|By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2004|
|Questions this time include: What happened to the souls of people Jesus raised from the dead? Is it okay to answer “maybe” or must it always be “yes” or “no”? Why did Jesus talk to Moses and Elijah at His transfiguration?|
Students from Manheim Christian Day School (PA) ask Questions About the Bible
Answered by Dr. Thomas Figart
Two questions on this list are similar, so I will answer them together. First, the questions:
Answer: In all cases from the time of Adam until the last person on earth dies, their bodies are separated from their souls and spirits until the resurrection of their bodies occurs. In all cases from the time of Adam until the ascension of Christ, the souls and spirits of the dead went to Sheol (the Hebrew word), which is the same as Hades (the Greek word). According to Christ’s own teaching in Luke 16:19-31, in the account of the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar, when Lazarus died, “he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” (v. 22), but when the rich man died, “in hell (Hades) he was in torments” (v. 23). He could see Abraham “afar off” (v. 23), but there was “a great gulf fixed” between them (v. 26) and it was impossible to pass from the one part of Hades to the other. In Luke 23:43, Jesus said to the thief who believed in Him, “Today [notice, not after three days] thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Therefore, at that time, “Abraham’s bosom” and “paradise” were the same place, namely, that part of Hades (Hell) where the spirits of believers went, until the ascension of Christ; for then, as Ephesians 4:8-10 reveals, Jesus “descended into the lower parts of the earth (Abraham’s bosom) (v. 9) and “led captivity captive” (v. 8) when he ascended up on high” (v. 8), far above all heavens” (v. 10).
Thus, Christ took all those spirits of believers to heaven and emptied “Abraham’s bosom,” transferring “paradise” up to heaven. We can prove this from 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 where the Apostle Paul speaks of himself as “such an one caught up to the third heaven” (v. 2), “he was caught up into paradise” (v. 4). Paul was alive, of course, and came back to tell us about his being caught up into paradise.
So now, ever since Christ’s ascension, every believer who dies is taken immediately into the third heaven, because 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, “while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord” (v. 6). “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (v. 8).
The souls of unbelievers, from Adam’s time onward, remain in Hades (Hell) in torments.
There will be two resurrections; the resurrection of believers, when we will be caught up together with those believers who have died, to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13- 18). “We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him [with glorified bodies] for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Those who live after the Church Age and accept Christ and die during the seven years of Great Tribulation will be raised right before the 1000 year earthly Kingdom of Christ begins (Revelation 20:4).
The resurrection of the unsaved will occur after the 1000 year Kingdom of Christ (Revelation 20:7-15) “and whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life, was cast into the Lake of Fire” (v. 15).
Now to go back to the part of the question of Christ bringing people back from the dead; yes, He brought their souls and spirits back to their bodies from Abraham’s bosom, and they lived normal lives until they died natural death. I do not know whether they remembered being in Abraham’s bosom (the good part of Sheol, Hades), but since Abraham was able to converse with the man from lower Sheol, perhaps they did remember.
CG asks, “What’s up with casting demons out of people? How did they know how many demons were being cast out?”
Answer: It would take too many pages to discuss all the aspects of demonology here. Please consult my commentary on Matthew, pages 172-176; 240-246; 252-253 for a full discussion of this subject. Here I can merely say that demons are real, they can possess the bodies of unbelievers, but no true Christian can ever be demon possessed! The reason: because all Three Persons of the Godhead indwell the believer according to John 14:23 (The Father and the Son) and John 14:16 (the Holy Spirit.). Demons would necessarily have to be stronger than all Three Persons of the Godhead in order to remove them from the Christian and take over possession. By the way, please don’t keep making the mistake of asking God to “be with” missionaries, or to “be with a sick Christian friend.” That’s an insult!! He already is with them and dwells within them, and in you too, as a Christian!
One final thing, Jesus said in Matthew 12:45 that an unclean spirit took seven other more wicked spirits and entered a man; and in Mark 5:9-13 there was a “Legion” of at least 2000 spirits in one man! We know these numbers because they are part of the revealed Scriptures. No human knows how many demons enter into an unbeliever, unless it is revealed in Scripture.
JS wants to know, “What does it mean in Matthew 11:21 where it says, ‘they would repent long ago in sackcloth and ashes’?”
Answer: Jesus had done many of His “mighty works” in Chorazin and Bethsaida, two Jewish cities located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Tyre and Sidon were two wicked pagan cities on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. What Jesus said was that if He had done these same mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, they would have recognized Him as the Son of God and changed their minds (repented) about Him. The sackcloth (sakko, in Greek) was a dark rough cloth made of goats hair or camel’s hair which repentant sinners often chose to wear next to their skin as a symbol of remorse and deep humiliation, and they would also have sat in ashes (spodo in Greek), or even covered their heads and shoulders as a second sign of mourning.
KW asks, “Now, according to Matthew 5:37, if I answer, ‘maybe,’ to a question, is that evil?”
Answer: Jesus was speaking about taking oaths, which are often required by law, such as being a witness in court, or even taking the marriage vow. You should either say “Yes, I do” or “No, I will not do.” If you say yes, but do not intend to keep the oath you are perjuring yourself. In such cases your ‘maybe’ would not be acceptable to God, or the court, and it would be evil. It would be better not to promise at all. On a personal level, if you are not sure you can fulfill a promise, possibly because of previous commitments, you could say, “Maybe I might be able to help you,” but then you should explain why it may not be possible to help; then it would not be evil.
KW wanted to know, “In Matthew 18:18 I don’t quite understand what it means when He says, ‘Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’”
Answer: This statement comes near the end of a paragraph in which Jesus is listing the four steps necessary in disciplining a sinning brother in the future ecclesia, the Church (Matthew 18:15-20). Step 1: Approach him personally; if this does not work, Step 2: take witnesses with you; if this does not work, Step 3 take him before the church; if he fails to listen to the church Step 4, excommunicate him. Then comes verse 18: Whatever the church decides, if they decide to excommunicate him, it shall be binding in heaven as well as on earth. If they decide to loose him (and I assume this would be if he repents of his sin) then that decision to loose him will be considered the same way in heaven.
From KW, “What does it mean in Matthew 8:20 that ‘the Son of Man has no place to lay His head’?”
Answer: Jesus said this in answer to a scribe who offered to follow Jesus, “wherever thou goest” (v. 9). Jesus wanted this scribe to realize the responsibility of discipleship. Though Jesus was not necessarily penniless, and could have stayed with friends in a number of places, yet He was homeless, because His ministry was in constant movement from one place to another. Would this scribe be willing to sacrifice the comforts of home in order to follow Him? This was the real issue.
From KW: “In Mark 9:49 what does it mean that ‘everyone will be salted with fire’?”
Answer: Ordinarily, salt is used as a good preservative. In Matthew 5:13 it refers to believers as “the salt of the earth.” which was to have a good effect, but “if the salt has lost its savor, it is cast out and trodden under foot. Here in Mark 9:49 it comes in a paragraph dealing with Hell, and everyone in Hell will be salted (preserved in torments) with fire, and this fire “is not quenched” (v. 48). We, as Christians, are to have good salt “in yourselves” and have peace with one another.
KW asks, “What does ‘raca’ mean in Matthew 5:22?”
Answer: In Matthew 5:21-26 Jesus is explaining various aspects of the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” The Old Testament Law said that whoever killed someone would be in danger of the judgment, that is, the local court pronouncing judgment, whether or not it was murder. In Matthew 5:22 Christ says that anger is the ultimate cause of murder since it comes from the sinful human heart. I John 3:15 states, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.” In 1 John 4:20, “He who says he loves God and hates his brother is a liar.” Here in Matthew 5:22-26 Jesus gives 3 examples of judgment, all of which result in death. First, anger, in danger of the local court. Second, the Jewish Sanhedrin, who could order death if anger was expressed in the word Raca (empty-head!), and this anger led to murder. Third, if anger led someone who said “Fool!” to commit murder, it would result in Hell. However, these warnings are to keep everyone from expressing such anger! Anger may easily lead to something worse, and as 1 John 3:15b adds, “and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” So, in Matthew 5:23-26 Jesus gave two illustrations of the necessity of stopping anger before it becomes murder!
KW wanted to know: “Why was Jesus so cranky in Matthew 15:23-26?”
Answer: If you read a little farther, to 15:28 you will see that He was testing their faith. True, He was sent first to Israel and it was not fair to give the children’s bread to Gentile “dogs,” but when she appealed to Him as “Lord” rather than as “Son of David,” then He felt free to reward her faith as a Gentile, and her daughter was made well immediately!
FK asks concerning the Transfiguration, “Why did Jesus talk to Moses and Elijah?” (Matthew 17:1-13.)
Answer: Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented all the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Christ came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Moses spoke of the “recompense of the reward” (Hebrews 11:26) and the Prophets spoke of His death, resurrection, and coming earthly kingdom.
SF asks, “Where does the phrase, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ come from?”
Answer: This phrase is used only in the Gospel of Matthew, in 3 ways: