Judgment of the quick and the dead

Updated: Jan 30

In the older Episcopal Prayer Book (1928), which we still read from on occasion, in the Apostle’s Creed, we say aloud, “And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead.”


That is a statement of belief, as an Apostle, as one filled with God’s Holy Spirit understands.

The use of “quick and the dead” is an idiom that is found three times in the New Testament, and that is why it was placed in the Apostle’s Creed … understanding (of course) that “quick” is an Old English term, as found in the King James Version of the Holy Bible.


The Greek words written, “zōntōn” (Acts 10:42) and “zōntas” (2 Timothy 4:1 and 1 Peter 4:5) mean “living,” in our present day vernacular.


Today, when we read the Nicene Creed aloud we will say, “He will come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead.”  But, there is a subtlety that has to be grasped, relative to that older usage of “quick.”


This subtlety might make more sense to you after reading how Paul wrote, in his first epistle to the Christians of Corinth, “This, indeed, is what is written: “The first man, Adam, became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”


The “last Adam” is, of course, Jesus, but also all Apostles of Christ (as was Paul), until this line reaches the ultimate “last Adam.”


Still, in Paul’s text we find the Greek words for “living being” to be “psychēn zōsan,” which also means a “soul alive.”  A “soul alive” then means a body of flesh, one breathing in the air of life; and the word “zōsan” shares the same root verb as do “zōntōn” and “zōntas,” which is “zaó” (“I live, I am alive”).


In contrast, Paul used the Greek words “pneuma zōopoioun,”  meaning “spirit life-giving” or “a quickening spirit.”  The same root verb, “zaó,” as “I live,” becomes elevated to an ability “to make live.”  Adam became alive as an embodied mortal soul.  Jesus became an embodied mortal soul who could “give new life.”


This means there is MORE to life than simply being alive.


alive

In the news this past year, the daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown was found unconscious and rushed to the hospital.  Recently, she was moved to an extended care facility, where she (for all intent and purposes) is kept alive by her basic brain functions still being capable of making her muscles move so her lungs can respire … make her breathe in the oxygen of life.  Meanwhile, she is in a coma that keeps her without the life she once lived.


Thus, when we believe that Jesus Christ will come again, with the glory of God, to judge the living and the dead … the quick and the dead … that means Jesus will come as a “quickening” upon us who breathe in air AND who believe in God and Christ.  The judgment that will come upon each of us, individually, will be in respect to whether we have accepted “a quickening spirit,” or if we are just as dead as Bobbi Kristina Brown … breathing air, but spiritually lifeless … as far as serving God and Christ is concerned.


Now, I realize this is something most people do not know, as not many tell you the meanings of things like I tell them.  The Jews who served within the Temple, during Jesus’ days, believed there was neither Heaven nor Sheol for souls, believing there was only the living souls, who could be divided into Jews and Gentiles, and then further into good Jews and bad Jews.  The Pharisees believed there was a Sheol, which was a purgatory-like place, where the souls of the dead kind of wandered around, waiting for Judgement Day.  That would be one view of the “living and the dead,” but that ceased to have merit once Jesus was named the Messiah, assumedly spending a day in Sheol, saying, “You, you, and you over there … come with me.  The rest of you go to Hell.”


Today, most Christians believe they will go to Heaven, as long as they do a few good things before they die, with all the vermin of the earth going to roast in Hell upon death.


I do not see it that way, as waiting until the death bed to say, “I’m sorry,” is not a ticket to Heaven.  That is what I hear from reading what Jesus and the Apostles wrote, not based on what the best educated guess is, when one’s gifts and charitable donations to a church might play a role in such determinations of who goes to Heaven and who dies not.  Thus, I do not get all of my knowledge from books and Internet searches, so I stand alone, as an island of interpretation.


As I was told recently … I have no right to preach because I have not passed many tests on Christian topics and have not been given a document that says I can be hired as an official priest, in any highly regarded denominational institution.  But, that makes me wonder who tested and certified Paul, whose letters are studied by scholars today?


I digress.  Just know, it is always wise to beware of bus stop preachers; but it is never wise to fear a warning that false shepherds are (and will be always) among us.  As long as one is led by the Holy Spirit, the false will be exposed and the truth will set one free to challenge and expose the false.


I only know what I hear myself think, and I trust those thoughts … although those thoughts often lead me to seek out a semblance of “quickie education.”  Books and Internet searches help, when the voice points me in the right direction.  Once I find the truth, I can gather some data in my basket, to backup some of my thoughts with facts and figures.  That may come across as if I am properly educated in spiritual matters.


Still, I do not ask anyone to believe in me.  There is no Church of Robert that I represent.  I only speak my mind openly, so that your mind will be enabled to listen for the voice inside your heads, which leads you to test everything told openly.  Tests will prove the truth to you, so your beliefs are your own, and not simply the thoughts of others you mindlessly hear or read, believe and repeat, leading you to blindly trust others without question.


It is my role, I believe, to help others understand what the words in the books of the Holy Bible wholly represent, beyond what is commonly and most readily seen on the surface.  Everyone can navigate upon smooth waters and calm seas, but it is more important to be able to calm the rough waters, which much of Scripture can become, so fear and panic does not overcome anyone on board the bark of Christianity.


Now, from my thoughts I feel the need to tell you the meaning of “quick” and “quickening.”  This is because of the story in the Gospel of Mark, about King Herod beheading John the Baptist.


Some of you may recall a movie series, which spun off into a television series called Highlander.  The premise of all of them was constant, such that a group of semi-immortal humans walked the earth, forever looking like they were 32, strong and fit, while being in relationships with mere mortals.  Some of these characters were trying to help the mortals, while others tried to abuse them, seeking positions of wealth and power.  All the while, the bad semi-immortals were trying to kill the good semi-immortals, and vice versa.


According to the script line, the only way to kill one of these “heroes” was by cutting one’s head off, with his own sword preferably.  That would release the dead Highlander’s spirit, which was visually depicted as an eruption of power, like that of an electrical storm.  That energy would leave the killed being’s body, and then be absorbed into the killer’s body, giving him additional strength.


That release of Spiritual energy was called “the quickening.”


Highlander_II

It was much like the “pneuma zōopoioun” Paul wrote of, as it acted as an enhancement of life, as “life-giving spirit.”


Now, there is nothing I could find on the Internet that said this movie-TV concept was historically based, such that it may have been a belief once held in antiquity.  So, it is only be presented now as modern fiction; but like all things … if it can be thought, it can be reality, and it can have been thought of before by others, at different times, in different places.  It could be “life imitating art,” in reverse.


In the Mark reading, you may have noticed how the news of Jesus’ following and works reached King Herod after John the Baptist had been beheaded.  That news then leads to a “flashback,” as if Herod then remembered the history that led to John’s beheading.


I like to refer to Mark as the Sergeant Friday (a Dragnet TV show name) of the Gospels, such that Mark’s book frequently does not seem to offer much more than, “Just the facts ma’am.  Just the facts.”


Sgt. Friday

In the “facts” of today’s reading, Mark simply says, “Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers [those of a ghost] are at work in him [Jesus].”  But others said, “It is Elijah.””


Now this could make it seem that King Herod (Herod Antipas) heard this as the scuttlebutt in the air, as he took leisurely strolls around town.  Upon hearing the rumors spreading, Herod then decided, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised,” as if Herod believed in ghosts, more than immortal prophets coming down from the sky.


According to an article on Wikipedia, entitled “Ghost,” it states, “The ancient Romans believed a ghost could be used to exact revenge on an enemy by scratching a curse on a piece of lead or pottery and placing it into a grave.”  At the end of this reading from Mark’s Gospel today, we read, “[John’s] disciples heard about [his death by beheading], [so] they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.”


Obviously, John’s disciples could be the ones “scratching a curse on a piece of lead or pottery and placing it” in John’s tomb, so John could come back and exact revenge on Herod.


But, this is not how I read “the facts.”


It makes sense that King Herod would not stroll about town, especially in an occupied land where the dangers of revolt had to constantly be squashed by Roman soldiers.  A king, like Herod, would remain busy administering to the business of government; and, in that capacity, he would have trusted advisers come to him and report all the news of importance, giving Herod “the pulse of the town,” on a regular basis.


Thus, those who would warn about the spirit of John rising, they would be his aides of Roman heritage and religious traditions; while those who would say Jesus was Elijah, they would be of Jewish roots, as priests and scribes of the Temple who were loyal to the king.  Both offered the counsel of their wisdom, such that what Mark reports is an “educated guess,” and not simply some unfounded and biased opinions.


However, King Herod was also wise as king; and in that wisdom, he knew the importance of recognizing the wisdom of holy men: Roman, Jewish, and even the likes of a Jewish prophet, as was John.


By Mark telling of Herod’s talks with John, knowing King Herod “feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man,” one he protected while keeping imprisoned, we see how Herod’s wisdom meant that when he heard of Elijah’s return, Herod saw John as Elijah.  Herod’s intrigue of John led him to conclude that this great Prophet of Israel had indeed returned, only to be placed into the hands of Herod for fate to initiate the future.


The man whose actions, since John’s death, were producing all the new rumors and gossip (Jesus) Herod saw as actions coming from a Jewish warrior Messiah, one with mystical powers.  By saying “John has been raised,” Herod meant the threat of John the Baptist had been exponentially raised in this new person, Jesus.  Herod’s wisdom heard the thoughts in his mind say, “Jesus is the one who was prophesied to come after Elijah,” so Herod expected the future to bring about the threat of Jewish justice, as an attempt to destroy the presence of Rome in Palestine.


Just like from a Highlander movie script, King Herod saw his beheading  ordered as one done to a semi-immortal – John the baptizer as the prophet Elijah – thus releasing a quickening … sending out an increased ability of Spirit, which then settled within the life force of another.  Jesus was undoubtedly the beneficiary of that release; and the Greek name for Jesus (Jose) means “Increases / Increaser,” so Herod would have factored that meaning into his calculations.


As such, when Herod said, “John has been raised,” he meant the power of John had been released upon his execution, which then elevated Jesus to immortal prophet status … one who would exact the prophesied revenge.


Because Mark flashed back in Herod’s mind, after Herod had that inkling of royal wisdom causing him to draw the conclusion did, it was to show how King Herod realized he had signed his own death sentence.  By killing a man he found intriguing, a prophet he found much wiser than himself, and a man of God whom he feared, even while John was behind the bars of a prison, Herod had empowered an enemy.


The memory of Herod’s meant he sought the wisdom of hindsight, as well as the excuse for blame.  He saw it was all because of royal women.


belly3

Aaaaaahhh … if only men didn’t need women “to complete them,” then perhaps the Trojan War would have never been waged and perhaps Herod Antipas would have lived to a ripe old age, rather than dying at the age of 39 … only nine years later.


This, then, becomes the link to the Old Testament story of David dancing wildly before the ark, while Saul’s daughter (Michal – David’s wife) watched that display from her palace window.


While this is not read aloud today, Michal is recorded as having said to David, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”


I imagine that display was the male equivalent of Salome’s sensual dance before King Herod, which caused Herod to make promises he should not have made.  However, David danced feverishly to show God he was filled with the spirit of excitement for God and His ark.  Because of David’s selfless actions, God granted Israel the gift of safe-keeping.


Herod, on the other hand, acted as a god by granting a wish that should have been rejected, due to his wife manipulating their daughter.  Herod knew the request was not Salome’s; but, still he ordered an unjust death, to one he had been keeping safe, to satisfy the anger of a woman called a sinner.


Instead of taking part in the parade for the ark, as did “all the house of Israel,” Michal stayed at a distance, watching secretly.  Undoubtedly, Herodias sat silently watching the interaction between her daughter and husband.  Both Michal and Herodias were royally aloof … dead to the Spirit of God.  God’s judgment of Michal was to make her barren, never to give birth to an heir she would rather see rise to the throne.  God’s judgment of Herodias was to have her watch Salome fall through weak ice on a pool, reaching to grab hold of her just as the ice decapitated her.  Herodias stood holding the head of her daughter in her hands, as justice served in return.


David saw God “enthroned on the cherubim” atop the ark.  He showed God how much quick was in his steps.  That same Spirit spoke to John as he told prophetic words to King Herod, which Herod would realize after the fact.  David danced with just a loin cloth and rebuked the unholy criticisms of his wife.  John the Baptist wore animal skins and ate locusts as a sign of his refusal to be bought by the finer things offered in life.  Herod was a shrewd ruler; but he was also royally aloof, which allowed him to be influenced by the women in his life.


David knew the dangers of going against God.  The ark, after all, was returning home after having been lost by Saul, who took it without God’s approval, bringing a King of Israel defeat in battle.  Saul sentenced himself to die, by falling on his own sword after his son Jonathan was killed in action.  John knew the dangers that faced all Jews who pretended to maintain the laws, but who felt they were above any justice that could come against them, for doing as they pleased.


David wrote in his poetic reminder, “How the mighty have fallen.”


I imagine if King Herod knew that song, a lump must have come up in his throat then.  He must have gulped hard when he realized he should not have done what a little girl (coached by her mother) had asked him to do.  Sometimes, being royally aloof can put one into a cold and lonely position.


Herod had released a serious quickening … at least he thought.  He feared making another mistake.


David responded to Michal by saying, “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”  David heard a louder voice in his mind, which let him know what truly dignified a king.


That was the wisdom of the Holy Spirit speaking, the voice of the “life-giving spirit” that separates “the quick from the dead.”  David had it, thus he was “living.”  Herod did not have it, thus he was “dead.”


“Dead man walking,” as they say in prisons holding the condemned.


Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, “With all wisdom and insight [Christ, through God’s Holy Spirit] has made known to us the mystery of his will.”


It is that Wisdom that makes us quick.


All other wisdom comes through hindsight.  Herod’s wisdom was hind-sighted, which gave him a cold chill running down his spine because he could not undo what had been done.


Foresight is wisdom that speaks to us within our heads … before the parade or song and dance begins.  Those who are quick follow those leads.


Amen

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