Thursday, April 29, 2010

Christ & Paradise

We began here a five part series talking about Christ's descent into hell. There is much more we could say as a whole but consider several issues arrive concerning "Abraham's Bosom" and "Paradise".

First, Luke 16:
Luke 16:22-26 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' 25 But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.'
While many people use this to describe to places in Hades/Sheol—and such divided states of Sheol is clear in intertestamental Judaism—this passage only clearly defines the rich man as in Hades:
23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
So while Lazarus is at Abraham’s side, the passage does not clearly define this as part of Hades. It seems clear then that the rich man is in the underworld and Lazarus is perhaps not but is at Abraham’s side. Hebrews may indicate that Abraham was in heaven. Clearly he anticipated heaven, Hebrews is less clear on the timing of this reception (and Hebrews is clear in 11:40 that they receive these things in conjunction with us in the final eschatological perfection).
Hebrews 11:13-16 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
The grammar of this passage ‘they were desiring a better country’ indicates a present experience in their life of faith—whereas the aorist tense: “he has prepared” seems to indicate something He had in store for them. I want to be careful about putting to much weight on this, but it seems the heavenly hope awaited at death not future from their death. Of course, they experienced this in advance of the atonement and enthronement of Christ so the full eschatological hope was not there’s. I think there is a slight indication though that they waited in heaven.

Second, Jesus promises entrance into paradise on the day of His death.
NAU Luke 23:43 And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.
The main thrust of this passage is not to teach us about the intermediate state but to show the immediate hope that the thief had on the cross. Paradise is clearly the abode of the righteous, which both Jesus and the thief enter upon their death.

Paul tells us the location of this is the 3rd heaven:
2 Corinthians 12:2-3 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows-
Paul probably breaks the heavens down into: 1st-the sky; 2nd-the realm of the stars; 3rd-the highest where God dwells. This is not certain and Judaism in Paul’s days certainly offered speculative accounts of levels inside heaven. The best interpretation seems to be that which adds the least to the passage. (see for example: Genesis 1:1,8, 9, 14,15 which seems to distinguish heavens and Heaven [although I am not dogmatically certain on this])

The point that Paul places Paradise in heaven.
Revelation 2:7 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.'
The background for paradise is the Garden of Eden. At this point I think that Eden is typological that points to the final hope. Some studies on the Temple have shown that Eden was a Temple and like the Tabernacle/Temple it was modeled after the heavenly temple.

I understand that one interpretation is to say that Paradise is a realm of Hades and that it moves from Hades to Heaven with Christ’s ascension. I find this difficult for two reasons:

(1) Scripture is no where explicit that Paradise moves. To create such a major doctrine I believe we should have a specific statement. Granted sometimes we do have to put pieces together. But as the rest of my exegesis has hopefully showed, it just is not there in terms of warrant.

(2) If Eden is a Temple/Paradise, then it is a sort of type of what is in heaven not something that ascends to heaven. I would apply the similar principles we find concerning the earthly temple to the Eden. Its relationship then stands to the heavenly Paradise that awaits descent in the New Creation not a part of the Hades which would be sub-eschatological. [Here I think we can creative combine G.K. Beale's work on the Temple and the Church's Mission with Vos' Teaching of the Epistle of Hebrew, particularly his chapter on Hebrews' philosophy of revelation.]

Scripture is clear that heaven/paradise will descend to earth in the creation of the New Heavens and New Earth. The heavenly descends. It is a backward appeal to eschatological progression to think that paradise must first ascend to heaven. In fact, the Garden of Eden holds out the eschatological reward for Adam in his first obedience. Upon being cursed, he is cast out of the garden. The offer of the tree of life had he been obedience was the offer of the eschatological reward. This shadow in the garden pointed forward to the climax of the reward the second Adam would win. He won this in His ascent to heaven so that having won the award, heaven itself might come down for us.

Therefore, paradise does not progress upward but progresses downward. The saints, in the intermediate state, enjoy a presence in Paradise just as Christ did but this is not the full experience which for Christ and man only comes in Resurrection life, for Christ He enters as triumphantly to secure the prize and be enthroned over it only in His ascension--yet in His death God is His refuge. While His body descends to the grave/Sheol, His spirit he entrusts to His father who ushers him into paradise until His resurrection. Yet we must not confuse the intermediate state with the climax of the final state either in Christ or in the believer's experience. In Christ's intermediate state, death still rules--the grave still has its choke hold upon although the suffering of Christ was finished on the Cross.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Sounds very good, thanks for walking us through your thinking here, Tim. Refreshing to think again in this context the passages you quote from Heb 11:13-16. My son mentioned the same to me when we were discussing also. When you follow up to Jared's article I hope you might address the need or non-need for those OT saints to have the "gospel fully revealed to them" as was discussed by Jared. Perhaps also, how you understand 1Pet 3:18ff.

"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...