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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Abode of the Dead

The Abode of the Dead

The scripture passage about Lazarus and the rich man bothered me for several years.  Not that I couldn’t understand it, but exactly which type of passage was it supposed to be.  I have read that it is a parable used by Jesus as a means to teach against a covetous character, selfishness, and a love for mammon.  I have also read that it is merely a story that was well known in first century Jewish days and Jesus was just reiterating a format of the story since it would be familiar to His listeners.  In his commentary, Robert Utley claims it is a parable: 

This is the fifth in a series of parables in Luke 15, 16. It is a highly unusual parable because  1. it has no introduction  2. it has no explicit application  3. a person is specifically named”.

The reason it is “highly unusual” is because it is not a parable.

In my opinion and based on my theological beliefs, Jesus does not lie or tell tales or half-truths that are not true, even if it might serve a purpose.  This scripture passage with theological implications could not be a tall tale.  My study of the parables of Jesus indicate they all are based on some spiritual aspect of the Kingdom of Heaven (or Kingdom of God).  Therefore the story of Lazarus, with the name of a person, and the rich man is a story containing characteristics which are true.  For example, the soul and spirit of a person at death do not go directly to heaven or the lake of fire but go to the abyss which is divided into two sections:  a place called “paradise” for the righteous; and a place called hades or hell for the unrighteous, exactly the locations of Lazarus and the rich man.

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  (Luke 16:22-23 KJV)

The Greek word translated as “torments” literally means, according to Thayer’s Greek Dictionary:  A touchstone, a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold, silver and other metals, hence any test or criterion by which the qualities of a thing are tried.  This would mean the rich man was being tested or tried.  Thayer continues to state that metaphorically it means: an instrument of torture by which one is forced to divulge the truth, or an examination, that is a trial by torture.  Whether or not the unrighteous are being tortured in hell or hades is open to debate.  The Seventh Day Adventists (and there could be other groups) do not believe in an actual hell of fire or torture because they consider it unfair and ungodly for God to allow one person to be tortured for thousands of years and another for only a few days.  Of course, it could be possible that death is no longer aware of the concept of passing time and one day or a thousand years is the same.  Just a thought, not a doctrine.

The Crucified Thief
The book of Luke is the only gospel detailing the words of the crucified thief beside Jesus.  He asked to be remembered when Jesus comes into His kingdom and he is given the answer, “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise”.

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.  (Luke 23:42-43 KJV)

This has always been a go-to verse for those claiming a righteous person goes to heaven at death.  However, Jesus does not say “heaven” but rather “paradise”.  At death, Jesus also went to paradise or the abyss and not to heaven.  Therefore this is a logical and truthful statement, as it should be since Jesus does not say untruthful things.

By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; (1 Peter 3:19 KJV)

He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.  (Acts 2:31 KJV)

By the way, the word “hell” in Acts 2:31 is actually the Greek word “Hades”.  We don’t actually know the proper background and environment of Hades but if Jesus went there, which it says He does, then I seriously doubt if He was tortured, assuming it is the same location as the scene of the rich man.

Paradise in the Greek Dictionary
Below is an edited version of “Paradise” in the Wordstudy Dictionary.  The edits consist of removed sentences that detail the word “paradise” in other cultures and do not change the definition of the word.  The sections in bold type refer to this article.

Paradise  parádeisos; masc. noun. This is an oriental word which the Greeks borrowed from the Persians, among whom it meant a garden, park, or enclosure full of all the vegetable products of the earth.  The Septuagint uses it to refer to the Garden of Eden.

In later Jewish usage and in the NT, parádeisos is used for the abode of the blessed after death. Paradise, before Christ's resurrection, has been thought to be the region of the blessed in Hades although it was not specifically called by that name (Luk_16:23). Jesus said He would take the repentant thief with Him to paradise (Luk_23:43).
Hades (G86) in the NT was the world or abode of the dead in general. According to the notions of the Jews, Hades was a vast subterranean area where the souls or the spirits of the dead existed in separate states until the resurrection of their bodies. The region of the blessed during this interval, or the inferior paradise, was thought to be in the upper part of this receptacle. Beneath this was the abyss, Gehenna (G1067) or Tartarus (G5020), in which the souls of the wicked were subjected to punishment.

Where is Paradise?
What is the location of the Abyss or Hades or Paradise?  The short answer – I don’t really know.  The words “hell, sheol, and hades originally meant death or the grave.  Their use as translations for ancient texts including mythological writings may not accurately describe the original intention.

From a Biblical standpoint (based on English translations) heaven is considered to be in an upward direction and hell is downward.

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.  (Luke 10:15 KJV)

Paradise can also be considered upward.

How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.  (2 Corinthians 12:4 KJV)

The abyss or bottomless pit of the Revelation is pictured as downward since the beast must ascend upward to leave it.  Of course, a pit would be downward.

The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit (abyss)…..  (Revelation 17:8 KJV)

The Revelation presents a scene featuring souls under the altar.  They are allowed to briefly speak as did Samuel when he was summoned by the witch of Endor for Saul.

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:  (Revelation 6:9 KJV)

Is the location of the abyss, hell, hades, and paradise inside the earth?  It could be but I doubt it.  However, we may not know for certain until it is revealed.  Some scientists now claim there is more water inside the earth than is on the outside.  They claim in center of the earth is a mass of molten fiery metal and rock, but it is just a claim, not a known fact.  The book of Enoch (a non-canonical book) depicts the Watchers (fallen angels/sons of God) as buried inside the earth:  bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth”.  A popular modern theory is one of dimensions.  Heaven, hell, hades, paradise, abyss, outer darkness, and tartarus (prison of the fallen angels in 2nd Peter) are dimensional locations as the universe is a dimension.  As written in another post, fallen angels, demons, and Nephilim are predicted by some exegetes to return during the last days by opening a gate or portal allowing interdimensional activity.  Another thought, not a doctrine.

To Die is to Biblically Sleep
No, dead saints are not skipping from cloud to cloud playing a harp.  They are not living in a mansion in the sky.  They are not watching you and your wife run around naked in your house.  The dead are asleep, either in paradise or hades (hell).  Following are a few verses verifying that death is sleep.

And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers…..
(2 Samuel 7:12 KJV)

So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.  (Job 14:12 KJV)

Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;  (Psalms 13:3 KJV)

These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.  (John 11:11 KJV)

For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers…..  (Acts 13:36 KJV)

For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
(1 Corinthians 11:30 KJV)

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
(1 Corinthians 15:18 KJV)

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  (1 Thessalonians 4:15 KJV)

And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
(2 Peter 3:4 KJV)

Yes, it is true that Jesus said His Father’s house has many mansions and He is currently preparing one for every righteous person, but that mansion will not be available until the Millennium when the new Jerusalem appears on the earth.

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  (John 14:2-3 KJV)

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  (Revelation 21:2 KJV)

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