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Heaven, Hell, and Paradise
September 25, 2023
First, let's get a term out of the way. Purgatory is a concept
invented by the Catholic Church, and absolutely does not exist as the Catholics
define it. The destination of the soul is determined at the moment of death. Jesus
Himself gave us insight into this, and we'll cover that in a minute. But, the idea
that one can have an after-death change of abode where their final destination is
determined by actions or inactions of those still here alive on earth (i.e., "Prayers
of the Saints") has no basis in Scripture. In fact, Scripture says exactly the opposite!
that in mind, there is a valid possibility presented herein, though again, Scripture
does not speak precisely to this, but it does support this theory. With all these
caveats in mind, here we go:
In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of Lazarus1 and
the rich man. Some believe this be a parable, others believe it to be a true account
(I personally lean towards the true account theory, primarily because Jesus used
an actual name - Lazarus - rather than "a poor man". But as always, I reserve the
right to be wrong). Either way, the facts are presented by the Son of God Himself.
In the story the Rich Man was a sinner - accountable for his selfishness and disdain
for those he considered below his "station". Lazarus was considered so by the Rich
Man, and suffered in this life, but he had placed his faith in God.
soul was immediately carried to "Abraham's Bosom" (more about that later), and the
Rich Man - "In hell2, he lifted up his eyes". Two men, two destinations - the lesson
being that the righteous will receive mercy, and the unrighteous will not. What
makes one righteous? We are not righteous on our own, but are made to be righteous
by our faith in Christ, or in the case of those before Christ, their faith in God's
promise of delivery which was accomplished on the Cross by the Messiah He would
send. On this side of the Cross, the righteous are those who have placed their faith
in Christ and His atonement on the Cross. The unrighteous refuse to choose faith
in Christ, and thus place their faith in everything but Christ.
In the Luke
16 account, Lazarus was carried to a place of peace and rest Jesus called "Abraham's
Bosom3". Now, Jesus, during His discourse in John:14 at the Last Supper, told His
disciples that "No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me". So, before Christ rose,
the door into God's presence was not yet open.4 Likewise, before the Great White
Throne judgment spoken of in Revelation 7 and 20, the final destination of the eternal
torment was not yet opened. So, just where did souls go after death?
Jesus the likely possibility is that there was a place of abode separate from both
eternal torment, and eternal peace. There are several names the Bible uses for this
place, but per Jesus' description, this abode actually consists of two places: Hell
(hades), and "Abraham's Bosom". Additionally, per Jesus' own description, there is
a gulf between the two that permanently separates them. It is also likely that Abraham's
Bosom was also the place Jesus called "Paradise" in His promise to the Thief that
had just professed trust in Christ.
So, here's the picture I've drawn: The Rich
Man died and went to the Hell side of this abode. As he looked across the gulf,
he saw Lazarus in "Abraham's Bosom" - Paradise! He was even able to talk across
the gulf to Abraham, and Abraham answered him! So, assuming this picture holds,
all those who have died and not placed their faith in God's promised solution are
in Hell - the "bad" side of this abode - and they're still there today, already
in torment, awaiting their final judgment and sentence. However, all those who had
believed God when they died, went to this Paradise/Abraham's Bosom.
wrinkle, though. Because of what Christ has done on the cross, the door is now open
to God's presence5. In Ephesians 4:8, Paul tells the Church at Ephesus that Christ
"Ascended up on high, He led captivity captive", and in Verses 9-10, "Now that He
ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the
earth? He that descended is the same that ascended far above all heavens, that He
might fill all things."
Pulling all this together, then, before Christ, when
those who had placed their faith in God died, their soul went directly to Abraham's
Bosom - the "good", if you will, side of the temporary abode, or holding place.
When Christ arose, He rescued these souls and carried them into the Father's presence,
so the "good side", the place He called "Abraham's Bosom", is now empty! After Christ,
a believer, at death, is carried directly into the Father's presence because of
what Christ did on the Cross. However, disbelievers, both before and after Christ,
go to Hell (hades), the "bad side" of this abode awaiting the final resurrection
and judgment, where they all will be sentenced to eternal destruction.
all this is depends on interpretation of what the Bible has said about other things.
One thing is certain, though: The Bible has no discrepancies or inaccuracies. That's
what we do here on earth...
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