Following on from the topic “The State of the dead – Conscious or Asleep” which looked to show that man is an integrated whole consisting only of flesh and blood. He was dust and God inspired that dust and he became a living soul. He is not consisting of a physical body possessed by an immortal metaphysical soul. Rather he dies and the breath inspiring his body returns to God who will put it back at the end of the age when the dead are resurrected either to life or to destruction.
There are however a few passages in scripture that would suggest otherwise if one reads them with a particular theological view point. This section “the state of the dead – Common objections” is intended to exhibit the intended reading of those passages, creating a unified doctrine with the rest of scripture.
In this teaching the following objections are discussed, 1. Saul talking to dead Samuel 2. God of the living Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, 3. Paul wishing to be absent from the body and present with the Lord, 4. The souls of martyrs under the altar 5. Luke 16 – The rich man and Lazarus, 6. Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration, 7. Jesus and the Thief on the cross, and 8. Jesus preaching to the breaths in prison
A few of those who believe in an immortal soul separate from body at death, argue that God is immortal and since according to Genesis 1, mankind is made in his image, then mankind must be immortal to. Yet scripture makes it clear in 1 Timothy 6:16-17 that God alone possesses immortality. How does being made in the image of God force a belief that man has an immortal soul? Why should only one of God’s attributes, that is immortality, be singled out for comparison? God is all-powerful and self-sufficient. Does it therefore follow that mankind, made in the image of God, is also all-powerful and self-sufficient? God is all-wise. Is man therefore possessed of boundless wisdom, because he is made in God’s image? Surely being made in God’s image cannot force a belief of immortality. Man has certain characteristics intended to reflect God, hence why God made us in his image. Nowhere in the root definition of image which is, “tselem” in Hebrew or “eikon” in greek, is there an implication of immortality.
So for the 1st objection – Saul talking to dead Samuel.
Passage is found in 1 Samuel 28. The reader is advised to read the whole chapter before continuing. Verse 3 speaks of all Israel lamenting over the death and burial of Samuel (a prophet of God). Saul who was King had been rejected by God (see 1 Samuel 15:10-35), so God refused to speak any longer to him, not even through Samuel. There was war all around the territory and Israel was left to face the Philistines at Gilboa. Out of fear of defeat, Saul set out of the camp at night to En Dor to see a demon possessed woman because the Lord had refused to speak to him through prophets nor dream nor by urim worn by the high priest. Upon arrival, this woman conducts a séance as she had intended to speak to the dead Samuel. The story continues in 1 Samuel 28:13-15 “And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I saw elohim ascending out of the earth. So he said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down. Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do.”
A few things to note from this passage is that this woman according to verse 7 is a medium. The Hebrew word used is “ob” which means to hold in. It is the same word used in Leviticus 20:6 of wizardry and necromancy. The passage reads “‘And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God.” The practice of seeking after those summoning spirits was something abolished by God. Saul specifically sought out a demon-possessed woman, to inquire of the demon.
So was it Samuel’s ghost that spoke to Saul or was it a demon speaking to Saul through a medium? Note again what the passage says “And the woman said to Saul, “I saw elohim ascending out of the earth. So he said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel,”. The woman in her trance saw “elohim” meaning “a god” coming out of the ground. Saul then asks what this god looks like. The Woman proceeded to say that it was an old man coming wearing a mantle. This description forced Saul to assume that was Samuel. The Bible makes it clear that all pagan worship and practices are offered to demons and not Almighty God (YHWH) (see Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:17; 1 Cor. 10:20-22; Rev. 9:20). Saul really believed it was Samuel but would Samuel a prophet of God be involved in a practice God has forbidden? Also, would God himself speak through Samuel via the mouth of a demon possessed medium?
If it was really Samuel, would a prophet of God be found telling a lie? Verse 19 of the passage has Samuel telling Saul he was going to die the next day but a study of the following three chapters reveals that Saul did not die until at least two days of his visit to the medium. Saul had to travel 15 miles from his camp in Gilboa to En Dor to see the medium and had to return to his camp that same night. The next day, the Philistines moved their entire army from shunem to Aphek and Saul moved his entire army from Gilboa to Jezreel. These locations were miles apart and moving entire armies over long distances take time. The day after the armies had been moved (the second day), David departed from the Philistine army before they engaged Saul’s army. While in battle Saul retreated to Mount Gilboa where he was killed.
Lastly, if it was indeed Samuel who spoke to Saul then doesn’t that contradict the rest of scripture? (see “The State of the dead – Conscious or Asleep”)
2nd objection – God of the living Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
Passage is Matthew 22:23-32/Mark 12:18-27/Luke 20:27-38
There were two popular sects of religious leaders at Jesus’ time, the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees believed and taught the resurrection and the Sadducees denied it. This passage records the Sadducees who holding on to a wrong presumption, challenged Jesus on the resurrection. The reader is advised to read the whole passage before continuing. The Sadducees in their objection supposed, should the resurrection be true, that a woman who married a series of brothers after the demise of the former, will be married to all the brothers at the resurrection. Their supposition was wrong because as Jesus exclaimed, no one will be married at the resurrection but will be like the angels. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, thus to prove the truth of the resurrection Jesus quoted Exodus 3:6 and 15 saying “have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living”. The passage in Luke adds “For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all will be living to him”.
Jesus’ point was that God called himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob long after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were dead. It is simply not possible for God to exercise authority and rule over dead men. A dead person is not able to serve, praise nor thank God according to Psalm 6:3-5 (see also “The State of the dead – Conscious or Asleep”). The statement God made, which was repeated by Moses that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was one showing that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will rise again. Hence why Jesus raised it to address the Sadducees on their disbelief.
Those who raise this passage as an objection argue that Jesus by calling God the God of the living, using Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as examples, is proof that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still alive in some other unseen world which according to them is hades. Others say they are alive in heaven by virtue of an immortal soul but both these assumptions are simply not what Jesus was alluding to. Jesus sought to prove to the Sadducees that the resurrection was true and that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will live again. Jesus on the contrary refuted any suggestion that there is an immortal soul by saying that God is not the God of the dead. The Bible makes it clear that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are dead (see Gen. 25:8; Gen. 35:29; Gen. 49:33). Should it then be said that Jesus was contradicting God’s written word by saying Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead? Or would one argue that Jesus was affirming the written word by implying that their physical bodies are dead but their immortal souls are not? If by death, Jesus meant a dead body and an immortal soul, when he said God is not the God of the dead but the living, then Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who are presumed to have merely left their dead bodies behind, are not subject to God since He is not the God of those whose bodies are dead. Where does that leave Jesus’ integrity and wisdom? Such a thought is strange and is simply not the point Jesus was making. Luke’s writing further establish that Jesus was speaking of a future time when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will live to God. Thus why he wrote in Luke 20:38 ““For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all shall be living to him”. Nowhere in scripture is living to God attributed to anything but physical life before death and life again after the resurrection.
The 3rd objection – Paul wishing to be absent from the body and present with the Lord
The main passage is 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:11
The reader is advised to read the whole passage before continuing.
“So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.”
Does this passage prove that man has an immortal soul that leaves the body at death? And by saying “we are confident, yes well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the lord”, is Paul also teaching that after the immortal soul leaves the body it goes straight to heaven where the Lord Jesus is? And if that’s what Paul is saying, isn’t Paul in conflict with John who in John 3:13 says “no one has ascended to Heaven, except the Son of man who came down from Heaven”?
The word “home” in the phrase “at home in the body we are absent from the Lord”, comes from the greek participle “ενδημουντες – endēméō,” which literally means “in public,” referring to socializing among one’s own kin or people. Also the word “absent” in the phrase “to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord”, comes from the greek participle “εκδημουντες – ekdēméō” which literally means “out public,” referring to socializing outside of one’s own kin or people.
The use of the word “body” in the whole passage is a metaphor Paul uses in many of his letters, especially in 1 and 2 Corinthians, referring to the body of Christ which is the gathering of believers on earth apart from the head (Jesus Christ, who is in heaven).
Therefore passage correctly translated ought to read “Having courage, then, always, and having observed that in-socializing within the Body, we are out-socializing away from the Master, (for we walk by belief, not by sight). Yet we are encouraged, and pleased, rather, to out-socialize from the Body, and to in-socialize with the Master. Because of this we are also anxious, whether in-socializing or out-socializing, to be well-pleasing to Him.”
This passage does not support the idea of an immortal soul leaving the body after death and neither is Paul in any way saying that an immortal soul goes to heaven after death. In fact the whole text from Chapter 4:7 to Chapter 5:11 is focusing on the bodily transformation believers will receive at the return of Christ. Something he made clearer in 1 Corinthians 15, even going as far as correcting the Pagan concept of bodiless ghosts in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, explaining that any hope of life is lost and our faith as believers is in vain if there is no resurrection. Surely if man has a conscious immortal soul leaving the body at death, hope is not entirely lost because that immortal soul could live in Heaven and continue to enjoy life. Yet Paul says there is no hope of life after death if there is no resurrection. Paul understanding that life ceases to exist at death and thus any hope of life again is in the resurrection and the resurrection alone.
The 4th objection – The souls of the martyrs under the altar
The main passage is Revelation 6:9-11.
“And when He opened the fifth seal, I saw beneath the altar the souls of those slain for the word of God and the witness they were having. And they called with a loud voice, saying: “How much longer, Master, holy and true, before You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the land?”
Those who stand on this passage claim that John is having visions of things in heaven and since the martyrs are speaking, they must be in heaven. Arguing also that there is an immortal soul leaving the body after death. If that is the case, why are the martyrs under the altar?
To understand this passage, one must explore the purpose of an altar, and comprehend also what is meant by souls.
The word “soul” comes from the greek word ‘Psuche’ and in Hebrew “nephesh” and it literally means “that which breathes or a breathing substance/being”, and it is often used interchangeably with blood, for example in Genesis 9:3-4 “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its soul, that is, its blood”. See also Leviticus 17:10-14, Deuteronomy 12:23-25 which states that blood is the soul of the flesh meaning, blood is the life of the flesh. Psuche/nephesh never means ghost or something that goes on living after death. That’s greek mythology which was never believed by the jews and neither was it taught by the apostles or the early church.
The blood of the animals was to provide a symbol of atonement for the people. The base of the altar was where the blood of animals was poured after the high priest had finished sprinkling blood on the mercy seat. See Leviticus 4:7,18,25,30,34; 5:9; 8:9; 9:9.
It may be strange that the blood of the martyrs under the altar can speak but this is consistent with scripture. In Genesis 4:10-11 we hear of Abel’s blood calling out to God for justice. The same thing we see the martyrs do and God assures them of justice but they had to be a little more patient, and to wait for others to be martyred. (For more on blood speaking see Hebrews 12:24. For more on justice for innocent blood that has been shed see Luke 11:50-51.)
All the martyrs will be resurrected in the end Revelation 20:4-6 “And I observed thrones and those seated on them, and authority to judge was given to them. And the souls of those having been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, who did not worship the beast or his image and did not receive the mark on their forehead or on their hand, they also come to life and reign with the Anointed one a thousand years.”
Correctly understood, the martyrs under the altar does not advocate the existence of an immortal soul.
The 5th objection – The rich man and Lazarus.
The passage under consideration is Luke 16:19-31
Again the reader is advised to read the whole passage before continuing.
There are many parables in the Bible both Old and New Testaments. Parables are short religious allegories told to draw the listeners’ awareness to their present condition in relation to God. One thing common among parables is the fact that they were based on conditions familiar at the time to the listeners. Jesus for example told many parables relating to planting and harvesting, terms used in farming. While some of his parables were intended to affect his listeners’ current circumstances, others were drawn from the Old Testament scriptures, something his listeners were familiar with.
An example of this is the parable of the vinedressers whom Jesus said the owner of the vineyard was going to remove and destroy, because they beat and killed the owners’ servants even killing the heir of owner. The religious leaders who heard him took offence to Jesus because they understood the parable as referring to them, and rightly so. This they knew because being familiar with the scriptures, Isaiah 5 and Psalm 80 recall the careful and loving treatment that the owner (God) gave to his vineyard (Israel). Yet the vineyard yielded only wild grapes (sin and rebellion). Out of frustration the owner threatens to destroy the vineyard. Not long after that God brought against Israel the Assyrians and then later, the Babylonians who destroyed both man and Jerusalem.
In the Parable of the vineyard of Matthew 21, Jesus just like Isaiah was reminding and warning the religious leaders of the past when God brought destructive judgement on the people and the land. Jesus concluded that parable saying “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?… Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder“, indicating that the religious leader were going to taste God’s judgement, after which God will plant new leaders.
Luke 16 – The rich man and Lazarus story is no different. Just like every other parable it was not to teach a new doctrine nor reveal present unknown state of affairs. It was meant to serve as an illustration of God’s plan for Israel generally including its leaders. Any literal interpretation of Luke 16 on the state of Sheol/hades will be a wrong application of the parable. If the parable of the mustard seed, the lost sheep, the ten virgins and many others were understood literally, the Kingdom of God will be reduced to absurdity. Luke 16 as a parable draws from many Old Testament scriptures the listeners were well familiar with.
The rich man is a representation of the Levitical priesthood, the scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees of Jesus’ time. Notice in the passage that it says he was clothed in purple and fine linen. Purple was the clothing of Kings (see Mark 15:17) and fine linen was the clothing of priests (see Exodus 39:27-29). The chief priests at the time had assumed power and rule over the people of Israel. This had continued following from the Hasmonean Dynasty (from the Maccabees) who were “priest-kings,” and continued to rule under Herod the Great. The Gospels make mentions in numerous places of the Sanhedrin, composing of the chief priest, the elders, and was supervised by the high priest. The Sanhedrin dealt exclusively in matters connected with legal procedure, verdicts, and decrees of a political nature. The Sanhedrin was the highest political authority, and at the same time the Supreme Court. It administered the criminal law, and had independent powers of police, and hence the right to make arrests through its own officers of justice. It also had the right to impose the sentence of capital punishment but not without the confirmation of the procurator.
The beggar Lazarus in the parable represents Jesus. The name Lazarus and its Hebrew component “E’Leazer” means “God is my help”. This term applied to Jesus in the messianic Psalms (see Psalm 22:16-19 and Psalm 40:6-17). Verse 17 of Psalm 40 concludes with the Christ saying “I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer, do not delay O my God”. Jesus drew the name “Lazarus” directly from Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus and the destruction of the Levitical priesthood in Isaiah 50:6-7. It reads “I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. “For the Lord God will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed”. Jesus came as a poor beggar (2 Corinthians 8:9), born in a stable, dependent on the support of others and homeless (Matthew 8:20).
Lazarus was full of sores, pointing to Jesus bearing our diseases and infirmities (Matthew 8:16-17). The dogs in the story are the gentiles who had sympathy on him, who also wished to receive from him (Matthew 15:22-28). The beggar Lazarus died, as did Jesus with the crucifixion, and was carried by the angels, pointing to the ascension of Christ (Acts 1:9-11). The term “Abraham’s bosom” is used only once in all of scripture, that is in Genesis 16:5 when Sarah gave her servant Hagar into Abraham’s bosom in an attempt to produce an heir to fulfil God’s plan to give Abraham an heir. God later told Abraham that Ismael was not going to be the one with whom he would uphold his covenant forever, instead he was going to perform his promises through Isaac (see Genesis 17). Thus Lazarus comforted in Abraham’s bosom shows that Jesus is the promised seed, tracing his lineage to Abraham through Isaac. Who is now seated at the right hand of the Father waiting for his enemies to be made his footstool (Psalm 110:1).
The rich man who represents the Levitical priesthood died, alluding to the destruction that God brought later in AD70, which was prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 23:37-24:2; Luke 19:41-44; Luke 21:20-24; and Luke 23:26-31. The Levitical priesthood was demolished as prophesied in Deut. 32:19-22; Isaiah 28-29; Isaiah 50:11; Malachi 1:6 – 3:12. Thus the rich man being found tormented in hades (i.e. grave) corresponds to the destruction of the temple, the exile from the Land, and the hostility of strangers in the land. An exile which is still in effect due to the lack of a present standing temple, and the existence of continuing hostility in the land of Israel since the siege of AD 70. The rich man crying out for Lazarus to bring relief is a cry for the return of the Messiah (Jesus) to restore Israel. The great gulf fixed making it hard for those who want to cross over refers to the sealed fate of those, including the Levitical priesthood who die having rejected the Messiah and consequently have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God.
Luke 16:27-31 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ Levi from whom belongs the Levitical priesthood had five brothers from the same mother – Leah. Leah’s sons are Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun (see Gen. 30). Abraham responded to the rich man saying “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead”. Indeed Jesus refused to show himself to the unbelieving world of the Jews (see John 14:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). And even though the apostles preached Christ’s resurrection, most of the Jews still disbelieved and were destroyed and exiled from the present land of Israel, and will be destroyed in the impending judgement to come.
The Jews at Jesus’ and the Apostles’ time thought that merely being a physical descendant of Abraham, guaranteed an inheritance in the Kingdom of God. Jesus sought to educate them that salvation was not a matter of birth right but a change of heart and obedience to God’s word both written (i.e. the law & the prophets), and incarnated (i.e. Jesus Christ, the Logos of God). Paul similarly in Romans and Galatians makes it clear that the seed of Abraham are those of the faith of Abraham and not birth right or law.
This parable of the rich man and Lazarus does not seek to prove torment by fire in hades. Such theology is contrary to the rest of scripture (see “The State of the Dead – Conscious or Asleep”). Any interpretation seeking to establish a present continuous conscious suffering in fire for the wicked while awaiting judgement is unbiblical. Job 21:22-30 reads “Can anyone teach God knowledge, since He judges those on high? One dies in his full strength, being wholly at ease and secure; His pails are full of milk, and the marrow of his bones is moist. Another man dies in the bitterness of his soul, never having eaten with pleasure. They lie down alike in the dust, and worms cover them. “Look, I know your thoughts, and the schemes with which you would wrong me. For you say, ‘Where is the house of the prince? And where is the tent, the dwelling place of the wicked?’ Have you not asked those who travel the road? And do you not know their signs? For the wicked are reserved for the day of doom; They shall be brought out on the day of wrath.”
The wicked are judged on a particular day, i.e the Day of Judgment. The bible teaches that there is one Day of Judgment where the wicked are judged and destroyed. Notice Job says the wicked are brought out of the grave, they are resurrected and judged on that day. Something consistent with Rev 20:11-15. If this parable is teaching a doctrine that the wicked are instantly brought into actual torment in fire, then one will have judgement happening before the day of judgement. This will render two judgments for the wicked yet the Bible teaches one judgment. Hebrews 9:27 “…it is appointed for men to die once and after this judgement”. The word judgment is “krísis” and it’s a normative singular noun. It refers to one judgment not two.
The 6th objection – Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration
The main passages are Matthew 16:27-17:13/ Mark 8:38-9:13/ Luke 9:26-36
The reader is advised to read the whole passage before continuing.
Jesus having prophesied of his second coming at the end of the age, took his disciples specifically, Peter, James and John to a mountain where he confirmed what he had prophesied, by showing them a glimpse of his coming Kingdom. Jesus was transfigured before them and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.
Some put forward the notion of an immortal soul based on this passage. Some believe Elijah died while other believe he is still alive either in Heaven with God or somewhere else. Some also believe Moses is dead while others believe he was resurrected and is still alive. Those who believe that Moses and Elijah are alive bodily do not hold this passage as an objection or as evidence to the idea of an immortal soul. On the other hand, those believing in the immortality of the soul argue that it was the immortal soul of Moses and perhaps Elijah that had been taken and brought to the mountain. The notion of an immortal soul proposes that the soul is a non-physical, unseen object. How then was Peter, James, John and Jesus able to see Moses and Elijah if it was their souls on the mountain? Why did Peter desire to build them a physical shelter? The transfiguration passage makes it clear that Moses and Elijah appeared in bodily form. They appeared “in glory” according to Luke’s Gospel. The word glory is a term used for those who have been resurrected though not merely being brought back to life but resurrected in the likeness of the risen Christ (see John 7:39; Romans 8:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:43; and Colossians 3:4). According to Matthew’s gospel, the experience on the mountain was a “vision”. The greek word translated as “vision” is “hórama” and it is a term used exclusively of experiences that are not actual present events. This word is only found in the Book of Acts in the events when Peter was told to kill and eat things he considered unclean, also of Paul in Acts 16 who saw by revelation a man in Macedonia calling for help, and of Ananias who was asked by the Lord to go see Paul in Damascus who had previously seen Christ on the road. Peter, James and John saw a vision of the resurrected Moses and Elijah in the Kingdom to come.
On the transfiguration, a voice came from Heaven saying “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. Hear him”, and was a direct reference to Psalm 2, a prophecy of Jesus Christ being installed as the King over the nations by the Father.
Peter testifying of what was shown them on the mountain wrote in 2 Peter 1:16-19
“For [it was] not from following cleverly fabricated myths that we made known to you the power and arrival of our Master Jesus Christ, but having become eyewitnesses of the magnificence of that One! For receiving from God the Father the honor and glory of the voice carried to Him (that which is beneath the Most-Excellent Glory), “This is My beloved Son, for Whom I delighted.” And we heard this voice carried out of heaven, being together with Him in the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word verified, to which you do well in heeding (like a lamp appearing in a dark place until the Day breaks and the light-wearing One arises)…”
Peter described the incident on the mountain as a preview of the “parousia” and Kingdom of Christ. The “parousia” is only used of Jesus’ second coming in scripture.
The 7th objection – Jesus and the thief on the cross
The main passage is Luke 23:39-43
“Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
This passage though not an objection to the complete mortality of man, is nontheless used in support of a conscious state in hades. Proponents of consciousness in hades argue along with the next objection yet to be discussed, that is of Jesus preaching in hades, that the thief was in Abraham’s bosom with Jesus. Consequently interchanging Abraham’s bosom with paradise which according to them is in Hades. Never do they interchange paradise with Heaven because they recognize that according to John 20:17, two days after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus told Mary that he had not yet ascended to His Father who was in Heaven.
The question for us is “What is “Paradise” and how is it related to Christ’s Kingdom?” The thief asked to be in Christ’ Kingdom and Christ spoke about paradise. From Jesus’ response, we can conclude that paradise is closely connected to the Kingdom. Otherwise we will have to admit that Christ ignored the thief’s request and spoke about something completely different.
The thief understood what Jesus meant by paradise. By recognizing that Jesus was a King, the thief showed he had some knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures. And it is in those same scriptures that paradise is found.
The word translated as paradise is from the greek word paradiso, which means garden or elaborate park. The Garden of Eden was called “Paradise” (LXX). In Genesis 2:9 “And God made to spring up also out of the earth every tree beautiful to the eye and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of the Paradise, and the tree of learning the knowledge of good and evil.”
Secondly, Christ’s Kingdom is also called “Paradise” (LXX) in Isaiah 51:3. It reads “And now I will comfort thee, O Sion: and I have comforted all her desert places; and I will make her desert places as Paradise, and her western places as the Paradise of the Lord; they shall find in her gladness and exultation, thanksgiving and the voice of praise.”
Thirdly, “Paradise” is the hope of believers and is found in the Kingdom. Rev 2:7 “… To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
It is of great necessity that one understands that nowhere in Scripture is “Paradise” ever associated with Hades or an intermediate state or heaven.
The thief was asking to be remembered in Christ Kingdom and Christ gave him that assurance by telling him that he was going to be in paradise with him. If reading from an English translation, one must bear in mind that there are no punctuation marks in greek. Therefore the comma placed before the phrase “today you will be with Me in Paradise” ought correctly to be placed after the word ‘today’. Leaving the statement as “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise”.
Abraham’s bosom from Luke 16 is not paradise, and paradise is not in Hades. Paradise is in the Kingdom to come, which is the Kingdom of the Christ.
The 8th objection – Jesus preaching to the breaths in prison
Main passages are Acts 2:27, Ephesians 4:7-10 and 1 Peter 3:17-22
The reader is advised to read the passages before continuing.
Do these passages support a belief that Jesus was preaching in hades before he was resurrected?
Let’s first begin with Acts 2:27 which is a quotation from Psalm 16:9-10. It reads “My heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul [i.e person] in Sheol/hades [which is the grave], nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption”. Notice that there is a parallelism in this passage between not being left in hades and not seeing corruption. In other words he will not see corruption because he will not be left in Hades which is the grave. Note also the preceding words in verse 9 “my flesh also will rest in hope, for”. This phrase demonstrates the expectation of the Christ that his flesh will rest in hope because God will not allow him to remain in the grave to see corruption. Nowhere in this passage is even a hint that hades is a conscious underworld but rather a confirmation that hades simply means grave.
Does the second passage Ephesians 4:7-10 teach that Jesus went to an underworld? It reads “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”–what does it imply but that He also first stepped down into the lower parts of the land? He who stepped down is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.”
Paul wrote this verse quoting from Psalm 68:17-18 which speaks of God ascending to heaven from Mt. Sinai. Paul drew a comparison to Jesus’ own ascension. By saying Christ first stepped down into the lower parts of the land, he spoke of Christ’ transition from Heaven to earth, even the grave and back up to heaven. The same is found in Philippians 2:5-8 which reads “Christ Jesus who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God [to be] plunder, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming in the likeness of men. And having been found as human in design, He suppressed Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death of a cross.”
Lastly does 1 Peter 3:17-22 teach that Jesus was preaching in an underworld?
It reads “For it is better to suffer for doing good (if God’s will determines) than for doing evil, since Christ also suffered for sins once, the Just for the unjust so that He may lead us toward God. Having been executed indeed in the flesh, and having been brought to life by the Breath, in which also having gone, He proclaimed to the breaths under guard, which were disobedient, when once the patience of God was waiting in the days of Noah’s constructing the ark, in which few, that is eight souls, were rescued through water”.
Take note that the time of the participles “Having been executed”, “Having been brought to life”, and “Having gone”, are antecedent in time to the main (indicative verb), “He proclaimed”. In other words, Christ died, was brought to life, and then went to proclaim. His proclamation did not happen nor begin before he was resurrected but rather after.
Also important to notice that there was a particular group of spirits i.e. breaths he went to speak to. These as the passage says were breaths who were disobedient in Noah’s time as he was building the ark. They are under guard because they were disobedient while God was exercising patience over the ungodly in the land. This passage teaches us that there are certain fallen angels under guard to whom Jesus went to preach. 2 Peter 2:4 also makes the point that God has incarcerated some disobedient angels and has reserved them for judgement. While the passage in 1 Peter 3 does not unequivocally say what Christ preached, verse 22 nonetheless lends itself to a basic assumption that Christ proclaimed his authority over them and the judgment awaiting them.
1 Peter 3:17-22 does not teach that Jesus was preaching in hades while his body was dead. The word Hades is not even mentioned in this passage to draw that theology. Also dispelling that theology is Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 and verse 10 “For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun… Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.”
1. Saul talking to dead Samuel – 1 Samuel 28-31
Séance forbidden by God – Leviticus 20:6
All pagan worship and practices are offered to demons – Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:17; 1 Cor. 10:20-22; Rev. 9:20
2. God of the living Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – Matthew 22:23-32/Mark 12:18-27/Luke 20:27-38
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are dead – Gen. 25:8; Gen. 35:29; Gen. 49:33
3. Paul wishing to be absent from the body and present with the Lord – 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:11
4. The souls of martyrs under the altar
Soul = Blood – Genesis 9:3-4;
Blood for atonement – Leviticus 17:10-14, Deuteronomy 12:23-25
Blood sprinkled on mercy seat and poured under the altar – Leviticus 4:7,18,25,30,34; 5:9; 8:9; 9:9
Cry for justice – Gen. 4:10-11, Luke 11:50-51, Hebrews 12:24,
5. Luke 16:19-31 – The rich man and Lazarus
Warning to religious leaders – Matthew 21; Isaiah 5; Psalm 80
Rich man (Levitical priesthood) in purple and fine linen – Mark 15:17, Exodus 39:27-29
Lazarus (Jesus) – Psalm 22:16-19; 40:6-17
Destruction of Levitical priesthood – Isaiah 50:6-7
Jesus a poor homeless beggar – 2 Corinthians 8:9; Matthew 8:20
Jesus bore diseases and infirmities – Matthew 8:16-17
Dogs (Sympathetic gentiles) – Matthew 15:22-28
Jesus ascension to Heaven (Lazarus carried to Abraham’s bosom) – Acts 1:9-11
Abraham’s Bosom – Genesis 16:5; Genesis 17
Rich man died and in torment (Levitical priesthood destroyed) – Matthew 23:37-24:2; Luke 19:41-44; Luke 21:20-24; Luke 23:26-31; Deut. 32:19-22; Isaiah 28-29; Isaiah 50:11; Malachi 1:6-3:12
Five brothers of Levi – Genesis 30
Lack of belief should one (Christ) rise from the dead – John 14:19-20; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Literal interpretation contradicts Job 21:22-30 and Rev 20:11-15
6. Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration – Matthew 16:27-17:13/ Mark 8:38-9:13/ Luke 9:26-36
In glory, the resurrection – John 7:39; Romans 8:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:43; and Colossians 3:4
A vision “hórama” – Acts 10 (Peter’s vision); Acts 16 (Paul’s vision of Macedonia call); Acts 9 (Ananias vision of the Lord)
Fulfillment of prophecies – Psalm 2; 2 Pet. 1:16-19
7. Jesus and the Thief on the cross – Luke 23:39-43
Paradise literally garden – Genesis 2:9, Isaiah 51:3, Rev 2:7
8. Jesus preaching to the breaths in prison – Acts 2:27, Ephesians 4:7-10 and 1 Peter 3:17-22
Angels in prison – 2 Peter 2:4
The dead know nothing – Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 and verse 10