A Counterpoint to Mario Derksen's Rebuttal
to my article on Limbo  and The Apostle's Creed

Mario's thesis:

Departed Christians and Old Testament saints are really alive, and not just asleep in the grave until Christ raises their bodies up again.

Satan's lie:

Gen 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
Gen 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

On Matthew 17:1-5

Mario suggests that this passage proves that the righteous dead go immediately to heaven:

Now, this was kind of difficult for Moses and Elijah if they were "dead" in their graves, as Michael Scheifler claims, still waiting to come to life again through Christ Jesus.

As most any student of the Bible knows, Elijah never died. He was taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11), so he is hardly proof of the state of the dead. Moses on the other hand surely did die and was buried (Deut 34:5,6), but his later bodily resurrection is plainly alluded to in Jude 9. The point being that Moses did not go heaven immediately upon his death, but rather he was later raised from the dead so he could be present at the transfiguration of Jesus.

In his revised rebuttal, Mario concedes that since Elijah never died, he cannot be used to prove the state of the dead. Now, using Acts 26:23, Mario proposes that Jesus was the very first to have ever been resurrected from the dead. Here is his statement:

If what Mike said is true, then we would have to conclude that Moses was resurrected before Christ died on the Cross. However, Jesus is the first one to ever have risen (Acts 26:23), and therefore Moses' Resurrection must have occurred after Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross. Thus, Moses showed up with Elijah while he was not yet resurrected, so that proves the Catholic point, because Moses cannot be sleeping and showing up at the Transfiguration at the same time.

A simple review of scripture shows that Jesus was clearly not the first to be resurrected as Mario claims:

Note that these resurrections from the dead all happened prior to the resurrection of Jesus. So is Acts 26:23 in error?

Acts 26:23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

Since Jesus was not the first to be raised from the dead, (Moses was, as pointed out above) how does one interpret this verse? Clearly it means Jesus was the first in preeminence to be resurrected, or the first in importance, but not the first in chronological sequence. This is supported by the meaning of the Greek word translated as "first" as defined in Strong's:

G4413. protos, pro'-tos; contr. superl. of G4253; foremost (in time, place, order or importance): --before, beginning, best, chief (-est), first (of all), former.

So Moses in Jude 9 was apparently the first person to be raised from the dead, in chronology, and this is why he was able to appear at the transfiguration of Jesus, who shortly thereafter was the most preeminent (first in importance among men) to ever be resurrected, as indicated in Acts 26:23.

On Mark 12:19-27

Jesus is asked by the Sadducees (who did not believe in a resurrection) a hypothetical case of a woman who has seven consecutive brothers as husbands:

Mark 12:18 Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying,
Mark 12:19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
Mark 12:20 Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.
Mark 12:21 And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.
Mark 12:22 And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.
Mark 12:23 In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.
Mark 12:24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?
Mark 12:25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.
Mark 12:26 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
Mark 12:27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

Note that both the question of the Sadducees, and the answer Jesus gives, deal with after the resurrection? If as Catholicism (and much of Christianity) teaches, people went immediately to heaven after death, then the focus of the conversation would have been on the recent dead, not those who are resurrected from death at some point in the future. Note that Jesus rebukes the Sadducees for not knowing the teaching of scripture, or the power of God with respect to raising the dead. Jesus is affirming to the Sadducees that there will indeed be a resurrection from death, that there is victory over the grave!

Verse 26, however, does not prove that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive in heaven, but rather, because of their faith, they will indeed be resurrected and then be rewarded with eternal life, something the Sadducees rejected (v. 18). Note that Jesus begins verse 26 with - and as touching the dead, that they rise - Jesus then goes on to present Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as prime examples of those who will be raised from the dead, despite the false beliefs of the Sadducees. The Sadducees rejected the resurrection from the dead, and Jesus in verse 27 is saying that God will not be the God of the dead and buried, but the God of the living, the resurrected, as he makes clear at the beginning of verse 26.

On Luke 15:7

Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Mario comments:

This, too, is rather difficult to do if there is no one in Heaven right now, as "Mr. Bible Light" claims.

First, I make no such claim that no one is in Heaven. Enoch (Gen 5:24), Moses (Matt 17:3, Jude 9) and Elijah (2 Kings:11) are clearly in heaven, in addition to 24 elders (Rev 5:8), which are probably some of the saints mentioned as resurrected from the dead in Matthew 27:52. But then heaven is also full of the heavenly host of angels, who needless to say, rejoice at one sinner repenting. As a result, Luke 15:7 does absolutely nothing to prove the state of the dead one way or another.

In his revised rebuttal, Mario concedes that Luke 15:7 proves nothing about the state of the dead.

On Matthew 27:52

In his revised rebuttal Mario points to Matthew 27:52 as "proof" of Catholic teaching:

... what are those elders doing in Heaven? Aren't they "asleep" in their grace, waiting to be resurrected on the Last Day? Indeed, Matthew 27:52 completely refutes SDA thinking. It reads, "...the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised." See, this is just what Catholicism teaches. When Jesus died, all those who had died in a state of grace from the Old Testament were resurrected and went to Heaven, and from that time on (Jesus' own Resurrection), anyone who died in a state of grace could go to Heaven immediately.

I have already pointed to six other instances of resurrections that occurred before that of Jesus (seven if you include Moses). But, just as Moses was taken up to heaven at his resurrection, so probably were the many saints after Jesus was resurrected. These saints were not held alive in some place called Sheol, but dead and buried, dust, before their resurrection. They were taken to heaven to demonstrate Christ's absolute power over death. Catholicism does not teach a general bodily resurrection of all the righteous dead at Jesus' resurrection, contrary to Mario's claim and one need only to read his later quote from the Vatican Catechism to verify this.

If SDA were true, then those saints in Mt 27:52 could not have been raised, but would have had to wait in their graves till Christ pronounces judgment upon the earth on the Last Day.

The saints raised from the dead in Matthew 27:52 are firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead, and are already in heaven to demonstrate what the rest of us have to look forward to. Though we may die, and be buried, we will surely be resurrected as they were, and join them in heaven, but for us that will not happen until the second coming. Until then, our death will be like a sleep in the grave. So Matthew 27:52 does not present any contradiction or problem, nor does it validate Roman Catholic teaching on the state of the dead.

On Luke 16:19-24

Many will try to use Luke 16:19-31 as proof that there is conscious life after death, and that there is a place of eternal torment (Hell). It is important to point out that Luke 16:19-31 is the fifth in a series of parables as follows:

Parables are designed to teach great moral principles. Each feature of the parable is not to be taken absolutely literally. The question in each parable is what are the great moral lessons. We get into deep trouble if we attempt to take each detail of the parable literally rather than seek the lesson that Jesus is trying to teach. Let's go ahead and assume for a moment that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a literally true story-

Heaven would be a terrible place if we beheld the constant, ever present suffering of our friends for all of eternity. So, why did Jesus use this story and tell it as He did? What lesson(s) was He trying to teach?

The Jews had a common story describing death as passing through a valley of darkness and they pictured salvation as fleeing to the security of Abraham's bosom. The Jews also believed that riches were a sign of God's favor and poverty a sign of His displeasure. Surely the poverty of Lazarus was an indication he had committed some grave sin, the Jews thought. But, the rich man in the story, whom the Jews thought blessed of God, ends up in Hell, while the poor man is in heaven. Jesus had reversed the outcome from what the Jews expected. This is why Jesus used the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in the way he did. It was not intended to convey the exact circumstances of Heaven or Hell, but rather to show to the Jews that they had grave misconceptions about who was saved and who was lost.

These are the main points the parable teaches:

1. Riches gained by greed, dishonesty or oppressing the poor are not a sign of God's favor. Wealth is simply not an indicator of one's salvation.

2. The parable describes a great fixed gulf between the saved and the lost. Jesus clearly communicated that there is no second chance after death. The decision made in life determines our eternal destiny, and it simply cannot be changed after death.

3. Jesus points out that if the Pharisees rejected the clear teachings of God's word regarding salvation, they would also reject such a mighty, supernatural spectacular miracle as one being raised from the dead.

Note that a short while later in John 11:11-14, 43, 44 Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. As a result the Jews were threatened and attempted to kill Lazarus (John 12:10). They also became so angry with Jesus that they plotted to destroy Him as well. So the words of Jesus in Luke 16:31 were indeed prophetic and fulfilled.

So parables are not meant to be taken literally as written. You must read beyond the literal text to see the important principle or lesson(s) being taught.

On Acts 2:29-34

Acts 2:29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
Acts 2:30 Therefore being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
Acts 2:31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
Acts 2:32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses.
Acts 2:33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
Acts 2:34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
Acts 2:35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool.
Acts 3:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Please note that David is not in heaven (not even in some alleged spirit form). According to verse 34, he is still dead, still in the grave. While he was living, David spoke of the resurrection of Jesus, that Jesus would not be left in the grave (hell), but rather, God would raise Jesus from the dead and He would be exalted as Lord and Christ. It is this victory over death and the grave that Jesus Christ offers us if we will have faith in Him. But this reward is something we receive after our resurrection, not before:

Rev 22:12 And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
Rev 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Rev 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

We do not get access to the tree of life and live forever until after the second coming, at which time the righteous will be resurrected, and enter the New Jerusalem. That is when we will be given the opportunity to eat from the tree of life.

On 1 Peter 4:1-6

1 Pet 4:1 Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;
1 Pet 4:2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.
1 Pet 4:3 For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:
1 Pet 4:4 Wherein they think it strange that ye run riot, speaking evil of you:
1 Pet 4:5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.
1 Pet 4:6 For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

This does not speak of preaching to dead people in the grave in the physical sense. In context it is speaking of preaching to the Gentiles, the unbelievers, the spiritually dead, that they too might hear and believe the Gospel message. Another example of this is found in the book of John:

John 5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

At the time, Jesus was speaking of those people hearing His voice at that instant. Those that were spiritually dead in the crowd that heard and believed Him, would inherit eternal life. This is exactly what 1 Peter 4:6 is saying as well. Until the resurrection, however, those in the grave hear nothing and do nothing:

Eccl 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

Eccl 9:10 Whatsover thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

The time is indeed coming, however, when Jesus will speak to those dead in their graves:

John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
John 5:29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

From the above Bible verses quoted by Mario, it should be apparent that there is nothing that supports the state of the dead as taught by the Catholic Church (and most of Christianity for that matter). So Mario's assertion that he has clarified the issue in these few verses is quite groundless.

The rest of his rebuttal goes on to assert that "paradise" was previously located in "hell" and was relocated after Jesus' ascension to heaven and that "sheol" was the destination for Old Testament saints who were released from there at the time of Jesus' resurrection. This is nothing but pure invention, fable, something that is not taught by the Bible. And the Apostle's Creed and the quote from the Catholic Catechism prove absolutely nothing. They are merely the tradition of men.

Mario is more than a little confused about my position and frequently misrepresents what I have said and what I believe. He needs to read more carefully before beginning a rebuttal. For further clarification of my viewpoint, Jesus died on the cross, and from then until His resurrection He did nothing and went nowhere. He was dead. He lay in the tomb until Sunday when God raised Him from the grave in a glorious victory over death. Also, Jesus during his incarnation on Earth never went anywhere to preach to the people of Noah's time, dead or otherwise.

Who Are The Spirits In Prison?

Let's take a close look at this passage in 1st Peter and see just what it is really saying. Verse 18 contains a parallelism, the same thought expressed twice.

1 Pet 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, ...

Jesus Christ who was sinless, died once on the cross for sinners, and was resurrected  to reconcile sinners with God, ...

... being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

He died the death all we mortals must die, but He was raised to life by the Holy Spirit. The parallelism above states twice that Christ died and was resurrected.

1 Pet 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
[The word translated preached G2784. kerusso, is also properly translated as proclaim. See Rev 5:2. So it does not necessarily refer to preaching the gospel.]

Verse 19 says that in His resurrected state (By which), Christ went and proclaimed his victory over the spirits in prison. So who are these spirits? Verse 22 parallels and restates verse 19:

1 Pet 3:22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.

The spirits in prison refers not to people, but fallen angels and authorities and powers who are also spoken of as being chained:

Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Col 2:15 And [by His resurrection] having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them [fallen angels] in it.

Rev 20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
Rev 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
Rev 20:3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
Rev 20:7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

Jude 1:6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

2 Pet 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

1 Peter 3:20 and 21 speak of Noah's experience with the flood, and Christ's death and resurrection, as types of baptism, in which the sinner can gain, and proclaim,  victory over sin and death:

1 Pet 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
1 Pet 3:21 The like figure [of death and resurrection] whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

So properly understood, this passage of 1 Peter 3:18-20 does not teach that Jesus preached to spirits of dead people in Hell or purgatory after His death on the cross, it simply does not validate a belief in an intermediate "prison" or limbo for immortal souls between death and heaven, as some teach today. When Christ died on the cross, He was buried, and did nothing until His resurrection. He went nowhere and preached to no one during the time period between His crucifixion and resurrection. Dead is dead.