Is Abraham's Bosom a Strange Doctrine?

By David J. Stewart | April 2015

Luke 16:22, “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by
the angels into
Abraham's bosom : the rich man also died, and was buried.”

       There is much debate in churches today, particularly Baptist churches, concerning where the saints went after they died in the Old Testament.

Scholars like Dr. John R. Rice (1895-1980) believed that the saints went straight to Heaven.

Other Biblical scholars, like Dr. Oliver B. Greene (1915-1976) believed that the Old Testament saints weren't allowed into Heaven yet, because Jesus hadn't died on the cross yet. Instead, the saints went to place called “Paradise” (or, “Abraham's Bosom” as it is often referred). This is based upon the Lord's promise to the repentant thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” If Jesus meant Heaven, it would seem logical that He would have said Heaven, but He said Paradise.

However, we also read in 2nd Corinthians 12:4, “How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” The apostle Paul said that He was CAUGHT UP into Paradise. That would certainly seem to indicate Heaven, which is always thought of in terms of being upward from the earth. And that would make sense, because Jesus had ALREADY died on the cross, risen and ascended into Heaven. So now Paradise was transferred from Hades to Heaven, which is what Dr. Merrill Unger teaches in his Unger's Bible Dictionary. Also, Halley's Bible Handbook teaches Abraham's bosom (Paradise).
 

'Unger's Bible Dictionary' Teaches OT Saints Went to Paradise

Here's what Dr. Merrill Unger teaches about Abraham's Bosom . . .

“The Rich Man and Lazarus, 19-31.

This is not a parable, but an actual historical illustration, also aimed at the sneering, unbelieving, self-righteous, Pharisees. They boasted in their alleged law-keeping (cf. 15-17), and considered their wealth, which they covetously garnered, as evidence of this. Jesus proved the fallacy of this reasoning.  The rich man's great wealth was, on the contrary, not the evidence of divine favor, for he went to hell (Hades, Sheol, Intermediate abode of departed human spirits between death and the resurrection). Lazarus, a penniless beggar, nevertheless went to 'Abraham's bosom,' 22, i.e., paradise, where the souls of all OT saved went. He had no chance to make friends for himself by using 'the mammon of unrighteousness' (Jesus epithet for money), so as to welcome him to the 'everlasting habitations' (Heaven) (cf. 9). Yet he was there! And between him and the rich man was an impassable gulf, separating the lost from the saved. Let the covetous Pharisees take warning!”

SOURCE: Unger's Bible Handbook, Dr. Merrill F. Unger, pg. 531, Moody Press, copyright 1966.

Jesus assured the repentant thief on the cross with a promise, that they would both be in PARADISE that very day. Luke 23:43, “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” How can this refer to Heaven, since Christ had not yet died, been buried, raised up, nor sprinkled His liquid blood upon the heavenly Mercy Seat?
 

Pastor J. Vernon McGee Teaches Old Testament Saints Went to Paradise

I have always been a big fan and admirer of the man of God, Pastor J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988). Dr. McGee believed and taught the doctrine of Abraham's Bosom, which you can freely hear for yourself in this link to MP3's of the complete 'THRU THE BIBLE' 5-year series by Pastor McGee. Please listen to the MP3's for Luke 16:19-31 about the rich man and Lazarus.

John 3:13, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.”

Here is a wonderful explanation of John 3:13 by the great man of God, Pastor J. Vernon McGee ...

And now He says, "No man hath ascended up to heaven." That is the answer to those today who feel that Elijah and Enoch went to heaven when they were translated. I don’t think so because up to this point the Lord Jesus says that no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven. In other words, He is saying that He is the only One who can speak about heaven because He is the only One who has ascended up to heaven. Now it is true that there are a host of folk who have gone to heaven after Christ, but in the Old Testament, when a saint of God died, one of God’s own, he went to a place that is called Paradise or Abraham’s Bosom—our Lord called it that (see Luke 16:22). It was not until after Christ died and ascended to heaven and led captivity captive that He took those who were in Paradise into the presence of God in heaven. Since then, for the child of God, it has always been "… absent from the body … present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8). But when Jesus was here, no other man had ascended to heaven.

SOURCE: Thru The Bible, with Pastor J. Vernon McGee.

I am inclined to agree with Dr. McGee's teachings concerning Paradise. For an excellent detailed explanation of Hell, please read the free online book A Biblical Examination of Hell by Pastor Max D. Younce.

Psalms 16:10, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” Death is separation from God. Unsaved people are spiritually dead while they live, because they are separated from God. Now there is a second death, which is separation from God for all eternity. If you are not saved, you are already dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-2). If you die in your sins, in your spiritually dead condition, there is no place for you to go except Hell (Greek: Hades). You will die the second death, which is the Lake of Fire (Greek: Gehenna). Revelation 20:15 teaches that death and Hades will one day be cast into Gehenna (the Lake of Fire). Revelation 20:14, “And death and hell (Hades) were cast into the lake of fire (Gehenna). This is the second death.”

This is a hotly debated issue in our churches today (and has been for centuries).

Luke 16 is perhaps the clearest Biblical account of what happens when a person dies. In Luke 16:22-23 we read, “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments...” So there you see where the idea of Abraham's bosom comes from. We learn from this fascinating passage of Scripture that the believer in Christ is escorted by angels at death to a place of peace. Tragically, we also learn that the unbeliever goes straight to a place of torment. “Abraham's bosom” is another term for the Old Testament place called Paradise. Hell (Hebrew: Sheol, Greek: Hades) is located inside the earth. It is believed by most theologians that Hades is compartmentalized into two distinct places: Paradise and Torment. 

For much more Biblical exegesis on Heaven verses Paradise, please read “WHERE ARE THE DEAD?

 “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever
was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
—Revelation 20:14-15

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