Ask Norm!

By Norman S. Edwards

From SVM – Fall 2014 – 3

Hi Norman,

Shabbat Shalom. Thanks for your Shepherd’s Voice. Have you noticed something about the 24 elders in the book of Revelation? In Revelation 5:8-10, the beast and 24 elders sang a new song: “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”

 If the phase, “hast redeemed us to God by thy blood,” is a song sang by the 24 elders referring to themselves, then these were once human, we might term them as saints. Also, Rev 19:1 said about “much people in heaven.” So these are the 24 saints in heaven! Matt 27: 52-53 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Although the old WCG [a church denomination] taught that these were only physical, nothing is done to prove this restricted meaning. Jude 1:14 says the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints. Of course I don’t know Greek, and I can rely on them as they are translated.

The question remains whether Christ would come (a) alone, with angels only, and that the saints meet Him only in the first heaven; or (b) with his saints, starting from third heaven (God’s Throne) and angels on his Second Coming.

Now then, what are your thoughts? Shabbat Shalom

Joseph Huang, Doonside, Australia

Joseph Huang

Dear Joseph,

Thank you for pointing these things out. Christians everywhere need to be patient with others who may use these and other scriptures to “prove” that people who were formerly human beings—other than Christ—are now consciously living in heaven. Unfortunately, the issues you are dealing with are largely King James Version translation errors. This is not surprising, as those translators largely believed that good Christians did “go to heaven” immediately upon death. Also, they were still considerably influenced by the Vulgate—the Latin translation by Jerome—who also had this belief. Notice these different Bible versions in the last half of Revelation 5:9:

… hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation (Douay-Rheims: translation from the Latin Vulgate)

 … hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation (KJV).

 …have redeemed us to God by Your Blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation (NKJV).

 …with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (NIV).

 

… by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (ESV).

 

… by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (RSV).

 

…by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation (NRSV).

 

Virtually every other modern translation says it was people who were ransomed, not the 24 elders. There is an extra pronoun in the Byzantine Greek text which was largely used by the King James Translators, but even so, according to my limited knowledge of Greek, it does not clearly say it was the elders who were redeemed. Another notable example of King James Version translators relying on the Vulgate is Isaiah 14:12 which uses the word “Lucifer” from the vulgate. nearly every translation not based on the King James translates the Hebrew heylel as “morning star” or “day star”. Modern translators go directly from the Greek and Hebrew Manuscripts, bypassing the Latin Vulgate.

 

Similarly, mostly Vulgate, the KJV and some related translations say “much people in heaven” in Revelation 19:1. Even the New King James Version corrects it to “a great multitude in heaven.” Nearly every other translation says “multitude”, “large crowd”, “throng”, etc. The Greek ochlos used here means “a crowd” and is translated that way about half of the time even in the KJV—it is translated “people” most of the rest of the time, but in those situations the writer is clearly talking about people.

 

Even before Christ and the various saints rose from the dead, “there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God” (Luke 2:13). The Greek for “multitude” here is plethos from which we get our word “plethora”, which means a lot of something but not necessarily people.

 

Matthew 27:52-53 says the saints were “coming out of the graves after his resurrection; they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Everything mentioned happened on the earth. It says nothing about them being given immortality or ascending into heaven as Jesus did (1 Timothy 6:14-16, John 20:17).

 

Furthermore, if these saints were given eternal life and appeared to others, why would John say decades later: “…it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”? (1 John 3:2). Would not John already know the appearance of a believer who had received eternal life?

 

Other verses tell us that Christ is the only one raised from the dead to have eternal life in heaven:

 

He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things (Ephesians 4:10).

 

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9).

 

These [righteous people in the Old Testament] all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them… God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us (Hebrews 11:13, 40).

 

And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:17).

 

When Jude quotes Enoch saying Christ will return with “ten thousands of His saints”, he makes no effort to tell us where those saints come from.

 

We can know where the saints come from by going to verses that say the dead do not rise until Christ returns:

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:22-23).

 

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

 

The truth of the matter is we cannot send anyone to Heaven, Hell or any resurrection via our doctrinal arguments. We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and He will reward us accordingly (2 Corinthians 5:10). Some people will not even understand what they did that was good that brought them eternal life (Matthew 25:37-40, 46). Is it possible that a righteous person who expects to wake up in heaven after death may wake up in the first resurrection?

The first resurrection seems to be composed of people who have humble hearts—they would immediately accept Christ’s explanation of where they are and why.

 

I believe the teaching that people immediately go to heaven or hell (or the lake of fire) when they die is in error. It makes God appear to be unjust—especially since some people have either little or inaccurate knowledge. Throughout the Bible, God claims to be just. Nevertheless, I believe a Christian can still bear spiritual fruit with this error. I believe God gave me His Spirit when I still had major doctrinal errors.

 

For those whose scripture study leads them to believe that the dead in Christ are already in heaven, they still must realize that prayers should be directed to the Father, in the name of the Son (John 15:16; 16:23). Trying to talk to people who are already dead is called necromancy and is a sin (Deuteronomy 18:21; 1 Samuel 28). Even when Peter James and John see a vision of Christ in His glory with Moses and Elijah, Christ ignores Peter’s plan to build tabernacles for them and tells them not to tell the vision to anyone. Praying to or communicating with deceased relatives or holy men is simply not taught in the Bible. It stops us from praying to God who can hear and answer our prayers!

 

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