|Revelation is progressive|
The Big RevealReady? Here it is: Revelation is progressive.
This has nothing to do, incidentally, with whether your theological views are "progressive" (i.e., liberal) or "traditionalist" (conservative). Instead it just means that Adam didn't understand as much of God's program for humanity as Noah did, Abraham didn't know as much as Moses, Isaiah could grasp more than Moses, and Jesus of Nazareth, well... he himself was the final, complete, and sufficient revealing of that program.
|"Spoken through his Son"|
Why bring this up now? Because what God reveals about death and what follows was revealed gradually over time. You can see it grow as we trace it throughout the Bible until in the New Testament Jesus gives it definitive form.
Two DifficutiesBut there are two things that happen with alarming frequency with the subject of life after death (and many other subjects for that matter):
1.) Sometimes people will reach right into the middle of the process of God revealing this teaching and cherry-pick a bit that they like. A variation of this is, in effect, ranking the earlier bits over the later, more complete bits of God's revelation.
So someone who, for instance, believes the dead are all unconscious until the resurrection (sometimes called "soul sleeping") will support that by quoting Book of Ecclesiastes 9.5 - "the dead don’t know anything." But when "the Teacher" wrote that, God wasn't done revealing things yet; that whole process was still going on. In fact, it still had a long way to go.
With anything we try to understand from God's revelation, like the afterlife, it is crucial that we take everything he has taught, as a whole, leaving nothing out. We need to try and hold the entire revelation God gave on that topic in our minds at once, and grasp the "story flow," not just cherry-pick our favorite proof-texts. And it is equally crucial that we look back at the whole long flow of what God revealed through the lens of the supreme revelation of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
2.) The other thing that happens with alarming frequency is that people chuck the revelation on any particular
With the afterlife for example many people believe that when you die, if you've lived a virtuous life, you shuffle off your old body and live forever as an immortal disembodied soul in Heaven. And this despite the fact that the Christian Movement has recited innumerable times over the centuries, "I believe in... the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting."
That first belief is actually a hodge-podge of old Greek ideas (like this one), not at all what Jesus or his Movement or the Hebrew scriptures teach.