Dead or Alive: Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, The Rich Man, Lazarus, The Penitent Thief on the Cross, and Jesus Himself (when taken down from the Cross. From a 5-page booklet titled "Dead or Alive" published by Bible Study, P.O. Box 845, Waterbury, Conn. 06720 with supplemental Notes by the Editor of Resurrection.
Several passages from the Bible are used to support the notion that man possesses an immortal soul which "goes to heaven" at the moment of death, i.e., that the "real person" never dies: Eight cases are cited to support this notion: Enoch, Abraham, Moses, and Elijah in the Old Testament Jesus Himself after the stake, the malefactor crucified with him, and the rich man and the beggar Lazarus in the parable of Luke 16:19-30.
Many of God's saints today are taught that the number of Biblical cases surely establishes the immortality of man's soul beyond dispute. We will call those who teach such doctrine "Immortalists."
In view of such a claim, it is therefore important to show that not one of these eight cases proves that there is life beyond the grave for any man until Resurrection Day. In fact that Jesus was the first (at His Resurrection), and all mankind as one body when Jesus calls them from the grave on That Day, per John 5:28-29; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 51-53; Revelation 20:12; Colossians 1:15, 18; and Romans 8:29.
He is mentioned five times in Scripture: Genesis 5:18-24; Luke 3:37; Hebrews 11:5, Jude 4; and Hebrews 11:13. The pertinent facts are his ancestry (7th from Adam); that he "walked with God;" that "God took him" at age 365; that "God removed him so as not to see "the death;" and the key point (Hebrews 11:4-13), that he was the second in the roll of the faithful in Hebrews 11:4-12 of whom Paul then states categorically "these all died in faith, not having received the promises..."
Abraham, The Rich Man and Lazarus:
Abraham's death and burial, witnessed by his sons Isaac and Ishmael, is described in Genesis 25:7-11. He is also the fourth of the faithful in Hebrews 11:2-4 who "died in faith." But in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazrus, Luke 16:19-30, he has the beggar Lazarus in his lap, and is conversing with the Rich Man in Hades. Therefore, say the Immortalists, when Abraham went to Hades, leaving his dead body on earth, he had to be very much alive to carry on his theological argument with the Rich Man!
How then do we prove that Abraham was still alive in Jesus' after being buried in 1700 B.C.? Very simply! The Rich Man buried in Luke 16:22 is not the Rich Man talking to Abraham in v. 24, because the latter has eyes, ears, tongue, voice, memory, and knows Abraham by sight; yet the first Rich Man in the grave also has eyes, ears, and tongue, and had never seen Abraham. Did God create a twin Rich Man to be sent to burn in the fires of Hades while the first twin died?
And if all the dead saints since Abraham are now sleeping on his lap, whose lap is Abraham sleeping on? In addition, there is nothing to say that poor Lazarus was righteous in God's eyes; do all beggars get a free ticket to heaven (if that is what Abraham's lap represents) simply for having died in beggary?
The answer, of course, is that the story was simply a parable familiar to the Pharisees which Jesus used to teach them a truth they had failed to grasp, namely vs. 31; "If they hear not Moses and the prophets (i.e., the Old Testament), neither will they be persuaded if one should rise from the dead!"
Finally one must note that the Rich Man in Hades asks to have Lazarus sent back to his brothers on earth because they would believe "if one went to them from the dead," thereby admitting that Lazrus, and Abraham, and he himself were in reality "dead men," a fact which Abraham agreed to by the last six words he spoke, "though one rose from the dead" (literally, the Gk. reads "...from among dead persons").
Moses and Elijah:
The death and burial of Moses is fully recorded in Deuteronomy 34:5-6, including the fact that "God buried him" in a valley of Moab near Bethpeor. Elijah, on the other hand, is assumed by many to have escaped death by the ascent from earth (supposedly to heaven) in the chariot of fire and whirlwind described in 2 Kings 2:11.
That was merely God's jet-propulsion transport for Elijah to his next assignment in Israel (just as God provided swift transport from Gaza to Azotus in Acts 8:39-40, without explaining how!). How do we know Elijah continued his ministry on earth? We find him again in 2 Kings 3:10-11 in the reign of Jehoshaphat, and later writing to king Jehoram in 2 Chronicles 21, after which he probably died a natural death in his old age, as did other Old Testament prophets.
But why do Immortalists insist on putting Moses and Elijah "in heaven" before Resurrection Day yet future, even before Jesus' earthly ministry? Simply because of the record in Matthew 17; Mark 9 and Luke 9 of Jesus' "transfiguration" in the presence of Peter, James and John in which "there appeared unto them Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus."
Consider the problems in assuming that it was literally Moses and Elijah whom they saw. First, how did the disciples recognize Moses and Elijah? And second, what common language did they speak?
Some may answer that, in being a "revelation" prepared for them by God Himself, God would also reveal to the disciples who they were and what they said. But the far better answer, using the Scripture itself, is that the transfiguration of Jesus was a God-given vision or apparition, given them while half-asleep. Note that Luke 9:32 speaks of the disciples as "heavy with sleep" and "when they were awake." Again in descending the mountain, Jesus Himself admonished them to "tell the vision to no man until the Son of man be risen again from the dead!"
In short, it was similar to other such visions God gave to His saints in both the Old Testament and the New Testament (e.g., Peter's vision of the sheet full of animals in Acts 10, and John's vision of Christ in Revelation 1) for the sole purpose of preparing them for what was to come. Such being the case, it is folly to construe such a vision as proof that two Old Testament prophets, known to be dead and buried, had really been given a direct flight to heaven, putting them there even before Christ's own resurrection.
Worse yet, if that were the case, Paul should have changed 1 Corinthians 15:23 to read "Every man in his own order, Moses the firstfruits, Elijah the second-fruit, Christ the third-fruit; after that the remaining saints at His coming!" And likewise, in Colossians 1:15, 18 Paul should have spoken of Jesus as "the third-born of every creature...the third born from the dead!" Do you see how silly one can get when they let their imagination run away with them.
The Penitent Thief on the Cross:
Perceiving by new light form on high that the Man on the middle stake was the Messiah, heir to heaven's throne, the dying thief dared to ask, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
If Jesus' answer, as punctuated in most Bible (but without warrant in the Gk. text) had been: "I say to you, This day you shall be with me in paradise!" then we have two insoluble problems:
1).If by "this day" and "paradise" (a Gk. word for "garden") Jesus meant He would be on heaven's throne at God's right hand that very day (i.e., before sunset), then Jesus would be mistaken and deceiving both himself and the poor thief. For He Himself had told the disciples many times that "after three days I will rise again."
2). If instead Jesus merely meant that He and the thief would at last be free from pain and sorrow in Hades (the grave), the abode of the dead (which was promised in Psalm 16:10), it would be trivial and no answer to the dying man's profound petition: "When you sit on the throne of heaven, would you remember such a poor sinner as I have been?"
The solution therefore is that the punctuation of Luke 23:43 must be: "Truly I tell you this very day, You shall be with me in the paradise" (i.e., in the promised New Heaven and New Earth in which Jesus will reign at God's right hand and righteousness and peace will prevail forevermore).
With that reading alone, Jesus' answer makes sense. In addition, the opening phrase "I tell you this day" is a form used by Moses often in the Pentateuch. Above all, it retains the fundamental rule of 1 Corinthians 15:23 and Colossians 1:15, 18, cited above, that Christ Jesus must be the firstborn of all the saints to enter into the Kingdom of God which for them begins on Resurrection Day.
Our Lord Christ Himself:
In addition to the rule of 1 Corinthians 15:23 and Colossians 1:15, 18 (cited twice above) there is an even greater Biblical imperative which demands that even Christ Himself, in the Father's Grand Plan, could not be allowed to bypass death (as so many funeral sermons pretend that saints will).
That imperative is hinted at in Psalm 16:10 (as Messiah speaking to the Father from the darkness of Sheol/Hades/the grave "You will not leave my soul in Sheol." It is even more explicit in the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53:10-12 (written as if spoken to God by the prophet): "When you shall make his (Messiah's) soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days...because he has poured out his soul unto death..."
This is fully revealed to us in Hebrews 9:11-27: "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood (death) he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us...and without shedding of blood (i.e., death) is no remission (of sin)...now once in the end of the (Old Covenant) world (Age) hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself... and unto them that look for him he shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
In short, it was absolutely imperative that Jesus truly die, i.e., to cease to live for those three days, and pass into the oblivion of Hades (the grave), the abode of all the dead from Adam to the Last Trump. And it was equally imperative that He be the first to be raised from among those dead (Gk. ek nekron) by the power of the Father, in order that he might be "the firstborn from the dead," Colossians 1:18; "the firstborn among many brethren" i.e., of all the saints, Romans 8:29; "the firstfruits of them (the saints) that fell asleep" i.e., from Abel to the last one dying before Jesus calls them all on Resurrection Day.
Thus we see that in God's Grand Plan "all in Adam must die," obliterating Adam's sinful nature forever, and that "all in Christ must be made alive" on that Great Day (q Corinthians 15:220, in a New Heaven and New Earth wherein will dwell righteousness alone.
And it is equally imperative that no member of mankind shall enter that coming Kingdom by escaping the pangs of death or the gates of Hades in passing from the kingdoms of this world to the Kingdom of Heaven soon to obliterate them.