Paradise And The Place Of The Dead
Throughout the Old Testament, there is the teaching of a holding area for the faithful as well as for the unfaithful.
Abraham in Gen.25:8 said when he died he was gathered to his people.
David said that when his son died (2 Sam. 12:28) I will go to him he will not come to me. Jacob said in Gen.49:29 “I am to be gathered to my people.” There was a definite location that was being spoken of, it did not mean they would go the way the wicked would, nor does it mean to be buried in the ground only. The Old Testament writers certainly believed in an afterlife existence.
In the New Testament we find in Luke 16 Jesus also believed in an afterlife, he describes the story of the rich man and Lazarus in which Lazarus was taken to Abraham’s bosom the place of rest for the righteous and faithful. Lazarus was taken nearby but in another compartment. All this proves is that there is a conscious existence after death.
Abraham’s bosom is found frequently in the rabbinical writings. The Greek word has its Hebrew counterpart meaning a royal park or garden. This is where all the righteous from the time of Adam went awaiting their redemption. This holding area was necessary since the Old Testament sacrifices did not take away sins but only covered them. While this sacrificial system was able to keep them from the punishment in hell they needed their sins to be totally removed to enter heaven. So they waited in faith (the only exception would be one who received a glorified body incorruptible to live there).
At the transfiguration Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus discussing with him the future events that are about to transpire. This shows that Moses had a continual conscious life existing in the intermediate state after dying which was before the resurrection. Elijah was taken to heaven without dying (we don’t know if he stayed there?) and still existed in consciousness also. Both appear in some form at the Mountain discussing Jesus’ departure from earth.
Jesus said to the thief on the cross who repented, “Today (Present tense) you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This thief was neither baptized nor partook of the Lords supper he believed and was promised to be with Jesus.
He did no works but only believed. This is hard to accept for those who add requirements to be saved or busy themselves to earn their way to heavens abode.
What was the location of paradise when Jesus spoke this?
At that point in time paradise was located inside the earth in Hades which was divided into two primary parts as seen in Luke 16. The righteous went to the side called paradise (Abraham’s bosom) the unrighteous went to Gehenna (hell). Some argue that the word “today” is not the timing of where the thief would be, but when Jesus was saying it to him. While we can it pick over words, the meaning is obvious in the context of the statement. He would be with Jesus, where did Jesus go that day? Paradise.
Eph. 4:8-10 Therefore he says “when he ascended on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts to men” “Now this he ascended what does it mean but that he first descended into the lower parts of the earth. 10: He who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens that he might fill all things.”
Those who had been waiting in faith in the compartment called Paradise (Abraham’s bosom) were led in ascending to heaven with Jesus in his ascension. Jesus descended to the lowest parts first means he went from the farthest heights to the lowest. The lower parts of the earth are the word Hades. The word Sheol (Hebrew) and Hades (Greek) are two different words for the same thing. Mt. 12:40 tells us that the location of Hades is in the center of the earth. This could refer to the incarnation although in its context it appears to mean he descended into the area of Hades to receive those out he would ascend with.
1 Pt.3:19: “Being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. By whom also he went and preached (proclaimed) to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah…”
Here is another account of Jesus with those who have passed from this life and still exist. Those who were believers in Jesus before he died were then presented his victory at the cross. The verb preached is not the Greek word “evangelize,” to preach the good news but kerusso meaning to announce or proclaim which would fit judgment not a redemptive call.
This event occurred between Christ’s death and resurrection. While his body was put in the tomb His God / Spirit went to the place of confinement for the angels to announce their coming judgment. There are numerous views of who these beings are. The view that is best supported is actual spirits (angels or demons) because of its consistent use in this manner throughout the New Testament.
Till next week,
Elder Dr. Robert L. Harrison