You are hereJesus, Hades and Mythology: with an Addendum Concerning Eternal Conscious Torment and Preterism

Jesus, Hades and Mythology: with an Addendum Concerning Eternal Conscious Torment and Preterism

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By Jer - Posted on 21 April 2007

by Jeremy Lile
This is an expanded version of my TruthVoice 2007 presentation. I hope someone finds it useful.This is an expanded version of my TruthVoice 2007 presentation. I hope someone finds it useful.

Introduction

Among the Surma people of Ethiopia, the
women pierce their lower lips and then stretch the skin to insert
large plates as a mark of beauty. Over time, these plates can be as
large as several inches in diameter. Upon seeing such a practice,
most Americans would have to look away or gasp in disbelief. One
might even consider this people to be “primitive” or
“uncivilized.” As odd as this beautification process
might sound to us, there are some practices that are even more
bizarre. The details are the stuff of horror movies. This group has
an unusual use for their dead. Instead of stretching their lower
lips, these people beautify themselves by making small holes in the
surface of the skin and to force tissue from the dead into their
bodies. Large sheets of skin are also cut away from the inner thighs
of corpses for the same purpose. After the skin has been ritually
purified, the people adorn their bodies with it in an effort to
maintain beauty and status. Absolutely bizarre, you might think.
“Where is this ghastly, barbaric culture?” You have
probably seen them on TV. It is possible that you could meet someone
from this group. Oh, the horror! If you haven't guessed, I will end
the suspense. You, reader, are probably part of the this barbaric
culture. You see, synthetics are not the only materials used in
“plastic” surgery. Surma women would probably think it
odd that Americans harvest tissue from cadavers to beautify
themselves. Think about that the next time you see the full lips of
some American beauty. Yes, Mr. Heston. Soylent Green is people... i

The point of this little ruse was to
raise the reader's awareness to one simple but often overlooked fact:
Cultures vary and we need to be careful about reading ourselves into
the writings of another people. The cultures of the Bible are greatly
different than our own. “There are many ways to describe the
differences. The world of the Bible, for example, is ancient; our
world is modern. It is an Eastern world; ours is Western... It is
agricultural; ours is industrial. Biblical people think of their
goods and resources as limited. We consider ours renewable. They
think of themselves as households; we think of ourselves as
individuals... Their favorite genre of literature is story; ours is
history.” ii
These are fundamental differences that shape not only how we view
ourselves, but also the world around us. Of course there are
commonalities. The people we read about are not completely
incomprehensible to us. However, when we are ignorant of our
differences, we tend to fill in the blanks with our cultural
knowledge. This can lead to serious misunderstanding.

Many of the differences mentioned above
are covered in two previous articles: A Socio-Cultural Perspective
On Elements of New Testament Eschatology iii

and Cultural Relativity and the Evil Eye. iv
The current article is a continuation of those studies. Let me
briefly summarize my approach:


“A socio-cultural perspective... is interested in explaining
patterns of behavior and thought within the proper system of
inherited conceptions. It's thinking inside the box, culture
as an integrated whole. Language and other behaviors derive meaning
from social systems. As such, to understand the words of Jesus and
the early Christian message, we must understand the 'social facts'
that precede them. Therefore, the meaning of a symbol (e.g., a word,
an artifact, a behavior) must be understood by its relationship to
other symbols within this historically transmitted framework.”
v

We often hear, “How would the
original audience have understood this?” The social sciences
and anthropology vi
help answer these questions. They are an aid for doing Theology, not
a replacement of it. The purpose of this approach is to avoid two
isms: ethnocentrism and anachronism. An ethnocentric reading assumes values and beliefs
that would be foreign to the original culture – or fails to
recognize the cultural values assumed by the text. For example, in
Judges 3 we find a character named Ehud. After we are given the usual
status markers, the name of his father and his tribe, we also receive
another tidbit of information. He is a left-handed man. This not
unusual among his tribe, but why is this important to the story?
Pardon my lewdness here, but the left hand was reserved for toilet
duty. In the Aja language of Benin, West Africa, what we call the
“left hand” would translate to something like “push
the excrement away hand.” Ehud, the left-handed assassin, stabs
King Eglon while in the “restroom” (v. 24). We are told
that “excrement” comes out of the wound. What we have
here in Judges 3 is an example of, quit literally, ancient bathroom
humor – an appropriate fate for someone the Israelites viewed
as excrement. vii
Most of us miss the humor due to the first ism. The second ism
is anachronism. This refers to bad chronology, something out of time.
For example, reading Dante's Inferno back into a New Testament
text – a subject we'll cover in more detail.

The aim of this piece is to apply the
method summarized above to the
ancient underworld. In doing so, I will attempt to familiarize
the reader with some of the cultural knowledge shared by people in
the first century. The intention of this exercise is not to impugn
the scripture by comparing it with other literature, lest someone
should get that feeling before reaching the conclusion, but to uphold
its integrity by peeling back the layers of our own myths. I want to
replace our “cultural knowledge” with theirs. I
will be painting with some pretty broad strokes at times. Just like
today, there were different notions of the afterlife in antiquity –
everything from nothingness to various forms of reincarnation. viii
So when the reader comes across a phrase like the “Greek
underworld,” “Hebrew underworld,” or “the
concept of...” please realize that this is not intended to
encompass every person. It is a qualitative description in that the
features under consideration generally conform to one or the other.

Sheol in Biblical Literature

To begin, I would
like to briefly summarize Sheol as it is appears in the Old
Testament. In some respects, the picture of the underworld contained
in the Hebrew Bible, however nebulous, was unique among contemporary
cultures. ix
John H. Walton notes that, “The term [Sheol] has no known
antecedent in other cultures or religions of the ancient world...”
x
Walton also provides a useful summary that we will refer to often as
we proceed:


  1. Those in
    Sheol were viewed as separated from God.


  2. Sheol is
    never referred to as the abode of the wicked alone.


  3. While Sheol
    is never identified as the place where all go, the burden of proof
    rests on those who suggest that there was an alternative.


  4. Sheol is a
    place of negation: no possessions, memory, knowledge, joy


  5. It is not
    viewed as a place where judgment or punishment takes place, though
    it is considered an act of God's judgment to be sent there rather
    than remaining alive. Thus, it is inaccurate to translate sheol
    as “hell,” as the latter is by definition a place of
    punishment.


  6. There is no
    reference suggesting varying compartments in Sheol. “Deepest”
    Sheol (e.g., Deut. 32:22) refers to its location (“beneath”)
    rather than a lower compartment. xi


I want highlight
the last two points: Sheol was not a place of judgment or punishment.
There is no reference to varying compartments. Please keep these in
mind. This view is markedly different from our current notions of the
afterlife, or at least some of the more popular ideas that have been
passed down to us. Not only do we have division and punishment, there
is also a nearly omnipotent and omnipresent demon who torments both
the dead and the living.

Our Myths

One of my favorite
movies is O, Brother Where Art Thou?
At one point in the film, the character Pete ponders the appearance
of the devil. His associate, Ulysses Everett McGill, is always ready
to offer an opinion:


Well of course there's all manner of lesser imps 'n demons, Pete, but
the Great Satan hisself is red and scaly with a bifurcated tail and carries a hayfork --

Most
of us are familiar with the image. Harvey Comics had a character
named Hot Stuff, a little devil who looked much like the
description above – with addition of diapers. We find this icon
in everything from Halloween costumes to product logos. It reflect
beliefs that have been passed down for generations. It is part of our
culture... and it's not always cute or funny.

One does not need direct knowledge of
Dante or Milton to have been touched by their influence. Dante's most
famous work, Divine Comedy, combined Biblical theology with
classical mythology – more of the latter. We owe much to his
tales of boiling pitch, a river of boiling blood and the like. Such
imagery has been the stuff of terrifying sermons. When Jonathan
Edwards preached on hell, colonial Americans would sometimes faint
with fright:


“To help your conception, imagine yourself to be cast into a
fiery oven, all of a glowing heat, or into the midst of a blowing
brick-kiln, or of a great furnace, where your pain would be as much
greater than that occasioned by accidentally touching a coal of fire,
as the heat is greater. Imagine also that your body were to lie there
for a quarter of an hour, full of fire, as full within and without as
a bright coal of fire, all the while full of quick sense; what horror
would you feel at the entrance of such a furnace! And how long would
that quarter of an hour seem to you!... And how much greater would be
the effect, if you knew you must endure it for a whole year, and how
vastly greater still if you knew you must endure it for a thousand
years! O then, how would your heart sink, if you thought, if you
knew, that you must bear it forever and ever!... That after millions
of ages, your torment would be no nearer to an end, than it ever was;
and that you never, never should be delivered! But your torment in
Hell will be immeasurably greater than this illustration represents.”
xii

Years later, Charles H. Surgeon would
speak to a London audience:


“Thine heart beating high with fever, thy pulse rattling at an
enormous rate in agony, thy limbs crackling like the martyrs in the
fire and yet unburnt, thyself put in a vessel of hot oil, pained yet
coming out undestroyed, all thy veins becoming a road for the hot
feet of pain to travel on, every nerve a string on which the devil
shall ever play his diabolical tune.” xiii

And it's just a short step from here to
Clive Barker... Recall the summary of Sheol above. Is this a
consistent picture? How did we get from Sheol to here? The history is
long, but there is an unbroken chain that began well before these
men. For our purposes, the past and the present converge in the
Hellenistic Age. This age also coincides with what is known as the
Intertestamental Period, when many of the pseudepigrapha and
deuterocanonical books were written. Great changes took place during
this time through cultural diffusion. This is
the process by which a cultural trait, material object, idea, or
behavior pattern is spread from one society to another. A modern
example might be a McDonald's restaurant in Japan. Diffusion also
occurs when people of different cultures live in close proximity.
They intermarry, exchange goods, ideas, etc. Israel was often warned
about absorbing the culture of those around them:


2 Kings 17:6-12 ...the king of Assyria captured Samaria and
deported the people of Israel to Assyria... This happened because the
Israelites sinned against the LORD their God, who brought them up
from the land of Egypt and freed them from the power of Pharaoh king
of Egypt. They worshiped other gods; they observed the practices of
the nations whom the LORD had driven out from before Israel, and
followed the example of the kings of Israel. The Israelites said
things about the LORD their God that were not right. They built high
places in all their cities, from the watchtower to the fortress.
They set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and
under every green tree. They burned incense on all the high places
just like the nations whom the LORD had driven away from before them.
Their evil practices made the LORD angry. They worshiped the
disgusting idols in blatant disregard of the LORD's command. (NET)

The
Israelites had incorporated the traits of surrounding people into
their own practices, specifically religious practices. This is
cultural diffusion. In Jewish
literature of the Hellenistic Age (and beyond) the Hebrew
underworld was embellished with elements of the dominant Greek
culture. Its influence is even evident in the Septuagint in that
Hades, Tartarus and Titans xiv
all make an appearance. Sheol is replaced by Hades
not only in translation, but to a large degree in thought as well.
What was once vague and shadowy finds definition in this period.

Greek
in First Century Palestine

Greek
influence even in orthodox Palestinian Judaism has been recognized
for some time. Decades ago, C.H. Dodd remarked that “modified
Greek conceptions have been taken up and naturalized within Judaism”
and “Rabbinic or orthodox Palestinian Judaism of the first
Christian century was not nearly so much a closed system as it has
been thought to have been.” xv
Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel notes:


“There were a
thousand young men in my father's house, 500 of them studied the Law,
while the other 500 studied Greek Wisdom.” xvi

His
father was Gamaliel II who was made Nasi xvii
in approximately 80 AD. He was also the grandson of Paul's famous
teacher mentioned in Acts 22:3. It is quite possible that Paul
himself had a similar education. In fact, we do have evidence in the
New Testament to suggest this. In Paul's sermon on Mars Hill, he
explains the “unknown god” to his audience:


From one man he made
every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth,
determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where
they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope
around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of
us. For in him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your
own poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring.' So since we are
God's offspring, we should not think the deity is like gold or silver
or stone, an image made by human skill and imagination. (NET)

The first portion of verse 28, is a
quote from Epimenides (ca. 600 BC). In his poem Cretica, Minos
says to Zeus:


They fashioned a tomb for you, O holy and high one—

The Cretans,always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!

But you are not dead: you live and abide forever,

For in you welive and move and have our being. xviii


Keener notes, “The quote from the Greek poet Epimenides (v. 28) appears in Jewish anthologies of proof
texts useful for showing pagans the truth about God, and Paul may have learned it from such a text.” xix


The second portion of verse 28 is from the Phaenomena of Aratus (ca.
315-240 BC):


Let us begin with Zeus, whom men never leave unmentioned.

For indeed every street, every assembly of people is full of Zeus.

Even the sea and harbor are full [of him].

In every way, we are indebted to Zeus.

For we are indeed his offspring... xx


This scene in Acts is an interesting study, but for now just one point needs to be made:
Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, knew Greek literature. Again, this is
cultural diffusion. As we shall see, Jewish writers during this
period recast Sheol bringing it more in line with the notion of Hades
recorded in the Greek poets and philosophers. Again, what was once
vague and shadowy finds definition in this period. First, we'll take
a brief tour of Hades in Greek literature and then see how it
compares with Jewish writings from this period.

Hades in Mythology

We are introduced
to Hades in book I of Homer's Iliad. The hero Achilles dispatched
many souls to the House of Hades, the abode of the dead. It is
described as “dark,” “dank” “misty,”
and “gloomy.” In the Odyssey, Hermes as the soul-guider
(ψυχοπομπός ,
psychopomp) leads the dead to underworld. Yet Hades was not just a
place below the earth, the term refers to the lord of the underworld
as well. Homer tells us, “it is only Hades who is utterly
ruthless and unyielding--and hence he is of all gods the one most
hateful to mankind.” (Iliad IX) He is not evil as such, but
fulfills his function – much to the dismay of mortals. The
underworld is a bit like the Hotel California. You can check out any
time you like, but you can never leave. xxi
Cerberus made sure of that. xxii
We also learn much from Hesiod and his works Theogony
and Works and Days. Hesiod tells us that Hades is the
brother of Zeus and also Poseidon. Hades is “strong...,
pitiless in heart, [and] dwells under the earth” (Theogony,
453-491).

In this work we
also learn about Tartarus, a primordial deity as well as part of the
underworld.


And there, all in their order,
are the sources and ends of gloomy earth and misty Tartarus and the
unfruitful sea and starry heaven, loathsome and dank, which even the
gods abhor. It is a great gulf, xxiii
and if once a man were within the gates, he would not reach the floor
until a whole year had reached its end, but cruel blast upon blast
would carry him this way and that. And this marvel is awful even to
the deathless gods. (Theogony, 736-744)

It is this great gulf that came to be
the prison for most of the Titans when Zeus came into power.

At this time, the fate of all was the
same: “Their souls passed beneath the earth and went down into
the house of Hades; but their bones, when the skin is rotted about
them, crumble away on the dark earth under parching Sirius.” xxiv
You probably wouldn't want a summer home in the underworld, but it
wasn't torturous. The Greek underworld did evolve over time. xxv
For example, philosophers such as Plato and
other groups like the Orphics and Pythagoreans include judgment of
the dead. Souls are assigned to one of three realms: Elysium Fields xxvi
for the virtuous and heroic. The gods cast the very worst sinners
into Tartarus for endless punishment. The hoi polloi resided in the
house of Hades. These ideas were well developed before Alexander's
conquest and they have remained influential for centuries.

Another
interesting feature in stories of the Greek underworld is what John
J. Collins calls the “otherworldly journey.” He writes,
“The motif of otherworldly journey, both ascent to heaven and
descent to the netherworld, was widespread in antiquity and is found
already in Homer's Odyssey, Book 11.” xxvii
The term used to describe such journeys is νέκυια
(nekyia). It originally referred to a magical rite by which the dead
were called up for consultation. It is also the name of the 11th
book of Homer's Odyssey, which involves a visit to the
underworld. Later the term was used for all such visits to the
underworld. xxviii
Famous examples of underworld travelers include: the Sumerian
Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Heracles, Aeneas, and our good friend Dante.

Let's
summarize our very brief tour of Hades in classical mythology:


  1. Hades
    is the abode of the dead under the earth


  2. Psychopomp
    (Hermes) leads the dead to Hades


  3. A
    great gulf, Tartarus


  4. Divisions
    for virtuous and sinners, Elysium Fields and Tartarus


  5. Rewards
    and punishments


  6. Underworld
    is visited in nekyia tales


Hades in Later Jewish Literature

A
comparative study of Hades in later Jewish sources betrays the fact
that the underworld at this time has more in common with Greek Hades
than Hebrew Sheol. xxix
The following is not an exhaustive list but a summary that highlights
the relevant features. A good bit of this information is taken from
The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1 by James H.
Charlesworth.


In 4 Esdras (First Century AD) the author discusses the fate of the
righteous and the wicked when their spirits “shall be separated
from their mortal body.” This is the so-called intermediate
state prior to the last days. The unrighteous spirtis, we are told,
shall “wander about in torments, ever
grieving and sad, in seven ways.” (RSV, 7:80) This torment
includes seeing the reward laid
up for the righteous and their habitation. Likewise, the righteous
will see the punishment of the wicked. These features are unaccounted
for in the Hebrew bible.

I Enoch (Second Century BC –
First Century AD) contains many traces of Greek myth,
and Mesopotamian for that matter. In this tale Enoch
makes a journey to the underworld, a Jewish nekyia. This is most
certainly a motif that has been, to borrow a phrase from Dodd, “taken
up and naturalized within Judaism.” The story is Jewish on the
surface, but the contact with other sources is evident. The author of
Enoch spends several chapters retelling of the Genesis 6 material –
the sons of God mating with the daughters of men and their offspring.
This obscure section of Genesis is rewritten in great detail. Here,
too, what was once vague and shadowy finds definition.

One of the more notable additions is the role of Azazel, a great angel.
He is said to have “taught men to make swords, and knives, and
shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the
earth and the art of working them...” (8:1) God was not pleased
that the great angel had given mankind this knowledge. Enoch
proclaimed this against Azazel: “...a severe sentence has gone
forth [from God] to put you in bonds.” (13:1) His liver wasn't
pecked out, but the similarities between Azazel and Prometheus are
hard to miss. Prometheus stole more than fire. In addition to the
gifts attributed to Azazel by author of Enoch, the Titan also gave
mankind medicine, interpretation of dreams, and enlightenment
Prometheus extols his deeds in Aeschylus' play Prometheus Bound:


Beneath the earth,
man's hidden blessing, copper, iron, silver, and gold – will
anyone claim to have discovered them before I did? No one, I am very
sure, who wants to speak truly and to the purpose. One brief word
will tell the whole story: all arts that mortals have come from
Prometheus. xxx

Like Prometheus, Azazel was bound –
not to a rock but in a great abyss, as were the Titans. xxxi

Other features of I Enoch, include
three divisions of the dead: one for the righteous and two for the
wicked (Ch. 22:9-10). Here Collins notes that the spring of water and
light in the abode of the righteous are Orphic motifs. xxxii
This is clear evidence that Enoch's geography of the underworld was
influenced by Greek traditions. In other words, Hades is not
just a loanword from the Greeks. It retains many of its features, one
of which is eternal punishment in the middle of the earth (Ch. 26 &
27). Another interesting scene occurs at the end of the work. Here
sinners cry in torment as they view the righteous in glory while at
the same time the righteous see the punishment of the wicked (Ch.
108:14-15), similar to 4 Ezdras. We will encounter this again.

In II Enoch (First Century AD) the main
character makes another nekyia to the underworld. The outlook isn't
much better. Enoch sees those who are waiting for the measureless
judgment of God. (7:1-3 [J]) It is a place of torture and torment for
the ungodly. Other features include fire, darkness, gloom and a river
of fire. He closes saying, “To what a small extent they have
sinned in this life, but in the eternal life they will suffer
forever” (42:3 [J])

The
Apocalypse Of Zephaniah (First Century BC – First Century AD)
also contains a Jewish nekyia. Punishment is a major theme in this
tale, too. Angels take on the role of “psychopomp,”
guiding souls to their final destination. Much like Hades himself,
there is a great angel called Eremiel who “rules over the abyss
and Hades.” (6:15) While making preparations for a river
journey in the underworld, the seer's guide exclaims, “Triumph,
prevail because you have prevailed and have triumphed over the
accuser, and you have come up from Hades and the abyss. You will now
cross over the crossing place.” (7:9) On the other side of the
crossing place, on the good side, stands Abraham along with other
heroes from Israel's past. (9:4-5) It is a Hebrew work, but it
incorporates all of the Hadean features we discussed earlier. In
other words, this is not Old Testament Sheol.

These stories, especially
the Apocalypse Of Zephaniah, share many
characteristics with one piece of canonical literature. We would like
to examine the following text against the backdrop of the previous
readings. Even those who are familiar with this parable should read
it now while imagery is still fresh.

The Rich Man and Lazarus


Luke 16:19-31 19 "Now there was a rich man, and he habitually
dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every
day. 20 "And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate,
covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which
were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were
coming and licking his sores. 22 "Now the poor man died and was
carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also
died and was buried. 23 "In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being
in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24
"And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me,
and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water
and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.' 25 "But
Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received
your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is
being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 'And besides all
this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those
who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that
none may cross over from there to us.' 27 "And he said, 'Then I
beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house-- 28 for I
have five brothers-- in order that he may warn them, so that they
will not also come to this place of torment.' 29 "But Abraham
said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.' 30
"But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them
from the dead, they will repent!' 31 "But he said to him, 'If
they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be
persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'" (NASU) xxxiii

This parable presents a Hellenized view
of the underworld in first century Palestine. The motifs in Luke
16:19-31, Enoch, and Zephaniah are an amalgamation of the Hebrew
Bible and Greek myth. (Please, no hate mail at this point.) Let's
compare:
































Greek Literature



Luke 16



1)
Hades is the abode of the dead



1) Hades is the abode of the dead



2) Psychopomp leads the dead to the underworld



2) Psychopomp leads the dead to the underworld



3) There is a great gulf



3) There is a great gulf



4) Divisions for virtuous and sinners



4) Divisions for virtuous and sinners



5) Rewards and punishments



5) Rewards and punishments


Now let's compare the Rich Man and
Lazarus with our summary of Old Testament Sheol:
































Old Testament Literature



Luke 16



1)
Sheol is the abode of the dead



1) Hades is the abode of the dead



2)



2) Psychopomp leads the dead to the underworld



3)



3) There is a great gulf



4)



4) Divisions for virtuous and sinners



5)



5) Rewards and punishments


An abode of the
dead is the only similar feature. Why the disparity? At the beginning
of this paper I wrote, “...the meaning of a symbol (e.g., a
word, an artifact, a behavior) must be understood by its relationship
to other symbols within this historically transmitted framework.”
Jesus is communicating inside their
cultural “box,” just as Paul did on Mars Hill.
Jesus' intent was not to substantiate these
notions of the underworld any more than it was Paul's intent to
confirm the deity of Zeus! Both used the material to suite their
purposes. In Jesus' case, it was to reveal the heart of Israel. xxxiv
The moral of the story is in verse 31: “If they do not listen
to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone
rises from the dead.” He made his point in culturally relevant
terms drawing from various influence that been taken up within
Judaism. His use of such imagery should not be understood as tacit
consent to the reality of such a place. (This will be addressed again
in the addendum.)

Consider
Matthew 21:33-46. Jesus tells another parable about a man who planted
a vineyard. It had a nice fence and a pit for a winepress –
even a watchtower. The landowner rents out his vineyard to some very
wicked tenants. They kill everyone he sends to collect his portion of
the crop. Finally, he sends his son and they kill him,
too. The landowner is enraged. What will he do? “He will
utterly destroy those evil men! Then he will lease the vineyard to
other tenants who will give him his portion at the harvest.”
(Mt 21:41) What are we supposed to get out of this? This vineyard is somewhere in Palestine. We
have some clues to its layout. It had a pit for a winepress, a fence
and a watchtower. If we put together a team of archaeologists, I'm
sure that we could prove the verity of Jesus' story. What do you
think? Is that missing the point? The moral is: “For this reason I tell you that the kingdom of God
will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its
fruit.” (Matthew 21:43)

Why
is Luke 16:19-31 so different? Perhaps it's our natural inclination
to want to know what happens beyond the grave. Maybe later Jewish
writers couldn't resist filling in the blanks either. In any case,
people have only perpetuated the myth of Hades by unnecessarily
trying to rescue Jesus from Greek influence. xxxv
Others simply incorporate the mythical elements into their theology.
For example, in the New International Commentary series, Joel Green
makes this observation, “This parable is often taken as
instruction on 'the intermediate state'.. often with reference to the
state of the a disembodied soul; or as a manifestation of Luke's
'individual eschatology'” xxxvi
Why? Is the parable of the landowner in Matthew 21 to be taken as
instruction on how to plant and run a vineyard? The Rich Man and
Lazarus is the only parable that receives such treatment. This is not
an elucidation on the state of those who had experienced biological
death. Jesus used contemporary “modified
Greek conceptions” that had been “taken up and
naturalized within Judaism” to tell a story. Don't confuse it
with history, our favorite form of literature.

If
one concedes to the assessment above, then we must continue to ask
questions of ourselves. Many of us have transferred these mythic
elements to other texts where they do not belong. In light of a
culturally sensitive reading of the Rich
Man and Lazarus, should we not reexamine the doctrines that may have
been influenced by a failure to recognize Jesus' use of myth? When
we do, we will find that Old Testament Sheol and New Testament Hades
are quite harmonious... Luke
16:19-31 is the odd man out.

Summary: Our Mythology Revisited

Whether
explicitly or tacitly, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus has
been used in support of a doctrine called eternal conscious
torment
, as found in the realm of Tartarus and the later Jewish writers we surveyed.
Basically, God will subject unrighteous souls to the punishments recounted by Spurgeon, Dante, I Enoch,
Apoc. of Zephaniah, and Greek myth for all eternity. As Edwards said, these souls are "all the while full of quick sense." In the New Testament, the parabolic underworld of Luke 16:19-31
serves as a model of legitimization. By viewing the mythical elements
as “history” rather than “story,” the myth of Hades and
its fiendish features have been perpetuated. Now when we come across “unquenchable
fire” (Mark 9:43) or “...the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever”
(Rev 14:11) we see it as an extension of the the torment in Luke 16:19-31, i.e., it takes place in the afterlife.
Yet similar pronouncements occur in the Old Testament, referring to divine judgment in this
world, and many of us do not feel the need for crass literalism. (For examaple: Isa 34:8-17, 66:24;
Jer 17:4, 49:43) Duration is the not point.
In any regard, eternal conscious torment is foreign to the Hebrew bible - but that hasn't
stopped people from trying to find it there.

A gentleman by the name
of Mark Driscoll cites the Rich Man and Lazarus in support of this
teaching. He takes Jesus to be speaking of “hell” as he
summarizes the parable: “Hell is a place of unending torment.”
xxxvii
He clearly reads this back into the Old Testament passages he offers
as proof, both of which have been fulfilled in the preterist
framework:


The following Old Testament truths about hell
are worthy of note:


Hell is unending, conscious, loathsome torment (Is 66.22-24)


Heaven and hell will have people in them forever (Dn 12.1-2) xxxviii

For preterists,
Jesus places the fulfillment of Daniel 12 in the first century
(Matthew 24:15, 21; 25:46). The same is true for Isaiah 66. This
chapter concerns the new heavens and earth
brought about by the judgment in the preceding chapter. Verse 24 of
Isaiah 66 reads, “And they shall go forth and look on the dead
bodies of the men that have rebelled against me; for their worm shall
not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an
abhorrence to all flesh.” It's hard to find “Hell is
unending, conscious, loathsome torment” in that. To leave the
dead unburied dishonored them. This is especially the case after a
battle. This language carries over into divine judgment as well. For
example:


Jeremiah 7:32-33 “So, watch out!”says
the LORD. “The time will soon come when people will no longer
call those places Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom. But they will
call that valley the Valley of Slaughter and they will bury so many
people in Topheth they will run out of room. 33 Then the dead bodies
of these people will be left on the ground for the birds and wild
animals to eat. And there won't be anyone left to scare them away.”
(NET)

The people of Judah acted shamefully and as result they
would suffer a shameful death by God's judgment. This is hell on
earth. Seriously. This valley, what is called Gehenna
in the New Testament, is on the south side of Jerusalem.
(Unfortunately, this is usually rendered as hell.) It was in
this place where the people of Judah practiced idolatry and
sacrificed their children. God says their dead bodies would be stacked
high and deep as a result. The valley came to signifying
reproach, shame, and defilement. “Here
the dead bodies of animals and of criminals, and all kinds of filth,
were cast and consumed by fire kept always burning.” xxxix
In the latter part of Mark
9, Jesus cites Isaiah 66:24 and makes application to Gehenna and the
coming of the kingdom. (v. 47) But the coming of the kingdom is
tied to the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20, 31) “Josephus indicates that the
same valley was heaped with dead bodies of the Jews following the
Roman siege of Jerusalem about A.D. 69-70.” xl
Yet Mr. Driscoll says of Mark 9:43-48, “Jesus said the eternal
torment of Isaiah 66:22-24 is literally coming.” xli
In his view, this occurs post-history and/or postmortem. Does this
mean that people will go to heaven “cripple” or “lame”
or with “one eye” if they take Jesus' advice? Perhaps
Jesus is simply speaking of the Gehenna outside Jerusalem, like
Isaiah and Jeremiah, as there is nothing in the text to suggest that
this is postmortem eternity. Proper burial was a big deal. Having
one's body tossed into the sea (v. 42) or the valley of Gehenna (v.
43, 45, 47) would be a shameful fate – to oneself and to one's
family.

The reader may
have noticed that Mr. Driscoll incorporated both of those infamous
isms in his assessment of Isaiah 66. He holds the judgment
to be future (anachronism). He also filtered the scene through
centuries of our cultural “hell” imagery
(ethnocentrism). This is an example of how we got from Sheol to hell.
Eternal conscious torment may work in a futurist model, but preterism
and culturally sensitive reading xlii
of the text reveal some serious problems.

If we can accept
the fact that Jesus incorporated myth into the Rich Man and Lazarus
story, then we will be free to jettison the wrongheaded conclusions
that have been drawn out of this parable and read into other texts
(e.g., Is 66). This is not Bultmann's demythologizing of scripture,
but rather being true to the text in its cultural context. Let us
instead demythologize the traditions that have been handed down to us
– from Homer to Clive Barker. Eternal conscious torment is a
relic of futurism, the product of anachronism and ethnocentrism,
rooted in Greek myth and a misunderstanding of Jesus' use of it.
(Count to 10 and take few deep breaths.) As such, it does not fit in
the preterist model. I hope to demonstrated below.

Addendum

Eternal Conscious Torment and
Preterism: A Test Case

This addendum assumes the reader is familiar with
the preterist framework so for the sake of brevity I will not seek to prove it.
This examination will attempt to demonstrate
the validity of the claims made in the previous section.
Specifically, eternal conscious torment does not fit within the
preterist framework. To my knowledge, Mr. Ed Stevens of preterist.org
is the only person to commit this position to writing. He uses the
phrase “eternal conscious punishment.” xliii
However, it would appear that “torment” of some degree is
implicit in his conception of punishment. xliv
Whether this is indeed the case will not affect my line of
argumentation. It is my hope that the reader will consider the arguments
in the spirit intended.

In the following
examples, the reader will notice that both Mr. Stevens and Mr.
Dricoll base their arguments on the same Old Testament texts, the new
heavens and earth of Isaiah and the resurrection of Daniel. Mr.
Stevens' treatment of these texts retains traces of futurist
eschatology, albeit in an individualized form. He emphasizes
biological death over the fulfillment of Old Covenant promises. Of
course as a preterist, we assume he recognizes the significance of AD 70.
That is, the texts that were once held over for future judgment and eternal hell
are now in our past. In light of this, I am puzzled by certain references that
can only be categorized as “dual fulfillment” in some
sense. Also, as was the case with Mr. Driscoll, the parabolic
underworld of the Rich Man and Lazarus serves as an interpretive model.
Such an approach impairs our ability to see these other verses clearly –
and our misunderstanding is only reinforced by
the cultural baggage we bring to the text. In other words, check
Clive Barker at the door.

Luke 16:19-31
Revisted

We are told, “Hades was a
conscious waiting place for the biologically dead.” xlv
For Mr. Stevens, the parable of the Rich and Man and Lazarus is a
“true to life” xlvi
depiction of the underworld. He argues, “If the picture Jesus
paints of Hades is not correct, then we would have to charge Jesus
with misrepresenting reality.” xlvii
This is the sum of his argument. However, this premise is not
necessarily true. Jesus does not claim, or even intimate, that this
parable is a “true to life” depiction of the underworld.
This is speculation. It is quite plausible that Jesus used “stock”
motifs that were popular at the time, such as those found in I Encoch, Apoc. of Zephaniah, etc. Again, Jesus' use of the
imagery is not tacit consent to the existence of such a place. The
Bible also speaks of “other gods” without denying their
existence. These appear in the Old Testament books we classify as
history - not in parables. Must we conclude that they exist? We
cannot accuse Jesus of “misrepresenting reality” without
impugning many Old Testament writers as well. xlviii
As such, Mr. Stevens' conclusion is shown to be unsound.

Just
in case someone skipped down to the addendum without reading the
previous sections, let's consider the analogy of Matthew 21:33-46
again. Jesus tells another parable about a man who planted a
vineyard. It had a nice fence and a pit for a winepress – even
a watchtower. Then, the landowner rents out the vineyard to some
wicked tenants. They kill everyone he sends to collect his portion of
the crop. Finally, he sends his son and they kill him,
too. The landowner is enraged. What will he do? “He will
utterly destroy those evil men! Then he will lease the vineyard to
other tenants who will give him his portion at the harvest.”
(Mt 21:41) What are we supposed to take from this? This vineyard is somewhere in Palestine. We
have some clues to its layout. It had a pit for a winepress, a fence
and a watchtower. If we put together a team of archaeologists, I'm
sure that we could prove the verity of Jesus' story. Is this
the point? Perhaps the moral is: “For this reason I tell you
that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people
who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43) Although in
exaggerated form, the former is what we are being asked to accept
with regard to Luke 16:19-31.

As a whole, Luke 16:19-31 is designed
to teach this lesson: “If
they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be
persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)
Yet many of us have viewed other texts through the lens
of this parable. This can lead to misunderstanding as much of the
scenery in the Rich Man and Lazarus story draws from Greek myth
(skippers, please see above). Although his argument for doing so is
unsound, it is crucial for the reader to understand that our friend
bases his interpretation of other texts on the assumed verity of this
mythic, parabolic underworld. He admits to this approach saying,
“Nowhere in the New Testament do any of the inspired writers
correct this impression that Jesus gives of the Hadean realm [in Luke
16:19-31], but in fact they further augment it and reinforce it, as
we shall see...” xlix
(Do the continued and uncorrected references to “other gods”
reinforce the impression that they exist?) Yet when we visit the works
of these other writers, we find this reinforcement and
augmentation is supplied instead by the expositor. As an example of this,
consider his commentary on 1 Peter 3:18-19 and 1 Pet. 4:6.

The Prison of Peter

He provides the text along with
bracketed insertions. The emphasis is also his:


For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust,
that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but
quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and PREACHED UNTO THE
SPIRITS imprisoned [in Hades]. ...For the gospel has for this
purpose been PREACHED EVEN TO THOSE WHO ARE DEAD [in Hades], that
though they [have suffered death] in the flesh as [all] men [have to
do], they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. l

He then goes on to comment:


The obvious meaning that flies off the face of this text is that when
Jesus' body died, His conscious Spirit/Soul descended into the Hadean
realm (cf. Eph. 4:9-10 and Acts 2:27,31) where He not only announced
the good news of His soon-coming redemption of the righteous from
Satan's captivity in the good part of Hades (Paradise), but also the
soon-coming doom of the unrighteous in the other part of Hades
(Tartarus). li

The reader will notice that Mr. Stevens
overlays much of the Rich Man and Lazarus material. The text refers
to a “prison,” but Mr. Stevens supplies the separation of
the righteous and wicked, divisions of the underworld, impending doom
(i.e., future punishment) and even Tartarus! lii
There is nothing in the text to suggest any of this. Even the content
of Jesus' message is speculation. The mythic underworld of Luke
16:19-31 is clearly read into this example. Yet these presuppositions
are the foundation of his view and so the myth of Hades continues.

Matthew 25:31-46

Mr. Stevens provides additional support
for his position on “eternal conscious punishment,”
citing Matthew and Revelation. He summarizes:


Hades was a conscious waiting place for the biologically dead. At the
AD 70 resurrection, souls in Hades were resurrected out of that
waiting state, the righteous into the presence of Christ in His
kingdom, and the wicked to eternal conscious punishment “outside”
the gates of heaven (Rev. 22:15). Since then, when the righteous die
biologically, they immediately receive their new immortal bodies and
go directly into heaven to live forever in the presence of God, while
the wicked go away to eternal conscious punishment. (see Matt. 25:41,
46 and Rev. 22:15) liii

First, notice the reliance upon
biological death in the summary above. “Since then...”
refers to AD 70. So then, after AD 70, when the wicked die
biologically, they go away to eternal conscious punishment. Yet as
well will see, Matthew 25:41 and 46 refer to the events surrounding
AD 70, not a post-70 individual eschatology. Something is amiss.
Let's start with Matthew and then we will move on to Revelation:


Matthew 25:31-46 31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory
and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will
separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep
from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats
on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come,
you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for
you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you
gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was
a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I was naked and you gave me
clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you
visited me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did
we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to
drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked
and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit
you?' 40 And the king will answer them, 'I tell you the truth, just
as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of
mine, you did it for me.' 41 "Then he will say to those on his
left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has
been prepared for the devil and his angels! 42 For I was hungry and
you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to
drink. 43 I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest,
naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not
visit me.' 44 Then they too will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you
hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and
did not give you whatever you needed?' 45 Then he will answer them,
'I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least
of these, you did not do it for me.' 46 And these will depart into
eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (NET)

From verse 31, we learn that subsequent
scene takes place when “the
Son of Man comes in his glory” and sits “on his glorious
throne.” He separates the people “like a shepherd
separates the sheep from the goats.” (25:32) At this time, the
righteous “inherit the kingdom”
(25:34). This is an allusion to Daniel 7:18 where the holy ones “take
possession of the kingdom forever and ever.” Futurists have no
problem with this scenario because it all takes place... in the
future. However, I believe Mr. Stevens recognizes the AD 70
fulfillment of these passages. Yet he cites this text in support of
an individual judgment for the wicked at the point biological death
“Since then...” How does one contend for both?
Furthermore, how does one arrive at this conclusion? The judgment and
the coming of the kingdom in Matthew 25 cannot be separated. They
refer to a point in history and the establishment Christ's kingdom,
rooted in Old Covenant promises. When the broader context is
considered it is difficult to find individual eschatology, rooted
instead in biological death. Again, Matthew 25:31-46 concerns the
judgment of groups, not individuals. It occurs when the Son comes in
His glory, not biological death. Additionally, there is nothing to
suggest that “sheep” or “goats” must refer to
people who have experienced biological death.

Matthew 25:41 and Eternal Fire

One may ask, “How does 'eternal
fire' in Matthew 25:41 fit into this judgment?” It would appear
that there is some confusion over this language, specially in
declarations of God's judgment. Consider again Isaiah 66:22-24:


“For just as the new heavens and the new earth I am about to
make will remain standing before me,” says the LORD, “so
your descendants and your name will remain. From one month to the
next and from one Sabbath to the next, all people will come to
worship me,” says the LORD. “They will go out and
observe the corpses of those who rebelled against me, for the maggots
that eat them will not die, and the fire that consumes them will not
die out. All people will find the sight abhorrent.”

This “eternal fire” is not
consuming disembodied spirits, as suggested by Mr. Driscoll above,
but the dead bodies of those who had dishonored God. Jesus concurs.
In Mark 9:42, he speaks of a shameful fate - being thrown into the
sea and weighted down by a millstone. This is obviously not the final
resting place of an honorable person. Proper burial was a major
concern in antiquity. Such treatment was reserved for only the most
vile. Jesus also speaks of being thrown into the valley of Gehenna
(43, 45, 47), an equally “this world” fate. This was the
grave for the dishonorable dead: unburied on a burning trash heap.
Again, Jesus and Isaiah are in agreement. This “unquenchable
fire” is not consuming disembodied spirits but those who had
rebelled against God in this life. The hyperbole of “eternal
fire” or “unquenchable fire” was not uncommon in
the context of divine judgment. Such a pronouncement made by Jesus in
Matthew 25:41 speaks more to his role as king and his right to divine
judgment than to the duration of the punishment. In light of this,
consider Isaiah 34:8-10 and the use similar language:


For the LORD has a day of vengeance, A year of
recompense for the cause of Zion. Its streams will be turned into
pitch, And its loose earth into brimstone, And its land will become
burning pitch. It will not be quenched night or day; Its smoke will
go up forever. From generation to generation it will be desolate;
None will pass through it forever and ever.

Only God has this kind of power –
and Jesus claims it for himself! Wow! How big is that? Perpetual
“smoke” or “fire” is not the point.
A satellite photo of present day Jerusalem would confirm this
as the smoke of her burning in AD 70 was also said to be “forever.”
liv

Matthew 25:46 and Israel's Hope

Now regarding Matthew 25:46
specifically, it should also be noted that this is an allusion to
Daniel 12:2. However, Daniel 12:1 refers to the time of “great
distress” which Jesus consigns to the events surrounding the
destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:21) Paul also borrows from
Daniel in Acts 24:14-15, saying, “...before long there is to be
a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous” as
promised in “the Law and the prophets.” Jesus and Paul
are referring to the same event. The judgment scene in Matthew
25:31-46 occurred at specific time and in fulfillment of Old Covenant
promises. Even if we should grant Mr. Stevens' definition of eternal
conscious punishment
for the unrighteous in this resurrection,
how does this necessarily carry over to the biological death of
wicked individuals after the fact? He wrote, “Since [AD 70]...
the wicked go away to eternal conscious punishment.” Are the
wicked, at biological death, now raised into a spiritual body only to
be consigned to eternal punishment in a lake of fire? The text is
silent on such matters so this view is speculation. Regardless, he
uses Revelation 22:14-15 to bolster his position here. However, the
interpretation offered actually reveals more weaknesses in this view.

Heaven Can Wait

Revelation 22:14-15 reads:


Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can have access to the
tree of life and can enter into the city by the gates. Outside are
the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral, and the
murderers, and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices
falsehood! (NET)

Mr. Stevens comments:


This is “THE” KILLER TEXT for not only the “soul
sleep” doctrine, but Annihilationism and Universalism as well.
Notice that this text is talking about the state of the dead AFTER
the final (AD 70) resurrection has taken place. The righteous have
their new immortal bodies and are INSIDE the heavenly city. The
unsaved are still conscious and are OUTSIDE the gates of the heavenly
city. The unsaved did not get “immortality” at the
resurrection event, yet they are still conscious, so this necessarily
implies that “immortality” is not the same thing as
“consciousness of the soul.” These unsaved folks are
still conscious after the resurrection, even though their bodies have
died and they did not receive “immortality” at the
resurrection. They remain consciously OUTSIDE of heaven forever after
the resurrection event. This not only refutes the “soul sleep”
idea, but shows that the wicked do not cease to exist
(Annihilationism), nor are they given a “second chance”
to repent and accept Christ and “ENTER” into heaven
(Universalism). lv

The interpretation offered above must
make some dubious assumptions. Essentially, the Rich Man and Lazarus
scene has been relocated from the underworld to heaven. It's the same
story on another set:


  1. He assumes this passage takes
    place in heaven, that is, beyond our realm (but cf. Rev. 21:10).


  2. He assumes the New Jerusalem is a
    city to be inhabited spatially.


  3. He assumes the inhabitants have
    died, biologically, though this is not stated in the text.


  4. He assumes the wicked remain
    outside the city “forever” though this is not stated in
    the text.


  5. He assumes, as we'll see, that
    those outside are experiencing “eternal conscious punishment.”


  6. He assumes these people possess
    “immortal bodies” though this is not stated in the text.




Mr. Stevens' take fits well in the
literalist mold common to futurism, but all of this is unnecessary.
Ironically, new Jerusalem usually signifies covenant change in
preterist circles, not a city in the sky. Regardless, there is
nothing to suggest that the text in question involves only those who
have experienced biological death. Additionally, those who are said
to be outside are not in torment. Although being outside the city
could certainly be understood as a form of punishment,
there is nothing to suggest this state is eternal. By reading a few
more lines, a different picture comes into focus. Consider
Revelation 22 verses 14-17:


Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can have access to the
tree of life and can enter into the city by the gates. Outside are
the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral, and the
murderers, and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices
falsehood! “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you
about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant
of David, the bright morning star!” And the Spirit and the
bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say: “Come!”
And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take
the water of life free of charge. (NET)

Notice the first line. If someone were
to “enter into the city by the gates,” where would this
person have been previously? Outside, correct? The gates of the city
are never closed (Rev. 21:25) which suggests that one may enter in
from the “outside,” as expressed in verse 14. The Spirit
and the Bride say “Come!” To whom are they beckoning if
not those outside of the city? A different scene indeed! This causes
a severe problem for Mr. Stevens' view as elsewhere he equates being
“outside” with being in “the Lake of Fire
(Gehinnom) for eternal conscious punishment 'outside' of heaven (cf.
Rev. 22:14-15).” lvi

We could suggest that those who are
outside the city are being urged to “wash their robes,”
to “enter into the city by the gates,” to gain access to
the “tree of life” resulting in “the healing of the
nations.” (22:2) What a beautiful picture of God's grace and
our responsibility to the world. Is this not our charge as members of
God's kingdom, rather than “locking people out of the kingdom
of heaven”? (Matthew 23:13) Remember, the gates are open.

Summary

Mr. Stevens contends that the mythic,
parabolic underworld of the Rich Man and Lazarus must be a “true
to life” representation of the ancient underworld. This was
shown to be false. Yet the mythic elements of this parable constitute
the model by which he decodes passages containing less detail. For
example, the “prison” of 1 Peter 3 is recast in the mold
of the Hellenized underworld found in I Enoch and the Apocalypse of
Zephaniah. His presuppositions about the underworld underlie his
exposition of Revelation 22:14-15. He
contends for eternal conscious torment, but the picture in scripture
is not consistent with his offering. This
scene is a beautiful reminder of God's grace and our responsibility
in the here and now. It also reveals a serious flaw in Mr. Stevens'
approach: he claims the “lake of fire” and “eternal
conscious torment” are synonymous with being “outside.”
However, those who are outside are being urged to enter in through
the eternally open gate.

Regarding, Matthew 25:41 and 46, he
must look beyond the historical setting of the judgment presented
there and its Old Covenant foundation. Yet there is nothing in the
text of Matthew 25 to support the individualized eschatology he
proposes. The reference to “eternal fire” in Matthew
25:41 speaks to Jesus' role as king and his right to divine judgment
in this life, just as it was used of God in the Hebrew Bile.
As such, Matthew 25:31-46 is not addressing the postmortem
state of wicked souls in a post-70 world, but rather the divine
judgment of a rebellious nation. As
argued by Mr. Stevens, eternal conscious torment/punishment does not
fit within the preterist framework. Eternal conscious punishment
forced him to argue for some form of futurist eschatology. His view focuses too
much on an individual's biological death rather than the fulfillment
of God's covenant promises. This is a step backwards.
Again, the texts that were once held over for future judgment and eternal hell
are now in our past. We hope the reader can see the merit of our case
and the need for continued reform in this area of preterist eschatology.

P.S.

There are
alternatives to eternal conscious torment. I do have some
suggestions. First, search out the places where Gehenna lvii
appears. Consider the horrors that occurred in this valley through
Israel's history and the coming judgment Jesus announced to his
generation. Is it possible that Jesus refers to this place in the
same manner as Jeremiah? Instead of Dante's Inferno, picture
the valley outside of Jerusalem and ask yourself: Could Jesus be
speaking of this place, rather than the afterlife? The answer may
surprise you. Study Hades lviii
in the New Testament in light of our discussion of Luke 16:19-31. You
will find that remaining references lack the detail provided by myth.
Resist the urge to give form to what is shadowy. It is here that we
find agreement between the New and Old Testaments. Finally, revisit
those texts that you once alloted to a future judgment or the
hereafter. lix
Do they still fit? Do they look forward to biological death? A future
cataclysm, perhaps? Are they tied to the coming of the kingdom and
the fulfillment of God's Old Covenant promises?

This is where I
leave it with you, the reader. It is your turn.











iI
hope you laughed because it's pretty dry from this point.




iiMatthews,
Victor H., and Don C. Benjamin. Social World of Israel 1250-587
BCE.

Peabody: Hendrickson, 1993. xiii




iiihttp://planetpreterist.com/news-5065.html




ivhttp://planetpreterist.com/news-5080.html




vIbid.




viBy
anthropology I am referring to three of the big four:
archeology, historical linguistics and cultural anthropology.




viiTaken
from Pilch John J. “Humor” The Cultural Dictionary of
the Bible.
Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1999. 92-93.




viiiSee
Plato's Phaedo for both of these options.




ixFor
those interested, Philip S. Johnston's book Shades of Sheol
provides a more detailed study.




xWalton,
John H. Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament:
Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible.
Grand
Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006. 320.




xiIbid.,
321




xiiEdwards,
quoted in Fudge, William; Peterson, Robert, Two Views of Hell: A
Biblical and Theological Dialogue.
Downer’s Grove:
InterVarsity, 2000. 19-20.




xiiiSpurgeon,
Ibid., 20.




xivFor
Tartarus, see Prov. 30:16; Job 40:20; 41:24. For Titans,
see 2 Sam. 5:18, 22; Jdt. 16:6




xvDodd,
quoted in Glasson, T. Francis. Greek Influence in Jewish
Eschatology.
London: S.P.C.K, 1961. 4.




xviRabban
Simeon b. Gamaliel, ibid., 6-7.




xviiThe
term Nasi refers to the leader of the Sanhedrin.




xviiiQuoted
in Is the Bible the only Revelation from God? April 18, 2007




xixKeener
Craig S. The IVP Bible
Background Commentary.
Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1993.
374.




xxMy
translation from Aratus:
Phaenomena: Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries.

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 72.




xxiThis
isn't entirely true. Some heroes are said to have entered the
underworld and returned. Trickery is occasionally successful.
Sisyphus duped Death into trying on some shackles and then made a
dash to the surface.




xxii(Theogony,
767-774) There, in front, stand the echoing halls of the god of the
lower-world, strong Hades, and of awful Persephone. A fearful hound
(Cerberus) guards the house in front, pitiless, and he has a cruel
trick. On those who go in he fawns with his tail and both his ears,
but suffers them not to go out back again, but keeps watch and
devours whomsoever he catches going out of the gates of strong Hades
and awful Persephone.




xxiiiJesus
uses this same phrase χάσμα μέγα
in Luke 16:26




xxivThe
Shield of Heracles
, 139-153




xxvHomer
and Hesiod of course retain a place of prominence. For example,
Plutarch appeals to the authority of Hesiod's Theogony (116-22) in
his discourse on the divinity of Eros. (Amatorius 756 E-F) These
were sacred texts.




xxviAlso
Elysion or Elysian




xxviiCollins,
John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination 2nd Ed. (Grand
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans and Livonia: Dove Book Sellers, 1998), 34.




xxviiiSee
Glasson, T. Francis. Greek Influence in Jewish Eschatology (London:
S.P.C.K, 1961), 8.




xxixNot
all Jewish writings reflect this tendency. For example, Sirach seems
to be consistent with the Hebrew Bible.




xxxAeschylus
“Prometheus Bound” Aeschylus I. Ed. David Greene
and Richard Lattimore. New York: Modern Library, 1943. 220-221.




xxxi
Prometheus escaped this fate by siding with Zeus in the war with the
Titans. His binding occurred later.




xxxiiCollins,
John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination. 2nd Ed. Grand
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. and Livonia: Dove Book
Sellers, 1998. 57.




xxxiiiI
usually like the NET translation, however Hades is not hell. As
such, I went with the NASU.




xxxivSee
also Virgil Vaduva's article The Replacement Theology of Lazarus and
the Rich Man




xxxvIn
the ISBE this is exactly the approach taken in the discussion of
Hades. The New Testament view of Hades, we are told, is “not
under the influence of Greek pagan belief, but gives a teaching and
reflects a belief which model their idea of Hades upon the Old
Testament through the Septuagint.” The article then goes on to
argue something akin to progressive revelation after acknowledging
the disparity in regard to the lack of divisions in OT Sheol.
Perhaps there is no disparity. Perhaps we have been under the
influence of Greek pagan belief.




xxxviGreen,
Joel B. The Gospel of Luke: New International Commentary on the
New Testament.
Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,
1997. 607.




xxxviiDriscoll,
Mark and John Burke and Dan Kimball and Doug Pagitt and Karen Ward
and Robert Webber Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches:
Five Perspectives.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007. 34-35.




xxxviiiIbid.




xxxixEaston
Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, 1897 by M. G. Easton, M.A., D.D.,
ASCII edition, 1988 Ellis Enterprises, Inc. Public Domain.




xl
Fudge, Edward William. The Fire That Consumes.
Houston: Providential Press, 1982. 160.




xliDriscoll,
Mark and John Burke and Dan Kimball and Doug Pagitt and Karen Ward
and Robert Webber Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches:
Five Perspectives.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007. 34-35.




xliiBy
metaphorical extension, this valley was associated with the
unrighteous in the afterlife in Jewish writings. For example, in the
Mishnah we read, “ He that talks much with
womankind brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the Law
and at the last will inherit Gehenna.” We also have, “...and
the judgement of the unrighteous in Gehenna shall endure twelve
months.” However, Jesus' use of Gehenna in Mark 9:43-48 seems
to have its referent in this world rather than the next. Mark 9 is
discussed again in the addendum.




xliiiStevens,
Edward E. “The Bible Versus
Soul Sleep (and Annihilationism & Universalism).”
2005. April 17, 2007 .




xlivHe
writes, or assents to, “...the wicked will be cast into the
Lake of Fire (Gehinnom) for eternal conscious punishment 'outside'
of heaven (cf. Rev. 22:14-15).” Eternal fire, as we believe he
takes it, must cause some discomfort.




xlvStevens,
Edward E. “Preterist
Questions and Answers.” April 17, 2007




xlviStevens,
Edward E. “The Bible Versus
Soul Sleep (and Annihilationism & Universalism).” 2005.
April 17, 2007




xlviiIbid.




xlviiiFor
“other gods,” see Exod. 20:3, 23; 23:13; Deut. 5:7;
6:14; 7:4; 8:19; 11:16, 28; 13:2, 6, 13; 17:3; 18:20; 28:14, 36, 64;
29:26; 30:17; 31:18, 20; Josh. 23:16; 24:2, 16; Judg. 2:12, 17, 19;
10:13; 1 Sam. 8:8; 26:19; 1 Kgs 9:6, 9; 11:4, 10; 14:9; 2 Kgs 5:17;
17:7, 35, 37f; 22:17; 2 Chr. 7:19, 22; 28:25; 34:25; Jer. 1:16; 7:6,
9, 18; 11:10; 13:10; 16:11, 13; 19:4, 13; 22:9; 25:6; 32:29; 35:15;
44:3, 5, 8, 15; Hos. 3:1




xlixStevens,
Edward E. “The Bible Versus
Soul Sleep (and Annihilationism & Universalism).” 2005.
April 17, 2007 .




lIbid.




liIbid.




liiPeter
does refer to Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4. His use of Tartarus does not
necessarily imply consent to the “reality”of Enoch's
tale. The material served his purpose much like Jesus' use of myth
in the Rich Man and Lazarus or Paul's references to Greek poets.




liiiStevens,
Edward E. “Preterist
Questions and Answers.” April 17, 2007
.




livSee
Rev. 18:9, 18:18, 19:3 and compare with Rev.
14:9-14.




lvStevens,
Edward E. “The Bible Versus
Soul Sleep (and Annihilationism & Universalism).”
2005. April 17, 2007 .




lviIbid.




lviiMatt.
5:22, 29f; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5;
Jam. 3:6




lviiiMatt.
11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8;
20:13f




lixDriscoll's
proofs in the book cited previously: Mt 8.11-12, 29; 13.40-42,
49-50; 18.8-9; 22.13; 24.50-51; 25.30; Mk 1.24; 5.7; 9.43-48; Lk
12.46-48; 13.27-28; 16.19-31; 2Th 1.6-9; 2Pt 2.9; Rv 14.9-11; Rv
19.20; 20.10-15; 21.8


TheIdealNate's picture

Some people might claim that people here are denying hell. I would disagree. Hell needs to be defined. (And done well here, though this issue I will never be 100% on). When scripture over and over describe 2 different things with the same name, it is either because:
A. They are both true
B. One stands for the other, one is metaphor or a "type."
C. Coincidence...

Though inclined to side with the article above, here is why I do not care.

Scaring someone into heaven by pointing out hell NEVER SAVED ANYONE! It is not the fires of hell or the torment to follow that draw men to Christ, it is Grace. It was the knowledge and acknowledgment of ones own sin and desire to change their heart that causes conversion.

Look at the thief on the cross, he was saved because he looked at our innocent lord, understood the love in Christ's sacrifice, and repented. The other thief couldn't care a lick about hell. He might as well have proclaimed boldly "I'm on the highway to hell." The second thief (naughty one) was PROUD! It was his inability to humble himself to that other victim on the cross (Christ) which kept him mocking.

Actually, I would believe that it is the simple fear of being DEAD (over and done with) that scares the majority of dying men. People need to come to Christ out of humility and a desire to LIVE LIFE ETERNAL with HIM, not out of fear of that nasty hot black flame that melts my skin off over and over and over and over and over.........

In the Eternal Christ,
Nate

OSTRALOA's picture

This is a response to the conclusions made Jeremy Lile in his post: Jesus, Hades & Mythology: with an Addendum Concerning Eternal Conscious Torment and Preterism.

In a way this an article in defense of the conclusions and article by Ed Stevens on the “conscious eternal” afterlife of the just and unjust. First of all, I am a old friend and acquaintance of Ed Stevens. After moving to Brazil with my family, I lost my constant contact with him as I had previously held. I also began to differ with him in the “minor’s” such as his “Literal Rapture” of the 1st century saints viewpoint. He will always however remain a friend close at heart regardless of our physical distance and minor differences. This time I am writing in his defense in sorts at the same time a rebuttal to the article posted by Jeremy Lile as titled above. It will be a brief account staking out the biblical position regarding eternal conscious punishment of the reprobate and it’s corresponding subject of “Hell” and it’s biblical and extra-biblical citations.

To proceed, my first response after reading this article by Jeremy was, good article with depth of research and timeliness of the subject matter. In afterthought though, it falls short of the bottom of the subject. I will first start out by stating that I have posted on this wrote on the subject of the inner earth to many preterists without response. After thinking over the reasons why I was given virtually no response I was left clueless. The best excuse was made by one well known preterist writer and contributor to this site, “well I haven’t thought of that”. Well, it’s time preterists deal seriously with what really is in the inner earth and about the subject of hell. As preterist Christians it will only aid in our consistency when being addressed by futurists we witness to.

Some important topical definitions:

Hell - The English word for the final place of punishment for the reprobate.

Tarturus - Greek meaning the Abyss, Deep place. The place of eternal punishment for fallen angels and reprobate souls.

Hades - Greek meaning the Unseen realm. Pre- A.D. 70 two receptacles:
1. Abraham’s bosom - resting place of departed righteous awaiting the anastasis (rising) in A.D. 70.
2. Place of torment – place where reprobate awaited judgment of A.D. 70.

Sheol - *Two words used in most English trans. in O.T. for sheol:
1. Hebrew equivalent of Gk, (Hades)
2. Hebrew equivalent of Gk. (Grave) i.e. Topos

Abrahams’ bosom - Hebrew common phrase resting place of righteous departed prior to A.D. 70.

I will begin my rebuttal of the conclusions by Jeremy’s posting with the following:

Eph. 4:9-10 is an excellent place to begin. Jeremy quotes this verse, yet does not explain neither elaborate just where Jesus was during his three days and three nights in the “kardia” heart of the earth. Was Jesus conscious there? What did He do there? Just where are the lower parts of the earth? Did it have different compartments? The following verses will help us answer these questions.

1 Pet. 3:18-20, Were the spirits of verse 19 “dis-enbodied” there or em-bodied? Who did he preach to unconscious dis-embodied spirits? Was this verse referring this the earthly ministry or Jesus’ ministry to a department of Sheol. Yes, I will also show Sheol had departments shortly as well. This verse follows verse 18 which had just stated that Jesus was quickened after death by the Spirit; By which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison. These two verses are a continuation thought of Peter’s showing Jesus went during the three days and three nights and preached to the captive souls in Sheol/Hades or Abraham’s bosom.

Where was this Hades of the Greeks or Sheol to the Hebrews? Three key verses can help.

Math. 12:40
‘..so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the “kardia” Gk. heart of the earth’.
- Is not the heart our deepest part physically. So in this case, Jesus went into the deepest part of the earth. i.e. “not just the crust” or the so–called mantle if you believe what the scientists are telling the truth about what’s under our feet but, the actual center of the earth. More on the implications of this later.

Lk. 23:43
“And Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee today shalt thou be with me in paradise”.
Jeremy in his article addresses a reply on this verse, but still seems unsure on this one. Where was this paradise? Where there people there? Is this not Abraham’s bosom being mentioned? If so, where are the reprobate pre-A.D. 70 people? We shall see so in due time.

Phil. 2:10 Gives the answer where.
‘that every knee should bow in heaven, in earth and under the earth’
- The Gk. word for earth “katachthonios” is used only one time in the entire N.T. meaning not under the earth, but literally, in the sub-terranean realms or heart “middle” of the earth.

please review also: 1 Sam. 28, on the account of Saul the woman of Endor and Samuel.

Lk. 16 Parable of Lazarus & the Rich man (not a parable in reality).

The so-called Parable of Lazarus & the Rich Man has been quoted by many futurists denying the truths in story Jesus makes. Does the fact Jesus illustrated different departments of Hades or Sheol in this story prove He borrowed Greek terminology, or did not have literal truths behind the symbols? Absolutely not.

Jesus did not have to borrow the Greek words or concepts due to being present in a Hellenistic culture contrary to the positions of Jeremy in his post. He was a Israelite was addressing the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He used the word Hades to describe Abraham’s bosom more clearly for all his audience. He used gehenna to address the future of eternal conscious punishment for the reprobate, not necessarily using this term because the fact that trash burned up there and disappears. The important issue he was illustrating in this term was the fact that the fires and the trash burned there continually in the ‘Valley of Hinnom’. Gehenna was therefore, a parabolic term for future eternal conscious punishment of the wicked.

Now the “Townley Error” as I’ll term it for lack of a better term. I will define it as such: It says, that since all was accomplished in A.D. 70 regarding future punishment then, eternal punishment has ceased due to it’s covenantal application limitation. This error falls short of the universal application of what God had in scope in the A.D. 70 regeneration and what was accomplished as stressed in recent articles by Kurt Simmons. Robert Townley wrote a excellent book in 1845 as the first full preterist book, but he later fell in error over this unbiblical position. Often such error is caused by not going to the bottom of a subject which is what happened in his views concerning this area of eschatology.

Since Jeremy was willing to bring up the Book of Enoch in his post, I will expand on it’s relevance to our subject and some more about the books origins and why it ultimately was left out of the Biblical canon of the Western world. To the ancient Abyssinian Church uninfluenced by the east or west, the book remained canonical since apostolic times.

According to sources, the Book of Enoch was rediscovered by James Bruce in 1773 in present day Ethiopia and was more or less left untranslated until Richard Laurence made his translations into English 1821, the last being the 1838 (3rd edition) from the Bodleian manuscript being one of the three brought back by Bruce from Ethiopia. Richard Laurence when translating the Book of Enoch deemed it to be of recent extra-biblical origins or pseudopigraphical. This was due to his opinion of the book not being the actually the words or written by the ante-diluvian patriarch Enoch. His view now maintained in the West, was that it was of “later Jewish origins” not authored before 200 B.C. The reasons being that the prophecies in Enoch contained reference to Herod and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 being the time of final judgment. The true author in his view, then had to live in a time after or slightly before it’s later prophecies. This is typical higher criticism which was fashionable at the time. I would ask, where’s the inspiration factor Mr. Laurence!! The world must be grateful to antiquarians like Richard Laurence for their work, but to take their opinions as final decisions on the validity and originality of a text or subject can be a big mistake.

The facts are the Book of Enoch was purposely deleted out of the Hebrew canon in A.D. 90 by the reconvened Sanhedrin Council of Yavne called by Yohannan ben Zakkai and Simon ben Gamaliel II due to it’s references to the Son of Man, the Elect One and the Messiah as Enoch describes Jesus Christ whom their immediate elders had crucified. This means that with certainty the Pella community of Christians would have upheld Enoch's canonicity led by Simon and his faithful band of followers which had left Jerusalem most likely in A.D. 66 after Cestius Gallus had left off his own siege of Jerusalem. Christians later quoted and upheld the Book of Enoch’s authority if not it’s canonicity.

Among the early Christians, Tertullian circa A.D. 200 is quoted from a work as bluntly stating that the “Jews have taken the Book of Enoch out of Hebrew canon due to it’s prophecies concerning Christ”. Later opposition among some Christians led by Jerome and Hilary influenced others at the Council of Laodicea A.D. 364 to once and for all dispose of the spurious Book of Enoch. Possibly, in addition to following the Rabbis advice and cover up, they felt threatened as futurists by Enoch’s 70 generation limitation of the final judgment being A.D. 70!

I am not writing to prove the canonicity of Enoch that’s another subject, but it has to be reviewed carefully in light of it’s contents regarding the Hebraic concept of Sheol or Hades. I will show from the Book of Enoch quoted by Jude, that there is eternal conscious punishment for the unjust as well as having different receptacles of both the just and unjust prior to A.D. 70.

I now quote Richard Laurence translation of:
Enoch chapter 22 in full:
“1. From there I proceeded to another spot, where I saw on the west a great and lofty mountain, a strong rock, and four delightful places.
2. Internally it was deep, capacious, and very smooth; as smooth as if it had been rolled over: it was both deep and dark to behold.
3. Then Raphael, one of the holy angels who were with me, answered and said, These are the delightful places where the spirits, the souls of the dead, will be collected; for them were they formed; and here will be collected all the souls of the sons of men.
4. These places, in which they dwell, shall they occupy until the day of judgment, and until their appointed period.
5. Their appointed period will be long, even until the great judgment. And I saw the spirits of the sons of men who were dead; and their voices reached to heaven, while they were accusing.
6. Then I inquired of Raphael, an angel who was with me, and said, Whose spirit is that, the voice of which reaches to heaven, and accuses?
7. He answered, saying, This is the spirit of Abel who was slain by Cain his brother; and who will accuse that brother, until his seed be destroyed from the face of the earth;
8. Until his seed perish from the seed of the human race.
9. At that time therefore I inquired respecting him, and respecting the general judgment, saying, Why is one separated from another? He answered, Three separations have been made between the spirits of the dead, and thus have the spirits of the righteous been separated.
10. Namely, by a chasm, by water, and by light above it.
11. And in the same way likewise are sinners separated when they die, and are buried in the earth; judgment not overtaking them in their lifetime.
12. Here their souls are separated. Moreover, abundant is their suffering until the time of the great judgment, the castigation, and the torment of those who eternally execrate, whose souls are punished and bound there for ever.
13. And thus has it been from the beginning of the world. Thus has there existed a separation between the souls of those who utter complaints, and of those who watch for their destruction, to slaughter them in the day of sinners.
14A.receptacle of this sort has been formed for the souls of unrighteous men, and of sinners; of those who have completed crime, and associated with the impious, whom they resemble. Their souls shall not be annihilated in the day of judgment, neither shall they arise from this place. Then I blessed God,
15. And said, Blessed by my Lord, the Lord of glory and of righteousness, who reigns over all for ever and for ever.

This passage from Enoch shows clearly the following points:

1. All embodied souls went to Sheol/Hades prior to A.D. 70. (not the grave either)!

2. There were separate compartments in Sheol/Hades prior to A.D. 70.

3. They were conscious there and had remembrance.

4. Post-A.D. 70, the impious unjust remain there conscious with eternal punishment and are not anniallated or raised from there.

5. The just were raised A.D. 70 from their compartment i.e. Lazarus bosom, or Paradise into Heaven itself.

Josephus’ Discourse to Greeks on Hades proves interesting for further proof as follows in brief:
"Now as to Hades, wherein the souls of the righteous and unrighteous are detained, it is necessary to speak of it. Hades is a place in the world not regularly finished; a subterraneous region, where the light of this world does not shine . . . This region is allowed as a place of custody for souls, in which angels are appointed as guardians to them. . . .the just are guided to the right hand, and are led with hymns sung by the angels appointed over that place, unto a region of light. . . with whom there is no place of toil, no burning heat, no piercing cold,. . . while they wait for that rest and eternal new life in heaven, which is to succeed this region. This place we call The Bosom of Abraham. But as to the unjust, they are dragged by force to the left hand, by the angels allotted for punishment, no longer going with a good will. . . Now those angels that are set over these souls, drag them into the neighborhood of hell itself; who, when they are hard by it, continually hear the noise of it, and do not stand clear of the hot vapour itself; but when they have a nearer view of this spectacle, as of a terrible and exceeding great prospect of fire, they are struck with a fearful expectation of a future judgment, and in effect punished thereby. . . even hereby are they punished; for a chasm deep and large is fixed between them; insomuch that a just man that hath compassion upon them, cannot be admitted, nor can one that is unjust, if he were bold enough to attempt it, pass over it." (Josephus Complete Works, trans. by William Whiston, p.637).

Sounds strikingly similar to Enoch to me. The mythological view of Lk. 16 on Lazarus & the Rich man is neo-Sadduceeism where the man Lazarus and the rich man are seen as a myths borrowed from the Hellenistic culture to tell a moral lesson. Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons all fall into this old error.

Some would now ask so where is Satan or the fallen angels? Do they have conscious eternal punishment post-A.D. 70? Good question. Refer first to I Pet. 2:4 and Jude 6. The N.T. through the Book of Revelation states that at A.D. 70 the reprobate are thrown into gehenna. Does gehenna imply destruction of body or of their power he had previously held. The Greek word for destroy has several meanings and the one used for the devil in Revelation is to destroy. This does not mean Satan and his devils are destroyed or burned up physically in hell, tarturus, or gehenna. What of tarturus then or gehenna? Allow me to turn to Enoch again.

Enoch chapter 21: 4-6 on Tarturus: *notice differences from Abraham’s bosom, Hades.
“4. From there I afterwards passed on to another terrific place;
5. Where I beheld the operation of a great fire blazing and glittering, in the midst of which there was a division. Columns of fire struggled together to the end of the abyss, and deep was their descent. But neither its measurement nor magnitude was I able to discover; neither could I perceive its origin. Then I exclaimed, How terrible is this place, and how difficult to explore!
6. Uriel, one of the holy angels who was with me, answered and said: Enoch, why are you alarmed and amazed at this terrific place, at the sight of this place of suffering? This, he said, is the prison of the angels; and here they are kept for ever.

Obviously, tarturus or gehenna, would be the fallen angels last estate deemed forever. Gehenna the ‘fiery pit’ is quite close in description in Greek mythology and the Bible to ‘tarturus’. In reality they are one in the same. One term stressing the abyss or depth of it. The other the fire and eternalness of the place.

Observations on Tarturus:
1. Equivalent to gehenna. i.e. the fiery pit outside historic Jerusalem. i.e. the Valley of Hinnom.
2. Eternal place of punishment for Satan and the fallen angels.
3. Both seen as a deep pit and as a fiery.
4. Lower & deeper than hades.
5. Horrible place of eternal punishment.

Comparison between Hades & gehenna, or tarturus:

1. Hades was also known in Christ’s day as Abraham’s bosom to the Hebrews.

2. Hades had two receptacles pre-A.D. 70:
a. The place of the reprobate awaiting A.D. 70 judgment.
b. Paradise, or Abraham’s bosom.

3. Tarturus is the eternal ‘the pit or abyss’ is the Greek equivalent of gehenna.

4. Gehenna is not made of fire which burns the fallen angels up, or the reprobate souls.

5. In A.D. 70, Christ opened the prison doors for the righteous in Abraham’s bosom therefore, emptying this region and taking captivity captive.

6. Hell is real. Satan and the reprobate are there since A.D. 70.

It is clear with the biblical and “extra-biblical” sources we have that Hades was the Greek concept of Abraham’s bosom. That souls or men were conscious there up until Jesus came and unlocked the prison in A.D. 70 and set the captives free. As for the reprobate unjust, well, they got to stay until they got thrown into the tarturus or gehenna.

Hades had compartments, that is Abraham’s bosom and the place of punishment. Nothing indicates they were unconscious there, quite the contrary. To say or imply that Jesus borrowed Hellenistic usages that were unreal and were mere myths strikes at the heart of the gospel. I urge all to carefully reread the passages in the O.T. referring to Sheol with a concordance. You will find the grave mentioned where one has no remembrance or other faculties. Of course not! Our physical remains have no faculties remaining. On the other hand we do as “we” continue on beyond the grave. Sheol was a conscious, real place with departments for the good and bad. Please also read the Book of Enoch and Josephus discourse on Hades for yourselves.

Even though tarturus i.e. “Hell” was symbolized by Jesus’ valley of Hinnom or gehenna, this does not preclude it’s eternalness, or that the souls there were not there and not conscious. The reprobate and fallen angels are there now being in conscious torment forever. The evidence biblical & extra-biblical evidence shows that “Hell” is real and abiding. The Dispensationalist futurists we all know may not have the timing of the ‘parousia’ correct and may be inconsistent in how they define hell, but they believe it. They are right on that at least. We should practice as recommended by our brother and fellow preterist John Bray frequently put on the back of his little tracts, “Dig deeper”. Praise God, I am thankful for what He has shown. I pray all of you readers feel the same. I pray Jeremy "dig deeper" likewise. Thank you for your article to jar this one loose.

We now have New Jerusalem the Holy instead of facing waiting for salvation from Hades. We are free from the prison now. If we are in Christ no one can snatch us out of His hands. He chose you and predestined you to salvation since before the world began and died for you that we may have eternal life. Why not follow Christ and preach His glorious Kingdom?

For Christ & Kingdom,

Paul Anderson
Planalmira, Brazil

Jer's picture

Hi Paul:

Thanks for the lengthy reply. I do have some issues with your approach. First of all, I don't agree with your definitions of Hades. That's one of the things we're seeking to prove so you can't use the conclusion to support your premises. That's petitio principii.

Regarding Eph 4:10 and 1 Peter 3, you brought the same assumptions to the text that Ed did. You didn't actually demonstrate anything.

Math. 12:40 is a not issue. It reflects Jewish cosmology.

Lk. 23:43 contains the word "paradise." You must supply the extra meaning. In 2 Cor. Paul equates "paradise" with the "third heaven." It was apparently up, reflecting Jewish cosmology, not down as you assume.

Phil 2 reflects Jewish cosmology.

Your section on Luke 16 is a mass of assertions. For example, you said, "He used the word Hades to describe Abraham’s bosom [i.e., the Underworld, JL] more clearly for all his audience." You did not demonstrate this from the text. You make the same assumption that Ed made. You went on to say, "He used gehenna to address the future of eternal conscious punishment for the reprobate..." Jesus never uses Gehenna to address "eternal conscious torment." You have read that into the text without showing us how or why. And Finally, "The important issue he was illustrating in this term [Gehenna] was the fact that the fires and the trash burned there continually in the ‘Valley of Hinnom’. Gehenna was therefore, a parabolic term for future eternal conscious punishment of the wicked." There is nothing to suggest "eternal conscious torment." You can't just assert your position without demonstrating it from the text and giving reasonable arguments as to why I should accept it.

I have already shown the Greek myth in Enoch with Azazel / Prometheus, not to mention the direct evidence from Orphic tradition and Enoch's underworld.

Josephus’ Discourse to Greeks on Hades was incorrectly attributed to him by the Greek theologian Photius in the 9th century. It belongs to Hippolytus under the title Against Plato, on the Cause of the Universe. I would expect it to be similar to Luke 16:19-31. It was probably his source.

Enoch and Josephus/Hippolytus derive from the same source, Greek myth.

I addressed 1 Peter 2:4 in the footnotes. The same applies to Jude.

In summary, I'm afraid you haven't actually addressed my points. Your response starts off by assuming the conclusion, i.e., the parabolic underworld of Luke 16 reflects reality. Yet you did not demonstrate this. You simply continued to assert it. The texts you cited (e.g., Mt 12, Eph 4) do not present a problem for my view. In other texts, 1 Peter 3 for example, you assumed your position and read it into the text. Regarding Enoch, you did not explain why these are not related to myth by directly addressing the evidence I presented. You incorrectly attributed the Discourse on Hades to Josephus to bolster your position. Yet this writing belongs to Hippolytus who lived a few centuries later. Your position ignores the evidence and must appeal to the myths contained in Enoch and Josephus / Hippolytus which are then read back into scripture. The result is a disparity between OT Sheol and NT Hades. My view presents a consistent picture.

Again, thank you for the reply. I do appreciate your consideration.

Jeremy

Starlight's picture

Jeremy,

You stated…“I have already shown the Greek myth in Enoch with Azazel / Prometheus, not to mention the direct evidence from Orphic tradition and Enoch's underworld.”

Jeremy you have indeed answered many of the concerns that may lend credence to eternal conscious torment being an inappropriate conclusion. But Paul has developed a worthy argument for the Book of Enoch not being brushed off so easily and you have really not responded to his section about that credibility of Enoch in a scholarly manner. I believe you need to expand and critique his points concerning Enoch in more detail than just “assuming” that your declaration that it is corrupted due to Hellenized myth. You too are also assuming your position without a proper refutation.
Paul is not the only one who recognizes the book of Enoch has some historical issues that need to be explained in more detail by those who refute it. To blindly assume that the Catholic Bishops excluded it were doing so under the guise of the Holy Spirit is a false premise in my estimation. So much of your position is built upon a rejection of the book of Enoch’s influence that I believe you need to strengthen your approach and beef it up for it to stand up under more knowledgeable analysis.

I have been studying the extra Jewish writings of Enoch and Jubilees just to name a couple and I find it interesting that many scholars are thinking that those two writings were possibly accepted Jewish literature up until AD70. The reason some come to that conclusion is the prolific references to those writings in the Dead Sea Scrolls literature. Some believe that much of what has been found at those locations were transcribed before and then brought to those locations to possibly save them from the Roman destruction. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea_Scrolls
I quote from this web article… “The scrolls are increasingly held to have come from a major center of intellectual culture in Palestine such as only Jerusalem is known to have been during the intertestamentary period. According to this theory, the scrolls are in fact more important than they were previously thought to be, because of the light they cast on Jewish thought in Jerusalem at that time.”
Frequency of books found
Books Ranked According to Number of Manuscripts found (top 16)
Psalms 39
Deuteronomy 33
1 Enoch 25
Genesis 24
Isaiah 22
Jubilees 21
Exodus 18

Paul’s point that Enoch may have been rejected by the Jews because it pointed to the AD70 judgment and its subsequent rejection by futurist Christians is solid grounds for taking a Preterist look at it’s content. Especially in lieu of the fact that it’s heavy usage by the Jew’s before 70AD is testified to by the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Blessings

Norm

OSTRALOA's picture

Norm,

You are right the canonicity of Enoch should be addressed. The Jews at Yavne took it on purpose of the Hebrew canon due to Christ whom they had crucified. The Christians at Laodicea had a different objective. They needed Christ to come yet. Conspiracy so be it! Call it what you want.

I was not transferring any thoughts to the reality of Lk. 16. It says what is says. No myth. The burden is on Jeremey to substantiate myth used by Christ and on hell. He fails to state where Jesus was during His three days and three nights in the heart of the earth or what He was doing. The Greek definitions were not addressed.

I will stand where I left off with Jeremy. The Bible says what it does. The Bible supports conscious eternal punishment in hell of the rebrobate fallen angels and people post-A.D. 70. It just so happens Enoch and Josephus did as well. They are original works not "Greek Myths".

Thanks again, God bless!

For Christ & Kingdom,

Paul Anderson
Planalmira, Brazil

Starlight's picture

Paul,

Since Jeremy has introduced this subject I have been exploring his position concerning Eternal Conscious Torment and am coming to the conclusion that after AD70 especially his position makes sense. I find it a very challenging and worthwhile investigation as there is a wealth of scripture and extra biblical information to digest properly. This understanding requires an in-depth perspective of many different aspects and therefore most do not even venture into it including myself until Jeremy brought it up.

My reason for interjecting into your discussion is primarily to create more discussion on the Book of Enoch and its implications as I find that a Preterist review of these excluded writings is an extremely informative investigation in itself. Most writers will not even deal with the subject as they consider it a no win discussion. That leaves it to us amateurs to sleuth out and recreate the reasons pro and con for its exclusion. Enoch is a treasure trove of NT references and was extensively utilized by the NT writers including Jesus. We ignore it at our own loss. It is such a mysterious writing that it also frightens many away because of its mythological implications. If one is versed in understanding how mythology has been utilized in scripture then it becomes less threatening and more of a puzzle to solve.

The idea of eternal conscious torment is becoming more focused for me as I proceed and am not inclined to utilize Enoch as a confirmation of its existence. Especially since Revelation 20 appears to declare the end of “Hades”.

Rev 20:13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and “HADES” gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and “HADES” were thrown into the lake of fire.

It dawned on me while I was preparing a rebuttal to Jeremy’s article that if Hades has been eliminated then primarily what I was rebutting was the pre AD70 position concerning it and the OT indeed is very sparse concerning Sheol details. This led me to believe that Jeremy’s position concerning Sheol as it originated from OT literature has been embellished for varying hyperbolic illustrations. There is still work to be done in properly analyzing Enoch and why Jesus and the Apostles were comfortable with it, I believe that discussion is where I want to proceed next. I am still uncertain whether it will pass muster for scripture but because it has prophecies that became fulfilled and was heavily influential with the Apostles and Christ, my tendency is to utilize it in the same manner as they did. Enoch will require a large amount of scrutiny to properly decipher but doing so will be a rewarding venture in the end.

Blessings

Norm

OSTRALOA's picture

Norm,

Great thoughts, but look out!! Where is tarturus or the lake or fire today, gone too in post A.D. 70 era?

I have studied Enoch for years as well as Josephus as Ed Stevens will vouch for. Jeremy is assuming that since Enoch is not canon and is borrowed "Greek mythology" that Jesus spoke to a Hellenized crowd, the Greek terminology used had no literal truths i.e. separate receptacles in hades/sheol pre-70 A.D. Yes, the receptacle of the blessed was emptied A.D. 70, but the wicked are said to remain in Enoch then to be thrown into the place appointed for the fallen angels with Satan included just as Revelation states as well.

Eternal concious punishment remains in tarturus or the lake of fire inside the earth. Don't mix the end of hades/sheol with the end of "true hell". That's my point. I appreciate your openness on Enoch. I can share research with you if you would like.

For Christ & Kingdom,

Paul Anderson
Planalmira, Brazil

Ed's picture

Paul,
Are you willing to read material to the contrary? The reason I ask is that there is an excellent article on this site that should prove beyond doubt that your claim of the bible's teaching Eternal torment is without warrant.

I'm not saying this to be argumentative, I just believe that you have overstretched what can be proven from your perspective. The article that I will link here gives scriptural warrant for rejecting eternal torment - SCRIPTURAL. You may disagree with Jeremy's revelations of Hellenization, but if you love the scriptures, as I believe you do, please consider the author's scriptural arguments.

here is the link http://planetpreterist.com/news-2874.html

Thank you,

ed

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

Jer's picture

Hi Norm:

You said, "I believe you need to expand and critique his points concerning Enoch in more detail than just 'assuming' that your declaration that it is corrupted due to Hellenized myth."

You conceded that I had shown this by referring to my statement regarding Azazel / Prometheus and the Orphic tradition. I did not "assume" this, I gave good reasons to conclude that I Enoch "is corrupted due to Hellenized myth."

I recognize that you also have some regard for I Enoch. I do not hold it to be inspired. Regardless, one cannot use it as a "key" to interpret New Testament texts when no such details are given (e.g., 1 Peter 3). I do not need to disprove the inspiration of I Enoch to maintain this.

You said, "...you have really not responded to his section about that credibility of Enoch in a scholarly manner." Paul did not deal with my arguments to the contrary. You recognized the validity of my arguments. We can't let Paul off the hook so easily - the credibility of Enoch is his position :)

Paul did not document his claims about I Enoch. He seems to conclude that it was left out of the canon due to a futurist conspiracy. He writes, "Possibly, in addition to following the Rabbis advice and cover up, they felt threatened as futurists by Enoch’s 70 generation limitation of the final judgment being A.D. 70!" He argues Luke 16:19-31 from this presupposition.

Paul believes that the Underworld in I Enoch is not derived from Greek myth, presumably because he gives some authority to I Enoch. Yet he did not address my arguments to the contrary. He then used Hippolytus (thinking it was Josephus) to bolster this position. Obviously, this is a problem. Then, he transfered the imagery to Luke 16:19-31. He didn't make an argument. He simply asserted his position based on the assumption that I Enoch should have some authority.

Thank again for your comments, Norm. Dialog is good :)

Jeremy

Starlight's picture

Jeremy,

You have indeed convinced me of some of your points and I’m not inclined to Paul’s position due to many of your observations. But I think Enoch does indeed deserve a more thorough look. If we ignore its truth implications that are contained within it we could be doing so at our loss. If we don’t ignore Genesis due to it’s usage of Babylonian myth such as flood accounts and Giants and long ages I think we can also work with Greek mythology. It appears that Jesus, Peter, John and Paul were more comfortable with it than we are. Peter’s usage of Jubilees “1000 years as a day” is just another indication of these two books importance among the Apostles.

It goes to reason as you and Virgil both expounded upon at the conference concerning myth that just because it is incorporated into scripture does not infer it’s corrupting of those works. Even though I am leaning toward your eternal torment conclusion does not mean that I discount Enoch even though it makes your work a little more difficult to arrive at. Since Jesus was comfortable using it as well for teaching and correction I’m inclined to use it as well.

My position at the moment ;-) is that Enoch has fulfilled prophecy stated within it and was utilized heavily by the pre AD70 Jews and early Christians. I don’t think we can negate it as simply as you infer. And I do not believe it is a killer to your overall position.

Blessings

Norm
P.S. I would like to hear your reasoning on why Enoch should not be considered inspired.

Jer's picture

I just read Andrew Perriman's take on Gehenna, Hades, and Luke 16:19-31 in The Coming of the Son of Man. Man, that's good stuff. Now I'll have to read the rest of the book :)

Virgil's picture

Good book; Andrew is a good guy and answers questions easily on opensourcetheology.net - I highly recommend interacting with him on these issues because I know I learned a lot...

Jer's picture

That's cool. I was just telling Val how he said in 7 pages what took me 22, and he said it SOOO much better :)

Jeremy

P.S. Thanks for the book :)

MiddleKnowledge's picture

Jeremy,

Thanks again for your work. Your session was one of the highlights of the conference for my wife and me. Great stuff. And I like the addendum material as well.

I had a collision with this topic about 12 years ago (before I was a true preterist). In fact, I look back and see how this topic actually prepared me for preterism; that is, I went the opposite direction of your arguments here. My re-examination of the traditional doctrine of hell landed me in preterism in the end.

Your point about the vineyard is powerful. How much we preterists still need to unlearn from the interpretive methodology handed down to us from futurism!

Oh yeah. You got me laughing again with: (skippers, please see above).

You caught me. But at least I saw the presentation at TV. I think I'll use that in a future article.

Call me Skipper #729. Hehehe.

Blessings

Tim Martin
www.truthinliving.org

Jer's picture

Hi Tim:

I knew someone would see the addendum and skip right to it! I'm glad you got a laugh out of it :)

I learned my concept of hell through songs, sermons, and hearsay. The topic had bugged me for quite some time, but I had always put it off. My previous study on the evil eye prepared me for this one. I'm glad I finally got around to it.

So when are you going to start accepting pre-orders for the new book ;)

Jeremy

MiddleKnowledge's picture

Jeremy,

When we send it to the printers. (We're editing now -- I HATE editing).

Later,

Tim Martin
www.truthinliving.org

chrisliv's picture

Yeah,

Without endorsing the full conclusions of this article, the point of how Preterists can still tend to interpret many passages as referring to an afterlife when they don't, is well taken.

Another classic example is, John 14:2 & 3:

"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."

Of course, nearly every Furturist will interpret that as talking about "Heaven." And I've even seen a Preterist or two suggest as much.

Peace to you all,
C. Livingstone

Fredrico's picture

Let me ask; is there an afterlife for Christians? If so, what text tells us and if not, what does the verse below mean?

1 Corinthians 15:19
19 For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.

Fred

Virgil's picture

Fred, I think that verse is solely dealing with the hope of the resurrection brought in Christ, considering the entire chapter, and especially the very next verse.

Good question though. I personally have no problem entertaining discussions about what happens after death or what the future holds for us after our bodies expire, but I am also willing to say that the message of Christianity should not be as concerned with our post-mortem existence and rather recognize the importance of now, and the power of living in the Kingdom at this very moment.

Fredrico's picture

Virgil… I agree about the Christian message but that message you see as needful has been proclaimed for hundreds of years by many authors. There are thousands of books published that encourage Christians to rejoice in God’s presence. There are topics of enjoying our salvation and spiritual blessings. Probably, most bookstores you enter today have more books about exhorting Christians to enjoy God and what he gives us than the doctrinal based volumes. The victorious life has been around for a long time. One only has the go to Christianbooks.com or Amazon.com and do a search and you can find many books dealing with what the preterists see in this life. Many even use the analogy of heaven coming down and filling our soul.

My point is, what does the preterist have to offer that hundreds of others have been supplying through their encouragement about God’s presence and spiritual blessings? Let me guess someone will say something like, “the truth that Christ returned and how it ensures those blessings.” I must ask was it the 70AD event that brings that joy and presence or was it the cross, resurrection and Pentecost that assured that for His people? I have always rejoiced in the events of 30AD and not 70AD. If we put the focus on 70AD we miss the glory of what Christ came to do.

Blessings,

Fred

Starlight's picture

Fred,

I think Preterist can sometimes over look this verse in regards to the manner of your question, many are supposing that the context is being used by those who believe the discussion is about a physical bodily resurrection. To me it’s obvious that Paul’s discussion is affirming the recognition that there is indeed more than physical life and there is the “Hope of Israel” eternal union with God to look forward to as well, which of course begins while we are in the body. I think Paul is putting his stamp of recognition upon this reality in your quote especially in light of the previous verse. “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.”

I asked the very same question using the same verse of Jeremy in an above post and here is his answer.

Jeremy’s response…
“You asked, "But what about the faithful at biological death; are you representing that there is no eternal abode for those as well after AD70?"

”Not at all. But what that "looks" like, I haven't a clue :) We aren't provided with many details.” End quote.

I also agree that you do not need to be Preterist to embrace heavenly living, as I have experienced relationships with many with diverse understandings of eschatology that have taken hold of that reality. I also do not see the need though to shun the truth of AD70 just to embrace fully the Cross event. I don’t see the need to pick and choose. I let truth present itself wherever it is found and recognize it and embrace it where ever I find it.

It may seem that we Preterist are over emphasizing the AD70 aspect but you have to recognize that this position is not well understood and those of us who want to share this understanding with others may appear to be overly indulged in the discussion due to our need to propagate and disseminate it to others. Sometimes in so doing we may appear to have an imbalance of priorities which we need to be aware of. I also will say that one who begins to properly understand the fulfillment of prophecy will only enhance his relationship with God if he seeks to do so in the context of the Cross; this has been my personal experience since coming to the Preterist viewpoint a little over a year ago.

Blessings

Norm

Fredrico's picture

Norm,

There is no need to choose certain events. The events in 30 AD and the events of 70AD must all be considered. I hope you did not misunderstand what I was saying.

1 Corinthians 15:19
19 For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.

This verse is in the context of those that suffered a biological death. I am not trying to make a case on what our afterlife will be like. It is beyond our imagination, but I wanted to point out that there is an afterlife that we can look forward to. That does not have to take away from our view of life in this world. Our life in this world is but a vapor, a spec in time. Our afterlife will introduce us to an eternal existence. After all, what happened to those that were resurrected from biological death? 1 Corinthians 15 does speak about their resurrection in the beginning of the chapter.

Why can futurists rejoice in their salvation and in the presence of God? I do not think it is a fluke in their interpretation even though they may be inconsistent. I think it stems from the truth of what is revealed in the events of the cross and resurrection of Christ.

Blessings,

Fred

tom-g's picture

Hey Fred,

Great to see you here, your discernment is a treat to read.

I greatly appreciate your comments, they are very needed, not only in this article, but every article that appears here or anywhere else. You are upholding the truth of the gospel of our Lord Christ Jesus. Our membership in His body and our walk in Him is an AD30 accomplishment not AD70.

Keep in touch,
Tom

davo's picture

tom-g: Our membership in His body and our walk in Him is an AD30 accomplishment not AD70.

This is just my opinion, but I think it is a mistake to pit one [AD30] against the other [AD70] -- they go hand-in-glove, i.e., we have one BECAUSE OF the other. The Cross was the decisive event and the Coming was the culminating event of God's one time end-of-the-age redemption of Israel.

What was inaugurated in His Ministry, and ratified through His Cross, was subsequently consummated at His Coming.

davo

Starlight's picture

Fred,

My post was meant to reinforce what you are saying. I do not disagree with your positions and actually appreciate your points.

Blessings

Norm

davo's picture

G'day Fred... I might venture a thought. Could it be that futurism, in whatever guise, has of a practical nature pretty much effectively negated that which it says it cherishes i.e., the abundant life of AD30 [Jn 10:10] through its penchant for expecting a better world post-mortem, as opposed to the reality that AD70 has brought in that "the Kingdom" was always meant to be about this life – life after life after death was never the issue churchianity has made it to be – which on the other hand might just explain why there is such a dearth of scriptural texts about "getting to Heaven when you die" and the supposed requirements for doing so.

davo

flannery0's picture

chrisliv wrote:

"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."

Of course, nearly every Furturist will interpret that as talking about "Heaven." And I've even seen a Preterist or two suggest as much.

*****

I am personally acquainted with more than two! Myself included.

If you don't believe "My Father's house" in John 14 refers to heaven, what do you say it does refer to?

one of His many mansions,
Tami

chrisliv's picture

Yeah,

I thought there was a recent post here on it.

Thanks for identifying yourself.

If you think about it, you may begin to see that "Father's House" is not in Outer Space somewhere.

I'm convinced Jesus was not espousing pie-in-the-sky after-you-die in that passage.

The early text doen't actually say "many mansions"; it says that in "My Father's house are many rooms..." Which makes more sense, because in literal terms, mansions cannot fit inside of one house.

Jesus prepared a place for all believers in "Father's House" with his own life, nearly 2000 years ago. He's not still getting things ready, as some Dispensational preachers espouse.

The imagery spoken by Christ at John 14 is a more personal description of what much of the New Testament describes as life in the Holy Spirit. Or, as Revelation describes as New Jerusalem. Or, as the Prophets of old described as a new and different kind of Jerusalem where the Holy of Holies is turned inside-out, filling the whole city:

"In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the 'LORD’S house' shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts." Zec. 14:20 & 21

"In that Day" is now. That is the current and present reality which every Christian should have little trouble identifying with, even before their physical death, i.e, God is not out there somewhere, spacially separated from believers.

You see, the "LORD's house" is a spiritual dimension that's no longer futuristic, nor is reserved in Outer Space somewhere waiting for your death.

Jesus was telling his disciples that the fulfillment of everything the Prophets had spoken of was about to be fulfilled with His Ascension (His "I go").

Christ went on to explain what "Father's House" meant:

Joh 14:26 "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."

Joh 15:26 "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:"

Joh 16:7 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you."

If you're having trouble with understanding such things, you're probably still a Futurist to some degree.

Of course, that doesn't make you a bad person, though.

Peace to you all,
C. Livingstone

flannery0's picture

Actually the Greek word translated mansions/room means "dwelling places" or "abode". Even Strongs acknowledges it is used metaphorically to speak of God indwelling His people. And that is the Biblical definition of heaven.

Yet, you seemed to be indicating that John 14 wasn't talking about heaven.

I am not following the reasoning which suggests I am a Futurist for saying it does. But thank you for saying it doesn't make me a bad person.

Tami

chrisliv's picture

Well, Tami,

In your initial response to my post, you identified yourself as one who thought the context of the passage at John 14 referred to a sterotypical promise of "Heaven" that was to be fulfilled after physical death.

If you've changed your position, that's great.

If I was mistaken about what you meant, I'm sorry.

Peace to you,
C. Livingstone

flannery0's picture

my initial response to your post:

"by flannery0 on Sunday, April 22 @ 12:23:18 PDT
(User Info | Send a Message)
chrisliv wrote:

"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."

Of course, nearly every Furturist will interpret that as talking about "Heaven." And I've even seen a Preterist or two suggest as much.

*****

I am personally acquainted with more than two! Myself included.

If you don't believe "My Father's house" in John 14 refers to heaven, what do you say it does refer to?

one of His many mansions,
Tami"

And no, I have not changed my position in the past hour. I still believe John 14 is talking about heaven, and I never even remotely suggested that heaven is fulfilled after physical death. You superimposed that assumption onto my statements.

Tami

chrisliv's picture

No, Tami,

I superimposed nothing.

You're not paying enough attention.

My original comments that started this thread were, as follows:

"Without endorsing the full conclusions of this article, the point of how Preterists can still tend to interpret many passages as referring to an afterlife when they don't, is well taken.

There you have it.

Tami, you must see that the context of this thread had a preface of: "the point of how Preterists can still tend to interpret many passages as referring to an afterlife when they don't, is well taken."

You, in the initial response to my comments, identified yourself as one who believed John 14-2 & 3 refers to a promise by Christ which occurs in "an afterlife."

So, please pay more attention, Tami.

Peace to you,
C. Livingstone

flannery0's picture

good grief!

mazuur's picture

While Chrisliv will probably answer too, I thought I would share how I take that passage.

The "house" that Jesus was building was the Church. This is what he was building during his interim reign from AD 30-70, which was the transition period from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. This was the purpose of the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit during that transition period.

That is the short and sweet presentation. Of course, if you would like a very in-depth presentation I would have to recommend Max King's book, "The Cross and the Parousia of Christ".

-Rich

-Rich

Virgil's picture

Guys, I think Jesus is contrasting the one-room Temple here with the Church, so you are right in that the "many rooms" is referring to the Church but don't forget the Temple/Church contrast made here. The Greek for "rooms" is literally "places of abode" so the English is really leaving out some of the more important part of what Jesus was communicating, which really is regarding "God dwelling in communion with man," or "God and man abiding together."

Indeed, this has nothing to do with a distant Heaven that we get to after we die; it's about today and now.

flannery0's picture

Hey Virgil,

What passages of Scripture deal with this place you are referring to as "the distant Heaven that we get to when we die?"

Thanks,
Tami

Virgil's picture

None that I know of; I don't think it was ever about a distant heaven that we go to after we die; I do think it's always been about God's presence and our relationships with him. That's what the personal eschatology I was speaking about at TruthVoice last week is about.

flannery0's picture

Thanks, I wasn't aware of any either.

flannery0's picture

Rich,

I absolutely agree!

Do you see the Bible making a distinction between the presence of God (the church, His tabernacle(s), where He dwells with us now) and heaven, which Hebrews also defines as His presence?

Tami

mazuur's picture

Tami,

that is a topic that requires a lot of attention so not to leave confusion. The short answer, the way I see it, is yes and no. It depends on how you define heaven. Most see it as a location, so in that sense, after we die, surely we move to a alternate form of existence in God's presence. In the sense of whether or not we will become closer in relationship to God that we are in heaven now (if one is in Christ).

I know that probably only creates more questions, but that topic requires many pages of text to address completely.

-Rich

-Rich

-Rich

chrisliv's picture

Hey, Rich,

Thanks for the input, because your view is another Preteist variant, in my opinion.

Of course, I will ask if you are actually saying that you believe that "The Church" and the "Holy Spirit" both became obsolete at 70 AD?

Why doesn't the Bible suggest that they were both only meant to be sort-lived and temporary?

Personally, I think the clear case, from the Bible, can be made that they were both meant to be an enduring presense.

Peace to you,
C. Livingstone

mazuur's picture

Chris,

I am not sure why you would think that after AD70 the Church becomes obsolete. Jesus was *building* the Church between 30-70. After 70 it is completed, perfected, consummated, etc etc etc. The Church is eternal, as it's the body of Christ. This is the body that 1 Cor. 15 said was being raised during the interim period, which of course now is raised in a completed sense.

Concerning the Holy Spirit, I would suggest this. There is a very big difference between what may be called the ordinary indwelling of the Spirit that all men receive, and the eschatological out-pouring of the Holy Spirit. The latter function of the Spirit (consisting of the various miraculous gifts) was for the building of the Church, and the raising of dead ones (first-fruits) during the interim period, which lead to the resurrection of the dead.

-Rich

-Rich

Ed's picture

I agree Chris. Not to be shamelessly plugging my article, but you'll see that I make just such a connection in it. When the Temple was completed (cf. Solomon's) in AD70, the spirit of God filled that Temple to a greater degree than previously experienced. God was dwelling in Power with His people. It's an awesome thing...truly.

ed

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

chrisliv's picture

Sure, Ed,

God's true temple is the Spirit-filled Body of Christ, which was still in an adolescent form in the 1st-century AD, from my impression of the 7 Churches address by Christ at Revelation.

I have trouble with those Preterist voices who espouse that God not only destroyed the Old (stone) Temple in 70 AD, but that He also destroyed the new, Spiritual Temple that He ordained and prophesied would be a Blessing to the whole earth through Christ.

Peace to you,
C. Livingstone

Ed's picture

I'm with you Rich. All references to the people of God being "the temple" is indicative of the building process. Overcomers were "pillars in the house of the LORD." "Don't you know, YOU are the Temple of God." "I will build my church, and the gates of death will not prevail against it."

I wrote an article called "The Tabernacle of David." It can be found at http://ourworld.cs.com/preteristabcs/id106.htm

In it, I make the point that David's tent, as mentioned by James the Elder, was the interim firstfruits church. In AD70, the fullness came, which was symbolized by Solomon's temple. I think that it's a good study, if I do say so myself.

ed

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

MiddleKnowledge's picture

Guys (Hi Tami!),

I think it is important to point out that the Greek is "many rooms" not "many mansions." The KJV translators flowered things up a bit.

Rooms in a house are places to live. There's plenty of room in God's house (new temple) for all of us. Nothing future about it.

Tim Martin
www.truthinliving.org

flannery0's picture

Well that was my point.

:)

MiddleKnowledge's picture

I know,

Isn't it cool?

Tim Martin
www.truthinliving.org

flannery0's picture

Totally cool!

It's like....

heaven! :)

Jer's picture

I should have covered this in the article since two people have mentioned it. Imagine that this blurb appears after The Prison of Peter section above as that's where it appears in my "revised" version ;)

The Thief on the Cross

A similar approach is taken with Luke 23:43. Mr. Stevens writes:

That day ("today") was before the resurrection. And it clearly implies that the thief would consciously know and experience "paradise" with Christ on that very day (after their bodies expired). They both (Jesus and the penitent thief) went to the "good" part of Hades called "paradise" or "Abraham's bosom," where Abraham and Lazarus were also (cf. Luke 16:19ff). (http://www.preterist.org/refutingerror.asp)

Again, it is unnecessary to view this text through the parabolic underworld of Luke 16:19-31. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul equates "paradise" with the "third heaven," reflecting Jewish cosmology. "Paradise" was apparently up, not down. Jesus does not appear to be referring to an underground cavern in Luke 23:43.

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