Part Two of “Abraham’s Bosom; The ‘Holding Place’ for Old Testament Believers?”

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.

Thanks for keeping up with us on uThinkology. And remember, you are what uThink!

Abraham’s Bosom; The ‘Holding Place’ for Old Testament Believers?

It has been called the waiting chamber for those who believed and looked forward to the Messiah with redeeming faith, but nonetheless died before the messiah came. Therefore, they needed to remain in an in-between state that was neither in heaven nor in hell. That is, until redemption was accomplished by Jesus. After the cross they were freed to pass on to heaven. It’s an interesting hypothesis. But is Abraham’s bosom a holding place for the Old Testament saints (Luke 16:22)? We should consider a few points here before we jump to that conclusion.

Firstly, we have cases like Enoch and Elijah who were taken by the Lord in a sudden nature, Elijah in particular being carried away into heaven in a very spectacular manner (Genesis 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11). It would seem rather odd and without basis however, if they were carried away only to be placed into a “holding tank.”

Now someone might speculate that these were exceptions and the Lord chose to bypass the chronological need for the cross to happen. But this presents a serious, twofold problem. For one, this would not be consistent in the very argument made by those who declare that the cross had to be accomplished before the faith of Old Testament saints could be honored. Secondly, and more importantly, it fails to reflect the just nature of the Lord. Why would a few individuals be taken to heaven while others needed to await Calvary? Were these cases just worthier while others were not? Again, not the message we derive from the Bible.

Another point I’d like to make is that if Abraham’s bosom held any theological importance to salvation, or the afterlife, I believe the Bible would discuss it more than just the one isolated reference given in parabolic form (Luke 16:22). Therefore, if we promulgate Abraham’s bosom as a place somewhere between heaven and hell, being neither in actuality, then we are as guilty as those who teach purgatory based on the brief mention of fire (1 Cor 3:15) in the context of a believer’s judgment. Purgatory was not Paul’s point there either, rather the ‘burning up’ was a metaphorical description of the closeness to the total loss one may have in a fire. All possessions could be lost (in this passage the rewards of the believer) but the life of the individual survives (the eternal life of the believer). In the case of Jesus referencing Abraham’s bosom, this is first of all a parable, not intended to be foundational in building the doctrine of atonement before or after the cross.

Generally speaking, Abraham’s side was descriptive among Jews as the place of rest, comfort and joy, i.e. heaven. And Jesus’ discourse in Luke 16 was intended to communicate justice and retribution in the judgment that will be served to all after death, even the rich and powerful will be helpless before the Lord. For more of a Messianic, Jewish perspective on New Testament studies, the Jewish New Testament Commentary: A Companion Volume to the Jewish New Testament is excellent!

Some of you may disagree with me, and I would sincerely like to hear your thoughts on this subject in either case. But my position is that Abraham’s bosom simply refers to paradise. Consider this verse where Jesus says Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are in the kingdom of heaven:

“I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11)

I further retain that the Old Testament “believers” were saved in the same manner that we are. By faith. Indeed, Abraham is called the father of all believers, for he believed the promise of ‘his seed’ and it was accounted to him as righteousness (Rom 4:3). This was long before the cross happened in time. And faith in God and His work is the only requirement the Lord ever places on man.

Take it from this perspective. The cross stands at a central point on the time-line of history. All believers since the cross look backwards to that moment. But the men and women of the Old Testament had to look forward into the future. Nevertheless it is the same event for both and the looking is done in faith (chronological direction bears no weight in the consequence). I might even argue that Old Testament faith of this nature was greater, for the event hadn’t even happened yet. We on the other hand, are able to stand on an historical moment in time, looking back in the knowledge that it has already happened. Nonetheless, we all look by faith. Click here for part two.

What do uThink?

uThinkology 2010 in Review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

 

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2010. That’s about 9 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 30 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 54 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 18mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was February 10th with 93 views. The most popular post that day was Who do you say Jesus was, and why should it matter anyway?.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, WordPress Dashboard, en.wordpress.com, slashingtongue.com, and mail.yahoo.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for uthinkology, big bang science, concept of origin of life, church vector, and big bang.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Who do you say Jesus was, and why should it matter anyway? February 2010
2 comments

2

About Mark Nigro and uThinkology August 2009
5 comments

3

The Gospel According to Elton John: Making God in his own image March 2010
8 comments

4

Ministry Updates March 2010
1 comment

5

Creation, Evolution or Both? A Visual Concept Map on the The Origin of Life October 2010

Part Two: Asking Why

If you have read my last post,The Lighter Side of Theology: Asking Why,” you are already familiar with my purpose for asking “why” in our walk and ministry as Christians. And I wonder if you’ve given those six “fun” questions any thought? This little three letter word “why,” if used more often to probe our hearts and minds, would keep our motives and our biblical “correctness” in check for more things than we may realize. And that’s a healthy thing, to be kept “in check.”

I make the following points not to offend but to demonstrate that even we in the evangelical community (who boast of our Biblical basis for our church practices) fall into the error of doing and saying certain things which really are more of a tradition than anything else. The six “fun” questions from my last post hopefully were enlightening towards this fact, that they have no biblical basis.

Still I, like most other Christians, have either said, believed or done them at some point. Thank God for his grace that covers us all and never runs dry! This fact also shows how vulnerable WE ALL are towards imperfect theology and unbiblical practices. That is not to say that these things are “sinful”  but simply that the Bible is SILENT regarding them. And if we are to be “Bible based” in all we do, we must be careful to filter all things through the lenses of Scripture. Notice that God’s Word says nothing about:

1. Paul being on a horse while travelling to Damascus and then falling from it. The text simply says he fell to the ground because of the bright light of Christ’s appearing. But pictures and sermons alike almost always portray Paul as falling from his horse.

2. How many wise men came to visit Jesus. There were three types of gifts, but according to Scripture the wise men are not numbered. They could have been anywhere from two to twenty, or even more. Yet every nativity scene and even sermons, once again, portray three wise men.

3. Altar calls being practiced as a public proclamation for those commiting their lives to Christ. We find nothing even resembling an altar call in Scripture. But this is becoming the traditional way to present the gospel. And it may just be encouraging false commitments along the way. Once the first person “Goes forward” and the applause start rising from the congregation, others are more easily stimulated to walk forward under an artificial motivation caused by emotions in such an excited atmosphere. And by the way, they are not coming to an “altar” but a pulpit. The altar was in the temple. Once again, this is a term used without careful thought by the church.

4. Church as a building or a place. In Scripture it is the “gathering” of God’s people. A group, not a place. This is leading to even further unhealthy misconceptions in the modern church regarding “Having church through a television.” Obviously, if we correctly understand what church is we will not be misled in such a view.

5. The “sinner’s prayer” as the way to become born again. In the Bible, we see nothing of a “prayer” form to receive the Lord, only people believing in Jesus and then responding with baptism. Of course, I don’t think such a prayer is harmful and I am convinced that God honors each one that is sincere. But still, we need to be careful with these formulas. By this tradition, we often either give the impression that “once” a person pronounces those words they are “sealed,”  or on the other hand, until someone actually “says” those words they have not been born again. The fact is, they may have been truly converted long before ever praying along in such a formulated pattern.

6. Worship leaders telling people when to stand and when to sit. Once again in Scripture I do not find anyone instructing the congregation to stand or to sit during worship in the early church. If anything, worship was either standing or prostrate on the ground before the Lord as far as the Old Testament reveals. At any rate, no one was ever recorded as just “sitting.” But the idea of telling worshipers when to stand or sit creates a forced worship experience, and typically this is done at fixed times in the service. I uphold the need for order in our church services, but personally I am challenged with this particular practice, a practice that I myself have almost always maintained until now.

So, those are my thoughts on the six questions. I hope you’ve got something good from my bantering!

But I’d like to know in all honesty what uThink about these matters?

The Lighter Side of Theology: Asking “Why?”

I suffer from an overly-analytical mind. Or at least, that’s what I’ve been told. I think about things and look for problems so I can fix them. I even think about thinking, and yes, I find problems at times. Identifying mistakes is good, because that means we can correct them and move forward. But one negative from this is that when there is no obvious problem, I might create one, though it’s usually for myself. Perhaps the words spoken to the Apostle Paul would better suite me, “You are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.” (Acts 26:24)

Yet the truth is, as Christians, we ought to think and we ought to know what to think about what we think. Instead, what often happens is we take a lot of Christianity for granted. We fail to ask enough questions, either to ourselves or to our teachers. And those we do ask, tend to be the “who, what, when, where and hows.” All observational to collect the “facts.” That’s good, but where’s the why?

Why” is the golden question, and it’s the one my children ask me MOST. They are more interested in the “why” than any other thing. I can scarcely tell them ANYTHING without facing an inquisition of “whys!” And you know what? We should be more like them. For if we sought for the “why,” and found it, we’d be firmer in our faith and better received by all. To ask, and know, WHY we believe WHAT we believe. Could this be, at least in part, what Jesus had in mind when he spoke of “childlike faith?”

When Christians just accept and repeat what they are told without a careful eye to discernment, they replace true biblical faith with a gullible spirit and often are called out on it by the unbelievers who do ask the tough questions. And that is not a noble quality for a group of people who claim to “Know the truth.” We walk by faith, yes. But is faith to be blind or uninformed? Many of our accusers say that it is. But on the contrary, true biblical faith sees quite clearly and it is indeed “in-formed.”

We all could use a little practice at critical thinking in life. We say, do, repeat and encourage others in things we’ve heard but given little thought to. And in ministry, especially, we must ask ourselves “WHY?” Church leadership is responsible for where it takes the sheep. So I’ve begun to do this, and the results have been quite revealing in light of Scripture. Here are six FUN questions I’ve asked myself recently. I’m curious if you have ever thought about these, or others like them, and if so, what have you come away with?

1. Why do we teach that there were three magi from the East who visited Jesus?

2. Why do we refer to the “sinner’s prayer” as the formula for a person’s new birth in Christ?

3. Why do we encourage “altar calls”?

4. Why do worship leaders tell people when to stand and when to sit?

5. Why do many think the Apostle Paul fell from his horse on the road to Damascus?

6. Why do we often say “I’m going to church” or say “I’m at the church” as a location?

God, Science and the Big Bang: An Explosive Debate

Two days ago, a dear sister from Serbia sent me a message asking my thoughts about antimatter. She had dialogued with a man who bombarded her with recent findings that, according to him, proved there was no need for a “divine being” to explain the origin of life, because antimatter can be created in a particle accelerator. It’s one of the newer, more exciting topics in science and the study of physics.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a rather colossal project in every sense, one that pushes the confines of what man thought possible just over a few decades ago. Twenty years in the making, the LHC is now a sprawling construction, a 27km-long circular underground tunnel that straddles the French-Swiss border, near Geneva. And it’s making quite a bang. In fact, that is exactly what it was designed to do, to recreate a mini-Big Bang. (see the above-ground simulated image below)

Inventions like the LHC underscore the brilliance of the human mind, the summit of all terrestrial life forms. Man has been endowed with the ability to observe through the five senses, process information, analyze it, discuss it, debate it, and draw conclusions from it. Especially wonderful is his ability to create! And with the invention of the LHC come new ways to explore old mysteries. It promises what many hope will be years of thrilling, ground-breaking research that will one day explain what really happened “In the beginning.” (See close-up shot of the LHC below)

Hydrogen atoms are fed into the source chamber of the LHC where their electrons are then stripped off, leaving only hydrogen nuclei, protons with a positive charge. They are then accelerated through the tunnel until they reach the speed of light, at which time these proton packets are redirected into a collision course with each other. This is the simulation of the BB’s effects, as they believe it happened.

From this, a team of a thousand-plus scientists from 33 countries hopes to learn more about the nature of our amazing universe, the way it was seconds after its birth at the first BIG BANG, presumed to be 13.7 billion years ago. One specific mystery they want to unveil is where all the antimatter went after the explosion, which left mostly matter, the ‘stuff’ we’re made from.

But from this research, the clearest lesson we have learned so far is the premise on which scientists are approaching the birth of the universe. It was accidental in nature, and God is not a factor in their equation. The common people who are observing from the sidelines have also leapt to conclusions that not only exceed their own understanding, but that violate the principles of the selfsame empirical science supposedly being cited.

The purpose of research is to examine a subject and arrive at a conclusion, in this case, the origin of life. But when we begin research with a premise that excludes certain possible explanations, such as a divine creator, we do nothing other than reveal our philosophical bias. The evidence, if they are fair, may just point to another source, one not so quickly welcomed by materialists. Case in point, the voices being heard in the LHC project speak of the EVOLUTION of the universe. Even though they have yet to determine what happened, they have already decided that it has, and I quote, “evolved.” Does this strike you as science by the book? How has this been concluded when their search is really just beginning? Well, it hasn’t been concluded. It has been assumed, such as other ideas I look forward to covering in future posts at uThinkology. And even once they are able to reproduce the ‘birth’ of the universe with the LHC, the question will still remain, “What caused it?”

In science every effect has a cause. And if protons, or ions, from which matter is comprised, were the first building blocks to matter, where do they come from? They are not eternal, so what got the whole process going? Science can answer many questions, and I applaud the remarkable achievements that have been made by men of great minds. But until biases are put aside we do not have true research taking place. Instead, we have a philosophy that men are promoting, and one that is being accepted because geniuses have said to, while in truth the verdict has not yet been reached.

The questions that most need answering shouldn’t be limited to what happened to antimatter, but also, “Can the origin of the universe be explained without intelligent guidance or design, and does the conclusion of these studies eradicate the God-factor?”  Indeed, researchers are far from finished. What we can conclude so far, is that there is no reason (other than a hatred for the idea of a divine being) to eliminate design and creation as the possible cause for life. And let’s not overlook the fact that:

  1. These scientists are trying hard to “RECREATE” the Big Bang, and I emphasize the word ‘recreate’
  2. They are conducting the experiments with special and precisely created-and-controlled conditions that allow for the manipulation of matter
  3. They are using preexisting matter, which had to come from somewhere, for something cannot come from nothing
  4. They are doing all this under INTELLIGENT guidance, which only shows that such a delicate and fragile operation must be carefully executed by intelligent beings.

The Big Bang doesn’t in the slightest way disprove God. At most, it tells of the nature of the creation of the universe, that it was explosive. It still does not explain why it happened, or what caused the process. And it may just be that God created matter (and antimatter) in this explosive way. The Scriptures do not specify how God created, other than “In the beginning the earth was void and without form.” Some Scriptures even indicate a connection between extreme heat and creation’s end, such as:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2Pet. 3:10-13 NAS95)

and

“…our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29 NAS95).

I find it rather interesting that in the end, God will destroy space and matter by an explosive fire, such extreme heat that all matter will be consumed. Another Big Bang of the reverse order?

In another post, I’ll talk about “strong force” or “atomic glue” in particle physics. A scientific mystery to which the Bible appears to make reference. Empirical science will agree that every effect has a cause. We Christians maintain that God is the only uncaused cause of all matter. Because the universe is not eternal as all agree there was a beginning, we must ask what started it all? What do uThink?

The Perfect Diaper Bag

The Perfect Diaper BagFriends, I hope you get a chuckle from the title of this post (not to mention the guy in the picture). Although today is Monday, and I would have loved nothing more than to sit back and post a little something on one of the endless array of subjects that peak my (and I think yours too) interest, what time I did have available for writing needed to be applied to our MUCH-overdo update on our primary ministry here.

 

Because uThinkology is part of our overall ministry, and the site has a dedicated page for our updates, I felt it was appropriate to include this November news letter as a post. So here it is, our latest update in PDF on our ministry and family in Treviso, Italy. I hope you will take a few minutes to see what is happening in our lives and in this part of the world. Just click here or on the “Ministry Updates” tab above on uThinkology’s site header. You’ll be able to open the PDF in your browser. You can also choose to download it if you like.

Thanks for stopping by uThinkology. And remember, you are what uThink!

Blessings,

Mark Nigro