In this second installment I want to address two of three remaining questions. My next post, the third and final, will cover thoroughly the last question which was raised by Dejan in a comment to part one “Abraham’s Bosom; The ‘Holding Place’ for Old Testament Believers?”. Because his question will require some word studies in the Greek and biblical exegesis of the entire passage of Ephesians 4, I felt it was best to isolate it. This post would become too large otherwise. If you’re curious, Dejan’s question has to do with the typical Scriptural references used to support the teaching of Abraham’s bosom as a place of captivity until Christ’s death and resurrection (Ephesians 4:8-10; Luke 16:22).
The transfiguration of Christ is the next point I want to put on the table in this discussion, for it presents a serious logical and theological problem for the doctrine of Abraham’s bosom. If, as many suggest, all believers were held captive there prior to Christ “setting them free”, then what were Moses and Elijah doing on the mountain, talking with Jesus, Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:3)? Apparently they both were free to appear and not at all in “captivity” waiting for release. And remember, Jesus hadn’t yet died nor resurrected.
What was the physical state of Moses and Elijah as we can tell from Scripture? Elijah, as mentioned in part one, was taken away alive by a whirlwind into heaven (2 King 2:11). This is very likely an Old Testament type of the rapture to come (1 Thess 4:17). Now the text says he was taken to heaven, and I believe that to mean not the sky itself but the spiritual realm of God’s throne as described in Revelation, and, which is the destiny of every believer (Col 1:5). This is reasonable because Elijah, as Abraham and every other Old Testament saint, was justified by faith in God’s promise, looking forward in belief though the messiah hadn’t yet come (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6). I explained this point more in “Abraham’s Bosom; The ‘Holding Place’ for Old Testament Believers?”.
Notice that Elijah’s rapture was before the cross of Christ, yet he was taken away into heaven. If Elijah was not taken to heaven, the only other option would be Abraham’s bosom or hell. We can rule out hell pretty easily. Now we’re left with Abraham’s bosom. Why sweep away a prophet to put him in a holding place? The entire picture of his rapture points to a glorious climax, not to a halfway point in the spiritual domain. The whole event becomes senseless if he wasn’t taken to heaven as the text says, and it certainly is not a picture of the rapture at that point. If he was taken to heaven, but other men and women of faith had to wait for Calvary, we have inconsistency with God’s standard, and that is not like his character.
As for Moses, we know he went the way of all men and died a physical death. God buried him but we don’t know where (Deuteronomy 34:5-7). The next we know of Moses he appears on the mount of transfiguration.
Last, but not least, consider the discussion between Jesus and the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39–43). Jesus tells him that he will be with him that very day in paradise. This statement alone declares:
1. The thief to be justified at that very moment on the basis of faith in Christ prior to his death.
2. Jesus was about to enter paradise that day, not hell (as some teach without biblical merit) nor Abraham’s bosom (Luke 23:43). Although, we should recall that in part one we noted Abraham’s bosom was simply a synonym for heaven according to the Jews.
In part three, we’ll take a detailed look at the Scripture references often cited to support the doctrine of Abraham’s bosom.
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