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Luther and Tyndale on Death: “The Dead Know Nothing”

by Tom Robinson Estimated reading time: 7 minutes. Posted on 1-Sep-2021
Many believe the soul is immortal and remains conscious apart from the body after death. But early reformers Martin Luther and William Tyndale recognized what the Bible teaches about this—that those who’ve died have no awareness while awaiting a future resurrection.

Many people today believe the Bible teaches that when a person dies, that person has an immortal soul that remains conscious after death and goes on to live with God in heaven or goes to some kind of eternal torment in hell. But that is assuredly not what the Bible teaches. It informs us that man is a mortal soul able to die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20) and that to die is to “sleep the sleep of death” (Psalms 13:3).

The Bible repeatedly compares death to sleep and not conscious existence—a sleep from which we must be awakened in a future resurrection (see Daniel 12:2; Job 14:12-14; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). Scripture explicitly states that “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, emphasis added throughout). It further assures that “there is no . . . knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (verse 10).

Many recognize that the Bible teaches a coming resurrection. The traditional argument is that the immortal soul departs into bodiless yet conscious existence at death and that the resurrection is the raising up of a renewed body in the future for the soul to reinhabit. This concerns what is called the intermediate state of the dead—the nature of existence between the death of the body and the future resurrection.

Given the biblical comparisons to sleep, some disparagingly refer to belief in this intermediate state of unconsciousness as “soul sleep.” Yet this is simply taking Scripture for what it says, whereas belief in a disembodied soul in the afterlife came not from the Bible but from pagan religion and philosophy.

Some have recognized the truth of this matter for centuries. It would no doubt greatly surprise many of today’s Protestants to learn that key figures they view as heroes of the faith—namely Martin Luther, father of the Protestant Reformation, and William Tyndale, who suffered martyrdom for his monumental work of translating the Bible into English—wrote against the immortality of the soul and against the idea of conscious awareness in death. These men were teachers of soul sleep—as were the inspired writers of Scripture, such as the apostle Paul.

Martin Luther: “The dead sleep in utter insensibility”

In 1517 Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Theses regarding the errors of the Catholic Church. In defending many of these later in 1520 he listed the idea “that the soul is immortal” as among “all these endless monstrosities in the Roman dunghill of decretals” (Assertion of All the Articles of M. Luther Condemned by the Latest Bull of Leo X, Art. 27, Works of Luther, Weimar ed., Vol. 7). Luther’s main concern in this was the Catholic conception of the conscious torment of souls in purgatory, which he rejected.

Not long afterward he wrote: “It is probable, in my opinion, that, with very few exceptions indeed, the dead sleep in utter insensibility till the day of judgment . . . On what authority can it be said that the souls of the dead may not sleep . . . in the same way that the living pass in profound slumber the interval between their downlying at night and their uprising in the morning?” (Letter to Nicholas Amsdorf, Jan. 13, 1522, quoted by Jules Michelet, The Life of Luther, translated by William Hazlitt, 1862, p. 133).

Regarding the quote we earlier saw from Ecclesiastes, Luther later pointed out: “Solomon judges that the dead are asleep, and feel nothing at all. For the dead lie there accounting neither days nor years, but when are awaked, they shall seem to have slept scarce one minute” (An Exposition of Solomon’s Book, Called Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, 1553, folio 151v).

Luther viewed this as some sort of comatose existence, elsewhere stating: “Thus after death the soul goes to its bedchamber and to its peace, and while it is sleeping it does not realize its sleep, and God preserves the awakening soul. God is able to awake Elijah, Moses, and others . . . so that they will live. But how can that be? That we do not know; we satisfy ourselves with the example of bodily sleep, and with what God says: it is a sleep, a rest, and a peace” (Interpretation of the First Book of Moses, Writings, Vol. 1). He was trying to explain the preservation of our existence through death until the resurrection.

While Luther was perhaps not always consistent or clear, we should recognize that he definitely did not advocate the conscious bodiless existence of an immortal soul in heaven or hell immediately after death, as today’s Lutherans and other Protestants believe.

William Tyndale responds to Thomas More

Around the same time, William Tyndale defended the teaching of death as a sleep against denunciation by the English Catholic philosopher and statesman under King Henry VIII, Sir Thomas More, who also wrote Utopia.

Tyndale responded to him in 1530, contending: “And you, in putting them [departed souls] in heaven, hell, and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection . . . And again, if the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good [a] case as the angels be? And then what cause [or reason] is there of the resurrection?” (An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue, Book 4, chap. 4).

In the same response, Tyndale castigated the Catholic position on the matter as embracing pagan teaching, declaring: “The true faith puts [forth] the resurrection . . . The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put [forth] that the souls did ever live [as immortal]. And the pope joins the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshly doctrine of philosophers together; things so contrary that they cannot agree, no more than the Spirit and the flesh do in a Christian man. And because the fleshly-minded pope consents unto heathen doctrine, therefore he corrupts the Scripture to establish it.”

Elsewhere in his response, Tyndale notes that the concept of the faithful dead being conscious in heaven was contrary to Christ’s teaching. He points out: “And when he [Thomas More] proves that the saints be in heaven in glory with Christ already, saying, ‘If God be their God, they be in heaven, for he is not the God of the dead’ [as More tried to argue from Jesus’ point in Matthew 22:31-32]; there he steals away Christ’s argument, wherewith he proves the resurrection: that Abraham and all saints should rise again, not that their souls were in heaven; which doctrine was not yet in the world. And with that doctrine he takes away the resurrection quite, and makes Christ’s argument of none effect.”

Moreover, Tyndale makes poignant use of the apostle Paul’s statement that Christians are most pitiable, or miserable, if there is no resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:16-19) and of his instruction that Christians should comfort one another over lost loved ones with the hope of the resurrection at Christ’s return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This instruction would make no sense if those loved ones are now awake in heaven. As Tyndale sarcastically presents it:

“‘Nay, Paul, you are unlearned; go to Master [Thomas] More, and learn a new way. We be not most miserable, though we rise not again; for our souls go to heaven as soon as we be dead, and are there in as great joy as Christ that is risen again.’ And I marvel that Paul had not comforted the Thessalonians with that doctrine, if he had wist [known] it, that the souls of their dead had been in joy; as he did with the resurrection, that their dead should rise again. If the souls be in heaven, in as great glory as the angels, after your doctrine, show me what cause should be of the resurrection.”

While we would not agree with Luther and Tyndale in various facets of religious teaching, we do agree that the Bible presents death as having no conscious awareness.

While many other reformers recognized this, the Reformation as a whole persisted, and persists still, in false teachings about the immortal soul in heaven or hell. But the truth of Scripture yet stands. Why not accept what God’s Word reveals about this vital issue?

Current Events & Trends: September/October 2021

by Beyond Today Editor Estimated reading time: 9 minutes. Posted on 26-Aug-2021
An overview of events and conditions around the world featured in the September/October 2021 issue of Beyond Today.

Anglosphere nations face megadrought, plagues

While seasonal monsoon rains made a slight dent in the severe drought in the western United States, they mainly just brought flooding, with extremely dry conditions persisting. Several sources note that the drought in the U.S. Southwest is the worst in 1,200 years. Many are labeling it a megadrought.

The northwest has also been suffering. At the end of July, more than 71 percent of Oregon was under extreme drought. Western Canada has also been affected by severe drought. Winnipeg recorded the driest July in almost 150 years.

In addition was this news headline of locust infestation: “‘A scourge of the Earth’ grasshopper swarms overwhelm US west” (Lee van der Voo, The Guardian, July 7, 2021). The deep drought has created ideal conditions for grasshopper eggs to hatch and survive.

Australia and New Zealand have also experienced recent droughts and floods. Australia has long contended with locusts. But this year it’s been faced with what’s been called unprecedented— a plague of mice taking over the fields of New South Wales (Maggie Gile, “Australia Could Lose Over $775M in Crops as Millions of Mice Invade Fields,” May 28, 2021). They’ve been invading homes and biting people in their sleep. As reported in July, dead poisoned mice were everywhere, with a terrible stench. One has the impression of the plague of frogs on Egypt in the biblical Exodus story!

What’s going on? Many blame nebulous “climate change.” But God foretold curses that would befall the ancient Israelites for disobeying His laws, declaring: “If you do not obey Me, then I will punish you . . . I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze [referring to a sky without rain clouds and the ground being dry and hard]. And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit . . . I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and make you few in number” (Leviticus 26:18-22).

Moreover, He said: “The Lord will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed . . . You shall carry much seed out to the field but gather little in, for the locust shall consume it . . . Locusts shall consume all your trees and the produce of your land” (Deuteronomy 28:24, 38-42).

Later, when the Jewish people who returned from Babylonian captivity were focused on themselves and neglecting to support God’s work in that day of restoring the national worship system, God used drought and other curses to get their attention. God’s message to the Anglosphere nations today is essentially the same:

“Consider your ways! ‘You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough . . . and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes’” (Haggai 1:5-11).

Look at what’s been happening. Does God have your attention? To better understand, be sure to download or request our free study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.

 

 

 

Plans call for EU military to support European superpower

Earlier this year, Britain’s Daily Express carried the following headline: “EU army plan to transform bloc into foreign superpower leaked in Brussels document” (Joe Barnes, June 19, 2021). The document, it noted, revealed that the European Union centered in Brussels was finalizing plans for “large-scale” operations in Libya. This would “pit the EU against Chad, Egypt, Jordan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, which have all become involved in Libya’s brutal civil war. The internal report . . . highlighted the need for an EU military mission in the region to curb human and arms trafficking.

“‘In this context, an EU military Common Security and Defence Policy [CSDP] engagement should be considered in order not to leave the entire field of activity in the military domain to third states,’ the document says.” Long term, it recommends “a military CSDP engagement.” It especially hopes “to compete with Turkish influence in the region, especially among Libya’s naval authorities. Brussels hopes the offer of training and new equipment could help the bloc become a more dominant force” (ibid).

More recently “the European Union formally established a military mission for Mozambique . . . to help train its armed forces battling IS-linked jihadists . . . The EU has several other training missions in Africa, including in Mali, Central African Republic, and Somalia” (Tancrede Chambraud with AFP, “EU to train Mozambique army against IS-linked jihadists,” Africanews, July 13, 2021).

U.S. President Joe Biden is being urged by political allies to support European aspirations. As Politico reported: “It’s time for the EU to become a global military power—and for the U.S. to stop thwarting Europe’s ambitions on defense. That’s according to a new report by the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank with close ties to the Biden administration” (David Herszenhorn, “Biden Urged to Push EU to Be a Military Power,” June 2, 2021).

Where all of this will ultimately lead is to the rise of what the Bible calls the Beast—a European-centered superpower wielding tyrannical power in the final years leading up to the return of Jesus Christ (see Daniel 2, 7; Revelation 13; 17-18). Led by a villainous leader who is also called the Beast, it will astound the world as it comes to dominate global affairs. It will wield such great military power that the world’s people ask: “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” (Revelation 13:4).

This power will actually be in conflict with a union of forces to the south and will end up occupying significant parts of North Africa and the Middle East. To learn more about all this, download or request our free study guides The Final Superpower and The Middle East in Bible Prophecy.

 

 

 

China’s hand on U.S., UK power grids, agriculture

A disturbing article early this year noted that “for years now, Chinese businesses have been quietly positioned at the heart of British infrastructure. Were a conflict to erupt, their employees could, willingly or otherwise, be mobilized by Beijing . . . What could this mean in practice? To put it simply . . . , President Xi Jinping could, at the flick of a button, turn off the lights at 10 Downing Street—not to mention freeze Britain’s financial system and paralyse its hospitals” (Clive Hamilton, “How China Could Turn Off Britain’s Lights,” UnHerd, Jan. 25, 2021).

To some degree, America is similarly threatened, as the title of a piece by RedState commentator Nick Arama highlighted regarding a White House press secretary statement: “Jen Psaki’s Answer on Why Biden Suspended Rule Protecting US Power Grid From China Is Incredibly Concerning,” Jan. 26, 2021).

If the lights were indeed to go out for a significant amount of time in multiple regions, with electronics knocked out, these nations would be in great calamity and peril.

As if that’s not cause enough for alarm, there is also the matter of foreign takeover of territory, food production and technology.

A Politico headline reads: “China is buying up American farms. Washington wants to crack down” (Ryan McCrimmon, July 19, 2021). As it states: “Chinese firms have expanded their presence in American agriculture over the last decade by snapping up farmland and purchasing major agribusinesses . . . By the start of 2020, Chinese owners controlled about 192,000 agricultural acres in the U.S., worth $1.9 billion, including land used for farming, ranching and forestry . . . Still, that’s less than farmland owned by people from other nations like Canada and European countries, which account for millions of acres each . . . But it’s the trend of increasing purchase and the buyer’s potential connections to the Chinese government that have lawmakers spooked.”

Another article at AgWeb, titled “While America Slept, China Stole the Farm,” points out that “China has breached the inner walls of the U.S. agriculture industry in what has arguably been the most expansive heist in farming history, and is currently attempting to steal or hack every conceivable facet of U.S. agriculture technology . . . Over the past decade, China has appropriated trillions of dollars in sophisticated U.S. technology, with a keen interest in the latest advances in the agriculture industry” (Chris Bennett, June 8, 2021).

Long ago, God told the Israelites that disobedience to Him would result in severe consequences to help bring them to repentance. He warned: “I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you” (Leviticus 26:17).

He said before this as a prelude, “You shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it” (verse 16). And this situation would ultimately become much worse: “A nation whom you have not known shall eat the fruit of your land and the produce of your labor, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually” (Deuteronomy 28:33). This would come most fully through invasion and conquest, as the Israelites suffered, yet before this the nation ended up paying massive tribute to foreign powers.

We will see the same terrible developments in the years ahead. A rival foreign power today taking over American farmland and technology should serve as a wake-up call. As should its positioning of itself in having some measure of control over American and British electric power. For more on what Scripture reveals is coming, download or request our free study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.

 

 

 

Al-Qaeda urges new U.S. attacks

At this 20th anniversary of 9/11, the terror group Al-Qaeda remains active. And its proponents are encouraging Islamic extremists in the West to take advantage of American civil unrest to conduct lone-wolf attacks.

As reported by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “on April 14, 2021, both Al Qaeda and the pro-Al Qaeda propaganda outlet Jaysh Al-Malahim Al-Electroni (Electronic Battle Army) released magazines that include articles about the cultural strife in America and the West more broadly. The articles touched on . . . the deepening of American political divisions . . . [and] portray the West as declining and divided . . . [One] gleefully predicts the imminent collapse of America into civil war” (“Al Qaeda, Supporters Advocate for Lone Actor Attacks in the West,” May 10, 2021).

The other “says a lone wolf should choose a ‘massive chaotic protest,’ preferably at night,” and recommends infiltrating the crowds, car ramming and stirring up fights with police (Art Moore, “Bloodbath: Al-Qaida Urges ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorists to Exploit U.S. Civil Unrest,” WND, April 18, 2021).

It further “offers a $60,000 Bitcoin bounty to any extremist who kills a Jewish, Christian or atheist police officer in a Western country” (ADL). As people within our society are turning on one another, enemies are watching for the opportunity to use that to their advantage and bring destruction on us all.

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