9.4 The beyond

The term "beyond" generally refers to all realms, events, and conditions that exist outside of the material world. In a narrower sense this term refers to the realm of the dead (Hebrew: Sheol; Greek: Hades), and will, in the following, be used with this meaning. Thus, in principle, the beyond and the dead are invisible to living human beings. However, departed souls can, in individual cases, show themselves. To make contact with the dead through necromancy or channelling is prohibited by God and therefore sinful (Deuteronomy 18: 10-11).

The Old Testament describes the realm of the dead as a predominantly dark place (Job 10: 21-22) where the dead find themselves in a condition bereft of joy (Psalm 88: 10-12; 115: 17). Yet there is also a note of hope for redemption from darkness (Psalm 23: 4; 49: 15).

In His parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus, Jesus Christ referred to the bosom of Abraham, an image of security (Luke 16: 19-31). From this parable, further details can be derived:

  • After physical death, the human soul lives on in the realm of the dead. The individuality of the soul remains intact.

  • In the realm of the dead there is a place of security as well as a place of torment, which are separated from one another.

  • The place in which a person's soul dwells after death depends upon his conduct with regard to God's will during his lifetime.

  • The departed can become aware of their condition. Those who suffer in agony will hope for help.

Beyond that, the parable refers to Jesus' resurrection, and thus also to His sacrificial death and the possibility of redemption founded upon it. It figuratively illustrates conditions in the beyond at the time of the old covenant: the gulf between the realm of torment and the realm of security was impossible to bridge in the old covenant.

Through His merit, Christ, the "firstfruits" in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15: 23), has overcome the Devil and defeated death (1 Corinthians 15: 55; Hebrews 2: 14). For the souls in the beyond He thereby also opened up a hitherto unimaginable proximity with God: the gulf between the realm of torment and the realm of security can now be bridged.

See also