Warren Prestidge is a Baptist pastor who has taught at both Auckland University and secondary school. Warren has been a lecturer for the Bible College of New Zealand and Tyndale College. For two years Warren also directed a Bible College in the Philippines.
This book is broken up into ten different chapters. The first three chapters discuss the topic of death, the fourth and fifth chapter then move on to discuss the possibility of life after death. The book hinges on the sixth chapter, which is where Prestidge discusses judgement: in the afterlife. From there, chapters seven and eight discuss the negative outcome of judgement; eternal destruction and hell, and the last two chapters discuss the positive outcome of judgement salvation and life with Jesus.
In his introduction, Prestidge invites his readers to ask some very important questions about the nature and destiny of humanity as a whole. “What about death? What about our ultimate destiny as human beings?” He states that the church has never actually been in full agreement on this issue, so it is worth exploring for ourselves. He proposes that the church has been influenced by Greek philosophy and culture, and this should prompt us to explore what the Bible really says about the topic at hand. Prestidge says “I am after truth, not originality. Furthermore, the book would become much larger, more expensive and less readable, if I were to enter into a detailed discussion of every point of Biblical interpretation.”
Section One: Death
Prestidge begins by examining the fate of all human beings, death. He says that the common solution to this problem over time has often simply been its avoidance. A second option has been to stare death in the face and compensate for it by attempting to live life to the fullest. Finally, a third sought option is to accommodate its acceptance into our lives. Prestidge examines some of the Biblical evidence for humankind’s mortality visiting themes such as God’s sentence of sin in which he declares that we were made from the dust, and we will return to the dust.
In the second chapter Prestidge then goes on to further examine the words surrounding these ideas, examining the words in Hebrew for dust, breathe and soul. These are the words found in the creation narrative that are often appealed to regarding of what human beings consist. Three things are noted in this chapter. First, the truth that we are made from dust, the physical material “stuff” of the earth. Second, the language of breath, which is sometimes also translated spirit, reveals that this breath is from God and returns to God. Human beings are not breath; they possess breath while they live and expire it when they die. Third, the language of the soul when examined reveals that humans are a soul (better-translated living creature), we don’t have a soul; we are a soul.
In the third chapter, Prestidge goes on to examine the most prominent Biblical metaphor for the state of death, sleep. Here he explores how this metaphor was prominently used in the Old Testament and then affirmed also in the New Testament by both Jesus and Paul. Prestidge then moves on to discuss and examine some of the historical beliefs held and taught by Christian theologians like Calvin and Luther. He concludes that during the time of the Reformation, Calvin sides with the Roman Catholic church on this issue attributing an immortal soul to humanity, while Luther focused on the Biblical argument of death as sleep.
Section Two: Afterlife
In the fourth chapter Prestidge begins by discussing Jesus’ parable of the “Rich man and Lazarus”. After showing that this text was a parable that was already in common use during Jesus’ time, he then moves on to discuss Jesus’ encounter with the Sadducees in regards to the resurrection. The remainder of the chapter examines texts such as the ‘thief on the cross’ and the idea of dying and going to a “heavenly home”. Prestidge closes the chapter by inviting his readers to explore the idea that eternal life starts in this life, here and now. We are promised the indwelling and presence of the Holy Spirit in this life, so we do not have to wait to begin experiencing eternal life.
Chapter five reminds the reader that death truly is the end of life. Here Prestidge draws on the Biblical texts that reveal that God alone has immortality. He shows that the hope of the Bible is presented in the resurrection of the body by Christ when he returns on “the last day”. Prestidge rightly points to the early church teachings that Paul passes down through his letters, that Christ died, he was buried, and that he rose again from the grave. If Christ is the model of perfect humanity, and we are called to follow him, we can expect our lives to follow the same pattern of death and resurrection.
Section Three: Judgement
So far, both the negative and positive outcomes have been examined, the negative being death that all humans will face and the positive being life, being made available through the resurrection. The fifth chapter of the book then examines who will receive eternal life, which is decided through God’s judgement. In this chapter, Prestidge examines three outcomes that the church has taught historically, Universalism, Eternal Conscious Torment, and Annihilationism. He then goes on to ask the question, have we been influenced in this area of our belief by Greek philosophical assumptions of God and humanity as well as Greek mythology?
Section Four: Destruction
Prestidge opens chapter six by examining the theme that runs throughout the bible, God’s offer of life and death. This theme can be seen in the Genesis account, in God’s covenant with the Israelites, in Jesus ministry and in the teachings of the early church. Prestidge shows his readers that God’s appeal has always been for his people to choose life over death. He then moves on to the more detailed Biblical language of death and destruction. He asks, what do these words mean and how are they applied to personhood and the body in the afterlife? He shows that the overwhelming evidence is the teaching of the complete and utter destruction of a person who does not choose eternal life with Christ.
Chapter seven then examines the Biblical imagery and language of Hell. Prestidge gives an overview of metaphors that have often led people to assume that destruction really means eternal torment. Here he looks at the language of fire, worms and maggots and eternal destruction. Prestidge rightly parses the language of Gehenna and Hades and deciphers the differences between the two words and how they are used in the Biblical text. He concludes the chapter with a discussion of the “lake of fire” in the book of Revelation, and rightly points to the fact that it is explicitly called the “second death”.
Section Five: Eternal Life
In Chapter nine, Prestidge declares “the twin traditional doctrines of natural human immortality and eternal torment have disastrously obscured the Christian Gospel over the centuries and seriously undermined its communication and reception.” He goes on to ask how we might restore the gospel of Christ that has so often throughout church history been warped. Church doctrine and history have sided with the majority view of denying our deaths and turning a loving God into an eternal torturer.
In his final chapter of the book, Prestidge invites his readers to remember the scope of God’s salvation. God has chosen to create a physical material universe and has called his creation good. While this creation may have taken a turn for the worse and turned out less than what God had intended, God’s plan has always been to restore, redeem and reconcile his physical creation. Prestidge rightly points to the hope of the Christian faith, which is the bodily resurrection modelled after Jesus Christ, our Lord. The hope is not only for the bodily salvation as individuals but for the entirety of God’s creation and that Christ will return and once again dwell with his creation on earth.
In a final Appendix, Prestidge also tackles a text in the book of 1 Peter that has been used to teach the Catholic doctrine of the ‘Harrowing of Hell’. Prestidge concludes that Jesus was not in fact in Hell between death and resurrection rescuing disembodied souls from the pits of Hell as the Roman Catholic Church teaches.
Prestidge gives a great pastoral overview and examination of the themes of the life, death and destiny of man as recorded in the Biblical text. The flow of the book follows the positive and negatives of life and death now, the hope of bodily resurrection and the positive and negative outcomes of life and death in the afterlife. This book is easily accessible for readers to discover the Biblical evidence and truth. Prestidge sets out to explore the Biblical narrative in search of truth and offers what he has found in an honest presentation. He offers up for his readers the opportunity to do the same and choose where they will land on the topic. The author does what he initially set out to do, seek Biblical truth and present the evidence in a succinct and articulate way that can be easily digested and understood.