Contrary Passages?

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Luke 16 & 23, John 20, 1 Peter 3, Revelation 6
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 9

Contrary Passages?

(Luke 16 & 23, John 20, 1 Peter 3, Revelation 6)

Copr. 2022, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Whenever I have to argue before a court, I try to think of all the questions that I am likely to be asked by the judges. I carefully consider what the best answer is, and then I practice that answer. The goal is to avoid being asked a question I have not considered, and then, when the pressure is on, trying to come up with a persuasive answer. We should do the same when it comes to our Christian beliefs. We need to consider the hard questions and carefully construct a solid compelling answer. Just as with everything else, the Holy Spirit guides me into the best thinking. For our study this week, let’s team up with the Holy Spirit, consider the hard questions about the state of the dead, and explore solid Biblical answers!

  1. Odd Stories
    1. Read Luke 16:1-2. Why is the manager being fired? (Poor management of his master’s assets.)
    2. Read Luke 16:3. What problem is uppermost in the manager’s mind? (How will I live? How will I earn a living?)
    3. Read Luke 16:5-7. What do you say about the manager’s solution? (It is absolutely dishonest. It reflects the reason he was fired - he does not put his master’s interests first.)
    4. Read Luke 16:8-9. Who is speaking here? (Jesus!)
      1. What have you learned from this story? (That being dishonest and selfish, especially if you are good at it, is what God commends.)
    5. Read Luke 16:10. Does this conclusion follow from the story? (Not at all. If you read Luke 16:11-13 Jesus reinforces His conclusion that honesty and faithfulness are fundamental. We must “serve” honesty rather than serving a drive to be rich.)
      1. Is Jesus accidentally telling a story that completely contradicts the point He is making? (Jesus is asking us to look beyond the obvious to understand His point. His point is that we must be smarter than the world and use the world’s tools to advance the Kingdom of God. If you do not use the best approach, you are stealing from God.)
    6. Read Luke 16:19-23. What have you learned from this story? (The sick poor go to heaven. The well-fed healthy rich go to hell.)
      1. Is that consistent with the teachings of the Bible? Applied to today, are the homeless and sick headed straight to heaven? Can we get a small picture of heaven by going to Los Angeles and visiting the homeless encampments?
    7. Read Luke 16:24-25. In this story Abraham says those who did well in life suffer in hell and those who experienced bad things enjoy heaven. How did Abraham end up in heaven? He was a rich and successful man! Shouldn’t he, of all people, be in hell? (This is another story that makes no sense. It is contrary to the teachings of Moses who links obedience to blessings and disobedience to being cursed. Deuteronomy 28.)
    8. Read Luke 16:27-28. What does the rich man want? (Lazarus to travel to earth and warn the rich man’s five brothers. My guess is the warning is that they should stop being rich.)
    9. Read Luke 16:29-31. Is Jesus once again asking us to look beyond the obvious (and obviously wrong) elements of the story to discover His point? (Just as Jesus was not commending dishonesty in the first story, He is not suggesting a standard for judgment or teaching about the state of the dead in this story.)
      1. What is Jesus’ point? (Those who do not “hear” the Bible will not “hear” a resurrected Jesus. This is not a story about the state of the dead.)
  1. Grammar and Punctuation
    1. Read Luke 23:39-43. Who is going to be “in paradise” today? (Jesus and one of the criminals crucified with Him.)
      1. Is our defense about the state of the dead all about punctuation - which the original Greek did not contain? Should we move the comma from before “today” to after “today?” (I think the argument for moving the comma around is unpersuasive. If you were speaking to someone would you say, “Today I’m speaking?” Of course not. It is obvious that you are speaking now.)
    2. Read John 20:15-17. What does this say about Jesus visiting His Father in Paradise on Friday (the day of His crucifixion)? (This does not turn on punctuation. Jesus tells Mary that He has not yet ascended to His Father and Paradise.)
    3. We have an apparent conflict between the two statements of Jesus. How would you resolve this? (First, the point Jesus is making at the cross was not about timing, it was about salvation. Whereas the point to Mary was specifically about the timing of Jesus’ return to heaven. Second, in a Greek discussion post I found “I say to you today”)is a Hebrew idiom to express certainty. It would be like saying in modern English “You can take this to the bank.” No one would think you should travel to a bank. The expression is about trustworthiness. What Jesus is really saying to the criminal is “You can be certain of salvation.” This understanding solves the conflict between what Jesus said to the thief and said to Mary.)
  2. Preaching to Spirits
    1. Read 1 Peter 3:18-20. Who are these “spirits in prison?” (Those who did not listen to the warnings of Noah.)
      1. Where is this prison? (It must be hell.)
      2. Did Jesus go to heaven and then to hell? (Some argue that Jesus went to hell to preach after His death, but before His resurrection.)
    2. Let’s focus 1 Peter 3:18-19. Who is the “he” in verse 19? (The prior reference is to the Holy Spirit. The natural reading of this is that Jesus preached through the Holy Spirit.)
      1. The next question is why do some think this happened when Jesus was resting in the grave? (The text does not say that.)
    3. Re-read 1 Peter 3:20. Does this answer the “when” question? (Yes, it says during the days of Noah God was patient.)
    4. Read Isaiah 14:16-17. Are sinners in prison? (Yes. This makes it clear. Jesus did not visit hell. Before His incarnation Jesus worked through the Holy Spirit to convert Noah’s audience.)
  3. Spirits Under the Altar
    1. Read Revelation 6:9-11. This is one of the most difficult passages, at least on the surface, because it specifically refers to conscious “souls” in heaven who have been martyred for their faith. Are these souls able to have intelligent conversations? (Yes, according to the text.)
      1. Do these souls have bodies? (They must, otherwise what would they be doing wearing white robes?
      2. If they have bodies, does that mean that they were resurrected? (The context tells us this is before the Second Coming, otherwise they would not be complaining about the lack of a judgment. Thus, their resurrection is before the Second Coming of Jesus.)
      3. If we just stopped here is this story necessarily inconsistent with the doctrine of soul sleep - the dead await resurrection at the Second Coming? (No, because it reflects an exception we have previously discussed: the resurrection of Moses (Jude 9). If God resurrected Moses and took him to heaven, He certainly could have done this for others.)
    2. Let’s re-examine a few details. Read Revelation 6:10. Does it seem reasonable that people will be complaining in heaven? Will they be seeking vengeance? Compare Luke 23:34 and Acts 7:59-60.
    3. Re-read Revelation 6:9. If you have complaints in heaven, would it be understandable for them to come from those who were forced to live “under the altar?”
      1. Read Leviticus 4:18. Is this symbolic of where these souls live? (Yes. This seems an unlikely place to live in heaven.)
    4. Re-read Revelation 6:11. Consider the response to their complaint: go back to sleep. Does that seem reasonable, or consistent with living in paradise?
    5. There are many problems with this account if it is taken literally. That gives us reason to believe it is symbolic - and thus the details say nothing about the state of the dead.
    6. Friend, we will know the true answer when we get to heaven, but this side of heaven I think the Bible teaches that the righteous dead sleep until Jesus’ Second Coming. Do you agree?
  4. Next week: The Fires of Hell.