Maxey - Thrasher Debate

Eternal Destiny of the Wicked
Perpetual Torment or Ultimate Extinction
(An In-Depth Biblical Discussion)

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Comments by Thomas Thrasher on
The Rich Man & Lazarus,
The Thief on the Cross

While taking note of my friend's lack of interest in the number of words we have used, I nevertheless point out that Al's sixth article continues his escalation of article length. Through six articles apiece, Al has used 43,643 words and I have used 18,487 words. Incidentally, for the benefit of those individuals who are apparently unfamiliar with the "word count" feature of Microsoft Word, on my computer it takes less than a second for Word to display the number of words in a document!

In his sixth article, Al continued his quotations of thousands of words from various uninspired men in an effort to bolster his position. Among those men from whom Al quoted was H. Leo Boles: "Brother H. Leo Boles, in his Commentary on Luke, correctly observed, 'Evidently Jesus did not mean that this robber would go with him to heaven that day, as it seems clear from other statements that Jesus did not go to heaven that day. His day of ascension came about forty days after that time' (p. 454)." This is one of the few books from which Al has quoted that I have in my library. Ordinarily, I do not spend time with Al's uninspired quotations, since we both agree that they don't PROVE what the SCRIPTURES teach. However, in this instance I am making an exception. Having Boles' commentary, I took a few minutes to read the CONTEXT of Al's quote. I found that Boles actually takes the OPPOSITE view to what Al is seeking to prove!!! I invite the reader to investigate the CONTEXT of Boles' remarks on Luke 23:43, which I now reproduce from pages 453-454 of his commentary (the underlining is mine, TNT):

This constitutes the entire comment of Boles on verse 43. All of it is given in a single paragraph. Why did Al reproduce only a small part of Boles' statement, taken out of context, and leave the impression that Boles agreed with his view when he actually agrees with mine?

In my third article, I pointed out Al's evident carelessness in quoting. Al's alleged quotation was: "J. I. Packer, in Fundamentalism and The Word of God, wrote: 'We must never become enslaved to human tradition, and assume the complete rightness of our own established ways of thought and practice, and in so doing excuse ourselves from the duty of testing and reforming them by Scripture.'" I observed that Edward Fudge gave a more extended quotation from this statement on page 435 of his book; however, the wording of the two "quotations" is different! Ed's quote was taken from pages 69-70 of Packer's book. I asked Al from what page his "quote" was taken, but he did not answer!

Since I do not have most of the books from which Al quotes, I am unable to say whether or not he correctly represents the views of other writers whom he quotes. However, based upon his handling of Boles' statement, I don't have a great deal of confidence in his handling of other sources either.

With reference to Ephesians 2:1-2, Al asks: "Does Thomas, therefore, believe their 'immortal spirit or soul' was dead? [Dead in sin, yes, TNT] Can an 'immortal soul' DIE? [Yes, it can be separated from God due to sin, thus spiritually dead! TNT] Isn't that a contradiction of terms?! [No! TNT]"

My opponent says, "By way of example, I heard a woman say to a man on a TV show recently (who had severed his relationship with her in a rather brutal way), 'You are dead to me!!' ... Does that mean the man himself was literally dead? Of course not. It is a figure of speech. She considered him DEAD because of the severed relationship ..." Can Al not see that the same can be true of a lost person throughout eternity? God in essence says, "You are dead to Me!" The person does not cease to exist, but he is eternally separated from God! "Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:23). "Depart from Me, ye cursed" (Matthew 25:41).

Al refers to my clarification on Jude 7: "I do NOT believe that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah LITERALLY received 'eternal fire,' but that the punishment by fire which they received was so utterly complete that it served as a SYMBOL (figure, type) of the eternal fire to be experienced by the ungodly at the judgment." He also quotes my statement that "the physical destruction of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah was a symbol of 'eternal fire,' although it was not literally so."

My friend responds, "I see nothing in the text or context that even remotely suggests this 'undergoing the punishment of eternal fire' did not literally occur as stated. The text clearly declares that 'the punishment of eternal fire' is exactly what they experienced." Al, what about verse 6? Are those angels in literal "everlasting chains"? Peter evidently refers to the same thing when he writes that "the angels who sinned" were delivered "into chains of darkness" (2 Peter 2:4). Are these literal "chains of darkness"?

Al quotes me again: "If you accept Al's position in this debate, then you must be willing to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ BECAME EXTINCT (CEASED TO EXIST) when He died upon the cross! Let me make this very clear: I DON'T believe Jesus CEASED TO EXIST when He died." Al responds, "If by 'cease to exist' one means He 'totally, completely, utterly forfeited LIFE,' then the answer is YES. His 'beingness' ..., His 'personhood,' ceased to be. It no longer was. In a word: He was dead." I can only say that I am sad to hear a brother in Christ take such a position.

Al refers to "Thomas and his fellow Neo-Platonists," yet I have not based my remarks on any man (including Plato), but THE BIBLE!

In view of Al's erroneous views on so many Bible topics, I am glad to learn that he "still believe[s] in the necessity of water baptism"! Our readers are probably aware that some of our "brethren" no longer think so!

My brother comments, "Thomas also suggested near the end of his last article that 'unity in diversity' is an expression never found in the Bible. He is probably correct in that statement. However, the concept permeates the Scriptures." PROBABLY? Hmmmm. My reference to the expression "unity in diversity" was in response to Al's remark that "the readers might be surprised to discover, however, that the phrase 'immortal soul' NEVER appears in the Bible ... not even once!! I am assuming Thomas already knows this fact!" I provided (in table form) several expressions used by Al that are "never found in the Bible," yet he accepts them and uses them! Since he does so, what is his point in saying that "the phrase 'immortal soul' NEVER appears in the Bible"?

Responding to my observations about brother John Clayton, Al said, "I might point out to you, Thomas, that these are MY beliefs as well. My YEC brother then wrote, 'I don't have much confidence in someone who is no better Bible student than that!' Hmmmm. I think I see the makings of another debate here!!!" My brother, I would be glad to do so after this debate is completed, IF you will agree to make each article a reasonable length! I have no problem with the NUMBER of articles. You can write as much as you want, just divide them up into manageable segments.

Al says he agrees with me (and the Bible) that "ALL (both just and unjust) will be raised from the dead (John 5:28-29)."

I said that Al's "idea that the 'spirit' is just the 'breath' is so obviously false as to require little refutation." Al responded, "I do not teach what he declares. I have never declared that the "spirit," when applied to man, is just the 'breath.'"

Al described his own belief in these words [the underlining is mine, TNT]: "The biblical view of the nature of man is probably best perceived in Genesis 2:7 -- "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." One could perhaps present this passage as an equation:

B + B = B
Body + Breath = Being

He went on to say, "It is this 'breath of life,' this 'spirit of life,' that is proclaimed by some to be immortal, and which consciously survives the death of the physical body." Is Al not equating "breath" and "spirit"?

He also stated: "'Thou dost take away their spirit/breath, they expire, and return to their dust.' When the breath departs from the body, the body returns to the dust. Solomon points out that men and beasts 'all have the same breath/spirit' (Eccl. 3:19)."


In his remarks on Luke 16:19-31, my opponent asks, "Is this a literal, historical account, or is this a parable? This has been hotly debated for many centuries, with REPUTABLE SCHOLARS AND DEVOTED DISCIPLES taking stands on both sides of the issue" (caps mine, TNT). Obviously, then, his proceeding to quote several men who appear to agree with him on this point PROVES NOTHING so far as the truth of his position, for "reputable scholars and devoted disciples" could also have been quoted in OPPOSITION to his view. Since he admits this fact, it is obviously unnecessary for me to provide examples of such quotations from "reputable scholars and devoted disciples."

My brother says, "There is ... some legitimate, SCHOLARLY SPECULATION, that Jesus MAY well have employed a rather well-known contemporary story as He spoke to these scribes and Pharisees ..." Al also says, "Several good reference works document and describe in some detail a good number of these stories that our Lord MAY have adapted to His own needs ..." He later says the Lord's teaching is "LIKELY based on common lore" (caps and underlining in these quotes are mine, TNT). Perhaps "scholarly speculation" is convincing evidence to Al Maxey, but it PROVES NOTHING so far as I am concerned! I will, therefore, make no effort to respond to these QUOTATIONS that express the opinions of men, since Al has previously acknowledged that "both of us could quote a host of men (known and unknown, reputable and otherwise) who agree with our respective positions." I have cited three reasons why I have chosen not to follow Al down this path:

  1. Both of us could do this and extend this debate indefinitely.

  2. Even a thousand quotations of this sort would not prove what is true.

  3. What the Bible teaches is all that really matters in determining what "the eternal destiny of the wicked" will be!

Al says, "A far more important reason for regarding the story of the rich man and Lazarus as figurative rather than literal/historical, however, is the obvious conflict with the inspired Scriptures that occurs when it is regarded as an actual account of real people and real events. These, in my estimation, are extremely serious contradictions with revealed Truth. Notice the following problems associated with a literal, historical interpretation of Luke 16:19-31." I wish to comment on these supposed "contradictions" one-by-one.

#1 --- "It would teach that judgment and punishment of the dead has occurred prior to the resurrection and judgment on that great and final day!"

#2 --- "To embrace this parable as literal, historical narrative would also make one guilty of promoting the view of a mortal man inherently possessing an immortal soul or spirit."

"In point of fact, this parable doesn't even mention 'souls' or disembodied 'spirits.' That is an assumption of biased interpreters."

"If this account is of disembodied spirits ..., then is it not strange that the account speaks of eyes, a tongue and a finger? --- real physical body parts!"

"And what relief would a drop of water on a tongue serve to a spirit? Would it provide any relief?"

"Jesus simply made use of a common story, which reflected current Jewish/pagan thinking, to convey a moral message to His hearers."

#3 --- "Scripture also makes it abundantly clear that the GRAVE (Hades, Sheol) is not a place of conscious activity for the dead. The dead 'sleep' in the dust of the ground, they are not holding conversations with other departed, disembodied spirits across vast chasms."

#4 --- "... If this parable is to be taken literally ... we have lost souls praying to people like Abraham, and Abraham answering!

"There is apparently (if taken literally) a 'vast gulf' between the two 'compartments of Hades,' and yet are we to suppose they can freely converse among each other? I guess sound carries well in the spirit realm!!"

"Any passage of Scripture taken out of context becomes a pretext!"

"To fabricate a theology of disembodied spirits and Hadean holding cells and everlasting torture of the wicked from this passage is an unconscionable abuse of biblical interpretation and should be rejected by all disciples intent upon discerning and declaring Truth rather than perpetuating the tedious tenets of paganistic Tradition."


Al comments on Luke 23:43: "The argument by the traditionalists is that this verse assures us the penitent thief would be 'in Paradise' with Jesus THAT SAME DAY!" Isn't that what the verse says? Notice a few standard translations:

  1. "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (KJV)

  2. "today you will be with Me in Paradise" (NKJV)

  3. "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (ASV)

  4. "today you will be with me in Paradise" (RSV)

  5. "today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (NASB)

"It's interesting to note ... that the thief asked to be remembered when Jesus came in/into His kingdom! When exactly would that have been? Was this on the day of His death and burial? ... Thus, some scholars see a problem early on in the traditional interpretation of this statement by Jesus: how did it accurately address the request of the dying thief on the cross with respect to the coming of the kingdom?"

My friend quotes several more uninspired men and concludes, "The word 'Paradise,' as it is used in the New Testament writings, obviously refers to the eternal abode of God (what we generally term as 'Heaven')." Among those quoted is Curtis Dickinson, who wrote, "In the days of Jesus, the Jews held many widely diverse views regarding 'Paradise,' but none of them were based upon Divine revelation, so no weight should be attached to such opinions. We will stick to what is revealed in the Bible." Does Al agree with his own source that NO WEIGHT should be attached to such human "opinions" and that we should "stick to what is revealed in the Bible"???

My brother states: "Thus, the first major point that needs to be made, and stressed, at this juncture is that Jesus was not speaking of some compartment in Hades or Sheol, but was rather referring to Heaven itself -- the abode of the Father." Much of Al's material is based upon this ASSUMPTION that "paradise" in Luke 23:43 is "heaven," an unwarranted assumption.

Al contends that "the biggest problem associated with Luke 23:43, however, is in connection with the word 'today.' What did Jesus mean when He stated that this dying thief would be with Him in Paradise 'today?' ... it seems clear from Scripture that Jesus Himself did not enter Paradise that day."

My opponent cites "an Islamic web site [that] declared the Luke 23:43 & John 20:17 'discrepancy' as one of the major reasons for rejecting the Bible as authoritative for man today ... Thus, we even have pagans mocking Christianity for this perceived hermeneutical dilemma."

Al's attempts to reconcile his view with the teaching of Luke 23:43 by ASSERTING that there is "an obvious error of punctuation" in the passage.... However, consider the following alternative: "Truly I say to you today, you shall be with Me in Paradise."

"It is therefore not surprising that in one of the oldest Syriac manuscripts of the Gospels (5th century Curetonianus) the translator recognized the idiom and translated the passage, 'Amen say I to you today that with me you will be in the garden of Eden.' BY INTRODUCING THE WORD 'that' the translator removed the need for any punctuation to determine the sense. We therefore have a very ancient precedent for our interpretation which ante-dates all the English versions by hundreds of years" (caps mine, TNT).

Al asks, "Is there any evidence among Bible translators, and Bible translations, for this repunctuation?" He then cites several works that appear to support his view. I will make a few observations on these sources.

Al's choice of "scholars" does not commend his position as the truth.

Thank you for your interest in this Bible study.

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