Figurative Uses of Water Language in the Old Testament

This article is about how the Old Testament texts sometimes use “water” language figuratively.  (I’ll handle the New Testament passages in another article so that this doesn’t get unmanageably long–as it’s already a substantial article.)

Now, water is very important to both ends of the Bible story.  Consider its role at the conclusion:

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea (θάλασσα thalassa) was no more.

Whatever this is meant to convey, it’s obviously a big deal, because a Planet Earth with no sea would be quite a different place–whether it’s intended literally or figuratively.  I contend that the “sea” here was not intended to be a literal reference to any of the oceans of Planet Earth.  I also contend that the water/sea language at the beginning of the story was not intended literally, either:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters (מַיִם mayim) And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.  And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters (מַיִם mayim), and let it separate the waters (מַיִם mayim) from the waters (מַיִם mayim).” And God made the expanse and separated the waters (מַיִם mayim) that were under the expanse from the waters (מַיִם mayim) that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.  And God said, “Let the waters (מַיִם mayim) under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters (מַיִם mayim) that were gathered together he called Seas (יָם yam) . And God saw that it was good.

The point of this present exercise is merely to demonstrate that terms such as water and sea are used figuratively or metaphorically at times in the Bible.  I don’t mean to suggest that they are always used non-literally, mind you.  Again, the simple point of this exercise is to show that ruling out their metaphorical use in the beginning and end of the story is unfounded.

What remains here, therefore, will be a list of passages in which I contend that the use of such terms is figurative.  Some of what follows will be quite obviously figurative, and some will be debatable.  I’ve typically listed the passages first, with notes indented thereafter.  I have also made mention of various connections that may exist in the texts.

OLD TESTAMENT PASSAGES

Mayim occurs 585 times in 525 verses in the Old Testament.  You may look into it here. Here are some notable cases of metaphorical use, with notes following each excerpt.

Psalm 18:16 He sent from on high, he took me;
    he drew me out of many waters (מַיִם mayim).
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
    and from those who hated me,
    for they were too mighty for me.

The introduction to this Psalm of David says that it was written, “…on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.  It would seem that verses 16 and 17, therefore, are a classic case of Hebrew parallelism, whereby both verses refer to the same thing in different ways.  If I’m right about this, the “waters” are David’s “strong enemy”.  Thus, we have a case in which “waters” refers to beings.

Psalm 69:14 Deliver me
    from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
    and from the deep waters (מַיִם mayim).
15 Let not the flood sweep over me,
    or the deep swallow me up,
    or the pit close its mouth over me.

Here the “deep waters” are associated with “enemies”, “the flood”, “the deep”, and “the pit”.  It is hard to imagine a scenario in which “waters” here could be taken literally.

Psalm 77:16 When the waters (מַיִם mayim) saw you, O God,
    when the waters (מַיִם mayim) saw you, they were afraid;
    indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water (מַיִם mayim);
    the skies gave forth thunder;
    your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
    your lightnings lighted up the world;
    the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea (יָם yam),
    your path through the great waters (מַיִם mayim);
    yet your footprints were unseen.

Something simply must be figurative in this passage, for literal waters are not “afraid” and do not “tremble.”  If water here is a reference to beings, then the fear and trembling are literal.  And if water here is to be taken literally, then the fear and trembling would have to be poetic devices to describe the grand occasion (of the parting of the Red Sea), most likely.

Psalm 104:He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters (מַיִם mayim);
he makes the clouds his chariot;
    he rides on the wings of the wind;
he makes his messengers winds,
    his ministers a flaming fire.

This passage is packed with figurative things.  For example, are God’s ministers (servants) literally “a flaming fire”?  No, not literally.  And does the “wind” really have “wings”?  No, not literally.  What should make us think, then, that the beams of God’s living quarters are literally laid on the waters (H2O)?  There is certainly enough figurative language here to obligate us to consider that the waters here might not be literal.

Psalm 124:1 If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—
    let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side
    when people rose up against us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
    when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away,
    the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone
    the raging waters (מַיִם mayim).

Here the “waters” language is employed to speak of aggressive people.

Psalm 144:7 Stretch out your hand from on high;
    rescue me and deliver me from the many waters (מַיִם mayim),
    from the hand of foreigners,
whose mouths speak lies
    and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

Here the “waters” are unrighteous foreigners.

Psalm 148:1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his hosts!
Praise him, sun and moon,
    praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
    and you waters (מַיִם mayim) above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord!
    For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
    he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

In this psalm, the heavenly beings (including angels) are commanded to praise God.  It would seem here that “waters above the heavens” is a reference to certain heavenly beings.  And I note that the psalmist does not seem to expect that the waters below the heavens should praise God.

If you keep this in mind–that is, that the “heavens” here is a reference to angelic beings–then it raises the question of whether the next passage below should be understood in like fashion.  Or was the speaker in Proverbs 8 speaking literally?

Proverbs 8:27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea (יָם yam) its limit,
    so that the waters (מַיִם mayim) might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30     then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the children of man.

Unlike Psalm 148 above, this passage is talking about the waters below the firmament.  The psalmist had told the waters above it to praise God.  In Proverbs 8, however, we see that the “waters” below had been given a “command”, and that a “limit” had been “assigned” for the “sea”.  Once again, this puts us in a spot where we are forced to admit figurative language.  Either the words like “command” and “assigned” are being used figuratively for creative acts (rather than communicative acts), or the “sea” and “waters” here are beings that can be communicated with.  In either case–whether “water” and “sea” are figurative, or whether “assigned” and “command” are figurative–we have figurative language in a passage using “waters” and “sea” language.

Isaiah 17:12 Ah, the thunder of many peoples;
    they thunder like the thundering of the sea (יָם yam)!
Ah, the roar of nations;
    they roar like the roaring of mighty waters (מַיִם mayim)!
13 The nations roar like the roaring of many waters (מַיִם mayim) ,
    but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away,
chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind
    and whirling dust before the storm.
14 At evening time, behold, terror!
    Before morning, they are no more!
This is the portion of those who loot us,
    and the lot of those who plunder us.

Once again, “sea” and “water” imagery are used to speak of other people who will be rebuked by God, and who will flee far away.  This also brings to mind certain creation language about limits, boundaries, and commands not to be transgressed, such as in Proverbs 8:29 above.

Isaiah 57:20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea (יָם yam);
    for it cannot be quiet,
    and its waters (מַיִם mayim) toss up mire and dirt.
21 There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Wicked and restless people are in view here, likened to the tossing sea and its dirty waters.

Jeremiah 47:1 The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines, before Pharaoh struck down Gaza.“Thus says the Lord:
Behold, waters (מַיִם mayim) are rising out of the north,
    and shall become an overflowing torrent;
they shall overflow the land and all that fills it,
    the city and those who dwell in it.
Men shall cry out,
    and every inhabitant of the land shall wail.
At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions,
    at the rushing of his chariots, at the rumbling of their wheels,
the fathers look not back to their children,
    so feeble are their hands,
because of the day that is coming to destroy
    all the Philistines,
to cut off from Tyre and Sidon
    every helper that remains.

The “waters” here are the onslaught of a military attack–or perhaps, a reference to the people who will comprise that attack.

Jeremiah 51:54 “A voice! A cry from Babylon!
    The noise of great destruction from the land of the Chaldeans!
55 For the Lord is laying Babylon waste
    and stilling her mighty voice.
Their waves roar like many waters (מַיִם mayim) ;
    the noise of their voice is raised,
56 for a destroyer has come upon her,
    upon Babylon;
her warriors are taken;
    their bows are broken in pieces,
for the Lord is a God of recompense;
    he will surely repay.

Here the “waters” is a reference to the noise of the people of Babylon.

Ezekiel 26:19 “For thus says the Lord God: When I make you a city laid waste, like the cities that are not inhabited, when I bring up the deep over you, and the great waters (מַיִם mayim) cover you, 20 then I will make you go down with those who go down to the pit, to the people of old, and I will make you to dwell in the world below, among ruins from of old, with those who go down to the pit, so that you will not be inhabited; but I will set beauty in the land of the living. 21 I will bring you to a dreadful end, and you shall be no more. Though you be sought for, you will never be found again, declares the Lord God.”

In this decree against Tyre, God likens the ruin that will bring them down to Sheol to a flood of “great waters”.  Surely, this is not intended literally, for the verses that precede this passage make it plain that the city will be ravaged by war.

Hosea 5:10 The princes of Judah have become
    like those who move the landmark;
upon them I will pour out
    my wrath like water (מַיִם mayim).

Here God foretells his judgment against the “princes of Judah”–which might actually be a reference to angels who were supposed to be overseeing that tribe.  He uses the word “water” to describe this judgment.  Is this suppose to evoke images of overwhelming floods and multitudes of attackers as elsewhere?

Amos 5:8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
    and turns deep darkness into the morning
    and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters (מַיִם mayim) of the sea (יָם yam)
    and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the Lord is his name;
who makes destruction flash forth against the strong,
    so that destruction comes upon the fortress.

(Note:  This “pours them out” language is repeated in Amos 9:5-6)
Again, the watery language is used forebodingly of a coming destruction.  Is this supposed to evoke images of Noah’s flood?  Or rather, is it supposed to evoke images of the hordes of violent beings spoken of elsewhere?  Or is it, perhaps, both?  (And yes, this raises the very good question of whether we are to understand all the “water” passages in the Noah’s flood story as being strictly literal H2O, or whether there might have been some angelic beings involved in that somehow.  I’m not suggesting that there were, mind you, but merely that the question is naturally raised in the process of this investigation.

Now, back to Amos 5.  Interestingly, later in the same chapter, an alternative use of water appears—this time not telling about encroaching and restless hordes, but about righteousness and justice:

Amos 5:24 But let justice roll down like waters (מַיִם mayim),
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

This could be more judgment talk, but it might also be a reference to what things would be like once Jesus had been given all authority.  (This deserves more study, for which I do not currently have time.)  This idea may draw further support in the passage that follows below:

Habakkuk 2:14 For the earth will be filled
    with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
    as the waters (מַיִם mayim) cover the sea (יָם yam).

Here the watery language is used to tell of something good, and not of something bad.  As it is written in future tense, it makes me wonder whether it’s not speaking of how things would be once Jesus arrived.

Zechariah 14:8 On that day living waters (מַיִם mayim) shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea (יָם yam) and half of them to the western sea (יָם yam). It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.

As with Habakkuk 2:14 and (perhaps) Amos 5:14 above, here we see something new and good.  These living waters–obviously not literal–were to flow out from Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ appointment to all authority.  Zechariah was careful to designate that these waters were “living”, and we would do well to catch the distinction–just as we may distinguish between “angels” in the New Testament and “holy angels”, the latter of which are called such so that the writer can make sure that the reader knows it’s one of the good guys.

As to these “living waters”, I won’t get off on a tangent here, but you can view the passages where such phrase is used.

 

CONCLUSION

This concludes the Old Testament passages I have chosen to list.  It may well be that other “water” and “sea” passages in the Old Testament were also intended figuratively, but it is difficult to know which are which in some cases.

I think that this exercise is sufficient, however, to make it pretty clear that God and his prophets did make figurative use of “water” and “sea” from time to time.  Further, a good bit of that figurative use seems to paint a picture of surrounding hordes, either invading or threatening to invade upon good people.

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Adam, Satan, God, and Sin: Working the Puzzle

In this post, I’m going to introduce a line of investigation that could take me years to complete.  It’s an expansive puzzle, and I embark upon it having little idea how foolish it may one day seem to me–just as I have no idea just how right it may someday prove to be. So, at the risk of embarrassing myself, I’m going to put forward an hypothesis I’m considering.   I’ll show you the various puzzle pieces in a moment, but first, let me get right to the gist of what I’m investigating:

HYPOTHESIS:  Adam had made a deal with Satan, in writing, and this is the “handwritten code that was against us”—that Jesus canceled by his perfect sacrifice, “nailing it to the cross.”  (Colossians 2:14)

Now, I promise to tell you everything I know about this at length, but first, I’m going to set the stage with a few puzzle pieces in order to demonstrate why I think this hypothesis is worth pursuing.  Here are a few questions that I have never heard any traditionalist answer to my satisfaction.

  1. We read in explicit terms that Eve ate the forbidden fruit before Adam did.  How is it, then, that the entry of sin and death into the world is charged to Adam (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22), and not to Eve?  Could it be that some sin other than the eating of the fruit is what is in view here?
  2. God is the forgiving sort, right?  Just look at how he dealt with people like Abraham, Moses, and David!  So, if humankind was in need of forgiveness from God, why would God have to make a sacrifice to himself in order to do it?  Do you have to make sacrifices to yourself in order to forgive those who sin against you?
  3. It’s a famous fact that God is the true Creator and that he is above every created being.  Further, God had appointed man to “subdue” the Earth and to “have dominion” over every living thing on it. (Genesis 1:28) How is it, then, that Satan had come to be known as “the ruler of this world”?  Jesus called him that three times in John’s gospel.  (John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11)  Who had handed over the rule of the world to Satan, when did it happen, and under what circumstances?  Was that rule ever to come to an end?  And if so, how and when?
  4. The Law of Moses did not come until long after Adam and Eve’s sin.  And the Law of Moses was not given to the Gentiles, but only to the Jews.  How can that “handwritten code that was against us” (Colossians 2:13-14) have been the Law of Moses?  And if it wasn’t the Law of Moses, then what was it, and where was it written?

I’ll probably discover more issues like these as time goes by, but these are plenty to demonstrate that common Christian belief doesn’t have a very good handle on topics of this nature.  So now, I’ll get to a quick list of evidences that I believe may support the hypothesis above. Here they are in no particular order.

The Handwritten Code

The King James and several other translations are careful to state that whatever this document was, it was handwritten.  You can compare many translations here.  You’ll see why this is important next, but for now, let’s be careful to note that many translations rendered it explicitly in the same way the KJV does here:

Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

The Greek word translated as “handwriting” here appears only once in the Bible.  It is cheirographon (χειρόγραφον).  You can read all about it here.  I’ll get into its significance here in some other article some day when I have more time.  But for now, let it suffice to say that Paul used special care to distinguish handwriting from regular writing.  But why?

Writing With Ink and Paper

Here’s the crux of the hypothesis I’m exploring.  It’s from a widespread Ancient Near Eastern book called The Book of Enoch, or 1 Enoch.

1 Enoch 69:9 He [a fallen angel-type named Penemue] taught men the art of writing with ink and paper, and through this many have gone astray, from eternity to eternity, and to this day. 10. For men were not created for this, that they should confirm their faith like this, with pen and ink. 11. For men were created no differently from the Angels, so that they might remain righteous and pure, and death, which destroys everything, would not have touched them; but through this knowledge of theirs they are being destroyed and through this power death consumes them.

Notice here that it wasn’t the mere act of writing that was considered a sin, but “that they should confirm their faith like this, with pen and ink.”  What was that all about?  And whatever it was, note that it has something to do with death.  Had this particular act of writing not commenced, it is stated that death would “not have touched them”.

So, again, what was this all about?  There’s no obvious reference to any sort of writing in the Genesis 2-3 account of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden.  Is this Book of Enoch just some bogus book, then?  Is it that easily settled?  Well, if it’s that easy, then how do we explain why the New Testament quotes 1 Enoch, and why a great many allusions to 1 Enoch appear in it?  The book was widely circulated and known in the First Century among believers.

Given that, you can choose either to shut down this investigation, or to look further into it.

The Book of the Secrets of Enoch (2 Enoch) presents a motive for Satan to be vying against Adam.  In the following passage, God is the speaker:

2 Enoch 31:1 Adam has life on earth, and I created a garden in Eden in the east, that he should observe the testament and keep the command. 2 I made the heavens open to him, that he should see the angels singing the song of victory, and the gloomless light. 3 And he was continuously in paradise, and the devil understood that I wanted to create another world, because Adam was lord on earth, to rule and control it. 4 The devil is the evil spirit of the lower places, as a fugitive he made Sotona from the heavens as his name was Satanail (Satan), thus he became different from the angels, (but his nature) did not change (his) intelligence as far as (his) understanding of righteous and sinful (things). 5 And he understood his condemnation and the sin which he had sinned before, therefore he conceived thought against Adam, in such form he entered and seduced Eva (Eve), but did not touch Adam.

So, God had conceived a plan to make a second world, in addition to the Earth.  He had put Adam in charge of the Earth.  Satan, however, being already condemned for his sin and confined to the Earth, plotted against Adam.

The Second World

Now, regarding that second world, we are told more in 2 Esdras 7.

2 Esdras 7:[50] For this reason the Most High has made not one world but two. [51] Inasmuch as you have said that the righteous are not many but few, while the ungodly abound, hear the explanation for this. [52] “If you have just a few precious stones, will you add to them lead and clay?” [53] I said, “Lord, how could that be?” [54] And he said to me, “Not only that, but ask the earth and she will tell you; defer to her, and she will declare it to you. [55] Say to her, “You produce gold and silver and bronze, and also iron and lead and clay; [56] but silver is more abundant than gold, and bronze than silver, and iron than bronze, and lead than iron, and clay than lead.’ [57] Judge therefore which things are precious and desirable, those that are abundant or those that are rare?” [58] I said, “O sovereign Lord, what is plentiful is of less worth, for what is more rare is more precious.” [59] He answered me and said, “Consider within yourself what you have thought, for the person who has what is hard to get rejoices more than the person who has what is plentiful. [60] So also will be the judgment {Syr Arab 1: Lat [creation]} that I have promised; for I will rejoice over the few who shall be saved, because it is they who have made my glory to prevail now, and through them my name has now been honored.  [61] I will not grieve over the great number of those who perish; for it is they who are now like a mist, and are similar to a flame and smoke–they are set on fire and burn hotly, and are extinguished.”

This second world, therefore, was to be for those that God would consider to be “the righteous.”  He was going to separate them out from the rest of humans, putting them in this second world.  Satan, however, had opposed this, and by some scheme, had held captive the spirits of the dead.

The Captives/Prisoners

Here are some brief evidences that the dead were considered “captives” and “prisoners” in Sheol/Hades.  And note further that the righteous among them were expecting to be delivered by God at some point.  But how had they gotten into this prison?  By what law?  By what decree?

Psalm 68: You ascended on high,
leading a host of captives in your train
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.

Isaiah 49:8 Thus says the Lord:
“In a time of favor I have answered you;
in a day of salvation I have helped you;
I will keep you and give you
as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land,
to apportion the desolate heritages,
9 saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’
to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Job 3:11 “Why did I not die at birth,
    come out from the womb and expire?
12 Why did the knees receive me?
    Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?
13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet;
    I would have slept; then I would have been at rest,
14 with kings and counselors of the earth
    who rebuilt ruins for themselves,
15 or with princes who had gold,
    who filled their houses with silver.
16 Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child,
    as infants who never see the light?
17 There the wicked cease from troubling,
    and there the weary are at rest.
18 There the prisoners are at ease together;
    they hear not the voice of the taskmaster.
19 The small and the great are there,
    and the slave is free from his master.

Psalm 79:8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
    let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
    for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
    for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
    for your name’s sake!
10 Why should the nations (That is, the dead of the nations who are around us in Sheol) say,
    “Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
    be known among the nations before our eyes!
11 Let the groans of the prisoners  come before you;
    according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
12 Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors
    the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
13 But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
    will give thanks to you forever;
    from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

Revelation 6:9  When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

2 Enoch 40:9  And I measured out the whole earth, its mountains, and all hills, fields, trees, stones, rivers, all existing things I wrote down, the height from earth to the seventh heaven, and downwards to the very lowest hell, and the judgment-place, and the very great, open and weeping hell. 10 And I saw how the prisoners are in pain, expecting the limitless judgment. 11 And I wrote down all those being judged by the judge, and all their judgment (and sentences) and all their works. 41:1 And I saw all forefathers from (all) time with Adam and Eva (Eve), and I sighed and broke into tears and said of the ruin of their dishonour: 2 Woe is me for my infirmity and (for that) of my forefathers, and thought in my heart and said: 3 Blessed (is) the man who has not been born or who has been born and shall not sin before the Lord’s face, that he come not into this place, nor bring the yoke of this place.  42:1 I saw the key-holders and guards of the gates of hell standing, like great serpents, and their faces like extinguishing lamps, and their eyes of fire, their sharp teeth, and I saw all the Lord’s works, how they are right, while the works of man are some (good), and others bad, and in their works are known those who lie evilly.

Regarding this last passage–and particularly the part highlighted in green–that Enoch understood that one did not have to go to Sheol/Hades if he were sinless.  But again, where is this written in any decree from God that is recorded in the Bible?  And if God was supposed to let these people out, how had they come to be there in the first place?  Remember, Sheol/Hades was the realm of Satan:

2 Enoch  31:4 The devil is the evil spirit of the lower places, as a fugitive…

By the time that Jesus arrives, however, Satan is being called “the ruler of this world”—and not only of those lower places (of Sheol/Hades).  How had he got control of not only what was below the earth, but what was on it?

The Accuser/Adversary

There is considerable legal language used in the texts about all these things.  I won’t go into it all here.  Indeed, I have not even studied it all exhaustively myself.  But let me point out just a little bit of it here:

Revelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Job 31:35 Oh, that I had one to hear me!
    (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
    Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!
36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder;
    I would bind it on me as a crown;
37 I would give him an account of all my steps;
    like a prince I would approach him.

Regarding the Job passage, it’s important to note that Chapters 1 and 2 tell us explicitly that Satan was the one accusing Job before God.  This “indictment” to which Job refers causes one to wonder whether there had also been an indictment or some other legal document in the case of Adam.

Now, considering this general topic of legal language, let’s reconsider the passage that started this entire discussion:

Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Whatever was this “handwriting of ordinances”, I doubt very seriously that it had originated with God, but with the accuser, the adversary, Satan.  Note how 2 Esdras (just below) says that evil was “sown” into Adam’s heart, and how it has since corrupted many.  Whatever the particular evil in question was, who shall we suppose had “sown” it into Adam’s heart?  Surely it was not God who did it.   And how strange it would be for us to conclude that Adam had sown it into his own heart.  The short list of remaining suspects, therefore, is Satan.  So let’s look at what 2 Esdras says would come from this sowing:

2 Esdras 4:30 For a grain of evil seed was sown in Adam’s heart from the beginning, and how much ungodliness it has produced until now–and will produce until the time of threshing comes! 31 Consider now for yourself how much fruit of ungodliness a grain of evil seed has produced.

He went out of his way to point out that it had had a very large effect of ungodliness.  Interestingly, the 1 Enoch passage about the writing with ink and paper makes a very similar statement.  Note the blue highlight here:

1 Enoch 69:9 He [a fallen angel-type named Penemue] taught men the art of writing with ink and paper, and through this many have gone astray, from eternity to eternity, and to this day. 10. For men were not created for this, that they should confirm their faith like this, with pen and ink. 11. For men were created no differently from the Angels, so that they might remain righteous and pure, and death, which destroys everything, would not have touched them; but through this knowledge of theirs they are being destroyed and through this power death consumes them.

Had this fallen angel, here called Penemue, also given Adam the idea to write some particular sort of thing?  That is, isn’t what’s in view here more than just learning the skill of writing?  Doesn’t the problem in this passage lie in exactly what they were writing?  Aren’t we told that it had something to do with “confirming their faith”—whatever that is supposed to mean?

Had Adam been suckered into some sort of rash contract?  Had he made some sort of boast on behalf of all his progeny?  He had somehow bound all of his descendants over to some sort of legal arrangement by which Satan would become the master of all who would act out of faith with God?

These are just speculations, of course, for so far, I have not discovered any of the details of this “writing with ink and paper” that had caused such a problem.  The reason I speculate as I do, however, is that it took one perfect person to nail this handwritten code to the cross.  Up until Jesus, nobody had been worthy to do it.

I want to be careful here, but this brings to mind the language of Revelation 5, concerning the unsealing of a certain scroll:

Revelation 5:And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”…..And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

I say I want to be careful, because I’m not certain that this particular scroll that was being opened was this “handwriting of ordinances that was against us”.  The reason I cite this passage, rather, is because Jesus’ perfection and his conquering of evil had made him worthy to do a thing that nobody else could do.  And this brings me back to the Colossians 2 passage we have been considering all along.  Look how Jesus is said to have humiliated those certain “principalities and powers” that seem to have had something to do with this ‘handwriting of ordinance that was against us”:

Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

For the record, I believe that this “triumphing over them” was the “binding of Satan”, and that it happened on the very day that Jesus was resurrected.  I believe that they were bound in the pit–held captives in their own jail–until they were let out at about 66AD “for a little while.”  It was only then that Peter would write of Satan:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Was it an oath?

Several times as I have pondered what might be the nature of whatever ill thing had been set into handwriting, I have wondered whether it might have been some manner of boast or oath.  These passages come to mind:

2 Enoch 49:1 I swear to you, my children, but I swear not by any oath, neither by heaven nor by earth, nor by any other creature which God created.  2 The Lord said: There is no oath in me, nor injustice, but truth.  3 If there is no truth in men, let them swear by the words, Yea, yea, or else, Nay, nay. 4 And I swear to you, yea, yea, that there has been no man in his mother’s womb, (but that) already before, even to each one there is a place prepared for the repose of that soul, and a measure fixed how much it is intended that a man be tried in this world. 5 Yea, children, deceive not yourselves, for there has been previously prepared a place for every soul of man.

Matthew 5:33 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

James 5:12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Had Adam fallen under condemnation by way of an oath?  If not Adam, then where would we find the basis for such passages?  And how shall we understand the nature of the evil involved in such oaths.  Indeed, Jesus says (Matthew 5:37) that anything beyond yes or no “comes from evil”.  Oh?  Well, we can certainly take his word for this; after all, he should know.  But why is it evil?  One gets the feeling that there’s probably something behind this—some story.  But where’s the story?

Was it a boast?

I’ve also considered a couple of boasts from scripture, and whether Adam’s handwriting incident might have been something similar in nature.  Here’s what I have in mind:

Jephthah.  Judges 11:29-40.  Jephthah makes a rash vow to God that he’ll if God will do such and such, Jephthah will sacrifice the next thing that walks out the door to his house.  What was he thinking?  He probably was not thinking, actually, for what family man would have risked such a vow.  Yes, he might have expected some animal to come out, but did he not know, or should he not have known, the risk that a human might have been involved?

Peter.  This one, I’ll simply paste here in its entirety, for it reminds me more of something that Adam might possibly have done.

Matthew 26:30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

With this one in particular, I wonder about the state of Adam, who had possibly had little experience with himself.  In Peter’s story, he directly contradicts Jesus’ predictions—not just once, but twice!  Obviously, Peter is either overestimating his own loyalty and strength of conviction, or is underestimating the pressure that will be brought to bear upon him.  Even so, he makes the boast, not just once, but twice.  And we know the story; we know that he fails to keep this promise.

Might this have been something similar to what happened with Adam?  Might he have overestimated the righteousness of humankind, and bound them into some contract of subjection to Satan if they should fail to be righteous?

Perhaps a hint of this exists in the following passage from 2 Enoch, wherein God recounts what happened in Eden:

2 Enoch 30:And I appointed him a name, from the four component parts, from east, from west, from south, from north, and I appointed for him four special stars, and I called his name Adam, and showed him the two ways, the light and the darkness, and I told him: 14 This is good, and that bad, that I should learn whether he has love towards me, or hatred, that it be clear which in his race love me. 15 For I have seen his nature, but he has not seen his own nature, therefore (through) not seeing he will sin worse, and I said After sin (what is there) but death?

I don’t know.

At this point in my investigation, I simply don’t know the exact nature of whatever grievous thing had been written.  It was not, however, something insignificant, for its cancellation is tied to the very crucifixion of Jesus—one of the greatest events in all of history.  If it was not the Law of Moses that was canceled, and if it was not this contract with Satan that I’ve been speculating about, then what was it?

I have written here about “captives” of Satan, and have asked the question of how it was that they got this way.  Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but earlier in the very paragraph we have examined again and again, there is a reference to captivity:

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Note that this particular captivity is not merely one of misguided human activity, but also one of what the ESV here calls the “elemental spirits of the world”. You can examine the language of the verse yourself, and you’ll see that “elemental spirits of the world” seems to be a stretch of translation.  There is no Greek word in the sentence that we would normally translate as “spirits”, so “boo” on the ESV for doing that.  Indeed, they don’t render the same word, stoicheîon (στοιχεῖον) in the same way elsewhere.  Here are all six instances of stoicheîon in the New Testament.  As you read, note that some for of the word “element” appears in each case, yet the second word in red (where there are two) is not directly from the Greek, but is inserted in interpretive fashion:

Galatians 4:3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.

Galatians 4:9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ

Colossians 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!

An entire book could (should) be written about stoicheîon, but there’s no room for that here.  While the ESV struggled badly enough with rendering it in the first five instances, the last two are quite ridiculous.  2 Peter 3 already has a context of the destruction of the ungodly–and smacks considerably of the language of 1 Enoch, which book tells a great deal about how these corrupting angel-types who had intervened upon the Earth, causing great moral destruction, were going to be judged.  Even so, the ESV ignores all of that, and translates a word that works just fine as “elements” as “heavenly bodies” instead.  But there is not one iota of linguistic evidence in the Greek that supports such a choice.  Rather, the ESV is grasping at straws for a way to understand this passage, and opts to make it an end-of-the-world matter, rather than and end-of-Satan matter, which is what I believe Peter intended.

With the end of Satan would come the end of angel-types teaching evil principles to humankind.  No longer would humans be ensnared/enslaved by these worthless principles—at least not from being persuaded by angels to that end.  No, if humans were going to be ensnared thereafter, it would be completely their own doing–from their own evil desires.  And I want you to note the words in orange that appear in the first four (of seven) passages above.  They all mention this enslavement in one way or another.

Indeed, even 2 Peter mentions such enslavement in the chapter immediately preceding the 3rd chapter discussed above.  It speaks of people having been enslaved, and enticing others into such enslavement.  Look at the language here:

2 Peter 2:17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

The “fiery” end that was to come was the end of this sort of entanglement, whereby evil angels, who taught mankind what ought not be taught had rule over the Earth.  Our question, of course, is how all that had gotten started in the first place, and it seems more complicated than that Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit on a whim one day.

We simply do not know the whole story.  But I’m not done looking, for it is almost certain that more remains to be gleaned from the Ancient Near Eastern texts (including the Bible) than what I yet understand about all this.  I look forward to getting to the bottom of this—if its bottom can be gotten to.  And if my speculation about some sort of “deal with the devil” is wrong, I look forward to replacing it with something more plausible.

 

Please pardon the unpolished nature of this article.  It was suppose to be a 10-minute project just to outline the idea, but it turned into a live study session.  (And that was about 5 hours ago.)  So goes my life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The New Testament Timeline

The goal of this post is to provide for the reader a rough idea of what I think was the timeline for the major New Testament events that are particularly relevant to the Temporary Ekklesia Theory.  I’ll add hyperlinks for supporting articles as time allows, but from the following, you can at least get the idea of my current model of understanding.

I’m sorry this is so sketchy at first, but time is limited, and I’ve got to start somewhere.  I’m telling myself that I’ll fill in the details bit by bit, starting soon—but we’ll see how it actually goes. Continue reading

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2 Esdras on the Ages

While many are preoccupied with the question of whether certain extrabiblical Ancient Near Eastern works are “scripture”, I’m more concerned with the question of whether they are true.  Many of these were documents that were well-known to the apostles and prophets of the First Century, and if we want to understand the Bible, we need to understand the culture of their day.

I add to the pile of evidence, therefore, the following passages from 2 Esdras (2 Ezra) concerning when the ages were to change over. I hope to return to this article later to add some commentary, as well as some cross references to certain Bible passages.

When the “Shepherd” Comes

2 Esdras 2:33. I, Ezra, received a command from the Lord on Mount Horeb to go to Israel. When I came to them they rejected me and refused the Lord’s commandment. 34. Therefore I say to you, O nations that hear and understand, “Wait for your shepherd; he will give you everlasting rest, because he who will come at the end of the age is close at hand.  35. Be ready for the rewards of the kingdom, because perpetual light will shine on you forevermore. 36. Flee from the shadow of this age, receive the joy of your glory; I publicly call on my savior to witness. {Other ancient authorities read [I testify that my savior has been commissioned by the Lord]} 37. Receive what the Lord has entrusted to you and be joyful, giving thanks to him who has called you to the celestial kingdoms. 38. Rise, stand erect and see the number of those who have been sealed at the feast of the Lord. 39. Those who have departed from the shadow of this age have received glorious garments from the Lord. 40. Take again your full number, O Zion, and close the list of your people who are clothed in white, who have fulfilled the law of the Lord. 41. The number of your children, whom you desired, is now complete; implore the Lord’s authority that your people, who have been called from the beginning, may be made holy.”

Jacob and Esau

2 Esdras 6:7. I answered and said, “What will be the dividing of the times? Or when will be the end of the first age and the beginning of the age that follows?” 8. He said to me, “From Abraham to Isaac, {Other ancient authorities read [to Abraham]} because from him were born Jacob and Esau, for Jacob’s hand held Esau’s heel from the beginning. 9. Now Esau is the end of this age, and Jacob is the beginning of the age that follows. 10. The beginning of a person is the hand, and the end of a person is the heel; {Syr: Meaning of Lat uncertain} seek for nothing else, Ezra, between the heel and the hand, Ezra!”

Destruction of Jerusalem

Compare the following to Jesus’ sayings about the destruction of Jerusalem.

2 Esdras 6:20. When the seal is placed upon the age that is about to pass away, then I will show these signs: the books shall be opened before the face of the firmament, and all shall see my judgment {Syr: Lat lacks [my judgment]} together. 21. Children a year old shall speak with their voices, and pregnant women shall give birth to premature children at three and four months, and these shall live and leap about. 22. Sown places shall suddenly appear unsown, and full storehouses shall suddenly be found to be empty; 23. the trumpet shall sound aloud, and when all hear it, they shall suddenly be terrified. 24. At that time friends shall make war on friends like enemies, the earth and those who inhabit it shall be terrified, and the springs of the fountains shall stand still, so that for three hours they shall not flow. 25. “It shall be that whoever remains after all that I have foretold to you shall be saved and shall see my salvation and the end of my world. 26. And they shall see those who were taken up, who from their birth have not tasted death; and the heart of the earth’s {Syr Compare Ethiop Arab 1 Arm: Lat lacks [earth’s]} inhabitants shall be changed and converted to a different spirit. 27. For evil shall be blotted out, and deceit shall be quenched; 28. faithfulness shall flourish, and corruption shall be overcome, and the truth, which has been so long without fruit, shall be revealed.”

At the Day of Judgment

2 Esdras 7:113 But the day of judgment will be the end of this age and the beginning {Syr Ethiop: Lat lacks [the beginning]} of the immortal age to come, in which corruption has passed away, 114. sinful indulgence has come to an end, unbelief has been cut off, and righteousness has increased and truth has appeared. 115. Therefore no one will then be able to have mercy on someone who has been condemned in the judgment, or to harm {Syr Ethiop: Lat [overwhelm]} someone who is victorious.”

First Age Predated Humankind

2 Esdras 9:18. For there was a time in this age when I was preparing for those who now exist, before the world was made for them to live in, and no one opposed me then, for no one existed; 19. but now those who have been created in this world, which is supplied both with an unfailing table and an inexhaustible pasture, {Cn: Lat [law]} have become corrupt in their ways. 20. So I considered my world, and saw that it was lost. I saw that my earth was in peril because of the devices of those who {Cn: Lat [devices that]} had come into it.

12 Parts to the Age

2 Esdras 14:10. The age has lost its youth, and the times begin to grow old.  11. For the age is divided into twelve parts, and nine of its parts have already passed, 12. as well as half of the tenth part; so two of its parts remain, besides half of the tenth part.

 

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Angels as Shepherds: Part 2

In my previous article, I argued from the Bible that the “shepherds” mentioned in the some of the Old Testament passages of the Bible were not human elders or judges of Israel, but angelic beings, having been put in charge by God.  In this present article, I’d like to give you some more evidence to consider.  This time, I want to show you some extrabiblical evidence about what the Ancient Near Eastern culture was reading and thinking regarding these “shepherds”.

Below is a lengthy passage from the Book of Enoch (also called 1 Enoch), and it makes a Continue reading

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Parousia: Coming or Presence?

While Preterists continue to hash out the details of what all is fulfilled and in what way, there is an ongoing debate over the meaning of this word parousia.  It is the word used here of Jesus’ return:

Matthew 24:As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming (parousia), and of the end of the age?”

Many Preterists (but not all) have taken a view of the word that does not point so much to a second visit by Jesus to the earth, but a time of continual presence here, wherein he lives richly in the lives of believers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  They claim that this parousia began in 70AD and that it continues today.

This model does not have Jesus on the earth in his bodily form (as he left the earth), but in spirit.  He does not hold court in any place on earth, where he may be visited and seen and heard and questioned.  Rather, in their view, he holds court in the hearts of believers, invisibly.

I find this view terribly dissatisfying on these two counts in particular:

  1. How is it any different (really) from what was happening from the Pentecost of Acts 2 up until 70AD?  It is reduced to a mere token with no substance.
  2. Is the rampant disunity among Christians today, and the corruption of so very many of the churches really what we would expect from a model in which Jesus rules over his kingdom of believers at the personal level of their own hearts—interacting with each in real-time?

Jesus has a real body, just like angels and just like glorified humans.  Why would he not bring it with him?   And if he had promised the apostles that he was leaving to prepare a place for them, and that he’d return to take them to where he was, why, then, would he then abandon that place and set up shop on the earth?  Just imagine the disappointment of the apostles, who, after being taken off to heaven, would realize that Jesus was leaving his body in heaven to come down to the earth in order to indwell all the believers with his spirit!  Oh, I’m quite aware that they’ll tell me that Jesus remains in heaven, too.  But again, see my number 1 point above.

It makes no sense.  Is it not clear to us that we are not yet in heaven ourselves?  Is it not clear to us that we cannot go to God and with a question and get a clear, decisive, and immediate answer, we could those who walked up to Jesus in the flesh in the First Century?  That kind of communication is much to be preferred to whatever is available now, for in that case, there would be no wondering about “what the Spirit is saying to our hearts”, as many wonder today at their own risk.  Whether one understood Jesus or not, his actual words would have been clear, and could be recorded for posterity.

But he does not hold court today on Planet Earth, and says nothing in public.  There are no current statements from him that can be quoted.  Those who pray to him and who believe that he gives them answers have a terrible track record of getting things right.  It is as if they were working but from their own imaginations, and rarely stopping to check the results of their work.  If what we see about us in Christianity today is indeed the “spiritual kingdom” in which Jesus is keeping a “presence” (parousia), it is worse than what they had in the First Century under the apostles, prophets, and evangelists!  But who would think it right that the fulfillment of all things should be a worse state than before the fulfillment?

No, we are not yet in heaven.  And it’s still true that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven”.  No living humans are in that kingdom.  And what a sad commentary it is on anyone’s understanding of that kingdom that they would claim that their own church is indeed that very kingdom!

 

 

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Angels as “Shepherds”: Part I

I contend that certain divine beings, which I will call angel-types were referred to as “shepherds” frequently throughout the Bible.  There are about 111 “shepherd” passages in the Bible.  In several instances, literal shepherds (with sheep) are obviously in view, but in other instances, the term is being used figuratively of someone other than literal sheep herders.  When we read about things like “shepherds of Israel,” for example, many wrongly assume that what was in view were the various human leaders who were set over Israel.  I contend, however, that these are references to angel-types who had been given various roles of oversight over humans, and who were corrupt and doing a poor job of it.  The aim of this article is to demonstrate the high likelihood that many of these “shepherd” mentions are talking about God’s extreme dissatisfaction with the job the angel-types were doing of overseeing the various nations of the earth.

Let’s take a look. Continue reading

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The 144,000 Were NOT From The Great Tribulation

The “144,000” of Revelation 7 are NOT those who come out of the great tribulation. It’s easy to make errors while reading the Bible, and this one’s a common one.  Fortunately, however, this one is easily demonstrated and put away.   Here’s the text; look for the word “AFTER” in red below (vs 9).
 
Revelation 7:After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants[a] of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
5
12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
6
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
7
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
8
12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
A Great Multitude from Every Nation
 
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Two groups are envisioned here. The first we are specifically told are “from every tribe of the sons of Israel”. This vision is shown, and it was specified to John that these Jews had been assembled “from every nation” (vs 8). This does not mean that they were gentiles. No, they were faithful Jews whose ancestors had been deliberately scattered across the Earth in previous generations by Yahweh, for the exact purpose of spreading the fame of Jesus’ coming and re-coming to the Earth.  At some point in time (you’ll have to figure out when), they were to be sealed, apparently at such a time as they had totaled to some “full number”.
For whatever reason (you figure it out), God wanted John to see a vision of this group first. Then, after John saw that vision, he saw another—a greater multitude that had come out of the tribulation.  This passage, therefore, has two visions, and not just one.  That’s the common and simple error under which so many erroneously operate.
 
Thus does John in his visions of those eternally approved by Christ see the Jew first, and then the gentile.   Now, regarding the location of each group, the location of the Jews is not given, but the gentiles are specifically said to be standing before God’s throne in heaven.  Further, the first group is numbered (whether you think the numbers are figurative or literal), but the second group was said to be innumerable.
 
The 144,000 are shown again later, this time with Christ at his arrival on Mt. Zion. There they are identified as those “redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb. This is very important.  Here’s the text.
 
Revelation 14:Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.
Though it would have been nice to have this “firstfruits” information in Revelation 7, we do get it here.   And this does not present a huge problem for us if we are indeed the diligent sort who will go search out the entirety of a topic in the scriptures before drawing adamant conclusions about it.  And on that note, it’s important to note, however, that in no place are we told that those coming out of the great tribulation—John’s second envisioned group—were “firstfruits”.  No, only the 144,000 were firstfruits.  This means they had to come first.  Indeed, if they were going to return with Christ in 70AD, they had to be resurrected from Sheol/Hades before the great tribulation, which began in 66AD.  So, when was that resurrection?  Is there any mass resurrection on record before 70AD?  I’ll get to that shortly, after I set up another fact for your consideration.
The identity of this group causes a real problem for many Preterists as they see no opportunity for so many to have been taken out of the world in order to come back to the Earth with Christ at his return.  And to be specific, John tells us two specific things about this group’s redemption.  He says that they were  both “redeemed from the Earth” (14:3) and “redeemed from mankind” (14:4).  As to the latter, to be redeemed “from mankind,” if taken at face value, is to be taken away from the the place where mankind generally resides.  In my view, this is more likely a reference to being removed from the planet, than to being removed to some remote location on the planet.   And as to the former, being redeemed “from the Earth,” this might seem to back up the idea of them having been removed from the Planet, but I suspect it may be a reference to them having been redeemed from inside the Earth–from the underworld. (I’ll post another article to support the opinions expressed in this paragraph, as time allows.)  I think that these people were redeemed “from the Earth” (that is, from the underworld) here:
Matthew 27:50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
This would have been the event at which they were “redeemed from the Earth”.  And although it is not mentioned in Acts 1, I believe that they ascended to Heaven with Jesus at that time, which was the event of their being “redeemed from mankind”.  These two events, roughly forty days apart, may be generally understood as the “First Resurrection” of Revelation 20:4-6.  Here is the commonly mistranslated passage with the keyword highlighted in red.
Revelation 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.  (ESV)
 
Many people misunderstand both the nature of this First Resurrection and the identity of those so raised because nearly half the translations of that latter passage make it appear as if only martyrs are in view, and not the “whole house of Israel”. This, too, is a simple problem (getting the translation of Revelation 20:4 right), yet so few seem to go to the trouble to look it up and nail it down. Indeed, I’ve even seen people who have looked it up and seen that not only the martyrs were in view, and still go off and say that only the martyrs were in view. For some reason, it is very hard to keep some folks on the straight and narrow, even after demonstrating the facts to them.  (For more on the proper translation and interpretation of this passage, read this post.)
Regardless, that important “and” is missing from about half the translations, giving the wrong impression that only the martyrs were in view.  See it for yourself here.
These 144,000 were the faithful from Abraham’s seed.  They were not only to reign with Christ during the time of Satan’s imprisonment, but they were to return with him at his second coming, which was to happen at the end of the great tribulation.
 
Enoch, expressing the fullness of their number by different math from John’s, has them coming back with Christ, too:
 
1 Enoch 1:9. And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of ⌈His⌉ holy ones To execute judgment upon all, And to destroy ⌈all⌉ the ungodly:And to convict all flesh Of all the works ⌈of their ungodliness⌉ which they have ungodly committed, And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners ⌈have spoken⌉ against Him.
And we need not worry at this juncture over whether 1 Enoch is inspired, for Jude attests to the authority of this very passage by quoting it verbatim. (Jude 14-15)
 
Now, let us be careful to notice that at this coming in judgment, some they would “destroy” and others they would only “convict”.  This is a very important distinction, because a great many believers have a model of the second coming that has the Christians being taken off to heaven and the rest of mankind totally destroyed.  They don’t have a model in which “all flesh” would become merely convicted, yet that is exactly what is prophesied here.  And this model, I note, does not seem to rule out a Second Coming (70AD) in which the greater population of the Earth is allowed to survive here.
Secondly, we need to be careful in identifying the “ungodly” in Enoch’s language, for if we are hasty, we will take it as a reference to any human who is not righteous.  If this were the case, however, who would be left (undestroyed) to be “convicted”?  Indeed, the righteous would not be freshly convicted by this coming in judgment, for they had previously been under conviction in order to be converted to Christ in the first place.  No, the “ungodly” here is not a reference to humans, as we might assume, but a reference to the angel-types who had sinned. His “all flesh” refers to humankind, which is obviously a different group from the angels.
 
And that brings us to my model for the return and judgment at 70AD.   It was primarily a judgment against the fallen angels, as per the sentence pronounced in Psalm 82.  It was also a judgment against those in Israel who had been unfaithful as God’s chosen people, and had gone over to Satan.  The faithful among the Jews (who had previously died), were going to be raised in 30AD (with Jesus) and would come back with Jesus for that Judgment. 
 
In the vision of this return and battle in Revelation 19, these 144,000 appear (probably with other angels) as “the armies of heaven”.  Please read this passage carefully:
 
Revelation 19:14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.
These “nations” striken down are not to be understood as the peoples themselves (for Jesus did not strike down any culture on Earth in 70AD other than that of Israel) Rather, each country was known by the gods (the lesser elohim) that that had been appointed by Yaweh to rule over it. These were the ones who were to be struck down. And that’s what Jesus did at his return; he changed the world order by removing those unjust “shepherds”, so as to become the only and eternal shepherd—to which all the people of the Earth could gather if they please.
Posted in Anatomy of 2nd Coming, Anatomy of Redemption, Anatomy of the First Resurrection, Anatomy of the Second Resurrection, Anatomy of the Tribulation | Leave a comment

A Little Humility Is In Order

The Bible has about 35,000 verses. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that each verse had one and only one bit if information in it, that gives us a metaphorical jigsaw puzzle with about 35,000 pieces in it. But it doesn’t stop there, for it’s impossible to rightly interpret many of those pieces without also understanding the Ancient Near Eastern culture and its writings. So out come 1 Enoch and Jubilees, and a host of other works that, whether you consider them “scripture” or not, were known by, quoted by, and believed by many of the Bible writers. So let’s just estimate that we’ve now brought our Bible puzzle up to 50,000 pieces.

50,000 pieces to be understood and linked together just as God sees them, and not as some modern dabbler might like to force them together.

This is no simple task. In fact, here’s what most Christians do when they are reading and happen upon a verse they do not understand: they ignore it. But this task does not call for ignoring, but for researching each and every piece of the puzzle. And that research will necessarily entail the proving from time to time that we have had things wrong before—that we have jammed together two pieces that don’t belong together, or that we have left a gap where none is called for.

This is no casual task, and no full-time preacher is ever going to solve it. in fact, who can find one who WANTS to solve it? Are not most trained to leave the hard parts alone? And don’t their parishioners want it that way?

So in a discussion forum about how the pieces are properly put together, it SHOULD be unheard of that a participant should be found who is disinterested in hearing challenges to how he has put the pieces together, and who is disinterested in hearing someone else demonstrate a different way that fits better—whether about one piece or 100 or 1,000 pieces. The person who thinks he has it all more or less in place is just plain stupid. We all have gaps in our theories. We all have some pieces jammed into the wrong spots. We all have biases that TEMPT us not to listen to a better model. We all have the temptation of pride.

Sadly, almost nobody understands the true scope of the puzzle, and almost nobody is going after understanding it all. Rather, people seem to pick but a few pieces of the puzzle, and interest themselves primarily with those pieces—arguing with others over them, while having no clue how ignorant they are of the whole picture. People leave churches over such things, and then build new church only paces away, which differs boldly over a handful of puzzle pieces, while leaving the thousands upon thousands of remaining pieces unexamined.

Some will stupidly defend, claiming that that Bible is not meant to be understood, that certain statements in it ought not be taken as actual communications of fact, or that the best way to understand it is to decide NOT to understand it. All of that, however, is irrational, and charges God and his prophets with being the authors of confused senselessness. (And how ironic it is that even Jesus and his apostles are thrown under the bus for their talk of an immiment second coming. Even the respected CS Lewis resorted to this, calling them ignorant and deluded.)

So those who don’t understand—-rather than seeking to learn for themselves—tend to put the blame on God and the authors instead of themselves. How arrogant and misguided that is!

Meanwhile, there are myriad models—none completely right—regarding how the puzzle fits together. And among those working the puzzle, very few seem to understand the need to DEMONSTRATE how the pieces fit. Far too many think that their own say-so constitutes evidence—that their own belief is evidence unto itself—-as if they, unlike everyone else—-could not possibly have a wrong belief.

I realized a few years back that “I am most likely wrong about many things”. And this epiphany has done more to help my Bible study efforts than any other. This has led me to a practice of studying far more possibilities before deciding where a piece of the puzzle belongs—-and it has also led to the discovery of MANY points at which my previous understanding was in error—as well as the correction of those errors.

Yes, I duke it out with others, but it’s about discarding vain belief in search of weighty evidence to take its place. It’s about giving up bias and taking a reality-based approach instead. It’s about demonstrating facts, and not merely assuming them. And this way of thinking always leaves the door open to the possibility that it has got some pieces in the wrong places. So when challenged, it says, “OK, show me.” And those challengers who cannot demonstrate—who cannot show—or worse, who do not even WANT to show—-they are not taken seriously, because they derive their beliefs by another process that is not empirically or logically sound.

Meanwhile, that camp that insists that they understand it all by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that anybody who disagrees with them must be unregenerate—-well, just give them all a Bible quiz and then ask them to explain how the Holy Spirit has misled them so as to disagree with ONE ANOTHER on where this or that piece of the puzzle should go. I’ve never heard a responsible explanation of this.

It’s a giant truth table, folks. Mr. Red Letter Reader will never have a clue that so much of Jesus’ language is a continuation of the same themes from the OT and from the ANE literature—yet he will be so proud of himself and his devotion to the red letters. He will grossly overestimate his own understanding, because that’s what cognitive/moral misers do. They do not tend to make time for entertaining the proposition that they might just be wrong about some things.

So as we ponder what really happened in the Bible and what time it is now, we would do well to guard ourselves against the foolishness of assuming that we have it all more or less figured out. If an attitude of wisdom about such were to prevail, even a handful of funded researchers could get a very long way in the next decade or two. But that’s not how people tend to think. They would rather vie for popularity than to go about the mundane and tedious business of demonstrating how their positions are correct. So they tell and tell, but rarely show and show. And telling—-especially to an audience of co-tellers—-almost never works out well.

I have seen famous people stumble and run away when called upon to demonstrate how their assertions are accurate. This paradigm of demonstration is simply NOT widespread—-in the community of Preterists, or anywhere else. If a person were to hold his own tongue, and refuse to assert anything that he cannot demonstrate to be true, what a colossal difference that would make. Yet far too many get their kicks out of floating their pet theories without responsibly vetting them first. This is not proper for a people professing respect for God and Jesus.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

The Nature of the Bible Texts: Something Worth Pondering

Preterists have figured out that the second coming of Jesus happened circa 70AD, even though there is ZERO historical narrative about that event in the Bible. They figured it out largely based on the prophecies that it was GOING to happen, rather than on the testimony of historical witnesses that say they SAW it happen. Yes, they have a scant witness in Josephus, later quoted by a few others who found it reliable, but make no mistake: the bulk of the Preterist proofs rest on the reliability of what Jesus, his apostles, and so many others before them prophesied.

So why is that? Why would God deliver us a Bible with no eyewitness testimony as to the events of 70? Indeed, is this not a stumbling block for millions of Futurists who expect that if it had been so, they would have been told?

But instead, it’s as if God delivered the Bible through the generations from then to now saying, “Here’s some evidence; YOU figure it out.”

So here’s what I’m submitting for your pondering: What if the Bible is like that in a LOT of ways, and not just about 70AD? What if there’s a LOT that can be figured out by careful and wide-scoped examination, but is not otherwise obvious to the casual reader?

And then the irony: What if a lot of PRETERISTS, having figured out 70AD pretty well, are making the SAME mistake as the Futurists on other issues? What if they are settling for a “we don’t know” when they actually COULD deduce and infer their way legitimately into other various conclusions?

Let me remind you that there are many mysteries yet to me mined from the scriptures. Though a few may have figured some of this out, a great many consider things like the following to be not yet understood:

–When and why was Satan created?
–How did he come to be “the ruler of this world”?
–When was Sheol/Hades created and why?
–What all happened in Sheol/Hades and who was in charge of it?
–When was the “First Resurrection” of Revelation 20?
–Why doesn’t Genesis 1 follow the natural order of the cosmos better? (Plants before the sun?)
–What all did the Bene` Elohim/Sons of God/lesser elohim” do?
–How did they rule over the nations, and why did lifeless, carved idols come about?
–Why is the church today so very much different from the church of the First Century? What does God think about that?
–Where did the evil spirits come from?
–Are extrabiblical works, such as 1 Enoch, Jubilees, etc. considered scripture by God?
–Why would the ancient writers use language like “four corners of the earth” or “circle of the earth”? Did they not know any better, or were they talking about something else?
–Why are words like sun, moon, and stars anthropomorphized in the Bible? Is it “just” poetic language, or are we being told something else?
–Why did Paul say that the whole world had been evangelized, when we know that he only got as far as Spain? And we know that the Americas and the Far East were populated at that time?
–What was happening with all the angel-type beings that is not happening now? What would it have been like to live at such a time?
–Why would the First Century believers need all the super-human gifts and spiritual activity that we read about, and us not need them at all in our time?

What if some of this—and many other important questions—CAN be figured out from the documents we have?

I get the feeling that lots of Preterists are more or less “done” putting the puzzle together, but the way I see it, 70AD is the ****EASY**** part. The work is just beginning; it is not over or nearly over.

So what if God does have a “You figure it out” attitude about what he delivered (book-wise) to our generation? And what if we’re not all that busy figuring it out?

I don’t intend to be fearmongering with all this, like you’re going to hell if you’re not trying to figure out the timing of the First Resurrection. Nope. Just trying to prod some good thinking about all this. I hope I have 20 or 30 years left to live, and I hope to figure out a LOT more by the time I’m gone. And I hope to meet many others with the same desire.

Posted in Reflections, Theory Implications | 1 Comment

Understanding “The Testimony of Jesus” of Revelation 20:4

One of the most important verses regarding the events of the “end times” is this one below.  Much hinges on how it is interpreted.  In this present post, I intend to correct a very common misinterpretation of it.  Note the phrase in red.

Revelation 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Just who might these people have been, who were beheaded “for the testimony of Jesus”?  The most popular and easy-to-understand answer would point to those who, after the Acts 2 Pentecost, were beheaded for preaching Jesus.  Interestingly, the first of the New Testament martyrs is Stephen (Acts 7), but he could not be counted strictly under this verse, for he was stoned, and not beheaded.  Continuing through Acts, therefore, we come to James in Acts 12.  Even here, however, we are left with some uncertainty, for all we are told of James’ death is that he was killed “with the sword”.  It is not certain that it was specifically by beheading.  Moving forward, we find no more mentions of martyrs in Acts.  Nor do the epistles have any mention of beheading.  So while the idea could be a right one—that we’ll find the aforementioned beheaded martyrs in the years from Acts 2 forward, we have not one example of such in the texts.

Now, at this point, we could begin to question this word “beheaded”, to see whether it is reasonable and honest to take the word as a reference to anyone who was killed by hacking, stabbing, cutting, etc.  In this case, James could be included, but still not Stephen.

Of course, the reason we’d go looking in the New Testament for these martyrs is that we have a general perception that people started testifying about Jesus when he started calling disciples and apostles—and not before.  This idea, however, is bad one.  Consider these passages:

John 12:37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
40 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

Here the apostle John tells us that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Jesus.  And in the following passage, Matthew has more than one prophet in mind, having spoken of Jesus ahead of time:

Matthew 2:23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

And again:

Matthew 26:56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

And here it is in Jesus’ own words:

Luke 18:31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!

And here is explains a great deal of material about himself, not only from the Law of Moses, but also from the writings of the prophets:

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

In fact, theses were apparently not mere casual mentions of the coming Messiah in the writings of the prophets, for Jesus seems to have held these writings as something of a plan for his time on Earth:

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.

With this, he has opened up to us pretty much the entire list of writers from the entire Old Testament.  How many of these were martyred for their roles in testifying about him ahead of time?  And how many came to believe in Jesus as a result of this pre-testimony?  Look what Philip said:

John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

So there’s enough evidence to rattle the idea that the only important “testimony of Jesus” occurred AFTER his bodily appearance on the Earth.  But there’s more—and it should be compelling to you.  Jesus seems to have had a strong focus—for some reason—on the murders of those who had prophesied before.  Consider these passages:

Matthew 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

Matthew 23:31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!

Luke 11:47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation.  [Note that all this killing is here being associated with the very generation in which the words were being spoken–and upon which the imminent judgment was coming.]

Why were all these martyrs so important to Jesus?  Why such a focus on them?  And why associate them in some way with that very generation, when most of those martyrdoms were brought about by previous generations?

Well, that brings us back to Revelation 20, doesn’t it?  Judgment for those murders was imminent—and those who had been so murdered were about to be raised from the dead in the First Resurrection, along with all the other saints from Adam to Christ.

The fact of the matter is that the “testimony of Christ” had been going on for a very long time.  It was not something that began in 30AD or so.

 

Posted in Anatomy of the First Resurrection, Anatomy of the Judgment | 2 Comments

Sheol/Hades in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

Below are mentions of Sheol from several apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works.  This is a simple list, perhaps with notes here and there.  Generally, I make no claim as to the veracity of what is written here.  Read and believe at your own risk.

1 Enoch 51:1 And in those days shall the earth also give back that which has been entrusted to it, And Sheol also shall give back that which it has received,
And hell shall give back that which it owes.

1 Enoch 56:8 In those days Sheol shall open its jaws,
And they shall be swallowed up therein
And their destruction shall be at an end;
Sheol shall devour the sinners in the presence of the elect.’

1 Enoch 64:10. Now they shall say unto themselves: ‘Our souls are full of unrighteous gain, but it does not prevent us from descending from the midst thereof into the †burden† of Sheol.’

1 Enoch 99:11. Woe to you who spread evil to your neighbors;
For you shall be slain in Sheol.
12. Woe to you who make deceitful and false measures,
And (to them) who cause bitterness on the earth;
For they shall thereby be utterly consumed.

1 Enoch 102:5. And grieve not if your soul into Sheol has descended in grief,
And that in your life your body fared not according to your goodness,
But wait for the day of the judgment of sinners
And for the day of cursing and chastisement….9. I tell you, ye sinners, ye are content to eat and drink, and rob and sin, and strip men naked, and acquire wealth and see good days. 10. Have ye seen the righteous how their end falls out, that no manner of violence is found in them till their death? 11. “Nevertheless they perished and became as though they had not been, and their spirits descended into Sheol in tribulation.”

1 Enoch 103:5. Woe to you, ye sinners, when ye have died,
If ye die in the wealth of your sins,
And those who are like you say regarding you:
‘Blessed are the sinners: they have seen all their days.
6. And how they have died in prosperity and in wealth,
And have not seen tribulation or murder in their life;
And they have died in honor,
And judgment has not been executed on them during their life.”
7. Know ye, that their souls will be made to descend into Sheol
And they shall be wretched in their great tribulation.
8. And into darkness and chains and a burning flame where there is grievous judgment shall your spirits enter;
And the great judgment shall be for all the generations of the world.
Woe to you, for ye shall have no peace.

2 Baruch 11:6 Would that you had ears, O earth,
And that you had a heart, O dust:
That you might go and announce in Sheol,
And say to the dead:
7 “Blessed are you more than we who live.”‘

2 Baruch 21:19 How long will that which is corruptible remain, and how long will the time of mortals be prospered, and until what time will those who transgress in the world be polluted with much wickedness? 20 Command therefore in mercy and accomplish all that you saidst you wouldst bring, that Your might may be made known to those who think that Your long-suffering is weakness. 21 And show to those who know not, that everything that has befallen us and our city until now has been according to the long-suffering of Your power, because on account of Your name you have called us a beloved people. 22 Bring to an end therefore henceforth mortality. 23 And reprove accordingly the angel of death, and let Your glory appear, and let the might of Your beauty be known, and let Sheol be sealed so that from this time forward it may not receive the dead, and let the treasuries of souls restore those which are enclosed in them. 24 For there have been many years like those that are desolate from the days of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and of all those who are like them, who sleep in the earth, on whose account you did say that you had created the world. 25 And now quickly show Your glory, and do not defer what has been promised by you.’ 26 And (when) I had completed the words of this prayer I was greatly weakened.

2 Baruch 23:3 For as you have not forgotten the people who now are and those who have passed away, so I remember those who are appointed to come. 4 Because when Adam sinned and death was decreed against those who should be born, then the multitude of those who should be born was numbered, and for that number a place was prepared where the living might dwell and the dead might be guarded. Before therefore the number aforesaid is fulfilled, the creature will not live again [for My spirit is the creator of life], and Sheol will receive the dead. 6 And again it is given to you to hear what things are to come after these times. 7 For truly My redemption has drawn nigh, and is not far distant as aforetime.

2 Baruch 48:14 Be not therefore wroth with man; for he is nothing
15 And take not account of our works; For what are we?
For lo! by Your gift do we come into the world,
And we depart not of our own will.
16 For we said not to our parents, “Beget us,
Nor did we send to Sheol and say, “Receive us.”

2 Baruch 52:2 And why therefore do we again mourn for those who die?
Or why do we weep for those who depart to Sheol?

2 Baruch 56:5 And as you did previously see on the summit of the cloud black waters which descended previously on the earth, this is the transgression wherewith Adam the first man transgressed. 6 For [since] when he transgressed, untimely death came into being, grief was named and anguish was prepared, and pain was created, and trouble consummated, and disease began to be established, and Sheol kept demanding that it should be renewed in blood, and the begetting of children was brought about, and the passion of parents produced, and the greatness of humanity was humiliated, and goodness languished.

2 Baruch 83:17 And every possession of riches of this time is being turned into Sheol alone,

3 Baruch 4:1 And I Baruch said, Behold, Lord, Thou didst show me great and wonderful things; and now 2 show me all things for the sake of the Lord. And the angel said to me, Come, let us proceed. (And I proceeded) with the angel from that place about one hundred and eighty-five days’ 3 journey. And he showed me a plain and a serpent, which appeared to be two hundred plethra in length. 4 And he showed me Hades, and its appearance was dark and abominable. And I said, 5 Who is this dragon, and who is this monster around him? And the angel said, The dragon is he 6 who eats the bodies of those who spend their life wickedly, and he is nourished by them. And this is Hades, which itself also closely resembles him, in that it also drinks about a cubit from 7 the sea, which does not sink at all. Baruch said, And how (does this happen)? And the angel said, Hearken, the Lord God made three hundred and sixty rivers, of which the chief of 8 all are Alphias, Abyrus, and the Gericus; and because of these the sea does not sink.

3 Baruch 5:1And I Baruch said to the angel, 2 Let me ask thee one thing, Lord. Since thou didst say to me 3 that the dragon drinks one cubit out of the sea, say to me also, how great is his belly? And the angel said, His belly is Hades; and as far as a plummet is thrown (by) three hundred men, so great is his belly. Come, then, that I may show thee also greater works than these.

2 Esdras 4 And he said to me, “If I had asked you, “How many dwellings are in the heart of the sea, or how many streams are at the source of the deep, or how many streams are above the firmament, or which are the exits of Hades, or which are the entrances {Syr Compare Ethiop Arab 2 Arm: Lat lacks [of Hades, or which are the entrances]} of paradise?’
8. perhaps you would have said to me, “I never went down into the deep, nor as yet into Hades, neither did I ever ascend into heaven.’
9. But now I have asked you only about fire and wind and the day–things that you have experienced and from which you cannot be separated, and you have given me no answer about them.”
10. He said to me, “You cannot understand the things with which you have grown up;

2 Esdras 4:33. Then I answered and said, “How long? {Syr Ethiop: Meaning of Lat uncertain} When will these things be? Why are our years few and evil?”
34. He answered me and said, “Do not be in a greater hurry than the Most High. You, indeed, are in a hurry for yourself, {Syr Ethiop Arab Arm: Meaning of Lat uncertain} but the Highest is in a hurry on behalf of many.
35. Did not the souls of the righteous in their chambers ask about these matters, saying, “How long are we to remain here? {Syr Ethiop Arab 2 Georg: Lat [How long do I hope thus?]} And when will the harvest of our reward come?’
36. And the archangel Jeremiel answered and said, “When the number of those like yourselves is completed; {Syr Ethiop Arab 2: Lat [number of seeds is completed for you]} for he has weighed the age in the balance,
37. and measured the times by measure, and numbered the times by number; and he will not move or arouse them until that measure is fulfilled.’ ”
38. Then I answered and said, “But, O sovereign Lord, all of us also are full of ungodliness.
39. It is perhaps on account of us that the time of threshing is delayed for the righteous–on account of the sins of those who inhabit the earth.”
40. He answered me and said, “Go and ask a pregnant woman whether, when her nine months have been completed, her womb can keep the fetus within her any longer.”
41. And I said, “No, lord, it cannot.”
He said to me, “In Hades the chambers of the souls are like the womb.
42. For just as a woman who is in labor makes haste to escape the pangs of birth, so also do these places hasten to give back those things that were committed to them from the beginning.
43. Then the things that you desire to see will be disclosed to you.”

2 Esdras 8:51. But think of your own case, and inquire concerning the glory of those who are like yourself,
52. because it is for you that paradise is opened, the tree of life is planted, the age to come is prepared, plenty is provided, a city is built, rest is appointed, {Syr Ethiop: Lat [allowed]} goodness is established and wisdom perfected beforehand.
53. The root of evil {Lat lacks [of evil]} is sealed up from you, illness is banished from you, and death {Syr Ethiop Arm: Lat lacks [death]} is hidden; Hades has fled and corruption has been forgotten; {Syr: Lat [Hades and corruption have fled into oblivion]; or [corruption has fled into Hades to be forgotten]}
54. sorrows have passed away, and in the end the treasure of immortality is made manifest.
55. Therefore do not ask any more questions about the great number of those who perish.

2 Maccabees 6: 23. But making a high resolve, worthy of his years and the dignity of his old age and the gray hairs that he had reached with distinction and his excellent life even from childhood, and moreover according to the holy God-given law, he declared himself quickly, telling them to send him to Hades.

3 Maccabees 4: 8. Their husbands, in the prime of youth, their necks encircled with ropes instead of garlands, spent the remaining days of their marriage festival in lamentations instead of good cheer and youthful revelry, seeing death immediately before them. {Gk [seeing Hades already lying at their feet]}

Baruch 2:[16] O Lord, look down from thy holy habitation, and consider us. Incline thy ear, O Lord, and hear;
[17] open thy eyes, O Lord, and see; for the dead who are in Hades, whose spirit has been taken from their bodies, will not ascribe glory or justice to the Lord,
[18] but the person that is greatly distressed, that goes about bent over and feeble, and the eyes that are failing, and the person that hungers, will ascribe to thee glory and righteousness, O Lord.

Baruch 3:[10] Why is it, O Israel, why is it that you are
in the land of your enemies,
that you are growing old in a foreign country,
that you are defiled with the dead,
[11] that you are counted among those in Hades?
[12] You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom.
[13] If you had walked in the way of God,
you would be dwelling in peace for ever.

Ecclesiasticus 14:12 Remember that death does not tarry,
and the decree {Heb Syr: Gk [covenant]} of Hades has not been shown to you.
…16. Give, and take, and indulge yourself,
because in Hades one cannot look for luxury.
17. All living beings become old like a garment,
for the decree {Heb: Gk [covenant]} from of old is, “You must die!”
18. Like abundant leaves on a spreading tree
that sheds some and puts forth others,
so are the generations of flesh and blood:
one dies and another is born.
19. Every work decays and ceases to exist,
and the one who made it will pass away with it.

 

 

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Adam’s “Untimely Death”

Here’s an interesting passage in one of the apocryphal books, 2 Baruch, stating that Adam’s sin brought “untimely death” upon all.

2 Baruch 54:15 For though Adam first sinned and brought untimely death upon all, yet of those who were born from him each one of them has prepared for his own soul torment to come, and again each one of them has chosen for himself glories to come. 16 [For assuredly he who believeth will receive reward. 17 But now, as for you, you wicked that now are, turn you to destruction, because you shall speedily be visited, in that formerly you rejected the understanding of the Most High. 18 For His works have not taught you, nor has the skill of His creation which is at all times persuaded you.] 19 Adam is therefore not the cause, save only of his own soul, but each of us has been the Adam of his own soul.

In what way was it “untimely” for Adam to die?  Had it previously been planned that he would live longer—and that all his descendants would live longer?  Let’s turn to Genesis to find out:

Genesis 3:22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

The Hebrew word here for “forever” is עוֹלָם (`owlam).  Its meaning is not as clear as we might like, but we can gain some intriguing insight when we take a look at how the Septuagint translated it into Greek.  There it reads εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, which literally means “to the age”.  (Read more about that here.)   I’m currently pondering the possibility that the “forever” here in Genesis 3:22 indicates that the Tree of Life would have enabled Adam (and who knows how many others) to live to the end of the age into which he was Created—that is, until 70AD.  If this turns out to be true, it should significantly inform our understanding of Sheol/Hades and its purpose.

Anyway, while I’m still trying to sort it all out, consider this:  What would be the effect upon the world if the wicked were allowed to live for 4,000 years or so?  We know little about Adam’s later life, and whether he chose to continue defying God, or whether he changed his mind and became consistently obedient.  Either way, he lived 930 years, nearly a quarter of the years of that age (provided that we start counting that age at the creation).  Imagine some evil counterpart, determined to practice evil in multiple ways, living for 4,000 years.  How many such people could exist without utterly ruining anybody’s chances of living a decent life on the Earth?

It appears from the accounts of Noah’s flood that at that time, wickedness abounded, and the state of the Earth was so bad that God decided to hit the reset button, as it were.  Saving out only Noah and his family, he wiped out the rest of humanity, sending their spirits to Sheol to await the great day of judgment that was to come at the end of the age.  It was there in Sheol, “in the midst of the Earth” that God was working another great plan:

Genesis 48:16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

Abraham’s descendants, who were eventually supposed to be as numerous as as the stars in heaven (Genesis 15:5), were being collected in Sheol, and not on the surface of the Earth.  Perhaps there was an original plan to amass them all alive on the face of the Earth, but with this “untimely death”, they would have to be gathered into Sheol—or as it was often put, “Gathered to his people”:

Genesis 25:8 Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.

Here is an account—whether it is true or not, I cannot say—of the archangel Michael explaining at the death of Adam forward that all the righteous would be raised from the dead on a great day in the future.

Apocalypse of Moses 13:1 And Seth went with Eve near paradise, and I they wept there, and prayed God to send his angel and give them the oil of mercy. And God 2 sent the archangel Michael and he spake to Seth: ‘Seth, man of God, weary not thyself with prayers and entreaties concerning the tree which floweth with oil to anoint thy father Adam. For it shall not be thine now, but in the end of the times. 3 Then shall all flesh be raised up from Adam till that great day,-all that shall be of the holy people. Then shall the delights of paradise be given to them and God shall be in their midst. And they shall no longer sin before his face, for the evil heart shall be taken from them and there shall be given them a heart understanding the good and to serve God only. But do thou go back to thy father. For the 6 term of his life hath been fulfilled and he will live three days from to-day and will die. But when his soul is departing, thou shalt behold the awful (scene of) his passing.’

Please pardon the abrupt end to this post, as it is a work in progress.  I’ll post more as I discover it, and as time allows.

 

 

 

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Sheol/Hades Overseen by Angelic Beings

This page is a listing of evidences for the model by which an underworld existed, inhabited by angel-type beings who oversaw its operation.  What you will find below is excerpts from scripture with a few notes.

Luke 16:22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
The dead could not have been carried by angels to the various sections of Hades/Sheol unless angels had access thereunto.

Hebrews 2:5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.
Under the age that was then about to change over, the Earth was subject to the rule of angels.  This included Hades/Sheol.  This was the order of things.

2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
As we shall see, angels were in charge of such incarcerations.  See also Jude 6 below:

Jude 1:6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—

Revelation 9:1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit (Lit: pit of the abyss).
Here a fallen angel has the key to a section of the underworld.
He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
I doubt that these were literal locusts.  They were likely evil spirits.
They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.
The pit had a “king”.  Abaddon/Apollyon was used both as the name of the person and the name of the region of the underworld he oversaw:

Job 26:6 Sheol is naked before God, and Abaddon has no covering.
Here Sheol and Abaddon are associated.

Job 28:20 “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding?  21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air.  22 Abaddon and Death say, ‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’
Here Abbadon and Death (Maveth) speak.  So now we have Abaddon, Sheol, and Death linked together.

Job 31:12 for that would be a fire that consumes as far as Abaddonand it would burn to the root all my increase.

Psalm 88:10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
    Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in Sheol,
    or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
    or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
Here Abaddon is associated with Sheol, the departed, and darkness. 

Proverbs 15:11 Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lordhow much more the hearts of the children of man!
Once again, Abaddon is associated with Sheol.

Proverbs 27:20 Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfiedand never satisfied are the eyes of man.
This could be figurative language, or it could be an indication of the character of these two beings.

Revelation 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit (Lit: the abyss.  No word for “pit” here in the Greek) and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
Here an angel has the key to the pit of the abyss.

Revelation 1:18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
Here Jesus has the keys to Death and Hades.  He had once promised to give Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19).  Then Jesus was granted all authority in heaven and earth.  (Matthew 28:18ff)  At this point, all kingdoms were in subjection to him.  This is why he would have the keys to the underworld.

2 Esdras 7:85 The fifth reason—because they will see the dwelling places of others, guarded by angels in great silence.
This is a reference to that section of Sheol that was reserved for the righteous.  It was guarded over by holy angels, and remained in great peace, unlike the rest.

2 Esdras 7:86 The sixth reason—because they see the torment coming upon them from now on.
This torment was administered by angels, as we shall see.

2 Esdras 7:95 The fourth order—understanding the peaceful rest that they now enjoy, gathered in their resting chambers, guarded by angels in deep silence, and understanding the glory that awaits them in their last days.
Again, we see the righteous under guard in Sheol.

The following is an extended passage from Isaiah, foretelling the destruction of Satan’s fortress in the underworld:

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth (erets) and make it desolate (empty),
and he will twist its surface (turn it inside out) and scatter its inhabitants.
2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;
as with the slave, so with his master;
as with the maid, so with her mistress;
as with the buyer, so with the seller;
as with the lender, so with the borrower;
as with the creditor, so with the debtor.
3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered;
for the LORD has spoken this word.

Matthew 12:29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

The following verses tell of how the Earth had been destroyed by those who were soon to be destroyed themselves

Revelation 11:18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
The reference to “the nations raged” will be important later.

4 The earth mourns and withers;
the world languishes and withers;
the highest people of the earth languish.
5 The earth lies defiled
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed the laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
6 Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,
and few men are left.
7 The wine mourns,
the vine languishes,
all the merry-hearted sigh.
8 The mirth of the tambourines is stilled,
the noise of the jubilant has ceased,
the mirth of the lyre is stilled.
9 No more do they drink wine with singing;
strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.
10 The wasted city is broken down;
every house is shut up so that none can enter.
This is Satan’s city in the underworld.  See verse 13
11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;
all joy has grown dark;
the gladness of the earth is banished.
12 Desolation is left in the city;
the gates are battered into ruins.
Christ would free the captives–the prisoners.  See Matthew 27:52-53
13 For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth
This is something that was to happen inside the earth, and not on its surface.  Examine these passages, which are all references to the underworld.  
among the nations,
as when an olive tree is beaten,
as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.
14 They lift up their voices, they sing for joy;
over the majesty of the LORD they shout from the west.[b]
15 Therefore in the east[c] give glory to the LORD;
in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the LORD, the God of Israel.
16 From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise,
of glory to the Righteous One.
But I say, “I waste away,
I waste away. Woe is me!
This is Israel speaking from Sheol, in a common theme of being cut off in Sheol.  For example:

Psalm 79:Do not remember against us our former iniquities;[a]
    let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
    for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
    for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
    for your name’s sake!
10 Why should the nations (That is, the dead of the nations who are around us in Sheol) say,
    “Where is their God?”
Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants
    be known among the nations before our eyes!
11 Let the groans of the prisoners (there is much talk in scripture about the prisoners in Sheol needing to be set free) come before you;
    according to your great power, preserve those doomed to die!
12 Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors
    the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
13 But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
    will give thanks to you forever;
    from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

For the traitors have betrayed,
with betrayal the traitors have betrayed.”
Those in charge of Sheol had somehow betrayed the faithful dead.
17 Terror and the pit and the snare
are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth!
This is a reference to the binding of Satan and the other Sons of God (bene` `elohim) who were with him.
18 He who flees at the sound of the terror
shall fall into the pit,
and he who climbs out of the pit
shall be caught in the snare.
For the windows of heaven are opened,
and the foundations of the earth tremble.
19 The earth is utterly broken,
the earth is split apart,
the earth is violently shaken.
See Matthew 27:50ff
20 The earth staggers like a drunken man;
it sways like a hut;
its transgression lies heavy upon it,
and it falls, and will not rise again.
21 On that day the LORD will punish
the host of heaven, in heaven,
and the kings of the earth, on the earth.
22 They will be gathered together
as prisoners in a pit;
they will be shut up in a prison,
and after many days they will be punished.

Revelation 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
We see from Isaiah that this incarceration was not only for Satan himself, but for the rest of the “kings of the earth” who had rebelled with him.

23 Then the moon will be confounded
and the sun ashamed,

Acts 2:20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

for the LORD of hosts reigns
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
and his glory will be before his elders.
God Will Swallow Up Death Forever

Revelation 20:14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

25 O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
2 For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the foreigners’ palace is a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
Satan’s domain in the underworld was destroyed.  Note that it was a “city”, and not just a single house.  It also had a “palace”, signifying that Satan ruled over many.

———————

 

 

 

 

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“Forever” or “To the age”? New Testament

Have you ever been puzzled by a passage that uses the word “forever”?  Well, what if “forever” is not the most accurate translation?  The following passages I have listed here as a reference because there is something quite significant about them.  The words translated for us as “forever” may actually some some significance that we would never see if we did not go looking into the Greek.  As you shall see, the phrase εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα literally means “to the age”.  This αἰῶνα is the word from which we get “age” (αἰών, or aiōn, which should remind you of our English word “eon”). This should bring to mind the various discussions about the change of the ages that was imminent in the New Testament writings, such as where Jesus says:

Matthew 12:32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

And where Paul says:

1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

They were in a time of transition from one age to the next.  And that discussion centered around use of the word αἰώνSo our big question is this:  Is this just a meaningless coincidence that the term we read translated as “forever” and “never” stems from αἰών ?  Or should we consider the possibility that what was meant by εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (to the age) had in view the end of that age, as opposed to an unending eternity?  Our answer to this question is certainly not without its consequences, for changing “forever” to “to the end of this age” will force us to reconsider just what was meant by certain sayings.

This is the question I am now studying.  For now, I list the following passages for the record, without commentary.  The following represent every instance of εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα in the New Testament.  Before I get to that, however, let me give one interesting note.

The word “forever” often appears in our translations where εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (to the age) appears in the Greek.  Sometimes our translations say “forever and ever”, and that appears thus in the Greek:  εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, which is literally rendered, to the ages of the ages.  This saying, which is how it reads in 1 Peter 5:11, and others like it, probably do have eternity in view, which gives us all the more reason to wonder whether the simpler form, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (to the age), may be intended to speak only of the time remaining in any given age.

Matthew 21:19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. Lit: No longer to the age be any fruit from you.
Matthew 21:19 καὶ ἰδὼν συκῆν μίαν ἐπὶ τῆς ὁδοῦ ἦλθεν ἐπ’ αὐτήν καὶ οὐδὲν εὗρεν ἐν αὐτῇ εἰ μὴ φύλλα μόνον καὶ λέγει αὐτῇ μηκέτι ἐκ σοῦ καρπὸς γένηται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ ἐξηράνθη παραχρῆμα ἡ συκῆ

Mark 3:29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” Lit: not to the age has forgiveness
Mark 3:29 ὃς δ’ ἂν βλασφημήσῃ εἰς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον οὐκ ἔχει ἄφεσιν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἀλλὰ ἔνοχός ἐστιν αἰωνίου ἁμαρτήματος

Mark 11:14And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. Lit: may no one to the age eat fruit from you again
Mark 11:14 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτῇ μηκέτι εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἐκ σοῦ μηδεὶς καρπὸν φάγοι καὶ ἤκουον οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ

Luke 1:55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” Lit: to Abraham and his descendants to the age.
Luke 1:55 καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν τῷ Ἀβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Lit: shall not thirst to the age
John 4:14 ὃς δ’ ἂν πίῃ ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος οὗ ἐγὼ δώσω αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ διψήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἀλλὰ τὸ ὕδωρ ὃ δώσω αὐτῷ γενήσεται ἐν αὐτῷ πηγὴ ὕδατος ἁλλομένου εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Lit: he will live to the age
John 6:51 ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ζῶν ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς ἐάν τις φάγῃ ἐκ τούτου τοῦ ἄρτου ζήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ ὁ ἄρτος δὲ ὃν ἐγὼ δώσω ἡ σάρξ μού ἐστιν ὑπὲρ τῆς τοῦ κόσμου ζωῆς

John 6:58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Lit: will live to the age
John 6:58 οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἄρτος ὁ ἐξ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς οὐ καθὼς ἔφαγον οἱ πατέρες καὶ ἀπέθανον ὁ τρώγων τοῦτον τὸν ἄρτον ζήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

John 8:35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. Lit: 1) does not remain…to the age. 2) remains to the age
John 8:35 ὁ δὲ δοῦλος οὐ μένει ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ὁ υἱὸς μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

John 8:51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Lit: will not to the age see death. NOTE:  Caution should be taken here not to over-read this.  That is, this should not be taken as a promise that those in view WOULD die at the end of the age, but rather that they were protected throughout the remainder of the age.
John 8:51 ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ἐάν τις τὸν ἐμὸν λόγον τηρήσῃ θάνατον οὐ μὴ θεωρήσῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

John 8:52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Lit: he will not to the age taste of death.
John 8:52 εἶπον οὖν αὐτῷ οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι νῦν ἐγνώκαμεν ὅτι δαιμόνιον ἔχεις Ἀβραὰμ ἀπέθανεν καὶ οἱ προφῆται καὶ σὺ λέγεις ἐάν τις τὸν λόγον μου τηρήσῃ οὐ μὴ γεύσηται θανάτου εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

John 10:28 I give them eternal (αἰώνιος) life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. Lit: they will not to the age perish.  NOTE:  Caution should be taken here not to over-read this.  That is, this should not be taken as a promise that those in view WOULD perish at the end of the age, but rather that they were protected throughout the remainder of the age.
John 10:28 κἀγὼ δίδωμι αὐτοῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον καὶ οὐ μὴ ἀπόλωνται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ οὐχ ἁρπάσει τις αὐτὰ ἐκ τῆς χειρός μου

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Lit: shall not to the age die. NOTE:  Caution should be taken here not to over-read this.  That is, this should not be taken as a promise that those in view WOULD die at the end of the age, but rather that they were protected throughout the remainder of the age.
John 11:26 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ζῶν καὶ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα πιστεύεις τοῦτο

John 12:34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Lit: remains to the age.
John 12:34 ἀπεκρίθη οὖν αὐτῷ ὁ ὄχλος ἡμεῖς ἠκούσαμεν ἐκ τοῦ νόμου ὅτι ὁ Χριστὸς μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ πῶς λέγεις σὺ ὅτι δεῖ ὑψωθῆναι τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τίς ἐστιν οὗτος ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου

John 13:8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Lit: not to the age shall you wash…
John 13:8 λέγει αὐτῷ Πέτρος οὐ μὴ νίψῃς μου τοὺς πόδας εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς αὐτῷ ἐὰν μὴ νίψω σε οὐκ ἔχεις μέρος μετ’ ἐμοῦ

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, Lit: be with you to the age
John 14:16 κἀγὼ ἐρωτήσω τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἄλλον παράκλητον δώσει ὑμῖν ἵνα μεθ’ ὑμῶν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. Lit: not eat meat to the age
1 Corinthians 8:13 διόπερ εἰ βρῶμα σκανδαλίζει τὸν ἀδελφόν μου οὐ μὴ φάγω κρέα εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἵνα μὴ τὸν ἀδελφόν μου σκανδαλίσω

2 Corinthians 9:9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Lit: endures to the age.  NOTE:  This should not be taken as a statement that Jesus would only remain righteous until the end of the age.  Rather, the point is that that which Jesus had “distributed freely” upon the Earth was going to remain until the end of the age.
2 Corinthians 9:9 καθὼς γέγραπται ἐσκόρπισεν ἔδωκεν τοῖς πένησιν ἡ δικαιοσύνη αὐτοῦ μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. Lit: to the age of the age
Hebrews 1:8 πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεός εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς εὐθύτητος ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου

Hebrews 5:6 as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” Lit: you are a priest to the age.
Hebrews 5:6 καθὼς καὶ ἐν ἑτέρῳ λέγει σὺ ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ

Hebrews 6:20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Lit: a high priest to the age.
Hebrews 6:20 ὅπου πρόδρομος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν εἰσῆλθεν Ἰησοῦς κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ ἀρχιερεὺς γενόμενος εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

Hebrews 7:17 For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” Lit: a priest to the age.
Hebrews 7:17 μαρτυρεῖται γὰρ ὅτι σὺ ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα κατὰ τὴν τάξιν Μελχισέδεκ

Hebrews 7:21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’” Lit: a priest to the age.
Hebrews 7:21 ὁ δὲ μετὰ ὁρκωμοσίας διὰ τοῦ λέγοντος πρὸς αὐτόν ὤμοσεν κύριος καὶ οὐ μεταμεληθήσεται σὺ ἱερεὺς εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

Hebrews 7:24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Lit: continues to the age
Hebrews 7:24 ὁ δὲ διὰ τὸ μένειν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἀπαράβατον ἔχει τὴν ἱερωσύνην

Hebrews 7:28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. Lit: made perfect (complete) to the age.
Hebrews 7:28 ὁ νόμος γὰρ ἀνθρώπους καθίστησιν ἀρχιερεῖς ἔχοντας ἀσθένειαν ὁ λόγος δὲ τῆς ὁρκωμοσίας τῆς μετὰ τὸν νόμον υἱὸν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τετελειωμένον

1 Peter 1:24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” Lit: remains to the age.
1 Peter 1:25 τὸ δὲ ῥῆμα κυρίου μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν τὸ ῥῆμα τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν εἰς ὑμᾶς

1 John 2:17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Lit: lives to the age.
1 John 2:17 καὶ ὁ κόσμος παράγεται καὶ ἡ ἐπιθυμία αὐτοῦ ὁ δὲ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

2 John 1:1 The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2 because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: Lit: with us to the age.
2 John 1:2 διὰ τὴν ἀλήθειαν τὴν μένουσαν ἐν ἡμῖν καὶ μεθ’ ἡμῶν ἔσται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

 

If you have pondered this as you have read these passages, you can see that taking a literal translation would definitely have its consequences in how we interpret things.  For example, Jesus would not still be serving as high priest, but would have completed that role at the end of the age.  That one might not be so hard to swallow;  after all, we know that he “hands over the kingdom to the Father” at the end of the story.  (1 Corinthians 15:24)  Another consequence that’s perhaps more intriguing are these promises that those who would believe would live to the end of the age.  We can immediately find exceptions in the martyrs from 30 to 70, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that they are not what Jesus had in mind.  It causes me to wonder whether the gifts of healing were intended to keep lots of Christians alive during those 40 years, to see his return.  And it also brings to mind that many among the Corinthians were “weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep” because of their sin.  These were those who did not meet the condition of continual belief, and who would, therefore, no longer be qualified to live to the end of the age.

My own personal jury is still out on this overall question of interpretation, but I must say that it’s intriguing enough to be worth listing the possibility for the record.

NOTE:  This same exact phrase  (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα) occurs over 200 times in the Old Testament, where it is just as intriguing.  For example:

Genesis 3:22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” Lit: live to the age
Genesis 3:22 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός ἰδοὺ Αδαμ γέγονεν ὡς εἷς ἐξ ἡμῶν τοῦ γινώσκειν καλὸν καὶ πονηρόν καὶ νῦν μήποτε ἐκτείνῃ τὴν χεῖρα καὶ λάβῃ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς καὶ φάγῃ καὶ ζήσεται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα

And:

Genesis 6:3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” Lit: live in man to the age
Genesis 6:3 καὶ εἶπεν κύριος ὁ θεός οὐ μὴ καταμείνῃ τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τούτοις εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτοὺς σάρκας ἔσονται δὲ αἱ ἡμέραι αὐτῶν ἑκατὸν εἴκοσι ἔτη 

I’m working on listing all these passages in the same fashion as the ones above.

 

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Pieces of the Sheol/Hades Puzzle

In my research about Sheol/Hades, a few bits of evidence have emerged that need to be accounted for and fitted into the overall puzzle.  This page is where I keep track of these pieces.  Please pardon the mess below; I post it not because it is polished, but because it may be useful to you.

Psalm 9:17 The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.
By what model can those in Sheol leave it and then return to it? Continue reading

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Sheol and Hades are NOT “The Grave”

One very common misunderstanding is the idea that “Sheol” simply means “the grave”.  It does not.  Both Sheol (Hebrew) and it’s New Testament counterpart, Hades (Greek) are references to the underworld and the beings who ran it.  That’s right, the Bible agrees somewhat with the mythologies that there was an underworld at one time.  Even Jesus spoke of it as if it were quite real.  Even so, many are made uncomfortable by it all, and seek to interpret the Bible in such way as to erase any details that they find unsavory.  One of the most common ways of doing this is simply to assume that every time Sheol is mentioned, it is interpreted as “the grave”. Continue reading

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Satan Was Bound In 30 AD

This unpolished article is a list of annotated excerpts that evince the binding of Satan in 30 AD.

Let us begin by establishing that as of the time of the Last Supper, Satan had become “the ruler of this world”.  So said Jesus at least three times that evening:

John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. Continue reading

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Sun, Moon, and Stars as Angels

The following article is from my Bible Investigation website, and seems to belong on this site as well.  It’s a couple of years old, and is slightly edited in the version that appears below.

———————–

This article will fall far short of definitively answering the question it poses.  And it will most certainly fall short of answering all the further questions that will naturally follow the evidences I will show herein.  Rather, the goal of this article is to raise these questions for the consideration of the reader.  As you will see, the questions are prompted by the very texts of the Bible.

Is Genesis 1 really about literal sun, moon, and stars? Continue reading

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Understanding the “Firstborn” in the New Testament

The word “firstborn” (prōtotokos) refers to more than just one thing in the New Testament.  Here are the nine passages where it occurs.

Of Firstborn Children

Matthew 1:25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
Refers to a son who is the first son born to a woman. Continue reading

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Proof That Jesus Descended to Hades/Sheol

This is a list of scriptures with minimal notes.  It is a work in progress.

Ephesians 4:9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions of the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) Continue reading

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The Judgment of the Gods

Yes, there were other gods, and yes, they were real beings.  This should be widely known, but it has become the work of a great many pulpits to obscure this fact.  Along with it is obscured the fact that the climax of the Bible story includes the judgment of these evil beings—their removal from the Planet Earth, and the establishment of a new order of things under which humans are no longer subject to angels.  Here’s the theme:

Hebrews 2:5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.

The world before that time had definitely been subjected to angels, many of whom had rebelled, and had rendered terrible service.  Consider the following psalm:

Psalm 82:1 God has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
    maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
    they walk about in darkness;
    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, “You are gods,
    sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
    and fall like any prince.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth;
    for you shall inherit all the nations!

These gods—these lesser elohim—were subordinate to Yahweh, yet had rejected that subordination.  The righteous kept it ever in mind, however, that Yahweh was the king of all these “kings”:

Psalm 95:3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Psalm 97:9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.

Psalm 135:5 For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.

Psalm 86:8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
Yes, the lesser elohim could do works, but none as mighty as Yahweh’s works.  See also Jeremiah 14:22 “Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? ”  There were limits to their abilities.

The rest of this post consists of excerpts with similar language about Yahweh’s judgment/punishment of gods.  As you read, ask yourself whether this is really the language one would use to speak of hand-carved idols that caught on just people people are superstitious, and had come to believe that they represented real gods (though those gods never really existed).

Exodus 12:12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.

Exodus 15:11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand;
    the earth swallowed them.
This is likely a reference to the 200 who descended on Hermon under the leadership of Azazel.

Exodus 18:10 Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”
This would be a stupid narrative if carved idols were all that were meant by “all gods”.  Rather, these gods were observed to be dealing arrogantly with people.  These are real beings.

Exodus 23:24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces.
How would it even be possible for a human to “serve” an inanimate object?

Numbers 33:4 while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them. On their gods also the Lord executed judgments.

Jeremiah 10:11 But the Lord is the true God;
    he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
    and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
11 Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.

Jeremiah 46:25 The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, said: “Behold, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him.

Zephaniah 2:11 The Lord will be awesome against them;
    for he will famish all the gods of the earth,
and to him shall bow down,
    each in its place,
    all the lands of the nations.

These gods, this wicked lot who despised Yahweh’s authority and despised mankind because Yahweh had created them—their reign of tyranny and their prophesied destruction is as central a theme to the Bible as any other.  Many a church will wish to make a central theme out of, say, God’s grace, or of Jesus “starting the church”—and they will completely miss this massive “backstory” of the heavenly rebellion.

Not surprisingly, therefore, when they start getting near the end of the Revelation, those who have missed the central role of the evil angels in the plot will miss their role in the end of the story.  Instead, they will take the judgment accounts as if of all humans globally, rather than as being primarily about Satan, his evil angels, the evil spirits, and whatever contingent of humans may have voluntarily aligned themselves to Satan for special service.

1 Enoch 57:3 3. For I saw all the angels of punishment abiding (there) and preparing all the instruments of Satan. 4. And I asked the angel of peace who went with me: ‘For whom are they preparing these instruments?’ 5. And he said unto me: ‘They prepare these for the kings and the mighty of this earth, that they may thereby be destroyed. 6. And after this the Righteous and Elect One shall cause the house of his congregation to appear: henceforth they shall be no more hindered in the name of the Lord of Spirits.

1 Enoch 56:1. And I saw there the hosts of the angels of punishment going, and they held scourges and chains of iron and bronze. 2. And I asked the angel of peace who went with me, saying: ‘To whom are these who hold the scourges going?’ 3. And he said unto me: ‘To their elect and beloved ones, that they may be cast into the chasm of the abyss of the valley.
4. And then that valley shall be filled with their elect and beloved,
And the days of their lives shall be at an end,
And the days of their leading astray shall not thenceforward be reckoned.

Revelation 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

These “hosts of the angels of punishment” (1 Enoch 56:1) appear to have been those who generally worked for Satan and the other kings of the Earth.  Now, by whatever arrangement we do not know, they are on their way to get those very beings (presumably under duress by Yahweh?)  Here we see that they did not only have chains, but scourges as well.

 The following passage is the entirety of 1 Enoch 63.  It shows the earlier incarceration of 200 angels who had intermarried with human women in Genesis 6 (also told in much greater detail 1 Enoch 6)

1 Enoch 63:1. In those days shall the mighty and the kings who possess the earth implore (Him) to grant them a little respite from His angels of punishment to whom they were delivered, that they might fall down and worship before the Lord of Spirits, and confess their sins before Him. 2. And they shall bless and glorify the Lord of Spirits, and say:
‘Blessed is the Lord of Spirits and the Lord of kings,
And the Lord of the mighty and the Lord of the rich,
And the Lord of glory and the Lord of wisdom,
3. And splendid in every secret thing is Thy power from generation to generation,
And Thy glory for ever and ever:
Deep are all Thy secrets and innumerable,
And Thy righteousness is beyond reckoning.
4. We have now learnt that we should glorify
And bless the Lord of kings and Him who is king over all kings.’
5. And they shall say:
‘Would that we had rest to glorify and give thanks
And confess our faith before His glory!
6. And now we long for a little rest but find it not:
We follow hard upon and obtain (it) not:
And light has vanished from before us,
And darkness is our dwelling-place for ever and ever:
7. For we have not believed before Him
Nor glorified the name of the Lord of Spirits, [nor glorified our Lord]
But our hope was in the sceptre of our kingdom,
Yes, they had a kingdom of their own.
And in our glory.
8. And in the day of our suffering and tribulation He saves us not,
And we find no respite for confession
That our Lord is true in all His works, and in His judgments and His justice,
And His judgments have no respect of persons.
9. And we pass away from before His face on account of our works,
And all our sins are reckoned up in righteousness.’
10. Now they shall say unto themselves: ‘Our souls are full of unrighteous gain, but it does not prevent us from descending from the midst thereof into the †burden† of Sheol.’
11. And after that their faces shall be filled with darkness
And shame before that Son of Man,
And they shall be driven from his presence,
And the sword shall abide before his face in their midst.
12. Thus spake the Lord of Spirits: ‘This is the ordinance and judgment with respect to the mighty and the kings and the exalted and those who possess the earth before the Lord of Spirits.’
64:1 And other forms I saw hidden in that place. 2. I heard the voice of the angel saying: ‘These are the angels who descended to the earth, and revealed what was hidden to the children of men and seduced the children of men into committing sin.

Posted in Anatomy of 2nd Coming, Anatomy of the Angels, Anatomy of the Judgment, Anatomy of the Spiritual Situation, Angels, Role of Angels | Comments Off on The Judgment of the Gods

The Angels Had Bodies

The angels had bodies.  Keep reading.  (Also, consider listening to Michael Heiser’s explanation of the “spiritual body” here.)

If you read much in the Bible about humans, you’ll discover that they can die in two different ways:  their bodies, and their spirits.  Anyone who’s ever watched prime time TV is quite familiar with what causes human bodies to die, and the Bible is no stranger to this discussion, either.  In the Bible, however, we are told not only about the death of the human body, but also about the “second death”—one that we cannot see happening, but that we can understand just fine.   The second death is a reference to the killing of the human spirit in the Lake of Fire.  That is, those humans whom God does not deem worthy of eternal life, he throws into the Lake of Fire for their destruction.

Many are aware that the “eternal fire” was “prepared for the devil and his angels”.  They tend to assume, however, that the angels had no bodies in which a “first death” could be died.  The following passages (with minimal commentary) are evidences that angels did indeed have bodies.

Psalm 82:I said, “You are gods,
    sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
    and fall like any prince.”
How can they die like men if they don’t have bodies that are kill-able?

Genesis 6:4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
How can these beings intermarry with human women if the beings do not have bodies?

Judges 6:21 Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight.
How can an angel have a staff in his hand if he has no hands?  And if that’s not a real staff, then how can he touch the food with it?

Judges 13:15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.”16 And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the Lord.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the Lord.)
Manoah was certainly under the impression that angels eat.

1 Kings 19:5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”
How can an angel touch someone if angels have no bodies?

Genesis 19:1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.”
Why would angels need to sleep if they did not have physical bodies?

Genesis 19:But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
Why would these evil men want to have sex with beings that had no bodies?

Genesis 18:1 And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate. …. 22  So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. ….33  And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place. 19:1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.
Here angels washed their feet, rested, ate bread, refreshed themselves, and ate meat.  Although they are not called “angels” at the beginning, they were called so at the end.  How can angels do all these things if they do not have physical bodies?

Psalm 78:23 Yet he commanded the skies above
    and opened the doors of heaven,
24 and he rained down on them manna to eat
    and gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Man ate of the bread of the angels;
    he sent them food in abundance.
Why would there be anything called “bread of the angels” if angels don’t eat it?  And how could they eat it if they did not have bodies?

“I’ll bet you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here.”

Why is it important for you to understand that the angels had bodies?  It’s because they are the ones who are in view here:

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. 17  Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

Regardless of how many humans were involved in this event, “the kings of the earth” were also killed that day, “slain”, and having their “flesh” left for the birds to eat.  “Kings of the earth” is a reference to those beings God had put in charge of the various nations of the world in the post-Babel dispersion:

Deuteronomy 32:7 Remember the days of old;
    consider the years of many generations;
ask your father, and he will show you,
    your elders, and they will tell you.
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
    when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
    according to the number of the sons of God.
But the Lord‘s portion is his people,
    Jacob his allotted heritage.

The battle here in Revelation 19 is one in which the heavenly forces engage against forces that are on the Earth.  This is hardly some global battle in which all of mankind is killed in some universal judgment event.  No, what is being judged here is the kingdom of Satan, and the primary focus of that judgment is upon the non-human participants in it.

 

Posted in Anatomy of the Angels | Comments Off on The Angels Had Bodies

Examining Hebrews 11:40 –Aorist, Passive, Subjunctive, Third-Person, Plural

In another post I posited that Hebrews 11:40 tells of an arrangement that had already come to pass.  Here it is, along with verse 39:

Hebrews 11:39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

To be super-clear, I believe that those mentioned in Chapter 11 had already been “made perfect” when this verse was written, and that this event had been put on hold specifically so that it would happen during that very generation, where they could see it.  It was not, therefore an event that happened “apart from us”, as the writer had put it.

One reader challenges this position based on the particulars of the Greek verb used for “should…be made perfect”.  She points out that the verb τελειωθῶσιν has the following traits: Continue reading

Posted in Anatomy of the First Resurrection, Critics / Questions | Comments Off on Examining Hebrews 11:40 –Aorist, Passive, Subjunctive, Third-Person, Plural

Various Errors from Critics as to the Resurrections

The following is a running list of errors I have seen from critics of TET’s resurrection models.  In cases were I did not have permission to cut and paste, I have paraphrased the errors, doing my best to preserve their intent.

  1. “There are only two types of resurrection in the Bible, as seen here.”:
    Hebrews 11:35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; NASB

    First of all, there are several different types of resurrrection-type events in the Bible, and it is immediately suspicious when someone attempts to frame it all into just two categories, based on a single verse that makes no such statement.  In some cases, people like Elijah, Jesus, Peter, and Paul raised the recently-dead back to life.  In the most famous case, Jesus seems to have raised himself back to life (or God did it).  In the most mysterious, Jesus raised a great multitude of people (most of them presumably long-dead) back to life on the same day that he himself was raised—and these people’s bodies came up out of their tombs and were reunited with their spirits.  Jesus predicted this same event and mentioned that there would accompany it a “resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29) for some evil people.  And finally, there’s the resurrection of “the rest of the dead” (Revelation 20:5), which included good and bad alike.
    The passage above (Hebrews 11:25) therefore, is by no means a complete taxonomy of everything the Bible teaches about resurrection.  Indeed, it does not say, “….so that they might obtain to the better resurrection.”, but to “a better resurrection”.  It is not a certainty, therefore, with this verse alone in view, that the “better resurrection” in view was any particular event.  Which event it was is best determined by studying all the data.

    Even so, two particular resurrections were so noteworthy that they warranted special mention in Revelation 20:4-6.  One is called the “First Resurrection”, and the other is implied to be the second (though not named explicitly), as we are told that it would come a “thousand years” later.  Let us suppose that the “better resurrection” is indeed a reference to the Second Resurrection of Revelation 20.  If that were the case, then the Hebrews 11 passage makes mention of both the Matthew 27 First Resurrection AND the later one.  This is fully consistent with the TET model.

    When did “women received back their dead by resurrection”?  I believe it was in Matthew 27.  If those raised included all the righteous who had died since Adam, then some of those deaths would have been recent enough that their widows would still have been alive in circa 30AD, when this resurrection happened.

  2. Hebrews 11:38-40 tells us that Abraham had not yet been resurrected as of the time of the writing:”
    Hebrews 11:38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

    The critic errs in assuming that there is only one way to interpret this passage.  Those heroes of the faith in view here “did not receive what was promised” in their lifetimes, but they had received it since.  It does not say “have not yet received”, but “did not receive”. And this did not happen “apart from us”.  Rather, the event was held back until that very generation—the audience of the book of Hebrews—got to see it.  It was not, therefore, “apart” from them that it happened.  Rather, they were witnesses to it!
    For more on this passage, see here.

  3. “Paul says the living and the dead would receive their promises together. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)”:
    16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.This is not a reference to the first resurrection, but to the second.  The critic assumes that there must be some sort of rule that God had to do everything the same in both resurrections–or is either unaware that this passage is not a reference to what happened in Matthew 27.
  4. “Paul told Timothy that the living and dead are judged at the same time.”:
    2 Timothy 4:1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:
    NASBIn no way does this passage prove that Jesus had not already judged the dead (good and bad) from “the whole house of Israel”.  Again, the critic seems to assume that God is not allowed to judge the dead from Adam to Christ (not including the other nations) if he doesn’t also judge the living at the same time.  This is a “fallacy of composition”, which assumes that what is true of one specific judgment event must be true of all judgment events.
  5. “The Matthew 27 event can’t be the same as the John 5 event because the latter involves also a “resurrection of judgment”, and the Matthew 27 makes no mention of such.”

    The critic argues here as if it were established that the Bible is a complete record of everything it mentions.  The Matthew 27 mass resurrection narrative tells what the author wanted to tell.  This does not negate other details given by Jesus for this event.  Indeed, Jesus said of the timing of this event: 
    John 5:25 an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God.
    This is not the language one uses to describe an event that is still 40 years away.  Indeed, in John 4:23, Jesus uses “is now here” to describe the imminence of the worshiping “in spirit and truth”.
  6. “The saints resurrected in Matthew 27 cannot have been taken to heaven with Jesus in Acts 1 because the Bible doesn’t say so.”
    This is an argument based upon the assumption of the completeness of scripture.  If this were true, then we could argue that the Temple must still be standing, since the Bible never gives us any historical witness of its destruction.  We could also argue that Paul never made it to Rome, since we are not told that he did.
    Interestingly, anyone making this argument should be asked, “OK, then what DID happen to those resurrected in Matthew 27?”  And whatever answer they give will have this same problem:  it is not to be found in the texts.  Thus does the critic break his or her own rule without even thinking through it enough to realize it.
  7. “It is eisegesis to assume that these people are taken to heaven in Acts 1, since the text does not say so.”
    No, I freely admit that the text does not say so.  I am not “reading that into the text”.  Rather, the model of an Acts 1 ascension for these people is derived from the impeccable logic that if Jesus were going to “lead a host of captives” in his train “when he ascended”, that he had to do it “when he ascended”, and not at some other time.  This is not really logic, so much as it is a simple acknowledgement of the plain meaning of the text.  If someone’s model says that Jesus did not ascend with captives in Acts 1,  the model is wrong.
  8. “The ‘captives’ mentioned in Ephesians 4:8 are the Ephesians themselves, and not those resurrected in Matthew 27.”
    Ephesians 4:8 Therefore it says,“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

    Unless the Ephesian Christians (who had not even been converted yet) rose to Heaven when Jesus ascended in Acts 1, then it would be impossible for them to be the ones in view in this prophecy.  And notice the order of the two things predicted:  first the ascension, and then the gifts.  We know that the gifts were poured out in Acts 2.  So that puts the “captives” on the scene BEFORE Acts 2.  This rules out the Ephesians.
  9. “The Matthew 27:52-53 is just an ordinary resurrection event like Elijah raising the boy, or Jesus raising Lazarus.  There’s no reason to believe that these people didn’t just mix into the population and die again later.”

    There are most certainly reasons to believe it.
    Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn [PLURAL] who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

    The  kingdom in which the living audience of Hebrews was partaking was one that had in heaven an assembly of humans who had already been perfected.  As a class, they were considered to be an “assembly of the firstborn (plural)”.  This does not mean “an assembly belonging to Jesus, the firstborn (singular) from among the dead”, but “an assembly made up of those who were the firstborn from among the dead”.

    Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew (knew before–proginōskō) he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

    Contrary to popular understanding, this passage is a reference to those resurrected in Matthew 27.  Note the past tense.  Those “whom he foreknew” is not a reference to God knowing things in the future, but to God having previously known people, before the generation in which the epistle was written.   Paul uses the exact same word to refer to Jews having previously known his way of life:Acts 26:4 My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. They have known for a long time (proginōskō), if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee.

    Those mentioned in Romans 8:29 had been predestined to be “conformed to the image of his Son”.  The word for “conformed” (symmorphos) means literally to have the same form as another.  It is used only in one other passage, where the transformation of the human body is in view:

    Philippians 3:21 who will transform (symmorphos) our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

    Those people that God had known before, and who had been predestined to have their bodies transformed to bodies like Jesus’ glorified body, are also said in Romans 8:30 to have been “glorifed” (past tense) already.

    There is no doubt that Paul is referencing an event already past as of his writing.  And this is the reason for the great hope that he and his audience had:

    Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

    How did they “know” that it was going to work out well for them?  They know it “for” it had already worked out for those that God had already conformed/glorified into bodies like Jesus’ “glorious body”.  Thus was their situation even better than merely having a promise: they had an example of such promise being fulfilled.

 

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