The Problem of Luke 23:43 & a Few Proposed Solutions

The Problem of Luke 23:43 & a Few Proposed Solutions


The Apostle Paul charged his protegee Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth,”(2 Tim. 2:15, ESV).  Interestingly, the word translated “rightly dividing” is orthotomeo with “ortho” meaning “right, proper, true” (as in orthodoxy), and “tomeo” meaning “to cut, divide.”  It could describe a craftsman cutting a straight line, a farmer in the field plowing his rows true, a mason aligning the bricks to the cornerstone for a level foundation, or a workmen building a straight road (used this way in Prov. 3:6; 11:5).  In the last instance, the idea is of cutting a path through difficult terrain, or, laying down a road in the most direct route available, knowing that others will follow.  So, it is not just our destination that matters to God, but how we get there that matters too.[1]  In this sense Paul calls Timothy to be a laborer of the Word who can present himself and his handling of the Word to God for approval knowing that others would follow him.[2]  

As we shall see, Advent Christians make the right conclusions concerning the state of the dead in the intermediate state, so we humbly believe, though they are at times less concerned about the path they take to get there.  One text in particular that has been ignored, swept away, minimized or mistreated time and again is Luke 23:43, Jesus’ iconic words to the thief on the cross, “And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise”(ESV).  If there is in fact a rise of the spirit of historic adventism, then its adherents will no doubt be eager fill in the potholes of past mishandlings of the Word of God and set the record straight.  In order to do that thoroughly, we need to examine the grammar, syntax, and contextual clues surrounding Luke 23:43 before proposing a few possible responses to a more accurate reading.              

The Standard Advent Christian Interpretation

The standard work on the issue of soul sleep is of course Dr. Freeman Barton’s work, Heaven, Hell and Hades.  The standard translation of Luke 23:43 recording Jesus’ response to the thief on the cross (“And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise,”ESV, emphasis mine), however, remains at odds with this doctrine as it would seem to imply a conscious intermediate state in paradise rather than an unconscious state in Hades.  Much is at stake in this text as it forms the beginning of a chain of argumentation for traditionalist advocates who mishandle other Scriptures and link them to this (most notably, Lk 16:19-31; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; Rev. 6:9-11). In response, Advent Christians launch three main arguments against this widely accepted translation of Luke 23:43: 

(1) OT theologyof the intermediate state demands consistency in the New Testament,

(2) the grammar of “today”demands that the adverb modifies it’s antecedent therefore the comma should come after the word “today” (hence, “Amen, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise),

(3) lastly, the referent of “paradise”is to the future kingdom not the intermediate state.

In terms of our approach, we admit that in relation to #1 Old Testament theology ought to bear on our understanding of the New Testament and vice versa in order to form a consistent and holistic biblical theology.  However, lest we be charged with allowing our theology to dictate the meaning of a passage a priori, rather than deduce our theology from God’s Word and the author’s intended meaning, any apparent discrepancy must be excavated thoroughly first and foremost before understanding where it may or may not fit within our presumed system or whether that system must adapt in some way to any new insights we discover in the text.  Failure to do this has led some, for example, to believe that the Sabbath day (Friday evening to Saturday) must be obeyed by the modern church, or that two covenants are in effect – one to save Jews and another to save Gentiles. Suffice to say that exploring the starting points, methods, and philosophical presuppositions of constructing an accurate biblical theology is beyond the scope of this essay.        

Arguments for #3, the true referent of paradise are also interesting as they involve biblical evidence, 1st century Jewish usage, intertestamental literature, potential Greek influence, etc. However, in the end analysis the final decision of the referent comes only after our determination of the grammar since the semantic domain of “paradise” can include the historical Garden of Eden (LXX of Gen. 2), the intermediate state associated with “Abraham’s bosom” (Lk. 16:19-31), and/or the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4), as well as the final kingdom of God (Rev. 2:7; 2 Esdras 8:52;T. Levi 18:10-11).

This means that our main focus begins at #2, on the ground level of Luke 23:43 and its proper understanding according to Luke’s intention.  Rightly understood. we believe this along with supporting Scriptural teaching indicates that believers are asleep in the Lord in a different and special way that unbelievers cannot claim.


Why Appeals To Grammar Miss Luke’s Point

Occurring more than 40 times in the New Testament, the accusative adverb semeron (σεμερον) modifies the verb that precedes it 20 times[3] (in favor of Advent Christian claims), and what follows it 16 times (in favor of modern translations).[4]  In three instances there is no verb to modify (however it does modify the following noun) and in one instances it modifies both the verb before and the one after simultaneously pulling double duty.[5]

Barton is correct then when he observes: “it is more common for semeron to qualify the verb which precedes it than the one which follows.”[6]  This is especially true for Luke in particular.  About 60 percent of the time Luke maintains a Verb-Adverb relationship with semeron (in favor of Barton).[7]  In six instances, Luke constructs an Adverb-Verb order (in favor of most modern translations).[8]  In one instance there is no verb to modify.[9]  However, the implication seems to be that we are simply to choose what is “more common” as though the biblical author was somehow prohibited from being “uncommon” if he so decided.[10]  Rather, context ought to determine usage whenever possible.      

The late Dr. Oral Collins tried to bring more precision to the grammar case, arguing that 12 out of 14 times, when used with declarative verbs (i.e. what he termed “verbs of saying, speaking”), the adverb semeron modified the verb before it, not the one that follows.[11]  Like Barton, this is seen as ample justification for placing the comma after “today”.  If true, we would still be no closer to a firm conclusion, since nothing prohibits a biblical author from using words in atypical ways.  

But let us grant the premise for a moment to show why this is the case.  When marshalling support for a grammatical argument one needs to compare not simply similar grammar but similar syntax as well in order for it to have any persuasive effect.  As it pertains to Luke 23:43 then, we are not looking just for places where a declarative word is used in the same context assemeron, but cases that actually match and support the position that semeron modifies the preceding declarative verb in the same syntactical order of Luke 23:43, i.e. declarative verb-adverb.  When this observation is factored in, then a closer scrutiny of each of the 12 cases reveals something rather surprising:  there is not a single instance where semeron actually modifies a preceding declarative verb in any of these contexts![12]  That means, if “declarative verbs” are the standard by which to come to an Adventist reading of Luke 23:43 (a category which neither the Greek language nor Greek grammars recognize, we should mention) then Luke’s usage of it in 23:43 would be exceedingly rare indeed thus in fact working completely against that position not in favor of it.[13]

The grammatical data is clear:  statistical analysis of the adverb only demonstrates its versatility, but it does not tell us whether the English comma ought to be placed before or after the adverb “today” in Luke 23:43.  Grammar, no matter how it is delineated, only proves that the adverb may precede the verb it modifies or follow it, the very thing we knew from the beginning.  

However, since every major English translation renders Luke 23:43 with the comma before “today,” making Jesus’ promise to the thief “…today you will be with me in paradise,”[14] and given that the only modern translation that differs is the New World Translation created by the Jehovah’s Witness cult (in order to alleviate disagreement with their assertion of non-existence at death),[15] Advent Christians might do well to supply more than grammatical possibility for their insistence on their reading of Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross if they want to be heard in the larger evangelical world.[16]  

Why Appeals to Deuteronomy Miss Jesus’ Point

            One traditional defender states: “Since it is rather obvious that Christ was speaking to the thief on that day and not ‘yesterday’ or ‘tomorrow,’ there would be no reason for Christ to state, ‘I say to you today.’”[17]  This is an obvious but often missed point.  What purpose does a dying, suffering, exhausted man on the cross have in spouting extra words that have no value?      

The answer popularized by E.W. Bullinger and ferociously defended by Jehovah’s Witnesses’,[18] argues that Jesus’ statement is a common Hebraism for making a solemn promise.  Bullinger contends:

The word “verily” points us to the solemnity of the occasion, and to the importance of what is about to be said.  The solemn circumstance under which the words were uttered marked the wonderful faith of the dying malefactor; and the Lord referred to this by connecting the word “to-day” with “I say.”  “Verily, I say unto thee this day.”  This day, when all seems lost, and there is no hope; this day, when instead of reigning I am about to die. This day, I say to thee, “Thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”[19]  

This “common Hebrew idiom,” as Bullinger calls it elsewhere, is used 40 times in the book of Deuteronomy.[20]  Greg Stafford, writing for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, claims that 33 of these occurrences parallel Luke 23:43 in using a verb of speech or command with the adverb semeron and in every case the adverb modifies what precedes it rather than what follows.[21]  His observations are correct, but the evidence is overstated.  Consider the following:  

(1) If this Hebraism is as common as Bullinger contends, why is there a mysterious absence of it not only from the lips of Jesus, but from all other New Testament writers except in one possible situation?[22]  

(2) If the focus is on “parallels” to Luke 23:43, then why include 25 instances with verbs of command in Bollinger’s list?[23] Excluding these then and two more along with them since they are the object of a preposition not at all similar to Luke’s usage (Deut. 5:1; 29:11) that leaves us with six appropriate and parallel uses of semeron with “verbs of speech” in Deuteronomy (Deut. 4:26; 8:19; 26:3; 30:18, 19; 32:46) which simply gets us back to the statistical argument we refuted in the beginning.

(3) The verb lego(I say) is used over 7,000 times in the Old Testament (150x in Deuteronomy alone) but it never occurs with this particular Hebraism (nor does ameni.e. “truly”).  To what degree then, can we compare Jesus’ words to those in Deuteronomy since he includes both in His phrase more literally rendered, “Amen I say to you,”? 

(4) This is not just a stylistic observation.  The verbs employed with this Hebrew idiom are far stronger than lego, indicating that the weight of the verb in these instances equally matches the context of solemnity.[24]  In its one occurrence in the New Testament (Acts 20:26) Paul engages the elders with the verb marturomai, thus proving this very point.  Should we then uncritically grant that the verb lego(“I say”) is equally adequate for the task of conveying a solemn promise?  

(5) Specifically, the Hebrew idiom “I testify to you today,” is used 22 times in Deuteronomy[25] and “I command you today,” four times.[26]  In each case the idiom retains its rigid verb-pronoun-adverb structure in the original Hebrew.[27]  Jesus’ words in Luke 23:43 are literally rendered, “…to you I say today,” following a slightly different syntactical order of pronoun-verb-adverb.  Since the original Hebraism remains strictly consonant in every occurrence, should we not likewise expect an exact syntactical construction?  If not, why not? 

(6) Lastly, if this argument is sustained fully, the final wall to scale is to explain how it competes with Jesus’ unique amen sayings, which are themselves New Testament idioms (this gets its own section below).  

What evidence remains after these considerations concerning the Deuteronomic Hebraism argument? First, while stronger verbs are almost always used with this idiom there are cases where a common word such as lalo (to say), a verb similar in emphasis and strength to lego in Luke 23:43, is implemented, albeit in a dissimilar syntactical structure.[28]  In one example the accusative adverb semeron does directly follow the verb it modifies without any intervening qualifiers as it does in Luke 23:43.[29] It is therefore not impossible that Jesus could have reached back into Old Testament usage to make a solemn promise to the good thief.  This becomes more probable when we consider that six times we find semeron modifying the previous declarative verb within that very idiom.[30]  In the final analysis, this argument is suggestive, but not decisive.  There is a reason it has failed to catch the attention of the larger Evangelical body (as we shall see next).  

How Jesus Interprets Jesus – His Amen Sayings As Decisive

Anyone reading the Gospels in just about any translation will take notice of Jesus’ favorite phrase rendered typically as, “Truly I say to you,” or more accurately “Amen I say to you,” (in John’s Gospel always as, “Amen, amen, I say to you.”).  When we look beyond grammar and long reaches into the Old Testament as explanations we will see that His own syntax is definitive when it comes to interpreting Luke 23:43 accurately.         

In the Hebrew Scriptures, “amen” occurs over a hundred times mostly in the context of individuals or communities responding to a declaration of God, a king, a priest etc. (e.g. 1 Chron. 16:36 a prayer; Deut. 27:14-26 a curse).[31]  It means simply, let it be.  But its meaning carries more weight than that.  Commenting on the “amen” sayings, G.F. Hawthorne asserts that it “was the acknowledgement of the validity of the word spoken, of its binding nature.”[32]  We must remember that every occurrence is a response to another’s words (e.g. 1 Kg. 1:36; Jer. 28:6).  In the New Testament outside the Gospels it often ends prayers and doxologies thus retaining its responsive nature.[33]  In addition, it is never used in any context where an individual or group seek to validate their own words, but where they are validating words they receive typically from those in authority over them.  Seen in this light Jesus’ use represents a kind of first century ‘shock and awe’ where he confirms his spoken word by his own authority by placing the phrase at the beginning of his statements.

Hawthorne calls the amen sayings of Jesus “weighty utterances” and notes that scholarship has yet to find an exact Hebrew equivalent (the closet analogy being the prophetic utterance, “Thus saith the Lord.”).  Doriani calls it “a striking innovation” that ought to be viewed alongside His other implicit claims to deity.[34]

To the first century civilian, Jesus’ formulaic expression “amen I say to you,” would immediately actuate attentiveness.  How dare He presume that His words are authoritative before others have had a chance to weigh them and respond? That is certainly not how the teachers of the law taught the Old Testament. They quoted this rabbi and that one and offered their own opinion in the mix. But we are told again and again that people were “amazed,” at Jesus’ teaching, why? “Because he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mk 1:22). In the same way, the Old Testament prophet declared, “Thus says the Lord…” and then introduced some authoritative, prophetic, binding declaration, so Jesus claims what can only be divine authority over His own words too.             

This unique phrase, used only by Jesus in the ancient world and no one else, occurs a total of 49 times in the synoptic Gospels.[35]  In the Gospel of John, Jesus articulates a similar locution but adds a double emphasis at the beginning, “amen, amen, I say to you,” 25 more times.[36]  Jesus’ words were intentional, purposeful, forceful, and in every single occurrence the content of his divine declarations always follow his stock phrase, “amen, I say to you,…”  The syntactical consistency tells us that it must be treated as a single unified phrase.  Hence, Jesus’ words to the thief can mean none other than what they meant in any of his previous encounters, “Amen, I say to you,[insert content to follow]” that is, “today you will be with me in paradise.”    

If a deuteronomic Hebraism was a slim possibility previously, it now becomes apparent that Jesus must be allowed to interpret Jesus before anyone else is allowed into the discussion.  After all, why look back thousands of years to a mere six occurrences in the Old Testament that do not even match syntactically when Jesus, clearly and without argument, employs his own absolute teaching on the matter near 75 times?  

We may also want to consider a second though less loaded syntactical phrase often found on the lips of Jesus rendered simply as, “I say to you,…” used 68x throughout all four Gospels.[37] In every single occurrence the syntax remains consistent, “I say to you, [content of the declaration].”[38]  Interestingly, John 13:33 is the only occurrence of an adverb of time in some way connected to this stock phrase and there it modifies what follows thus maintaining its consistent usage.  This is also consistent with how adverbs of time are used generally throughout the New Testament [39], but particularly the way Luke prefers to place adverbs of time as well.[40]   

How Luke Interprets Jesus – His Emphasis On Immediacy As Supportive

Standard Evangelical principles for interpretation indicate that any author is free to include or omit what they deem appropriate according to their own intention, goal, aim, leading of the Spirit, etc. John tells us all the books under heaven could not contain all that Jesus said and did (Jn. 21:25) reminding us that each author had to carefully select what to include and what to pass over.  Since modern interpreters are far displaced from the original context and people it can be easy to assume too much and overlook key exegetical details. For example, Luke records Paul’s conversion in Acts 9.  A plain reading of 9:19b-32 tells us that Paul spent a few days in Damascus at most before heading on to Jerusalem (v 26), yet he reveals in Galatians this is not the case at all. Rather than go immediately to Jerusalem as we assume (though the original readers likely did not assume this at all since they knew the story) he went to Arabia and spent 3 years there before setting course for the holy city (Gal. 1:17). Luke chose to omit this, Paul chose to include it.  There is no contradiction.  The point is this, what an author includes or excludes can at times give us hints as to their intention which can then aid us in the interpretive process providing a key tool for those commissioned with accurately handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).      

Any panoramic reading of the Gospel of Luke will quickly behold his bold brush stroke emphasis on the immediacy of salvation.       

Only Luke includes the angels visit to the shepherds and latches onto the angels words of immediacy:  “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (2:11 emphasis mine).    

Only Luke includes Jesus standing up in the synagogue in Capernaum opening up the Isaiah scroll and reading about the year of Jubilee to the wonder of all and once he had their undivided attention he declared in no uncertain terms, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”(4:21, emphasis mine).  

In Matthew 9, a woman with a medical condition who has been bleeding for 12 years reached out to touch the tassel of Jesus’ robe to receive healing.  Matthew records that upon touching Jesus he turned to her in the crowd, had a conversation with her, and then declared her faith has healed her (9:21-22).  That is just too slow for Luke’s emphasis however.  The moment she touched the fringe of her garment “immediately her discharge of blood ceased” (8:45) he tells us.  Then Jesus has a conversation with her where she declares how she was “immediately” healed (v 47), and finally he declares publicly for others that her faith has made her well.  There is no discrepancy between the two accounts merely an issue of emphasis.             

When the famous paralytic was lowered through a roof Jesus forgave him his sins which began a theological controversy with the religious leaders.  After Jesus healed the man Matthew records “and he got up and went home” (9:7), but Luke emphasizes, “Immediately he got up before them”(5:25).[41]

The presence and power of Jesus does not just mean things will get better at some point, it means that things are better presently, in the now, today, immediately.  

Only Luke records the encounter with Zaccheus.  In Luke 19, Zaccheus represents the hopes and dreams of all Israel longing for and looking for the coming Messiah. Look no further Zaccheus, “for today I must stay at your house” (v 5) Jesus says.  And when Zaccheus demonstrated through his actions a repentant heart attitude, he did not have to run off to the temple to make a sacrifice, or give generously to impress the Pharisees in the Temple courts, nor did he actually even have to act, merely the willingness was all that was necessary for Jesus to declare, “Today salvation has come to this house…” (v 9).  

The same stories where Luke especially emphasizes the immediacy of today explicitly are also ones totally unique to him not recorded in the other Gospel accounts.  Twice Luke highlights the Jesus teaching using the word “today” in the emphatic position (4:21; 19:9).  Certainly, it would be consistent to Luke’s intent to include one last story unique to him and not shared by the other Gospel writers (i.e. the thief on the cross) and also record yet another instance, perhaps the most dramatic one of all, of “today” in the emphatic position, to make it abundantly clear that salvation is not something “in a land far far away” as the thief presumes, but something now for the taking, not for tomorrow, but for today.  

If this all be so, and the overwhelming exegetical evidence according to the author’s intention is now laid bare for us to see, one question remains:  What does this mean for the doctrine of soul sleep? 

The doctrine of soul sleep is firmly and consistently taught in the Old Testament, as is the idea that both the righteous and the wicked die and go to the grave (Sheolin the OT, Hades in the NT), both awaiting their resurrection respectively.  While Advent Christians hold to the unity of human nature, they do not hold to the heretical view of the extinction of the soul along with its subsequent recreation at the return of Christ in the same way as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists maintain.[42]  Advent Christians have instead argued that once separated from each other, the immaterial self/soul remains unconscious, as it has no vessel to move, no eyes to see, no ears to hear yet it remains preserved and protected by God until it is reunited with a new resurrection body at the eschaton.  At this point, a faithful Adventist might be wondering if this can still be maintained even while we try to wriggle out of the exegetical straitjacket we now find ourselves in with regard to reading Luke 23:43. Indeed, there are at least a few options in response.  

Option A – Jesus Was Speaking Theologically 

Jesus was speaking to the thief theologically, i.e. the thief would be present with Christ in the eschatological kingdom paradise “today” in the sense that it would feel like “today” to the thief since he would have slipped into unconscious soul rest with his next waking moment at the resurrection with no awareness of any intervening time delay.

Option A has a great deal going for it.  Jesus was consistently misrepresented and misunderstood by the Pharisees (Jn. 3:1-21), by the crowds (Jn. 2:19; 8:21-22; Matt. 9:24), by His disciples (Mk. 4:1-10 esp. v 10), and by Herod (Jn. 18:33-37) to name a few. Even when he told his disciples explicitly about his death and resurrection they did not understand (Mk 9:31-32).  Even when some saw the empty tomb they did not understand (Jn. 20:9).  Even when he explicitly told them how to identify the betrayer declaring that it would be, “the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him” (Jn. 13:18-30), and then he did just that before their eyes and gave it to Judas, yet not one of them had any idea Judas was a scoundrel (Jn. 13:28-30). So, if those that followed Jesus and those closest to him could not always or even mostly figure out what he was talking about, then why do we presume that a thief, an outsider, would in anyway rightly understand Jesus’ intention either?  

The obvious answer from the traditionalists is that Jesus used the word “paradise” with all its Hellenistic cultural baggage on purpose and therefore He intended to convey a conscious intermediate state.  This is a bit hasty, a few leaps too many to an unwanted conclusion. Jesus can mean more or less than what He says at any given moment. Clearly when he told the Jews they had to “eat his flesh and drink his blood” (Jn. 6:47-59) he meant less than they understood, and clearly when he told the disciples, “Lazarus has fallen asleep,” he meant more than they comprehended (Jn. 11:5-16).  

This last instance is especially relevant since Jesus’ words turn on the understanding of perception vs. reality.  Lazarus is dead (reality) but it will only feel like he fell asleep once the disciples witness Jesus wake him from his temporary slumber (perception).  Similarly, Jesus walks right into the middle of a funeral for a little girl in Jairus’ house and declares the same thing saying, “the child is not dead, but sleeping” (Mark 5:39).  Jesus of course understands the reality (she is dead) but wants to convey the right perception (the temporary nature of her death is like sleep).    

Understanding precisely what Jesus intends in any given situation is far from manifest. Let us remember, He confounded the Jews by proving His deity using nothing more than the present tense of the verb “to be” (Jn. 8:58), bewildered the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection by demonstrating it without a doubt using the same method (Matt. 22:31-32), and hid the doctrine of the Trinity in the Great Commission (“name” is singular in Greek, but three names are listed, hence one God in three persons; Matt. 28:19).  Simply because he uses a word, i.e. “paradise”, in no way indicates that we should automatically assume that He intends what others around him may intend by that word without some line of exegetical warrant.  Let us remember too that John opens up his Gospel speaking about Jesus as the logos, also using a term loaded with Hellenistic philosophical connotations and yet he employs it NOT the way intended by the philosophers at all.

If the idea of a conscious intermediate state arose do to the influence of the Greek concept of the immortality of the soul, as so many scholars contend[43], we might rather set Jesus’ words in contradistinction to this trend placing it squarely in its Jewish eschatological denotation as the final kingdom of God.

All of this makes for a solid case so that we do not have grounds to assume ipso facto that Jesus was overturning all Old Testament teaching on the matter of the unconscious state in Luke 23:43. In fact, if we presume Old Testament teaching of the unconscious soul, then the more natural conclusion from Luke 23:43 is that Jesus was speaking to the thief’s perception (subjective immediacy) rather than reality (objective interim delay).   

Option B - A Change in Location Is Not A Change In Consciousness

When it comes to Luke 23:43 traditionalists certainly presume too much from this text – a conscious, disembodied, floating soul in heaven. Yet, one might wonder if the typical Advent Christian reading presumes too little?  

If Jesus is using the term “paradise” to indicate our spiritual location then we need not assume anything more than what He tells us.  Thus, Jesus really did take the thief’s soul to paradise, i.e. a special area within Hades reserved for the righteous dead and protected by His unique presence in an unconscious state.  

Option B arises from taking Jesus words at face value in Luke 23:43 and then reconciling them with the apparent conflict this creates when read next to Peter’s declaration that Jesus went to Hades when he died in Acts 2:27.  This is sometimes pressed as an either/or choice, namely, either Jesus went to paradise or he went to Hades and therefore whatever the choice a contradiction remains. This is only true, however, if the two are in some way mutually exclusive of one another, but if paradise is seen as in some way connected to, or, within the confines of Hades then no tension exists between the two texts of Scripture at all.  

Jesus’ fictionalized parable about the Rich Man & Lazarus (Lk 16) reflects a 1st century Jewish belief that there are compartments within Hades (i.e. Abraham’s bosom).[44]  In other texts such as the intertestamental literature of The Apocalypse of Baruch, the titular author is taken to paradise in the third heaven and there discovers it contains Hades within it.   

Here one might argue that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice did change something for the righteous forevermore in that it brought them closer to God’s presence in a special way unique to the New Testament era.  

Remember, some of the saints, specifically those who were martyred for their God, are symbolically pictured as “under the altar” of the heavenly Temple (Rev. 6:9). Not all the saints are here mind you; this location in the temple under the altar is reserved only for those who faced death with the courage of Christ.  Some commentators are bewildered as to why these souls would be imagined to exist under the altar, but one potential answer might be found in 1st century Temple practices during Passover.  John MacArthur writes in Experiencing the Passion that “Historical records of Jesus’ time indicate that as many as a quarter-million lambs were slain in a typical Passover season, requiring hundreds of priests to carry out the task.”  As many know, the blood and water from hundreds of thousands of lambs did not fill the streets of Jerusalem so where did it go?  A drainage system was constructed under the altar for all the blood of all the sacrificial animals to be poured and channeled to where it descended down into the Kidron Valley.  These saints have been symbolically sacrificed on the altar and now their blood, their life force, exists under the altar.  They figuratively cry out to God pleading for justice.  These are not indicative of conscious saints any more than Abel’s blood which “cried out” to God was conscious either (Gen. 4:10). The dead cannot talk for the dead know nothing (Psalm 115:17; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10). Hence, we know that the meaning is not literal.  The image continues with the saints being given white robes and told to “rest a little longer” (v 11). These martyred saints rest in the presence of God in a different and unique way others cannot claim perhaps analogical to the kind of comforting sleep granted to all believers in Christ Jesus. 

Do we not, after all, speak of those “asleep in the Lord,” and “asleep in Christ” in such a way as to distinguish them from everyone else who dies? Unbelievers merely die or are in an unconscious state, but we do not say they are “asleep in Christ.”  Our everyday jargon as Adventists implies Christians are given different care or protection that others do not receive.  

Interestingly, in the Old Testament there are examples of those who die and are given special treatment as well, e.g. MosesEnochElijah come to mind.  Traditionalists force the idea of a conscious intermediate state upon these texts but take that away and one is still left with something more than merely being treated the same as everyone else.  Likewise, the blood of the Lamb of God was so powerful, so earth shattering and heaven shaking that not only did the dead rise out of their tombs at the resurrection of Christ, but the righteous dead were pulled close to the heart of God in a paradise of slumber.            

The “deep, strong, sweet sleep” of death, as Martin Luther called it [45], is sometimes pictured as refreshment for the righteous who “rest from their labors” (Rev. 14:13).  Daniel is told that “those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, some to everlasting life, but others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2).  Could it be that in light of Christ’s work on the cross that the righteous awake sharp in mind and vibrant in spirit, refreshed and comforted, while the wicked awake exhausted, groggy, with clouded heads and aching bodies, as though from a restless or shallow or fearful sleep in a dark abyss?

While some may see this as contrived or special pleading, this view is not without precedent in the early church.  Of course, many early church fathers taught that on the cross Jesus broke open the gates of paradise and restored a spiritual garden of Eden for the saints to await the final resurrection.[46]  This is promoted in Charles Wesley’s famous hymn, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” when churches sing the second stanza, 

Death in vain forbids Him rise; Alleluia!

Christ has opened paradise.  Alleluia!

But more specifically, we are talking about the view that does not import the Greek notion of the conscious disembodied soul into the system yet nonetheless allows for a change in the quality of their disembodied slumber. This view was represented in the Syriac church.[47]  One notable example is a 4th century Persian hermit named Aphraates. He agrees that “death is sleep” for both the righteous and the wicked (Demonstrations vol. 8 par. 18), then he offers a fascinating contrast between their respective expectations going into this spiritual slumber:

For the servant, for whom his Lord is preparing stripes and bonds, while he is sleeping desires not to awake, for he knows that when the dawn shall have come and he shall awake, his Lord will scourge and bind him. But the good servant, to whom his Lord has promised gifts, looks expectantly for the time when dawn shall come and he shall receive presents from his Lord. And even though he is soundly sleeping, in his dream he sees something like what his Lord is about to give him, whatsoever He has promised him, and he rejoices in his dream, and exults, and is gladdened. As for the wicked, his sleep is not pleasant to him, for he imagines that lo! The dawn has come for him, and his heart is broken in his dream. But the righteous sleep, and their slumber is pleasant to them, in the day-time and the night-time, and they take no thought of all that long night, and like one hour is it accounted in their eyes. Then in the watch of the dawn they awake with joy. But as for the wicked, their sleep lies heavy upon them, and they are like a man who is laid low by a great and deep fever, and tosses on his couch hither and there, and he is terrified the whole night long, which lengthens itself out for him, and he fears the dawn when his Lord will condemn him (par. 19).

Isaiah recognizes the righteous have a different quality of death as well.  In this world, “the righteous man perishes, and no one takes it to heart,” but then he explains that God takes notice, “for the righteous man is taken away from evil, He enters into peace, they rest in their beds…” (Is. 57:1-2; also Dan. 12:13).  If this was already true under the Old Covenant then how much more does Christ draw his cherished people close to himself under the Covenant of Grace?

While not inspired Scripture, the Jewish work Apocalypse of Moses depicts the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise.  After Adam dies the Archangel Michael is sent to carry the body of Adam back to the Garden and bury it in paradise, which is also called the third heaven, until the Day of the Lord (xxxvii 4-6).  We might wonder, if there is a pattern of the tabernacle in heaven, and the temple (as we learn from the book of Revelation), might there also be a pattern of the Garden of Paradise in Hades where the souls of the righteous dead rest peacefully awaiting their savior?

Is Jesus Then Influenced by Greek Philosophy?

Quoting non-Scriptural authorities may demonstrate the 1st century belief within the cultural milieu, but doesn’t that raise its own set of problems? After all, is Jesus really affirming a Hellenistic Jewish conception of the intermediate state instead of a traditionally Jewish one?  The argument from option B is that Jesus is remaining firmly Jewish but affirming one element of an idea, namely, a special location for the saints, that Greek Jews happened to get right.  This should not be surprising for anyone who reads their Bible carefully. Truth exists outside the Bible but must be discerned through a biblical worldview. The Apostle Paul affirmed the truth of various Greek writers he quoted (e.g. Aratus (Acts 17:28), Menander (1 Cor. 15:33), and Epimenides (Tit. 1:12)), as did Jude in alluding to the intertestamental book of Enoch (v 14), all without presumably endorsing their entire system of belief but only that which they carefully selected. Similarly, Jesus’ affirmation to the thief needs to be understood within a Jewish eschatological framework where location actually matters. If Jacob was so concerned about the location of the burial of his body (Gen. 50:5) and Joseph too (Ex. 13:19), not to mention the tens of thousands of Jews buried on the Mt. of Olives, then how much more significant would the location of their soul be?  The thief would not merely be resigned to the dark corners of sheol for an undetermined period of time, but closely guarded by God’s angels in a comforting unconscious paradisiacal rest.             

Option C – Soul Sleep Need Not Define Advent Christians

For some this grammatical-contextual analysis of Luke 23:43 along with what they may deem less than satisfactory interpretive options might serve as the first domino to fall in changing their thinking on the nature of the intermediate state (especially if it is paired with the traditional understandings of Lk. 16:19-31; Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8).  As we have shown, this need not be the case, however, it does remain a possible outcome.  Such a person might begin to explore the history of the Advent Christians and become a bit dismayed at the powerful influence of the Christian Connection movement that so overwhelmed the young Adventists in the days following William Miller and the heretical views they injected into the group (e.g. Arianism).  Nor will they appreciate the association of soul sleep with modern adherents like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists (though they should remember (A) both of these groups view something more along the lines of soul-extinction rather than soul-sleep, and (B) that Wycliff, Tyndale, and Luther (at least in his early years[48]) all held to soul sleep too).  

All in all, they may wonder if being an Advent Christian rises or falls on this doctrine, or, if they can with heart, and soul, and mind, pursue a truly Adventist theology of the resurrection without it (we have tried to answer that elsewhere).  Or to ask it another way, where is the doctrine of soul-sleep to be placed in the great clarion call of Christian unity that forms the banner of the – In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity?  i.e. Is it “essential” or “non-essential” to Advent Christian identity?  Whoever lands in this category will be forced to answer that for themselves.                 

Waking Up To A New Perspective On Luke 23:43

            Sam Warren cautions in Dead Men Talking, “Remember, it is often more important and enlightening to ask the right questions of a text rather than impose our thinking and hope that it fits” (43).  We have asked the right questions and challenged the wrong ideas in an effort to derive God’s intended purpose through His human authors.  We have laid out three possible responses to the exegetical evidence (options A, B, C above).  Whatever we decide from here, one thing is sure, we cannot return to old formulations on Luke 23:43 that naively quote grammatical statistics, yet continue to trample down Jesus’ own syntactical usage in context and Luke’s own emphasis on immediacy within his book. The simple arguments we have come to rely on (“Just move the comma over one and the problem is solved!”) simply fail to listen to the biblical author’s soul and substance.  Like Jacob with the angel, the Word of God will only yield a blessing to those who wrestle with it all night long and who crawl away in the early morning hours from the fight wounded in their human pride yet ready to be rewarded in their spirit.  May we all seek the LORD with such obsessed dedication as we pursue truth.  



[1]John Macarthur offers an additional insight when he recalls that Paul was a tentmaker by trade and may have cut out certain patterns from the skins of animals into a patchwork design.  Paul was simply saying then, “If one doesn’t cut the pieces right, the whole won’t fit together properly” (Charismatic Chaos 126).   

[2]Jesus warned the Jewish leaders of his day, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment”(Jn. 7:24). Though they knew the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (vv 42, 52) they presumed his birthplace was Nazareth and consequently missed their redemption.  A costly misinterpretation indeed!    

[3]Mat. 6:30; 27:8, 19; 28:15; Lk. 2:11; 5:26; 12:28; 13:32, 33; 22:34, 61; Acts 13:33; 19:40; 20:26; 22:3; 24:21; 26:29; 27:33; Rom. 11:8; Heb. 4:7a.

[4]Matt. 6:11; 11:23; Lk. 4:21; 19:5, 9; Acts 4:9; Acts 26:2 (like Mat. 21:28 this may be seen as modifying both the preceding and following verb; compare for example NIV/NAS to NKJ); 2 Cor. 3:14, 15; Heb. 1:5; 3:7, 13, 15; 4:7b. 5:5; Jas. 4:13.

[5]The three are:  Mat. 16:3; Mk. 14:30; Heb. 13:8. The one is Mat. 21:28.    

[6]Heaven, Hell & Hades 1990:  52. 

[7]12x:  Lk. 2:11; 5:26; 12:28; 13:32, 33; 22:34, 61; Acts 19:40; 20:26; 22:3; 24:21; 26:29.

 [8]Lk. 4:21; 19:5, 9; Acts 4:9; 13:33; 26:2. Furthermore, only two verses begin a clause with “today” playing the emphatic role (as it would in Luke 23:43): Luke 4:21 and Luke 19:9.

 [9]Acts 27:33. In addition σεμερονdoes occur in Luke 24:21 but not in any reliable texts (cf. Nestle-Aland Apparatus for v 21).

 [10]e.g. though the usual translation of anothen(ανοθεν)is “from above” (especially in John) or “from the top” (meaning height, cf. BDAG) Luke employs it to mean “from the beginning” (Lk. 1:4; Acts 26:5 where it means “for a long time”).  One pastor I know tried to argue from this typical usage of anothenthat Luke was therefore claiming divine revelation for his Gospel (he received it “from above”) rather than as Luke actually states in the immediate context that he researched it in order to put together his Gospel (no doubt guided by the Spirit and nonetheless inspired). Since context determines meaning except for in cases of forensic words, an author is always free to use a word the way they deem necessary to make their point.  

[11]Personal correspondence.  The 12 occurrences he proposed are: Mat. 6:11, 30; 16:13; 21:28; 27:19 Mk. 14:30; Lk. 12:28; 13:32; 13:33; 19:5; 22:34; 22:61. He allows for two to modify the verb that follows the adverb (Luke 4:21; 19:9). Interestingly, Collins omits the use of the adverb semeronin Hebrews and James, all of which when used with a declarative verb actually qualify the followingverb (against his position; are Heb. 1:5; 3:7; 3:15; 5:5; James 4:13).  This would change his main charge to 12 out of 19, but see n. 12 for why even this is erroneous.      

[12] Let us take Collins specific 12 references under consideration (n. 11).  Twice there is no verb to modify (Mat. 16:3 and Mark 14:30) and once the verb modifies both what comes before and after it simultaneously (Matt. 21:28; or more likely what follows it but compare NIV/NAS to NKJ/YLT), thus these three are unable to be counted in favor or against his assertion and should be excluded from the count.  Of the nine legitimatecases remaining there are eight occurrenceswhen a declarative verb is present in the same context as semeron, yet, while the adverb in question does modify the preceding verb, let the reader understand, it is not a declarative verb that it modifies(Matt. 6:11, 30; 27:19; Lk. 12:28; 13:32; 13:33; 22:34; 22:61)!  In three of these instances the so-called declarative verb is so distant one wonders what bearing it could have on the forgoing discussion at all (Mat. 6:11 (declarative verb in v 9), 6:30 (declarative verb in v 25), Lk. 12:28 (declarative verb in v 22)).  That leaves Luke 19:5 and there “today” modifies the verb that followsit (note the postpositive construction) consistent with Luke’s use elsewhere (4:21; 19:9; Acts 26:2).

[13] Greek does recognize a declarative mood though this is not tied to particular verbs in anyway.  


[15] While this is true for committee driven modern translations there is more variety among individual translations.  Translations that prefer some level of ambiguity are:  The Riverside New Testamentby William Ballatine(1923) and Concordant Version(1944) leave the comma out altogether allowing it to be read either way.  J.B. Rotherham maintains the same ambiguity by placing commas on either side of “today” in his New Testament (1896).  Interestingly, he offers support for both readings but argues strongly for the traditional rendering (175 n. b).  Yet, in a later version, this time including the whole of the Protestant Canon called, The Emphasized Bible (1967), he explicitly aligns “today” with the preceding verb and relegates the traditional rendering to a footnote (89).  In one translation of the New Testament, G.M. Lamsa places a comma directly after “today” (1933 version) while in his revision of the entire Bible from the eastern text he curiously reverts to the standard punctuation placing the comma before “today” (1957 version).  In the Jewish New Testament(1991) by David Stern“paradise” is rendered as “Gan-Eden” with the translation following a traditional emphasis: “Yeshua said to him, “Yes!  I promise that you will be with me today in Gan-Eden.”  

Translations that favor modifying the preceding verb (“I say to you”) with the adverb “today” are:  James L. Tomanek’sThe New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Anointed (1958),Charles A.L. Totten’sThe Gospel History (1972:  sec. 842),the Companion Bible (1909 which renders it in the traditional fashion, but offers a commentary note on p. 1505 in favor of Adventist interpretation),E.W. Bullinger’sCritical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament (1895),and the German translation done byReinhardt (1878), all support modifying the preceding verb with the adverb “today” rather than the one that follows.    

[16]This is especially true since the JW’s crunch the grammar data too but even more so in an attempt to create a “specific rule” by which to persuade others.  One JW analyzed semeron in 332 instancesin the NT and Septuagint of adverbs in direct discourse to do just that.  Despite his claims of certainty that “when semeronfollows a verb in Koine where Greek syntax allows for it to modify the verb it follows, it always does,” our examination of his evidence reveals something different.  Using his numbers, 50 times the adverb semeronmodifies the verb that follows it (in favor of the conventional translations) and 249 times the verb that precedes it.  Once again, far less than definitive or anything approaching a “rule.” The 50 are as follows – Ex. 13:4; Lev. 9:4; 10:19a; 11:13; Josh. 5:9; 22:3; 22:31; 1 Sam.10:19; 14:45; 22:15; 25:10; 26:21; 2 Sam.14:22; 15:20a, 20b; 16:3; 19:23b, 23c; 1 Ki. 2:24; 18:15; 2 Ki. 2:3, 5; Esth. 1:18; 5:4a; 2 Chr. 10:7; Jud. 8:29; 13:11; Odes11:19; Tob. 6:11; 1 Macc. 2:63; Ps. 2:7; 94:7; Prov. 7:14; Sir. 20:15; Is. 38:19; Matt. 6:30; Luke4:21; 19:5, 9; Acts4:9; 13:33; 27:33; 2 Cor. 3:14, 15; Heb. 1:5; 3:7, 15; 4:7b; 5:5; James4:13.  The JW author omits both 2 Sam. 16:3 and Prov. 7:14 though they fit the criteria, yet this is not surprising since both also disprove his iron clad “rule.” The fact of the matter is adverbs are NOT best understood in the context of direct vs. indirect discourse or position since evidence based on classical authors demonstrates that the position of the adverb in the sentence differs from one work to another depending on the style of the author, the type of work, and the time of writing (so Davies, Position of adverbs in Luke.  Studies in New Testament Language and Text. 1976:  106).  Rather the standard adverbial categories of adverbs of time, adverbs of manner, and adverbs of place perform far better as analytical aids.    

[17]Morey, Robert A.  Death and the Afterlife.  Bethany House, Minneapolis:  1984: 208.  

[18] Stafford, Greg.  Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended.  Elihu Books:  1998: 550.

[19] How to Enjoy The Bible, 5thEd. London, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1921:  48; See also n. 18.  In a short pamphlet entitled The Rich Man and Lazarus: An Intermediate State? He addresses a series of verses often marshalled to prove a conscious intermediate state.  Their he makes a number of fallacious claims concerning Luke 23:43 (e.g. on page 11he argues that the conjunction hotimust be present in order to justify the traditional rendering, that “paradise” never refers to anything except for the future kingdom (omitting any mention of 2 Cor. 12:1-9), and emphasizes a Hebrew idiom that uses “today” while ignoring any mention of Jesus’ unique Amen idiom and its crucial relevancy to correctly interpreting the passage).  

[20] Bullinger, Ethelbert W.  A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek 

New Testament.  Longmans, London:  1895: 811.  He lists: Deut. 4:26, 39, 40; 5:1; 6:6; 7:11; 8:1, 11, 19; 9:3; 10:13; 11:2, 8, 12, 26, 27, 28, 32; 13:18; 15:5; 19:9; 26:3, 16, 18; 27:1, 4, 10; 28:1, 13, 14, 15; 29:12; 30:2, 8, 11, 15, 16, 18, 19; 32:46.

[21] Stafford, Greg.  Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended.  Elihu Books: 1998: 550.  Presumably Deut. 4:39; 9:3; 11:2, 26; 11:32; 26:18; 30:15 are the remaining seven excluded. 

[22] Acts 20:26

[23] Deut. 4:40; 6:6; 7:11; 8:1, 11; 10:13; 11:8, 13, 27, 28; 13:18; 15:5; 19:9; 26:16; 27:1, 4, 10; 28:1, 13, 14, 15; 30:2, 8, 11, 16.           

[24] Of the six that may be syntactically similar to Luke 23:43 in the LXX two strong verbs are used with this idiom that mean “declare solemnly and emphatically” (Deut. 4:26; 8:19; 30:19; 32:46), and “to tell, proclaim; report, inform; preach” (Deut. 26:3; 30:18).  The other 26 uses of the idiom occur with the verb “to command, order, give orders.”

[25] Deut. 4:40; 6:6; 7:11; 8:11; 10:13; 11:8, 13, 12:14; 13:1, 19; 15:5; 19:9; 27:4, 10; 28:1, 13, 14, 15; 30:2, 8, 11, 16 (actually 24 including 6:2 and 11:22 which we exclude simply to work with Bullinger’s numbers).

[26] Deut. 4:26; 8:19; 30:19; 32:46. 

[27] Additionally, in the LXX OT 4x semeronis found in a prepositional phrase in a context without a declarative verb where the syntactical structure is modified to represent verb-preposition-pronoun-adverb (Deut. 11:26, 32; 29:12; 30:15).  In three cases the word is not semeronat all (5:1 and 26:16; 28:3). 

[28] BDAG notes that in later Greek usage it became equated with lego.  Deut. 5:1 LXX uses laloin the context where the conceptual parallel to semeronis the object of the preposition.      

[29] Deut. 28:3 

[30] Deut. 4:26; 8:19; 26:3; 30:18, 19; 32:46. 

[31] For possible Hebrew echoes vs. Hellenistic influence see Strugnell, John.  Notes and Observations: “Amen, I say to unto you” in the Sayings of Jesus and In Early Christian Literature.  Harvard Theological Review 67.  1974: 177-190.

[32] Green, Joel; McKnight, Scott, and I. Howard Marshall.  Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels:  A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship.  IVP, Illinois: 1992: 7.

[33] Schlier in TDNT 1979: 337.

[34] Doriani, Daniel.  Short Contributions:  Jesus’ Use of Amen.  Presbyterion 17/2.  1991: 125-127.

[35] 49 times total:  Matthew(30x) 5:18, 26; 6:2, 5, 16; 8:10; 10:15, 23, 42; 11:11; 13:17; 16:28; 17:20; 18:3, 13, 18; 19:23, 28; 21:21, 31; 23:36; 24:2, 34, 47; 25:12, 40, 45; 26:13, 21, 34; Mark(13x) 3:28; 8:12; 9:1, 41; 10:15, 29; 11:23; 12:43; 13:30; 14:9, 18, 25, 30; Luke(6x) 4:24; 12:37; 18:17, 29; 21:32; 23:43.

[36] 25x doubled:  John 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24, 25; 6:26, 32, 47, 53; 8:34, 51, 58; 10:1, 7; 12:24; 13:16, 20, 21, 38; 14:12; 16:20, 23; 21:18.

[37] Matthew(27x) 5:20, 22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44; 6:25, 29; 8:11; 11:9, 22, 24; 12:6, 31, 36; 16:18; 17:12; 18:10, 19, 22; 19:9, 24; 21:43; 23:39; 26:29, 64; Mark(5x) 2:11; 5:41; 9:13; 11:24; 13:37; Luke(34x) 5:24; 6:27; 7:9, 14, 26, 28, 47; 10:12, 24; 11:8, 9, 51; 12:4, 5, 8, 22, 51, 59; 13:3, 24, 35; 14:24; 15:7, 10; 16:9; 17:34; 18:8, 14; 19:26, 40; 22:16, 18, 34, 37; John(2x) 4:35, 13:33. 

[38] In three cases an adverb does precede the stock phrase thus modifying what follows (Lk. 13:33; Matt. 18:22; 19:24) though this does not effect the fact that the content of the stock phrase always follows thereafter.      

[39] Young, Richard A.  Intermediate New Testament Greek:  A Linguistic And Exegetical Approach.  Broadman & Holman, Tennessee:  1994: 195-197.

[40]Davies,Position of adverbs in Luke.  Studies in New Testament Language and Text. 1976:  114.

[41] Mark says in 2:12 of his record, “And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone.”  Only Luke throws “immediately” forward for emphasis.  

[42] While this is readily acknowledge for Jehovah’s Witness it is less understood among Seventh Day Adventists (even for some within their own ranks).  As one Seventh Day Adventist scholar points out, there is then no actual intermediate state of existence only an intervening period of time between death and re-creation at the resurrection (Death as Sleep: The (Mis)use of a Biblical Metaphor by Wilson Paroschi in The Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 28/1 (2017): 26-44).

[43] e.g. Jeremias “paradise” in TDNT 1967: 147; Bietenhard “paradise” in DNTT 1979: 2.761; Russell in A History of Heaven:  The Singing Silence 1997: 19; Bowden in Encyclopedia of Christianity 2005: 326-29.

[44] It is unclear in the story if Hades is the larger geographic area and Abraham’s Bosom the subset of it or if the two are completely different areas but adjacent to one another.  

[45] Christian Song Latin and German, for Use at Funerals (1542), in Works of Martin 49 Luther, 6 vols. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1915-1932), 6:288.

[46] See History of Paradise: The Garden of Eden in Myth and Tradition By Jean Delumeau & Matthew O'Connell, “Jesus Reopened ‘Paradise,’” pp. 29-38. Some it seems took this idea too far arguing that paradise was in fact heaven and therefore there was no need for a resurrection.  Justin Martyr appears to be combating this view in Dialogue with Trypho chp. 80:  “For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians, even as one, if he would rightly consider it, would not admit that the Sadducees, or similar sects of Genistæ, Meristæ, Galilæans, Hellenists, Pharisees, Baptists, are Jews (do not hear me impatiently when I tell you what I think), but are [only] called Jews and children of Abraham, worshipping God with the lips, as God Himself declared, but the heart was far from Him. But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, [as] the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.”

[47] The Sleep of the Soul in the Early Syriac Churchby F. Gavin in The Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 40 (1920), pp. 103-120.

[48] While Luther’s predominant image for death is “sleep” implying an unconscious state, and at times he explicitly states as much, his later lectures on Genesis indicate either a change in his view or simply more complexity to his definition of “sleep” than first imagined.  This is even admitted by seventh-day Adventist scholar Trevor O'Reggio in A Re-examination of Luther ’s View on the State of the Dead(2011) from the Department of Church History at Andrews University, Faculty Publications, Paper 5.

BCC President: "Send your kids to BICS!"

BCC President: "Send your kids to BICS!"

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