The Myth of “Abraham’s Bosom” as a Place in Sheol
Alternatively titled, “Exposing the ‘Protestant Purgatory’”
Why does this topic matter? Reveals that doctrinal differences can arise out of false translations of God’s Word.
HEART OF THE CONTROVERSY LIES IN THE MODERN BIBLE VERSIONS which transliterate SHEOL instead of translating it to HELL.
There are two sides to this issue:
We agree, on both sides, that the wicked dead suffer torments for eternity and the righteous Saints live in a blessed state …
However, people who believe in Abraham’s Bosom as a place where both the wicked and the righteous go, awaiting final resurrection, claim that what the King James Bible translates as Hell is really SHEOL in the original Hebrew or Hades in the Greek. While this is true, people who have little to no knowledge in these ancient languages, often other than using online lexicons, claim that believers do not go to heaven to be with God when they die, but rather, to the “good compartment” of Sheol, where Abraham and all the past Saints reside.
In other words, they want you to believe that heaven is hell and hell is heaven.
Now I hate to quote Hitler, but there is a famous quote by him, in which he said: “By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.”
Simple v. Complex: Now what’s an otherwise simple issue which even a child could understand, has become complicated by so many false teachings based on pure speculation instead of on God’s Holy Bible.
3 Main Components: (1) the “Myth of Abraham’s Bosom” as a place (2) Understanding where Do Believers Go When They Die (3) And whether Jesus suffered in Hell. He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. Acts 2:31
Turn to Luke 16 starting at verse 19.
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
The concept of Abraham’s Bosom is taken from Luke 16:19-31.
Now before we look at the Scriptures, it is helpful to answer whether this is a true story or a parable. Now I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, but many people are convinced that Luke 16:19 is not a parable, but completely true.
What is a PARABLE?
According to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, a parable is “an … allegorical relation or representation of something real in life or nature, from which a moral is drawn for instruction”. Parables use real life scenarios to depict greater spiritual or moral truths. In other words, the examples that parables give are realistic. They are drawn not from the abstract but from the evident.
Now the main reason that many believe that Luke 16 is not a parable, is because Lazarus is named and the descriptions of Hell are very dramatic and harrowing, the way that Hell is in reality. Whether you believe that Luke 16 is a parable or not, the truths it reveals to us about Hell are no less real whether it is a parable or completely literal.
Now let me just quickly say: if you were to believe that Luke 16, is a parable, several theological problems are raised. For example: the proximity of non-believers to believers in the afterlife. Can the saved and the unsaved see each other in heaven and in hell? Some may think so, as is evidence by the verse in Revelation 14:10, the Bible teaches that anti-Christ and those who take his mark on their forehead or right hand, will be “tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb”. So there are possibilities, but we don’t exactly have tons of Scripture saying that the wicked will be able to see the righteous or to speak to them.
Consider one more thing: Luke 16 is preceded by several other parables in the same Gospel, such as:
LUKE 12:16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
Notice the same phrase, “a certain rich man” is used in the parable. If you know anything about the Bible’s built-in dictionary, the Bible often defines itself.
Luke 15:11, another parable, starts with, “A certain man …”
Luke 16:1, immediately preceding the story about Lazrus and the rich man, starts also contains the phrase, “a certain rich man”, and no one disputes that Luke 16:1 is a parable.
My personal view? Luke 16:19-31 uses metaphorical language to convey literal truth. In other words, it is a true story that uses literary devices to convey a literal truth.
Whether you want to continue believing that the story of Lazarus and Rich man is a parable or a literal story does not change the fact that this passage is being misunderstood by most modern Christian believers today. What is important is to understand the central meaning.
Luke 16:19-31: 3 points
There are three points that Jesus is making.
- Extending mercy v. being unmerciful in this life. Being unmerciful is a sin, and is enough to get you in to Hell.
Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7).
- The righteous will be rewarded in Heaven, and the Wicked will suffer in Hell.
The idea that the righteous who suffer in this life, will be eternally and abundantly rewarded in Heaven. “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven …”
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10).
10 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.
23 And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”
Luke 16: 22: Carried by the angels v. buried
23: Abraham’s Bosom is defined: it’s the person Abraham.
24: Is he asking Abraham to literally send Lazarus to dip his finger in water? How would that possibly help him?
25: comforted v. tormented =
ABRAHAM IS SPEAKING
- Abraham is speaking in this verse … does “Abraham’s Bosom” speak? Does it sound like Abraham?
- This goes back to point #1: comforted v. tormented
27:26 – a gulf is a deep hollow, chasm, or abyss. THEOLOGICAL PROBLEM: Are heaven & hell literally separate by a physical chasm? That’s what you have to believe if you believe this is not a parable of sorts.
No, this is allegorical of the separation that exists between heaven & hell.
27-31 – if one went to them from the dead, they would not believe. Neither will they receive Jesus.
Luke 24:26-27: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Acts: 10:43: “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
Where do people go when they die?
2 Corinthians 5:6-8
6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
21 For to me to live [is] Christ, and to die [is] gain.
22 But if I live in the flesh, this [is] the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, 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.
9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;
10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.
11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,
12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
Genesis 25:8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.
- What was the place called that Abraham went when he died? Was it also called Abraham’s Bosom? So he went to his own bosom?
- What about the people who died before Abraham? “Was gathered to his people”. Were they in Abraham’s Bosom before Abraham was born?
- What about Adam? Did he go to Abraham’s Bosom too?
- Abraham saw My day and rejoiced.
- Abraham saw that scene from heaven.
13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, [when] I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What [is] his name? what shall I say unto them?
14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this [is] my name for ever, and this [is] my memorial unto all generations.
Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.
#1 Main Contention of Opposition
1 Corinthians 15
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
This is talking about bodily resurrection. Christ’s tomb was empty.
John 20 speaks of the empty tomb, verse 17: 7 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
When we die today, our body lays in the grave still >>> BUT WAIT, I thought to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord?
1 Corinthians 15:42-44
42 So also [is] the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
ROMANS 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
#2 Main Contention
7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
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.)
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
2 Timothy 2:24-25
24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, patient,
25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
26 And [that] they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
When did Sheol false teaching come about?
Anywhere from 530 B.C. to 70 A.D. are estimates that show online. (second temple period)
Intertestimental period between OT Scriptures & New Testament, when much of the Apocrypha and Pseudo-Apocryphal books were written.
Josephus, the Pharisees also held to the idea of a spatial separation in the underworld.
This belief developed after the Jewish Exile while under the influence of Persian and Hellenistic ideas. Book of Maccabees.
Book of Enoch: talks about the gulf of separation and compartments.
Enoch 39:4: “There I saw another vision; I saw the habitations and resting places of the saints. There my eyes beheld their habitations with the angels, and their resting places with the holy ones. They were entreating, supplicating, and praying for the sons of men; while righteousness like water flowed before them, and mercy like dew was scattered over the earth. And thus shall it be with them for ever and for ever.”
CONCLUDE WITH SCRIPTURE ON HEAVEN & HELL
Psalm 23:6: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
*Ecc. 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me [to] glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven [but thee]? and [there is] none upon earth [that] I desire beside thee.
Proverbs 15:24 The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.
Amos 9:2 2 Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down:
Psalm 73:17-19: 17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.
19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.
… 23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
USE SHEOL NIV AGAINST THEM
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. – Does that sound like the nice compartment of Sheol?
The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
Part III. Did Jesus Suffer in Hell
(Continued in next sermon).