The Rich Man and Lazarus

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:  And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 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; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 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. 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. 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. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” – Luke 16:19-31

The above passages from the sixteenth chapter of Luke are cited as a sufficient case for rejecting two doctrines, namely the annihilation of the wicked and the sleep of the dead. These statements are taken to support the concept of the immortality of the soul, and therefore brought forth as proof along with an array of stock arguments to suggest that those who hold to contrary doctrines are nothing short of heretics. Therefore any further investigation into the matter of death or final punishments is effectively stifled, or so it would seem.

Many have been silenced by the above cited verses, shrinking at opposition thus encountered from those who cling to traditional views. Yet no one stops to ask much needed questions. If these statements of holy writ are indeed to be taken as though they support the traditional view of hell, does this then mean that the Bible contradicts itself? Do we as Christians run around with a contradictory Bible, which teaches one point and then turns around and teaches the opposite?

The prudent would admonish one to think on this matter carefully. In the book of 1st Timothy, we find passages which present glaring contradictions to the way in which the above statements from Christ have been interpreted. The passages read, “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of Lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 6:14-16

These verses from 1st Timothy are clear. Reading all of the surrounding details, it should be apparent that only God/Jesus is immortal. The words “Who only hath immortality” could not be a more straight forward declaration. With such clarity, the conclusion is inescapable. If only God is immortal, than obviously no part of man is immortal, which means that man does not possess some kind of immortal soul which separates from the body at death. This is what is required in order for a man to receive rewards or punishments immediately upon dying, or to be whisked away to some kind of conscious intermediate state. If man does not possess an immortal soul, then any of the previously listed states in death are impossibilities. In addition, the lack of an immortal soul means that one could not burn in the fires of hell for any length of time without being killed.

Thus a contradiction exists between 1 Timothy 6:14-16 and these statements of Christ. Further complicating the matter are Christ’s own teachings found elsewhere in the gospels. From the fifth chapter of John we find the following, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” – John 5:28-29.

These passages from John present a problem for the literal interpretation of the above words of Christ. The words “in the graves” present glaring contradictions for this kind of thinking. How is it that anyone could be ‘in the graves’ if they are in either heaven or hell, or some kind of vat for the supposedly conscious dead? Some might attempt to get around this by simply contending that these statements only reference the body, but this would be nothing short of eisegesis. The lack of references to the body present in these passages make any attempt to read the word “bodies” into the verse a clear case of twisting the scriptures. By placing everyone who has died unanimously in the graves, Christ’s words clearly reference the entire man, and cannot be applied to the body alone.

Those who believe that rewards are given at death are immediately confronted with the problem of resurrection. John 5:28-29 clearly gives two resurrections, one of life and the other of death. The titles attached to each indicate their purpose. Yet these would be made obsolete by the idea that when a man dies, he is whisked away to receive his rewards or punishments. It is nothing short of confusion to imagine the soul sent to hell, only to be placed back in the body, so that both soul and body can be raised up, only to be burned some more. Those who hold to this type of a position would do well to re-examine the foundations for their beliefs, while others who think the soul goes to a conscious intermediate state had better ask themselves why Jesus described anyone as being in the graves.

Yet there is one story in the book of John that complicates the matter further. Many Christians are perhaps familiar with the story of the resurrection of Lazarus, found in the eleventh chapter of John. The verses which most stand out in view of the words of Christ in Luke 16 read, “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” – John 11:11-14.

In these verses, Jesus seems to cryptically state that Lazarus is asleep. The confused disciples responded by saying that “he shall do well”, in view of the fact that if he slept he would merely awaken and be fine. However, scripture is very clear that Jesus was mentioning Lazarus’ death. These passages generate the obvious inescapable conclusion that Jesus is here referring to death as a sleep. But why is it exactly that Jesus is doing this? For the simple fact that there is no consciousness in death, otherwise sleep would not be a fitting statement to attach to it. This would explain the expressions of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, where he clearly stated “the dead know not anything.”

These facts create serious problems for the literal interpretation of the Rich man and Lazarus. One of the largest is the name of the individual involved. Many Christians contend that the words of Christ in Luke 16 are to be read as a literal history. If this is indeed the case, than we are to believe that Lazarus both slept in his grave and went into the bosom of Abraham. Yet this cannot be possible, as the word “sleep” suggests unconsciousness. A lack of consciousness eliminates the idea that the ‘soul’ is to be immediately transported anywhere upon death, as the whole man sleeps until the resurrection. This fact can be made much more clear by comparing John 11:11-14 with John 5:28-29.

Due to the fact that these passages from the eleventh chapter of John strike directly at the heart of tradition, many might attempt to get around these verses. Some might go so far as to suggest that no consciousness in death is a heresy, and that the word “sleep” as used by not only Jesus himself but by the apostle Paul [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18] references the body alone. If one really contemplates such an idea, it becomes clear just how ridiculous the assertion sounds. Jesus clearly used the words, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” before he said “Lazarus is dead.” Why did he not say, “Lazarus is in Abraham’s Bosom” or “Lazarus has gone to heaven” or perhaps even “His soul has gone to heaven, while his body sleeps..”? If we are to believe that the body sleeps while the soul goes somewhere else, would these not be more fitting statements? The fact of the matter is the words, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” clearly is a reference to the entire man.

Even the concept of sleep itself creates problems for the literal interpretation of Christ’s words in Luke 16. Near the very beginning of the story, there are three passages that I would like to especially focus in on. They read, “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 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.” – Luke 16:22-24.

To begin, these verses have “consciousness” written all over them. This is evident by the fact that the rich man is described as lifting up his eyes and crying out to “Father Abraham.” Than if this part of the sixteenth chapter of Luke is to be read literally, a contradiction is created between the passages of Luke 16:22-24 and John 11:11-14, both of which contain the words of Christ. Unconsciousness in death would obviously eliminate any possibility of being able to cry out to any one, there being any torment for the rich man to experience when he died, or there being any ability to ‘lift up his eyes’. Yet Jesus clearly stated that death was to be compared to a sleep [which is unconsciousness], and then seemingly turned around and told a story in which a man was consciously transported to hell when he died.

The question therefore remains, does the Bible contradict itself? It is an unfortunate reality that such would cause Atheists to exult and exclaim that we as Christians have been lied to, and that we are foolish for believing in the scriptures. Therefore these contradictions must be resolved. In the very beginning of these statements from the sixteenth chapter of Luke, we find a certain recurring phrase that appears elsewhere in the gospels, usually in connection with parables. Two such examples may be seen below.

“And he said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.” – Luke 15:11-16

“Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:” – Matthew 21:33

The phrase “there was a certain” or “a certain man” is used by Christ frequently in connection with parables. As shown by the above examples, scripture sometimes directly identifies the parable and sometimes does not. Note that Christ used an obviously fictitious narrative in the fifteenth chapter of Luke as a teaching point. He describes a son, who takes his father’s goods into a far country and wastes “his substance with riotous living.” Most Christians recognize this as the parable of the prodigal son. We find a similar phrase occurring again in Matthew 21, this time connected with a clear statement that he is about to speak a parable.

Does this mean that since Jesus did not directly identify the prodigal son story as a parable, it must be read as literal history? Any Christian spoken to recognizes these descriptions given in Luke 15 as a parable, and will more than likely not take it as a literal history. Indeed, if we are to believe the story given is always literal merely because a clear statement that it is a parable is missing than perhaps we should believe that trees talk. One need only look in the ninth chapter of Judges to verify this fact. “And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.” – Judges 9:7-9

Christians recognize Jotham to be speaking a fable, which is also a fictitious narrative. Yet there are no clear indicators of this fact before he begins to speak. It is only evident from an obviously fictitious element present in the story, such as the concept of talking trees. Therefore the fact that a clear statement of “this is a parable” missing from the text before, after, or during the story does not necessarily mean it is to be taken as literal history. Yet quite a few Christians still mistakenly treat the story of the Rich man and Lazarus this way, thereby wresting it in support of tradition.

The phrase “there was a certain rich man” indicates that the story of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable. This is demonstrated by the fact that Jesus used similar statements and phrases in connection with fictitious narratives in various locations in the gospels. For more evidence that this story is not to be taken literally, one need only look to the obvious fictitious elements present in the story. The story furnishes us with details such as the Rich man calling out to ‘Father Abraham’ and a request for water to cool the Rich man’s tongue. If one was ablaze in fiery torment, a drop of water for your tongue wouldn’t be very helpful. Additionally, what would be the use in calling out to ‘Father Abraham’? What authority does Abraham have to really do anything? It is obvious that there wouldn’t be much good done in calling out to him.

Even beyond this, Abraham and the Rich Man are described as talking to each other. This conjures the horrific thought that while the saved are in heaven, the lost are burned in full-view of the saved. They are apparently even capable of hearing the shrieks and cries of the lost as they burn throughout all eternity. Yet if that were the case, how would the promise of Revelation 21:4 find it’s fulfillment? [“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” – Revelation 21:4] Enjoying the abodes of heaven is an impossibility with the thought of your suffering friends and loved ones ever before you, much less having to hear it on a day-to-day basis. Unless one holds to the inhumane sadistic conclusion that the saved will find the suffering of the lost “most entertaining” [hint: this position is not found anywhere in the Bible], these facts cannot be observed as anything other than an obvious fictional element.

These fictional elements, taken together with the obvious contradictions, indicate strongly that this story from the sixteenth chapter of Luke is just a parable. As such, interpreting these passages as a literal history is nothing short of a fallacy, if not eisegesis. Worse yet, the literal interpretation of the story creates a paradox between the literal resurrection of Lazarus and the story told by Christ in Luke 16, namely that one was resurrected and the other clearly was not. Therefore how could this parable be taken as literal history? One must think on this carefully, as the word “Lazarus” standing alone does not leave much room for differentiating between characters, if the story is to be read literally. This means that were this a literal history, it would be impossible to take it as referencing anyone other than the Lazarus mentioned in John 11:11-14, therefore creating the paradox of “Was he resurrected…or not?” [See Luke 16:28-31.]

The sheer weight of the contradictions and paradoxes crushes any possibility of basing one’s conclusions of the afterlife on this parable alone. It therefore cannot be taken to be teaching about final punishment, man’s state in death, or some kind of post-death vat for the conscious dead. Others who have sought to answer this and other stock arguments have expounded upon the true meaning of the parable. As for us, we would counsel students of the word who have held to traditional viewpoints to avoid building doctrines off of one or a few obscure verses. It is prudent to line up every single passage on the subject in question, in order to help avoid errors and misunderstanding and to gain a clearer picture on the subject.

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The Sabbath A Shadow?

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of any holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” – Colossians 2:14-17

“The Sabbath was done away with,” says the believer in Sunday worship. “We don’t have to keep it anymore; it was only for the Jews.” He who worships on Sunday agrees, and then adds “You are denying Christ by keeping the Sabbath!” The claim here is that the Sabbath was abolished at the cross, alongside the Ten Commandments. Therefore we as Christians do not need to keep either of them. The question then remains, is the Sabbath still valid for Christians today?

In the book of 2 Peter, we find the following passages “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” – 2 Peter 3:15-16

In these passages from the second epistle of Peter, we are warned about scriptures which are difficult to understand. We are told plainly that they are often wrested by “they that are unlearned and unstable”, to an individual’s own destruction. Yet, as we previously saw when we first examined these passages the specific target of these texts from Peter is Paul’s writings. The logical deduction is that Colossians 2:14-17 especially fall under this warning from 2 Peter, since Colossians was written by Paul. We therefore owe it to ourselves to examine these passages.

A point often overlooked by most is the immutability of the Ten Commandments. In the book of Luke we read, “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one title of the law to fail.” – Luke 16:17. The meaning of the mysterious word “title” can be found below from Strong’s Greek definitions. It is the “apex of a Hebrew letter (figuratively the least particle)”, in other words the term “title” refers to the minutest details. If it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for the minutest details of the law to fail, it should be obvious that neither the Sabbath nor the Ten Commandments can be changed or abolished in the slightest.

G2762

κεραία (keraia) ker-ah’-yah

Feminine of a presumed derivative of the base of G2768; something horn like, that is, (specifically) the apex of a Hebrew letter (figuratively the least particle): – tittle.

In addition, the Christian must consider the result of these conclusions. If any one of the Ten Commandments have been abolished, this places the Christian in a position where he is only keeping Nine of them. As we have seen from Luke, it is an utter impossibility for any of them to be abolished. Yet we find even more problems as we turn to the following passages.

“But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, do not commit adultery, said also, do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” – James 2:9-11

“Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:19.

According to James, to break any one of the Ten Commandments causes the Christian to break all of them.

This means that if we as Christians run around teaching that any one of the Ten Commandments have been abolished, we are teaching others to transgress the whole Law. In addition, he who teaches this is also called “least” in the kingdom of heaven according to Matthew. To teach that the Sabbath or any part of the Ten Commandments has been done away with is a serious thing, and could be causing the Christian to transgress the law. 1 John 3:4 defines this as sin. This is a thought which should cause the Christian to stop and put these teachings to the test.

In order to properly test the claims of those who object to the Sabbath, we have quoted the passages from Colossians in context. The very first passage of which reads, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” – Colossians 2:14. The terms “handwriting” and “ordinances” are very important. They are the first pieces in the puzzle of a proper understanding of that which Paul is speaking of. What is their meaning?

Handwriting might seem a little more obvious on the surface than ‘ordinances.’ The logical deduction from a mere surface understanding of the word’s meaning is that this term is a reference to something written by the hand. However, when we take a look at Strong’s Greek definition we gain a slightly deeper understanding of what is taking place in this text.

G5498

χειρόγραφον (cheirographon) khi-rog’-raf-on

Neuter of a compound of G5495 and G1125; something hand written (“chirograph”), that is, a manuscript (specifically a legal document or bond (figuratively)): – handwriting.

Strong’s definition includes both the obvious understanding of the word, and something just a bit more interesting. It says, “something hand written (“chirograph”), that is, a manuscript (specifically a legal document or bond (figuratively)).” The Greek word here is referencing a handwritten manuscript, and not simply just ‘handwriting.’ The implication here is of a paper or book-like document, especially with the word ‘manuscript’ found in the definition.

As we look at the second word, ‘ordinances’ we find much that sheds light on these passages. Elsewhere in scripture, we find other passages where this word ‘ordinances’ is used. These passages read, “The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and diverse washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.” – Hebrews 9:8-10

The context of these verses from Hebrews, found in verse eight, indicate that the old sacrificial system is here referenced. This is made very clear by terms such as “the first tabernacle” followed by “gifts and sacrifices.” Note that the terms “meats and drinks” are connected directly to “gifts and sacrifices”, indicating that meat and drink offerings are here referenced. This is an important point as this fact sheds light on Colossians 2:16, which reads “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days:” The probability is high that “meat and drink” as used in these passages from Colossians is a reference to the same meat and drink offerings found in Hebrews 9:8-10. This is a fact which should become much more apparent as we further examine these passages from Paul’s writings.

Shortly after we read about meats and drinks, we find the statement “and carnal ordinances.” These passages from Hebrews connect the term “ordinances” with the old testament sacrificial system. In view of this fact, it is clear that the word ‘ordinances’ as used in Colossians 2:14 is a reference to the ordinances of the ceremonial/sacrificial system found in the old testament. As we look at the Greek definition for the word ‘ordinances’ as it is found in Colossians 2:14, this is a fact which becomes much more apparent to us.

G1378

δόγμα (dogma) dog’-mah

From the base of G1380; a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical): – decree, ordinance.

The Greek word for “Ordinances” is defined as a “law (civil, ceremonial, or ecclesiastical)”. The word ‘ceremonial’ as found in the definition opens the door for this statement in Colossians 2:14 to be a reference to the old testament sacrificial system. Combine this with the previous connection of the word ‘ordinances’ by itself with that system as found in Hebrews 9:8-10. It should then be clear that the sacrificial system or rather the ceremonial law is here being referred to when Paul uses the term “ordinances.” Strong’s definition for the word ‘Ordinances’ as found in Colossians 2:14 makes this fact much more obvious.

We now direct your attention back to the word “handwriting”, and especially to the wording of Colossians 2:14. It is important at this point to focus on the words “that was against us, which was contrary to us.” These statements are a direct reference to a statement found in Deuteronomy. The passages found therein read, “And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.” – Deuteronomy 31:24-26.

The term ‘book of the law’ is a phrase which is connected to the sacrificial system. Inside this book is written various curses, directions for the sacrificial system, descriptions of feasts which the Jews were to keep, and laws governing other aspects of life. This book is described as being placed ‘in the side’ of the ark of the covenant. This implies that the book was to be placed on the side of it rather than directly inside the ark. It is described as being placed in this position, “for a witness against thee”, a statement which connects these passages from Deuteronomy to Colossians 2:14.

Note that Moses is described as the writer of this book. This is a fact which again connects to Colossians 2:14, as the word “handwriting” is used. This term, as we saw from the Greek definition, references a manuscript or legal document. This fact would logically connect the term and the entire passage of Colossians 2:14 to these passages from Deuteronomy, which we will see references the ceremonial or sacrificial system.

“Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount E-bal, As Moses the servant of the Lord commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.” – Joshua 8:30-31

These passages from Joshua connect the phrase “book of the law” with the sacrificial system. Joshua is here pictured constructing an altar for sacrifices according to directions found in that book, and found giving burnt offerings and peace offerings. These are of course activities only found in the ceremonial system of the old testament. As if what Joshua is here pictured doing is not enough, the book in of itself is termed the “book of the law of Moses.” The term “law of Moses” by itself both references this book and the sacrificial system.

In the book of John we find the following passage, “If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day?” – John 7:23 In this passage, Jesus is here found connecting circumcision to the “law of Moses.” Circumcision was a part of the old testament system. This is a fact which connects the ceremonial law to the phrase “law of Moses.” It is important to note that the Law of Moses and the Law of God are two very different things. A mistake often made in Christian thinking in this day and age is that they are supposedly connected with each other, and therefore the abolishing of the one automatically abolishes the other. As we already saw, the Ten Commandments are immutable and cannot be done away with. This conclusion that most Christians seem to have about both being abolished together is therefore an impossibility.

In view of the fact that the term “book of the law” references the ceremonial system, we then turn our attention to the Ten Commandments.

“And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.” – Deuteronomy 4:12-13.

“At that time the LORD said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark. And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in mine hand. And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the LORD gave them unto me. And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the LORD commanded me.” – Deuteronomy 10:1-5

From these two sets of passages, we learn that the Ten Commandments were written on tables of stone. This is very different from the book of the law that Moses is found writing. This is made clear by the statements “and he wrote them upon two tables of stone” and “Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first.” Later, we see that these Tables were placed inside the Ark of the covenant. Once again, this is very different from the book of the law which is found on the side of the ark. The two laws, the Law of Moses and the Law of God, are two very different things and are not connected to each other.

When Colossians 2:14 uses terms like “handwriting” and “ordinances”, combined with “that was against us” these are all very clear references to the old testament system. This means that in context, Colossians 2:14-17 is speaking about the ceremonial law, and not the Ten Commandments. From the differences thus cited above, we know that these are two different unconnected things. Therefore we know that Colossians 2:14-17 does not do away with the Ten Commandments. Such would be a ridiculous assertion in view of many passages admonishing us to keep them. [Matthew 19:16-17, Revelation 22:14, 1 John 5:3, John 14:15, James 2:9-11, 1 John 2:4.]

In view of this information, we cannot take Colossians 2:16 as though it does away with any one of the Ten Commandments. As we examine the passage closely, this should become much more clear. The verse reads, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath Days.” We previously saw that the terms “meat and drink” are references to meat and drink offerings, a fact which is made so much more clear by the following passages from Ezekiel.

“This is the oblation that ye shall offer; the sixth part of an ephah of an homer of wheat, and ye shall give the sixth part of an ephah of an homer of barley: Concerning the ordinance of oil, the bath of oil, ye shall offer the tenth part of a bath out of the cor, which is an homer of ten baths; for ten baths are an homer: And one lamb out of the flock, out of two hundred, out of the fat pastures of Israel; for a meat offering, and for a burnt offering, and for peace offerings, to make reconciliation for them, saith the Lord GOD. All the people of the land shall give this oblation for the prince in Israel. And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.” – Ezekiel 45:13-17

Piecing Ezekiel 45:17 together with Colossians 2:16, it is clear that these passages are connected. Both passages mention meat and drink, with Ezekiel 45:17 adding the word “offerings.” In the passage from Ezekiel, “feasts, new moons, and sabbaths” immediately follow the offerings. The way in which the passage lists things mirrors Colossians 2:16 in a most striking manner, further confirming the fact that “meat and drink” in Colossians is a reference to “meat and drink” offerings. Another type of offering, which is burnt offerings, is also mentioned in Ezekiel. This is yet another link to the ceremonial law found in these texts.

What of the term “Sabbaths?” Also referenced as “Sabbath Days” in Colossians 2:16, the term Sabbaths is speaking about the feasts of the old testament system. It should be noted that when in the plural, it does not reference the Seventh Day Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Ezekiel 45:17 makes this especially clear as it mentions this term in connection with offerings. The targets here are feasts like the Day of atonement and the Passover, which are festivals that the Jews still observe to this day. In the book of Leviticus we find a description of the day of atonement.

“And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.” – Leviticus 16:29-31

Note that the day of atonement, one of the feasts of the old testament system, is here referred to as “a sabbath of rest.” We see this concept again with the feast of booths, and with the feast of trumpets. [See Leviticus 23:24, 39. With the feast of booths specifically the beginning and end of it is titled a ‘Sabbath.’] The term ‘Sabbaths’ and ‘Sabbath days’ in this sense are references to these old testament feasts where the term “sabbath of rest” or “sabbath” is used to describe them.

As we take a look at the Greek definitions for the words “Sabbath Days” and “Holyday”, it becomes unquestionably clear to us that Colossians 2:16 is referencing the feasts of the old testament system. Many believe that this also targets the Seventh-Day Sabbath, but as we will see this is not the case.

G1859

ἑορτή heortē heh-or-tay’

Of uncertain affinity; a festival: – feast, holyday.

Note that the term “holyday” as defined above means “festival”, and is also translated as “Feast.” The two words share the same meaning, bringing us to the logical conclusion that the term “holyday” is actually referencing the old testament feasts, a fact which is most fitting with the context. Complete with the surrounding references to that system of feasts and sacrifices, it should be clear to us that the Ten Commandments are not referred to in Colossians 2:16.

At this point, some go to the Greek definition for the word “Sabbath” and attempt to use this to state that the Seventh-Day Sabbath is also referenced. We acknowledge that the word “Sabbath” can reference the Seventh-Day Sabbath, as shown from the definition below. The fact is however that the word “Sabbath” simply just means “Sabbath”, and without a context you cannot select whether it refers to the Seventh-Day Sabbath or the feasts of the old testament system, or whether or not both is included.

In response, we again point to the context. As we have thus far seen, the system of feasts and sacrifices found in the old testament is referenced here in Colossians 2:14-17 and not any one of the Ten Commandments. All of the surrounding details such as offerings and feasts also place it within this context. We then direct your attention to the end of the Greek definition, which says “likewise the plural in all the above applications”. The Greek here is unquestionably plural. Combined with the context, this means that the feasts are referenced and not the Seventh-Day Sabbath. The term “days”, although supplied by man, fits most strikingly into place with the Greek definition found to be plural.

G4521

σάββατον sabbaton sab’-bat-on

Of Hebrew origin [H7676]; the Sabbath (that is, Shabbath), or day of weekly repose from secular avocations (also the observance or institution itself); by extension a se’nnight, that is, the interval between two Sabbaths; likewise the plural in all the above applications: – sabbath (day), week.

The fact that Seventh-Day Sabbath is not included is a fact which is acknowledged by several theologians of the past, the commentaries of which can all be seen below:

Albert Barnes:

“Or of the Sabbath days – Greek, “of the Sabbaths.” The word Sabbath in the Old Testament is applied not only to the seventh day, but to all the days of holy rest that were observed by the Hebrews, and particularly to the beginning and close of their great festivals. There is, doubtless, reference to those days in this place, since the word is used in the plural number, and the apostle does not refer particularly to the Sabbath properly so called. There is no evidence from this passage that he would teach that there was no obligation to observe any holy time, for there is not the slightest reason to believe that he meant to teach that one of the ten commandments had ceased to be binding on mankind. If he had used the word in the singular number – “the Sabbath,” it would then, of course, have been clear that he meant to teach that that commandment had ceased to be binding, and that a Sabbath was no longer to be observed. But the use of the term in the plural number, and the connection, show that he had his eye on the great number of days which were observed by the Hebrews as festivals, as a part of their ceremonial and typical law, and not to the moral law, or the Ten Commandments. No part of the moral law – no one of the ten commandments could be spoken of as “a shadow of good things to come.” These commandments are, from the nature of moral law, of perpetual and universal obligation.”

Adam Clarke:

“Let no man – judge you in meat, or in drink – The apostle speaks here in reference to some particulars of the hand-writing of ordinances, which had been taken away, viz., the distinction of meats and drinks, what was clean and what unclean, according to the law; and the necessity of observing certain holydays or festivals, such as the new moons and particular sabbaths, or those which should be observed with more than ordinary solemnity; all these had been taken out of the way and nailed to the cross, and were no longer of moral obligation. There is no intimation here that the Sabbath was done away, or that its moral use was superseded, by the introduction of Christianity. I have shown elsewhere that, Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, is a command of perpetual obligation, and can never be superseded but by the final termination of time. As it is a type of that rest which remains for the people of God, of an eternity of bliss, it must continue in full force till that eternity arrives; for no type ever ceases till the antitype be come. Besides, it is not clear that the apostle refers at all to the Sabbath in this place, whether Jewish or Christian; his σαββατων, of sabbaths or weeks, most probably refers to their feasts of weeks, of which much has been said in the notes on the Pentateuch.”

We will note that Adam Clarke missed the passages connecting meats & drinks with meat and drink offerings. Having not seen this connection, he applies meats & drinks to the concept of ‘clean & unclean’ foods found in the scriptures. It is prudent to point out that this interpretation does not work, as the only prohibition in the scriptures regarding “drink” is that surrounding Alcohol. The author of this article does not know of any other prohibition regarding “drink” in the scriptures. To take this passage as though it is authorizing the Christian to drink alcohol would be taking a lot of license, especially in view of the following passage: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” – Proverbs 20:1

Both of these past theologians however agree that the ceremonial law, and the feasts of the old testament system, is the target of Colossians 2:14-17. We are therefore not alone in holding this position, neither can anyone state at this point that these conclusions are merely my speculations. The Sabbath-Keeping Christian at this point says, “The Sabbath is still binding. It wasn’t done away with at the cross.”

A Day To Remember

Why do Christians worship on Sunday?

Many are surprised that anyone would even ask this question. They reason, “Christians have always worshiped on Sunday. Why bother asking questions? After all, if Christians have always done this than surely it must be supported by the Bible.” The occasional answer of “tradition” is often urged as a reason as to why Sunday should be the day of worship for the Christian. Still others respond by saying it doesn’t matter what day we worship on, as long as we worship God. When these are not the response, than many sometimes respond by saying “we should worship on Sunday to honor the resurrection of Christ” or “because Christ changed the day of worship from Sabbath to Sunday after his resurrection!” Are any of these responses valid? Do any of them justify worship on Sunday? Are we as Christians commanded anywhere in the Bible to worship on a specific day?

Why should we even bother asking this question? If it does not matter what day we worship God on, and Christians have always worshiped on Sunday, does this not stand to make asking questions a pointless exercise? Wouldn’t questioning the practice be challenging the established practices of the Church and make one a heretic? In the book of Isaiah we read, “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” – Isaiah 8:20.

Everything must pass the test of Isaiah 8:20. Even beyond this, we are warned plainly in the scriptures against reliance on others. In the book of Proverbs it has been said, “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” – Proverbs 14:15. This passage is an obvious warning against blind belief in every word that comes from a man’s mouth. It also uplifts careful research of what we are told as the mark of a “prudent man.”

Supposing you were to ask your Pastor the question which we have here asked, would he reply with any of the above responses? Would you accept whatever his answer was as the absolute truth, without effort to verify whether or not it had a foundation in the scriptures? Many accept all or a few of the above responses as sufficient reason both not to investigate the issue of Sunday Worship, and as reasons to justify the practice. Yet these responses are not sufficient for either.

We should never attempt to stifle investigation of God’s word upon any subject. Groups who are aware of the Bible’s power to uproot the foundations of their practices often attempt to prevent others from asking questions. Are we to be found doing the same? Are we no better than such groups? There is nothing wrong with the question, “why do Christians worship on Sunday?” In the book of Acts we read, “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming tither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” – Acts 17:10-11

These texts from the book of acts describe a group of people known as the “Bereans.” They mention the Beareans’ practice of putting things to the test of the scriptures, and note that they were more noble than those in Thessalonica for this reason. Beyond what we have already seen from the books of Proverbs and Isaiah, we find in these passages an example that we should all follow. The example of the Bereans was to “search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” These words of scripture indicate that they were seeking to verify the things which they were told.

The question that we have asked is no violation of scripture. Seeking to answer it from the Bible would only be following the example of the Bereans. There is therefore no good reason to brush such a question off as not being valid merely on the grounds that Christians appear to have always worshiped on that day. Neither is it legitimate to label a man a heretic because he questions the traditions of the church, which a Christian is bound by God’s word to abandon if they do not harmonize with the word of truth.

It has been said, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” – Acts 5:29. These powerful words from Peter and the apostles hammer in a point which should forever lock in the Christian’s mind the place of tradition. If it cannot be defended from the Bible, than this makes tradition the sayings of men alone. Peter and the apostles are here recorded as uplifting the obedience of God as superior to the obedience of men, making tradition worthless when compared to the commands of scripture. In view of this fact, ‘tradition’ is not a valid justification for worship on Sunday neither is it sufficient reason to cease investigation.

Some might still at this point cry out, “but it doesn’t matter!” The thought that what day we worship on does not matter in of itself does not hold water. We have been told, “For this is the Love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” – 1 John 5:3. Love to God is defined as keeping his commandments, and is in fact the motive for obedience. If God has commanded us to worship on a specific day anywhere in the Bible, than we must follow that command. If we Love God, we will do this.

The day of worship for the Christian is therefore a matter of obedience to God. Referred to as keeping his commandments, this is described as “the whole duty of man” in Ecclesiastes 12:13. We must not be found in disobedience to the commands of God or the teachings of the scriptures, for we enter into rebellion the moment we are found in this state. In view of this fact, it is important that we investigate this matter from the scriptures that we may know the will of God on this topic.

Still some at this point cite the Resurrection of Jesus, as though this alone is somehow sufficient for the Christian to worship on Sunday. It would seem natural for the Christian to want to mark and celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. Yet where are we commanded to do this in the Bible? Can one produce a text anywhere from scripture to suggest that we are now to worship on Sunday because of the resurrection?

The real question to be asking is, what has God commanded in the past? In the book of Exodus, we find the following “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the Seventh Day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” – Exodus 20:8-11

There are many details describing what God’s people are to do found in these passages. The seventh day is mentioned as the exact day, and it is stated that no work shall be done. Here we find the command to remember the Sabbath, in order that it may be kept holy. The phrase “keep it holy” and the fact that it is to be remembered in of itself implies that this day has some special significance, which alone might imply a date of worship.

This command also contains a reference to a statement found in the book of Genesis, which reads “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” – Genesis 2:2-3. The fact that the command in the book of Exodus mentions the sabbath as “blessed and hallowed” in connection to creation is an obvious reference to what is found in these statements from Genesis, making the words ‘sanctified’ and ‘hallowed’ as essentially referring to the same thing. The blessing and sanctification of the Sabbath sets it aside to be of special significance, indicating that it should be marked for celebration. As if the phrase “to keep it holy” were not enough, these facts imply a strong potential for this to be a day for worship.

The fact that God recognizes it as such is made clear in the prophecies of Isaiah, “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” – Isaiah 66:22-23. These prophecies found in Isaiah place the setting of events on the new earth, as shown by the twenty-second verse. The very next thing that happens is a description of worship “from one sabbath to another.” The implication here is that the Sabbath will be kept on the new earth, but especially that the Lord recognizes it as a time for worship.

It is later noted in scripture that Jesus is found worshiping on this day. In the book of Luke we read, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.” – Luke 4:16. This passage of scripture implies that Christ entered the synagogue to read on the Sabbath as a ‘custom’, indicating that it was a regular practice of his. The fact is that Jesus is here described as worshiping on the Sabbath. Combined with the passage from Isaiah, which shows God’s recognition of the Sabbath as a date of worship, it should be clear to us that God’s people worshiped on this day in the past. The fact that the Jews have always done this is something which no one within reason is capable of denying.

In view of these facts, there are two things needed in order to prove that Christians must now worship on Sunday. The first is a command, and the second is the ‘blessing and sanctification’ of that day. Unless this day is defined as ‘blessed and sanctified’ or as something to be kept holy, there is no evidence that it is anything other than an ordinary day. If a command cannot be produced, than every conceivable reason for worship on that day falls apart under the weight of scripture.

Is it therefore legitimate to claim that we should worship on Sunday in order to mark the resurrection? Without the components mentioned, this type of reasoning does not hold any water. If one was to search from Genesis to Revelation, one would find no evidence that Sunday has been blessed or sanctified. You would be just as hard pressed to produce evidence from the scriptures that we are commanded to worship on Sunday for these reasons. This is a fact which is a clear indication that it is no different from any other day, and therefore there is no reason to mark it. The grounds of Christ’s resurrection is not sufficient reason to do this.

It is still stated by many that we must worship on Sunday because Christ changed the day of worship. If we were to search our Bibles from Genesis to Revelation, would we be able to produce a text to support this thinking? The answer is of course a solid ‘no.’ This is because scriptures which speak of Christ changing the day of worship from Sabbath to Sunday cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. One can search as long as they live and still not find a text which supports this claim.

It starts to become less likely for one to produce a text in view of the previously mentioned components. The pieces that make a day of worship as found in Exodus 20:8-11 cause the potential for locating such a text in support of a change to Sunday to become an impossibility. Without any of these pieces, the Christian is left stumbling in darkness. The Christian does not know which day they are to worship on, why the day is important, how they are to engage in such activity, and whether or not a change even took place. It is therefore impossible to prove that the day of worship has changed, because none of these details can be produced.

If the day of worship has not changed, than exactly when are Christians to worship? Just what are God’s people in this day and age commanded to do? If there has been no change, and none of these arguments stand to hold any water, than all that is left for the Christian is to revert back to the command found in Exodus 20:8-11. The question to be asked than is, just what day exactly is the Sabbath? Some have pointed to this very command as though it in of itself justifies the keeping of Sunday, but it has no such application.

In the previously mentioned passages, we find the following: “But the Seventh Day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within the gates.” – Exodus 20:10. The Seventh-Day is defined as being the Sabbath. We are therefore left with the question, “just when is the Seventh-Day?” Due to the fact that numbers are used instead of the modern names for days, it appears difficult on the surface to determine which day this passage is talking about.

In view of the fact that some have interpreted the “Seventh-Day” to be Sunday, I am therefore lead to inquire “When did Jesus rise from the grave?” The overwhelming majority of Christians believe the resurrection of Christ to have taken place on Sunday. This is a fact which all seem to acknowledge. In the book of Matthew, we find the following passage speaking of Christ’s resurrection.

“In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the woman, fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” – Matthew 28:1-6.

Matthew 28:1 gives the exact place of the Resurrection of Christ. The first describes these events as taking place, “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” As previously noted, the entire Christian world acknowledges this day to be Sunday. Without this fact, no one would be able to produce an argument stating that we must worship on Sunday to commemorate the resurrection. It is sound reasoning to point out that the day which comes before Sunday is Saturday, making this the Sabbath and therefore the Seventh-Day of the week according to the passage.

Were this not sufficient evidence, one need only remember the original target of Exodus 20:8-11. Context of who is being spoken to helps in making proper deductions. Before the start of the first commandment out of the ten, God makes a very interesting statement. He says, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” – Exodus 20:2. This statement is a clear indication of who the Lord was talking to when giving these commandments. In view of this fact, the conclusion that he was talking to the people of Israel at this point is unavoidable.

What does this mean? Does this mean that the Ten Commandments were only for the Jews, as some might suggest? Such a conclusion of course ignores numerous scriptures, such as 1 John 3:4 which defines sin as being the ‘transgression of the law’ [an obvious reference to the ten commandments], and 1 John 5:3 which defines love to God as keeping his commandments. Instead this is a fact which actually helps us to pinpoint the seventh-day. On which day do the Jews worship? No one would argue against their worship on Saturday, which is the Sabbath.

At this point the Christian lifts up his arms in frustration and screams, “The Sabbath was only for the Jews!” It is prudent to point out that if we approach the fourth commandment with this logic, we also extend it to the rest of the Ten Commandments as previously noted. If this is indeed the case, than a great many moral problems are created. The Christian is then permitted to cheat on his or her spouse [Exodus 20:14], murder people, steal, and worship idols. Yet even in the face of the sheer ridiculousness of such assertions, many still cling to their thinking that it was only for the Jews in an effort to escape obedience. The following passages put this thinking into question.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13

“And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” – Mark 2:27.

“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” – Revelation 12:7

Ecclesiastes 12:13 describes the keeping of the commandments as the “whole duty of man.” The logical deduction here is that the keeping of the Ten Commandments is the whole duty of all men, and not simply just the Jews. There is no reason to believe that this only applies to nine of the Ten Commandments, as though the fourth commandment is no longer applicable to Christians to today.

The passage from Mark also gives us a clear picture of the original target of the Sabbath. When it states that the “Sabbath was made for man”, it shows that the Sabbath is meant for all men. To take the Sabbath as though it is meant for the Jews alone is a ridiculous assertion and an attempt to get around obedience at best. Such a statement falls apart into a thousand pieces under the sheer weight and force of this passage from Mark, showing us that the Sabbath is meant for all men who follow the Lord. It is interesting to note at this point that it was also “made for man”, implying that the Sabbath is meant as a gift to men rather than a burden.

Finally, we have produced a passage from the book of Revelation. These both speak of a future time in which God’s people will be found keeping all of the Ten Commandments. This is made clear by the statement of the “remnant of her seed” which “keep the commandments of God.” The woman spoken of in this passage is of course God’s church. In the book of Jeremiah we find the following statement which sheds light on this fact, “I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.” – Jeremiah 6:2. Zion is a term in the scriptures often used to refer to God’s church. If this is therefore the case, than it is logical to conclude that any one of the Ten Commandments cannot simply be just for the Jews as God’s Church will be found keeping all of them at the end of time. The Sabbath is therefore to be applied to Christians today, making it the true day of worship for the Christian. No one can within reason argue that it was meant only for the Jews.

Yet there are many other reasons as to why the Christian should worship on the Sabbath. Exodus 20:8-11 contains a statement of exactly what the Sabbath is about. The verse reads, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” – Exodus 20:11. This is an obvious reference to creation. The fact that these passages state that it was blessed and hallowed in connection with creation shows that it is meant as a memorial for this event. By keeping the Sabbath, we as Christians acknowledge God as our creator. This is a fact which makes failure to do so almost a claim that God is not our creator.

We also find in the book of acts and the gospels several interesting statements which imply a history of observance. “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and the religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.” – Acts 13:42-44.

The gentiles in these passages from acts approach Paul and the early Christians with a lot of assumptions. That they were the ones originally preaching is a fact which is evident from the context [see Acts 13:16.] The assumption here on their part is that Sabbath is the day of worship in which things are to be preached. This is evident from the fact that their request is for the things which they had heard to be preached to them “next Sabbath.” Why did they not ask to be preached to the following day, or perhaps a Monday or Tuesday? The conclusion to draw from this is the fact that Sabbath was the acknowledged day of worship for Paul and the early Christians. This implies a history of the observance of the Sabbath by the early Church.

This is hedged in by the fact that Jesus is recorded as keeping the Sabbath in Luke 4:16, and that later in the book of Luke the disciples are recorded as keeping the Sabbath after the crucifixion. In the book of Luke we read, “And that day was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on. And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” – Luke 23:54-56.

Women who followed Christ are here recorded as observing the Sabbath. They are pictured preparing for the Sabbath through the preparation of spices and ointments [an action which is connected with Christ’s burial, something which evidently must have been done before the Sabbath.] These passages also state that they “rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” The indication here is that these early followers of Christ kept the fourth commandment. It is obvious that they never once got the idea from Christ’s teachings while he was alive that they were cease doing this.

Combined with the fact that Christ is recorded as keeping the Sabbath in Luke 4:16, it should be clear to us that there is a record of past observance. As previously noted, Isaiah 66:22-23 implies that it will be observed on the new earth, indicating that there it is to observed in the future as well. This makes the idea that it was done away with an impossibility. The true day of worship for the Christian is the Sabbath, and not Sunday.

In view of all these facts, the only conceivable reason the Christian worships on Sunday in its stead is tradition. We must remember that tradition is not to take the place of the plain commands of the Bible. As Peter and the other apostles once said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” – Acts 5:29. The Christian therefore has a choice. It has been said, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15. Let the Sabbath then be a day to remember.

They Know Not Anything

“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.” – Ecclesiastes 9:5

Death is a foreign invader. It was never meant to be a part of this world. It does not belong. The masses are sensitive to this fact. Death is regarded as an object of fear. There are few who can state that they do not fear it without speaking lies. To close one’s eyes in darkness and pass from the land of the living is a thought which many regard as unpleasant. It would seem a natural thing to regard it as undesirable.

As though we have been programmed with self-preservation mechanisms, we find ourselves seeking to avoid it at all costs. We as a species pursue an endless quest for longevity, executing every means within our power to increase the length of our lives. Although not all of us do this, many may still be found in pursuit of immortality; seeking out every means within reach to end aging and demolish disease. It is because death is a foreign invader that does not belong on this world that we as human beings do this.

This did not always exist. In the book of Genesis we read, “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” – Genesis 3:22-24.

When mankind was created, he was placed in the garden of Eden. In this garden there was something called the “tree of life.” As long as human beings ate from it, they were enabled to have immortality. Were access to the tree to be cut off, mankind would no longer be immortal. Mankind only had access to the tree so long as he was obedient to God. We as a species lost access to the tree of life when we transgressed God’s commands in the beginning, thereby resulting in our banishment from the garden of Eden and the entrance of death into our world.

Our bodies at this time began their slow break down. Aging entered the scene and men could now kill one another. These things did not exist prior to mankind’s banishment from the garden of Eden. The death that came upon the scene at this time was in no sense a “spiritual death” as some claim in order to escape conviction that their traditions are false, but was the literal death which we as a species know in our world today. This is made obvious by the words of scripture, “and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.” The obvious purpose of our removal from the garden was so that we as a species would no longer be enabled to posses immortality.

The entrance of death into our world has resulted in the insatiable craving for that which we have lost, which was everlasting life. This longing for immortality that many possess generates the inevitable inquiry, “what happens after death?” The fearsome prospect of the abyss connected with the grave forcibly produces this question like some cry of anguish under torment. In search of answers, the masses engage in tireless research.

It is unfortunate that too often the wrong answers have been found. There are a variety of them from “ye shall return as a cow” to “your soul goes to heaven or hell.” When there seems to be so many answers, what exactly are we to believe? What is the truth? The scriptures give several definitions for truth, one of which is most pertinent to the subject in question.

In the book of John we read, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” – John 17:17. In this text, Jesus is speaking [see John 17:1], and he is praying to our heavenly Father. He has here defined the truth as God’s word, thereby making the scriptures or rather the Bible as being the truth. As looked at previously, Isaiah 8:20 defines the Bible as the detector of error for the Christian. We are therefore to reject anything which is not found in the testimony of God’s word, which is the truth.

You would have a difficult time proving from scriptural sources that anyone would return to life as a cow or some other animal. This type of thinking is usually found in other religions of the world, and creates a rather undesirable cycle with no end to it. Who would want to return to life as a cow only to be eaten, then to come back and potentially repeat the process as either a cow or another animal? Even more awful is the thought of endlessly returning to this world of pain and suffering.

By process of elimination, we find ourselves left with answers such as “your soul goes to heaven or hell.” Answers of this class can usually be found in Christian circles, and sometimes other religions. The idea is that you possess an immortal soul, which cannot be killed and which separates from the body at death to be taken to whatever place of reward you are to receive. This is a popular teaching which exists in the Church at this time. Yet we have already seen that other popular theories found in the Church do not pass the test of Isaiah 8:20, thereby showing us that popularity does not prove the truthfulness of doctrine.

Do these popular teachings with regards to the soul pass the scrutiny of scripture? It is at this point that the immortal soulist brands the believer in non-immortality as a heretic, classing him with groups that mainstream Christianity regards negatively [such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, of which I am not]. Such a label is attached to a man merely because he asked questions, or found something in scripture which contradicts traditional thinking. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is my hope that you will lay all preconceived opinions and traditions at the door of investigation and seek to understand what the scriptures truly teach on this subject.

In the book of 1 Timothy we find a passage which reads, “Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the king of kings, and Lord of Lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 6:15-16.

We have examined the above passages before. To refresh your memory, these passages speak of Jesus or in fact God. The statement “Who only hath immortality” shows us that only God is naturally immortal. All other beings in existence are therefore mortal. They can be either destroyed or their bodies break down over time and they die. In view of this fact, how is it that anyone can claim you have an immortal soul? This thought is a massive contradiction to passages presented. If you possess an immortal soul, this means that a piece of you is naturally immortal. According to these passages this is a complete impossibility.

If this is in fact the case, why does the Bible use the word ‘soul’? Or what about the word ‘spirit’? The term ‘soul’ may be traced back to Genesis. In the second chapter we find the following, “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.” – Genesis 2:7. This passage of scripture is the Bible’s first use of the term. It also furnishes us with a proper definition as to exactly what a Soul is.

The combination of the breath of life with the dust of the ground is comparable to a battery powered cellular device. The breath of life is like the battery. Taking the battery out of your cell phone causes your phone to have no power. You cannot make calls or send text messages. If a man were to have the breath of life removed from him, he would no longer be alive. Piecing these two things together causes a man to have life and thus to become a ‘living soul.’ The logical conclusion is that you do not have a soul in the traditional sense, but rather you are a soul.

As for the term ‘spirit’, there is a fascinating passage in the book of Ecclesiastes. When compared with Genesis 2:7 and two other passages, it sheds some light on this concept for us.

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” – Ecclesiastes 12:7

“All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;” – Job 27:3

“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.” – Genesis 2:7

In Genesis 2:7, the breath of life is said to be breathed “into his nostrils” [referring to man.] Later in Job 27:3 we see that the ‘spirit of God’ is defined as being in Job’s nostrils. This statement is given right next to his statement that his ‘breath’ is in him. Both statements seem to quite obviously target the same thing. Their obvious relation to nostrils connects the passage of Job 27:3 back to Genesis 2:7, which mentions the breath of life.

It would be pure ridiculousness to take Job 27:3 as though you either have a disembodied being in your nose, or as though the Holy Spirit resides in your nostrils. Neither of these are what Job is here referencing. It would be logical in this case to connect the term “spirit of God” as it is used in Job 27:3 to Ecclesiastes 12:7, which in this case would make the term “Spirit” a reference to the breath of life. This fact is made obvious by the connection of the term “spirit of God” with the word “breath” in Job 27:3.

These are facts which are sufficient to put the concept of an immortal soul into question. The second answer which is so popular throughout Christian churches is therefore not the correct answer. If this is indeed the case, than what do the scriptures really teach in regards to death? What happens after a man dies? In the book of Genesis, we once again find an answer to this question which is so often overlooked by many. The passage reads, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” – Genesis 3:19

“Thou” is an old english word meaning “you.” This passage therefore references the entire person, and not simply just the body as some may attempt to argue in defense of tradition. Previously you were shown to be defined as a living soul, while the spirit was proven to be the breath of life. Such a conclusion is therefore impossible. The verse goes on to state “till thou return unto the ground.” When a man dies, he goes down into the graves and his body returns to dust while the breath of life, according to Ecclesiastes 12:7 returns to God.

But what is to happen after this? Does a man stay in the grave with no hope of eternal life and only darkness to engulf him? In the book of 1 Thessalonians, Paul spoke of this very topic. He is found stating, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In these passages from 1 Thessalonians, Paul speaks about death in an unmistakeable fashion. He says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” The term “sleep” as is used in this passage at first glance might generate confusion. Why on earth would sleep trigger sorrow? The thought of a man sorrowing because of a loved one literally going to sleep is a point of sheer confusion. The answer is first found one passage beneath, in which Paul mentions that Christ died and rose again, and sets Jesus in contrast with them who ‘sleep in Jesus.’ The contrast should be a clear indicator that Paul is here referencing death.

If we take this thought and then apply it to the first passage, than Paul’s admonition to refrain from sorrowing ‘as others which have no hope’ makes much more sense. As we continue to examine the passages, notice that the term “sleep” or “asleep” is used multiple times throughout 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Every single time Paul is referencing death. This is made much more apparent as you reach verses fifteen through sixteen, which state that “we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the with trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:”. First Paul makes the reference of those that are asleep, and then immediately follows up with the statement that “the dead in Christ will rise first” in the passage that follows, leaving the strong impression that the dead are asleep.

Yet there are even more interesting facts about these passages. The events described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 are actually the resurrection of life spoken of in John 5:28-29, a fact which is made obvious by the statement “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” That statement alone is sufficient to indicate that a resurrection is taking place in the passages, especially in view of the fact that the living and dead are described in the final verses as being together in the clouds. Paul ends by saying, “wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

These statements from scripture target loss, and are meant as a comfort to those who might be sorrowing over deceased loved ones. We might therefore ask why Paul does not attempt to comfort people by saying, “your loved ones are in heaven now” or “they are watching over you in heaven”? Why does Paul not say, “their souls have gone to heaven and when you die you shall be with them too”? The facts are that these passages contradict traditional thinking, that an individual receives reward at death and immediately goes to heaven or hell when they die.

Resurrection in of itself is made obsolete by the thought that a man is to go to heaven when he dies. If you have already received your reward, what is the purpose in a resurrection? No one would argue against the confusion created by the thought that a man is to be sent to heaven at death, only to be brought back into his body, just so that he can be taken back up to heaven. It is clear that this type of thinking does not make sense and is contradicted by the testimony of the scriptures.

What of this word “sleep”? There are multiple locations across the scriptures in which the term “sleep” is used as a reference to death. One such occurrence may be found in the book of John. In the eleventh chapter of this book we may read, “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” – John 11:11-14.

Jesus is here found referencing the death of Lazarus saying, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.” Due to the fact that he used these words instead of outright stating that Lazarus had died, the disciples were confused. They took the word ‘sleep’ in a literal sense, believing that Lazarus was resting as though he napped. Yet the scriptures are clear that Jesus was here speaking of Lazarus’ death. In view of their misunderstanding, Jesus had to be more plain with them stating “Lazarus is dead.” This entire sequence in of itself implies in a strong sense that death is a sleep. It would be difficult to conjure a more logical explanation of why Jesus used the term “sleep” to refer to death. This is a fact which further sheds light on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, making it clear that those passages also are referencing death.

The question then left to us is why? Why do the scriptures refer to death as a sleep? The most logical conclusion that can be drawn from such a picture is that there is no consciousness in death. Yet there is no direct statement of this thought in the passages examined. Is this therefore jumping to a conclusion, or are there passages elsewhere in the scriptures which may be produced to furnish evidence of this conclusion? Throughout the scriptures we find the following passages.

“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 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.” – Ecclesiastes 9:5-6

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, wither thou goest.” – Ecclesiastes 9:10

“For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.” – Isaiah 38:18-19

“Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah. Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness destruction? Shall thy wonder be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” – Psalm 88:10-12

“For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.” – Psalm 143:3

In Ecclesiastes, a profound statement is made. It is said that “the dead know not anything.” If they know not anything, than the strong implication is that they do not possess consciousness. As if this statement alone were not enough, Solomon goes on to give a list of emotions such as ‘love’, ‘hatred’, and ‘envy.’ He closes by stating that these are ‘now perished’ and that ‘neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun.’ The dead are not conscious of anything. Their emotions are ‘perished’, implying that they do not experience them. And they have nothing to do with anything that takes place on this planet. This implies that they do not get up and walk around, or come back to talk to the living.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 states that whatever we find to do with our hands should be done with all our might. The reason cited is that ‘there is no work, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, wither thou goest.’ If there is no work, than nothing may be done in the grave. No knowledge or wisdom ties in with the previous passages examined, which state that the dead ‘know not anything.’ This again implies that the dead are not conscious of anything.

We find this concept again in the book of Isaiah. It is said that the ‘grave’ cannot praise God and that death cannot celebrate him. The passage that immediately follows in the particular chapter then goes on to state that the living do all of the praising of God. The ‘grave’ here mentioned in Isaiah is an obvious reference to death, especially since it is set in contrast with death. The implication here is that there is no praising or celebration of God by the dead because they are not conscious and are therefore not capable of doing so.

Psalms 88:10-12 starts out with a similar concept as the passages from Isaiah. It begins by asking questions of, “shall the dead arise and praise thee?” The obvious answer that anyone in the right mind would produce in response to such a question is a solid ‘no’. The Psalmist however continues along the same line of questioning, asking “Shall thy wonder be known in the dark?” It is obvious at this point that this is a reference to the grave. This should be clear given the other passages examined in combination with the fact that the Bible references death as a sleep multiple times, however the fact that there has been no change of subject present in these passages should be sufficient evidence in of it self to prove this. This is yet another strong implication that the dead are not conscious of anything.

In Psalm 143, we find primarily poetic language. The primary subject in question is not death, and this should be obvious to anyone who reads the passage. However, this verse does in fact contain a reference to the dead. The psalmist says, “he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.” This implies that those who have been dead “dwell in darkness.” The obvious reason for this type of language is that there is no consciousness in the grave.

All of these passages shed light on the reasoning behind scripture referring to death as a ‘sleep.’ Death is a sleep because there is no consciousness in the grave. If there is no consciousness in the grave, this means that the idea that a man goes to either heaven or hell immediately after he dies and spends eternity in bliss or misery from there is a false theory which is not supported in scripture. Concepts such as purgatory, the reception of men’s rewards at death, an eternally burning hell, and spirits of the dead coming back to visit the living all start to vanish under the weight and strength of scriptural evidence, and are exposed to be the false doctrines they are.

In view of all this, it is my desire to issue a warning. The majority of Christians have failed to see the danger of traditional thinking, and the position it places the believer in at the end of time. They have not discerned the first lie of the enemy. In the very beginning the serpent told Eve, “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die” – Genesis 3:4. This lie is the foundation upon which all of the concepts previously mentioned rest, and upon which we find something called ‘Spiritualism.’

Just what exactly is spiritualism? An internet dictionary provides us with the definition below.

spiritualism
[spir-i-choo-uh-liz-uh m]
Examples
Word Origin
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
noun
1.
the belief or doctrine that the spirits of the dead, surviving after the mortal life, can and do communicate with the living, especially through a person (a medium) particularly susceptible to their influence.

Taking a close look at the definition provided, we notice that it bears similarities to what the majority of Christians believe. Most of Christianity at this point believes in the immortality of the soul, and that it separates from the body at death and goes to either heaven or hell, purgatory or some kind of intermediate state. Did anyone take notice of the fact that this means that almost all Christians have believed what can be best described as ‘half-spiritualism’? This is made obvious by the fact that their belief is that the spirits of the dead survive after death and go to any one of these places. The only components missing are communication through a medium, or just straight communication.

This is something which Christians should be alarmed by. They have bought into a deception which is against scripture and which places them in a position in which the stage is set for the enemy to introduce the missing components. We know that our foe is crafty and is more than capable of bringing error into the Christian church. It wouldn’t take much to introduce the most horrific heresies disguised with angel garbs so as to bypass detection, and deceive numerous Christians into swallowing sugar coated rat poison.

The practice described above is condemned in the scriptures. In the book of Deuteronomy we read, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee.” – Deuteronomy 18:10-12.

A ‘consulter with familiar spirits’ is an individual which was known in these times for calling up the spirits of the dead. They would act as a medium of communication between the spirit of a deceased person and some one who wished to speak with one of them. The practice is condemned and described as an ‘abomination.’ These passages from Deuteronomy condemn spiritualism. If this is condemned, why would anything close to spiritualism be permissible?

Yet if this were not alarming enough, we find the following in the prophecies of the scriptures. “And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, workings miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” – Revelation 16:13-14.

These passages from the book of Revelation describe “unclean spirits” which are to come out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. Those spirits are defined as the “spirits of devils, working miracles.” They are described as going before the world to ‘gather them to the battle of that great day of God almighty.’ These passages speak of the end of time, and of the deception that the devil and his demons will bring the entire world under. They are described as working miracles in order to gather everyone to battle against God.

If the enemy is to go forth and work miracles at the end of time, how might he take advantage of traditional beliefs? If a believer holds to the doctrine that the spirits of the dead go to either heaven or hell when a person dies, than the stage is set for Satan to take advantage. He can then pose as a dead loved one, claiming to be happy in heaven, and then begin to spoon feed all manner of doctrine contradictory to scripture in the most subtle of manner to the believer. At that point, the likely hood of the believer swallowing the enemy’s deceptions is at its highest as the wonder worked to get their attention would be so powerful that few would stand against it.

There is no reason for the believer to hold to the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Plenty of answers may be found for those who have any further confusion on this subject. Than we might see that this concept falls apart under the weight and strength of scripture, and that the dead reside in their graves. They sleep and await resurrection, and may neither be found in heaven or hell, purgatory [a concept which I have never seen evidence for from Genesis to Revelation] or some kind of intermediate state. No one will come back as a cow or go to either heaven or hell at death, but will awaken in a Resurrection at the end of time; whether it be of life or death.

Forever – An Answer to Revelation 14:9-11, 20:10

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” – Revelation 20:10

“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, if any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” – Revelation 14:9-11

For ever…

These texts are said to support the idea that this is exactly how long the wicked will burn. It is also claimed from these passages of scripture that this is the duration of the flames. The flames supposedly last for ever and the victims of the lake of fire are claimed to burn for just as long. On the surface, these passages seem to support the traditional view. They outright use the words “for ever,” seem to be talking about the lake of fire in both cases, and at least one of them seems to reference the punishment of the wicked while the other is more directly targeting the devil.

With that in view, it is usually at this point that an exultant believer in eternal hell fire exclaims “See! I told you so!” Peter once issued a warning, speaking specifically about the difficulties of understanding scripture. He said, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things: in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” – 2 Peter 3:16. The passage directly above verse sixteen mentions Paul [“even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you” – 2 Peter 3:15], a fact which makes this a direct reference to his writings specifically.

Targeting Paul’s writings, Peter warned of things present in them which were difficult to understand. He stated that they could be easily wrested from their true meaning, and used to give a message which they did not originally convey. Although Paul’s writings are the primary target, a point worth noting is that Peter specifically mentioned the rest of scripture in this passage. He says, “as they do also the other scriptures” making the statement that people twist the Bible all the way across the board. It is perhaps therefore logical to conclude that this passage is applicable to the rest of scripture as well.

At this point, I want to direct your mind to focus specifically on the statement “hard to be understood.” Anyone who has attempted to study the Bible should be able to recognize that you can find scriptures which fit this description everywhere from Genesis to Revelation. The book of Revelation is especially filled with passages which can be described as “hard to be understood”, to the point where many claim that they cannot understand Revelation. In view of this fact, these passages here would obviously fall under this category. This would logically make 2 Peter 3:16 applicable to this case.

Dear friends, we should be careful not to wrest these passages to our own destruction. We should not conclude that they support traditional thinking without thorough investigation. Previously examined passages, such as Malachi 4:1-3, would seem to create a contradiction between all mentioned verses. Do we as Christians run around with a contradictory Bible? Many have been skeptical of Christianity because of the claim that the Bible contradicts itself. Perhaps for the sake of defending the validity of the Bible, we owe it to ourselves to investigate these matters thoroughly before jumping to conclusions.

A fact often overlooked in regards to both of these passages is their deep symbolic nature. Revelation 20:10 mentions the “Beast and the false prophet.” Revelation 14:9-11 mention the “beast and his image.” If we’re going to take this passage literally, than we need to imagine for a moment that the lake of fire currently has a monstrous beast and some false prophet sizzling in the flames. Perhaps while we are at it we should take Revelation 17:3-4 as though CNN will cover a story about a woman riding a seven-headed beast at the end of time. Friends, this is not how we properly interpret symbolic texts.

What does a beast represent in Bible prophecy? In the book of Daniel, we find the answer to this question. “Thus he said, the fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.” – Daniel 7:23. A beast is therefore a kingdom in Bible prophecy. Are we to believe that an entire kingdom will be burning in the lake of fire throughout all eternity, structures included? My friends, I hope that you are starting to see the foolishness of interpreting symbolic passages literally.

Perhaps we might do well to ask ourselves, what of the primary individual whom the text targets? In order for some one to burn for ever, their existence needs to be perpetuated. Either they need to already be naturally immortal or immortality needs to be granted to them some how. Searching the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, you will not find one text which even remotely suggests that the devil will be granted eternal life. That would be a fairly ridiculous thought, and a heresy in the extreme.

The next question we must therefore ask is, does the devil have an immortal nature? In the book of 1st Timothy we find the following passages, “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only potentate, the king of kings, and Lord of Lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen” – 1 Timothy 6:15-16.

The fact is that the devil is not immortal. According to this passage, he can be destroyed and he is incapable of living for ever. Only Christ is immortal, and it is therefore impossible for the devil to literally ‘burn for ever’. Since we have already seen that there is no tree of life in the lake of fire, which is the only means that anyone can be perpetuated in order to have eternal life, than it should be clear that the term “for ever” is not to be understood in this sense to mean “through out all eternity” as we might look at it in our limited human understanding.

The term “for ever” in the Scriptures is found in connection with a variety of things which have an end. One such example is found in the book of Jonah. The first passage reads, “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.” – Jonah 2:6. In the second passage we find the following, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” – Jonah 1:17

It would be rather strange to interpret the term “for ever” as used in Jonah 2:6 to mean that Jonah was in the belly of the whale throughout all eternity, when the Scriptures are clear that he was only there for three days and three nights. We may best define the term “for ever” in the biblical sense as simply referencing a period of time, limited or unlimited. It is essentially a type of Hebrew poetic language meaning “until it is over.” We find this concept all over the Old Testament and the Bible. In the book of Deuteronomy there is the following passage of Scripture, “An Amorite or a Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever” – Deuteronomy 23:3.

In this particular case, “for ever” was defined clearly as being “ten generations.” This is another case in which the term “for ever” was connected to something found to have an end in the Scriptures. Still more striking is what we find in the book of Exodus. For a moment, you should perhaps consider the feasts of the Old Testament sacrificial system. For the most part, the Christian world today does not recognize or keep them. This is simply because most of us recognize that these were done away with, a fact which I will not here dwell upon at this time.

“And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.” – Exodus 12:17. Those who would interpret the term “for ever” in the Bible to always mean “throughout all eternity” would do well to check the foundations for their thinking, especially in view of the fact that this term is clearly connected to something which we learn from later Scriptures was done away with [Colossians 2:14-17]. Interpreting the term “for ever” to mean “throughout all eternity” in this particular sense would not be a sound principle of Bible study, as you would not be comparing one passage with another and therefore ignoring what the rest of the Bible says.

The same mistake has quite obviously been made with Revelation 20:10 and 14:9-11, as many have discarded clearer texts such as Malachi 4:1-3 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 in favor of the term “for ever.” Or they have ignored terms like “death” and “perish” all throughout the bible [John 3:16, Romans 6:23] in favor of the phrase “for ever”, completely neglecting to compare scripture with scripture and basing whole doctrines off one or a few verses.

Beyond the meaning of the term “for ever”, we find other passages in the Bible which speak about the ultimate fate of the adversary of souls. In the book of Ezekiel there is a section which speaks about the enemy. It reads, “Thou hast been in Eden the Garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God: thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned; therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy trafick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.” – Ezekiel 28:13-18

There are many identifying marks in these six passages proving that they are really targeting the devil. The first is the phrase “Eden the garden of God.” Very few people were in the garden of Eden. Adam & Eve, Satan, and God are all that the Bible records as having been there. The fact that these passages use the term “Cherub” multiple times indicates that this is really talking about an angelic being of some kind. Verse twelve uses the phrase “Thus saith the Lord” indicating who is doing the talking [Ezekiel 28:12]. These facts are sufficient to eliminate Adam & Eve and God, leaving only Satan left by process of elimination.

Other identifying marks include the fact that this being is described as having its heart “lifted up.” This is a clear statement of pride. In fact, the language used here is identical to that which is used in the book of Isaiah to speak of Lucifer. The verses read, “For thou has said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the North: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most host high.” – Isaiah 14:13-14.

What is the fate of the individual described in these passages? The eighteenth verse states “therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.” Terms such as “ashes” and “devour” paint an obvious picture of complete destruction. Just a few passages prior the word “destroy” is used. Since there are clear connections to the devil in Ezekiel twenty-eight, and terms painting a picture of complete destruction are used, it should be clear that the ultimate fate of the devil is destruction and not eternal conscious torment. The adversary of souls, who is not immortal, will eventually be destroyed according to Scripture.

In an effort to get around this fact and support tradition, some have attempted to prove that this is not talking about the devil by citing verse twelve. Their argument is essentially that this verse places the context of the passage around the king of Tyrus, and therefore this cannot be talking about the devil. The entire passage reads, “Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God: Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” – Ezekiel 28:12.

We acknowledge that this passage does in fact reference the king of Tyrus, and that he is in fact the target of Ezekiel 28:12-18. However, this is a phenomenon which is often found in prophecies in the Old Testament. Places, cities, and individuals are used as symbols of future events or other persons. Examples of this fact can be found in Jeremiah 4:23-26 [description of the earth after the second coming], and Isaiah 13:1-17 [where we find obvious end times descriptions such as “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.” – Isaiah 13:10]

This fact should also be made evident by terms such as “Anointed Cherub” and “Eden the garden of God.” A cherub is obviously an angelic being, completely eliminating any possibility that this can only be a reference to an earthly king. The clear reference to the garden of Eden, a place where no earthly king has ever been, is a fact which also destroys any possibility that these passages only refer to the king of Tyrus. This case also bears similarities to when Jesus rebuked Peter, saying “Get thee behind me Satan” [Mark 8:33]. Was Jesus talking to Peter or Satan? He was obviously addressing both, because the spirit behind the man was under rebuke. The evidence should be clear that the case is here is similar.

What of Revelation 14:9-11? One might think that the rising of smoke for ever and ever is clear. The mind may picture fires that never go out due to the apparent perpetually rising smoke, yet mental pictures should be set aside in favor of the facts. The symbolic nature of this passage previously dwelt upon should remind us that this passage is not to be taken literally. The imagery used of the “smoke of their torment rising for ever” is a symbol as well. It borrows heavily from old testament imagery.

In the nineteenth chapter of Revelation, we find a similar symbol used to describe the end of the whore of Babylon. “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleuia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of her servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleuia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.” – Revelation 19:1-3.

Clearly these passages from Revelation 19 must be telling us that smoke will be literally coming off of the great whore for ever. The redeemed will be in heaven witnessing a smoking whore riding a beast, just sort of sizzling. This simply must be what these passages are teaching. In all reality, I hope that you might once again see the fallacy of taking symbolic texts far too literally. Going that route would require us to believe that there will be a literal dragon with wings that breathes fire trying to devour a pregnant woman standing on the moon with stars on her head [see Revelation 12]. Perhaps this is also something CNN will cover a story on as we get closer to the end of time.

To my knowledge, the book of Revelation uses this symbol twice. Once in the fourteenth chapter and again in the nineteenth. So we are then left with the question, “just where does this symbol come from and what does it mean?” In the book of Isaiah we find similar language used to describe the destruction of Idumea. Below are the passages which show us these facts.

“For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.” – Isaiah 34:5 [Context]

“For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned to pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.” – Isaiah 34:8-10

“But the cormorant and the bittern shall posses it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. And the thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be a habitation of dragons and a court for owls.” – Isaiah 34:11-13

In the tenth verse of Isaiah thirty-four, we find the words “the smoke thereof shall go up for ever”. The language here used is similar to that which is found in the nineteenth and fourteenth chapters of Revelation and is therefore the exact same symbol. The language which immediately follows is that of complete destruction. We find words used such as “from generation to generation it shall lie waste” immediately followed by descriptions of emptiness and fortresses becoming dwelling places for animals. Even though the smoke was said to “go up for ever” and flames were said not to be “quenched night nor day”, the flames therefore went out. We might therefore conclude that the rising of the smoke is completely symbolic in nature, and does not mean that the flames are perpetually active. In this case, it seems to be a symbol designating complete destruction.

This same symbol is clearly used in the fourteenth chapter of Revelation. We may therefore go so far as to state that these passages symbolize complete destruction and not eternal conscious torment as many claim. To further illustrate this fact, we need only ask the question “will the flames eventually go out?” In 2 Peter we find some passages that shed light on this subject.

“But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” – 2 Peter 3:7

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” – 2 Peter 3:10

“Seeing then that all these things shall be disolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and goodness. Looking for and hasting the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” – 2 Peter 3:11-13

The first passage uses phrases such as “kept in store” and “reserved” to reference the “heavens and the earth”, stating that they are “reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” The term “against” clearly connects the fate of the wicked with the destruction of the earth by fire. No one would deny the fact that the punishment of the wicked is here referenced in this passage from 2 Peter, as terms such as “day of judgment” and “perdition of ungodly men” are used. In view of this fact, it is logical to conclude that the punishment of the wicked will take place on the earth at the end of time.

In 2 Peter 3:10, we find an expansion of the information given in 2 Peter 3:7. The verse states, “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” Terms like “heat” and “burned up” display the obvious presence of fire in this passage, connecting the verse back to 2 Peter 3:7 which stated that the Earth was “reserved unto fire.” The phrase “burned up” implies that the earth will be completely consumed in the fire, and nothing will be left. It is also logical to conclude that everything on it will be destroyed with it, ungodly inhabitants who are being punished included. This is a fact which is confirmed by other passages of scripture [Malachi 4:1-3].

The language used just a few verses down in 2 Peter 3:11-13 not only expand on this, but hammer the last nail in the coffin of the “eternally burning hell.” Peter starts out by saying “Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved”, a statement which is a clear reference to his early language in 3:10 and 3:7. He then goes on to reference the earth melting with fervent heat. The thirteenth verse sticks out the most out of the three. It states, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” – 2 Peter 3:13.

Given the order in which Peter mentions events, starting first with the destruction of the earth by fire, and then moving into the creation of the new earth, it is logical to conclude that the flames will eventually go out. If the earth is to be burned up, and then eventually made new, how is it to continue burning with its ungodly inhabitants throughout all eternity? Such a thought does not make any sense given the facts. It would make even less sense to suggest that the wicked will be still burning somewhere on the new earth. It is therefore impossible for Revelation 14:9-11 to be suggesting that the lake of fire will burn for ever.

Revelation 14:9-11 and Revelation 20:10 do not prove the doctrine of eternal conscious torment any more than Matthew 5:30 proves Jesus to be commanding us to literally chop our hands off. Such would of course be a foolish thought in the extreme that any thinking Christian in the right mind would question and condemn as error. These verses prove nothing and have been perverted to support a false theory which has invaded the Christian Church thousands of years ago.