Archive for August, 2011

“Jacob I loved, Esau I hated". What is the meaning?[1]

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Peter Paul Rubens, The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau, 1624

(courtesy Wikipedia)

Spencer D Gear

There has been for centuries a debate on the means that God uses to bring people to salvation. One Calvinist takes the view that Romans 9:13 refers to ‘a declaration of the sovereign counsel of God as it is concerned with the ultimate destinies of men’ (John Murray).[2] Another Calvinist (Douglas Moo) states that this

passage gives strong exegetical support to a traditional Calvinistic interpretation of God’s election: God chooses those who will be saved on the basis of his own will and not on the basis of anything – works or faith, whether foreseen or not – in those human beings so chosen.[3]

Calvinist Charles Hodge affirmed that

God is perfectly sovereign in the distribution of his favours, that the ground of his selecting one and rejecting another is not their work, but his own good pleasure…. Thus Meyer says, “God does not act unjustly in his sovereign choice; since he claims for himself in the Scriptures the liberty to favour or to harden, whom he will.[4]

The contrasting view of Norman Geisler is that, loving Jacob and hating Esau,

one of the strongest verses used by extreme Calvinists does not prove that God hates the non-elect or even that He does not love them. It simply means that God’s love for those who receive salvation looks so much greater than His love for those who reject it that the latter looks like hatred by comparison.[5]

Lutheran exegete, R. C. H. Lenski, wrote of Romans 9:13 that the Israelites (national, not individual) should have recognised what God had done for them by his grace through promises to them. This grace should have caused all of them to become ‘the children of promise’ (v. 8). But it didn’t and they chose the opposite, refused faith and became stubborn in their presumptuous, outrageous unbelief.[6]

Evangelical Arminians state that:

The Calvinist methodology of interpreting Jacob and Esau as a representation of how individuals are chosen then is a decontextualized over-stretching of the analogy, and thus fundamentally flawed. The context of the chapter plainly dictates that the analogies demonstrate the choosing of one group over the other according to God’s eternal purpose in Christ.

So, what does Romans 9:13 mean? Is it promoting Calvinistic double predestination – some to salvation and the rest to damnation? Or is it contrasting election for the destinies of the nation of Israel and the nation of Edom?

Romans 9:10-13 reads:

And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (ESV).

There is a tendency among some Christians to understand this passage as referring to individual salvation, thus supporting a Calvinistic view of election to individual salvation, interpreting it as meaning God loved Jacob and he was saved, but hated Esau and he was lost.

However people fail to realise that the context of Romans 9 in which v. 13 appears is not referring to individual salvation but Paul is talking about nations. We know in this passage from the OT:

And the LORD said to her,
Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23, emphasis added).

Back in this Genesis context, Esau as an individual did not serve Jacob. It was the opposite. The evidence from Genesis 33:1-3 is that Jacob was “bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother [Esau]” (Gen. 33:3) and Jacob addressed Esau as “my lord” (Gen. 33:8, 13). In fact, Jacob said to Esau that Jacob was “your servant” (Gen. 33:5). It was Jacob who wanted Esau to “accept my blessing” (presents) and Jacob said that Esau’s face was “like seeing the face of God” (Gen. 33:10-11).

So we know from this Genesis 33 context that Esau as an individual did not “serve” his younger brother, Jacob. It was the nation of Esau (Edom) that served the nation of Jacob (Israel).

So what is the point that Paul is making in Romans 9? God’s choice of Jacob was God’s choice of the nation of Israel over the nation of Edom and that choice was made while they were still in the womb before they had committed neither good nor evil. This was a plan that God had made, the choice of a nation –Israel – and it was not based on human merit. Calvinistic commentator, F. F. Bruce, stated of Rom. 9:13 that it was “from Malachi 1:2 f, where again the context indicates it is the NATIONS of Israel and Edom, rather than their individual ancestors Jacob and Esau, that are in view”.

What is the meaning of “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”? Does God indicate what he means by “loved” vs “hated”? We get some concept from Genesis 29:30-31,

So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years. 31When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren (ESV).

There is an indication here that “hated” means loved less than. We see this kind of view with the comparison of two NT passages that discuss the same event:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26 ESV, emphasis added)

The parallel passage is in Matt. 10:37,

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (ESV).

So the comparison of these two passages shows us that the word “hate” can not be taken literally, but it implies “love more than”. Even a Calvinistic commentator, John Murray, agrees:

It has been maintained that the word “hate” means “to love less, to regard and treat with less favour“. Appeal can be made to various passages where this meaning holds (cf. Gen. 29:32, 33; Deut. 21:15; Matt. 6:24; 10:37, 38; Luke 14:26; John 12:25). It would have to be admitted that this meaning would provide for the differentiation which must be posited.[8]

So when the Bible uses the contrast of “hate” vs “love”, it signifies that hate means “love less than”. This is the meaning we find in the passage from which Paul seems to have quoted in Malachi 1:2-3,

“I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert” (ESV).

In Malachi 1, the prophet dresses down Israel in a firm – even angry – way, so he cannot be seeing any merit in the nation of Israel. The parallel in Romans 9 has Paul to correct is opponents who believed that the works of the law were the reason God chose Israel and provided them with the way to holiness (Rom. 9:30-33).

Lutheran commentator, R. C. H. Lenski, provides this exegesis of Romans 9:13:

The statement cited from Mal. 1:2, 3: “Jacob I treated with an act of love but Esau with an act of hate,” is used by Paul as corroborating the promise of Genesis: “Even as it has been written” (the perfect: and is thus still on record). The [Greek] aorists egapesa and emisesa might be constative and summarize God’s different treatment of the two nations until Malachi’s time. But Paul treats this passage in the same way as he treated Gen. 25:23; he takes out of each only what pertains to Jacob and to Esau personally and omits the rest. So we translate the two aorists with reference to the two individual acts when God took Jacob and did not take Esau. The passage is excellently chosen for bringing out what we have repeatedly said regarding Paul’s illustrating how the Israelites got all the gifts mentioned in v. 4, 5. When Israel asked wherein the Lord had loved them they were answered: “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? Yet I loved Jacob and hated Esau.” Had Jacob a greater claim to be the next patriarch than Esau? Why, they were twin brothers! Let the Israelites look at their array of blessings (v. 4, 5) and see in them God’s gratuitous gifts of love.

That is the great point here. The Israelites should have recognized what God had done for them with his grace and his gratuitous promises. They should have recognized the gratuity that made these the pure promises they were. They should, every last one of them, have become “the children of the promise” (v. 8). They did nothing of the kind. They did the exact opposite. They refused faith; they became obdurate in unbelief and in their unbelief grew presumptuous. Outrageous! When Paul thought of it, it nearly broke his heart. To use such blessings only for their own damnation – incredible but, alas, a fact!

“I did hate” is highly anthropopathic but refers to the effect that Esau was not made the third patriarch and not the affect. Hate is used comparatively to love. On this use compare Gen. 29:30, 31; Deut. 21:15-17; Prov. 13:24; Matt. 10:37 and its restatement in Luke 14:26; finally, John 12:25…. Sufficient has been said regarding the Calvinistic interpretation.[9]

Both OT and NT demonstrate that God’s choice of the nation of Israel (Jacob) over the nation of Edom (Esau) was not because of Israel’s good works, but because of God’s choice – His plan. So in Rom. 9:13, God’s love of Jacob and hatred of Esau meant that God chose to give the nation of Israel a special place in His plan for history. It was not based on any goodness or righteousness of the nation of Israel. It was God’s way of planning the unfolding of history.

Anglican commentator, the late Leon Morris, in his commentary on the book of Romans gave this meaning of Romans 9:13:

Characteristically Paul backs up his argument with a quotation from Scripture, this one from Malachi 1:2-3: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”…. We have just seen that the Genesis passage refers primarily to nations and we would expect that to continue here. That this is the case seems clear from what Malachi writes about Esau: “Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals (Mal. 1:3). Both in Genesis and Malachi the reference is clearly to nations, and we should accept this as Paul’s meaning accordingly.[10]

Norman Geisler pointedly summarised the facts from Romans 9 to contradict the view that God is not perfectly good[11] or does not have moral perfection in Romans 9:13, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated”. This is the objection that Geisler is answering:

According to Romans 9, God loved Jacob and hated Esau (v. 13); He has mercy on some but not on others (v. 15) (v. 15); He destines some to destruction and not others (v. 18). From these examples, it seems obvious that God is not omnibenevolent when it comes to salvation.[12]

Geisler provides these responses:[13]

1. The passage in Romans 9 is not speaking of election of individuals but of nations, the nation of Edom that came from Esau (cf. Mal. 1:2) and the nation of Israel that came from Jacob (cf. Rom. 9:2-3).

2. Individuals and their election to salvation are not being addressed, but Israel is chosen as a nation, a ‘channel through which the eternal blessing of salvation, through Christ, would come to all (cf. Gen. 12:1-3; Rom. 9:4-5)’. However, even though Israel as a nation was chosen by God, not all individuals in Israel were elected to salvation (Rom. 9:6).

3. The use of the word, hate (Greek emisesa, from miseo) means ‘to love less’ or ‘to regard with less affection’ and does not mean ‘not to love at all’ or ‘not to will the good of a person’.[14] This is seen in the phrases used in Gen. 29:30-31, ‘loved Rachel more than Leah’ which is used as equivalent to ‘Leah was hated’ (see also Matt. 10:37).

4. See the example of Pharaoh hardening his own heart against God (see Ex. 7:13-14; 8:15, 19, 32) before God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 9:12). Why were the 10 plagues sent on Egypt? They were to convince Pharaoh to repent. He refused to repent and so his heart was hardened as a result of Pharaoh’s own actions. Geisler uses the example of how sun melts wax but hardens clay. ‘The problem is not with the source but with the receptivity of the agent on which it is acting’.[15]

5. The ‘vessels of wrath’ (Rom. 9:22 ESV, NKJV) were not destined to be destroyed against their own will. They were destroyed because they rejected God and 2 Peter 3:9 states that the Lord ‘is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (ESV).

Even such a prominent Calvinist as Charles H. Spurgeon stated,

I cannot imagine a more ready instrument in the hands of Satan for the ruin of souls than a minister who tells sinners it is not their duty to repent of their sins [and] who has the arrogance to call himself a gospel minister, while he teaches that God hates some men infinitely and unchangeably for no reason whatever but simply because he chooses to do so. O my brethren! May the Lord save you from the charmer, and keep you ever deaf to the voice of error.[16]

Conclusion

We can conclude that Romans 9:13 does not refer to double-predestination of the Calvinists (some predestined to salvation and the rest predestined to damnation). Rather, it refers to two nations, Israel (Jacob) and Edom (Esau) that were chosen when the individual men were in the womb. It is not referring to God’s unconditional election of some to salvation – those whom God loved – and the remainder, whom God hated, to damnation. With Charles Spurgeon we echo the theme that it is ‘the voice of error’, an instrument of Satan, to not tell all people (sinners) that it is their duty to repent of their sins.


Notes:

[1] Much of this material has been gleaned from Roger T. Forster & V. Paul Marston 1973. God’s Strategy in Human History. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., ch. 9, pp. 59-62. This is by far the finest explanation I have read of the meaning of “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated” in Rom. 9:13.

[2] John Murray 1968. The Epistle to the Romans (vol. 2). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., p. 24. This is the one-volume edition that contains Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, but the page numbers start at the beginning for each volume.

[3] Douglas J. Moo 1996. The Epistle to the Romans (The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, p. 587.

[4] Charles Hodge 1972. A Commentary on Romans (The Geneva Series of Commentaries). London: The Banner of Truth Trust, p. 312. The original edition was in 1835, with a revised edition in 1864.

[5] Norman Geisler 1999. Chosen But Free. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, p. 83. Dave Hunt considers that Rom. 9:13 is ‘not about salvation of individuals but concerning blessing and judgment upon nations descended from Jacob and Esau’ (Dave Hunt & James White 2004. Debating Calvinism. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, p. 105).

[6] R. C. H. Lenski 1936. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (this edition was published by Hendrickson in 2001), pp. 604-605.

[7] Christian Forums, Baptists, “Questions for Arminians on their assurance of salvation”, Skala #208, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7584042-21/ (Accessed 28 August 2011).

[8] John Murray 1968, The Epistle to the Romans, Part 2 (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., p. 21. This is a one-volume edition that consists of Part 1 (published 1959) and Part 2 (published 1965). The numbering for the two parts is retained as two separate volumes in this one-volume edition. Part 1 covers Romans, chapters 1-8; Part 2, chapters 9-16.

[9] R. C. H. Lenski op cit, pp. 604-605.

[10] Leon Morris 1988. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company / Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, pp.356-357.

[11] Geisler used the term, “omnibenevolent”. Reference.com gives the meaning of omnibenevolence as ‘defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “unlimited or infinite benevolence“. It is a technical term used in the academic literature on the philosophy of religion, often in the context of the problem of evil and in theodical responses, and even in such context, the phrases “perfect goodness” or “moral perfection” are often preferred’. Available at: http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Omnibenevolence (Accessed 28 August 2011).

[12] Dr. Norman Geisler 2004. Systematic Theology (vol. 3: Sin, Salvation). Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse, p. 195.

[13] Ibid., pp. 195-196.

[14] Geisler uses the comparison with Luke 14:26 where Jesus stated, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple’.

[15] Ibid., p. 196.

[16] Iain H. Murray 1995. Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: A Battle for Gospel Preaching. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, pp. 155-156.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.

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Isn’t it obvious what a literal interpretation of Scripture means?

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

By Spencer D Gear

File:Gutenberg Bible, New York Public Library, USA. Pic 01.jpg

Gutenberg Bible (image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

It is not uncommon to be in discussion with evangelical Christians who state that the Bible should not be read literally and that it should be read allegorically or figuratively. Some have even interacted with me and said that when we consider the customs of the first century, we know that these shouldn’t be applied to the 21st century. How should we respond?

We need to investigate the meaning of “literal” interpretation. Does a literal understanding include the use of figures of speech or should we adopt another view of hermeneutics?

I have been an evangelical for about 50 years and I have never belonged to an evangelical church in Australia, Canada and the USA[1] that had/has this view of what “literal” means for evangelical.

I’m a graduate of an evangelical theological college and seminary in the 1970s and 1980s. My courses in hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) made it very clear what “literal interpretation” meant and it is not what Max was accusing evangelicals of believing.

We need to understand that there was a differentiation of meaning in the early church between the School of Alexandria and the School of Antioch. The Alexandrian School did not include metaphorical meaning while the School of Antioch insisted that the literal meaning cannot exclude metaphor. This difference was there in the early days of the church. There’s no need to blame it on the evangelicals. In fact I’ve been to quite a few liberal churches where allegorical interpretation was alive and well.

However, the Antiochian School, which was the one followed in the seminary I attended, used A. Berkeley Mickelsen’s text Interpreting the Bible (1963. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company). Here the definition of Antiochian literal interpretation is that it

means the customarily acknowledged meaning of an expression in its particular context. For example, when Christ declared that he was the door, the metaphorical meaning of “door” in that context would be obvious. Although metaphorical, this obvious meaning is included in the literal meaning (p. 33).

Therefore, Mickelsen rightly states that literal interpretation means that “the writer refers to the usual or customary sense conveyed by words or expressions (p. 179).

Therefore, the true meaning of literal interpretation is that it incorporates metaphor, simile, hyperbole, any figure of speech. That’s what I mean by literal interpretation and I’m an evangelical. But don’t blame it on the evangelicals. The distinction was alive and well in the early church. Too often the concept of “letterism” is used as a synonym for literal interpretation. Letterism means.

What does letterism mean? Don Closson provides this definition:

“While often ignoring context, historical and cultural setting, and even grammatical structure, letterism takes each word as an isolated truth. A problem with this method is that it fails to take into account the different literary genre, or types, in the Bible. The Hebrew poetry of the Psalms is not to be interpreted in the same way as is the logical discourse of Romans. Letterism tends to lead to legalism because of its inability to distinguish between literary types. All passages tend to become equally binding on current believers”.[2]

My college text in hermeneutics was Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation.[3] Ramm rightly states that “literal” interpretation uses literal in its dictionary sense,

The natural or usual construction and implication of a writing or expression; following the ordinary apparent sense of words; not allegorical or metaphorical (Webster’s New International Dictionary).[4]

By contrast, “letterism … fails to recognize nuances, plays on words, hidden metaphors, figures of speech, lamination of meanings in a word”.[5][6]

It seems to me that there is some confusion about an evangelical literal interpretation of Scripture versus a wooden letterism which some evangelicals could use. It is not unusual for this to happen by those from the liberal stream of theology, but it is a false characterisation as I’ve explained above.

The literal method of interpretation is what I use when I read my local newspaper, when I used to read Shakespeare when in high school, and when I read the Bible. You may have met some evangelicals who do not follow what I’ve outlined above, but it certainly is not what was taught in the evangelical institutions I attended.

Don Closson’s conclusion is pointed:

[Martin] Luther argued that a proper understanding of what a passage teaches comes from a literal interpretation. This means that the reader must consider the historical context and the grammatical structure of each passage, and strive to maintain contextual consistency. This method was a result of Luther’s belief that the Scriptures are clear, in opposition to the medieval church’s position that they are so obscure that only the church can uncover their true meaning.[6]


Notes:


[1] My family and I have lived in all three countries, but I’m a citizen of Australia.

[2] Don Closson, Hermeneutics, Probe Ministries, available at: http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/hermen.html (Accessed 18 August 2011).

[3] 1970. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

[4] Ibid., p. 119.

[5] Ibid., p. 122.

[6] See bibliographic details in footnote 2.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 May 2016.

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Will you be ready when your death comes?

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

By Spencer D Gear

The life-death ratio is 100%, no matter where you live in the world. All people who are born eventually die – everyone of them.[1]

There are times when one is caused to think of life after death issues. The death of a loved one or friend precipitates this for me. I did this recently when my Canadian friend, Monte, died on 9 June 2011, aged 79, after a long battle with cancer.

image Photo: Monte Manzer

What happens to all people who die? In contrast to Monte’s vibrant Christian faith, there are always exceptions. And some of them are dogmatically anti-God: “I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive”,[2] said British philosopher Bertrand Russell. He ought to know now of the truth of his statement as he died in 1970. Was Russell telling the truth in his atheistic belief, or is there evidence that he did not accept? Russell left no doubt about his view of God, so could he have rejected some vital evidence? It was Russell who stated:

The whole conception of God is a conception de­rived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a concep­tion quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contempti­ble and not worthy of self-respecting human beings.[3]

Could Russell’s conclusions about God have clouded his view of life after death? What do the Christian Scriptures teach that Russell was discarding?

New Testament believers and death

The souls/spirits of New Testament believers go immediately into God’s presence at death. The cessation of bodily life means that there is a separation of the soul from the body. We know this because the Scriptures teach it. This is what Paul says about death in 2 Cor. 5:8, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord“. Phil. 1:23 affirms that Paul’s desire (and it is my desire) “to depart and be with Christ for that is far better”. To the thief on the cross beside Jesus, Jesus said: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

I am not convinced that the Bible teaches these doctrines at death: purgatory, soul sleep and annihilation.

Old Testament believers and death

What happened to Old Testament believers at death? Did they go immediately into the presence of the Lord as is stated of NT believers? There are not many OT passages that discuss the state of believers at death, but there is an indication of waiting away from God’s presence: “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24; see also Heb. 11:5). What happened to Elijah? He “went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11; cf Matt 17:3 where Moses and Elijah appear and they were talking with Jesus). David says that he will “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Ps. 23:6; cf. 16:10-11; 17:15).

When Jesus spoke with the Sadducees he reminded them that God says, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” but he continues: “He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 23:32). The implication is that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were living at that very moment when Jesus spoke and God was their God. From this information, it seems that the OT believers entered immediately into heaven to fellowship with God when they died.

Unbelievers and death

What happens to unbelievers at death? There is no second chance. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus teaches us there is no hope of going from hell to heaven after death. The rich man was in anguish in the flame (obviously speaking metaphorically) but nonetheless indicating that the souls of unbelievers go to punishment at death.

Heb. 9:27 links death with judgment, “just as it is appointed to men to die once, and after that comes judgment”. That final judgment is based on nothing that we do after death, but on what happens in this life (e.g. Matt. 25:31-46; Rom. 2:5-10; cf. 2 Cor 5:10).

Thus, there is conscious punishment for unbelievers at death and this punishment goes on forever: “They will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).

Conclusion

My friend, Monte, lived to an older age. Monte’s church, Bethel Temple, paid him this tribute on Facebook:

Bethel says goodbye to one of our faithful longstanding members. Monte Manzer passed away June 9th at 79 years old. Monte has been a member of Bethel Church since his teens and had continued to be active in all areas of the life of the church. Always energetic and always positive, Monte has left us a legacy of living life with a sense of purpose and joy.

We look forward to seeing you again one day… Your Bethel Family

But you and I know of people who die at a much younger age. My Queensland cane farmer father died of a heart attack at age 57. There are deaths of the young and old around us, but the key issue is, “Where will you spend eternity?” If you are interested in examining eternal issues further from a Christian perspective, see HERE.

Recommended:

I commend Dan Lioy’s article, “Life and death in biblical perspective“. See also John Lawrence, “Death and the word of God“.

Endnotes:


[1] There will be an exception for one group of people in the future and we don’t know how soon or distant that future will be. These are those who are still alive when Jesus Christ returns. See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 in the New Testament for what will happen to those who are alive at the time of Christ’s second coming.

[2] Cited in Richard Dawkins 2006. The God Delusion. London: Black Swan (Transworld Publishers), p. 397). This is from Bertrand Russell’s 1925 essay, “What I believe”. It is available for free download HERE.

[3] Bertrand Russell, Why I am not a Christian, available at: http://www.skeptically.org/thinkersonreligion/id7.html (Accessed 17 August 2011). It was originally published in 1927 in London by Watts, originating as a talk on 6th March 1927 at Battersea Town Hall, the talk sponsored by the South London Branch of the National Secular Society. Then it emerged as a pamphlet to be published later with other Russell writings as, Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects.

 

Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 11 October 2015.
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Refutation of Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Seventh-Day Adventist Church logo.svg

courtesy Wikipedia

By Spencer D Gear

What happens to human beings at death? Do unbelievers go to Hades (“hell” in some translations of the New Testament) and believers go into the presence of the Lord at death? This has been traditionally known as the doctrine of the intermediate state – where human beings go between death and the final resurrection.[1]

The late John Stott, evangelical stalwart from the UK, stated in an interview with Christianity Today,

In Evangelical Essentials, I described as “tentative” my suggestion that “eternal punishment” may mean the ultimate annihilation of the wicked rather than their eternal conscious torment. I would prefer to call myself agnostic on this issue, as are a number of New Testament scholars I know. In my view, the biblical teaching is not plain enough to warrant dogmatism. There are awkward texts on both sides of the debate.

The hallmark of an authentic evangelicalism is not the uncritical repetition of old traditions but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient, to fresh biblical scrutiny and, if necessary, reform.[2]

Since Seventh-Day Adventists believe in soul sleep[3] for the believer and annihilation[4] for the wicked, they regularly promote this view on forums on the www. Here I encountered one example on Christian Fellowship Forum (I’m ozspen).

Harold is an active Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) who promotes SDA doctrine on this Forum. Here is one example of Harold’s response after I challenged his method of proof-texting. He wrote:

“And you will continue to listen to anyone else who agrees with you instead of reading your own Bible.

Why do you think God gave such a warning about talking to the dead?  Why is He so insistant (sic) on staying away from any hint of spiritualism?  Simply because He knows that the dead are dead and the only other entities you can talk to are Satan’s angels.

What is wrong with using texts??  Here:  refute these:

Ecc. 9:5  “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6  Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” How dead is dead?

Ecc. 9:10  “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”   Isn’t that where we all are going?????

Just try to reinterpret those”.[5]

I responded to him directly[6] when he stated: “And you will continue to listen to anyone else who agrees with you instead of reading your own Bible”.

I am a long-term student of the Scriptures and believe it or not, Harold, I interpret in context and I do not spout forth what your SDA denomination has told you about these verses. You stated:

“What is wrong with using texts??  Here:  refute these:
Ecc. 9:5  “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6  Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” How dead is dead?
Ecc. 9:10  “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”    Isn’t that where we all are going?????
Just try to reinterpret those.”

Let’s try an excellent, contemporary translation of these three verses from Ecclesiastes 9:

5For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun…..10Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” (English Standard Version)

Of verses 5 & 6 of Ecclesiastes 9, you ask, “How dead is dead?” On the surface these verses could be thought of as saying what you want them to say that there is nothing or annihilation after death. What do these verses say?

  • We need to remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is not as Gospel savvy as the Gospel of John. Why? Because the Scriptures teach progressive revelation. Much more is revealed in the NT about salvation and the after-life than the OT. Remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is written to people “under the sun” (1:3) and is explaining life and death from a human perspective.
  • Eccl. 9:5 states that “the living know that they will die”. This is nothing profound, but the application is that a living person has a distinct advantage that he/she knows that death is coming and can arrange many things in life to prepare for that event.
  • But for those who have died, they “know nothing”. So for them, any opportunity to arrange anything for life after death is gone. Their human knowledge has ceased as they are no longer on the earth. From your perspective, you think that this is a flat denial of any conscious existence in the intermediate state. That IS NOT what this verse teaches. This book is written for those “under the sun” (those in this world). It is not a statement about the state of the dead in the intermediate state after they die. It is only expressing the relation of the dead to this world (as is also stated in 9:6). The limitation of knowledge for the dead is based on the limitation expressed by the context of 9:3, “in all that is done under the sun”. 9:6 interprets 9:5 as the love, hate and envy also have perished. The dead are not able to love, hate and envy anybody “under the sun”. And do you know what, Harold? v. 6 says that “forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun”. That’s the interpretation of 9:5 – the “dead know nothing” of what is happening in this world, “under the sun”.
  • When you proof-text on this Forum, you do yourself a disservice in your own attempts to accurately interpret a verse. But even worse, you force this false interpretation onto others who don’t agree with you. Eccl. 9:5 & 6 DO NOT teach what you want them to say. A good course in hermeneutics would teach contextual biblical interpretation, which you have not done. Instead, you want to proof-text and take verses in isolation from the context.

Taking isolated verses from Ecclesiastes as you do (and with other OT passages on Christian Fellowship Forum) and pushing them to the limits of what you think they mean, is not satisfactory exegesis of the text, especially when there are hefty statements like Eccl. 12:7 that contradict what you want to say about life after death, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV).

Because the Bible gives a non-contradictory message throughout, your interpretation of Eccl. 9:5-6, 10 MUST agree with Eccl. 12:7. Your teaching does not cause this to happen. Why? Because your SDA presuppositions are being imposed on the text and making it say what it does not say. You stated,

So, I have refuted your views no Eccl. 9:5-6. Please don’t ever get back to me and say that I don’t take seriously the verses you give.
Now to Eccl. 9:10. You ask: “Isn’t that where we all are going?????”

Verse 10 states, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going” (ESV).

This verse makes these emphases:

  • It affirms what nobody should question that during this life there are certain things available to us with certain results. When this life is over and death comes, have a guess what? There is no way that you, I or anybody else could make up for what we did not do in this life?
  • Jesus affirmed this in John 9:4, “We must work the works of him who sent us while it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (ESV).
  • Eccl. 9:10 and John 9:4 both confirm that earthly activities, what is done “under the sun”, cannot continue into the intermediate state when we die.
  • There is no attempt to describe from all angles what will happen after death with a person’s experience in Sheol. So, for you to use this verse to attempt to prove annihilation or soul sleep is completely outside of what Eccl. 9:10 is saying.

What is Sheol? Bob Deffinbaugh in, “A Hell to Shun“, accurately states that, “ Sheol seems to refer primarily to the abode of the dead, righteous or wicked, leaving the matter of their bliss or torment largely unspoken in most instances”.[7] He states:

In the Old Testament, the principle word employed for the abode of the dead is Sheol. Unfortunately, of its 65 occurrences in the Old Testament, the King James Version translates Sheol “hell” 31 times, “grave” 31 times, and “pit” 3 times. The result is that Old Testament saints, who had a sure hope of life beyond the grave (cf. Hebrews 11), seemed to fear or experience hell:

The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me (2 Samuel 22:6).

If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there (Psalm 139:8).

… and he said, “I called out of my distress to the Lord, And He answered me. I called for help from the depth of Sheol. Thou didst hear my voice” (Jonah 2:2).

On the other hand, Sheol was also the place where the wicked would go:

The wicked will return to Sheol, Even all the nations who forget God (Psalm 9:17).

Let death come deceitfully upon them; Let them go down alive to Sheol, For evil is in their dwelling, in their midst (Psalm 55:15).

The translation “hell” seems inaccurate and unfortunate in most, if not all, of the Old Testament passages where the word Sheol is encountered. Sheol seems to refer primarily to the abode of the dead, righteous or wicked, leaving the matter of their bliss or torment largely unspoken in most instances. Occasions of imminent danger are sometimes described as though death were certain, and thus they were facing Sheol (e.g. 2 Samuel 22:6).

This does not mean, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain, that the Old Testament did not speak of judgment after death. It simply was not described by the term Sheol.

Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits (Isaiah 26:19).[8]

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

We must conclude, then, that in the Old Testament the term “hell” was a poor choice of words with which to render the Hebrew term Sheol.

So for you, Harold, to ask, “How dead is dead?” of vv. 5-6 and to ask  of v. 10, “Isn’t that where we all are going?????”, you want to make it mean that there is no knowledge in the afterlife. You want Eccl. 9:5-6, 10 to teach your view of deadness after death and that there is no knowledge where the dead are. This is absolutely false teaching. Your view is NOT what these verses mean.

You do what many false teachers do. You make verses state what they don’t say. You proof-text without interpreting in context. I believe in careful exegesis in context. I have done that for you here and the verses you quote do not mean what your SDA teaching forces them to say.

Appendix A

How did Harold respond to the above refutation of his doctrine?[9]

1.  We need to remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is not as Gospel savvy as the Gospel of John.

Spencer, are you saying that what you say is more important than what Paul says?  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: ”   That does not say, “some scripture”.

My response:

This is what happens when you don’t quote the context of what I said. This is exactly what I wrote in context:

“We need to remember that the Book of Ecclesiastes is not as Gospel savvy as the Gospel of John. Why? Because the Scriptures teach progressive revelation. Much more is revealed in the NT about salvation and the after-life than the OT”.

Perhaps you didn’t understand my use of “savvy” (“savvy” is a verb meaning to “know, understand“), but the context of that word clearly states what I meant – we know more clearly what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is in the Gospel of John than in the Book of Ecclesiastes. God unfolds more of the specifics of the Gospel in the NT than he does in the OT. This is known as progressive revelation.[10]

You quote the classic Scripture from 2 Tim. 3:16 of the inspiration/authority of Scripture. What I wrote does not in any way deny the authority of Scripture as stated in this verse. Progressive revelation is a fact of what we see in the inspired Scriptures. God tells us more of his unfolding plan of redemption in the NT than he revealed in the OT.

2. On the surface these verses could be thought of as saying what you want them to say that there is nothing or annihilation after death.

I don’t think that we are told, anywhere, to read between the lines.  Could that be the problem?

My response:

Don’t you know the difference between “on the surface” and “to read between the lines”? I did not say the latter. This is your going off at a tangent! What did I really say in context? This is how I put it: “Of verses 5 & 6 of Ecclesiastes 9, you ask, ‘How dead is dead?’ On the surface these verses could be thought of as saying what you want them to say that there is nothing or annihilation after death. What do these verses say?” Then I provided 4 points of exposition [see above].

You have a very bad habit of pulling a sentence to make it say what you want it to say, but that is not what I stated in context. This is a major problem that you have with biblical interpretation. You are a whiz at pulling a verse here and there to say what you want it to say – on this topic or annihilation or soul sleep. But when it comes to interpreting in context, which I tried to do with Eccl. 9:5-6, 10, you did what you often do with the scriptural interpretation. You create a straw man logical fallacy by making a sentence say what I did not state in context.

3. Their human knowledge has ceased as they are no longer on the earth. From your perspective, you think that this is a flat denial of any conscious existence in the intermediate state.

What gives you the idea that there is any consciousness after death?  There is only one text that even hints at that, and that text is a parable. I have sent over sixty texts that state, clearly, that the dead are dead. Sleeping is what it says.  Jesus said the same thing.  Doesn’t what He says count?  Study the story of the death of Lazarus.  Martha knew where her brother was.  She knew about the resurrection.  What has happened in the last days?  I’ll tell you.  Someone has changed the idea so there would be a better reception for spiritualism. What did God say about that?   NO.  Why?  Because the dead are dead and can not talk to anyone.
What would be the point of having a resurrection if you weren’t even dead?  Why would all the Bible writers speak of the ‘saints’ sleeping in their graves?

My response:

You stated that the teaching on consciousness after death comes from only one parable and you state that you have over 60 texts to demonstrate that the dead are dead – they are sleeping.

Now let’s check only a sample of Scriptures.

The Old Testament gives us little indication of a glorious hope for life after death and beyond the grave and what will happen to unbelievers after death. We have more comprehensive theology about such in the NT.

However, we do have some pointers in the Old Covenant, one of which you have mentioned.

We do know that the OT teaches life after death. All people, whether believers or unbelievers, went to a place of conscious existence called Sheol (a word in the original Hebrew of the OT. These are examples of the use of Sheol: Unbelievers were there (Psalm 9:17; 31:17; 49:14; Isaiah 5:14), as were the righteous (Genesis 37:35; Job 14:13; Psalm 6:5; 16:10; 88:3; Isaiah 38:10).

However, we do not need to go only to the OT to determine the nature of life after death (the intermediate state) for both believers and unbelievers under the Old Covenant. We do need to remain under the OT dispensation to know the fate of saints and sinners. The NT also has details.

The NT equivalent of Sheol is Hades. In the OT era, prior to Christ’s death and resurrection, we know from Luke 16:19-31 (the story of the rich man and Lazarus) that Hades is divided into two places. Lazarus, the poor man, was in a place of comfort (Luke 16:22-23) called “Abraham’s bosom/side” (Lk. 16:22). The rich man was in a place of torment in Hades. The word hell (some translations) in Lk. 16:23 is not “Gehenna” (place of eternal torment) but “Hades” (place of the dead). But it is important to notice that Lazarus’s place of comfort is elsewhere called Paradise (Luke 23:43). Between these two districts of Hades is “a great gulf fixed” (Luke 16:26).

We know from Luke 16:23, the unbelieving rich man was in Sheol/Hades, “being in torment” (ESV) and there is no way, after death, to be able to move from Abraham’s bosom/side to the torment side of Hades occupied by unbelievers. For unbelievers in Hades we do know that it is a place of “anguish in this flame” (Lk. 16:24). “Anguish” is also the word used in v. 25.  Since this is a parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the “flame” is a metaphor to give a pointed description of the seriousness of punishment in Hades for the unbeliever.

There are a few points (based on Hendriksen 1978:874-785) to note about this parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31):

  1. Even though it is a parable, it does teach clear truth about the afterlife and what happens at death.
  2. Some of the language may not be taken literally, but it nonetheless teaches truth about the afterlife. Let’s look at some specifics:
  3. The popular view that Hades is the place of the dead for both believers and non-believers is incorrect according to the Gospels, and this parable speaks of Hades as the place of torments and flame (hell, if you like) for the unbelieving rich man. In Matt. 11:23 and Luke 10:15, Hades is sharply contrasted with heaven.
  4. What happens at death. In this parable, truths are communicated that the departed at death are not asleep (the opposite of soul sleep) but are very much alive. Also, some are saved and others are suffering.
  5. Once a person dies and his/her soul is separated from the body, the condition of being blessed or doomed is forever. It is fixed and there is never any second chance.
  6. The rich man is in torment and in the flame. Is this literal or metaphorical? We know that hell is a place of fire or the flame in other passages from OT and NT: Isa. 33:14; 66:24; Matt. 3:12; 5:22; 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8, 9; 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 3:17; Jude 7; Rev. 14:10 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; and 21:8. This fire is unquenchable and devours forever. We know that this is figurative language because …
  7. The abode of unbelievers at death also is described as “outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). Evil spirits are kept there “in everlasting chains under darkness” (Jude 6; cf. Jude 13).
  8. If Hades is a contrasting place of light (fire) and darkness, we are talking metaphorically of what it is like. We know this kind of distinction on the human level when we hear of people who have been seriously burned by a certain kind of radiation even though they were in a dark room when they received it. Hendriksen recommends not speculating on how this happens – torment in flames and darkness.
  9. We also know that the everlasting fire is prepared “for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41) who are spirits. This should be enough to convince us that the language of fire, darkness and torment for unbelievers at death should not be taken literally. However, the truth should be very clear. For unbelievers at death, these pictures indicate “the terrors of the lost in the place [Hades] from which there is no return” (Hendriksen 1978:785).

The Scriptures, although not detailed, are clear that at death a person’s spirit “returned to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7 ESV) – I’ll give more on the interpretation of this verse below. According to John 11:17-26, to live and believe is followed by never dying. Jesus was crystal clear that everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never ever die ultimately. Death for the believer does not interrupt this eternal life that began at the point of commitment to Christ while on earth.

Paul stated that “we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). To the thief on the cross, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The SDAs & JWs want to shift the comma to say, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise,” meaning that Jesus said it to the thief on that very day and that it had nothing to do with the thief being with Jesus in Paradise on that very day.

There were no punctuation marks, breaks between words, or clearly defined sentences (as we understand them in English) in the original Greek of the NT. Therefore, how do we interpret this statement? Greek scholars have called the SDA/JW interpretation various things, including “grammatically senseless” (Lutzer 1997:49) because it was obvious that Jesus was speaking to the thief on that very day. Jesus could not have been saying it in the past or in the future. Christ was giving assurance to the thief that on that very day they would both meet in Paradise.

Why is the final destiny of the redeemed variously described in the NT as heaven (Col. 1:5), Paradise (Luke 23:43), and Abraham’s bosom/side (Luke 16:22)?

We have no difficulty referring to a house as a residence, mansion, dwelling, and perhaps a palace for some. God has no difficulty referring to heaven by these various designations that mean the same place (see also 2 Cor. 12).

There is a need in the church for clear teaching on the nature of heaven and hell, but your view is contrary to Scripture, even though you want to believe otherwise.

What about the souls of unbelievers at death?

Jesus stated in the story (parable) of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 that the rich man, the unbeliever, went to “Hades, being in torment” (v. 23). The “wicked servant” will go to the place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:51).

What is the conclusion?

For believers and unbelievers, when they die, the soul and body are separated. The souls go to their respective places and are alive. For believers, they go immediately into the presence of the Lord.

Immortality means the eternal, continuous, conscious existence of the soul after the death of the body (Lorraine Boettner).

4. When you do proof-texting on this Forum, you do yourself a disservice in your own attempts to accurately interpret a verse.

I don’t interpret a verse. I post it.  When the Bible says that the dead are sleeping in their graves, I do not try to change anything.  Why would I?  Nobody has taught me a thing about the Bible. I started reading it at about 55 years of age.  I didn’t ask anyone what it said. I comparred text with text until it became clear what the Word was telling me.  I will not back down from that.  The Bible is full of clear texts that state what happens to you when you die.  You can post all sorts of statements from someone else, but if it does not agree with what the Bible says, I will ignore it.

My response:

Harold, you are kidding yourself when you say, “I don’t interpret a verse. I post it”. On this forum you have continuously interpreted verses to support your theology of annihilation and soul sleep.

Your idea of people sleeping in the grave at death is taking a metaphor for what the body looks like at death and making it relate to what happens in the intermediate state – between death and the final resurrection at Christ’s second coming. God’s word tells us something quite different from your interpreted conclusions. Please don’t try to deceive us that you don’t interpret verses. You do and you need to be truthful and own up to it.

5. That’s the interpretation of [Ecclesiastes] 9:5 – the “dead know nothing” of what is happening in this world, “under the sun”.

Where else would they be?  They are dead.

My response: Again, your presuppositions are driving you. Your SDA view of what happens at death (annihilation for the wicked and soul sleep for the believers) is driving your view of “they are dead”. I showed you the meaning of Eccl. 9:5 with this statement:

  • Eccl. 9:5 states that “the living know that they will die”. This is nothing profound, but the application is that a living person has a distinct advantage that he/she knows that death is coming and can arrange many things in life to prepare for that event.
  • But for those who have died, they “know nothing”. So for them, any opportunity to arrange anything for life after death is gone. Their human knowledge has ceased as they are no longer on the earth. From your perspective, you think that this is a flat denial of any conscious existence in the intermediate state. That IS NOT what this verse teaches. This book is written for those “under the sun” (those in this world). It is not a statement about the state of the dead in the intermediate state after they die. It is only expressing the relation of the dead to this world (as is also stated in 9:6). The limitation of knowledge for the dead is based on the limitation expressed by the context of 9:3, “in all that is done under the sun”. 9:6 interprets 9:5 as the love, hate and envy also have perished. The dead are not able to love, hate and envy anybody “under the sun”. And do you know what, Harold? v. 6 says that “forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun”. That’s the interpretation of 9:5 – the “dead know nothing” of what is happening in this world, “under the sun”.

You don’t refute this, but you give me your presuppositions again, “They are dead”, reinforcing your understanding of “the dead are dead”. I provided an exposition of these relevant passages in Eccl. 9 but you have not refuted these.

6. Eccl. 12:7, “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV). Because the Bible gives a non-contradictory message throughout, your interpretation of Eccl. 9:5-6 MUST agree with Eccl. 12:7.

And it does.  WHAT is spirit?  BREATH.  That is the only thing God gave Adam at creation. “Adam BECAME a living soul.” Period.  He didn’t get one.  He WAS one.

My response: Why is it that your favourite KJV does not translate it your way? Eccl. 12:7 reads, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (KJV). Other translations read: “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV); “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (NIV).

Not one of these main translations provides a translation of “spirit” as “breath”. Why? Because that is not what the word means in context. You engage in what you claim you don’t do – you interpreted Eccl. 12:7 according to your SDA doctrine of soul sleep/annihilation. You do not want it to mean what it states in context, so you invent what it doesn’t mean, “breath”.

How do we know that “spirit” in Eccl. 12:7 does not mean “breath”? (1) Take a look at the context in Eccl. 12:5 states what is happening at death, “Man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets” (ESV). What happens at death as breath ceases is not what is stated in Eccl. 12. It is referring to human beings going to their “eternal home”, which means at death, “The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV). How do we know?

Eccl. 3:21 asks, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (KJV). The implication is that the spirit of beasts perishes with the body (goeth downward to the earth), but the human spirit survives death (as in Eccl. 12:5-7). It is inaccurate contextual interpretation to say that “the breath of man goeth upward”. Why? Because at death, the breath ceases but the person lives on.

Psalm 104:29 also emphasises that the breath ceases at death: “Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust” (KJV). Cf. Gen. 3:19; Job 10:9; Ps. 90:3; 103:14; and Eccl. 3:20.

You have a very limited understanding of what God gave Adam at creation. In Gen. 25:8, according to the KJV, the Lord told Abram (he was not yet Abraham) that he would be “gathered to his people” and that he would be buried in a designated cave “old … and full of years”. The phrase, “gathered to his people” means more that simply “going to the grave”. We know from Scripture that the body returns to dust at death and the soul/spirit is “gathered to” a person’s loved ones.

You stated, “‘Adam BECAME a living soul.’ Period.  He didn’t get one.  He WAS one”.

Gen. 2:7 states, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (ESV). The phrase for a human being, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”, indicates that the Creator provided the vital breath for the first human being and continues to give that breath until the moment of death. You want to emphasise that the distinctive aspect of human beings is “breath” (Eccl. 12:7) but this cannot be maintained consistently in Scripture.

Also, you claim that Adam WAS a living soul and did not become one. We need to remember that in Gen. 2:7, the author of Genesis is reporting that lifeless clay became animate by the breath of God. In Gen. 2:7, the word “soul” or “living being’ is the Hebrew nephesh because the nephesh is the animate thing in a human being. “God’s Spirit animates the soul, though in a higher sense than it the case with the soul of beasts…. Koenig correctly defines: ‘According to 2:7 the soul is that portion of the spirit which is breathed into man”” (Leupold 1942:117).

7. Eccl. 9:10 and John 9:4 both confirm that earthly activities, what is done “under the sun”, cannot continue into the intermediate state when we die.

Who fed you that word, “intermediate”??  It isn’t in MY Bible.

My response: You are being hypocritical here, Harold. Who fed your denomination the words, “Investigative Judgment”? The words, “investigative judgement” are not in the Bible. They are the words of one of your founders, Ellen White. For a refutation of investigative judgment, see, “Seventh Day Adventism profile“.

I have very briefly explained the biblical doctrine of the intermediate state above.

8. There is no attempt to describe from all angles what will happen after death with a person’s experience in Sheol.

Of course there isn’t.  Small wonder.  You are dead.  There are no experiences.

Now. Everything you have posted, I have answered.  Does it make any difference?  Probably not.  YOu are sold on the immortality of the soul, not taught in any Bible, and you will probably go on believing that lie.  I don’t know what to do about it.  If you don’t believe Jesus, then who can you believe?

John 3:”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  There are dead people and there are people who receive eternal life.  You can NOT have it both ways.  Somebody in there perishes.

My response: I am sold on what the Bible teaches. As explained above, when the last breath leaves my body and I am dead, that is not the end of the story. I have shown you from Scripture over and over the biblical teaching on the immortality of the soul. See my brief article, The immortality of the soul. I have explained some of this material many times for you on Christian Fellowship Forum but you have such a fixation with the SDA teaching that you don’t seem to be open to what the Bible actually teaches. Sadly, you will have to wait to death before you find the truth.

You quote John 3:16 and then add your interpretation:

“John 3:”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  There are dead people and there are people who receive eternal life.  You can NOT have it both ways.  Somebody in there perishes”.

But you don’t read the rest of the Bible for you to make that kind of statement. You have forgotten these verses:

  • John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (KJV). So, the unbeliever is experiencing the wrath of God at death. What is that like?
  • Matthew 25:31-46 states it in terms of the final judgment, the sheep (believers) will be placed on the right and the goats (unbelievers) on his left. What will happen finally to these goats and sheep? “And these [the unrighteous goats] shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46). So the length of the punishment for the unrighteous is as long as the life for the righteous at death – eternal. It goes on for eternity.

What is the meaning of “perish” in John 3:16? It will be consistent with: to lose one’s life (John 12:25) and to be doomed to destruction (John 17:12, which uses a cognate of “to perish”). Leon Morris states with regard to “perish”,

“Neither here nor anywhere else in the New Testament is the dreadful reality behind this word ‘perish’ brought out. But in all its parts there is the recognition that there is such a reality awaiting the finally impenitent…. John sets perishing and life starkly over against one another. He knows no other final state” (1971:230).

We know from the verses that follow John 3:16 that to perish is the opposite of being saved (3:17); it is to be judged (3:18); it is to be reproved or convicted (3:20). Thus, “to perish” is denoting utter rejection of God (it is the aorist subjunctive, in 3:16) and the middle voice is used, indicating a person is doing that himself/herself. John 3:17 explains what it means, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (KJV).

To perish does not indicate the end of physical existence, the ceasing of the breath. As John 3:17 confirms, it is the everlasting experience of God’s condemnation; being banished from the God of love and experiencing the God of wrath – forever, eternally. While the unbeliever experiences a dimension of this in the present life, body and soul will experience it at the consummation of all things at the end of the age for eternity.

N. T. Wright (2003:xix), in his magnificent exposition on The Resurrection of the Son of God (817 pages), has stated: ‘When ancient Jews, pagans and Christians used the word “sleep” to denote death, they were using a metaphor to refer to a concrete state of affairs. We sometimes use the same language the other way round: a heaver sleeper is “dead to the world”‘.

Works consulted

Norman Geisler 2005. Systematic Theology: Church, Last Things (vol. 4). Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

William Hendriksen 1978. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

H. C. Leupold 1942. Exposition of Genesis (vol. 1). London: Evangelical Press.

Erwin W. Lutzer 1997. One Minute After You Die: A Preview of Your Final Destination. Chicago: Moody Press.

Leon Morris 1971. The Gospel of John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

N. T. Wright 2003. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Notes:


[1] Of the intermediate state, Norman Geisler has written that “the Bible teaches that between death and resurrection, the human soul/spirit survives consciously apart from its body. This is neither a state of annihilation nor a state of conscious ‘sleep’; this is an eternal state of conscious bliss for the saved and conscious anguish for the lost” (2005:253).

[2] John Stott’s interview with Roy McCloughry 1996, “Basic Stott”, in Christianity Today, 8 January 1996, available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/septemberweb-only/9-1-51.0.html (Accessed 15 August 2011).

[3] The Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are prominent promoters of the doctrine of soul sleep. Proponents of soul sleep “claim the dead are not conscious between death and resurrection” (Geisler 2005:247). For my refutation of soul sleep, see, “Soul sleep: A refutation“.

[4] “Annihilationism is the doctrine that the wicked will not suffer an everlasting conscious hell. Annihilationism is also called conditional immortality…. [It] holds that unbelievers, who will not have received God’s gift of salvation, will be snuffed out of existence after the final judgment; accordingly, they will experience no eternal conscious torment forever. It is alleged that this view of the unsaved’s destiny most fully upholds God’s mercy, that nonexistence is the best alternative for the unrepentant sinner. Annihilationists argue that while the lost cannot enjoy everlasting bliss with the righteous, they aren’t deserving of conscious eternal wrath” (Geisler 2005:390). See my article, “The immortality of the soul“, which incorporates a refutation of annihilationism.

[5] Christian Fellowship Forum (CFF), Contentious Brethren, “Side topic: Annihilation”, #16, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=1&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=120786 (Accessed 15 August 2011).

[6] My response is at #25 on CFF. I have edited some of my CFF response for this article. I have incorporated some content from H. C. Leupold 1969. Exposition of Ecclesiastes. London: Evangelical Press, pp. 211-218.

[8] Ibid.

[9] My statements are in bold. Harold’s statements follow the bold, are indented, and then I give my response.

[10] Article V of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy defines progressive revelation this way: “We affirm that God’ s revelation in the Holy Scriptures was progressive. We deny that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings”.

Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.

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Near-death experiences are not all light. What about the dark experiences?

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

(image in public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

Jana Wendt’s “Witness” program on Channel 7 (Australia) dealing with those who have had near-death experiences (NDE) on October 8, 1996, presented a biased version of NDE’s where they saw a light at the end of a tunnel.

Maurice S. Rawlings, M.D. was a specialist in cardiovascular diseases at the Diagnostic Center and the area hospitals of Chattanooga, Tennessee.[1] He has documented another side that is very seldom reported. He has written two books dealing with this: Beyond Death’s Door[2] and To Hell and Back.[3]

In the latter book, he writes that “of the numerous authors investigating near-death experiences, almost none of them report negative or unpleasant cases… None of them seem to believe in a place called hell.”[4] He states that

“To broaden the exposure data of the authors who write of euphoric NDEs and OBEs, I have offered some of the negative experiences we have collected for their personal touch and interview, but they have all refused.

1. One author declined because negative data would interfere with positive results already collected.

2. Another passed because the information would modify conclusions already published.

3. A third, the legendary and broadly respected Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, would not say why she refused but declined the offer anyhow. Such lack of interest in broadened research is troubling.”[5]

Charlie was needing CPR and a temporary pacemaker. Dr. Rawlings reported that

“Whenever I stopped pushing on his chest in order to adjust the pacemaker, the heart

would stop, and Charlie’s eyes would roll up, he again would sputter, turn blue, and

begin to convulse.

“With bare hands, just like you can, I would reach over and start him up again. But this time he was screaming the words, `Don’t stop! I’m in hell! I’m in hell…. For God’s sake, don’t stop! Don’t you understand? Every time you let go I’m back in hell!'”[6]

Another patient “saw the being of light at the end of the tunnel, but the light soon turned into blazing fire, igniting the tunnel walls as he went by. He called it the `fire of hell.'”[7]

Curt Jurgens, a German actor, had a negative experience when his heart frequently stopped during a four-hour operation by Dr. Michael DeBakey in Houston, Texas, to replace part of an aorta (the main blood vessel). He reported:

“I could no longer shut out the frightful truth: beyond the faces dominating this fiery world were faces of the damned. I had a feeling of despair… the sensation of horror was so great it choked me.

“Obviously I was in Hell itself, and the glowing tongues of fire could be reaching me any minute.”[8]

Another said:

“I was moving through a vacuum as if life never ended, so black you could almost touch it. Black, frightening, and desolate. I was all alone somewhere in outer space…

“I knew it was Hell, but there was no fire or heat or anything that I had expected.

“I was alone, isolated from all sound, until I heard a mumbling, and I could vaguely see a kneeling form. It was my wife. She was praying at my bedside. I never wanted to be a Christian, but I surely am now. Hell is too real.”[9]

Dr. Rawlings speaks of others who support his view:

“Fortunately, a few observers are beginning to disagree. One of the disagreements was by researcher Dr. Charles Garfield who noted, `Not everyone dies a blissful, accepting death… Almost as many of the dying patients interviewed reported negative visions (demons and so forth), as reported blissful experiences, while some reported both.’[10] Note his ratio of roughly 50/50 for negative positive. I am not the only researcher claiming large amounts of existing negative material!”[11]

Notes:


[1]Dr. Rawlings “was appointed to the National Teaching Faculty of the American Heart Association, specialising in teaching methods for the retrieval of patients from sudden death. He taught at various medical schools and hospitals and conducted courses for doctors and nurses in many countries. Dr Rawlings is clinical assistant professor of medicine for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, a member of the International Committee on Cardiovascular Diseases, etc.” (To Hell and Back, p. 256).

[2]Bantam Books, Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3]Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, USA, 1993.

[4]To Hell and Back, p. 10.

[5]Ibid., p. 34.

[6]Ibid., pp. 36-37.

[7]Ibid., pp. 72-73.

[8]Ibid., p. 77.

[9]Ibid., p. 79.

[10] Robert Kastenbaum, Is There Life After Death? (New York: Prentice Hall, 1984) p. 25, citing G.A. Garfield in Kastenbaum, ed., Between Life and Death (New York: Spring Publishers, 1979), pp. 54-55. Emphasis added by Dr. Rawlings.

[11]Rawlings, To Hell and Back, p. 73.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.

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Juno spacecraft, God and a ‘debt’ crisis

Monday, August 8th, 2011

By Spencer D Gear

Could this be an application of Psalm 2:4,”He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (ESV)?

This report from Fox News of 5 August 2011, “NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Blasts Off on Mission to Jupiter” stated:

Once at Jupiter, Juno will study the huge planet from orbit for one Earth year, helping scientists better understand how and when Jupiter came to be. Such information could shed light on planet formation processes and the evolution of our solar system, researchers said.

“We’re getting the ingredients of Jupiter,” Juno principal investigator Scott Bolton, of the Southwestern Research Institute in San Antonio, told reporters Wednesday (Aug. 3). “We’re going to understand what the structure is like inside — how is it built — and that’ll kind of give us guidance as to what happened in that early time that eventually led to us”….

And it’s unclear exactly how — and where — Jupiter formed. The $1.1 billion Juno mission was designed to investigate these and other mysteries…. Juno will measure the water content of Jupiter’s thick, swirling atmosphere to gain insights about the planet’s birth.

Another report was so brazen as to state that this is a goal of the Juno program: “Key to Origin of the Solar System to be Probed by Jupiter”.

And the Juno mission costs $1.1 billion. I think that this is permission enough to speak of a ‘debt’ crisis that is bigger than just spending money and the USA government being 14 trillion dollars in debt nationally.

When scientists think that a rocket mission to Jupiter will try to “shed light on planet formation processes and the evolution of our solar system” and “to gain insights about the planet’s birth”, what are they saying about God’s creative reality, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)? This seems to be an insufficient statement for these scientists who are wanting to examine the evolutionary processes that led to the formation of Jupiter. Because evolution is the presupposition, they don’t need any theistic explanation.

Why not leave the explanation with the simple way that God put it? “In the beginning, God created….” (Genesis 1:1)? But who or what is God? In defining God, why can’t we start with a definition like this? God is the uncaused Cause of everything else that exists and He has no potential for non-existence. God simply exists, pure and simple (Geisler 2003:32). This kind of definition is a logical conclusion from the cosmological argument for God’s existence.

God is pure actuality and exists independently of everything else, e.g. “In the beginning, God” (Gen. 1:1). As Geisler puts it, God is the Being who existed prior to and independently of everything else and God gives existence to everything else that was created (2003:31) as in His creating every living and moving thing (Gen. 1:21).

The idea of God being “pure existence” comes from passages such as Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’” and Jesus’ affirmation of this in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I am” (ESV).

This God of all creation who controls the universe, surely must “laugh” at NASA’s attempts to probe the beginning of Jupiter’s birth with the Juno spacecraft.

Here is the ‘debt’ crisis, as I see it, as stated by NASA in “Juno: Unlocking Jupiter’s mysteries”. It stated: “Juno will improve our understanding of our solar system’s beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter“.

These scientists of NASA, if the Fox News and NASA reports are correct, want to search for the formation of the planet Jupiter and the origin of the solar system – without God. This is a classic example of the secular humanistic assumptions of evolution driving scientific discovery, without the knowledge of God. The end result will be a human inspired result without the perfect knowledge of God, hence the ‘debt’ of human opinion versus God’s knowledge.

Notes:

Geisler, Norman 2003. Systematic Theology, Vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date:  9 October 2015.

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