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Is there a place where the souls will remain after death? The rich man and Lazarus was a good example. There is no mention of any of the apostles, prophets, or saved men or women go immediately to heaven after death. Explain to me what Abraham Bosom mean.
We need to be careful about how far to push the Rich man and Lazarus. Remember that this is a parable. It is not just "a" example, it is the "only" example of a "waiting place" and a questionable one at that. Parable's typically have one point. The point of this parable was not to tell us the nature of Heaven or of a supposed "waiting place." If you look at the previous parable in Matthew 16 about the unrighteous steward, I don't think that anyone would say that this authorizes us to cheat or lie. Yet the parable describes someone doing just that and getting away with it. My point is that we should be careful not to push the details of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
Every other indication in scripture shows that when a soul departs, he goes on to be with the Lord. Paul indicates this in plain language in Philippians 1. He says,
"But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake (Phil 1:23-24)."
The pictures we are given of the faithful dead in Revelation shows them around the throne of God, not in some intermediate state (Rev 6-7).
I would be careful not to be too dogmatic about this, some have went so far as to label others false teachers who do not understand this in the same way. We are talking about something that the Bible describes in human language, human terms and human images, yet is not of this world. Paul speaks of an experience of being caught up into the "third Heaven" and hearing "inexpressible words (2 Cor 12:4). He doesn't speak of an intermediate state here either.
Putting all the passages together can be confusing. For instance, Paul speaks of those who have died as "sleeping (1 Thess 4:13)." However, in Revelation, they are very much awake (Rev 6:9; 7:9-17). IF they are awake and with God after they die, then how will they they be resurrected from the ground (1 Thess 4:16; 1 Cor 15:35, 42)? Will disembodied spirits return to the ground so they can be raised in a new body? What about the word paradise (Luk 23:43; 2 Cor 12:4; Rev 2:7). Is there a difference between it and Heaven (1 Pet 1:4)? What is Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22)? Is it different than heaven and paradise?
I will give a very breif note on "Abraham's Bosom" since you asked specifically about that. This may not make a lot of sense if you are not familiar with ancient dining customs. In ancient times, people typically reclined on couches on their left elbow and ate with the right hand. A dining room could have anywhere from three to nine tables arranged in a "U" shape. Instead of chairs, people reclined on couches. Usually three people sat on each couch with their feet out behind them to the right. The host would have reclined at the extreme right of the "U" and the place of honor would have been to his right. Therefore the guest of honor would have literally reclined at the "bosom" of the host. That is why the disciple whom Jesus loved had to "lean back" on Jesus bosom to ask who is was that would betray him (John 13:25). "Abraham's bosom" evokes a picture of being an honored guest before the Lord. We are given a similar picture in the 23rd Psalm where the Psalmists sits at the Lord's table having had his head anointed with oil, a cultural expression of honor for a house guest. To say that the poor man went on to "Abraham's bosom" shows the complete reversal of his fortune. Before he had to beg for a crumb outside of the gates of the rich man. Now he is the guest of honor at a celestial banquet. That is the idea behind the phrase, "Abraham's bosom."
I will not examine the rest of these questions here due to space limitations. However, I will begin to examine these questions in the Essays or Study Outlines section of this web site in the future.
Do you see why I say one should not be too dogmatic about the minute details on this topic? It will take a lot more study of all these individual passages and others in their context to get a better picture. Where you end up depends both on how you interpret the evidence and how you put all of the passages together that speak of this topic. Some of the passages are more figurative than others. They have to be in order to give us mortals some point of reference for something not of this world.
I do not believe there is clear teaching on an "intermediate state." The picture I see is more of an intermediate "time" rather than an intermediate "place," especially in Revelation. When the faithful die, they go on to be with the Lord. That much is clear.
There is something else that is also clear. The pictures given to us of our afterlife are there to remind us to be ready at all times to leave this world (2 Pet 3:11-12; 1 Thess 5:4-8). In all of this study on this topic, let us never forget the practical aspect and purpose of most of the passages that deal with death, heaven, resurrection, and the final judgment. They are there to remind us that this earth is temporary, and that we need to be ready at all time for it to end so we can go on to be with the Lord. John Telgren
P.O. Box 452
Leavenworth, KS 66048
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