Some Questions

 

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Question 1

• Did Paul expect to go to heaven immediately he died? He expressed a desire to depart this life and be with Christ.

The setting in which Paul shared this feeling is as follows.

Paul was imprisoned. (Philippians 1:13, 14)

Paul expressed a desire that Christ be magnified in his body, whether by his life, or by his death. He recommitted himself to continue his work with boldness. He would witness whether this witness should be by his life, or by his death. (Philippians 1:20)

Obviously his life was in the hands of others. If the authorities chose to execute him, he could do little to resist. He knew justice could be fickle. He well knew the circumstances of his Lord’s crucifixion; it indeed was the focal point of his preaching. He knew how on a whim John the Baptist was put to death. He fully knew that others had control over his life.

Philippians 1:13, 14, 20-24
13 My bonds in Christ are manifest in the entire palace, as well as all other places;
14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, now speak the word more boldly and without fear.
20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, I wish also that Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22 If I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I myself would choose I don’t know.
23 For my mind is focused in two directions, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

In Philippians 1:21-24, Paul presents the pros and cons if he should live or die.

To LiveTo Die
21to live is Christto die is gain
22to live allows Paul to continue his labour
23to die and be with Christ is far better
24to live can provide a greater blessing to those around him

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Did Paul expect to go to heaven immediately he died?

Let’s consider the individual’s experience.

While ever we have the least degree of consciousness, we have knowledge and we have experience. We can experience life, we can experience dying, we can experience resurrection.

But to experience death is not possible. Dying we can experience; death we can’t.

In dying a person loses consciousness. In death a person is non-conscious. The bereaved have no concept of time, and no concept of anything. Their last thoughts and feelings in this life are followed immediately by becoming aware of the experience of their resurrection. Whether their time in the grave is one day or 1,000 years, the intermediate experience is the same. More precisely, there is no intermediate death experience.

Paul comforted the Thessalonians with the knowledge that their bereaved are ‘asleep in Jesus’ and God would awaken them in the resurrection. This was also Paul’s personal hope. He knew ‘his very next experience’ once departing this life would be his resurrection. ‘He would be with Christ.’ (Philippians 1:23; Thessalonians 4:14, 16)

 

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Question 2

• Did the thief, who was crucified with Jesus, go immediately to heaven that same day? Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The setting is as follows.

Jesus is nailed to the cross. Alongside Him two criminals have also been crucified. The surrounding crowd are calling out abuses to Him. One criminal joined in the accusations. “If you be the Christ…,” he called. (Luke 23:39)

The second rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? We indeed are punished justly, for we are receiving what we deserve; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And to Jesus, he said, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:40-42)

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Consider Two Views

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

There is an apparent emphasis on today. This word is obviously important and prominent in the passage.

The original Greek text has no punctuation. There are no equivalents to commas and full stops; therefore punctuation needs to be supplied during translation. The context surrounding what is stated is important to the translators to determine an accurate reading.

Today is emphasised and important in Jesus’ statement. Leave it out, and the verse will read. “Truly I tell you, you will be with me in paradise.”

Did the thief go immediately to heaven that same day? Let us test this by looking closely at ‘what Jesus promised,’ then at the ‘outcome of His promise.’

First View

What Jesus promised

An appropriate translation is this. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

If this is correct, the thief would be in paradise that very selfsame day. Jesus would be there with him.

The outcome of His promise

“Today you will be ‘with me’ in paradise.”

Where was Jesus on this day?

The Nicene Creed presents an accurate order of the events of the crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.

The Nicene Creed states —
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven.

We notice that ‘on the third day Jesus rose again’ (in accordance with the Scriptures). This would make Him two days late in keeping the promised appointment. To further confirm this course of events, we note Jesus’ words to Mary on the morning of His resurrection. Jesus said, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” (John 20:17)

Jesus and the thief ‘were not together in the kingdom’ on the day of crucifixion.

Second View

An alternative translation is this. “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise.”

(Notice that the comma has been repositioned.)

What Jesus promised

If this rendering is correct, the importance Jesus placed on ‘today,’ is that ‘He made the statement on this very day.’ “Truly I say unto you today,…”

The outcome of His promise

Jesus is hanging on the cross. He has been condemned by humankind. The religious leaders have been foremost in accusing Him. The civil leaders provide the legal process and the means of execution. The rabble in society have joined their leaders in mocking Him. From the highest to the lowest He has been rejected by all. Jesus’ own few followers forsook Him and fled. The only voices one can distinguish are raised in mockery.

Amongst all the babble there is one voice that calls upon Him as Lord; and asks to be remembered in His kingdom. It is a criminal also crucified on a cross who calls to Jesus; a criminal justly condemned for his sins. Why should he in the midst of this turmoil and rejection recognise the Son of God? To every other eye this Jesus is now a lost cause. When all around everything looked so lost, it was here that Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you today, you shall be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:39-43
39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Don’t you fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
42 And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
43 And Jesus said to him, Truly I tell you, today you shall be with me in paradise.

This view can be substantiated. Jesus and the criminal ‘will be together in paradise’ exactly as Jesus promised.

And the all-embracing wonderful news is that since a criminal under those circumstances will be there, so can you and I. In fact our admission to paradise will be on the self-same basis (Luke 23:40-42).

 

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Question 3

• In the parable recorded in Luke 16:19-31, Jesus gives details of a conversation between Abraham in heaven and a rich man in hell. Does this parable present an accurate picture of heaven and hell?

A summary of the parable is this.

There is a beggar named Lazarus who had so little. He died and went to heaven. There is also a rich man who had so much. He also died but went to hell. Now the tables are turned. The rich man is tormented in hell while the poor man is comforted in Abraham’s bosom. The rich man in misery looks over and sees Lazarus with Abraham. The rich man and Abraham converse.

For the purpose of this study, we will analyse the passage in two ways.

A — Is it a parable?

B — Within the story of the parable, did Jesus give a further message wherein He presents an accurate picture of heaven and hell?

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A — Is it a parable?

The setting — the Pharisees focus on worldly wealth

This is a parable.

A parable is a teaching method wherein a simple story is used to make a powerful point. Every parable has a purpose. Looking at the setting in which Jesus presented it; we note His purpose in verse 14. He was addressing the Pharisees who were covetous.

Luke 16:14
And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.

Continuing in verse 15, He says, “You justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. That which you highly esteem is an abomination in God’s sight.”

In verse 16 Jesus gives the foundation by which the Pharisees could know right and wrong. Prior to the teaching of John the Baptist they had the guidance of the law and the prophets. Now the kingdom of God was boldly preached by John the Baptist and Jesus. Every man was keen to enter.

In verse 17 Jesus emphasises the absolutely solid foundation of the Scriptures. The Scriptures won’t fail. It would be easier for heaven and earth to pass, than it is for the least part of the Word of God to fail.

Based on the solid foundation of the Scriptures, and the preaching of both John and Jesus, the Jewish leaders had clear guidance in knowing the will of God.

But the Pharisees who were covetous derided Jesus (verse 14). They mocked His teaching. They were not living by the teachings they professed to uphold, and Jesus condemned them. The passage cites two of the commandments; do not covet (v 14), and do not commit adultery (v 18). The Pharisees had steadfastly determined their direction in life; and to continue in this direction would keep them out of the kingdom.

In verse 18 Jesus said, “Whoever puts away his wife and marries another; commits adultery; and whoever marries her commits adultery.”

Covetousness and adultery are closely related.

10th Commandment — … do not covet your neighbour’s wife

7th Commandment — do not commit adultery.

10th Commandment
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house, you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, neither his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his ass, neither anything else that is your neighbour’s. (Exodus 20: 17)

7th Commandment
You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20: 14)

Covetousness is a step towards adultery. Jesus stated elsewhere. “Whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)

While adultery is cited in verse 18, we need to note that coveting (v 14) is much more wide-ranging. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house, your neighbour’s wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, ass, or anything else that is your neighbour’s. Covetousness may lead to numerous other sins such as fraud, theft and murder to name but a few.

But we need to remember that covetousness on its own is a sin. Covetousness causes a person to focus on things of a lesser nature in God’s hierarchy of values. The God ordained values such as love, mercy, and justice cannot receive proper exercise in the life if the heart is focused elsewhere. In the parable the rich man was so focused on his own luxurious lifestyle that he barely noticed the plight of the pitiful beggar at his gate. (v 20, 21)

The covetous Pharisees were so focused on worldly treasure; they could not appreciate the true value of the things of God.

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At a later date

Jesus spoke in parables. Later in His ministry, he would speak more plainly, and he would more directly chastise the spiritual leaders of Israel as is recorded in Matthew 23:13-15.

Matthew 23:13-15
13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces; you yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
14 … for a pretence you make long prayers; consequently you will receive greater condemnation.
15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel across land and sea to make one convert; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

Whether it was by way of parable or by direct teaching, Jesus roundly condemned their falsehood and hypocrisy.

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The setting for the parable

Luke 16:14-18
14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
15 And Jesus said unto them, You justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
16 The law and the prophets bore witness long before the arrival of John the Baptist: and since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it.
17 It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
18 Whosoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whosoever marries her that is put away from her husband also commits adultery.

The parable — Jesus’ message to the Pharisees

Luke 16:19-21
19 There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and lived sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 His desire was to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

The rich man was so focused on his own luxurious lifestyle that he barely noticed the plight of the pitiful beggar at his gate. In fact there is no record that he responded to Lazarus’ need in even the slightest way. Lazarus desired such a small favour — nothing more than mere crumbs which fell from the rich man’s luxurious table. These he did not get. The rich man did nothing. Rather it was the dogs that ministered to Lazarus — for they licked his sores. From dogs he received comfort.

Note the contrast. The rich man considered himself so exalted; he no doubt felt that God’s favour rested upon him, and that God had placed him in his blessed position. But in the story he is upstaged by mere dogs.

Lazarus desired nothing more than crumbs. In keeping with the telling of the story, the rich man when tormented could only ask for a drop of water. Clearly his need was greater. Just as Lazarus did not receive the desired crumb, neither did the rich man receive a single drop. (v 21, 24-26)

Luke 16:22-31
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 lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and he sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 The rich man cried out, “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, 26 But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received the good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from here to you cannot; neither can you come to us from there.”
27, 28 Then he said, “I pray thee therefore, father, that you would send Lazarus to my father’s house: For I have five brothers; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come to this place of torment.”
29 Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”
30 And he said, “Not so, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent.”
31 Abraham replied, “If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

The rich man in the parable represents the Pharisees. In the things of this world they were rich, but they were sadly impoverished in the things of God. The fact that the Pharisees were the spiritual leaders of God’s people made this state of affairs all the more heartbreaking. On one occasion Jesus said, “Do everything they tell you; but do not follow their example for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matthew 23:3)

The Pharisees had their agenda, and this agenda was leading them ever onwards towards worldly greatness.
Jesus had said elsewhere, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)

Jesus makes two points

In the parable, Jesus instructs the Pharisees how they may achieve spiritual riches — how they may become rich before God. He presents to the Pharisees two major points. These are revealed in the conversation between the rich man and Abraham.

It is Abraham who speaks both knockout lines. These are the words that Jesus wants the Pharisees to act upon. It is very fitting that Abraham is the spokesman; for the Pharisees greatly honoured and respected Abraham.

POINT 1 — Abraham said, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” (29)
POINT 2 — Abraham replied, “If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (31)

Jesus’ two points are these.

POINT 1 — Believe the Scriptures
You have access to Moses and the prophets, listen to them. (Luke 16:29)

Moses refers to the five books written by Moses, being Genesis to Deuteronomy. These five books were also called the law. The prophets refer to the books of the Old Testament prophets. Therefore the law and the prophets (v 16), and Moses and the prophets (v 29) refer to the same books of Scripture. Jesus in another place refers to the Old Testament Scriptures as the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms.

Luke 24:44, 45
44 … Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

POINT 2 — Accept the resurrection
The rich man in torment realises that his fate is irrevocably sealed. For him there is no turning back. He turns his attention to his brothers. Speaking on behalf of his brothers, he said that for them having Moses and the prophets simply wasn’t enough. But if one were to rise from the dead, then they would repent. (Luke 16:30)

In verse 31 Jesus says that those who won’t listen to Scripture —will not be persuaded though one rose from the dead.

Luke 16:31
“If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

Jesus made the point that if the Pharisees for whatever reason, rejected the teaching of Scripture, they would also reject the resurrection. (Luke 16:31) So it is with us, if we too reject the teaching of Scripture, we will also reject the resurrection.

In the parable Jesus was laying before the Pharisees a foundation whereby they might accept His resurrection.

The Pharisees would have opportunity to accept Jesus following His raising of Lazarus at the village of Bethany, which was not far from Jerusalem? Indeed, they would have double opportunity to accept Jesus as the Messiah — firstly, following the resurrection of Lazarus, and again following Jesus’ own resurrection at Jerusalem.

What would be the Pharisees’ response following the resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus? It would be according to the decision made by each individual. Acts 6:7 records that as the word of God increased… a large number of the priests became obedient to the faith.

The purpose and meaning of the parable is this. The Pharisees were blinded by their covetousness. Because of their sinful, selfish ways the Pharisees had rejected the true teachings of Scripture; they derided and ridiculed Jesus; and neither were they in a position to accept Him as the promised Messiah, nor acknowledge His resurrection. Jesus pointed them back to the Scriptures; and forward to His resurrection.

Luke 16:29, 31
29 … “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”
31 … “If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

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B — Within the story of the parable, did Jesus give a further message wherein He presents an accurate picture of heaven and hell?

Did Jesus intend to accurately describe heaven and hell in the story?

Most Christians would be horrified to be taught that heaven and hell are like this.

Luke 16:23-26
23 And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and he sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 The rich man cried out, “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, 26 But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received the good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from here to you cannot; neither can you come to us from there.”

If taken literally as a description of life in heaven and hell, here are several of the key features.

• There is a great gulf fixed between heaven and hell. The gulf is wide enough so that those in heaven cannot cross into hell; and those in hell cannot cross into heaven. (v 26)
• The separation is narrow enough to allow the inhabitants to see from one side to the other. (v 23)
• Likewise, it is narrow enough to permit extended conversations between the inhabitants of heaven and the inhabitants of hell. (v 24-31)

The visual detail which the rich man could discern gives an indication of the distance across the gulf. He was able to clearly see, as well as recognize, Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom. When we also note the ease of conversation from one side to the other, I would estimate the width of the gulf separating heaven and hell to be no more than 200 metres.

With an ill wind one could visualise the heat and smoke from hell wafting directly into heaven. One could imagine that at times the cries of torment coming from the other place would be more than the inhabitants of heaven would be willing to bear.

In this story did Jesus intend to accurately describe life in the hereafter?

I think not. This parable is not Jesus’ description of how beautiful heaven is.

Rather the parable conveys Jesus’ teaching to the Pharisees. The parable faithfully and accurately presents its message when understood within the context of Luke chapter 16.

 

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Question 4

• Can mediums and spiritualists summon and raise the dead? 1 Samuel 28:13 reads, ‘And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.’

King Saul’s life was at a negative and a crucial time. First Samuel chapter 28 (1 Samuel 28) records the events. So much was going wrong in Saul’s life at that point. Saul had departed from following the Lord. The prophet Samuel was dead. The Philistines armies gathered to fight Israel. When Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid. In his fear, he sought the Lord, and the Lord did not answer. With nowhere else to turn Saul sought direction from a woman who was a medium.

1 Samuel 28:7
Saul said to his servants, “Seek a woman that has a familiar spirit; that I may go and enquire of her.” And his servants replied, “Behold, at Endor there is a woman that has a familiar spirit.”

Background

Let us pursue some background information. How did God view those who sought counsel from sources other than Himself?

The people of the surrounding nations did not serve the Lord. They sought counsel in various ways. For instance, the people of Egypt sought guidance in the following as recorded in Isaiah 19:3.

They sought counsel from

  • idols
  • the charmers
  • those that have familiar spirits
  • the wizards

Isaiah 19:3
And the spirit of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and they shall seek unto idols, and to the charmers, and to them that have familiar spirits, and to the wizards.

In 2 Chronicles 33:6, the Lord declared that Manasseh committed much evil. He followed practises which provoked the Lord to anger.

These evils Manasseh did

  • he observed times
  • he used enchantments
  • he used witchcraft
  • he dealt with familiar spirits
  • he dealt with wizards

The following table shows these evils as rendered in the KJV and NIV.

The evils of Manasseh are recorded as follows — 2 Chronicles 33:6

KJVNIV
observed timespractised sorcery
used enchantmentspractised divination
used witchcraftpractised witchcraft
dealt with familiar spiritsconsulted mediums
dealt with wizardsconsulted spiritists

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2 Chronicles 33:6
… Manasseh observed times, he used enchantments, and witchcraft, and dealt with familiar spirits, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger.

Under the law of Moses severe penalties were metered out to those who were mediums or spiritists. They were condemned to death (Leviticus 20:26-27). God had set his people apart from other nations. They were to be holy. They were to serve him only.

Leviticus 20:26-27
26 And you shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord your God am holy. I have set you apart from other people, that you should be mine.
27 A man or woman that has a familiar spirit, or is a wizard, shall surely be put to death…

With this background, let’s return to the narrative of 1 Samuel 28.

First Samuel 28

In 1 Samuel 28:3, we find that Saul had earlier banished those that had familiar spirits, and wizards, out of the land. But now Saul was desperate for counsel.

He considered his options — his possible sources for guidance were Samuel, God, mediums, and spiritists.

  • Samuel was dead (v3)
  • God did not answer (v6)
  • Saul himself had banished mediums and spiritists (v3)

In desperation he does manage to seek out a woman who had a familiar spirit. Saul’s relationship with the Lord had been declining for ages. So it was that Saul could simultaneously seek counsel both from the Lord and elsewhere. Without a true relationship with God, Saul was comfortable to enquire of the Lord and also enquire of a medium. It is no wonder that the Lord did not hear him. If we in any age think it a trifle to consult mediums and the like and still maintain a relationship with our God, we need to think again. Our relationship is with God; there can be no other.

Contacting the Dead

Can mediums and spiritists call for and raise the dead? Let’s look at key points in the narrative of 1 Samuel 28:11-19.

Saul asked the woman, “Bring up Samuel.” (v11)

The woman saw Samuel… (v12)

Saul asked, “What do you see?” (v13)

The woman said, “I see a spirit coming up out of the ground.” (v13)

Saul asked, “What does he look like?” (v14)

She replied, “An old man wearing a robe is coming up.” (v14)

Then Saul knew it was Samuel. (v14)

Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” (v15)

Saul replied, “I am in great distress, the Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.” (v15)

Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has turned away from you and become your enemy?” (v16)

Samuel continued, “The Lord will hand over both you and Israel to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.” (v19)

A Few Questions

One by one we will answer a few questions. What did the woman see? What did Saul see? Where did Samuel come from? Where did Samuel go? Where did Saul and his sons go when they went to be with Samuel?

What did the woman see?

She saw a spirit coming up out of the ground, which she described as an old man wearing a robe. (v13, 14)

What did Saul see?

Saul saw nothing. Saul acknowledged that it was Samuel based on the woman’s description. There is a conversation recorded; but Saul did not actually see Samuel. (v14)

Where did Samuel come from?

He came up out of the ground. (v13)

Where did Samuel go?

We would assume the woman returned him to the place from whence she had summoned him.

Where did Saul and his sons go?

Where did Saul and his sons go when they went to be with Samuel? (Samuel said, “… tomorrow you and your sons will be with me…” Verse 19) Samuel was dead, and the next day Saul and his sons would also be dead.

Where did Saul and his sons go? Let’s consider some possibilities.

1. To the grave?

Did Saul and his sons go to be with Samuel in the grave? Being buried does seem a possibility because the woman summoned Samuel up out of the ground — possibly from the grave. In 1 Samuel 31:8-13 it is recorded how the Philistines mutilated the bodies of Saul and his sons; how valiant men took the bodies and burned them; and how they buried the bones under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh. So it was that Saul and his sons were buried. They were placed in the grave.

OR

2. To heaven?

Alternatively, did Saul and his sons go to be with Samuel in heaven? Seeing as God had rejected Saul, it appears very unlikely that Saul was going to heaven.

OR

3. To hell?

Alternatively, did Saul and his sons go to be with Samuel in hell? I can’t imagine Samuel who was a man of God being in hell for the sake of keeping Saul company.

The most obvious conclusion is — Samuel was dead, so the next day Saul and his sons would likewise be dead.

A Séance

Every bit of the description indicates that the woman conducted a séance. The woman purported to bring Samuel up out of the ground. Note that Saul did not actually see Samuel. The woman simply portrayed an old man wearing a robe. Whatever it was that the woman saw; it was not Samuel. Whether the medium lived in that day or ours, they cannot raise the dead.

Can mediums and spiritists raise the dead? No!

But a perplexing question arises; so much of the detail that the medium told and predicted was correct. There is a reason for this. Remember the Bible says that in this world there are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs to deceive. (See Revelation 16:14, Matthew 24:24)

Mediums and spiritists cannot raise the dead. This prerogative lies with God alone.

Jesus said of Himself, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)

Séances and Astrology — some good advice

I include here two passages of Scripture that give good advice regarding séances and astrology.

Isaiah 8:19-20
19 When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?
20 If people do not speak according to God’s Word — to the law and to the testimony — they have no light in them. (See KJV and NIV)

Earlier we looked at a list of Manasseh’s sins. Note that astrology also is listed among his many sins (2 Chronicles 33:5 — Read verses 2-9). Manasseh built altars for all the starry host of heaven.

2 Chronicles 33:2, 5
2 Manasseh did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, like unto the abominations of the heathen…
5 He built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord.

As God’s people we are to seek counsel from God; not from the dead, or from the stars. God is very clear; He does not treat such deviation lightly.

 

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Question 5

• What does the term ‘unquenchable fire’ mean? Is it a fire that cannot be put out, or a fire that never goes out?

The words of Matthew 3:12 were spoken by John the Baptist about Jesus.

Matthew 3:12
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

This description is one of many that portray Jesus as the judge of mankind. The ‘wheat’ represents the righteous, and the ‘chaff’ represents the wicked. The wheat which is valuable is gathered in, while the chaff worth nothing is burned.

Elsewhere ‘sheep’ and ‘goats’ represent the righteous and the wicked. Jesus as the judge separates the sheep from the goats.

Jesus, the Son of Man shall come in glory with all His angels. Sitting on His throne, all nations will be gathered before Him. He shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats — the sheep to the right, the goats to the left. Those on the right are blessed and shall enter the kingdom. Those to the left are cursed and are consumed by everlasting fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.

Matthew 25:31-34, 41
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he shall sit on his throne in splendour:
32 And before him all nations shall be gathered: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then the King shall say to them on his right hand, Come, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…
41 Then he shall say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

In the description of the wheat and the chaff, the chaff is destroyed with unquenchable fire. In the description of the sheep and the goats, those on the left (represented by the goats) are destroyed with everlasting fire.

Examples of unquenchable fire

Bushfires

Following a decade of drought, and a week of above average temperatures, fire swept across the State of Victoria, Australia; creating the worst natural disaster in the nation’s history. The date was the 7th February 2009. Over 170 people perished; the majority died in their homes or in their cars. Fire-fighters fled the approaching firestorm.

Prior to this event the general advice regarding bush fires — was that people could safely shelter in their homes until the main fire front had passed. It would then be safe to exit and put out fire attacks on their property while these were still small enough to fight. It was believed that only the elderly and infirm needed to get out of the area well in advance of any fire.

But on this dreadful Saturday, the fire approached with such intensity that these pre-existing rules simply did not apply.

Immediately before the fire front an ominous foreboding prevailed, an horrific blackness consumed the land, then came the enormous roar of the approaching fire. The fire consumed everything — the countryside, townships, homes, and cars.

Four hundred fifty thousand (450,000) hectares were blackened, three thousand and five hundred (3,500) buildings and homes were destroyed, and the known human loss was 173 confirmed dead.

This is just one cruel example of unquenchable fire.

What is unquenchable fire?

It describes a fire that cannot be put out. It consumes all ahead of it. It abates only when the destruction is total and complete.

Unquenchable does not mean that the fire does not eventually go out — it simply means that it is impossible put out.

Terrorism

On the 11th September 2001 two hijacked airliners were deliberately flown into twin office towers in New York City in an event which has become known simply as 9/11. It was instantly apparent that the resulting massive fireball and ongoing fires would obviously overwhelm any immediate fire-fighting effort. The situation was dire — appropriate fire-fighting resources were so inadequate, the time to act so short, and the location of the fires so unreachable; the fires were simply unquenchable.

Fire-fighters bravely entered the towers with a two-fold plan — to fight the firestorm, and carry out a search and rescue mission.

The fireball at the time of impact immediately claimed the lives of passengers and crew of both airliners and many office staff at the immediate locations. Workers trapped in the floors above the fires fled upwards to the roofs of the buildings. Given time helicopters could have plucked to safety each and every one. Workers below the fires fled downwards towards the streets.

But the fires continued to burn — the fires were not brought under control, neither could they be with the means available — they were unquenchable. The fires continued to weaken the structures of both buildings until they brought about their spectacular and total collapses.

About 3,000 people perished that day. The exact number will never be determined.

Numerous unquenchable fires

Unquenchable fires of less notable extent occur daily and constantly throughout the world. Despite brave efforts to extinguish them, they destroy property, or lives, or both. When it is too late to save lives and salvage property, and the unquenchable fires have consumed all, they do eventually go out.

Unquenchable means that they cannot be put out, not that they never go out.

Judgment from God

The biggest fire in history is still to come. It is unquenchable. It comes from God.

It is reserved for the wicked. No means at their disposal will control or contain it. The fire will only go out when it has consumed all.

Matthew 3:12
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

 

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Question 6

• What do the words ‘eternal,’ ‘everlasting’ and ‘forever’ mean? How do we and others use these words?

We all know what eternal, everlasting and forever mean. They mean without end; a time span which is absolutely forever and ever.

This being so, how do we use these words?

We use expressions such as ‘a diamond is forever.’ Does forever in this phrase mean absolutely forever and ever? Probably not!

A man might pledge his eternal love for a maiden. This is translated at the marriage ceremony to ‘til death do us part.’

Eternal, everlasting, and forever are to be understood within the context in which they are given.

In Scripture this is also the case.

A slave forever?

In Exodus 21:5, 6 there is described an arrangement whereby a slave is committed to his master forever. Forever in this case is obviously limited to this life, not for eternity.

Exodus 21:5, 6
5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master… I will not go free.
6 Then his master shall bring him before the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve his master forever.

Everlasting hills?

In Habakkuk 3:6 the hills are described as everlasting. They are obviously so described because they appear so permanent. Yet the very same verse points out that at God’s touch they quake. They are not as permanent as they appear — they are not everlasting in the sense of necessarily lasting absolutely forever and ever.

Habakkuk 3:6
He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.

Eternal fire?

Jude describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Jude 1:7 he states that these wicked cities were destroyed by eternal fire. Peter also describes their destruction. In 2 Peter 2:6 he says that they were turned to ashes.

There may appear to be conflict between these two statements. Is the fire still burning because Jude states it is an eternal fire, or do only ashes remain of Sodom and Gomorrah as Peter states?

Jude 1:7
Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of ‘eternal fire.’

2 Peter 2:6
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah ‘into ashes’ condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that afterwards should live ungodly.

See also the following Scriptural references to Sodom and Gomorrah.

  • Genesis 10:19
  • Genesis chapters 13, 14, 18, 19
  • Deuteronomy 29:23
  • Jeremiah 23:14
  • Luke 17:29

As Scripture gives considerable information regarding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and we know the general location of these cities, we can confirm with Peter that the cities were turned to ashes.

Concerning Jude’s comment that they were destroyed by eternal fire, we observe that the fire is no longer burning because there is no ongoing eternal fire in these regions. Because of the absolute destruction of these cities we know that fire completely consumed them. In the context of the lives of those who formerly lived in Sodom and Gomorrah the fire was eternal. To them it had no end. It brought their destruction.

To determine the absolute implication of words such as eternal, everlasting, and forever we always need to consider them in the context in which they are given.

Verses to consider

To relate these comments to our study refer to the Chapters listed below, and consider the following verses.

The Devil

Revelation 20:10
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire… and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Is the devil tormented in the lake of fire for all eternity?

The devil is not immortal, and because he doesn’t have immortality, the torment lasts just as long as he lives.

The wicked

Revelation 14:10, 11
10 … they shall be tormented with fire and brimstone…
11 And the smoke of their torment rises up forever and ever.

Are the wicked tormented in the lake of fire for all eternity?

The wicked are not immortal, and because they don’t have immortality, the torment lasts just as long as they live.

The worms

Mark 9:45, 46
45 … to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

‘Their worm dieth not.’ (v 46) Do worms consume the wicked for all eternity?

No, worms don’t have immortality either.

For the devil, the wicked, and the worms such torment is over when they die the second death.

Following the death of the devil and the wicked, ‘even death and hell are cast into the lake of fire.’ Death and hell will no longer exist — as everything cast into the lake of fire ceases to exist.

‘In its place God creates a new heavens and new earth’ — wherein dwells righteousness. See the sequence of events John describes in Revelation 20:14 — 21:1.

Revelation 20:14; 21:1
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death…
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.

Reflect again on these Chapters and Sub-sections

Absolutely Forever

Following is a sample of verses wherein the contexts indicate that forever, eternal, and everlasting mean absolutely forever and forever — never ending.

It is evident in these verses — that God, His kingdom, and the redeemed continue absolutely forever.

Regarding God — He is forever

Psalm 90:2
Before the mountains were brought forth, or before You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Jeremiah 10:10, 12
10 But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, the everlasting King…
12 He made the earth by His power, He established the world by His wisdom, He stretched out the heavens by His discretion.

1 Timothy 1:17
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Regarding God’s kingdom — it lasts forever

Psalm 145:13
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Daniel 4:3
God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.

Daniel 7:13, 14
13 One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days…
14 He was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. It shall never pass away, and it shall never be destroyed.

Matthew 6:13
For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Regarding immortality of the redeemed — they live forever

Regarding immortality of the redeemed — they live forever

John 3:15, 16
15 Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish, but will have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 6:40
This is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 10:28
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

Romans 6:23
The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

2 Peter 1:11
For an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Jude 1:21
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

CONTINUE READING
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