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The Myth of “Abraham’s Bosom”

I remember when I was young, I was taught that there was a place called “Abraham’s Bosom.” The way it was explained to me made perfect sense at the time. You go to heaven if you trust in Christ. You go to hell if you don’t. People go to heaven because Christ’s atonement on the cross paid for their sins. God cannot be in the presence of sin (Hab. 1:13). Therefore, those who are covered by Christ’s death can be in the presence of God. Those who are not, cannot. 

So far so good? But there is a problem: what about all God’s people who came before Christ’s death? What about Abraham, Moses, David, and Isaiah? According to the theory, they were not yet covered by Christ blood. Conclusion: they, before Christ’s death, were not in the presence of God. They were somewhere else waiting for their sins to be covered.

This “somewhere else” was known as “Abraham’s Bosom.” Think “Protestant Purgatory” or something like that. Abraham’s Bosom existed as a holding tank for God’s people until Christ’s death on the cross. Once the atonement was made, Abraham’s Bosom it was vacated as all its occupants were ushered into God’s presence in heaven.

The name “Abraham’s Bosom” came from the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16. “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried” (Luke 16:22). Notice, this parable was given before Christ’s atonement. Therefore, people have said that this must be the place, between heaven and hell, that pre-Cross saints went to.

Why there is no such thing as Abraham’s Bosom

As nice and tidy as that might sound theologically and biblically, it does not really work. There is no such place as Abraham’s Bosom.

First, the idea that God cannot be in the presence of sin is untenable.

The passage in Hab. 1:13 simply means that God is too pure to approve sin. It has nothing to do with sin or evil being in God’s presence. Here are some of the reasons:

  • After the fall, we find God walking in the Eden with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8).
  • Satan himself can be in God’s presence. In Job 1:6, we see Satan presenting himself before God (see also 1 Chron 18:18-21; Rev. 12:10).
  • Christians, who are still sinners (1 John 1:8), are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Obviously the Holy Spirit must be able to be in the presence of sin.
  • Christ, God incarnate, was in the presence of sin the whole time he walked the earth (John 1:14). He was even carried in the womb of a sinner!

Second, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus does not teach that “Abraham’s Bosom” is a separate heaven.

In the parable, Christ is confronting the religious leaders’ bad theology. They were lovers of money (Luke 16:14). They believed that being rich and healthy was a sign that God was on your side. If you were poor and sick then God was not with you. In the parable, the rich man, whom all the Pharisees thought was the best Jew with great rewards waiting for him in heaven, found himself in torment in Hell. The poor sick man, who was, in the mind of the Pharisees, a bad Jew, was ushered by the angels to Abraham’s “side” or “bosom.” The idea is not ontological (dealing with a physical place), but relational. To be at one’s side or bosom represented the closest place of fellowship one could have with another. The one who the Pharisees believed was not a good child of Abraham winds up at the closest place of fellowship that there is—Abraham’s bosom. Christ was being rhetorical. The rich man is unnamed and forgotten forever. Lazarus’ name means “God helps”. The rich man dies and is buried. The poor man dies and is carried by the angels. The rich man goes to hell, “far away” from Abraham (Luke 16:23). The poor man goes to Abraham’s side, in heaven.

Conclusion

Saints in the Old Testament did not need a special dispensation. God can be in the presence of sin. If he could not be in the presence of sin, we are in big trouble. Nevertheless, they were forgiven in anticipation of Christ’s atonement. When David, Abraham, Moses, and other Old Testament saints died, they immediately went into the presence of God on the bases of Christ’s shed blood, though yet future.

Romans 3:24-26
“Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

322 Responses to “The Myth of “Abraham’s Bosom””

  1. Can you address where, if not Abraham’s bosom, that Christ went and preached between the crucifiction and resurrection? If 1 Peter 3:18-19 is speaking of heaven, are we “imprisoned” there?

  2. Abraham’s Bosom is just the place where believers go before the resurrection in the millenial kingdom and then the New Heavens and New earth are brought down. It’s what most people mean when they say heaven. If Hades is a real place in the parable, Abraham’s bosom is. But it is not the same place as those you have mentioned above describe it.

    • Abraham’s bosom is almost like an allegory for the book of life but if read correctly it can be said a set apart place for faithful and righteous Jews in the grave who doesn’t die the average death of everyone else. Abraham’s bosom is like ther ark of the covenant in retrospect. It’s not purgatory. My New Testament reference are the saints who God tells to sleep a little longer; these people are the saints that are dead/sleep. The truth about the heaven and Hell is if when we die we go to one or the other Jesus didn’t have to come to die.

  3. Michael; great post. I have just blogged on these parables in Luke. http://craigbenno1.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/i-have-a-problem-with-the-some-of-the-headings-in-luke-16-17-in-the-2010-tniv/

    There I make the point that the reference Jesus is making about marriage and divorce isn’t a teaching about it; rather is slapping the religious leaders in the face and telling them that they have divorced God and married money.. and therefore have committed adultery against God.

  4. Nice. Taking parables literally never makes for good theology. I think you could go further though. This isn’t even a problem which needs solving unless you postulate an intermediate state, which Biblically I see very little reason to do.

  5. Perhaps, Michael, they went to Sheol? This makes sense of the OT passages.

  6. Just out of curiosity, where does Luke 16 say that this story is a parable? If it is just a parable, where is the typical explanation of the moral of that story?

  7. How God saves has not changed. The OT saints were justified by faith, just as we are. While their covenant with God was different than ours because we were born after Christ, they still believed God and that was credited to them as righteousness.

    How much more will they be rewarded in heaven for believing God by faith alone than we are nowadays who have been born into the generations after Christ? Perish the thought of them going to Sheol. If anything we are less deserving of God’s grace than they were, who could only trust and hope in the Savior to come.

  8. I’m gonna stick with the historical record on this one.

  9. Sheol wasn’t for the wicked, it was for the dead. Note Samuel.

    The pit was the place for the wicked.

  10. Can anyone answer the questions which follow these verses?

    “What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his SOUL from the power of Sheol?” (Ps. 89:48).

    “But God will redeem my SOUL from the power of Sheol; FOR HE WILL RECEIVE ME” (Ps. 49:15).

    (And David’s prophecy concerning Christ): “You will not abandon MY SOUL to Sheol” (Ps. 16:10). And then Peter preached, “he (David) looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither ABANDONED TO HADES, nor did His flesh suffer decay… but He received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:31-33)

    QUESTIONS:
    1. The last passages distinctly speaks of Christ’s SOUL, and His body, and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from His Father. If Sheol= heaven, and heaven was the common destination for OT believers, then why would someone say, “You won’t abandon My SOUL to heaven”? If Christ’s soul went directly to heaven when He died on the cross, then why did the Scripture say His SOUL WOULD NOT BE ABANDONED to Sheol/Hades, and what was the significance of Peter proclaiming “He was neither abandoned to Sheol”?

    2. In Ps. 49:15, if Sheol=heaven, then why would there be a declaration that God would redeem his SOUL from the power of heaven? If all dead OT believers were in heaven, then whose SOUL was going to be redeemed by God from the power of Sheol, and be received by God? When and how was His SOUL redeemed? (As Micheal recently wrote, “Even when they rebelled, God initiated a plan to give man redemption. He gave them children and began to work through the line of one of them so that HE COULD EVENTUALLY REDEEM man who did not deserve to be redeemed.”)

  11. I think that some concepts in the Bible are not given enough information from other passages to hammer them out completely. Abram’s Bosom is far from Eastern or Catholic concepts of purgatory. I do think you have clear evidence of a dual chamber concept from the Bible, but I don’t think everything in the afterlife can be made clear.
    I think it is wise to back off from some things and say, “not enough information to determine.”

  12. @Daniel.

    Most parables are not labeled in the original text as “parables” Most of the things that are labelled as parallels were added later as section headings. It’s clearly a parable because it fits the format of the parables Jesus told. It’s a fictional story that uses no names and is used to convey a point. The purpose of the parables is not to give base morals, although some do, but rather to provide an illustration of some aspect of our life in relationship with God. Many of Jesus’ parables were not explained in the text and are left to interpretation. Ones like the parable of the sower where jesus explained everything were not too common.

  13. Jim, I think that at least some of the time Sheol is just understood as death aka the grave…not necessarily a post-death destination, which the OT seems to largely (though not completely) ignore.

  14. @Tim: If parables don’t mention named people, wouldn’t the use of a real name, like Lazarous, and mention of a real person like Abraham indicate that this *was* a real event? Can you provide an example of any other parable where real historical people were mentioned? Even if it doesn’t start out by saying “And Jesus told a parable saying…”, it doesn’t follow the typical example like you see earlier in the chapter. Luke 16:1-9 being explained in 10-13 is obviously a parable with a meaning given to the analogy. Where do we see that in 19-31? Even when a parable isn’t specifically explained, it is often in the context of some question so there is context and not sandwichied between talk of divorce and temptation with no context given.

  15. In this case however, the Son of God who decended from heaven (John 3;13) is the One who is giving us the information. Jesus spoke often of heaven. I was looking to see how many times He referenced heaven apart from the phrase “kingdom of heaven”. There were so many that I just listed the times He made mention of the “Father who is in heaven” in just the book of Matt. alone: (Matt. 5:16, 45 48; 6:1, 9; 7:11, 21; 10:32, 33; 12:50). So if He had meant heaven, we know He was from heaven and He often spoke of heaven. But in this case He didn’t.

    But it’s where the story of Lazarus was told, and who the story was told to that is pretty amazing.

  16. “The poor man goes to Abraham’s side, in heaven.”

    Where does the parable mention anything about “heaven”?

  17. You’re right Daniel, it’s a true story and a not a parable. Because we all know that in real life, when people die, angels “carry” their immaterial souls to Hades where, although they are immaterial, seem to have bodies (bosoms, fingers, tongues, etc). We also know that the people in “heaven” will be able to communicate back and forth with those in Hades, and that the two are separated by a large chasm.

    All joking aside, this story is opened with precisely the same formula as the two that precede it:

    15:11 “There was a man who had two sons…”
    16:01 “There was a rich man who had a manager…”
    16:19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple…”

    Lazarus is named because his name means “God helps”, as CMP mentioned.

  18. The idea that the story must be true because it has a name makes no sense. Is there some rule that “Parables can not contain names?” Maybe someone can provide chapter and verse for that?

    Regarding the meaning, Jesus explains it: “they won’t believe even if someone rises from the dead,” which is a clear reference to the response of the Pharisees after Jesus’ own resurrection.

    As someone mentioned above, a forced attempt to call it a true story creates HUGE theological problems, not to mention missing the whole point of the story. (BTW, another problem is that the story, if true, seems to teach salvation by poverty)

    I think the desire for it to be true is based on the fact that except for this story, scripture contains virtually no description of the afterlife, other than the descriptions in Revelation. We desperately want to know what happens after death, so we’ll take what we can get, and if we have to insist this is a true story, so be it.

  19. @Dave: I don’t know if that was directed at me or not, but I am not claiming it has to be real because it uses name. I was challenging Tim’s statement in comment #12 where he said, “It’s a fictional story that uses no names”.

  20. No, not aimed at you Daniel. Not aimed at anyone in particular, but it is a common understanding. I know a guy who was taught in seminary that it’s a true story specifically because of the name. But to me, that just doesn’t make sense. That’s all I meant.

  21. The reason Lazarus is named is not due to the meaning of his name. Most Jewish names had such meanings. The reason he is named is because it is taken to be the back story and the reason why the jewish leadership was trying to kill him.

    Jhn 12:10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;

    Sheol in the OT designates generally the realm of the dead. It has according to the OT, two compartments, an uipper and a lower one. Deut 32:22 The lower one is usually designatged by Hades in the NT and the higher one as Paradise in the OT, NT and non-canonical literature.

    Gen 37:35 indicates that the just and wicked went to sheol and that in the OT period heaven was not accessible to them directly. Ps 73:23-25. Hebrews makes it clear that they had not obtained yet what was promised.

    As for the story teaching salvation by pverty if it were true, this is fallacious since even if it is a parable it would do so.

  22. More over, the parable teaching salvation by poverty wouldn’t be any more problematic than the Levitical laws teaching forgiveness by giving of money.

    John Edmond, just a friendly correction, the Orthodox do not have a doctrine of purgatory.

  23. Perry, there is no indication that the Lazarus of the Lukan parable is the same Lazarus mentioned in John’s gospel.

    And can you demonstrate that the OT teaches that Sheol has two “compartments”, and that the OT and NT designate one as Hades, and the other as “Paradise”? As it is, interpreting “the lowest parts” of the Deuteronomy passage as indicating a “compartment” is a bit of a stretch.

  24. Jesus shortly before he gave up the ghost on the cross said Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

    Then right before he died he said Luke 23:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

    His body was laid in a sepulcher (grave) Luke 23:55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulcher, and how his body was laid.

    Now, we know that Jesus being is trichotomous in nature (1 Thess 5:23- body, soul and spirit and that spirit and soul can be divided Heb 4:12 and that the body without the spirit is dead James 2:26)

    Jesus, when he died on the cross his body went to the grave, his spirit returned to God who gave it (Ecc 12:7) and his soul went to hell. Psalms 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Also see the fulfillment of this as clarified by Peter in Acts 2:27-31 and by Paul in Acts 13:35.

    How do we reconcile the fact that Christ’s soul is spoken of as being in hell and yet Christ said on the cross he would be in paradise?

    “HELL” is composed of two compartments. The burning and tormenting part and the part with Abraham and the angels and water and comfort.

    Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom….Luke 16:26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

    In the OT times, prior to the resurrection, everyone went to “HELL” . Which is why the JW’s want to go to the OT to prove their doctrine. But what they fail to explain is the “hell” (what they interpret as the “grave”) had two compartments with a great gulf fixed between.

    The thief on the cross who asked to be remembered was told he and Christ would be in paradise THAT day. And they were. Christ’s soul went to “HELL” but he was in the paradise portion of “HELL”. NOT the burning side. The only way you could claim that Christ was in the burning side of hell is to call the burning side “paradise”.

    NO ONE prior to the resurrection of Christ went to heaven upon death. Christ when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive (eph 4:8-10) and brought them and paradise up to the third heaven. 2 Corinthians 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 2 Corinthians 12:4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

    Ephesians 4:8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

    Christ had to be the firstborn from the dead and the first to be raised up to heaven. Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. Also 1 Cor 15:20-23

    No one went to heaven until Christ rose from the dead and ascended. The OT saints were in paradise waiting for the redemption to be completed.

    Romans 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

    Hebrews 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

    Jeff Ayers

  25. The Bible does not speak explicitly to the issue of “is Luke 16 and Abraham’s bosom a parable”
    the post from Ron mocking the literalist view is easily handled:

    He mocked as if it is absurd that angels would “carry their immaterial soul” to hades.
    First, the text says nothing of carrying immaterial souls. Rather it says “carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom”.

    Second, ye do err not knowing the scriptures and the frequent use of angels to perform similar tasks as what is described in Luke 16: Matthew 13:39 … the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.Matthew 13:49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, Matthew 24:31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.Rev 14:15-19

    Then Ron continued his rant about “immaterial” bodies having fingers and tongues in hell. But Christ made it clear that a person has a SOUL AND BODY in hell. (BTW on a similar but related topic Paul speaks of one having a “spiritual body” at the resurrection. )

    Lastly, Ron finishes out his trifecta mockery of literalism with (what he feels) is a death blow: “people in “heaven” will be able to communicate back and forth”. Abraham’s bosom is NOT heaven and the text does not say so. People speak back in forth from the dead (1 Sam 28:7-20) and from heaven Rev 6:9,10. Or maybe we should allegorize, spiritualize and consider parabolic the 3 times God spoke from heaven to earth Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

    Why is it so hard to believe what the text says and ONLY consider it parabolic if the text indicates or implies it to be so?

  26. I was thinking about this just yesterday after attending a good friends funeral at a Catholic Mass. I think the core issue isn’t if there is or isn’t a Purgatory, Shoel, or some other place or state prior to our presence with the Lord but rather, what brought us to the Lord. It is our Faith with is a gift from God our Father. It is by our Faith we are saved. The details of the many diverse opinions are not essential to our salvation. In the end, believers may all be present with the Lord and discover we all had ideas that were somewhat incorrect.

  27. Wow, sorry for being 2 years late. I came across this blog and have much to offer. I hope someone is still listening.
    In the original post CMP said that God CAN be in the presence of sin, he is of course correct (sort of) since God is omnipresent. Rev 14:10 tells us the wicked will be tormented in the presence of the Lamb. The point that Habakkuk is making and that traditional commentators point out is that God cannot be in FELLOWSHIP with sin. God cannot be in communion with sin. I believe that the author C Michael Patton is mistaken for thinking that OT saints immediately went to heaven. When Satan appears before God in Job 1, it is not in accord. It is as an accuser of God’s good friend Job. In Gen 3 when the Lord is calling for Adam and Eve, they hide. Fellowship has been broken.

    That broken fellowship would continue between God and humanity until the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because Jesus is the ONLY mediator between god and man (1Tim 2:5). For centuries God dwelt at an arm’s length from the very people that He greatly loved. Abraham and all of the patriarchs did not even know his personal name YHWH (Ex 6:3). Then from Moses onward God lived behind a curtain, His holiness was separate from Israel. The root meaning of the Hebrew word for holy is set apart or separate.

    Even though God loved the patriarchs and He fully forgave the OT saints of their sin, they were not yet redeemed. Having a promissory note for salvation (you will not leave my soul in sheol or the grave) is different than HAVING salvation. Today we posses spiritual Life as a current gift.

    I’m running out of allowable chacters so see next post for continuation…

  28. I’ve been challenged recently in my belief that a christians soul goes immediately to heaven to be with Jesus upon death.(I do not judge any brother who does. I have held that belief most of my christian life) I am now leaning towards our spirit going to heaven, our body to the grave and our soul to paradise/abrahams bosom(a very good place and not the mythical purgatory to purify souls of their sin by fire) to wait for the day when we recieve our ressurection bodies, just like Jesus did. What has caused this turn around for me. It seems from the writings of the early church that this was the teaching ie Justin Martyr, Ireneus against heresies. If you taught that you went straight to heaven upon death you were considered a heretic! How different today! Perhaps the biggest verse to get me to reexamine my position is John 14 where Jesus says I will go away and prepare a place for you…many mansions.. come again for you that you maybe where I am. He is talking about the resurrection 1 thess 4. Read and re read and you will see that they are, we are with him in heaven after the resurrection. No one comes to the Father except through me. This is literally true, He physically returns, the dead in Christ are raised and those who are alive and remain are changed in the twinkling of an eye and are caught up in the clouds and are taken to heaven by Him to the Father…..and so shall we be with the Lord for ever. As a Christian as with all Christians my biggest desire is to be with the Lord so I would prefer to believe that I go to be with Him immediately upon death. If the scriptures teach that we will not be with him in heaven until the resurrection ie John 14 1 Thess 4 then it is what I have to believe. I AM NOT ADVOCATING SOUL SLEEP. I believe we are fully conscious in abrahams bosom/paradise. Perhaps one of the biggest questions we must all ask is why do the early church writings teach this and I mean early 100 to 20ad. Any thoughts

  29. When the HS indwells a believer today it is because of the new birth. A new creation comes into existence(2Cor 5:17), a spiritual man has been born. This new being is of the spirit(John 3:6) and that born of God spiritually is entirely without sin(1John 5:18). This resurrected spiritual nature, which only possessed by a true believer, is the part of our composition that partakes of the divine nature(2Pet1:4), at least until the resurrection when our whole body will be perfected.

    During the OT this was a promise, but they did not receive the things promised(Heb 11:13). Today, after the resurrection of Jesus, we have received the spiritual half of the promise. The spiritual nature that died in the garden is reborn. We have the Name of god to call upon Him personally as Abba. The veil in the HOH has been torn down. We have fellowship with God. The promise is still not complete, someday God will resurrect our dead bodies from the dust. But for our discussion, the distinction between an OT saint and a NT saint is not their status as forgiven (David’s sin had been-past tense- removed as far as the east is from the west Ps 103:12), but our status as redeemed.

    Paul says in Col 1:21-22 that we have been reconciled by the body of Christ and thorough His death we are presented to God as holy and blameless. Wow, Praise God! There can be no doubt that believers in the NT age have communion, fellowship and presence with God.However, OT saints did not yet have the “body of His flesh.” They were still behind the veil and not yet in His presence.

    So, I agree with conclusion that there is no such thing as AB, I disagree with the idea that OT saints immediately ascended to heaven upon death. My point is that it is true that God cannot be in fellowship with sin, so unredeemed OT saints cannot be in His presence because they have no covering atonement yet.

  30. Bill, above post you make a synthesis of AB and Paradise. What is your grounds for that? Paradise is used 3x in NT.

    (2 Cor 12:2-4) Paul clearly went to the 3rd heaven and equates it with paradise. Paradise is heaven of God’s abode.

    (Rev 2:7) is metaphor. We are not saved by eating fruit from some magical tree. Jesus IS the tree of life (Rev 22:14), if we eat Him then we shall have life (John 6:53).

    (Luke 23:43) Ancient mss do not have punctuation marks. Where does the comma go? Jesus himself did not go to heaven the same day that he died (John 20:17).
    I propose in my book that comma should be after today: Verily I say unto you today, (this day that I die for humanity, this day that I look like a criminal, this day that blood drips from the brow of God’s son); You shall (eventually after redemption is complete) be with me in Paradise.
    See my website http://www.deadsoulsyndrome.com for more info.

  31. From Strong numbers and the fact that Jesus said to the thief tonight you will be with me in paradise. It is just the way I read and understand it and am quite at ease if people such as yourself disagree. There are bigger battles out than whether the word paradise spoken by Jesus is or is not a synonmyn for abrahams bosom.

    Regards
    Bill

    3857 παραδεισος paradeisos par-ad’-i-sos

    of Oriental origin cf פרדס, 06508; TDNT-5:765,777; {See TDNT 591} n m

    AV-paradise 3; 3

    1) among the Persians a grand enclosure or preserve, hunting ground, park, shady and well watered, in which wild animals, were kept for the hunt; it was enclosed by walls and furnished with towers for the hunters
    2) a garden, pleasure ground
    2a) grove, park

    3) the part of Hades which was thought by the later Jews to be the abode of the souls of pious until the resurrection: but some understand this to be a heavenly paradise
    4) the upper regions of the heavens. According to the early church Fathers, the paradise in which our first parents dwelt before the fall still exists, neither on the earth or in the heavens, but above and beyond the world
    5) heaven

  32. Abrahams bosom is mentioned the writings of Josephus Discourse to the Greeks concerning hades.

    “For there is one descent into this region, at whose gate we believe there stands an archangel with an host; which gate when those pass through that are conducted down by the angels appointed over souls, they do not go the same way; but the just are guided to the right hand, and are led with hymns, sung by the angels appointed over that place, unto a region of light, in which the just have dwelt from the beginning of the world; not constrained by necessity, but ever enjoying the prospect of the good things they see, and rejoice in the expectation of those new enjoyments which will be peculiar to every one of them, and esteeming those things beyond what we have here; with whom there is no place of toil, no burning heat, no piercing cold, nor are any briers there; but the countenance of the and of the just, which they see, always smiles them, while they wait for that rest and eternal new life in heaven, which is to succeed this region. This place we call The Bosom of Abraham.”

    Is this discourse of Josephus Holy Scripture? Obviously not. It does however give an insight into what the jews of his day believed. The jews of his day and Jesus’s day new that Abrahams bosom was and is the place where departed saints go to wait for the resurrection.

  33. ST. JUSTIN MARTYR
    DIALOGUE WITH TRYPHO
    CHAPTER V — THE SOUL IS NOT IN ITS OWN NATURE IMMORTAL

    “‘But I do not say, indeed, that all souls die; for that were truly a piece of good fortune to the evil. What then? The souls of the pious remain in a better place, while those of the unjust and wicked are in a worse, waiting for the time of judgment. Thus some which have appeared worthy of God never die; but others are punished so long as God wills them to exist and to be punished.’

    CHAPTER VI — THESE THINGS WERE UNKNOWN TO PLATO AND OTHER PHILOSOPHERS.

    “‘It makes no matter to me,’ said he, ‘whether Plato or Pythagoras, or, in short, any other man held such opinions. For the truth is so; and you would perceive it from this. The soul assuredly is or has life. If, then, it is life, it would cause something else, and not itself, to live, even as motion would move something else than itself. Now, that the soul lives, no one would deny. But if it lives, it lives not as being life, but as the partaker of life; but that which partakes of anything, is different from that of which it does partake. Now the soul partakes of life, since God wills it to live. Thus, then, it will not even partake [of life] when God does not will it to live. For to live is not its attribute, as it is God’s; but as a man does not live always, and the soul is not for ever conjoined with the body, since, whenever this harmony must be broken up, the soul leaves the body, and the man exists no longer; even so, whenever the soul must cease to exist, the spirit of life is removed from it, and there is no more soul, but it goes back to the place from whence it was taken.’

    The above quotes are from a christian who conversed with Justin before he became converted. Once again this is not scripture but it does give us an insight as to what the early church believed and it certainly was in step with what Jesus taught.

  34. The most important evidence that Abrahams Bosom in not a myth is not that the jews of His day believed of such a place and it was not that the early christians believed that christians go to this place but rather that the place was known of and confirmed as a real place by our Lord himself!

    Luke 22

    22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
    23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

  35. I think Bill is correct about some of the ante-nicene fathers. JustinM (150ad) definitely believed in post death consciousness for all people (1st Apology, ch18 and Horatory Address, ch35). However, he did not believe in ascension to heaven after death (Trypho,ch80). Although he never mentions Abraham’s Bosom by name, he appears to agree with your general idea of a holding tank for conscious souls before the resurrection.

    However, the early Christians were just guys with an opinion. Their opinion is no more binding then yours or mine. You can find early Christians with about any opinion for which you look.

    Your basic point I think it is true. A belief in consciousness immediately after death was a common and pervasive idea in antiquity. Although I would argue that it came from Platonism.

    The Pharisees themselves believed in an idea of AB, as you point out with Josephus, who was himself a Pharisee. This is important and why I think Jesus used the AB language. The images that Jesus used in this story, speaking to the Pharisees, were what the Pharisees themselves believed happened after death. He apparently used THEIR own story to pass along HIS own message. To tell them the message about money (see context of this conversation in Luke 16:14) , Jesus used one of the most effective methods—their own language. Christ used parabolically their very own beliefs about the afterlife to tell them that what matters is not riches but faith in God. He used their own framework, their own beliefs about afterlife, to add his own conclusion. He could have chosen another framework to say the same thing. But few will doubt that the most effective way to speak to somebody is using a language that is familiar to him. This is what Jesus did:he spoke to them using their picture of the afterlife as a framework, adding to it the message He wanted about wealth.

  36. Bottom line: I think that Luke 16:19-31 is a parable about money, it is not a real life description of the afterlife. If it were there exist several serious problems.

    1) This story was directed in conversation with the Pharisees. According to Mark 4:33, Jesus only spoke to the crowds in parable. He would then carefully explain everything to his disciples when they were alone in private. However, the only thing the Pharisees and general public received were these enigmatic parables. Why would Jesus be teaching the Pharisees doctrine about the afterlife? Did he give to them, not only the clearest, but the only passage of Scripture that details the concept of a two-compartmented hell between death and the resurrection? Is he unveiling to them this mysterious “truth,” which is never explained elsewhere to his disciples, and is even apparently contradicted by OT passages? Do you really think Jesus gave this revelation to the Pharisees, his archenemies? In Matt 7:6, Christ himself advises against such action. Again in Matt 13:11, Jesus is referring to the people and the Pharisees, to whom he has NOT revealed any secrets.

    2) Why is Abraham in charge of the Bosom? Abraham comforts the saved and negotiates and refutes the lost. Yet this is contradictory with 1Tim 2:5. Abraham is not commissioned to be God’s spokesman in the afterlife. Our comfort is with the Paraclete (John 14:16), not the human patriarch.

    There are other reasons, but these serve as the most compelling. This is detailed thoroughly in my book: Dead Soul Syndrome.

  37. I haven’t studied this in depth, but the picture I’ve formed in my mind over the years is as follows.

    Sheol (or Hades) is the place of the dead. It is (or was) divided into the two parts – the righteous dead and the unrighteous dead. When OT saints died, they went to the place of the righteous dead in Sheol, which is not a place of torment at all. When non-believers died, they went to the place of the unrighteous dead in Sheol, which was a place of torment.

    Thus Sheol is one place divided into two chambers – the unrighteous dead, a place of torment, and the righteous dead, a place of peace. Heaven and Hell did not exist yet. Heaven was not yet open until Christ died, at which time the righteous dead were taken from the place of the righteous dead in Sheol and transferred to Heaven. Hell does not yet exist, so the place of the unrighteous dead in Sheol is still full and it’s where current unbelievers go when they die. After the judgment they will be transferred to Hell.

  38. Austin: I used to think along your lines. I have had to change for some reasons, here are a couple. Jesus told the disciples that they would be with him when he comes to return to them John 14 1-3, Paul comforts the thessalonians about those who have died in Christ, not by saying they are now with him in heaven living in peace but by telling them that they will be raised from the dead first then those living will be translated…..and then we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thess 4. The real wake up call was that the early early early church 100 to 200 ad taught that believers do not go heaven upon death but to abrahams bosom to wait for the resurrection. Justin Matyr, Ireneaus against heresies. These letters are not holy scripture I know however they do seem in keeping with the above scripture I quoted.

  39. Austin, your idea of a 2 compartmented sheol is common. I will be short with only 1 question: which side do sheep attend? (Ps 49:14) KJV translated this as grave because they were in a quandary as to which side- the good side (Abraham’s bosom) or the bad side (hades)- that farmyard animals should go. Sorry if my tenor sounds sarcastic or rude, but by pointing out the ridiculous we can see the folly of a theory. Sheol does not mean a metaphysical place for the afterlife of the dead. It is a poetic word meaning the grave.

  40. Bill,

    So you’re saying you believe in Abraham’s Bosom or something akin to “soul sleep,” but don’t believe Heaven is currently open to believers? Heaven will only be opened at the Judgement? Is that what you’re saying?

  41. Jay,

    Certainly sheol means grave – and was used both poetically and literally to describe such. But it was used in a lot of ways in the OT, to describe the grave, to describe a place of punishment, to describe the general realm of the dead, symbolically or as a metaphor, and yes – also in descriptions of the righteous after death.

    In any case, the Bible says remarkably little about where the OT saints went when they died. I’m not dogmatic about it. It’s just the image that gradually and naturally formed in my mind as I read the Bible – all the different depictions consolidated into that picture.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s wrong and it’s so far down on the list of things to be concerned about that I’m just writing about it for my own fun and edification.

  42. Austin: No brother, I don’t believe in soul sleep. I believe exactly what Jesus says which is a soul is conscious and upon death either receives the temporal peace of abrahams bosom/paradise while waiting for the resurrection or the temporal punishment of hades awaiting judgement day to be raised and then cast into the lake of fire, both body and soul.

    Luke 16:22-26
    22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
    23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
    24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
    25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
    26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

    Jesus also makes it pretty clear that He has gone away to prepare a place for us and that some day he will return and come for us and then we will be with Him in heaven, not before.

    Joh 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

    Joh 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

    Jesus’s prayer to the Father is that those whom the Father has given Him, be with Him in Heaven. John 14:3 and 1 Thess 4:16-18 tell us when that is and it is not at death but after the resurrection.

  43. Austin, I’m glad to hear that you remain open minded and receptive to the Biblical voice. Although I am not aware of any verse that describes Sheol as a place of punishment as you say. What passage are you referring to, please assist?
    Sheol is used 65 times in Hebrew and is translated somewhat randomly based on the biases of the translator. They did not want to send Jacob to hell, so Gen 37:35 reads grave in KJV. But in Ps 9:17 the same KJV translators were all too eager to send the wicked to hell. Point being the translators were biased when they first read the text. That feeling, I believe has filtered down through the generations to me and you. I believe it is best to be consistent, read Sheol the same way throughout. Allow our minds to be momentarily cleared of all preconceptions. Remove all indoctrinated thoughts, and let the Bible speak for itself. When studying several passages about Sheol, we must compare them to each other and nothing else. Sheol is not described as a place of consciousness, whether torment or bliss. Rather it is a place of silence (Ps 31:17), darkness (Job 17:13), and no return (Job 7:9). It is a place of no memory (Ps 6:5), no work and no thoughts(Ecc 9:10). The Hebrew prophets understood the dead in Sheol to be weak and powerless, without thought or memory, without work or action. The citizens of Sheol sleep in unconsciousness. Consider these verses: Psalm 146:4 ; Ecc 9:5-6 ; Job 7:9 ; Job 7:21.
    This appears to exclude any possibility of Sheol being a place of consciousness. It is the grave. Not literally a rock hewn tomb or hole in the ground, for Jonah 2:2 went there when he died in the fish. it is poetically gravedom. The good, the bad and ugly have a common fate in death. My point is that either Sheol means the abode of departed dead spirits in the afterlife, or it means the grave. Picking its meaning on a verse-by-verse basis to accommodate one’s doctrine is not the proper approach.

    • Old Testament personal eschatology is very undeveloped. I would be very careful of mining systematic theology from the emotional expressions full of musing from thoughts steaming from this deficient eschatology. Soul sleep does not seem to be taught in the OT, but maybe assumed. But I could give you a lot of examples of things that are assumed in the OT that are not true. The Bible is still true But underdeveloped eschatology is not. It’s best to Find such things in the New Testament. This is why it’s so important to have an interpretive paradigm that takes into account the differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament in the progress of Revelation.

      In other words soul sleep is not a very good theology and finds little support in the Bible. However I do not believe that it is heretical

  44. Bill,
    at the resurrection, we don’t go to heaven. We will have bodies and remain on earth. Having a physical body in a non-physical place is oxymoron and rather self-contradictory. If anyone goes to heaven, then that indicates an intermediate state. The verse you quoted John 14:3 does not have us going to heaven when Jesus returns. Notice it says Jesus will COME AGAIN. Another words Jesus comes here to earth to be with us.

  45. I partly believe in soul sleep. Before the Resur of Jesus (entire OT) everybody endured soul sleep. Righteous saint and wicked alike, see my post above about Sheol. Theologically the reason that this must happen is that Jesus Christ is the Firstborn from the dead. Nobody beats him to heaven, nobody has life without Him. Jesus paved the road to heaven. He is the pioneer of the afterlife. Click here for a deeper study: http://www.deadsoulsyndrome.com/enoch_and_elijah.htm All people simply died. They rested in the grave and waited for the calling of God. That call came when Jesus rose. Immortality for the OT believers must follow AFTER the resurrection of Jesus.
    With the Resur, everything changed. Now the HS has reborn our spirit and we are alive in Christ. I do not accept soul sleep for NT believers (thats us). If we belong to Christ, then when our body dies, we are spiritually in heaven with Jesus during the intermediate period awaiting the resurrection.
    Unfortunately, the Res of Jesus does nothing to change the state of unbelievers. I do believe in soul sleep for the unsaved. They remain unconscious in the grave, without thoughts, actions, emotions, or ability. At the Gt Whitethrone the grave and sea will give up the dead for the Last Judgment. They will have a fair hearing, not a kangaroo court. It will be face to face-not in absentia (Deut 7:10, Ps50:21), with opportunity to rebut Father’s charge (Micah 6:1-3, Isa 43:26), and then upon the witness of 2-3 (Deut 19:15) (Son and Spirit, and perhaps Church) they will be condemned to Hell.
    It is against the Law to condemn and execute a criminal before he has stood before the judges. (Numbers 35:12 ff +Deut 19:17-19)
    Judgment is reserved till the 2nd resurrection of the lost. For this reason, a contemporary hell where sinners are punished before their judgment is unconstitutional. I just gave you the 5min synopsis of my whole book. If you want more click my name above and check me out.

  46. Hi Jay, we will have to agree to disagree.

    In response to your first point.

    Having a physical body in a non physical place is not an oxymoron and is not contradictory. We have a great example of our Lord Jesus sitting at the right hand of God in a resurrected body.

    Lu 24:39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

    This resurrected Jesus who hath flesh and bones ascended into heaven in front of his disciples.

    Ac 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

    Ac 1:22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

    Stephen saw not the spirit of Christ standing on the right hand of God but a risen, resurrected glorified Christ.

    Ac 7:56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

    Eph 1:20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

    May I say again that this resurrected Jesus said ‘ handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”

    We now move to other examples of “flesh and bone” that have been taken to heaven that did not see death.

    Ge 5:24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

    2Ki 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

    and in the future we have the two witnesses tha

    A Christians citizenship is in heaven not earth.

    Php 3:20 For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

    Eph 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together…

  47. in heavenly places

    In the future we have yet an other example of flesh and bone ascending into heaven.

    Rev 11:11-12 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

    In response to your second point.

    ” Notice it says Jesus will COME AGAIN. Another words Jesus comes here to earth to be with us.”

    You completely neglect the words prior to it and to do so is to take it out of context to make it fit your view. The scripture clearly says

    John 14:In my Father’s house (ie heaven) are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go(our resurrected Lord went to heaven) to prepare a place for you.
    3 And if I go and prepare a place for you,(Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven) I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am(in heaven), there ye may be also.

    Jay I believe your confusion is that you do not distinguish between the event of Jesus coming for His bride and the other event when He returns as Warrior Messiah(2 Thess 1:7-8 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:)
    to establish His millenial kingdom. If you do not distinguish between these two separate events then you will not be able to reconcile the scriptures that I have quoted as they will be contrary to what you believe. You will either have to neglect them completely, twist or take them out of context (which you have already done with John 14) in order to fit with your view.

    Pr 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding

  48. Ok Bill, you are right, at least on the first half of your first point. I fully agree with you that Jesus physically and bodily rose from the grave. I fully agree with you that Jesus in body ascended to heaven and is still there at the right hand of the Father. So I stand corrected and should reword my original sentence from post #46: “Having a physical body of a non-divine being, in a non-physical place is oxymoron and rather self-contradictory.”
    I disagree about your observation of Enoch and Elijah, click the link in my post#47. I believe in the absolute priority of Jesus Christ. Nobody comes before him. Church tradition is wrong about their fate and does not understand the Semetic context of the word shamayim (Heb for heavens).
    As to the 2 Witnesses, and timing of the rapture, that opens a whooole nother can of worms. You have correctly inferred that I am not of a pre-tribulational rapture persuasion. I’m historic premil. I see the our resurrection occurring at the Parousia. The Witnesses go up when everybody goes up. But it is only a welcoming committee. Nobody goes to heaven. We meet and greet the returning Lord. If you are willing to listen to an opinion variant from your own, I’ve done a lot of study on this and am open to critique: http://www.deadsoulsyndrome.com/rapture_intro.htm
    My comment about no bodies in heaven is from a post-trib platform. You are working from a pre-trib platform, so that you envision the resurrected church cloistered in heaven for about 7 yrs. Correct?
    Remember the original context of my post 46 was that if conscious personalities are seen in heaven, then that validates an intermediate state. I do believe in an intermediate state in heaven for believers only. What we are discussing now is whether physical bodies of people exist in the spirit world, celestial, non-temporal, intermediate heaven. I’m calling pre-trib oxymoronic. Only spirits of the saved post Pentecost make that journey to be WITH Jesus when He returns (1Thes…

  49. Michael I have a good word and a bad word for you. Upbeat first, you said: “This is why it’s so important to have an interpretive paradigm that takes into account the differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament in the progress of Revelation.”
    My point exactly. I could not have said it better, you have echoed my whole thesis. I believe in soul sleep for the OT believer before the resurrection of Jesus, but sentient existence in heaven after death for NT believer. As you said: there is a difference between the OT and the NT. Amen. The apex of cosmic history is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a turning point, a pivot point, a watershed. The resurrection changes everything.
    Now the bad word, I’ll be gentle: you said “soul sleep…finds little support in the Bible.” And that the OT contains “deficient eschatology.” Did you hover over those sheol verses from my previous post and read them? How can you read Ecc 9:10 and conclude that soul sleep is not taught explicitly in the Hebrew Scripture? To have no thought means no brain activity, even dreaming is thought. No brain activity whatsoever is flatline EEG, perhaps soul sleep is a misnomer. We should call it soul dead. Isa 26:14 no memory means you wouldn’t even know who you are-total amnesia and nobody would know you. How could Dives (Latin for Richman) ask for a favor to his brothers if he had truly been in sheol? He wouldn’t even know that he had brothers. Unless as you propose the OT has deficient eschatology. Did the HS make a goof when he was inspiring David to write Psalms and Qoholeth to scribe his wisdom of vanities?
    I agree with progressive revelation. I hope that is what you were trying to say. God reveals tidbits at a time. Like the tip of an iceberg. When you get to the end of it, the big picture is totally different than what you had imagined in the beginning. But that original tip is still there and still relevant and still true…

  50. … (continued from above) Muslims and Mormons believe in supercessionary revelation. As God continues to reveal Himself the most recent revelation is dominant and all other past revelations become void if and when conflict exists. This is a clean incontrovertible excuse to explain discrepancies between Bible and Quran. Quran trumps the Bible. Unfortunately, there do exist some Christians that use this hermeneutic between OT and NT. Most believers reject it based on Heb 13:8.
    Whatever is said in Ecc 9:10 is absolutely true at that point in time (perhaps not literally-we must allow for hyperbole and figure of speech). ‘At that point in time’ is an important qualifier. For instance Gen 2:15 obviously that situation did not last real long. There was a point in time when Adam was supposed to keep a garden. Stuff changes. However there is not any newer more important revelation that retroactively unsays what at an earlier time had been true. Ecc 9:10 is not deficient eschatology. It displays that before the resurrection of Jesus death and non existence was the fate of mankind.

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