drop of water on his scorched tongue, or allow Lazarus to warn his brothers. Abraham refused (Luke 16:31): “But Abraham said, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead!’” This parable raises questions about Purgatory, prayers for the dead, and so forth, but not today.

*** I believe many have been privileged to catch a brief glimpse of Paradise. Many, including me, call these glimpses “near death experiences” (NDEs). In earlier times, when a person’s heart stopped beating, he/ she was pronounced dead and  was buried. Now, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) frequently revives a stilled heart. As a physician, I have successfully performed CPR. The Bible recorded an NDE for the Apostle Paul. When Paul ministered in Lystra, he greatly angered the Jews (Acts, chapter 14). The penalty for Paul’s blasphemy was death, which the Jews sought to exact (Acts 14:19): But Jewish people came from Antioch and Iconium; and after they won the crowd over and stoned Paul, they were dragging him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.  Fourteen years later, Paul wrote of his near-death experience (2 Corinthians 12:2-4): I know a man in Messiah (whether in the body I don’t know, or whether out of the body I don’t know– God knows) – fourteen years ago, he was caught up to the third heaven. I know such a man (whether in the body or outside of the body I don’t know– God knows) – he was caught up into Paradise and heard words too sacred to tell, which a human is not permitted to utter. “I know a man in Messiah” was typically polite, modest, first-century speech to refer to oneself. Paul was writing about himself, and he was undoubtedly referring to his being nearly stoned to death in Lystra. Paul, unfamiliar with the phenomenon of NDE, was understandably confused by his out-of-body experience (“whether in the body or outside of the body”). Out-of-body experience is common in NDEs. Paul, who wrote the majority of the B’rit Chadashah, was left speechless by this experience (hearing “words too sacred to tell”). Thereafter, Paul seemingly did not fear death (Philippians 1:21): For to me, to live is Messiah and to die is gain. 

It has been estimated that 5 percent of Americans have experienced an NDE:  https://nderf.org/NDERF/Research/number_nde_usa.htm (seems high?) I have personally talked to resuscitated patients who experienced an NDE. Those willing to discuss the event (many are reluctant to speak, because they fear being called “crazy”), describe very similar events. You probably have heard about the out-of-body experiences, traveling through a dark tunnel toward a bright light, etc., and I will not reiterate these events. Except for the rare unsaved persons who appear to have seen Hell (I know one such man in Blount County), they describe a beautiful, joyful place (much like what you would expect God to prepare). Loved ones (relatives and friends) welcome them to this place, which surely must be Paradise. When they return to life, the pain they were experiencing (from an automobile accident, for example) suddenly returns. Many are upset that the medical team has performed CPR to return them from “Paradise.” They want to stay!

These people see an authority person, whom some believe may be Yeshua or an angel. To my knowledge, no one has ever seen a person who died before the NDE. That is, only persons who have died and who have been transported to Paradise are waiting for the new arrival; no one still alive on Earth is there. The naysayers scoff at the idea that people have crossed over to see Paradise. Personally, I am not so arrogant that I believe I know everything, and I am comfortable in having faith in things beyond my limited intelligence. I can, therefore, take comfort in believing in Paradise. Paul, who glimpsed the other side of life, could write (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, quoting Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14): But when this corruptible will have put on incorruptibility and this mortal will have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” 

Permit a personal note: Linda and I unexpectedly lost a child, Ray, in November, 2018. The only thing that prevented inconsolable grief was our solid faith that Ray is in Paradise with Yeshua and others who loved him and preceded him in death. Ray’s death would have been almost intolerable, if we had no faith and did not believe in an afterlife. Paul wrote a beautiful passage (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) about how to grieve for those who have died in Yeshua. He began (v. 13) by telling us that we should not grieve, as do those who have no hope. He told us (vv. 14-17) about Yeshua’s resurrection as the model for all Believers’ resurrection. He finished (v. 18) with the reason we should know and hold dear this promise: Therefore encourage one another with these words. END sidelights. 

FIRST PART OF THIS JOURNEY IN PARADISE– THE BEMA JUDGMENT: This judgment will occur during the first part of a Believer’s stay in Paradise. Some Bible students condense the entire stage in Paradise to three and one-half years, but I am not creative enough to re-write the Bible. As I read the Bible, it seems that Paradise lasts seven prophetic years. “Paradise,” from the Greek Paradeisos, in turn from Asian languages Parde, designated a beautiful park or preserve, as might be owned by a Persian king. (NDE survivors describe an unimaginably beautiful place of peace and joy.)

After death, a Believer’s soul leaves the dead, unusable body to be re-united with a body, forming a glorified body to be in the presence of Yeshua. Consider:

● In Daniel’s Seventy “Week” (Seventy Shavuot) prophecy– Daniel 9:24-27– each “week” (shabua) represented a seven-year period. This period foretold the history of the Jewish people, from their return from Babylonian captivity until the end of time. A “year” equals a prophetic year of 360 days, rather than our Gregorian calendar year of 365.25 days. Following Daniel’s prophetic schedule, during the first seven shavuot (49 prophetic years), the Jews rebuild the Temple (known as the Second Temple or Zerubabbel’s Temple, later Herod’s Temple). During the next sixty-two shavuot (434 prophetic years), the Jews live in their land, although under Roman occupation. Then, HaMashiach is “cut off and has nothing” (Daniel 9:26). This information can be combined with other passages in the Tanakh to come to the precise calendar day of what we now recognize as Palm Sunday– the day Yeshua rode on a donkey into Jerusalem to surrender to Roman authorities and to be crucified a few days later. Then follows an indeterminate time of prophetic silence, called a “parenthesis” in prophecy, in which no further prophetic mention is made of Yeshua. This time, a time in which we now live, is the Age of Grace. Only the seventieth (final) shabua remains. We are told (Daniel 9:26b-27) about “a prince” (the Antichrist) who will come and rule God’s Holy City and Temple in a most blasphemous, cruel manner for one shabua (the final seven-year period of this prophecy). We call this seventieth shabua, especially the last half, the Tribulation. The Antichrist is, then, “annihilated” (at Armageddon).

● In Luke 23:43, Yeshua told the criminal being crucified with Him and who accepted Him as Savior, “… today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” The criminal did not attend classes, learn creeds or customs, and was not baptized, but immediately passed from life on Earth to Paradise. The immediacy of fellowship with Yeshua parallels the Apostle Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:8, … to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord.

● In the Apostle Paul’s near-death experience (NDE), he tells of “a man in Messiah” (surely, Paul himself) who was caught up to Paradise, where he (2 Corinthians 12:4): … heard words too sacred to tell, which a human is not permitted to utter. Paul’s brief account of his NDE has been described above.

● In Revelation 2:7b, Yeshua told the Overcomers in Ephesus: … whoever “overcomes, I will grant the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of God.” 

Whether your final destination is Heaven or Hell, you will face judgment (Hebrews 9:27): And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this judgment,…. This seven years of Paradise for Believers at a place beyond the Earth will occur at the same time as the Tribulation on Earth. Paradise will be beautiful beyond anything you and I have ever experienced. Could Paradise be a re-creation of the Garden of Eden?

If your final destination is Heaven, your judgment will be the Bema Judgment (from the Greek word bema; also called the Judgment Seat of Mashiach). The Apostle Paul was a sports fan, and races were very popular, then. At ancient race courses, a judge sat on a bema (a judge’s seat). Paul taught Yeshua would sit on His judgment seat to judge us:

● Romans 14:10c: … For we all will stand before the judgment seat of God…. NOTE: This verse is mistranslated in the Tree of Life Version. The Greek text states this bema is the judgment seat of Christos in the Greek (translated as: the Christ, the Messiah) – not God (which would read in the Greek, Theos).

2 Corinthians 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may receive what is due for the things he did while in the body– whether good or bad. 

Paul also taught what will be judged (1 Corinthians 3:10-15): According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each consider carefully how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what is already laid– which is Yeshua the Messiah. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear. For the Day will show it, because it is to be revealed by fire; and the fire itself will test each one’s work– what sort it is. If anyone’s work built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss– he himself will be saved, but as through fire. 

● Paul taught that building your future in Heaven is like a workman building a house. Every house is built on a foundation, and a Believer’s works are built upon Yeshua’s works (His foundation). If a Believer accomplishes good works for God’s Kingdom, he/ she brings worthy materials (“gold, silver, precious stones”) to God, and he/ she has built well. The fire of Yeshua’s judgment will refine good works, removing any impurities (as a gold refiner melts gold to remove the dross). A crown can be fashioned from a Believer’s purified good works.

● Paul also taught that if a Believer fails to produce good works or produces bad works, he/ she brings unworthy building materials (“wood, hay, straw”) to God, and he/ she cannot build a worthy house. The lazy, unproductive Believer may squeeze into Heaven, but he/ she will be ashamed when he/ she see the wonders of Heaven and all that God has given to him/ her and he/ she realizes how little has been given in return. The fire of Yeshua’s judgment will burn these poor or non-existent works to ashes. A crown cannot be fashioned from ashes. The Apostle John recorded a strange description of Yeshua, when He returns (Revelation 19:12a): His [Yeshua’s] eyes are like a flame of fire,…. Could these flaming eyes, which view works at the Bema Judgment, be the way works are either purified (freed of impurities, or dross) or burned to ashes?

The only things you can take with you into eternity are your good works, which  may be exchanged for crown(s). In loving gratitude, you may wish to lay your crowns (your good works) at Yeshua’s feet. Scriptures suggest that there are at least nine crowns you might earn (and there could be more, but remain unnamed):

● The Crown of Rejoicing for Soul Winners (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20);

● The Crown of Righteousness for Those Who Love Yeshua’s’ Return (2 Timothy 4:8);

● The Incorruptible Crown for Victorious Lives of Purity (1 Corinthians 9:25, 27);

● The Crown of Life for Believer Martyrs (Revelation 2:10);

● The Crown of Glory for Faithful Servants (1 Peter 5:4);

● The Crown of Life to Endure Temptation for the Love of Yeshua (James 1:12);

● The Crown of Joy for Converts (Philippians 4:1);

● The Crown for Faithful Perseverance (Revelation 3:11); and

● The Elders’ Crown (Revelation 4:4, 10).

SECOND PART OF THIS STAGE IN PARADISE– MARRIAGE TO YESHUA/  WEDDING BANQUET OF THE LAMB: This ceremonial marriage will occur in the second half of the seven-year Tribulation. God has ordained the marriage of a man and a woman to form a family as a most important arrangement for His children since the union of Adam and Chavah (Eve). Read Genesis 2:15, 18-25, especially Genesis 2:24: This is why a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife; and they become one flesh. (This verse was quoted by Yeshua in Matthew 19:5.)

Throughout the Bible, God the Father and Yeshua HaMashiach have desired a union with mankind, as though being joined as “one flesh, one body” (John, chapter 17). God referred to Israel as His wife (Jeremiah 3:14, 31-33 and Isaiah, chapter 54). When Israel sinned against God, she was called His adulterous wife (Hosea, chapter 2). In the B’rit Chadashah, Yeshua is referred to as the Bridegroom and Believers are referred to as His bride. The Apostle John described the spiritual union of the Bridegroom Yeshua and His bride, the community of Believers (Revelation 19:7-9): [A great multitude said] “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready, she was given fine linen to wear, bright and clean! For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the kedoshim.” Then the angel tells me, “Write: How fortunate are those who have been invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb!” He also tells me, “These are the true words of God.”

At this marriage of the Lamb, Yeshua, will likely follow the pattern of the first-century Jewish wedding, including:

●-Jewish marriages were expected to be a lifelong and faithful union of a man and a woman. A Believer’s marriage to Yeshua will be eternal and faithful (as the temptations of Satan will forever be removed in Heaven).

●-Jewish marriages, then had/ now have five people standing under the chupah (wedding canopy) – the officiating rabbi, the bridegroom, the bride, and two witnesses. During the Tribulation, “Two Witnesses” are introduced to us (Revelation 11:3-12). These witnesses are not named. For various reasons, there is speculation that Elijah may be one witness and the other may be Enoch, Moses, or another Tanakh saint. These two witnesses prophesy in sadness and call for repentance (dressed in sackcloth clothing), for three and one-half years. The Unholy Trinity (Satan, Antichrist, and False Prophet) will cause the Two Witnesses to be assassinated. Their dead bodies will lie in disrespect on a Jerusalem street, until they are resurrected and ascend to Heaven. Horrified citizens of the world watch (undoubtedly by satellite television) the resurrection in disbelief. This event divides the Tribulation in two halves. It seems it will take approximately three and one-half years for the Unholy Trinity to organize its evil empire, but the last three and one-half years, usually called the “Great Tribulation,” will be the horrific time warned by Yeshua and others. The resurrection and rapture of the Two Witnesses will provide the two witnesses needed at the Marriage of the Lamb.

●-For most Jewish couples, marriage was the most important event in their lives. Friends and relatives treated them as royalty, as they started their married lives together. A marriage feast was always given. Wine, as a symbol of joy in the marriage, was drunk by the bridegroom and bride. Following this act, they officially announced their new lives, joined as “one flesh” in marriage. At the Passover Seder (“last supper”) Yeshua observed with His disciples just hours before His crucifixion, He made a statement which must have seemed strange to the disciples. There were always served four cups of wine during a Seder. From the third cup, Yeshua taught the ordinance of Communion (Matthew 26:27-28): And [Yeshua]  took a cup; and after giving thanks, He gave to [the disciples], saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the removal of sins.” When He came to the fourth cup, He did not drink from it, explaining (Matthew 26:29): [Yeshua said] “But I say to you, I will never drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.” At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, that fourth cup of the fruit of the vine will be placed before Yeshua, and every Believer will also have a cup of wine. Yeshua and all saints in Heaven will drink together, as did the bride and bridegroom in an ancient Jewish wedding, and all brides at that ceremony in Paradise will be forever spiritually married to the Bridegroom Yeshua.

●-Note that a Believer becomes ready for the marriage by wearing spotless linen (cleansed of sin by Yeshua’s blood spilled on the cross at Golgotha) and adorned by “righteous acts” he/ she has performed in the name of Yeshua. These bridal gown adornments will likely be awarded at the Bema Judgment.

THIRD PART OF THIS STEP IN PARADISE– SERVICE IN YESHUA’S ARMY: After saints in Paradise become “one flesh” with Yeshua, they will return, with angels, in the army of the Lord (Revelation 19:11-21). This return is Yeshua’s Second Coming. Many Believers never grasp the difference in the First Coming and the Second Coming. These two events were prophesied in Isaiah, chapter 53, but the prophecy must be read with careful discernment. At the First Coming (more than two-thousand years ago), Messiah Yeshua came as a meek, gentle, lowly Servant. At the Second Coming (still in our future), Messiah Yeshua will come as a mighty Warrior King. His robes will be soaked in the blood of His enemies. His title will be “King of kings and Lord of lords.” His eyes will be as  blazing fire, as He judges Overcomers’ works. His mouth will speak judgment against sinners and demonic powers. He will be mounted on a white horse, the sign of a conqueror. He will wear many crowns, as He will be ready to rule all nations and peoples. He will carry a rod of iron to rule with great authority and power. Some Believers still teach that Yeshua is a weakling, sitting in Heaven and holding little lambs. No! The Apostle John saw Yeshua as a mighty Leader, fully capable of defeating any enemy. Recall the problems Jewish rabbis have had with the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, which they mistakenly interpreted as the coming of two Messiahs, instead of the correct interpretation of one Messiah coming twice. 

When Yeshua returns, He will cast the Antichrist, False Prophet, and their army of unrepentant sinners directly (without the courtesy of a trial) into “the lake of of fire burning with brimstone” (Hell), where they will be eternally tormented. Read Revelation 19:17-21 for this account. Satan will be captured and bound for one-thousand years in the Abyss (the Bottomless Pit). He will be loosed after the  thousand-year confinement for one reason, which I will discuss in a future RR.

YOUR SECOND STEP TO LIFE IN HEAVEN: In this RR, I have discussed a Believer’s second stage to eternal life in Heaven– a seven-year stay in Paradise. Important events will occur during the seven years in Paradise. In the next RR, I will discuss the third stage. Today, you can secure your eternal life in Heaven by accepting Yeshua as Savior (Romans 10:13): For “Everyone who calls upon the name of Adonai shall be saved.” (Compare Joel 3:5.)


● If dead, there is bodily resurrection to life. The body becomes “glorified” (eternal without disease or illness). The eternal spirit is reunited with the body.

● If alive, the body is raptured (snatched from earth). The body becomes “glorified” (eternal without disease or illness). The eternal spirit remains with the body. 

● All resurrected and raptured Believers– Overcomers whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life– meet Yeshua and a host of angels in the air. All are carried instantly to Paradise.

● In Paradise, each Overcomer is subjected to the Bema Judgment. Every Overcomer’s verdict of this judgment is already settled– “not guilty!” Yeshua has paid the penalty for all sins because of the Father’s boundless grace. Every Overcomer has earned eternal life in Heaven because of his/ her faith.  Awards (“crowns”) may be given or withheld for service to others in the name of God. Those receiving crowns will be grateful and will cast their crowns before Yeshua’s feet in honor, love, and gratitude. Those not receiving crowns will be shamed.

● A Jewish marriage requires two witnesses. While still in Paradise, Saints will welcome the Two Witnesses, who have just been assassinated in Jerusalem. Believers (now Saints after receiving their final cleansing from sin) will meet their Bridegroom, Yeshua. Saints will be dressed in finest attire– pure linen washed white in Yeshua’s blood and adorned with works for others in Yeshua’s name.

● Still in Paradise, Saints will dine at the greatest banquet ever known– the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. As part of that meal, Saints will likely celebrate the greatest Communion of all time. All Saints (Overcomers) will drink fruit of the vine probably from silver chalices. Why silver? Silver is the metal of atonement (ransom or reconciliation) of the soul (Exodus 30:11-16, and other Scriptures). Yeshua will drink from the cup he declined to drink at His last Passover Seder, until He could drink with His Beloved Ones in His Father’s Kingdom.

● Overcomers will finally join the Army of Heaven, led by Yeshua as King of kings. The Unholy Trinity will be defeated. God’s good has triumphed over Satan’s evil. If you are blessed enough to be a soldier in the Lord’s army at Armageddon, you will finally begin to understand the full measure of Yeshua’s drash on the mountain, when He said (Matthew 5:12a):“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great!….” 

Until next Sunday, when I discuss the next stage in a Believer’s journey to Heaven, Shalom and Maranatha.