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Why Doesn’t God Give Christians “Soul Tickets”?

The English dub for Bleach: The Thousand Year Bloodwar cour 2 of has finally come out. Those who know me know that Bleach is my all-time favorite anime. Here’s the premise of the show in a nutshell; it’s about a teenage boy named Ichigo Kurosaki who gains the power of the soul reaper and who helps souls pass on to the Soul Society while also defending both the living and the dead from deadly soul-eating monsters called hollows. It started off with a sort of “monster of the week” formula until about 16 episodes in when major plots and story arcs started to pick up. It got canceled in 2012 and came back in 2022 to finish adapting the rest of the manga material into anime episodes.

In the fourteenth episode of The Thousand-Year Blood War arc titled “The Last 9 Days”, Ichigo begins training with Ichibei at The Soul King’s palace. Ichibei has told Ichigo he must “surpass what it means to be a soul reaper.” Meanwhile, Captain Shunsui Kyoraku travels to the World Of The Living to inform Ichigo’s friends [1]the ones not gifted with any sort of Soul Reaper, Quincy, Fullbringer et. al. abilities. about Ichigo’s special training. Kyoraku tells Keigo, Tatsuki, and Mizuiro that there’s a 1 in 10,000 chance that Ichigo might become so powerful that he won’t be allowed to return to the World Of The Living. Why? Because his spiritual pressure might be so intense that it might cause negative effects on The World Of The Living.

Ichigo’s friends are understandably upset at the news. At this point, Kyoraku pulls out three tickets that he called “Soul Tickets” He tells Keigo, Tatsuki, and Mizuiro that if they have these, they can come visit Ichigo in the Soul Society any time they want to. Just in case the worst-case scenario comes about. So they wouldn’t necessarily have to say goodbye to them.

In the world of Bleach, Soul Society is where “good” souls go to the afterlife [2]Unlike Heaven which requires moral perfection which can only be attained through keeping all of God’s commands perfectly, which Psalm 14:2-4 and Romans 3:23 says no one has. The good news though is … Continue reading. Whereas those who have done horrible atrocities against mankind go to Hell, which the fourth Bleach movie explores. [3]But, as explained in the previous footnote, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. See Romans 3:23. Ergo “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ … Continue reading

I have often wondered why God does not allow us to see our family members who have passed away and have gone to the intermediate state. God loves us and He loves our family members. So, why doesn’t God allow us to talk with our deceased relatives? Why don’t we have “soul tickets”? I mean, if both parties are saved and are in Christ, wouldn’t it be the kind thing to do rather than to force us to be apart for 20, 30, 40, 50 years, or however long it takes for us to die and go to Heaven to reunite with them? Why doesn’t a high-ranking angel come down and give us our own “soul tickets”? This is a question I’ve pondered for a long time, but it was brought home all the more powerfully in September of 2021 when my mother passed away. At the time of writing this, the second anniversary of her death is drawing near. And obviously, I have not spoken to her since.

I once posed this question on Facebook. Some of the Christian commenters were physicalists and answered that the reason is that our loved ones are dead. They are not conscious beings in any sense and they won’t be again until Christ returns and resurrects their bodies. I don’t accept this answer because there is plenty of evidence for mind-body dualism both in philosophy and in scripture. In philosophy, I recommend checking out The FreeThinking Argument Against Naturalism which Dr. Tim Strstton and I discussed on episode 23 of The Cerebral Faith Podcast. There’s also “The Identity Argument For The Soul”, and well evidenced Near Death Experiences (NDEs). These kinds of NDEs involve people with no measurable brain and heart activity describing conversations and events in places far away from their physical bodies. For example, someone who dies on the 5th floor in the ER may recall in vivid detail a conversation their family members were having on the first floor. Or they may describe other things they have no way of knowing unless they really were disembodied souls floating around. Medical Professionals and family members vouch for the accuracy of these reports. These cases are very well documented in books like “The Handbook Of Near Death Experiences: 30 Years Of Investigation” by Farnaz Masunian and Bruce Greyson, and “Beyond Death: Exploring The Evidence For Immortality” by Gary Habermas and J.P Moreland.

Biblically, we have passages like 2 Corinthians 5:8 where the Apostle Paul writes “To be away from the body is to be at home with The Lord.” And in the context of this verse, Paul uses the metaphors of a building and a tent for our resurrection bodies and current bodies respectively.

2 Corinthians 5:1-8

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

He says we want to move into the sturdier building. And we would rather not be found naked, but would rather be further clothed. But if physicalism is true, we are our bodies. This would mean we’re not in a tent waiting to move into a sturdy building, we are the tent. On physicalism you and your body are reducible in identity. You are your body. Yet, here Paul speaks of the body as though it’s something we inhabit. It also makes no sense to speak of being naked if you and your clothes are reducible in identity. You can’t be outside of yourself. You can’t be away from yourself. If we adopt a physicalist anthropology, Paul is speaking nonsense in 2 Corinthians 5 and The Bible is in error. Given that The Bible cannot err (since it’s the breathed out product of an infallible God), it follows that Paul is not speaking nonsense.

Moreover, let’s not forget what Jesus said to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43. When the thief told Jesus to remember him when he entered into his kingdom, Jesus said “Amen, I tell you. Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

Did Jesus and the thief rise from the dead and enter the new creation that very day? No. No, they did not. Jesus didn’t rise until 3 days later and the thief is still dead to this very day. The best explanation of Luke 23:43 is that Jesus was telling him that they would go to a good place after dying of crucifixion, a place called Paradise where they would be conscious and able to interact.

Christian Physicalism and its corollary view of Soul Cessationism are problematic for other reasons, but I think I have said enough here for the reader to understand why I don’t accept that answer.

So then, what is the answer? If I were to guess, it’s so that we can feel the full weight of the fall. Being able to talk to those in Paradise anytime we want might make death unthreatening. Perhaps we wouldn’t take it seriously. And perhaps we wouldn’t realize just how great of a salvation Jesus gives us in freeing us from it and promising us a future resurrection. Perhaps it is part of making sure that we don’t take a death-free state of affairs for granted when it comes.

Dr. Tim Stratton has talked about this in his article “3 Circles and ALL The Problems Of Evil”. Basically, he points out how Adam and Eve, and the pre-fallen angels took a suffering-free state of affairs for granted and wrecked it by choosing to fall into sin and evil. Stratton rhetorically asks that if you woke up tomorrow morning and the world was perfect, and all you had to do in order to keep it perfect was follow some rules, would you be willing to keep those rules? I don’t know about you, but my answer is a resounding yes! I hate all the sin around me. And not only the sin around me, but the sin within me as well. And I hate all of the suffering that our sins bring, including death.

Well, the reality is that for Christians, we will one day wake up in such a perfect world. Revelation 21:1-4 talks about the wonderful aspects of the new creation that God will create after Christ returns and vanquishes evil. Having learned how stupid and horrible sin is, having learned how horrible it is to live in a fallen world, we will do everything we can to keep such a world from ever coming to be again. God doesn’t have to remove our free will in order to keep us from sinning in the new creation. Even though we can sin, we won’t. We won’t want to. We’ll be like “Been there, done that.” Although death objectively has no sting due to the work of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55-57), we are still experiencing the horrible effects of it. It has no sting because, for the Christians, it can only temporarily hold us down. Death means we have to say goodbye to our loved ones even if they will live on as souls and be physically resurrected one day.

Perhaps like a Father showing tough love to his children, God is showing us tough love in letting us taste the bitterness of death. God wants us to see how serious death is. If some high-ranking angel showed up to give us “soul tickets”, perhaps we would come to see death as a trivial thing, not the enemy it really is. Perhaps we’d be like “Oh, my my mom is dying of Stage 4 COPD? No big deal, I’ll still be able to see her anytime I want. I’ve got my soul ticket. I’ll just come to visit her once or twice a week in Paradise.” As such, we would not see death as the enemy to be destroyed and long for its eventual destruction (1 Corinthians 15:26, Revelation 21:4).

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1 the ones not gifted with any sort of Soul Reaper, Quincy, Fullbringer et. al. abilities.
2 Unlike Heaven which requires moral perfection which can only be attained through keeping all of God’s commands perfectly, which Psalm 14:2-4 and Romans 3:23 says no one has. The good news though is that Jesus kept the law we couldn’t keep (Matthew 5:17, Romans 10:4) and died the death that we deserve as our penal substitute (John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 15:3, 1 John 2:2, 1 Peter 3:18). He suffered the punishment for our sins in our place. If we place our faith in Him, our sin will be imputed to Him and His righteousness will be imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus a.k.a God The Son suffered the wrath of God the Father in our place. We will see Heaven not because we are righteous or because we’re not as bad as Hitler, but because of Jesus’ righteousness imputed to us
3 But, as explained in the previous footnote, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. See Romans 3:23. Ergo “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 6:63.

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