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.

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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 | Leave a 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 | Leave a comment

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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Proof that Jesus Came to Get the Christians

The Temporary Ekklesia Theory holds that Jesus came and got the living Christians in 70AD, and took them to Heaven.  Their “earthly bodies” were “changed”–not swapped out for other bodies, but transformed–into “heavenly bodies”, and they were taken.  (Study 1 Corinthians 15 on this point.)  The idea that Jesus came and got them tends to explain lots of things.  For instance, it explains the great blackout of Christian writings that started in 70AD.  It also explains how “the church” in the decades that followed began to depart quite significantly from the original teachings and practices, for it simply was not the same body as the original.

It’s important to understand, though, that this theory about the Christians being taken did not come about simply as an attempt to explain these things.  No, the evidence is much stronger than that: Jesus himself promised it, more than once.  Let’s look at the evidence.

Matthew 24:29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Mark also bears witness to this conversation, giving recounting some different details:

Mark 13:24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

It’s important to note that this gathering was to involve people on the face of the Earth.  It should not be considered to pertain only to the faithful in Sheol/Hades.  Those who were to be gathered, Jesus called his “elect”–all of them.  These were the Christians, the “saints” or “holy ones”, those “whom he chose” (Mark 13:20).  Jesus was to send out his angels to gather them to one place–from wherever they might be in the world.  That would be an extraordinary event, to be sure.  And for what purpose was it planned?  What was going to happen once they were gathered?

We’ll get back to that question shortly, but first, let’s see that God had  prophesied about this gathering through someone else.  This time, it wasn’t through Jesus, but through the official high priest in Jerusalem—an evil man, Caiaphas, who prophesied in spite of himself:

John 11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

Why would Jesus need to gather all the believers together if his goal were to “start the church” as so many believe, and to “spread the gospel throughout all the world”?  Hmmm.  This does not fit the standard model!  Even so, such a gathering was forthrightly expected by the apostles and those who believed through their message.  Consider Paul’s words to Thessalonica, as he gave them some important information about that timing of that gathering:

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

Do you see how plainly they expected to be gathered together at some point?  Not only had Jesus stated it in his teachings about his angels gathering people from all over the earth, but he had revealed even more about it to his apostles at the Last Supper:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Jesus made several promises to his apostles that night, and many of them they never repeated as being for all believers, just as they never repeated the “Great Commission” as being for all believers.  But this promise—the promise that he could come and get them—this one they were publishing as being a promise for all the faithful Christians.  I’ll explore the evidence for this more below.

And now it becomes clearer what the purpose for this world-wide gathering would have been.  He was coming back, not only for the apostles, but for all the faithful among the Christians.  He had explained why they did not belong here:

John 15:18 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

“I chose you out of the world…”  This is one of the reasons that I think it’s important to use the Greek word ekklesia, rather than the medieval word, churchEkklesia, when taken literally means “the called-out ones”.  While it was an ordinary term in Jesus’ day, pertaining to town meetings to which people were “called out” (of their homes and shops), I believe it is very likely that it had a double entendre–or a double intent.  Otherwise, it is a grand coincidence that those that Jesus called his ekklesia (“called out ones”) were also being called out of the world and into Heaven:

1 Thessalonians 2:12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

That “kingdom and glory”, of course, were not here on the Earth, but in Heaven.  This was certainly no call to “join the local church”.

John 11:23 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 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?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus told Martha that those believers who remained alive would “never die”.  Now, how could this be if he weren’t coming to take them alive to heaven?  How could it possibly be?  The only other option is that he would have made some living believers immortal.  But do you know any Christians who have been alive since the First Century?  I don’t.

With this passage in view, how shall we interpret Jesus’ promise to those in Ephesus?:

Revelation 2:7b To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

He was coming back, and would grant them access to this tree, yet the tree was in Heaven, just as it is today.  So how could this be?  How could he give them what he was promising unless he were going to take them with him back to Heaven?  Or shall we rather opine that Jesus was lying to them in order to manipulate them to behave better than they would otherwise?  Surely not.

Or consider Jesus’ promise to those in Thyatira:

Revelation 2:26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Just how were these people supposed to exercise authority over the nations without thrones?  And how were they supposed to have thrones if they were still on the Earth?  And how could they receive the “morning star” before being glorified into their “heavenly bodies”?:

2 Peter 1:19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts

Note that this “morning star” event was to be contemporary with the dawning of “the day”—the return of Christ.  So once again, these living believers were expecting to be glorified upon his return.

Consider Jesus’ promise to Sardis:

Revelation 3:4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

How were they to “walk with” him?  On the Earth?  And what would they do afterward, when he left again?  Were they to walk around in their white robes, missing the very master who considered them worthy of Heaven, and yet did not take them there with him?  Shall we view this as another promise of Jesus’ that didn’t really play out as advertised?  Of course not.  He took these people with him, after which he vouched for them before God and his angels.

And to Philadelphia, he promised:

Revelation 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

So these were promised that if only they would conquer what lay ahead, he would make them pillars in the new Jerusalem.  They had to wait until he came, of course, yet some would have us believe that they would have to wait even longer than that.  That is, that he would come and then leave them, apparently to live out their lives, and then to die, after which they could go be pillars in the heavenly temple.  But again, this does not fit with:

John 11:26: everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

These in Philadelphia would have lived until his return, thus satisfying the condition of this promise.  They were “never” to die.  How, then, do so many suppose that this is exactly what they did do?

And now we turn lastly to the promise to the faithful among the Laocideans:

Revelation 3:21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

This one is even more intriguing than the others, for Jesus goes so far as to compare their conquering with his own.  In his case, of course, he overcame at the cross, and about 40 days later, he was in Heaven, seated on his throne beside God.  Now, I will freely admit that “as I also” doesn’t demand that both situations be exactly alike in every respect.  In order to satisfy what Jesus was saying, only the similarities he had in mind would have to come true.  It is very likely, however, that anyone hearing this fantastic promise would not imagine that its fulfillment should require a gap between the day he returned, and whatever day they should each die in the years thereafter.  And once again, of course, if his prophecy were true that those who lived until his return would never die, then what would these people be waiting for?  Some third coming of Jesus?  Or are they still walking about in Laodicea today, awaiting him to fulfill his promise?

The So-Called “Spiritual Gathering”

Far too many Preterist authors twist all this into some sort of “spiritual gathering”, by which they mean a gathering that was no gathering at all.  In their model, Christians who already had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and thus had direct communion of some sort with none other than God himself, were in need of being “gathered” into a “spiritual kingdom” with all the other believers in the world, including the dead ones, whom Christ would raise up in 70AD.  Thus do they reason that they themselves are in this “gathering” along with the likes of Abraham and Moses.  None of them ever claim to be in fellowship with Abraham in any literal sense, yet they claim to have somehow been “gathered” to him—though it seems not to make any practical different whatsoever.

This is all silly, of course, once one realizes that the evidence is pointing toward a literal catching up of all the believers in the First Century.  In this case, the nature of this “gathering” is obvious and needs no explaining-away whatsoever.

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Comparing the Resurrections

I’ve received a few questions regarding the resurrections, and one thing become apparent immediately:  there’s a lot of confusion over what the word “resurrection” means.  I could get into the language here, but rather than to do that, I’m just going to explain the model of the TET, in which the meaning of the various words becomes fairly obvious.

Jesus’ Resurrection

Jesus died and his dead body went into a tomb.  His spirit, meanwhile, went to Sheol/Hades.  On the third day, his spirit came out of Sheol/Hades, and entered back into his original human body.  This was a miracle, as dead human bodies do not generally come back to life again, especially after such a long time.

I see no reason to believe that Jesus’ human body was somehow modified or glorified in connection to his resurrection, although there is reason to believe that some manner of miraculous action was required to keep it from rotting in the tomb:

Psalm 16:10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

I do not see this verse as an instance of Hebrew parallelism, by the way, but as containing two separate clauses aimed at giving two separate pieces of information.  In other words, the second half is not a restatement of the first half, but is talking about something else entirely.  Namely, the first half speaks of Jesus’ spirit going to Sheol, and the second half speaks of his body lying in the grave without rotting.

Jesus’ resurrection, of course, served as a sign to all humans that something special was happening.

What was the result of Jesus’ resurrection?  His living spirit and his dead body were reunited, and the body came to life again.  Thus, the man who was dead and had left this world, was now alive in it all over again.  His death was reversed.  Jesus did not go to heaven as a result of what happened that day.  He would remain on the Earth another 40 days or so, appearing to many. Heaven had nothing to do with it; his spirit broke out of Sheol/Hades and his body was brought back to life.

The First Resurrection

In the First Resurrection, here’s what we are told:

Matthew 27:52 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 story is quite like that of Jesus’ own resurrection.  The story is told from the point of view of one standing on the Earth.  It doesn’t even mention their spirits, which we know from other places had been in Sheol/Hades, and were freed by Jesus.

Like Jesus’, these people got their original human bodies back from their tombs (not from Sheol/Hades, mind you), and reunited with their spirits, which had been in Sheol/Hades.  Unlike Jesus, these people’s bodies had seen corruption; they had rotted down to the bones, and even the bones were dried up.  This reconstitution of their bodies was another miracle, and one of greater proportions than Jesus’ own rise from the dead.  These people were reassembled as per Ezekiel’s “Dry Bones” prophecy:

Ezekiel 37 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Many have “spiritualized” this prophecy into relative meaningless–taking it as a metaphor for some revival of the nation of Israel, or perhaps as a metaphor for the raising of human spirits out of Sheol.  What it purports to be in its plain meaning, however, is the story of human bodies being brought back to life and reunited with their original identities/spirits.

Except that their bodies were reconstituted from the bones up, their return to life was quite like that of Jesus’.

What was the result of their resurrection?  They had been dead, and now they weren’t dead anymore.  They were living just like you and me.  Their deaths had been reversed–undone.  Did this resurrection put them in heaven?  No.  It put them back on the face of the Earth, just like you and me.  Obviously, these people are not still here today, and I strongly suspect that they ascended to heaven when Jesus left about 40 days later, for this is the order of things that had been prophesied:

Ephesians 4:8 When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.

He led this host of captives “when” (and not after) he ascended on high.  This ascension should not be confused with him ascending from Sheol, for we are told its destination:  “on high”, which is a reference to Heaven.  Further, we know that just a short time later, he would be pouring out gifts on the believers (Acts 2).  The leading of the captives had to come first.

This event was perhaps the most stunning miracle ever worked—to our knowledge.  If I’ve interpreted the facts correctly, these Jews would have been raised wherever their bodies were.  Their people had been spread all over the section of the planet that they called the “world”, and from there they would be raised alive again—to the great amazement and terror of many.  They were brought back to Jerusalem and left the Planet with Jesus in Acts 1:8.  (Read more about this resurrection here.)

PREDICTION:  If I am right about this, then one should not expect that any human remains would ever be found from those faithful humans who died between the Garden of Eden and the death of Jesus.  All those remains would have been reconstituted at their resurrection, and would no longer be where they had been before.  So, good luck finding the bones of David, or of Abraham, or of Moses, or any of the others, as I believe they were removed from the tombs (or wherever else they had been placed).

The Second Resurrection

So far, all the resurrections (that of Jesus, and of all the faithful Jews in Sheol/Hades) have been fairly simple because they pertained only to dead people becoming living people again.  The second resurrection is more confusing for some because it happened at the same time that the living believers would be caught up to heaven.  What happened to the living, however, was not a resurrection.  Only the dead are resurrected.

At that time (which I believe to have been in 70AD), all the dead were to be removed from Sheol/Hades, for its time was done, and no human spirit would ever go there again.  The unfaithful spirits from among them would go to the Lake of Fire, where they would be destroyed.  The faithful spirits, meanwhile, including those Christians who had died between the resurrection of Jesus’ body and the end of the age, would be raised, too.

And how would they be raised?  Paul invests quite some effort in explaining that they would be given a new body when they were raised from Sheol/Hades.  They would not be reunited with their old bodies, but would receive new ones.  What had been “sown” in their tombs was their “earthly body”, Paul wrote, and what they would receive would be “heavenly bodies”:

1 Corinthians 15:37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel,

So far, this all makes sense, but here’s where a lot of folks cut loose from the moorings of reality and drift off into the morass of equivocation.  When Paul talks about a “heavenly body”, we can learn two things from it.  First of all, it’s a body, and secondly, it’s one suited for Heaven.  For many readers, however, this is quickly lost as Paul proceeds to use the term “spiritual body”.  And for some reason, many believers suddenly become detached from reality when they hear that term.  Once they see the word “spiritual”, they conjure up some notion of “body” by which a body is not longer a body at all.  But Paul is still using the same word “body” (soma), and it still has the same meaning as before.  In other words, when one of these was brought forth out of Sheol/Hades (not out of the tombs, mind you), he had a body that he did not have when he went into Sheol/Hades.  And it was a body that could be touched and felt—a very real body.  It was of a different sort, yet it was still a body.

Now, what sort of body was this?  It was a “heavenly body”—one fit for living in Heaven.  It was the same sort, generally speaking, as had been the bodies of the angel-types.  Yes, I know that’s a big surprise to most, but angels could be touched, too.  In fact, God had pronounced judgment on many of them, and had told them they would “die like men” (Psalm 82:7).  How can this be if they did not have bodies?  Indeed, when men die, their bodies die, yet their spirits live on to meet God.  So if angels had no bodies, how could they die like men?  Indeed, they could not.  What was in view here was just what Jesus had promised:

Luke 20:34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

Many people would attain to that age, which was then yet to come, but few would attain to that age and to the resurrection of the dead that Jesus had in mind.  Once they had been resurrected, “they cannot die anymore”, says Jesus.  And they would be like the angels.  Is it not abundantly clear, therefore, that this “heavenly body” they would receive is unlike the earthly body, which can most certainly die?

So when these faithful dead were raised to life, this time in their heavenly bodies, unlike those whose earthly bodies had been raised previously in the First Resurrection, they were in a glorified state, like angels.

What was the result of their resurrection?  They had been dead, but now they were alive. Further, when they died, they had human, earthly bodies, but now their spirits had been removed from Sheol and they had been given new bodies—separate from the old.  They, therefore, were already fit for their new angelic lives.  Were they in Heaven?  No, they were still on the earth after being raised, although it appears they would shortly be gathered today with the living Christians, and from there, taken to Heaven:

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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.

And that brings us to Jesus’ unusual words to Martha, which are rarely understood as he meant them:

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.

In other words, those people who do not die before I return–and who are believers in me–will not die at all.  They will be taken straight to heaven.

What About the Living Faithful?

Now, many of you are probably thinking of a well-known rule about dying and facing judgment, yet not realizing that the the catching up of the living faithful was an exception to the rule.  Here’s the famous passage:

Hebrews 9:26 But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Many will read this and decide that it would be impossible for the living believers in 70AD to have been taken up without having first suffered physical death, for they view this as a hard-and-fast rule that cannot be broken.  They forget that Jesus and his disciples picked grain on the Sabbath under his exception that, “I am the lord of the Sabbath”.  And as a result, they miss that this very passage shows that an exception to the rule was in view.  The writer goes on:

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

To “save” them from what?  From physical death.  Was this a promise for every believing human who would ever live?  Of course not.  It was a special promise for a special time at that transition between the two ages.  Their reward for their faithfulness in all the turmoil was that they got to leave the planet without dying.  Christ was going to return once, and they could leave with him when he left.  He was not going to return again to gather up other believers.  No, they would each die in their own time, and would then face judgment to be rewarded accordingly.

Now, regarding this special exit from the planet for those living believers in 70AD, Paul speaks here:

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory?     O death, where is your sting?”

Why was this a “mystery”?  It was because it was an exception to the rule.  They would not all die–though some of them would.  Others, however, should remain alive to see the return of Christ in their own lifetimes.  And then they’d have a really big problem–some would think.  Those among them who knew, just as well as you and I do that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”, would not see any way to go off with Christ and to be in his kingdom, unless they, too had died.  But Paul’s “mystery” here is the exception to the Hebrews 9:27 rule:

THE RULE:  Hebrews 9:27a And just as it is appointed for man to die once

THE EXCEPTION:  1 Corinthians 15:51b …We shall not all sleep

Paul is writing about an event that would be in direct contradiction to the normal rules!  This is why he calls it a “mystery”.

Now, these people knew that you can’t get into the heavenly kingdom with an earthly body.  Indeed, Paul had just said so himself when he wrote:

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

But lest any of them should worry, he told them the rest of the story about what they—as those who would be still living when Christ returned—should expect:

1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Was this a resurrection?  Not at all!  This was the transformation of their earthly, human bodies into physical bodies that were fit for living in Heaven.  Once this had happened, they were already told that the dead in Christ would have been raised with heavenly bodies of the same sort, and that they’d all be convened together to be with Christ forever.

Now let me say this.  The language of 1 Corinthians 15 can be very overwhelming, and it’s easy to miss details.  One detail that I have already pointed out is this:  “…what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel…” (vs. 37).  Many will miss this detail in all the rest of the language, such as this verse, which erroneously makes it sound like what is in view is the “sowing” of the human body into the grave:

1 Corinthians 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead.
What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.

43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.
It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.

44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
(ESV)

What is the “it” here?  As it turns out, there is no Greek word for “it” here at all!  Once we realize this and re-translate the passage accordingly, we get the idea that it is the person that is in view here, and not the person’s body:

1 Corinthians 15:42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead:
Sown in corruption, raised in incorruption;
43 sown in dishonor, raised in glory;
sown in weakness, raised in power;
44sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body.
(Holman Christian Standard Bible)

In both translations, the subject matter is “the resurrection of the dead (vs. 42).  The second translation (HCSB) allows that subject to be maintained, while the first (the ESV) immediately changes the subject by adding in a “What is…” that does not appear in the Greek.  Adding the “what is” conjures up the idea of the dead human body, which is “sown”, but that is not the subject of the passage.  Rather, the subject is “the resurrection of the dead”, and the next two and a half verses paint a picture of the glory of that resurrection, by showing us the before picture and the after picture.  Sadly, most of the translations ruin this lovely piece of writing by making it seem that the body that was buried in the ground is expected to pop up in a new form at the resurrection.  Futurist mortuaries should love such a translation, for it seems to inspire millions of Christians each year to have their bodies preserved, in anticipation of some future resurrection of those bodies.  Those who prefer the truth, however, will leave out the “it” and the “what is” where they have been inserted.

Wrapping It Up

The dead who were raised in the Second Resurrection were given new “heavenly bodies”, where they had previously been in Sheol/Hades as disembodied spirits.  The dead who were raised in the Fist Resurrection were reunited with their original human bodies, and they walked around appearing to people for quite some time.

How, then, did those of the First Resurrection, being still “flesh and blood”, ever make it into the kingdom of God?  This question goes for Jesus, too.  In neither case are we told that they–now living again–would “all be changed”, as Paul told those who would still be living at Christ’s return.  Indeed, having put them all back into glorified heavenly bodies, as opposed to their original earthly bodies takes the wind out of the sails of these massive miracles.  Even so, they must have been glorified before they could enter the kingdom, for flesh and blood have no place there.  So when did it happen?

We are not told, just as we are not told about many things.  It may be reasonable to speculate, however, that the model would have been similar to that of those who had never died—to those that Paul said would be “changed” in an instant when the time came for them to be taken to Heaven.  Though I cannot prove it at this time, my working assumption is that Jesus and those great many “captives” whom he had freed from Sheol/Hades were all “changed” from earthly bodies to heavenly bodies just before the ascension in Acts 1:8.

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Sheol/Hades as a “Prison” with “Captives”

Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison (phylakē), that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

1 Peter 3:19 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison (phylakē), 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

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Anatomy of Jesus’ Mission

Any good model of Jesus’ overall mission on Earth should take into account everything that he and his apostles said was the purpose for his coming.  Though much more is said of Jesus and his mission (particularly in the Old Testament prophets), the following New Testament passages contain plenty to make my point:  That a great many believers would be troubled to discover some of these things about Jesus, and that their eschatological (“end times” ) models do not take all the facts into account.

This list also serves as something of a checklist for us to survey whether we believe that Jesus has completed his tasks.

  1. To Preach the Good News of the Kingdom
    Luke 4:22 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
    Luke 4:18a The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
  2. To Proclaim Liberty to the Captives
    Luke 4:18b He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
  3. To Proclaim Recovering of Sight to the Blind
    Luke 4:18c He has sent me to proclaim …
    recovering of sight to the blind,
  4. To Set at Liberty the Oppressed
     Luke 4:18d He has sent me to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
  5. To Proclaim the Year of the Lord’s Favor
     Luke 4:18d He has sent me to 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
  6. To Destroy the Works of the Devil
    1 John 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
  7. To Serve; To Give His Life as a Ransom for Many
    Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (See also Matthew 20:28)
  8. To Seek and Save Those Who Are Lost
    Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.
  9. To Fulfill the Law
    Matthew 5:17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
  10. That They Might Have Life
    John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
  11. To Bring a Sword
    Matthew 10:34 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
  12. To Bring Division
    Matthew 10:35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
    Luke 12:51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
  13. To Do God’s Will
    John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
  14. To Be Lifted Up
    John 12:27 Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
  15. As a Light
    John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
  16. To Bear Witness to the Truth
    John 18:37 For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
  17. As a High Priest of the Good Things
    Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
  18. To Put Away Sin
    Hebrews 9:26b But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
  19. To Take Away Sins
    1 John 3:5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
  20. To Cast a Fire on the Earth
    Luke 12:49I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!

 

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Challenging the “First Resurrection” Ties Between Revelation 20:4 and Matthew 27:51

Regarding TET’s statement:

3. NATURE AND TIME OF RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD
TET places the First Resurrection at Matthew 27:50ff, and equates this with Ezekiel’s “Dry Bones” prophecy of Ezekiel 37.

A reader challenges with this excerpt from scripture, claiming that it refutes the statement above:

Revelation 20:And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (KJV)

———————

Two things generally cause the reader of Revelation 20:4-5 to assume that this First Resurrection could not have happened in the Matthew 27:50ff account.  The first is a matter of translation.  The translations are split (read them here) regarding whether what is in view here is a group of all martyrs, or a group that is generally described as including martyrs and those who had not worshiped the beast or received his mark.  The version quoted by the respondent seems to be the KJV, but consider the passage as rendered, for example, in the ESV:

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. (ESV)

This changes the meaning of the passage such that not only the martyrs were killed.  What the KJV does here is to omit the word “and” (or “kai” in the Greek).  But it’s in there, and so is the word for “those” (“oitines”):

20:4  καὶ εἶδον θρόνους καὶ ἐκάθισαν ἐπ’ αὐτούς καὶ κρίμα ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς τῶν πεπελεκισμένων διὰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ καὶ διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ οἵτινες οὐ προσεκύνησαν τὸ θηρίον οὐδὲ τὴν εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ καὶ οὐκ ἔλαβον τὸ χάραγμα ἐπὶ τὸ μέτωπον καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν χεῖρα αὐτῶν καὶ ἔζησαν καὶ ἐβασίλευσαν μετὰ τοῦ Χριστοῦ χίλια ἔτη

What the King James Version does is to omit these two words when translating, and to treat “….who had not worshiped the beast…” as an appositive for “those who had been beheaded”.  You may recall from grammar school, that an appositive is a renaming of a thing in its immediate context, for the sake of clarity.  For example:  “Jimmy, the First Grade teacher, will be here this afternoon.”  The appositive here is “the First Grade teacher”, and it simply renames Jimmy, giving us more information about him.  Imagine, however, that this sentence had no commas, but were written as the Greeks wrote:

Jimmy the First Grade teacher will be here this afternoon.

In this case, we would still probably understand “the First Grade Teacher” as an appositive, but not if “and” were added to the sentence:

Jimmy and the First Grade teacher will be here this afternoon.

In this case, with the “and”, we would never think that “the First Grade teacher” were a reference to Jimmy.  We would necessarily understand this sentence to be referring to two different people, and not just to Jimmy.  And so it goes with Revelation 20:4.  It is a reference to a class that was characterized by including not only martyrs, who get special mention because of making the supreme sacrifice, but all of those who did not worship the beast or take his mark.

The Testimony of Jesus

The second common error in interpreting this passage is a poor assumption as to what is meant by “the testimony of Jesus”, for which these martyrs were killed:

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,

To one whose interest in the Bible is biased toward the New Testament, a different picture is conjured up than for the one who has studied the whole Bible, and who understands that the work of Jesus began in Genesis 1:3 and continued all throughout the Old Testament.  They will argue that no one was killed for “the testimony of Jesus” until Stephen was murdered in Acts 7.  Therefore, they claim, this resurrection could not possibly include those who were raised prior to Stephen’s death, for no one had yet been killed for preaching Jesus’ gospel, or his death and resurrection.  They will assume that passages like this one were all that was in view when John wrote Revelation 20:4:

Acts 4:33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

They forget that prophets long before had been testifying about Jesus, and were persecuted for it:

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.

Matthew 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 11:13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John

Matthew 23:30 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.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

Luke 11:50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation,

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 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

And finally, consider how Hebrews spoken of Moses’ reasoning about his own options:

Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

Moses was reproached because he let it be known that he was a Jew, and not an Egyptian, Even so, the passage does not mention this as “the reproach of being a Jew”.  Rather, it was seen by the writer as “the reproach of Christ”.  This gives us a very important clue as to how they thought.  They were not New-Testament-centric in their thinking–as are so many in our generation.  Neither were they church-centric, as are so many today.  Rather, they saw the whole thing as one big story, and they had Christ right in the middle of it from Genesis 1:3 forward.

I could go on, but this is enough to show evidence for my position.  These passages show a long-term tendency of the Jews to reject those who were sent to her with the word of God.  And who was it who was reaching out to them?  It was Jesus.  He was the one who would have gathered them together had they been willing.

It does not help that so many are fairly ignorant about the ceaseless work of pre-incarnate Jesus in the Old Testament.  He was known by many descriptions, such as “The Name”, “The Presence”, “The Arm of the Lord”, and so forth.  Read more here.

With these two misunderstandings removed—the omission of “and”, and the idea that “the testimony of Jesus” could not have happened before Jesus’ own resurrection—then we have a passage that tells of the resurrection of the holy and faithful, which is what was in view in Matthew 27:

Matthew 27:51 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 [holy people] 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.

Note that it doesn’t say “the bodies of many of the saints”, but “many bodies of the saints”.  If only some of the saints were in view, the latter would make more sense, but that is not what is written.  Literally, the passage reads:  many bodies of the sleeping saints were raised.  Yes, it would help my case even more if it simply said “the bodies of the saints were raised”, or better yet “all the bodies of the saints were raised”, or better still “every single one of the bodies of the saints were raised”.  Even so, however, if the author had wanted to stress that only some of the saints were raised, he would have moved the word “many” in front of “saints”, and no in front of “bodies”.  Rather, he seems to be stressing the multitudinous nature of that resurrection.

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Challenging The Meaning of “Parousia”

Regarding the following statement from the Temporary Ekklesia Theory:

2. NATURE AND TIME OF PAROUSIA
The TET holds that “parousia” should be interpreted as “coming” and not as some perpetual and invisible “presence” of Jesus on the Earth.

One reader writes, opining that the majority of scholars have the “parousia” as a long-term “presence” of Jesus on the Earth.  What follows is my response to that reader, which includes the citations he included.

——————

The TET interpretation of “parousia” is based on the evidence. Had Jesus come and stayed, then he’d still be here today. Yet he is not here. He has no throne on the Earth and is not holding court here. And for those who want to spiritualize this whole idea into relative meaningless by promoting a model in which “the church” somehow enjoys Jesus’ “spiritual” presence and fellowship, they have a pretty big problem explaining why there is no church today that bears the character or the success of the original.

If parousia must mean a persistent presence, and cannot refer to a temporary one, then we have a problem with these passages:

2 Corinthians 10:10 For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence (parousia) is weak, and his speech contemptible.

Did Paul remain permanently in Corinth? Of course not.

Philippians 1:26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming (parousia) to you again.

Philippians 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence (parousia) only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Did Paul remain permanently in Philippi? No.

2 Thessalonians 2:9 Even him, whose coming (parousia) is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

Did the “lawless one” come to stay permanently? No, he was destroyed in short order.

We can observe with our own eyes, therefore, that the New Testament use of “parousia” did not necessarily have in view a perpetual, or even lengthy presence.

And now let’s take a closer look at the excerpts you put forth, for they do not all lend themselves to your case as you have assumed that they do:

Arndt and Gringrich: “A visible manifestation of a hidden divinity, either in the form of a personal appearance, or, by some deed of power by which its presence is made known.” (Second Edition, 1979, 304).

Arndt and Gringrich do not even mention a perpetual presence here.

Walter Bauer (1979) “It means a visible manifestation of a hidden divinity, either in the form of a personal appearance, or by some deed of power by which its presence is made known.” (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed., rev. William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Fredrick W. Danker (Chicago, IL: U. of Chicago Press, p. 630)

Bauer is merely quoting Arndt and Gringrich, and adds nothing new.

G. Braumann (1976)
[Parousia] means arrival, someone’s coming in order to be present. Technically, the noun is used for the arrival of a ruler, a king, emperor, ruler, or even troops from the Ptolemaic period to the 2nd century A.D.” (Parousia, in the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p. 2:898)

Braumann doesn’t mention “presence” at all, but stresses the arrival.

J. B. Rotherham’s Emphasised Bible Appendix
“In this edition the word parousia is uniformly rendered ‘presence’ (‘coming,’ as a representative of this word, being set aside). . . . The sense of ‘presence’ is so plainly [shown] by the contrast with ‘absence’ . . . that the question naturally arises,-Why not always so render it?” ( p. 271)

Rotherham makes no mention of the length of the visit, and using “coming” in a parenthetical to explain “presence”.

TDNT (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) “in the NT the terms [pareimi and parousia] are never used for the coming of Christ in the flesh . . . The idea of more than one PAROUSIA is first found only in the later Church . . . A basic requisite for understanding the world of thought of primitive Christianity is that we should fully free ourselves from this notion, which, so far as the NT is concerned, is suspect both philologically and materially” (TDNT 4:865).

TDNT makes zero mention of “presence” nor hints as to how long the parousia (whatever they think it is) was to be in effect.

Pulpit Commentary – [Re. Matthew 24:3] The word parousia, which in classical Greek means “presence,” or “arrival,” is used in the New Testament specially for the second advent of Christ to set up his eternal kingdom in full power and glory.

The Pulpit Commentary says “‘presence,’ or ‘arrival'”, and does not stress one over the other.  Nor does the conversation about setting up the kingdom mandate a perpetual presence.

Thayer’s
“1. presence: 1 Co. xvi. 17; 2Co. x. 10; …2. the presence of one coming, hence the coming, arrival, advent.”

Thayer starts with “presence”, but immediately equates it not only with “coming” but also with “arrival”.  No mention is made of the length of the stay.

W.E. Vine
“lit., “a presence,” para, “with,” and ousia, “being” (from eimi, “to be”), denotes both an “arrival” and a consequent “presence with.” For instance, in a papyrus letter a lady speaks of the necessity of her parousia in a place in order to attend to matters relating to her property there. Paul speaks of his parousia in Philippi, Phil 2:12 (in contrast to his apousia, “his absence”…Other words denote “the arrival”.

Here Vine stresses “arrival” and a consequent “presence with” without saying a word about the length of the presence.  He gives no hint of a permanent or persistent presence.

You listed nine excerpts, and of those, only one argues for your model of a perpetual presence:

E.W. Bullinger
” a coming which includes the idea of a permanent dwelling from that coming onwards” (A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament p. 169)

Your argument is an appeal to expertise, for you disregard the evidence in scripture, and lean instead on the opinion of scholars as to the meaning of the word.  Even so, however, eight of the nine scholars whom you cite do not agree with you—at least in the excerpts you posted.

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Understanding the Meaning of “All” in the Bible

UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING OF “ALL” IN THE BIBLE

One trap that many fall into when interpreting the Bible comes in insisting that the word “all”, when it is used, must be interpreted via slavish literalism. They assume when they see the word that the speaker/writer meant by it: “Absolutely every single thing, with no exceptions.”

But this is not necessarily how it was intended when the speaker/writers used it. And here’s some proof:

To the Corinthians, Paul quotes from Psalm 8:6b. He says to them:

1 Corinthians 15: 27 For “God has put ****ALL**** things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “****ALL**** things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put ****ALL**** things in subjection under him.

So here he is explaining that “all” should not be taken to include God himself. In other words, God did not put himself under submission to Jesus. So in this passage, rather than having ALL mean “absolutely every single thing, with no exceptions.”, it seems to mean something more like “every single thing I’m talking about”, for the Psalmist simply was not talking about God himself. And in this particular example, we can see this from the context of the verse in question:

Psalm 8:6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put ****ALL*** things under his feet,

Here we see that what was in view is all of “the works of (God’s) hands”. That is what Jesus was given authority over, and not God himself.

So in this case, all should be interpreted more as “everything I’m’ talking about”.

Now, let’s move this discussion to the next level while considering yet another place where Paul quoted/alluded-to this same sentence from the same Psalm:

Ephesians 1:22 22 And he put ****ALL**** things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Here Paul still knows exactly what he means to say, yet he doesn’t spell it out as he did in 1 Corinthians 15. He doesn’t take the time to make sure that his “all” is not interpreted to refer to a set of things including God himself. Even so, we can be highly certain that Paul would not have considered God to be in that set of things under subjection to Christ. So again, Paul doesn’t write “all” to mean “absolutely every single thing, with no exceptions”. Rather, we would do well to interpret “all” here as “everything I’m’ talking about”.

So let’s take a look at one more “all” passage, to be sure the reader understands what I’m saying in this article. Then I’ll wrap this up.

John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you ****ALL THINGS**** and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

How shall we interpret “all things” here? By “all”, did Jesus mean, “absolutely every single thing, with no exceptions”? Or did he mean “every single thing I’m talking about”?

Let’s say it’s the former—the dogmatic literal interpretation of “all”. In that case, then this promise of Jesus should be meant to understand that the Holy Spirit would reveal to them things like the mass of the planet Jupiter, the exact distance from the Milky Way to Andromeda, the details of the genetic code, and the location where Jimmy Hoffa was to be buried.

But how likely is that? What reason would Jesus have for giving this team that kind of information when it is irrelevant to their duties as apostles?

Shall we INSIST that the “all” here means “absolutely every single thing, with no exceptions”? If so, on what grounds? If he ever told them about Jimmy Hoffa, how would we know?

But it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that he would have told them all things that pertain to their business as apostles. Any good boss would do that. Indeed, did not Peter make it clear that they were indeed in possession of that very information set?:

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us ****ALL THINGS**** that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

As far as we know, this “all things” is a direct reference back to Jesus’ promise in John 14:25, yet here, Peter makes it plain that the scope of those things was limited to “life and godliness”. He doesn’t mention anything here about Jupiter or Hoffa—nor anywhere else in his writings. But he sure seems to know his business as an apostle. And with this, we can reason that the “all things” the Spirit was to teach him and the others probably did not mean “absolutely every single thing, with no exceptions”.

So the next time you’re pondering the meaning of the word “all” in scripture, take a step back and remember that they did not always use the word the way some might use it today—in strict literalism. If you discover that someone’s doctrine is depending on this strict, all-inclusive use of “all”, you might do a little more vetting before you accept it as the truth.

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