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 Vol. 5, No. 5 

May 2003

Since You Asked

~ Page 18 ~

Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld.

Only Jesus Christ Ascended

By Louis Rushmore

Image Presently, I have my Catholic mother and orthodox father visiting us from Ukraine. Please pray for the success in the evangelistic work that I am conducting with them. I would really appreciate that because it is immensely difficult to do it with them. They both are 74 years old. Louis, can you please help me with one question, please? They both try to convince me that Mary has ascended into Heaven after she died: the old Catholic story, I hope you understand. Rather than argue with them, I am trying to show them from the Scripture that it could have not had happened. Best thing that comes to my mind is a passage from John 3:13 where he indicates "No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man." If that is so (and in no way I am trying to question the integrity of this statement by John, who was filled with the Holy Spirit), than how about Enoch and Elija who were taken into Heaven also? Is there something I am not aware of? Please, help me on this one! Thank you ever so very much! Wishing you and Bonnie all the best and looking forward to receiving the note from you. Your brother in Christ, Paul Fedko

There is no better Scripture to which you could have turned to show that only Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven where God is (Daniel 2:44). John 3:13 as well as Ephesians 4:10 are conclusive regarding only Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven where God is. Therefore, not Mary the mother of our Lord, not Enoch and not Elijah has ascended to heaven where God is. Regarding Mary, no Scripture indicates anything respecting her death and certainly not anything regarding a supposed ascension to heaven.

The Bible makes three uses of the word heaven, each with a different meaning. Heaven can refer to the sky immediately above the earth, or heaven can refer to the universe that is populated with stars, or heaven can refer to the dwelling place of God. The first two usages of the word heaven that we have noted pertain to the physical, created universe. The third application of the word heaven pertains to a spiritual rather than a physical place. The reference in Luke 4:25 to heaven refers to the sky in which there may be rain clouds: "But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land." See also Daniel 7:13 regarding the heaven in which there are clouds or Genesis 1:20 respecting it also being the heaven in which birds fly. Genesis 1:14-18 uses the word heaven to refer to the expanse above the sky in which are stars, the moon and our sun. The apostle Paul referred to heaven where God is as the "third heaven" (2 Corinthians 2:2).

Heaven is not mentioned in connection with Enoch. The verse simply reads: "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Genesis 5:24). In conjunction with Hebrews 11:5, one discerns that Enoch avoided the usual threshold of death by which one ordinarily makes his journey from life to death: "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Neither of these verses, though, addresses the disposition of Enoch after he left the earth.

In every instance where the Bible says something about the whereabouts of a departed soul, it always indicates that before the final judgment souls are in Hades, either in "Paradise" or in Tartaros. Two Greek words are translated with the English word "hell." One is gehenna, referring to the place of eternal torment prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Another is hades, referring to the place of departed spirits awaiting final judgment and the subsequent bestowal of eternal heaven or endless hell (Luke 16:23). This latter, underlying Greek word appears 11 times in the New Testament (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13-14 and 1 Corinthians 15:55 where it is translated as "grave").

Luke 16:19-31 indicates that there are two chambers in Hades that respectively are foretastes of heaven where God is and hell. In Luke 16, the foretaste of heaven is called Abraham's bosom (verse 23), whereas Jesus on the cross referred to it as "paradise" (Luke 23:43). The foretaste of hell in Hades is what the apostle Peter called "hell" from the Greek tartaros (2 Peter 2:4), which means "the deepest abyss of Hades." Enoch, then, is in the part of Hades called "paradise" or the 'Abraham's bosom,' with Abraham and every other faithful child of God who no longer resides on earth.

The context in which Elijah is taken by God mentions the English word "heaven" twice (2 Kings 2:1, 11). The same Hebrew word is used in both places and it can refer to the sky or the place where we see the stars. Hence, nothing is said in that context regarding the disposition of Elijah's soul, just that Elijah was observed rising into the sky until he was no longer visible. Elijah and Moses appeared at the transfiguration of Christ and nothing regarding that event suggests that Elijah and Moses experienced different dispositions away from each other as they await judgment to come (Matthew 17:3-4). No one imagines that Moses is anywhere other than in Hades, because there is no other place the Bible indicates a departed soul can inhabit before the judgment besides Hades. Elijah, then, with Moses, is in Hades -- not in heaven where God is.

Enoch and Elijah are in Hades rather than in heaven where God is. The King James Version impedes understanding of these matters by using the same English word, "hell," for translating gehenna and hades. Jesus was in Hades between his death and resurrection; "Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Acts 2:27). Our Lord, though, resurrected (i.e., his soul was not left in Hades and his body came forth from the grave). Subsequently, Jesus Christ (and only Jesus Christ) ascended to heaven where God is. Enoch, Elijah and Mary are in Hades, not in heaven where God is.Image

Was Jesus Christ
a Historical Person?

By Louis Rushmore


First, I'm thankful that the courageous, unsigned critic who wrote the complaint above took the time to read pages from Gospel Gazette Online. I hope that at least a residue of biblical truth rubbed off on him as he waded through the text of one or more Gospel lessons. Second, it has been long conceded that typing everything in all caps in email posts is equivalent to screaming or yelling what you have to say; it may be that the author of the critique above was cut to the heart with the Gospel (Acts 7:54) instead of pricked in the heart by the Gospel (Acts 2:37). Third, since Jesus and the first universally recognized Catholic pope lived 600 years apart and the church began about 50 days after the death of Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church is not attributable to Jesus Christ, but rather the church about which one reads in Acts 2 is traceable to Jesus. Fourth, that the writer above does not believe in the virgin birth of Christ betrays his lack of regard for both testaments of the Bible, since the virgin birth of the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14) and confirmed in the New Testament (Matthew 1:18-23). The querist above is hardly a religionist in a biblical sense, then, and actually may be an atheist, in which case his credentials are suspect respecting his assessment of most anything Christian (or counterfeit). Fifth, many of those who have the utmost confidence in the Scriptures respecting the virgin birth are among the most highly educated and studious persons anywhere. The phrase "poor ignorant uneducated people" amounts to no more than a baseless slur.

Sixth, anyone who doubts the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth is woefully uninformed and, again, hardly in a position to enlighten anyone respecting the church Jesus built versus man-made churches. That Jesus Christ was a historical person is verified abundantly from secular history from times contemporary with Jesus onward, including by hostile witnesses. For instance, Tacitus, who lived from about A.D. 56-117 wrote in his Annals:

Nero fabricated scapegoats and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius' reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome.

Tacitus was well educated, part of the Roman upper class and a public servant under several emperors. He did not deny the existence of Jesus Christ, though he did not endorse either the Christ or Christianity.

Pliny the Younger, a Roman governor in about A.D. 110 wrote unfavorably about Christians and their founder Christ. Suetonius around A.D. 120 recounted history from the Roman annals about Claudius expelling Jews from Rome because of disturbances over Christ, which corresponds to Acts 18:2. About A.D. 178, Celsus defamed Jesus of Nazareth as an illegitimate offspring between Mary and a Roman soldier, which at least doesn't endeavor to deny the obvious, that Jesus of Nazareth was a real, historical person. Jewish Rabbis whose work between A.D. 200 and 300 resulted in the production of their Talmud had nothing good to say about Jesus of Nazareth, but acknowledged that he was a real person. Josephus in his Antiquities observed that Jesus was a real person who was viewed by his followers as the promised Christ or Messiah of Old Testament prophecy; Josephus was Jewish, but wrote histories for the Roman Empire. Both as a Jew and as a Roman historian, Josephus himself was not a believer in Christianity or its founder, Jesus Christ. Also, consider that over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament exist, which either directly or indirectly substantiate secular history's acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as a historical person. These manuscripts are older than most other historical writings on which we depend to know ancient history.

From the oldest histories, which exceed what were mentioned here, through the present, secular histories that are independent of religion and often antagonistic toward it, do not make the obvious error of denying the historicity of Jesus Christ. Empty aspersions regarding the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth are hollow, indeed. Beyond secular history, the Bible has proven itself historically reliable and without error in every area that lends itself to independent inspection, so that even those things it addresses that cannot be examined in a laboratory are credible (e.g., doctrine).

Consult the following for extensive information regarding the historical Christ and a substantial bibliography of additional resources. Kyle Butt, "The Historical Christ Fact or Fiction?" Reason & Revelation. (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press) January, 2000, p. 1ff.Image

How Long Was Israel in Egypt?

By Louis Rushmore

Image Image The 400/430 years of Egyptian bondage -- Gen. 14:3 and Acts 7:6 states that they were oppressed 400 years. Ex. 12:40-41 states that their length of stay was 430 years. Is that borne out by Ex. 1:1-8? Were the Israelites in Egypt for 30 years before there arose the new king who did not know Joseph? ~ Marilyn LaStrape

A thirty year difference between various Bible texts respecting the amount of time the Israelites spent in Egypt is sometimes alleged to be a discrepancy, for which disbelievers in God and his Word cite as supposed evidence that the Bible is false. In addition, loyal students of the Bible also desire an honest explanation to variations in different references to this event. After all the available evidence is sifted, though, we still may not know for sure why this variation in numbers (i.e., 400 years and 430 years) exists. However, any plausible explanation removes the question from one of discrepancy and indictment of God and his Word. Therefore, in view of several plausible explanations as to why various Bible writers used different numbers to refer to the same duration in Egypt by the Israelites, the Bible believer's faith is sustained and not damaged. Further, the biblical critic will have to look elsewhere (howbeit fruitlessly) to attack and undermine God's Word.

Four passages introduce the time spent in Egypt by the Israelites. They are as follows.

"And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years" (Genesis 15:13).

"Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:40-41).

"And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect" (Galatians 3:17).

"And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years" (Acts 7:6).

Moses, the writer of both Genesis and Exodus, referred to 430 years and 400 years, respectively in Genesis and Exodus. The apostle Paul also cited 430 years. Stephen, though, mentioned 400 years. The simplest plausible explanation is that the 430 years represent the exact number of years involved in the sojourn in Egypt, and the 400 years represent a rounded down number, consistent, for instance, with the overview of Jewish history presented by Stephen. Hence, there is no discrepancy at all. Anyone besides a professional writing a technical history that depends on a strict chronology would usually do the same. Note the following observations by commentators.

Commenting on Acts 7:6-8, Wycliffe wrote: "Four hundred is a round number (cf. Gal 3:17, where the period is 430 years)."1 Clarke penned respecting Acts 7:6, "Stephen uses the round number of 400, leaving out the odd tens, a thing very common, not only in the sacred writers, but in all others, those alone excepted who write professedly on chronological matters."2 Keil and Delitzsch included in their commentary about Genesis 15:12-16:

The 400 years were, according to prophetic language, a round number for the 430 years that Israel spent in Egypt (Ex 12:40). ... and in the fourth generation they shall come hither again." The calculations are made here on the basis of a hundred years to a generation: not too much for those times, when the average duration of life was above 150 years, and Isaac was born in the hundredth year of Abraham's life.3

Coffman subscribes to the 'round number' solution in his references to Galatians 3:17: "Paul used the figure also found in the LXX, and Stephen used a round number."4 Boatman concurs, "1. This 430 years is a problem of chronology. a. It is the number given in the Septuagint, and for argumentative purposes is sufficiently correct as a round number."5 Barnes likewise notes that when the 400 years is used that the writers were not intending to be nor did they need to be technically correct in the number of years for the purposes for which they wrote; ""A part" of this perplexity is removed by the fact that Stephen and Moses use, in accordance with a very common custom, 'round numbers' in speaking of it, and thus speak of 400 years when the LITERAL time was 430."6

Another solution to the difference in biblical citations between 400 and 430 years has to do with the starting and ending time of the period under consideration. This would explain why the same writer, Moses, used two different numbers in his writings. Some commentators suppose that the 430 years began with the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 and concluded with the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. Henry wrote respecting Exodus 12:37-42, "The first day of the march of Abraham's seed towards Canaan was just 430 years (it should seem to a day) from the promise made to Abraham, Gen 12:2, I will make of thee a great nation."7 Barnes, commenting on Acts 7:6, suggested this as an answer as to why 400 years versus 430 years.

Paul also (Gal 3:17) says that it was 430 years from the time when the promise was given to Abraham to the time when the Law was given on Mount Sinai. The Samaritan Pentateuch also says (Ex 12:40) that the "dwelling of the sons of Israel, and of their fathers, which they dwelt "in the land of Canaan," and in the land of Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years."8

Regarding Genesis 15, Barnes stated that the 430 years began at the birth of Isaac.9 Clarke quoted another author who numbered the 430 years from the time Ishmael and Isaac experienced conflict.10 On Galatians 3:17, Clarke wrote, "...the law was given 430 years after the covenant with Abraham..."11

A third solution to the difference between 400 and 430 years respecting the duration of the Israelites in Egypt has to do with variations in ancient manuscripts to these accounts. This question revolves around whether the Greek Old Testament or the Hebrew Old Testament contains the correct numerical reference, as they do not concur. However, the Samaritan Pentateuch concurs with the Greek Septuagint (Old Testament translation into Greek). More than merely a difference in numbers, the Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch record Exodus 12:40 differently, to include within the 430 years more than merely the time spent in Egypt.

"Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, and of their fathers, which they sojourned in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt, was 430 years." This same sum is given by Paul, Gal 3:17, who reckons from the promise made to Abraham, when God commanded him to go to Canaan, to the giving of the law, which soon followed the departure from Egypt; and this chronology of the apostle is concordant with the Samaritan Pentateuch, which, by preserving the two passages, they and their fathers, and in the land of Canaan, which are lost out of the present copies of the Hebrew text, has rescued this passage from all obscurity and contradiction. It may be necessary to observe that the Alexandrian copy of the Septuagint has the same reading as that in the Samaritan. The Samaritan Pentateuch is allowed by many learned men to exhibit the most correct copy of the five books of Moses; and the Alexandrian copy of the Septuagint must also be allowed to be one of the most authentic as well as most ancient copies of this version which we possess. (emphasis added, ler)12

Consequently, some Bible students suppose up to 215 years of the 430 years cited in the Bible occurred before Joseph's family entered Egypt and 215 years transpired afterward. There is not unanimity, though, on the number of years spent in Egypt, during which a multitude of descendants of those few who initially settled in Goshen grew.13 See also Barnes and Clarke for various calculations respecting time spent prior to Egyptian habitation and time spent in Egypt within the 430 years.

Irrespective of which plausible solution one embraces (or the combination of more than one, or a plausible argument not here noted), the Bible critic is not on solid ground if he cites the 400 years versus the 430 years variation in Genesis 15:13, Exodus 12:40-41, Acts 7:6 and Galatians 3:17. Coffman, regarding Acts 7:5ff, summarizes the foregoing in my reply to the question posed.

This is one of the pseudocons!  Exodus 12:40,41 gives the time as 430 years; but "The four hundred years is a round number as in Genesis 15:13."<7> Also, there were two ways of counting the "sojourning," these being (1) from the call of Abraham to the Exodus which was 430 years, and (2) from the birth of Isaac to the Exodus which was 400 years.<8>  The bicentennial of the United States may be counted either from the Declaration of Independence, or from the ratification of the constitution.  It is ridiculous to make anything out of such so-called discrepancies as these."14

Finally, irrespective of whether one adopts the 400 years or the 430 years, the reason for which the reference is made at all is not harmed. It may not be possible to know certainly regarding which of the theories is correct, for there are weighty arguments both in support and in opposition to each.15 What the respective contexts teach about prophecy and fulfillment as well as the successive covenants of God, the culmination of which is human redemption through Christ, is the point not to be missed and in which the child of God can have great reassurance that God seeks our eternal abode with him in heaven (2 Peter 3:9-13).Image


1 The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press

2 Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft

3 Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

4 James Burton Coffman, Bible Study Library, ACU Press, 1999.

5 Don Earl Boatman, Guidance from Galatians, College Press, Joplin, Missouri, Copyright 1961, page 85.

6 Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft.

7 Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

8 Barnes'

9 Barnes'

10 Clarke's

11 Clarke's

12 Clarke's

13 Wilbur Fields, Exploring Exodus, College Press, Joplin, Missouri.

14 Coffman.

15 John W. Haley, An Examination of the Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Co.) 1951, pp. 418-420.

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