The bodies of the dead in Christ have been in the ground, but theirs souls are with the LORD.
Iím not implying that you donít believe that, or that you said anything wrong in your letter.
Iím only using the occasion of your letter to speak on this subject of the dead in Christ.
The teaching about a soul leaving the body goes all the way back to the first book of the Bible:
When Rachel died, her body was buried (line 19), however it said that her soul departed when she died (line 18):
Genesis 35:18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin.
19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Beth-lehem.
Later, in the times of the kings of the divided kingdom, I Kings 17:20-22:
Elijah cried unto the LORD about the child being dead (line 20).
Then he stretched himself upon the body of the dead child (line 21)
Then he cried unto the LORD to let the childís soul come back into him again (line 21).
Then the LORD answered, and the soul of the child came back into the dead body, and he lived again (line 22):
I Kings 17:20 And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?
21 And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.
22 And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.
At the end of Peterís life, while he was still in the tabernacle of his body, he wrote II Peter (line 13).
The he wrote that he was shortly to put off that tabernacle (line 14)
His soul was shortly to depart like Rachelís departed.
II Peter 1:13 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;
14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.
Paul wrote to Timothy that his soul was shortly to depart like Rachelís departed.
II Timothy 4:6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
Paul knew that when his soul departed, it would be with Christ (line 23).
Yet he remained a while longer in the tabernacle of his flesh (line 24) for the benefit of the other Christians.
Philippians 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
Paul knew that when the soul of the Christian is still in the body that it is absent from the Lord (line 6).
Paul also knew that when the soul of the Christian is absent from the body, that it is present with the Lord (line 8)
II Corinthians 5:6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
Also, I have been often rebuked for bringing up Luke 16:19-31.
I was repeatedly told that it was only a parable.
However, even in other passages that are clearly parables, Jesus never taught false doctrine in those parables.
So whether it is a parable or not, Jesus only teaches sound doctrine and truth Ė he doesnít lie.
In the passage in Luke, Jesus touches on some doctrinal points:
1) Two men die and their souls depart from their bodies.
2) The body of the rich man was buried (we donít know what was done with the body of the Lazarus the beggar).
Luke 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
3) The soul of the beggar went to the same place that the soul of Abraham was.
4) However, the soul of the rich man went to hell.
Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
5) All three men (the beggar, the rich man, and Abraham) were conscious, out of their bodies, and in another place.
6) The conscious rich man in hell knew that his brothers were still alive and on the earth.
7) He did not want those living men to come to hell with him, when they die:
Luke 16:27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead
The rich man was already departed and conscious before the final resurrection, as his brothers were still alive.
If the souls of Christians donít go to be with Jesus, but rather sleep, trapped in a coffin for centuries with a decaying dead corpse,
then Jesus taught falsely, that people have conscious thoughts after they die and before the resurrection.
Jesus didnít teach that the rich man didnít want his brothers souls to end up in a coffin with their dead bodies,
but that the rich man didnít want the souls of his brothers in the place of flame and torment where he was.
If souls merely sleep in the coffin with their dead decaying bodies, and also if the lost are merely annihilated after they are raised,
then why would Jesus teach that a man would be consciously suffering in the flames of hell,
while his relatives still walked alive upon the earth, concerned about their eternal state?
To think that he would teach something false, however safely within the context of a parable,
would be like thinking that it is alright to lie, as long a one crosses their fingers.
So whether it is a parable or not, Jesus only taught truth.
Jesus didnít lie, stretch the truth, or teach false doctrine with a ďpoetic licenseĒ in the venue of a parable.
So according to Jesus, when a person dies, their soul is conscious and somewhere else.
Their body is asleep in the ground, awaiting resurrection.
But their soul is in either heaven or hell (no purgatory or limbo).