Maxey - Thrasher Debate

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

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Comments by Al Maxey on
Thrasher's Last Response,
Various Traditionalist "Proof Texts"
for "Immortal Soulism"

THE NUMBERS GAME --- REVISITED

Thomas observed, "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."

It appears my brother in Christ is still somewhat troubled by the fact that my approach to biblical exegesis and presentation differs from his own. This seems to imply his approach is somehow the standard by which all approaches must be measured. I utilize more words than Thomas in my presentation, therefore he implies (as he did in a previous post) that my honor and fairness are in question. I addressed this matter of differing styles and approaches to biblical study and presentation in my last post, but it seems Thomas was not impressed with my reasoning.

That's fine, he doesn't have to be. We are different disciples with different abilities and approaches. Neither of us is the standard for the other. If Thomas prefers briefer posts, then more power to him; he is free to be brief. There are also readers who will agree with him. I prefer greater depth and thoroughness, and thus longer posts. There are those who agree with this approach, as well. Being different does not necessarily equate to being dishonest or unfair.

Once again, two can play the numbers game. If Thomas is concerned over my "lack of interest" in the length of my posts, what might one surmise about the ever increasing response times we are witnessing from brother Thrasher?! Should we surmise disinterest on his part? Should we surmise lack of honor and fairness?

Frankly, in this case we have far more reason for legitimate concern for the simple reason that Thomas has declared to me in more than one post that this debate is not a priority with him. That is indeed somewhat strange in light of the fact that it was Thomas who challenged me to this debate, not the other way around. It was important enough for him to approach me, but apparently not important enough now to prioritize it in his schedule.

I agreed to debate him, but urged him not to be like previous opponents of mine who, when they realized they were in over their heads, began to drag their feet (sometimes going months without responding). I asked for a 7-10 day maximum response time. Thomas agreed, although pointed out there might be a few occasions when he would need a little more time. Little did I know what that would become! By way of example, through 7 posts each here are our response times:

Maxey --- 8 days
Thrasher --- 123 days

This last response time alone was 41 days; the time before that was 32 days. Thomas says privately that he is a busy man, with many challenges which demand his attention. This is no less true of me. In fact, I will put my schedule and the demands on my time up against brother Thrasher's without hesitation at any time. I firmly believe the real problem here is one of attitude, and this is seen especially in some of his comments to me in his emails. I have tried to send reminders to Thomas occasionally about response time on behalf of the readers so that this exchange can continue on a timely basis (which apparently irritates my opponent to no end). Most of my emails to Thomas are just ignored completely. However, now and then he will respond, and these occasions are most revealing.

For example, I had finally determined that at the six week mark (after 42 days ... which would have been today -- Thursday) I would post my next post (this present one) and then post the remainder of my arguments for my position at reasonably spaced intervals until I had completed presenting the evidence. I was determined not to allow Thomas to drag this exchange out until the Parousia, as some of my other opponents have sought to do. I informed him of my decision several days ago, to which he responded, "I was going to email my article Tuesday morning; however, in view of your ultimatum, I may wait and send it Wednesday night (before midnight my time)!" This, in fact, is exactly what Thomas did, posting it just prior to midnight last night. This was intentional delay just for spite, and, to use my wife's term, the epitome of "childishness." This does not present Thomas in a positive light, and it only serves to penalize the readers, not his opponent.

I hope and pray that we can move beyond such pettiness and childish game-playing with our discussions of God's inspired Truth, and behave as the spiritual leaders in the One Body we each profess to be. Also, I believe most intelligent disciples can clearly perceive that depth of biblical exegesis is hardly on the same level as intentional delay to spite an opponent.

But, enough about such matters. Let's move on to the Word of God .... in-depth and intense examination, proclamation and defense of which, for me, is very much a priority. "...always being READY to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).

REFLECTIONS ON THOMAS' LAST POST

With regard to my comments on brother Boles' comments on the incident with the thief on the cross, Thomas wrote, "I found that Boles actually takes the OPPOSITE view to what Al is seeking to prove! .... 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?"

Thomas is correct in his analysis of Boles' convictions with regard to the state of the dead. He and Thomas do indeed share the same misunderstanding, as many do. I don't suggest otherwise. What I do suggest, however, is that brother Boles has made a most insightful observation in his commentary, and it was merely to that astute observation that I made appeal, not to the entirety of his theology on the matter (with which I greatly differ). Here is the quote I took from Boles:

What brother Boles has correctly perceived, and what a great many today (even within the churches of Christ) do not perceive, is that one does not enter heaven at the moment of death. I can't even count the number of times I have heard preachers proclaim at a funeral that the "departed loved one" is actually more alive now than they were before, and that they are singing with the angels in heaven. On the contrary. They are not in heaven, as brother Boles has correctly observed, they are dead and in Hades. Where I differ with brother Boles, however, is in the view that Paradise is just some compartment in the Hadean realm for saved disembodied spirits. That is not taught in Scripture.

The NT evidence indicates that Paradise is heaven, as I have already sought to demonstrate. The tree of life is in Paradise, for example, and it is right before the throne of God in heaven (not in Hades). It is not some distant holding area for redeemed ghosts. Such thinking is paganistic, and has its roots in the so-called Intertestamental Period, as I have already demonstrated in previous posts. Boles differs with Scripture on this, as does Thomas, and places Paradise in Hades (which the Bible never does). Boles' observation (which I quoted) was a good one, and accurate in so far as it went, but he didn't take it far enough, and sadly he reverted back to the pagan roots of his theology. It was that glimmer of insight that I shared in my post, however. At least he saw that much, something far too many today don't even begin to grasp (as is evident from just about any funeral sermon you hear).

In my discussion of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, I had noted the following objection to a literal interpretation: "It would teach that judgment and punishment of the dead has occurred prior to the resurrection and judgment on that great and final day!" Thomas, however, seems to believe there may well be two separate days of judgment with ensuing reward or punishment: one at the day of one's physical death, the other at the coming of the Lord in Judgment on the last day.

Thomas wrote, "It would not require that the final judgment ... has already occurred! Certainly the destiny of each individual is unalterably determined at death. Therefore, they can be reserved in the appropriate part of Hades while awaiting the pronouncement of final sentencing by our Lord at His coming." Well, that all sounds good on the surface, but the Bible doesn't teach this. Nor does it teach that the wicked are being tortured as they are held in this "appropriate part of Hades."

If you take the parable of the rich man and Lazarus as literal history, however, then you have a man not only judged, but also being tortured, prior to the actual judgment and sentencing on the last day. Yes, the dead are "imprisoned" in the GRAVE until the trumpet sounds to awaken them, but they are not rewarded or punished prior to that trumpet sound. The Scriptures clearly declare that the Lord will bring His reward with Him on His return. It is not dispensed prior to that day. Thomas' theology would be comparable to suggesting that a prisoner awaiting trial is taken and tortured every day prior to his trial, conviction, sentencing and punishment. An unconscionable violation of justice is attributed to our God with such teaching as that proposed by Thomas. It is unthinkable, not to mention unbiblical. One is not tortured prior to judgment, and yet this is exactly what Thomas teaches. It is a travesty of justice, and it impugns the very character of our God.

I had previously written, "Scripture also makes it abundantly clear that the GRAVE (Hades, Sheol) is not a place of conscious activity for the dead." Thomas remarked, "Al quotes some more uninspired men to this effect, but not one Bible verse to PROVE it." Thomas is correct that in my last post I did not quote any of the Scriptures which demonstrate this truth. The reason is because I had quoted them extensively in previous posts. Here are just a couple from my fourth post dealing with Hades:

I will let these few comments on Thomas' last post suffice. He made many other statements and observations, but my previous posts are thorough enough to easily refute his many misconceptions. Thus, I simply ask the readers to go back and reread what I posted on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus and on the account of the thief on the cross. The position of Thomas on both of these accounts is clearly uninformed.

I will now turn to several more passages of Scripture to which the Traditionalists appeal in a futile effort to validate their false theology.

#1 --- SOULS UNDER THE ALTAR

One of the passages to which the "Immortal Soulists" typically appeal in their effort to demonstrate that some conscious, eternal being, trapped inside of man during this present earthly life, exists in some Hadean holding area, separate from the physical body after the latter's death and return to the dust of the ground, is Revelation 6:9-11. In this sixth chapter John is given a vision of six seals (the seventh is revealed in Rev. 8). In the first four we encounter what many have characterized The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These are obviously symbols, not literal horses or horsemen, and represent vital eternal Truths conveyed to John and his fellow faithful disciples during a time of great struggle and persecution. Following the vision of the four horses and their riders comes the vision of martyred "souls" crying out from underneath an altar. It is this particular vision that concerns us at this juncture in our debate.

"And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath
the altar the souls of those who had been slain
because of the word of God, and because of the
testimony which they had maintained; and they
cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, O Lord,
holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and
avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'

And there was given to each of them a white robe;
and they were told that they should rest for a little while
longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their
brethren who were to be killed even as they had been,
should be completed also." ---- Rev. 6:9-11 (NASB)

It is important to understand the nature of Jewish apocalyptic literature if we ever hope to properly interpret the passage before us. These symbols and figures were never intended to be taken literally. This is figurative language, and any attempt to impose literalness upon these images will inevitably lead to a theology which is both false and bizarre.

Professor D. R. Dungan observed, "Much of the Scriptures was written in language that was highly figurative; its poetry and prophecy, and very much of its prose, contain the loftiest of Oriental hyperbole. It becomes us, then, to acquaint ourselves with the rules governing this kind of speech. We know that if we shall interpret literal language as if it were figurative, or figurative as if it were literal, we will certainly miss the meaning" (Hermeneutics: The Science of Interpreting the Scriptures, p. 195). Adam Clarke characterizes this whole passage as a "symbolical vision" (Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 994).

One of the keys to interpreting the significance of such literature (especially in the book of Revelation) is to keep in mind that these symbols, many of them, find their roots in, and thus derive their meaning and application from, the Old Testament writings. Dr. Milton S. Terry points out, "Constant reference should be had, in the interpretation of this book, to the analogous prophecies of the Old Testament" (Biblical Hermeneutics: A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, p. 468). Therefore, when seeking to interpret Rev. 6:9-11 one should consider two things: (1) this is figurative language, and (2) the correct interpretation of this vision is most likely to be found within the pages of the OT writings.

As we examine the vision of the fifth seal we are presented with an image of "souls" crying out from "underneath the altar." These "souls" are obviously representative of those persons who have forfeited their LIVES due to their faithfulness in proclaiming the Word of God. In other words, they are martyrs. Now, we must be careful here in our interpretation ... these are, after all, merely symbols; this is figurative language, just as the horses and riders in the previous verses are not to be taken literally either. This passage does not depict literal "immortal souls" who have been consigned to a place underneath some giant altar in the "spirit world" for hundreds and thousands of years, and who cry out to God for avenging. After all, some reward this would be for faithfulness unto the point of death!!! Rather, it is a symbol or figure or representation of the fact that the shed blood of faithful servants is always before our God as a witness to their ultimate sacrifice, "crying out to Him" for avenging. And that shed blood will be avenged.

Remember what God said to Cain after he had killed his brother Abel? "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground" (Genesis 4:10). Was that blood, which had soaked into the dust of the ground, literally crying out to God? Of course not! And nobody in their right mind would suggest it was! This is clearly figurative language. It simply informs us, as it informed Cain, that God is cognizant of those faithful ones who have forfeited their lives in His service. Their shed blood "speaks to Him" as a continuing testimony of their faithfulness unto death, and that testimony does not go unnoticed by our Father! "O earth, do not cover my blood, and let there be no resting place for my cry" (Job 16:18). Nor will that plea emanating from the poured out blood of martyrs go unanswered! "For behold, the Lord is coming out of His dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her; she will conceal her slain no longer" (Isaiah 26:21).

Unto what does the figure in Rev. 6:9 allude? I believe we can find its OT antecedent in a couple of passages from the Pentateuch dealing with sacrifices offered unto the Lord God upon the altar, and what was then done with the blood which was shed.

When a victim was sacrificed unto the Lord, the blood of that sacrificial victim (and martyrs are most definitely "sacrificial victims") was to be poured out at the BASE of the altar. That blood then flowed beneath the altar of sacrifice. Paul used similar language as he contemplated his own death, depicting his martyrdom as an "offering" which was "already being poured out" (2 Timothy 4:6). See also: Philippians 2:17. The Disciples' Study Bible comments that "the deaths of Christian martyrs are precious enough to be likened to holy sacrifices." The martyrs depicted in Revelation 6:9-11 had offered their very LIVES upon the altar of sacrifice, their life blood flowing beneath this sacred altar as a testimony to their ultimate sacrifice.

What is the significance of the pouring out of the blood? The LIFE (soul) of the body was said to be in the blood!! Thus, the pouring out of blood signified the pouring out of life. Leviticus 17:11 informs us that "the LIFE (this is the same word we translate "soul") of the flesh is in the blood." Indeed, in Genesis 9:4 we are told that the LIFE (soul) of the flesh IS "its blood." Thus, the blood symbolizes the LIFE of the body, and it should be pointed out again that this word which we translate "life" is the very same word that is elsewhere translated "soul." When an animal was offered on the altar, and its blood was shed as a sacrifice before God, its life/soul was poured out in the shedding of its blood, and this life-blood flowed beneath the altar of sacrifice. Does this signify that bulls and goats sacrificed upon an altar had "immortal souls" which somehow got trapped under this altar of sacrifice? Of course not. It merely signified that their blood was the life/soul of the body, and that life/soul was sacrificed (poured out) unto the Lord in a special offering at the base of the altar.

The blood of the martyrs of all ages has been (and is being) poured out on the altar of the ultimate personal sacrifice: the offering of one's life/soul in faithfulness even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10). Just as the soul of the sacrificial animal flowed under the altar through its shed blood, so also does the soul (LIFE) of a martyr flow under the great altar of personal sacrifice through his/her shed blood offered up in faithfulness to the Father, faithfulness exemplified in death. This sacrifice, declares God in this vision unto John, would not be forgotten, nor would it go unavenged. Just as the blood of righteous Abel "cried out" to God from the ground (figuratively speaking), so also does the blood of these sacrificial victims "cry out" (again, figuratively speaking) from beneath the great altar of sacrifice before our God in Heaven. It is a cry to Deity to fulfill the promise made to all faithful ones who pay the ultimate price: "He will avenge the blood of His servants; He will take vengeance on His enemies" (Deuteronomy 32:43).

"There are no literal 'souls' of martyrs in heaven squeezed at the base of an altar. The whole scene is simply a symbolic representation designed to reassure those facing martyrdom and death that ultimately they would be vindicated by God. .... Apocalyptic pictures are not meant to be photographs of actual realities" (Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, p. 186).

It has become a very common tendency "to regard those who died for their witness as having a special place in heaven, with special rights of intercession. Under the influence of Neo-Platonism this led to the development of the idea of 'saints' who had the privilege of intercession for Christians upon earth. The NT, however, provides no ground for such beliefs, since it gives no place of special privilege even to those who have as 'martyrs' died for the faith" (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 4, p. 103).

To assume a doctrine of "immortal soulism" from this passage in the book of Revelation is merely to show total ignorance of this type of Jewish literature and of the many symbols, types and figures of the OT writings to which this literature frequently alludes. In short, these "souls" under the altar are no more literal than the locusts from the pit, the four horses and their riders, or Jesus being in actuality a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes and a slit throat! These are symbols which convey some Truth, but which are not the reality themselves; the shadows do not constitute the substance. Failing to perceive this can lead to some rather bizarre, not to mention false, theology. "Immortal soulism" is a false theology. "Souls" of slain disciples trapped under a giant altar, crying out for vengeance, if taken literally, is a bizarre theology. Neither has any place in the proclamation of Gospel Truth.

#2 --- SPIRITS IN PRISON

Another passage often appealed to in an effort to promote the view of conscious, immortal spirit-beings dwelling in some so-called Intermediate State apart from their physical, now deceased, host bodies, is 1 Peter 3:18-20. Thus, it behooves us to carefully examine this passage of Scripture to determine its true meaning.

"For Christ ... was put to death in the body
but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also
He went and preached to the spirits in prison
who disobeyed long ago when God waited
patiently in the days of Noah while the ark
was being built." ---- 1 Peter 3:18-20 (NIV)

Just exactly who are these "spirits in prison," and how and when did Christ "preach" unto them? And what did He preach unto them? Some scholars have declared this the most difficult passage in the Bible to interpret. Martin Luther has perhaps given the best response of all time when he said, "I don't know what Peter means here!"

This passage has certainly been the cause of tremendous debate through the centuries, and a host of theories have arisen to try and explain its meaning. I will briefly note the major interpretations proposed over the years.

ONE --- Christ went to Hell or Hades (both views have been taken) between the time of His death and resurrection and preached to the lost souls in torment there. This was the view of Clement of Alexandria (c. 200 AD). Generally it is felt by those who embrace this view that the only lost souls preached to on that occasion were the ones from the time of the flood.

There are obviously some major problems associated with this interpretation, not the least of which is the "doctrine of the second chance." Was Jesus really extending the opportunity of salvation to "lost souls" already in torment? And if so, why only to these particular lost souls, and not to all lost souls? Such an interpretation flies in the face of clear biblical doctrine to the contrary.

The Pulpit Commentary states, "If this passage does mean that Christ preached to the dead, it only speaks of the dead in the days of Noah; it seems incredible that these comparative few should be singled out from the great mass of mankind for so great a blessing. I might remind you, too, that if these words mean that the impenitent dead have a second chance, they stand alone in Scripture, at least as far as I am aware" (Vol. 22, p. 158).

TWO --- A Roman Catholic view (and this was put forward primarily by Cardinal Bellarmine -- c. 1600 AD) is that Christ went to the place known as Limbo between His death and resurrection. He was there to release the souls of the righteous who had repented prior to the flood, but who could not enter heaven until after the coming of the Messiah. Thus, Limbo was the abode between heaven and hell where the OT saints were kept, according to this view. I don't think we have to go into too terribly much investigation into Scripture to discover that such a view has no basis in fact.

THREE --- A third view is that during the time between His death and resurrection Jesus preached to the "fallen angels" who were being kept in bonds until Judgment (in Tartarus -- 2 Peter 2:4). These were also the ones (according to this view) who were known as the "sons of God," and who took wives for themselves from among the daughters of men (Gen. 6:1-4). This view was promoted quite vigorously at the turn of the previous century by Friedrich Spitta.

FOUR --- The fourth major view, and this is held by some of the modern scholars, is that after the resurrection, when Jesus ascended into heaven, He passed through the Hadean realm, and also through the areas where fallen angels were being held, and He proclaimed His victory to them as He ascended to the Father. This was not a proclamation for the purpose of saving them, but a declaration of their ultimate and eternal defeat.

FIVE --- Personally, I do not believe any of the above have a great deal of merit. My own personal interpretation, and the one which I think best fits the context, and which best harmonizes with the remainder of the Scriptures, is this: It was the Spirit of Christ who preached the message of salvation through His servant Noah, unto the people of Noah's day, during those years prior to the flood. This was also the view of St. Augustine (c. 400 AD), and it is the view which has dominated the theological scene for centuries and is embraced by most scholars today.

We know that Noah was "a preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5), so we know that these lost souls (bound & imprisoned in sin) were having the message of salvation proclaimed to them through his efforts. We also know that the OT proclaimers were preaching their message to the lost souls about them by means of "the Spirit of Christ within them" (1 Peter 1:10-11). Therefore, Peter, in the context of the very book wherein we find our difficult passage, confirms for us that the "Spirit of Christ" was proclaiming the "good news" through the OT spokesmen of God. And among those OT proclaimers, according to Peter, was Noah. Thus, Christ was preaching to those people before their physical deaths, prior to the coming of the flood, through Noah.

John Wesley wrote in his commentary on Peter's epistles, "By which Spirit He preached = Through the ministry of Noah. To the spirits in prison = The unholy men before the flood." Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, in their classic "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible" (1871), wrote, "Christ, who in our times came in the flesh, in the days of Noah preached in Spirit by Noah to the spirits then in prison." They then point to Isaiah 61:1 to show that those who are in bondage to sin and its wages (death) are characterized as being "in prison." They continue, "So the same Spirit of Christ (who preached through the OT spokesmen -- 1 Pet. 1:11) enabled Noah, amidst reproach and trials, to preach to the disobedient spirits fast bound in wrath." Disobedient, NOT disembodied. Adam Clarke stated that it was "by the ministry of Noah" that the Spirit of Christ preached to "the inhabitants of the antediluvian world" (Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 861).

Noted brethren even within churches of Christ have embraced this view as the biblical one. Both Clem & Dillard Thurman, for example (editors of the Gospel Minutes), have defended this interpretation vigorously in their publication. Brother Clem, in an article dated April 27, 1990, wrote that this view "is clearly shown" in the context of the passage. Brother Dillard, in an article dated Nov. 23, 1979, wrote, "There is nothing in the passage that suggests that Jesus preached while dead. The spirits in prison are very definitely placed in the days of Noah, and it is also shown that Christ (as the eternal WORD) was preaching through Noah by the Holy Spirit."

Brother Dillard Thurman, in that same article, further writes, "Notice carefully what is said. Jesus was put to death in the flesh, and died like any mortal man. But He was quickened, or made alive by the Spirit. By what Spirit? By the same Spirit by which He once preached to spirits imprisoned by sin and Satan in the days of Noah! When did this happen? The passage plainly states it: 'When once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.' The word 'when' is an adverb of time that tells when the action took place: in the days of Noah! The idea of the Son of God being off on a preaching junket for the three days and nights that His body was in the tomb is utterly foreign to any Bible teaching! If false doctrines had not first brought forth this fanciful idea, this passage would not have been twisted to support the error!"

Albert Barnes declared, "...this whole passage refers to his preaching to the antediluvians in the time of Noah .... no argument can be based on it in proof that he went to preach to them after their death, and while his body was lying in the grave" (Barnes Notes on the New Testament).

In the final analysis, I believe the view which best harmonizes with Scripture is the one which declares that the Spirit of Christ, speaking through Noah, preached to those who were in bondage to sin during the time prior to the flood. I don't find anything in this view inconsistent with the remainder of God's Word, whereas I do find problems with the other interpretations (and in some cases major problems). In short, I find nothing whatsoever in this passage which suggests the concept of "immortal soulism" or some Hadean holding area of disembodied spirit-beings. I believe such teaching is imposed upon this passage (eisegesis) rather than honestly and legitimately drawn from it (exegesis).

#3 --- THE "WITCH" OF ENDOR

Another account to which the Traditionalists appeal in a vain attempt to prove "Immortal Soulism" is found in chapter 28 of the first book of Samuel. This is the story of king Saul seeking out the "Witch of Endor" and the apparent appearance of Samuel from beyond the grave. Some have appealed to this event to suggest the conscious existence of a person's "immortal soul" or "undying spirit" in some location beyond this present physical realm. Is that truly, and only, what this account suggests? Or, are there other possible interpretations to this admittedly difficult passage in the Bible?

God had commanded His people: "Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:31). "As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people" (Leviticus 20:6). "Now a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist shall surely be put to death" (Leviticus 20:27).

King Saul was not an overly righteous king, but to his credit he "had removed from the land those who were mediums and spiritists" (1 Samuel 28:3). Indeed, he had prescribed the death penalty for those who were found practicing this evil, godless craft (vs. 9-10). As one commentator astutely observed, however: "Although Saul had removed the sin of witchcraft from the land, he had not removed it from his heart." At a time of personal desperation, rather than turning to his God he turned to the forces of evil for guidance.

His fate for this folly is described in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14. "Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse." One interesting observation to this later summation of the events of 1 Samuel 28 is that there is no mention whatsoever of the "spirit" of Samuel having been called up .... only that Saul had consulted with this woman from Endor.

There has been tremendous debate over the centuries as to what exactly occurred that day when Saul consulted this woman who was practicing the "black arts." There is no question that this woman was not a servant of the Lord. If she was in league with any spiritual force, it was with Satan rather than God. The apostle Paul warns the brethren in Corinth that there is a very real danger associated with idolatry --- it places those who embrace it in fellowship with the evil forces behind these godless practices. There are real spirit beings (demons) against which the godly struggle in this life. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). Thus, Paul warns them to stay away from such activities of darkness, because "I do not want you to become sharers (participants; fellowshippers) in demons" (1 Corinthians 10:20).

The woman from Endor was in fellowship with the forces of darkness; she was a participant with demons. I doubt that any person would seek to refute that. She stood in opposition to God in every way; and God's punishment for such was death!

This raises an interesting question, and, for the purpose of even asking this question, we must make some assumptions. Assuming that mortal man is in possession of an inherently immortal soul which is incapable of ever being destroyed or dying (which I deny Scripture teaches), and which thus of necessity must exist consciously somewhere after being separated from the physical body at death (which I also deny Scripture teaches) ..... assuming this, however, simply for the sake of argument, is it possible for a person in league with the forces of evil to call forth the righteous dead from their blissful abode?! Can those serving Satan really yank a saved soul out of its spiritual repose? -- (assuming, of course, that these "disembodied souls" really are in such an intermediate location ... which I deny the Scriptures teach).

It seems to me this is a very grave (pun intended!!) theological problem! Personally, I can not imagine how such could be the case. Dr. Lewis, in his book Cults of the Dead, wrote: "Was the woman actually able to raise up the righteous dead (i.e., Satan having power over the saints)?" (p. 115). This is a very troubling question, and has bothered people for centuries! Can Satan actually reach into Paradise and drag "souls" out of there for his own devious purposes?

There are two major theories which have been put forward over the centuries to try and explain this passage of Scripture (as well as many minor, less logical, and at times almost ludicrous, theories):

ONE --- God Himself intervened in this situation and by His power raised up Samuel to appear unto Saul. And the purpose was to deliver a message to Saul. There are some problems associated with this view, however, as one might well expect. Would God work hand-in-hand with a "witch" (as the KJV describes her)? Also, keep in mind that from the text itself, in 1 Samuel 28, there is no indication that this appearance was at the hand of God; nowhere does it suggest God did this, but rather that the woman called him forth. One might perhaps assume God did it, but such is not stated ... it is purely conjecture on the part of men.

God certainly had the power to raise up Samuel and send him to Saul at this time with a message, had He chosen to do so. There is no doubt about that. But did God do this? One may assume it, but one cannot prove it. And something else to consider: even if God did send Samuel to Saul at this time, this in no way proves the conscious existence of an "immortal soul" in some Hadean holding cell. God could just as easily have raised Samuel's mortal remains from the dust of the ground, breathed life back into this dead body, sent him to deliver this message, and then returned Samuel to his slumber in the dust of the ground (Daniel 12:2). That also is a legitimate possibility, and one far more consistent with the remainder of Scripture pertaining to the nature and destiny of man. The text itself does not suggest anything about Samuel's state prior to this calling up. The only possible allusion is when Samuel says, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" (1 Samuel 28:15). This really does not "prove" either interpretation, however, as this statement could just as easily refer to being disturbed from his "sleep in the dust of the ground" as to his conscious bliss in some intermediate "holding area" which was interrupted by this summons.

Yes, it is certainly possible that God could have raised Samuel and sent him to Saul .... but it is odd, is it not, that the character said to be Samuel (in 1 Samuel 28:15) attributes the raising up of himself to Saul and this woman from Endor. Why didn't this apparition acknowledge that it was God who raised him up? This is more than a little puzzling. However, again, even if God did raise up Samuel, it still in no way proves the conscious existence of some "immortal soul" or "spirit-being" beyond one's physical death, as noted above. There is simply no way this passage can be used conclusively to "prove" such a doctrine, for God could just as easily, and far more consistently with Scripture, have raised up the physical remains of Samuel from the dust of the ground for this brief appearance. Thus, at best, the Traditionalists seek to build their doctrine upon sweeping assumptions with no textual or contextual substantiation. That is poor hermeneutics, and additionally a mighty unstable foundation upon which to build a theology.

TWO --- The other major theory proposed is that this "being" who was "raised up" was not Samuel at all .... if indeed there was even a being present (remember: only the woman saw him; Saul never actually saw Samuel ... go back and read this!!!), it is possible this was a demon pretending to be Samuel. The woman, after all, was in league with demons, not with God or the righteous dead. If she herself saw something, what she saw may have been one of the very beings with whom she was in fellowship. The text actually seems to indicate she was shocked by what she saw, which has led some to speculate she was more of a "fake" (to earn money), and thus it surprised even her when something actually appeared that only she was able to see.

The early church Fathers typically took one of two views: (1) Either God Himself raised Samuel from the dead and sent him to Saul (they simply could not abide the view that a "witch" could raise the righteous from the dead), or (2) this was "just demonic deceit, and what appeared was not really Samuel, but a demon in his guise" (Origen and the Witch of Endor: Toward an Iconoclastic Typology). Some have even suggested that God sent a demon to deliver this message, and perhaps even frighten this woman into repentance. "And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false" (2 Thessalonians 2:11).

The fact that the biblical summary of Saul's sin on this occasion (found in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14) never mentions Samuel being present at all, but only that Saul consulted with this woman, has led many to believe that this narrative was simply an example of "demonic deceit."

But what does one do about the message given that day by "Samuel?" Could this message have come from a demon? Would demons speak words of truth? And for what purpose? Let's not forget that Paul warns us to be aware of the fact that "deceitful workers disguise themselves as apostles of Christ" and "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Satan even quoted Scripture on occasion!

And don't forget the "spirit of divination" that possessed the slave girl (Acts 16), and which kept crying out this message after Paul, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." Paul cast out this evil spirit in the name of Jesus Christ, even though what was being proclaimed was true! We should never discount the possibility, indeed the likelihood, that the forces of evil will at times speak words of truth if in so doing it serves to further their ultimate deception and continue their undermining of God's purposes.

It is at least a possibility that a message of truth was indeed conveyed to Saul; one which was credible enough to make him believe he was hearing from Samuel, and perhaps even from God. Would this not, therefore, lend a sense of validity and credibility to the testimony, indeed the work, of this medium and spiritist? Would not Saul, the king, now perhaps be led to believe that these mediums and spiritists were indeed in contact with God Himself and the departed "spirits" of the righteous?!! Would this not perhaps lead Saul to rethink his ban on their activities, and thus give them a free hand throughout the land? Would Saul now be led to perhaps believe these mediums actually had the approval of God, since God had spoken to him through their mediation? Yes, Satan is a cunning and devious foe. It is at least possible this could have been the explanation for this "appearance" of "Samuel" to Saul, and it is certainly not beyond the power of Satan to perform such a feat, nor is it outside the parameters of biblical teaching that God would allow such a delusion to come upon those who had persisted in rejecting His counsel.

Dr. Kretzmann writes, "That this apparition could not have been the real Samuel is evident .... the devil has no jurisdiction over those who have fallen asleep in the Lord." He goes on to warn, "What the diviners or clairvoyants state is not all falsehood and deception; for the devil is able, with God's permission, to perform works which, to all appearances, are identical with miracles, and to uncover the future. Christians, therefore, will take the greatest care in fleeing from the temptation of consulting such soothsayers" (Popular Commentary of the Bible, Vol. 1).

As a side note: there is an interesting passage in the Babylonian Talmud which shows how some of the ancient Jews perceived this event: "A Sadducee once said to Rabbi Abhu, 'Ye say that the souls of the righteous are treasured up under the throne of glory; how then had the witch of Endor power to bring up the prophet Samuel by necromancy?' The Rabbi replied, 'Because that occurred within twelve months after his death; for we are taught that during twelve months after death the body is preserved, and the soul soars up and down, but that after twelve months the body is destroyed, and the soul goes up, never to return'" (Treatise Shabbath, fol. 88, col. 2). So I guess there is a 12 month grace period where one can still capture a "roaming soul" before it is secure in a place of repose!! Right?!! This has about as much authority and believability as many of the fanciful theories of the "afterlife" promoted in more recent times in "Christian" circles.

Well, what can be said with certainty about this event in 1 Samuel 28? Actually, very little! There is much we just don't know, and probably never will know this side of heaven. We can speculate a great deal, and form numerous opinions, but we have very little in this passage with which to form doctrine with regard to such matters as the nature of man or the nature of what occurs between death and the resurrection. Even if one takes the events of this account literally, as I'm sure Thomas probably does, and even if this medium (or even God, for that matter) did raise up the real Samuel, it in no way proves conscious existence of "immortal souls" in some so-called intermediate state, for Samuel could just as easily, and far more consistently with Scriptural teaching, have been raised from an unconscious sleep in the dust of the ground than from a conscious state in some nether realm (the same argument being true of Moses' appearance at the Transfiguration of Christ, by the way -- Matt. 17:3). There is simply insufficient information in this account from which to formulate any doctrine one way or the other. Indeed, the whole incident raises far more questions than it provides answers ... at least with regard to the nature of man and his eternal destiny.

As mentioned earlier, nothing is said of any conversation of Saul directly with Samuel himself, but rather the inquiry was directed to, and the guidance came from, the medium (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). Indeed, 1 Samuel 28:6 makes it very clear that God had chosen not to respond to Saul through any means. "When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets." God was not speaking to Saul at this point in Saul's life. This is brought out again in vs. 15-16 where both Saul and "Samuel" make it clear that the Lord had departed from Saul and was no longer speaking to him through ANY means. Does it not seem rather odd, therefore, that God would suddenly decide to speak to Saul through a "witch," or through one supposedly raised from the dead (Samuel), when He would not speak through any of the normal means available to Saul?

Frankly, I seriously question whether this "being" (which Saul never saw) was actually Samuel. Even if the woman was not speaking herself, and Saul heard a voice, it could easily have been the work of a demon. I think it is really important to keep in mind that this chapter in question begins with the clear statement that God was not speaking to Saul by any means. That is a very important point! Isn't it just possible that fact remains constant throughout the passage? -- (and, in fact, it is again brought up during Saul's discourse with "Samuel," as previously noted). It just may be that this whole event was not from God at all, but a demonstration of the power of evil over one who has given himself over to it instead of to God. It can be very, very deceiving and misleading in a person's life, and even destructive! The Bible never declares that any of this came from God!! If anything, the opposite seems far more likely.

One final thought -- in 1 Samuel 28:19 this apparition, which Saul thought was Samuel, declared, "tomorrow you and your sons will be with me." Well, this turned out to be a true statement, for the next day they were DEAD ... just as Samuel was. However, where exactly was Samuel, according to the Traditional perspective. They would claim his "immortal soul" was in Paradise. Is that where Saul would be? Enjoying the comforts of eternal bliss? Snuggled up in Abraham's bosom?! The biblical text gives strong evidence that Saul most likely will not experience eternal salvation. His death is not portrayed as a spiritual victory! Thus, in what sense would Saul and his sons be with Samuel? The only view truly consistent with Scripture is that they would both be in the dust of the ground ... dead ... awaiting together the resurrection to judgment. Thus, if this account is taken literally, as Thomas most likely interprets it, we must ask of these Traditionalists: Were Saul and his sons saved? Are they and Samuel now together ("you and your sons will be WITH me") in Abraham's bosom, experiencing the joys of their salvation? It will be interesting to hear Thomas' response!

Thus, once again, one of the passages often utilized by the Traditionalists in an attempt to prove "immortal soulism," proves no such thing. One by one the building blocks of their false theology fall under the scrutiny of sound biblical hermeneutics.

#4 --- 1 PETER 3:4 & "IMMORTAL SOULISM"

A fellow disciple of Christ once quoted 1 Peter 3:4 to me and then declared, "After searching the Scriptures, it seems to me that a meek and quiet spirit is incorruptible or immortal and of great price to God." Notice the following passage, to which this devoted disciple referred:

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment,
such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and
fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self,
the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is
of great worth in God's sight." ---- 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV)

For some unknown reason, some see the doctrine of "immortal soulism" in this passage. Nothing could be farther from the Truth. This passage is speaking of those qualities in a person which truly cause them to be beautiful in the eyes of God and godly people. It isn't fine clothes, a fancy hairdo, and lots of gaudy trinkets dangling from the body which define one's beauty -- true beauty is of character; an "inner" beauty. Traits such as meekness, gentleness, calmness, generosity, and the like, cause one to be genuinely beautiful. External adornments of the body will fade away; they will perish. Godly qualities (love, kindness, gentleness, goodness, etc.) endure forever! This passage says nothing at all about some "immortal soul" (a phrase NEVER found in the Bible, by the way ... not even one time).

One will quickly discover, if one does his research, that most reputable scholars view this passage (1 Peter 3:4) as nothing more than a statement on the enduring quality of Christian virtues. The Bible is filled with references to the fact that godly characteristics are enduring. Paul, for example, informs us that some things will "cease," but "love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:8). In Ephesians 6:24 he writes, "Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love." That word "undying" is the very same word used in 1 Peter 3:4. What is "immortal" or "undying" here? LOVE!! A quality of one's heart! Scripture points out, and Peter is merely agreeing with this, that such godly qualities (after all, "God is love") endure!! Thus, it is with these that a woman (and a man, for that matter) should adorn herself, not with the fading, perishable trinkets and coverings of this material world. Peter is obviously not declaring such "fixing up of oneself" to be wrong per se, but rather is trying to get us to realize where our focus and priorities should lie -- and that is on developing our inner qualities rather than decorating our outer bodies.

Wuest, in his Word Studies in the Greek NT (Vol. 2), writes, "The chief adornment of the Christian should be the Lord Jesus, manifested in and through the life of the believer." This people do when they display the qualities of Christ in their attitudes and actions. These are qualities which, because they are godly, are enduring and unfailing (or we could say "immortal" or "incorruptible" or "undying"). This is the Greek word aphthartos which can also be translated "enduring, unfailing." Peter uses the very same word in 1 Peter 1:4 when he speaks of our "inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade -- kept in heaven for you."

The word pneuma (which is rendered "spirit" here) is often used in Scripture to refer to one's temperament or personality or character (something I have tried several times to impress upon Thomas, although in his post #6 he accused me of teaching "spirit" only signifies "breath"). "Pneuma is to be understood in the ethical sense of temperament or character" (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, p. 131). The Tyndale Commentary informs us that this word "refers to the human personality ... the inner character." Wuest writes that it "refers to the personality of the Christian woman" (Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2). He goes on to say, "Peter describes that personality briefly in the case of these wives" as being one characterized by meekness and quietness. He concludes, "Personality is after all far more important than either physical beauty or the adornment which mere clothing affords."

The Expositor's Bible Commentary defines this as "the character of a person ... The Christian woman is to cultivate an inner disposition (pneuma, 'spirit') of a submissive and quiet sort that is imperishable or 'unfading' -- an attitude God highly values" (Vol. 12, p. 237). When God looks at a person to determine "beauty," He looks at the heart, not at one's outer appearance! The latter is where men normally look for beauty. Our focus is to be like unto God's, however, therefore we must adorn the heart and mind with those godly, enduring qualities which constitute true beauty. "For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). In Isaiah 3:18f we find that a day would come (and indeed will come at a point in the future) when God would destroy all the adornments of outer beauty which the women of the land valued so highly, and which thus caused them to disregard the adornment of the heart and mind (their "inner self").

Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). He is speaking of an attitude here; a quality of one's heart and mind; a characteristic of one's being. Notice the characteristic of John: "And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous" (Luke 1:17). Was the "immortal soul/spirit" of Elijah inside the body of John? No, of course not! But the same virtues, qualities, characteristics, attitudes of heart and mind were! These unfading, incorruptible, undying Christian virtues are to be ours as well. It is these with which we are to adorn ourselves! These virtues will endure, because they are of the very essence of the Eternal One! "Love never fails" for the simple reason that "God is love!" The very qualities of which Peter speaks are qualities which the NT clearly state reflect the very nature of Jesus Christ Himself, who reflected the very nature of the Father. These qualities are eternal, and we need to be adorning ourselves with these unfading, enduring, undying qualities of heart and mind. Perhaps we can apply the principle of Philippians 2:5 here: "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" (or, to quote the NIV: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus").

R.C.H. Lenski writes, "These Christian virtues are far more than adornments which are put on for a while so that men may see and admire them and are then taken off again" (The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, p. 131). When we put on these ENDURING qualities of heart and mind, they become a part of us! His attitude is impressed upon ours (this is partly what is meant by being "in His image"). And these are qualities which will endure not only here, but here-after as well! Why? Because they are godly qualities! This is not to say that the person himself is immortal (that is not the point of the text), but that certain godly qualities endure, because these qualities themselves are of God.

Because these adornments endure, and because those of this world do not, we should cultivate the former in our lives. The reformer John Calvin wrote, concerning this passage, "They are to devote themselves to the cultivation of their minds ... nothing becomes them (women) more than a placid and a sedate temper of mind." Our inner disposition is vital to establishing our beauty in the eyes of God -- a beauty which truly endures!!

This passage in 1 Pet. 3:4 says absolutely nothing .... I repeat: NOTHING .... about some "immortal soul" or "immortal spirit" trapped inside our physical bodies. You have to read something into this beautiful passage that simply is not there to come up with such a wild theory. Look at the passage again ... carefully ... and you will realize that "incorruptible" is a term descriptive of "apparel" and not "spirit." In other words, that which "endures" is the quality of "meekness" and "quietness." It is this quality which endures, not some "immortal spirit-being" trapped inside of us. Most all translations bring this fact out very clearly. Notice the following:

Even a well-worn copy of a Greek-English interlinear on my shelf places a statement underneath the Greek word for "incorruptible" indicating it refers to the "adornment" of the spirit (meekness and quietness), and not to the spirit itself.

Translation after translation, commentary after commentary, Greek word study after Greek word study, scholar after scholar, disagree with the view of a few traditionalists who doggedly maintain this passage in some way teaches "immortal soulism." If one is looking for a proof-text for an "immortal soul," one is going to have to look elsewhere. This is not it.

#5 ---- THE CASE OF RACHEL'S DEATH

Some have wondered: "Why does Gen 35:18 refer to Rachel's soul leaving her? Doesn't this signify man possesses an "immortal soul" that departs at our death?" Adam Clarke, in his commentary, rather boldly observed, "Is not this a proof that there is an immortal spirit in man, which can exist separate from and independent of the body?" (Vol. 1, p. 212). My guess is Thomas would echo that sentiment. I would respond to this question, however, with an emphatic: "NO, it is not proof of any such thing." It is only proof of the permeating influence of paganism upon Christian theology!

"And it came about as her soul was departing
(for she died), that she named him Ben-oni."
---- Genesis 35:18 (NASB)

The word for "soul" here is nephesh (the same word used in Gen. 2:7 where it says man became a living soul. Animals are also "living souls," according to Scripture; indeed the word is used more often in Genesis of animals than of man). Although this word is translated "soul" quite often in the KJV (and many other versions), it is also translated 117 times in the KJV as "life," an equally legitimate rendering.

In Leviticus 17:11, for example, we read: "For the LIFE of the flesh is in the blood." The word "life" there is this same word (nephesh). Does this mean an "immortal soul" lives in the blood?!! No, of course not! It merely signifies that the blood is the life of the body. Drain the blood out of the body, and you will quickly see a dead body, not a living one!! In Genesis 9:4 we are told that the soul of the body IS the blood!!! Does this mean our blood IS an "immortal soul?" No! That is an absurdity! But the blood is indeed the life/soul of the body!! Without it we are dead ... we have no beingness! The same is true of respiration! Without breath/spirit the body is also dead (James 2:26).

In Genesis 35:18, the passage merely states that the LIFE (nephesh) was quickly draining out of Rachel. The text even tells us what this signifies --- it says: "for she died." LIFE was leaving her!!! A dead body is a body without LIFE (nephesh). All the passage says is that Rachel was about to die. Her life was departing. The NIV phrases it this way: "As she breathed her last -- for she was dying -- she named her son Ben-Oni."

Brother John T. Willis wrote, "The expression 'as her soul was departing' is not a highly religious affirmation meaning 'as her eternal spirit was leaving her body to begin eternity in heaven or hell' or the like; it simply means 'as she was breathing her last few breaths'" (The Living Word Commentary on the Old Testament: Genesis, p. 372).

There is no reference here at all to some "immortal something" trapped inside her body struggling to get out and be free!! Just the opposite. Rachel is depicted as DYING .... not about to experience an even greater degree of existence! Life was being taken from her, not about to be imparted to her in even greater measure! The traditional doctrine is an unbiblical, ungodly, paganistic absurdity, and it should be rejected by all disciples intent upon embracing and proclaiming Truth!

#6 ---- 1 CORINTHIANS 2:11

Another passage to which the Traditionalists often refer in their futile quest to validate their theory of "immortal soulism" is the statement of Paul below to the Corinthian brethren in his first epistle:

"For who among men knows the thoughts of a man
except the spirit of the man, which is in him?"
---- 1 Corinthians 2:11 (NASB)

This is simply a reference to one's own will or personality. You can't read my mind, but I can know my own mind or heart. You can't see into me, and know the nature of my being, but I can understand my own thoughts and motives and desires. The only other Being, aside from my own being/self, who can know my inner thoughts is God. Paul emphasizes the fact that we can't truly know or perceive the inner workings of another person's mind or heart or personality. We can't know the very nature of their being. We only behold as much as they choose to show us. But the man himself beholds his own true inner being (unless he has deluded himself, as well as deluding others ... which is possible).

There are many places, as I have noted before, where the terms "soul" or "spirit" are used to convey the concept of one's mind, or personality, or emotions. Again, Thomas has claimed (in his post #6) that I proclaim the "spirit" is just "breath." This is false. The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Vol. 10) points out that "the expression 'the man's spirit within him' = his human personality." Paul is saying that no person can truly perceive the real personality of another better than that person himself. Thomas Thrasher will never know the thoughts and inner workings of the mind of Al Maxey like Al Maxey does .... and vice versa! However, the Lord knows us both better than either of us know our own selves!!

A similar passage is found in 1 Corinthians 14:32 --- "And the spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets." This simply indicates that each of us are to exercise control of our own self or being. Paul was talking about Christian assemblies being orderly, and the need to avoid chaos and confusion. Some might have been suggesting they couldn't control their prophetic utterances. Paul begged to differ. They could indeed control themselves, and must do so!!

With regard to the previous passage (1 Corinthians 2:11), Dr. C. K. Barrett wrote, "among men, only any given man knows the truth about himself." He points out that the phrase "the man's spirit" simply refers to his "self-consciousness" (Harper's NT Commentaries: The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 74). Adam Clarke, in his commentary, wrote, "The spirit of a man knows the things of a man: that is, a man is conscious of all the schemes, plans, and purposes, that pass in his own mind" (Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 200). The Expositor's Bible Commentary points out that this passage merely speaks of "his human personality being in him" (Vol. 10, p. 202). R. C. H. Lenski wrote, "When the Scriptures distinguish the 'pneuma' from the 'psuche' of man, the 'pneuma' or 'spirit' is the real seat of the ego, the latter only the soul life which animates his body" (The Interpretation of St. Paul's First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians, p. 107). In other words, the "soul" is simply the life-force which animates a physical body (which even the animals possess) and the "spirit" is merely the personality of the individual.

Again, there is simply no basis for suggesting this passage reveals anything about some "immortal being" trapped inside our bodies. The Scriptures, properly understood, simply do not teach such pagan dualism.

#7 ---- CAUGHT UP TO THE THIRD HEAVEN

Yet another passage to which the Traditionalists often appeal is found in the comments of Paul pertaining to a certain person he knows (most scholars feel it is a reference to himself) who was said to have been "caught up into Paradise," or into the "third heaven." The part to which they particularly appeal is the reference to an "out of body" experience, which they feel proves some separate immortal being trapped inside of our physical bodies.

"I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago -- whether
in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know,
God knows -- such a man was caught up to the third heaven.
And I know how such a man -- whether in the body or apart
from the body I do not know, God knows -- was caught
up into Paradise." ---- 2 Corinthians 12:1-4

Paul is, in the context of this passage, attesting to "visions and revelations from the Lord" that were so extremely realistic that he, upon later reflection, could not in all honesty declare whether he was actually, physically (bodily) experiencing these events, or if it was merely a vision implanted upon his mind by the Lord. It is not unusual to refer to a dream, for example, as an "extra-bodily experience." Or even as an out-of-body experience (OBE). In our minds, we enter another realm ... a place where our physical bodies cannot follow. New Age religions are filled with such accounts of what is termed "soul traveling." These are also often characterized as "astral projection" or "OBE" or "projection of the consciousness."

Adam Clarke commented, "That the apostle was in an ecstasy or trance, something like that of Peter (Acts 10:9f), there is reason to believe" (Clarke's Commentary, Vol. 6, p. 366). The Pulpit Commentary observes that this wording about an "out of body" experience is "A powerful description of the absorption of all conscious bodily modes of apprehension. In their comments on these verses, many commentators enter into speculations which seem to me to be so entirely arbitrary and futile that I shall not even allude to them. St. Paul's bodily and mental state during this vision is familiar to all who know the history of Oriental and mediaeval mysticism" (Volume 19).

I think the best commentary on this passage is that of Paul himself. He tells us at the very beginning of his statement, "but I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord." He then immediately tells of this experience. I think it is rather obvious, therefore, based on Paul's own assessment of the event, that this was simply a vision or revelation, and that he himself didn't actually, physically go anywhere!! Similarly, I don't think John literally left the isle of Patmos, but was simply given a vision or revelation. Indeed, John tells us right at the start of the revelations given unto him that he was "in spirit on the Lord's day" (Revelation 1:10). This was a mental state; a trance. Just before Peter saw the vision he did (Acts 10:11-16), we are told "he fell into a trance" (Acts 10:10). I believe this is exactly what happened to Paul.

These were visions, journeys within the mind, not actual journeys taken in the flesh that particular day, although they seemed so real that it left one wondering! We've all experienced this phenomena of which Paul speaks. It is nothing unusual. This passage says nothing whatsoever about some immortal, never-dying "something" trapped inside of our mortal bodies which is capable of "flights of fancy" on occasion to grand and glorious realms above! The Lord sent Paul (also John and Peter) a vision; Paul's "immortal spirit" didn't take a heavenly vacation independent of the physical body. That is a pagan, and also New Age, absurdity. If the Traditionalists want to perpetuate such nonsense, that is their choice. I will stick to the Bible.

CONCLUSION

It is my fervent prayer that more and more disciples of Christ Jesus will begin seriously questioning and challenging the traditional teaching on the nature of man and the final punishment of the wicked. That which Thomas promotes (and I believe he does so ignorantly, as I once did, and not willfully) is false, and it should be rejected.

In my opinion we have covered rather extensively the nature of man, and we have both presented our evidence. It is obvious Thomas and I disagree on what the Scriptures teach with regard to this topic. It is also obvious that neither of us is likely to influence the other to alter his thinking. Thus, beginning with my next post, I shall begin my examination of the nature of the destiny of the unredeemed. I will present what I believe that destiny to be, and then will proceed to substantiate that by an appeal to the Word. I will also examine in-depth some of the passages which the Traditionalists point to as refutation of my position.

May God richly bless all who are following this exchange on this vital topic. I know the delays are discouraging some of you, but please be patient with us. Once again I appeal to my opponent, on behalf of the readers, to rethink his priorities and to make a concerted effort to show common courtesy to our readers and reduce his response time if at all possible. As for me, I think 40 days is just about the outside parameter of my patience. For the remainder of this exchange I will not allow the delay to go beyond that point (and it shouldn't need to unless Thomas is in a coma or on his death bed then I might extend it to 50 days!!!). When day 41 arrives, so also will my next post (whether Thomas has responded or not). Hopefully, however, we will never even come close to that length of delay in the future. Onward and Upward!!

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