Many Christians teach a concept called “Abraham’s Bosom.” This teaching purports that Hades or Sheol has two separate areas within it. One area is for the unrighteous in torment and the other is Paradise. They teach that Paradise is where all the righteous go before the resurrection of the dead at the last day.
The purpose of writing this article is to address issues with the teaching in the Apostles Creed that “He descended into Hell.” The Bible nowhere teaches that Hades, Sheol, or Hell has a Paradise with in it. Nor does the Bible teach that Christ went to Paradise only and not to the disobedient spirits in Hades (1Pe 3:19-20).
First I would like to mention that the idea of Hades having two places, one of torment and one of paradise, comes from Greek mythology.
In the classical period the mystic religions and mystic prophets (e.g. the Orphics and Pythagoreans), as well as the philosophers, modified the realm of the dead to include an Elysian paradise for the good, and a Tartarean hell for the wicked. Souls were judged and assigned a suitable afterlife, and in some versions cast into cycles of purgatory and reincarnation. (See Haides II, the Mystics’ Land of the Dead–still under construction, Sep. 2007.)Theoi.com/Kosmos/Haides
Some christian sects came up with the idea of “Abraham’s Bosom” from Luke 16:23 in an attempt to harmonize their futuristic eschatology.
The teaching of a Paradise in Hades called “Abraham’s Bosom“
Some say Hades has a “Paradise” within it. They get this from Luke.
“And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.
(Luk 16:23 NAS)
They say no believer goes to heaven; but, instead goes to “Paradise” or “Abraham’s Bosom” till the future resurrection. They say believers are in a holding place in Hades called “Abraham’s Bosom.” They use John 3:13 to say that we do not go to heaven at death.
And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man.
(Joh 3:13 NAS)
When believers die, they do go to Paradise; but, nobody, believer or not, will ever go before God Himself in the farthest part of heaven. We come to the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10). Christ goes before God on our behalf. In that order.
There is a level of heaven we can never go to. It is impossible for a created being to go to the farthest part of Heaven. Only Christ can. But, this does not mean there is a “Paradise” in Hades. There is no scripture proof anywhere stating that Hades has a Paradise in it. The parable shows those in Hades being able to see Paradise in heaven and not being able to go there. Luke 16:23 shows Hades and Paradise as two distinct places. The Paradise is separated so that those in Hades will never be able to reach it. This is a completely separate location and cannot be said to be a part of Hades.
It is important for a teaching to have a reference that can solidify that teaching. Inferences are not acceptable to formulate a solid doctrine. The teaching that “Abraham’s Bosom” is a part of Hades and that Christ went to “Abraham’s Bosom” is not scriptural. To support the “Abraham’s Bosom” theory, a quote will need to be supplied stating, Sheol, Hades, or Hell has Paradise within it. That quote does not exist. Doctrines cannot and should not be built off a statement found in one parable.
The teaching that Christ’s Spirit went to Paradise while His body stayed on earth
Some Christians teach that Christ’s dead body (man) stayed in the tomb; but, His Spirit (God) went to heaven. This is a Christological error that goes against the teaching that Christ is fully man and fully God. Christs Spirit, Soul, Mind and Body are inseparable from His Divine nature. They use Luke to prove this.
And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.” And having said this, He breathed His last.
(Luk 23:46 NAS)
Stephen makes a similar statement in Acts.
And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”
(Act 7:59 NAS)
These passages are merely stating that they died and are entrusting their spirit to God. It is not a declaration that they went to heaven or hell. Christ is fully God united with His human body, inseparable in nature. There is no point in time when the Son of God stopped being God.
It is important to note that Christ is God and has the same attributes as God. He can be in Hades and Paradise at the same time, even though they are in two separate locations. See the article “He Descended into Hell” for further information on the fact the God is present in heaven and hell.
Those in hell can see into heaven
There is plenty of scriptural support stating that those in hell will see the righteous in Paradise.
And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.
(Luk 16:23, 28 NAS)
There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being cast out.
(Luk 13:28 NAS)
The wicked will see it and be vexed; He will gnash his teeth and melt away; The desire of the wicked will perish.
(Psa 112:10 NAS)
he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
(Rev 14:10 NAS)
These show that those in Hades or Hell can see those in heaven. The passages by no means are showing that there is a paradise in Hell or Hades.
At the table, eating at the feast in Heaven
The Bible teaches that, when we die, we will be in heaven, with Christ, at a feast where we dine with Him. Those who are not invited will be cast out.
And I say to you, that many shall come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
(Mat 8:11-12 NAS)
The Luke 13:28 passage is almost identical to this passage. This passage shows that the righteous will “recline at the table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven“. In Heaven, we will dine with Christ and the other saints who have passed away. Not in some temporary Paradise in Hades. John states,
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.
(Rev 3:20 NAS)
And he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”
(Rev 19:9 NAS)
And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God;
(Rev 19:17 NAS)
The Revelation passages are talking about the same thing as Matthew 8: 11-12 and Luke 13:28. The table we dine at in heaven is a part of our life in the Paradise of God. We are invited to this feast when we die at the “last day.” Matthew 22:8-14 shows that people slowly show up to the feast. Matthew says “For many are called, but few are chosen (Mat 22:14 NAS).” Those whom are chosen show up to the feast in the order in which they are called to it, not all at the same time.
The feast is at the “Last Day”
The feast is clearly shown to be at the “Last Day.” Nowhere does it show that there is a feast prior to the “Last Day.” Nor does it say we are waiting in Paradise for the feast.
“Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. “Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. “And be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. “You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect
(Luk 12:37-40 NAS)
And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. “And later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ “But he answered and said, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
(Mat 25:10-13 NAS See also Mat 22:1-14)
The purpose of telling people to be ready is because, at death, there is no second chance at that time. When death comes, then judgement. There is no waiting place where you can pray or find a way into paradise. These passages are teaching that we are to be ready at His coming (when we die) so at the last day we will be able to be a part of the feast. This does not say we will be in the Paradise of Hell having a feast, waiting for the Lord to come in some distant future where we are taken to another feast.
What is the Paradise of God?
At death the righteous go to paradise. The word “Paradise” is only used 3 times in the Bible. The word “Paradise” means “a park” or a “garden area” where people dwell.
<3857> παράδεισος (paradeisos)
Meaning: a park, a paradise
Origin: of for. or.
Strongs Concordance New American Standard Bible
Christ said He would see the thief on the cross in Paradise that day. This passage clearly shows that at death we go to Paradise.
And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
(Luk 23:43 NAS)
Paul’s said he knew a man who was caught up to the “third heaven” which he called “Paradise.” More about the third heaven and the definition of the word “heaven” is discussed in the article “What did the Apostles believe about Heaven during Christ’s time?“. Heaven is called Paradise in this passage.
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, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
(2Co 12:2-4 NAS)
In Revelation, eating from the tree of life is called the “Paradise of God.” Clearly when we overcome, which is being faithful till death, we will eat from the tree of life in Paradise.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.’
(Rev 2:7 NAS)
Clearly the Bible teaches that the tree of life is in heaven where the righteous go at death, they eat there, and it’s called Paradise. The fruit from the tree of life is what those in heaven eat during eternal life.
Eating from the tree of life is “the Paradise of God”
The tree of life is only mentioned in three books in the Bible:
- Gen 2:9, 3:17-24
- Prov 3:18, 11:30, 13:2, 15:4
- Rev 2:7, 22:2, 14, 19
Genesis and Revelation talk about an actual tree in the garden and in paradise where God dwells. In Proverbs, the statement “tree of life” is a comparison only. Proverbs says wisdom, fulfillment, soothing words, and the fruit of righteousness is “A” tree of life. So “The” tree of life is only used in reference to Paradise.
And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
(Rev 22:1-2 NAS)
The tree of life and the water of life are all in heaven in the presence and before the throne of God.
Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
(Rev 22:14 NAS)
and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
(Rev 22:19 NAS)
The claim that nobody goes to heaven
Some claim that Jesus said nobody can go to heaven. They get this from John 3.
And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man
(Joh 3:13 NAS)
Clearly, the statement from John is talking about the farthest part of heaven in the direct presence of God. For Enoch (Heb 11:5) and Elijah (2 Kin 2:11) were said to be carried away to heaven. John is not ignorant of those scriptures, nor is he contradicting them. People also use Acts 2:29 to prove that we do not go to heaven.
Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
(Act 2:29 NAS)
All this passage is stating is that David’s body is still in the grave. Just like everyones body will be in the grave. Christs body did not remain in the grave. He rose His actual body from the dead. This says nothing about David’s soul not going to heaven.
The conclusion to “Abraham’s Bosom” as a part of Hades
Clearly the apostles believed Paradise was in Heaven not Hades or Hell. Paul calls the third heaven “Paradise” (2Co 12:2-4). Paradise is always shown as separate from hell. Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, are said to be at the table in the kingdom of heaven eating. Eating from the tree of life is called “the paradise of God” and is shown to be in the throne room of Christ in heaven. None of the passages that discuss Paradise or Hell allude to or even state anything about a waiting period between the time of death and entering in. All of which is clearly shown to occur at the time of death for the righteous.
The real reason why the “Abraham’s Bosom” doctrine was created was not to expound the truth of scripture, but to try and harmonize futuristic eschatology on the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. The theory was created with the same Bible hermeneutics that came up with the “Rapture“, which is doctrine built off of one statement by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
The clear passages should always be used to interpret the unclear passages, not the other way around. When an unclear passage is used to change the meaning of many clear passages, that’s where false doctrines are found.