Appendix A: Problematic Passages
Those who preach should admit their error bars. God left us some mysteries to chew on; the Bible is not always clear. So, I would be remiss if I only quoted those scriptures that supported my views. Many Christians have come to different conclusions partly from looking at different scriptures.
So, in these appendices I present some scriptures that get in the way of the main points of this chapter. Perhaps these are translation errors, or even insertions. Maybe the authors of the Bible had some differences of opinion. Maybe God wants to keep us guessing about certain matters. Maybe what I have written earlier in this chapter is completely wrong.
But if I am completely wrong, how does one account for the passages that support the points I have made?
(For this appendix I use the King James Version, as it tends to be more literal than most modern translations. I encourage looking at more modern translations which have marginal notes and checking with a Strong’s dictionary where needed.)
Do the Dead Sleep?
The dead are listed as “asleep” in the following passage. But then they woke up upon the crucifixion.
50. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
51. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
52. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53. And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
The question is: where are these resurrected saints now? Did they go back to sleep? Or are these the elders mentioned in Revelation? Or what?
And then there are the events of the Transfiguration:
1. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.
2. And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.
3. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.
4. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.
Were Moses and Elias temporarily wakened for this event? Or were they already awake and dwelling in Paradise? Speaking of Paradise:
39. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
40. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
41. And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
Verse 43 indicates an immediate afterlife – at least as translated. But if this translation is true, it invalidates the clause in the Apostle’s Creed, “He descended into hell.” That is, unless we assume Paradise to be somewhere in hell. The Nicene Creed says nothing about Jesus descending into hell, but does say that his ascension into Heaven was after (or on) the third day. (And does the word translated “hell” indicate an underworld, or is it simply reference to the grave?)
These problems clear up if we alter the punctuation. Move the comma after “thee” to after “To day” and you get Jesus talking “today” but when the repentant malefactor will be with Jesus in Paradise is undetermined. Is the standard comma placement supported by the original Greek? Or is it a judgment call on the part of translators? I don’t know Greek so I cannot say. (I don’t think the original manuscripts had any punctuation, but I don’t think ancient Greek was a dependent on punctuation for meaning as modern English is.)
BTW, the word “Paradise” only shows up in two other places. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul locates it in the “third heaven.” Revelations 2:7 says it is the location of the tree of life – which is later located in the Heavenly City that descends to Earth after the Millennium. So for Jesus to be with this person “today” as is usually translated, Jesus would have had to go Heaven before he rose from the dead.
The biggest challenge to idea that the dead are asleep and await judgment comes from the parable of Lazarus:
19. There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21. And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Here, we do have a picture of someone being tormented in hell (literally Hades in the Greek) by flame upon death. The rich man at least believes that his brethren are still alive, so this event does appear to be before Judgment Day. This parable does seem to fit the view of judgment upon death, and afterlife options in other worlds. I do not know how to resolve the apparent contradiction with what I read so many places elsewhere in the Bible, other than to note that this is a parable; it could be a metaphor. But even if so, it bothers me greatly, and I have no clean resolution.
This passage has a stylistic quirk: it is a parable with proper names. I know of no other parable that has proper names for its characters. Some commentators suggest that Lazarus is a translation of Eleazar, Abraham’s steward, that Jesus was foretelling a gentile era, since the Jews hadn’t been sufficient stewards of the Promise.
Does Ignorance Help Forgiveness?
I have cited many passages indicating that many are kept ignorant that they may be blameless. However, there are scriptures that say just the opposite.
2 Thessalonians 2:
8. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:
9. Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
10. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
12. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
10. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
11. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
12. That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
I do not know how to integrate these passages with the others I have cited in previous sections. I can speculate, but the result would be merely my speculations. I leave such speculations as an exercise for the reader.