Debate/Discussion: “Do all Christians go to heaven?”

Below, in the comment sections, two participants will be discussing this question.  I will leave it to both of them to set the specific parameters.  Given my lack of time available to contribute to this site, i’m thankful for these two in bringing some activity here!

22 thoughts on “Debate/Discussion: “Do all Christians go to heaven?”

  1. rotherham2 says:

    Rotherham’s 1st statement:

    AFJW has postulated that all Christians should be considered part of the New Covenant and are heaven bound. Whereas I would certainly agree that those Christians within the New Covenant are heaven bound, I would not see that all Christians, past, present and future, are in the New Covenant. Jws hold that overall, the majority of Christians will live on the earth in perfect, paradisiac conditions, eternally.

    We are told in the book of Hebrews that the New Covenant is made with “the house of Israel and the house of Judah”. Hebrews 8:8. So the question becomes who exactly is identified as this Christian house of Judah and house of Israel? By so identifying them we have identified those who are in the New Covenant.

    The book of Revelation lets us know, for those who see it as an end times prophetic book, that there is first listed in the 7th chapter the 144,000 who are spoken of as being taken from the twelve tribes of Israel. These twelve tribes of “Christian Israel” do not match the twelve tribes of natural Israel in name, indicating the fact that this is a different Israel then the natural one listed in the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul tells us that those who spring from Israel (natural Israel) are really Israel (spiritual or Christian Israel) There are significant differences in the list which could be expounded upon as to why.

    Naturally, these twelve tribes of Israel would coincide with the “house of Judah and the house of Israel” with whom the New Covenant is said to be made. However, immediately following the description of this Christian Israel in Revelation 7 is the description of a great crowd that is not designated as Israelites exclusively, but from every nation, Gentiles. This great crowd is said to pass through, or survive, the great tribulation which is an earthly event and are said to be led to waters of the fountain of life. These ones are not in heaven at this juncture because anyone who has been raised to heaven would not need to be led to waters of fountains of life as they would have been granted immortality upon their resurrection. 1 Cor. 15.

    The scriptures throughotu are firm that the earth will be populated eternally by individuals who have accepted Christ as their Savior and availed themselves of the saving means of the Father, God. Therefore, although, the class known as the “house of Judah and the house of Israel” are in the New Covenant and are heaven bound as those who will rule with Christ for the thousand years as kings, priests and judges, the majority of mankind via the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures and other Greek Scripture prophecies and indications, will live upon the earth forever in peace and perfection. Naturally, these earthly ones, including billions from pre-Christian times as well as billions from after Christ’s earthly sojourn, would have to be Christians to be granted eternal life. By necessity then, the majority of Christians are not in heaven but on earth, and certainly not all Christians then would be part of the New Covenant and serving with Christ as kings, priests and judges. I am certain all of these points can be fleshed out as necessary in the ensuing discussion but I will wait to hear from my opponent before doing so as I am not sure exactly what he desires to pursue or if he has an entirely different approach to the topic.

    I would respectfully ask that the readers, for now, resist the opportunity to add comments until my opponent and are done with the discussion. Otherwise, it simply becomes a convoluted free-for-all especially when dealing with the format that is presented via the blog venue. I would ask that Mike help us to control that until such time as others are welcome to comment about and discuss what has been presented. There should be plenty of opportunity for that when the time is right.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    1. answersforjws says:

      Rotherham has submitted his opening statement in which I feel he has misunderstood my position. I have articulated that all Christians go to heaven when they die (Philippians 1:20-22), but within the resurrection they will life forever upon earth (Psalm 37:29; Matthew 5:5; Romans 4:13,16-17). However, as Rotherham has attempted to argue that there are two groups of Christians, of which one will live forever in heaven and one upon the earth, I will discuss this further.

      Rotherham, following the Watchtower, draws a distinction between two references in Revelation 7, the 144,000 and the great crowd. He notes that one is said to be Israel (though he recognizes this to be in a spiritual way, not a physical), while the other is said to be of all nations. His distinction is one without a difference, for in Revelation 5:9-10, we find the very language used of the great crowd, yet Rotherham would identify these with the aforementioned Israel.

      It is asserted that the great crowd of Revelation 7 is not in heaven, but if they are, there is nothing contradictory about what he has argued if they are in an intermediate state. Rotherham believes that some Christians not within the New Covenant because he believes that they will not be in heaven and not rule, but of course he has not provided a single text of scripture to support this, nor has he shown that the New Covenant either of these things (it doesn’t).

      I submit the following:

      1) There is no text of scripture where it is said that some Christians will not be in the New Covenant.

      2) There is no text of scripture where it is said that some Christians will not rule with Christ.

      3) There is no text of scripture where it is said that some Christians will not be born again.

      Rotherham can only “reason” his way to these views, using spurious argumentation that is not founded in any teaching of scripture. As he attempts to formulate this teaching you will notice how he must pluck isolated texts out of context and lay down an entire theological framework that is not written in scripture. I believe that “whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1), and “as many as are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Rotherham will reject the “whoever” and “as many as,” saying these apply only to a small group of Christians, most of who existed in the past.

  2. rotherham2 says:

    CO(RRECTION: The corresponding line in the above post should read “Paul tells us that those who spring from Israel (natural Israel) are NOT really Israel (spiritual or Christian Israel). Rom. 9:6

  3. rotherham2 says:

    My answers are between the #############s.
    AFJW said
    Rotherham has submitted his opening statement in which I feel he has misunderstood my position. I have articulated that all Christians go to heaven when they die (Philippians 1:20-22), but within the resurrection they will life forever upon earth (Psalm 37:29; Matthew 5:5; Romans 4:13,16-17). However, as Rotherham has attempted to argue that there are two groups of Christians, of which one will live forever in heaven and one upon the earth, I will discuss this further.
    ###################
    This presupposes an intermediate state of concious existence between death and resurrection. Phil. 1:20-22 does not teach an intermediate state. There are not “two” choices that Paul speaks of in that passage but three. His “dying” and “being with Christ” are not synonymous choices, they are two different options. The scriptures do not teach an intermediate state as it assues us that the soul dies. So your beginning premise is inaccurate affecting the veracity of the rest of your presentation.
    ###################

    Rotherham, following the Watchtower, draws a distinction between two references in Revelation 7, the 144,000 and the great crowd. He notes that one is said to be Israel (though he recognizes this to be in a spiritual way, not a physical), while the other is said to be of all nations. His distinction is one without a difference, for in Revelation 5:9-10, we find the very language used of the great crowd, yet Rotherham would identify these with the aforementioned Israel.
    ########################
    Although similar language can be used in regard to many different things, using similar languae does not establish absolute identity. That should be obvious. It is the entire scope of comments about a particular group that must be concidered, not just a similarity here or there. There is a clear and unmistakable differentiation between the 144,000 and the great crowd in Revelation 7.
    ########################

    It is asserted that the great crowd of Revelation 7 is not in heaven, but if they are, there is nothing contradictory about what he has argued if they are in an intermediate state.
    #########################
    The scriptures do not teach an intermediate state of conciousness between death and the resurrection. It appears that this may be a focus of the discussion that will keep coming up since your position is based upon the intermediate state. If there is no intermediate state, then your position falls by the wayside. My suggestion is that we settle that aspect first.
    ###########################

    Rotherham believes that some Christians not within the New Covenant because he believes that they will not be in heaven and not rule, but of course he has not provided a single text of scripture to support this, nor has he shown that the New Covenant either of these things (it doesn’t).
    ###########################
    I am not able to understand all of what you are saying here as the sentences are incomplete. I demonstrated clearly that the New Covenant is made with the Christian “house of Judah and house of Israel”. Who is that in your opinion? If not all Christians are considered “the house of Judah and Israel”, then you have a problem, so maybe you should expound on this also.
    #############################

    I submit the following:
    1) There is no text of scripture where it is said that some Christians will not be in the New Covenant.
    #############################
    Once again, you must identify who is the “house of Judah and the house of Israel”. Is this ALL of Christianity, EVERYone?, even when we know there is a clear distinction between the 12 tribes of Israel and the great crowd in Revelation 7? Even when we know that after the resurrection, billions will accept Christ who are not part of the “kings, priests and judges”?
    #########################

    2) There is no text of scripture where it is said that some Christians will not rule with Christ.
    #########################
    Christ did not extend that privilege to EVERYone, did he? If EVERYONE rules, who or what will they rule over? Paul said it was only the “holy ones” who would judge the world? Who are the holy ones in your estimation and what world are they judging? What about the resurrected ones who will then accept Christ? What about the great crowd that are clearly not part of New Jerusalem, the bride? They survive the great tribulation which is an earthly event, THEN they are led to the fountains of waters of life. This is not the happenings of the constituents of New Jerusalem.
    #########################

    3) There is no text of scripture where it is said that some Christians will not be born again.
    ##########################
    Being “born again” can be shown to be a reference to being born again into the heavens as a spirit being. The regeneraton of the “holy ones” begins at their anointing, the “reproductive seed” of the spirit. They are born into the heavenly realm as new creations, new beings. Therefore, a new birth, born again.

    As mentioned, if there is no intermediate state between death and the resurrection, your position falls on many levels. Maybe we should establish that first as it is most relevant to this particular discussion.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    1. answersforjws says:

      A1: I’m going to begin numbering my paragraphs (A1, A2, etc). This will allow Rotherham, if he so chooses, to cite the paragraph number he is responding to. As we’re in a comments section this will save considerable space. If he would like to do the same in numbering, I will follow suite. For my response I’m going to cite the paragraph number as if Rotherham had done so.

      A2: In P1 Rotherham suggests that Paul is not reflecting upon two choices, but three. Let us consider the text and determine whether this is the correct.

      A3: At Philippians 1:20 Paul says that Christ will be magnified by his life or his death, presenting the two options. The two options are repeated in verse 21 and he says that one is gain and the other is Christ, which is to say that it magnified Christ in Paul’s work. In verse 23 Paul says he does not know which he prefers, for to continue living would mean work for Christ. Finally, in verses 23-24 Paul says that he is “torn between the two” (NET), expressing his is conflict between continuing to live and death, the two things under discussion. He desired to depart and be with Christ, but it is necessary for him to remain alive.

      A5: Paul does not state or imply that he is presenting a third idea when he tells of departing and being with Christ, and the verses prior are contrasting only two ideas, life and death. When Paul speaks of “the two” he is torn between, he is referring back to the two things he has already mentioned. Paul concludes in verse 24 with living as necessary, so to depart and be with Christ must refer to his death, another contrast between those same two ideas. If Rotherham is to argue to the contrary he will need to show a break in Paul’s argument to allow for this import and show that Paul means for a third idea to be present when he specifically mentions “two.”

      A6: Concerning P2: Using different language also does not absolutely distinguish identity either. But Rotherham is correct in that there is a distinction in language. Why? Because concerning the 144,000 John hears about a group, spoken with symbolic, spiritual language. The numbers used are loaded with symbolism, for even Rotherham must admit that the number 12,000 is not literal with reference to those within the respective tribes, and of course that the tribes themselves aren’t either. Further, that they are Israel is true in a spiritual sense, not a physical one (though some would be both). John heard the angel speaking and following him overhearing the angel, he see a group, which is likely the group he just heard about.

      A7: Concerning P4: Rotherham must be unaware of Galatians 3:29. If you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s seed. He would necessarily deny this, saying that many belong to Christ and yet are not Abraham’s seed. The covenantal promises made concerning the kingdom covenant are for those who accept Christ now. Scripture cannot be found to teach that ones who are judged righteous will have those covenantal promises of the kingdom covenant extended to them.

      A8: Concerning P5: Paul’s writing to the Corinthians makes it clear that the kingdom covenant was not limited to the 11 apostles who were with Christ when he died (1 Corinthians 4:8). Jesus revealed that this promise extends to “the one who conquers and continues in my deeds until the end” (Revelation 2:26-28). Ones who are given the judgment of life and didn’t know Christ but later come to were not among those who did what Jesus described, and as such we have no basis in any NT statement to conclude that they will be members of this covenant. There is no provided justification for the statement “the great crowd are clearly not part of New Jerusalem.” This is but only Rotherham’s assumption.

      A9: Concerning P6: Being born again is a present reality. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God.” (1 John 5:1 ASV) Rotherham denies this truth, saying only a very small subset of Christians find this statement true of them. The new birth is a present reality, not a process wherein a seed exists and is only later born. This is not to say that similar language could not apply to the resurrection, but John makes it clear that one “is begotten of God” now if one “believeth that Jesus is the Christ.”

      1. rotherham2 says:

        AFJW stated:
        A1: I’m going to begin numbering my paragraphs (A1, A2, etc). This will allow Rotherham, if he so chooses, to cite the paragraph number he is responding to. As we’re in a comments section this will save considerable space. If he would like to do the same in numbering, I will follow suite. For my response I’m going to cite the paragraph number as if Rotherham had done so.

        R1-Good idea. I will name my parapraphs as R1, R2 etc. If AFJW will name his A1, A2, etc. then we can likely save some space.

        R2 to A3 and A5: AFJW has missed an important distinction presented in the passage under question. Let’s take another look. AFJW claims there are but two options being presented throughout the passage, but a closer look will show that only two options make Paul’s words nonsensical. There must be a third for his words tomake any sense. He mentions first the option of life or death as has been noted. But then notice carefully what he says about these two options. “yet what I would choose I do not make known”. He then reveals at the end of verse 23 the “far better” choice, that of being with Christ. If “being with Christ” was synonymous with “dying” then Paul contradicts himself when he said “yet what I would choose I do not make known”. Clearly, the third option, which he DOESmake known, is the far better choice, because being with Christ is far better than dying or living on in the flesh. This does not teach an afterlife. In fact, scriptures can not be employed to teach an afterlife between death and the resurrection. The soul dies and the dead know not anything. As Jesus and the Apostles afffirmed, the dead are asleep, unconcious. If there is no concious afterlife, your position fails.

        R3 to A6: I see nothing within this paragraph that demonstrates that the great crowd and the 144,000 are the same group. Numerous commentators recognize their difference by the contrasting langugae which can only be seen as purposeful. As stated, the great crowd comes out of the great tribulation which is an earthly event and then they are led to fountains of waters of life. Those who have been resurrected to heaven have already partaken of the fountain of waters of life by their receiving immortality. Clearly the great crowd would be an “end times” group that are different than the 144,000, who are the firstfruits, whose gathering started at Pentecost, because the “great crowd” is identified by means of the great tribulation, an end times event. The great crowd is therefore not the same as the 144,000 as the contrasting language unmistakably establishes.

        R4 to A7 and A8: Whether you are recognizing it or not, you are admitting that not all Christians are part of the New Covenant, because you are stating that it was a matter of historical timing in order to become such. Therefore, you too believe that there are two classes of Christians, those who are not part of Christ’s bride and/or the New Covenant, and those who are. Remember, EVERYONE who will live eternally MUST accept AJesus Christ as their Savior, therefore Christian, As a result, not all Christians then are part of the “house of Judah and the house of Israel” with whom the New Covenant is made. The only difference we have is the recognition of the great crowd as belonging to those who are not part of the bride of Christ nor in the New Covenant. Their description in Revelation 7 clearly supports that, and since your explanation requires them to be in an intermediate state, if you can’t establish that as a scriptural teaching, which can not successfully be done, then your position once again fails. Without proving there is an intermediate state, I already consider your position as having failed.

        R5-Since the 144,000 would be synonymous with the New Jerusalem, being the church, the Christian “house of Judah and house of Israel”, the great crowd, purposely contrasted as not “Israel-ish”, and only existing in relation to the end times great tribulation, this demonstrates that they would not be part of the same group as the 144,000. Your position, as you have mentioned, requires the great crowd to be in an intermediate state. If there is no intermediate state, you have no position.

        R6 to A9: As I mentioned, due to the fact that they have received the “reproductive seed” of the spirit, they are born again, even in the flesh. However, their resurrection to the spirit realm constitutes the fullness of their new birth. We recognize that God views one as coming into being at conception, not just when they exit the womb, therefore, the body of Christ on earth experience a “new birth” when the reproductive seed of the spirit is first received, to be fully recognized at their resurrection to the spirit realm, similar to the idea of gestation and then exiting the womb. Accordingly, Jesus said concerning the “born again” status, that those born of flesh are flesh, but those born of spirit are spirit. The contrast made here by Jesus between flesh and spirit necessitates them becoming spirit. Otherwise there is no contrast.

        Regards Rotherham

  4. answersforjws says:

    A1: Concerning R2: I hope when considering Rotherham’s views on Philippians 1 everyone notices that he has shown no break in the text to insert his idea of a third possibility. I have submitted that Paul makes clear he is evaluating “the two” possibilities of life and death when he considers being with Christ and remaining in the flesh. The article appears before “two,” and it is anaphoric. Paul is looking back at the two options presented and saying he is hard pressed between them. Rotherham has entirely disregarded my nuanced position and not overturned anything I’ve stated.

    A2: Contrary to Rotherham’s assertion I haven’t missed anything, but Rotherham has missed the very reason Paul gives for him not knowing which to choose, instead inserting his own idea, disregarding Paul. Paul wants to be with Christ, for it is “far better,” but it is necessary for him to remain with them ‘for their sake’ (Philippians 1:23), thus continuing to be alive. It isn’t that he doesn’t want to go to be with Christ in death, but he has an obligation, so he is pressed between what he desires and his obligation.

    A3: Rotherham seems to miss that if Paul is viewing the resurrection here, there is no conflict between what he desires and what is necessary. The resurrection isn’t there and all the desire in the world won’t bring it to him. The only options before him are life and death.

    A4: R3 – Notice that Rotherham did not address the various arguments I submitted to him. I noted the symbolism throughout the description of the 144,000, showing the spiritual nature. Rotherham is attempting to distinguish the two descriptions, yet he is using symbolic language John hears in contrast to what he actually sees and the literal language used to describe them. This hardly does justice to the text.

    A5: With what I did provide I did not include specific arguments for the two groups being the same, I only submitted the idea. I will now go into greater detail. John heard the angel order the earth not to be hurt until the angels “have sealed the servants of our God on their forehead.” (Revelation 7:3) This is not some small subset of servants, but God’s servants generally. Rotherham must import a qualification into the text that is not there, going back to what I’ve previously said concerning the fact that he cannot let the text speak for itself and he must import external ideas.

    A6: If the great crowd is not among the seal, what will be the result? They will find themselves among those tormented by the locust of Revelation 9. These locusts are “to torment such men as have not the seal of God on their foreheads.” (Revelation 9:1 ASV) Rotherham would have us believe that the great crowd is not sealed and yet somehow not tormented. But where does the book of Revelation allow for this alternative? I submit that no text can be provided to grant it. These are his assumption and stands counter to what these texts reveal.

    A7: Rotherham does not associate the great crowd with New Jerusalem, believing they are outside of it. Yet, according to Revelation, “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immortal and the murderers, and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Revelation 22:15) If they are not inside of the city, they are outside of it, and thus with these. But they are not. We are told that the great crowd have “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” (Revelation 7:14) It is those who “wash their robes” who “have the right to… enter in by the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14). Ergo, the great crowd will be within the city, sealed and servants of our God.

    A8: R4 – Unless Rotherham can show where the description “Christian” is given to one who later comes to believe in Christ, such as Abraham or one like him, we have again what is only Rotherham’s assumption. I submit that there is no evidence that the appellation Christian will be given to such ones, and it is instead reserved for those today who serve Christ. In fact, we have no evidence that anyone will bear this identification in the new age. There are no statements in Revelation 7 precluding the great crowd from membership in the New Covenant. Rotherham here continues to assert what he cannot defend. I’ll remind everyone that the New Covenant is not associated with ruling or being in heaven, it is for the forgiveness of sins. No text of scripture suggests that what Rotherham teaches. It is derived entirely from importing his own reasoning into texts of scripture based upon his own highly questionable interpretation of a few texts.

    A9: Rotherham says my position requires an intermediate state for the great crowd. It does no such thing. Whether they are dead or alive is not significant for me. If fact, I’m entirely comfortable with them being alive. My point is only that there are certain texts where an intermediate state is in view, and Philippians 1 is one such example. Rotherham suggests that the dead are conscious of nothing, and I’m happy that this is the customary state of the dead, but we find that this is not the state of Christians, and that certain ones have historically been awaked from this state for a time (1 Samuel 28, Matthew 17, on these texts, for the dead in view, ask yourself whom the author of these books identifies as being present and accept what the authors themselves say).

    A10: R5 – The assertion that the great crowd is “purposely contrasted” is not substantiated. I’ve offered several points to show that the language of the 144,000 is symbolic, spiritual language and that even Rotherham finds the language of ‘out of all nations’ applied to the 144,000 in his own theology. There is not a clear or necessary contrast at all, we are merely presented first with the spiritual account and then with the literal. In fact, I’ve demonstrated that the great crowd must be among the sealed and enter into the holy city. In fact, my previous post demonstrated that the great crowd will rule with Christ given that they will conquer and remain faithful until the end, for Jesus’ promise is otherwise void. Rotherham has failed to address any of these points.

    A11: R6 – Rotherham says so much, but fails to back any of it up with scripture or engage the scriptures I’ve cited. The new birth is in the present, so we are spirit in the present. Rotherham’s failure to understand “spirit” is certainly a big issue here, for he limits it to the immaterial and yet Christians are even today “spirit.”

    1. rotherham2 says:

      Rotherham
      R1: concerning A1-A3 and A9
      In regard to Philippians 1:20-23 AFJW has asserted that I have provided no break between the two choices and the third which Paul regarded as far better. I disagree. Paul clearly states that he does not state his choice between life and death. That’s the break. When he claims being with Christ is far better, he is making a choice to which he prefers, therefore, he is in reference than to a third option. Otherwise, Paul would be making a choice about something that he says he does not choose to do. When Paul says that he wants to be with Christ, he states that is “far better”. The question becomes, “What is it far better than”? Well the only answer that AFJW could supply would have to be “life”. But then Paul is making a choice, which he says he does not do. Therefore, there has to be a third option in the mix.

      R2: I may never convince AFJW of this because people often see what they want to see, but surely it can be seen that this passage does nothing to prove that Christians go to heaven when they die and await a resurrection. The view I am presenting is entirely supportable within the context of this scriptures and certainly within the overall context of what the Bible teaches about the condition of the dead. This really is at the heart of AFJWs position and this is something that I will then give greater attention to. If it can be shown that there is no conscious afterlife after death until the resurrection, then AFJW’s position fails in all areas.

      R3: We can wrangle about the meaning of Paul’s words in Philippians, but nothing conclusive will come from it for AFJW. He may feel the same about my view as well. When this happens, it’s time to move on to a more conclusive argument.

      R4: With that in mind, let’s move to another passage that I feel is far more conclusive in the matter. AFJW claims that when Christians die they go to heaven and are therefore not asleep in death. When I mentioned that the Bible teaches that the dead are not conscious, he stated that was not in reference to Christians. It would be, according to him, only non-Christians that “fall asleep” in death. However, 1 Thes. 4:16ff provides a different picture. Notice what it tells us about Christians who are resurrected.

      R5:“13 Moreover, brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant* about those who are sleeping in death,+ so that you may not sorrow as the rest do who have no hope.+14 For if we have faith that Jesus died and rose again,+ so too God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in death through Jesus.+15 For this is what we tell you by Jehovah’s* word, that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death;16 because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s+ voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first.+17 Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds+ to meet the Lord+ in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord.+18 So keep comforting one another with these words.”

      R6: We can see that this passage teaches us the exact opposite of what AFJW has promoted, that being that Christians do not sleep in death. Clearly, as Paul points out here, Christians are asleep in death until the resurrection. There are far more accounts to prove that those who die, are said to be asleep in death, including Christians as is shown here. Again, the scriptures cannot be successfully employed to teach life after death, prior to resurrection. First Samuel in the account about “Samuel” does not prove that Samuel was conscious after death. What the witch saw was “a god”, a demon impersonating Samuel. God is not in business with necromancers. Matthew 17 also does not prove conscious existence after death as it is clearly presented as a “vision”, not a reality.

      R7 to A4-A7: AFJW claims that the 144,000 and the great crowd are actually the same group. This is not a position that can be proved by any means as is testified by the many scholars who would disagree and when time indicators are considered regarding the two groups, it stands in contradiction to what is indicated scripturally.

      R8: First let’s see if there are any time indicators for the 144,000 as to when they exist. Revelation 14:4 says that these ones were bought from among mankind “as FIRSTFRUITS to God and to the Lamb. Let’s think about that in relation to history. If they are the “first fruits” bought from among mankind, then their gathering by necessity had to begin in the 1st century CE, because as “first fruits”, their existence would have had to have begun no later than the establishment of the Christian church at Pentecost. So by necessity this group existed, or at least part of this group existed in the first century. Why do I say “at least part of this group” did so? The answer to that is because whereas chapter 14 shows they would have existed in the first century, chapter 7 shows that they would also be in existence, or at least part of them at the very end of the “age” or “system”. Revelation 7:3, 4 tells us that the four winds of destruction upon the earth would not be let loose until these ones had been sealed in their foreheads. So the time indicators for the 144,000 tell us that they have existed through a span of centuries, from the first century down to now, since those four winds have obviously not been let loose.

      R9:But what about the time indicators of the great crowd? We are told clearly as to when this group manifests itself in history, again in the 7th chapter of Revelation. There, in the 13th and 14th verses we read:

      “13 And in response one of the elders said to me: “These who are dressed in the white robes, who are they and where did they come from?” 14 So right away I said to him: “My lord, you are the one that knows.” And he said to me: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

      R10: This group is therefore one that survives the great tribulation and is then led to waters of life, having earlier claimed salvation for themselves in verse 10. The time indicators clearly separate the two groups so it would not be possible to have the view that the great crowd is the same group as the 144,000 only described differently. They are two groups. One has existed from the 1st century on and the other exists at the time of the great tribulation, in which they survive, and are then led to the fountains of the waters of life.

      R11: So not only does the great crowd not master the new song, they also are not shown as standing upon Mt. Zion with the Lamb, and they do not share the same historical placement. So not only would one have to deal with the historical difference between these two groups, they would also have to explain why there is a privileged difference as well. The great crowd cannot master the new song, nor are they shown upon Mt. Zion. Why?

      A8: R4 – Unless Rotherham can show where the description “Christian” is given to one who later comes to believe in Christ, such as Abraham or one like him, we have again what is only Rotherham’s assumption. I submit that there is no evidence that the appellation Christian will be given to such ones, and it is instead reserved for those today who serve Christ. In fact, we have no evidence that anyone will bear this identification in the new age. There are no statements in Revelation 7 precluding the great crowd from membership in the New Covenant. Rotherham here continues to assert what he cannot defend. I’ll remind everyone that the New Covenant is not associated with ruling or being in heaven, it is for the forgiveness of sins. No text of scripture suggests that what Rotherham teaches. It is derived entirely from importing his own reasoning into texts of scripture based upon his own highly questionable interpretation of a few texts.

      R12 to A8: All one has to do is look up the definition of Christian to know that anyone who is a believer and follower of Christ would be considered Christian. That would include ANYONE who is therefore granted eternal life. To claim differently is without support. As the last Adam, Jesus will be considered the eternal father of all those who live as perfect humans on earth, therefore, Christians.

      R13: I have exceeded the word limit so I will have to address A10 and A11 in a later post.

      Regards,
      Rotherham

  5. answersforjws says:

    A1: R1 – Rotherham seems to have stopped reading Paul’s words in Philippians 1 too soon. Paul doesn’t say he won’t choose, but that it is a difficult choice and he doesn’t know! Rotherham would have us believe that Paul is presenting a third option as his choice (resurrection), but Paul doesn’t even pick to depart and be with Christ, he says only that it is far better. His choice is to continue in the flesh, remaining alive, for it is the necessary thing. Rotherham’s addition of a third option necessarily results in Paul somehow having four options, or three options with the final statement of remaining in the flesh being unrelated to what was for him far better. Nevertheless, Paul says there are “two.” It is very clear that two ideas are in view, death and life. Paul prefers death so to be with Christ, but it was necessary for him to remain alive.

    A2: R4-5 – Rotherham is perhaps unaware that sleep at this point had been used as an idiom for death for hundreds of years prior, extending back into the Greek poets, including Homer. To take Paul’s use of sleep to describe death literally (and I’d note that the expression “in death” is an NWT interpolation) is to read more into the language than exists. Rotherham can argue that sleep is purely the state of all dead, including Christians, but given the background of this term, he can hardly appear to it for such reasoning.

    A3: R6 – Rotherham doesn’t accept what the author of 1 Samuel says, which is that it was Samuel! Look at the text and see for yourself: “The woman saw Samuel” (1 Samuel 28:12); “Saul knew it was Samuel” (1 Samuel 28:14); “Samuel said to Saul” (1 Samuel 28:15); “Samuel said” (1 Samuel 28:16); “the words of Samuel” (1 Samuel 28:20). Rather than accept that the author of the book believes it is Samuel, Rotherham appeals to the witch’s words and says, it was a god, which Rotherham then himself interprets to mean a demon. I choose to accept the inspired author’s statement that it was Samuel.

    A4: This observation is also true for Matthew 17. Matthew himself tells us it was Moses and Elijah, Rotherham says it wasn’t because it was “a vision.” But a vision doesn’t mean it wasn’t reality, only a miraculous sight! Indeed it was. Here again I will trust the inspired author’s comments. Will Rotherham?

    A5: R7-R8 Rotherham seems unaware that the number 144,000 would refer to the church as a whole, given the derivatives of 12×12 (completeness) x1000 (a great number). If Rotherham is correct in his view of the great crowd as those alive during the tribulation, this is merely the church at that time, which is why I say they are one and the same. There are a lot of variables here and I’m assuming his position in part for this, but I think it will benefit the discussion to do so. Thus the first fruits identification is a non-issue. Of course, this assumes that first fruits doesn’t refer to the resurrection, or that it doesn’t refer to the choicest fruit, as it can, rather than what comes first in time. His objections simply don’t serve him at all given these points. It should be noted that Rotherham has not addressed the multiple lines of evidence I presented. In fact, in everything I’ve stated he has ignored the evidence, from the issue of the anaphoric article in Philippians, to what the writers say in Samuel and Matthew. He is content to ignore contrary evidence and present his own views.

    A6: R11 – If the great crowd merely the church in the end times and Revelation 14 presents the church in the resurrection, the great crowd is among the 1444,000 given that the 144,000 represents the church itself!

    A7: R12 – Rotherham has once again ignored what I have said. He assumes that the title carries into the new age, but he cannot show an example of this. The title exists now as a mark of distinction, distinguishing between believers and unbelievers, but if there are no unbelievers in the new age, there is no distinction and no need for the identification. Let him insist otherwise all he wants, but at the end of the day the issue is concerning the biblical hope for those who are Christians now.

  6. theapologeticfront says:

    Riven-

    I apologize, but in keeping with the proposed format, I will have to remove your comment. You’re welcome to comment elsewhere on similar posts or wait until this dialogue is completed. I’m sure the debate participants will appreciate your comments and will address once its completed.

  7. rotherham2 says:

    R1 to A1-A4
    When Paul stated that being with Christ was far better, he is indicating a preference, not an actual choice to be carried out. LIkewise, when he mentions life and death, he is speaking about preference, which is one of the meanigs of the Greek word rendered “choose”. The choice had to do with what he preferred. He clearly states does not make known his PREFERENCE. It’s not as though he was actually going to choose death. He was speaking of preference. When he then states that being with Christ is far better, he is stating that this is his real preference, not life or death. Just because he prefers it doesn’t mean he immediately experiences it, because he was still alive so by necessity he remains in the flesh.

    R2-In Phillipians 1:20ff, it seems Paul sets the stage for his
    words by first referring to his “eager expectation” and his “hope” in verse
    20. If we can determine what that eager expectation and hope is, I think it
    really determines what Paul means when he speaks of “being with Christ”. It should be obvious that the “eager expectation and hope” is clearly his preference that he later mentions.

    R3-When we examine the book of Phillipians Paul is constantly pointing forward
    to the time of the resurrection. The “day of Christ” is intrinsically
    connected with the idea of resurrection, even in the mindset of those who
    espouse the “intermediate state” of life after death and prior to
    resurrection, and Paul references this “day” time and again. Notice 1:6,
    10; 2:16. Paul makes direct mention of the resurrection as well in 3:10,11,
    20,21. I don’t think there can be much question then as to what Paul
    referred to in verse 20 of chapter 1 as his eager expectation and hope, since he consistently in his letter
    to the Phillipians, mentioned the day of Christ and specifically the
    resurrection as what Christians were waiting for. Notice 3:20 even mentions
    “eagerly waiting” this refashioning of “our bodies” of the church, which is a clear reference to resurrection.

    R4-It becomes quite apparent from the context of the entire book that Paul sets
    the stage for his words in 1:20ff with an immediate reference to the
    “resurrection”, and, if one pays attention to that, it becomes clear what the “releasing and the being with
    Christ” is in reference to. Contextually, it must be resurrection., for that
    is the consistent theme that he sets in verse 20 and throughout this book,
    (and all of his other books, we might add) as the hope and expectation of
    ‘heavenbound’ Christians.

    R5-It is readily apparent that Paul states he does not KNOW whether he prefers life or death. So if he
    immediately states that he actually prefers “death”, he has misrepresented the truth. That would mean he actually did know the very thing he stated that he did not know. Therefore, the “being with Christ” can not be anaphoric with death. The two preferences can not be the same thing or Paul simply lied about not knowing which to prefer. The “far better” was “better” than what? Clearly, it was a far better “preference” than the other two just mentioned. I see no other way to understand this and have it make sense with what Paul himself stated.

    R6-Therefore, the text does not present the desire of Paul at 23b in the same category as
    the two options previously mentioned. While to live or to die are presented
    as equivalent in effect, hence his hesitation to voice a preference, his
    desire is emphatically declared to be far better than either of the two
    previously mentioned courses. This distinguishes the releasing to be with
    Christ from the other two.

    R7-Paul used the term SUN followed by a title for Jesus followed by a form of EIMI at Phil 1:23 (SUN
    XRISTW EINAI) and at 1Thess 4:17 ( SUN XRISTW EINAI). At 1Thess 4:17 the context is undeniably the parousia and the resurrection. Therefore 1Thes. 4:17 adds weight to the conviction that Paul, in Phillipians was talking about resurrection, not an intermediate state.

    R8-For one to believe that God employed the use of a witch would mean that God was committing something that he expressly forbid. Do you want us to believe that God was in business with a necromancer? Now either the witch saw Samuel who is said to be a god??(how could that be?) Or, the god that she saw was a spirit imitating Samuel. Since God would never employ a witch, and since Samuel would not be a ‘god””, it should be obvious that the “god” seen by the witch was imitating Samuel. I could never accept that God was in cohorts with a witch, and therefore Satan, as it contradicts everything that God states about witchery, Satan and the like.

    R9-I have to ask: “Do you actually think that Samuel was resurrected at this time so his body could be present and then put to death again?” Same thing in regard to the transfiguration vision. Were they actually resurrected at this point so there bodies could be seen and then put to death after the vision? Clearly, neither of these accounts can be used to support the idea of intermediate conscious life.

    R9b-The fact that death is likened to sleep is the very point. The scriptures clearly teach that the dead do not know anything and they are conscious of nothing at all, just like when you’re asleep. That’s why sleep works as a metaphor to death. Therefore, as 1 Thes 4 conforms for us, Christians are sleeping in death until the resurrection.

    R10-In all that you state about the great crowd being a part of the 144,000 and therefore a subgroup of the larger group, you do not address the obvious contrast that is made between these two groups, nor do you address why the great crowd must be led to waters of life once they survive the great tribulation. The great crowd is stated to be “after” the 144,000, it is said to be Gentile in nature rather than Israelic, it is said to be unnumbered whereas the 12 tribes were specifically numbered. The contrasts are so obvious that to miss it is to miss too much in my opinion. Many commentators agree that the great crowd and the 144,000 are different groups ecause of the glaring contrats that are employed. You can continue to believe what you wish about these two groups but you have offered nothing to overturn our view, which if you want to PROVE your point, you must do. Simply restating your view does not do that. There are plenty of contextual reasons to see the two groups as different. However, I see no contextual reasons for seeing the great crowd as the same.

    R11-Once again, simply restating your view does nothing to PROVE your point. Since everyone who will live must acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Lord, they will by neccesity be Christian. The scriptures are clear that all who will live eternally must confess Jesus Christ as their Lord, including those resurrected, those UNDER the earth. Phil. 2:9-11:

    “For this very reason, God exalted him to a superior position+ and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name,+10 so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend—of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground+11 and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord+ to the glory of God the Father.”

    If that doesn’t make someone Christian, then I don’t know what does. Show me scriptures that would deny such a thing. Not just your view, but scriptures.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

  8. answersforjws says:

    A1: R1- Rotherham continues to miss the most basic point. Departing and being with Christ is placed antithetical to remaining alive. Paul tells us that death is “gain.” How is it gain if it gives him nothing? If death is to depart and be with Christ, it is great gain indeed! While it is far better to depart and be with Christ, it is necessary to remain alive for the Philippians. This is Paul’s development of the thought, and given that death is placed in contrast with what is “far better,” it is not resurrection in view. Rotherham apparently believes that because Paul perceives something as “far better” for him personally that Paul is in the end going to make the selfish choice. This is hardly the case with Paul, who was undoubtedly one of the most willingly self-sacrificing individuals in history.

    A2: R2- Paul’s hope and expectation is salvation, as explained in verse 19. It is not obvious at all that a third idea is in view. Paul tells us that he is pressed between “the two,” life and death (remember that article is anaphoric). Paul then relates the manner in which he is hard pressed between them, for one is far better for him, but the other is necessary for them.

    A3: R3-R4- Paul looks forward to the day of the Lord, but Paul isn’t discussing “three,” he is discussing “the two” things he mentioned, life and death. Contextually it cannot be the resurrection because that is outside of the bounds of “the two.” I’ve argued this repeatedly and been given no answer.

    A4: R6- Rotherham is contradicting himself. In R1 he says that Paul only will not make known his preference, but now he says that Paul doesn’t know himself! If Paul is speaking of the return of Christ and the resurrection, why doesn’t he say that? Why doesn’t he merely express his desire for the day of the Lord or the appearing of the Lord as he elsewhere does? Instead, he lays why he is pressed between life and death.

    A5: R7- This is a circular argument. That the language of being with Christ is used once of the resurrection in Paul does not preclude it from being used of an intermediate state.

    A6: R8-R9- Once again Rotherham has ignored the text of scripture. He is attempting to reason out of it. I will accept what the inspired author says, Rotherham will not. Just as God used the Jews to bring about the death of his son and forgiveness of sin (Acts 4:27-28), he could use this witch as well to carry out his will. Appealing to her perceptions of Samuel is not a valid objection. Samuel was not resurrected for Saul could not see him. There is no evidence for this in Matthew 17 either.
    A7: R9b- Sleep was a metaphor for death regardless of Christian/Jewish ideas concerning death, predating Christianity and existing outside of Judaism as such a metaphor. It is historically illegitimate to make appeal to this term given that the term found use even among the Greek poets.

    A8: R10- I have addressed the supposed contrast and Rotherham refuses to deal with it. I have noted the symbolic/spiritual language, including their identification as “Israel,” the numbers used for them, the tribes and I’d add the description of them as virgins in Revelation 14. Rotherham wants to contrast these with the great crowd, yet I submit that one is a spiritual description John hears and one is a literal sight John sees. But I expect Rotherham will not engage these points once again. Additionally, the great crowd are not said to be “after” the 144,000.

    A9: Rotherham, I must call you out for dishonesty in your claim that I have not offered anything to overturn your view, for I certainly have. I’ve offered several points that fully overturn your view in my post dated October 22nd. You have failed to even attempt a response.

    A10: R11- One cannot ask me to prove a negative. Show me where anyone in the resurrection, within the new world is called a Christian. If one cannot do this and must only reason it out, such a person is following human ideas and expecting me to accept as absolute fact that which cannot be proven. I reject the reasoning and have otherwise observed why it simply doesn’t matter. We’re talking about Christians now. Additionally, Philippians is talking about the righteous and the wicked, for it shall be all who bow to Christ, not only the saved.

    1. rotherham2 says:

      R1: Although much rhetoric has been offered by AFJW as to why he feels his view is correct, there has not been anything of a conclusive nature offered as PROOF of a view. Simply because one firmly believes their view and can offer a passage that they believe demonstrates their view, that is not PROOF of a view, unless the scripture offered can only be understood in one way. AFJW has not offered such argumentation. All the scriptures offered by AFJW are nothing more than ambiguous because there is more than one way to understand them. He cannot and has not proven otherwise. We could continue to spin our wheels in support of our own view in relation to who the great crowd is and how to understand Philippians 1:20-23, because given enough words, a person can talk themselves into any view that they want to personally entertain. The only real means to establish a definitive proof in the scriptures is to pay attention to scriptural precedent. It is the scriptures that should decide all issues, not extra-biblical references. If there is enough of a biblical database to establish the meaning of a phrase or word, that is the meaning that we should adhere to.

      R2: Paul considered death a gain because his life course would serve as a testimony to the Christ. There is plenty of reason to believe that Paul was thinking of resurrection when he spoke of what he truly preferred, which would be the same as his eager expectation and hope. When it comes to afterlife, the hope for Christians is always resurrection, not a bodiless intermediate life. Nowhere in scripture is a bodiless intermediate life spoken of as the Christian hope. In fact, Paul spoke of a bodiless existence as something unfavorable, certainly not a hope as hope is always in reference in the NT to something good, not unfavorable. He states:

      5 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, should be torn down,*+ we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands,+ everlasting in the heavens.2 For in this house* we do indeed groan, earnestly desiring to put on the one for us* from heaven,*+3 so that when we do put it on, we will not be found naked.4 In fact, we who are in this tent groan, being weighed down, because we do not want to put this one off, but we want to put the other on,+ so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.+5 Now the one who prepared us for this very thing is God,+ who gave us the spirit as a token of what is to come.*+

      Notice that he states that they do not want to be in the naked state, but rather to have the resurrection body. Therefore, the eager expectation and hope would not be the “naked” state without a body, something that Paul did not desire; “because we do not want to put this one off,”

      R3: Therefore, scriptural precedent decides that the “hope” that Paul spoke of in that context would clearly be one and the same with the “far better” option. How could it not be? Context would clearly determine the “far better” preference as being the same as the “eager expectation and hope”, which is an unambiguous reference to the resurrection according to scriptural precedent. What AFJW needs to do to negate this argument is to find an example where the “hope” for Christians is the “intermediate life” that he espouses. Otherwise, scriptural precedent decides in the favor of “resurrection” as the “far better” option mentioned by Paul.

      R4: AFJWs defense against God using a witch is unacceptable. God would be guilty of committing something that he regards as a sin deserving of death. For one to think God could do that is not a defense of their position but demonstrates a desperate desire to support something they want to be true.

      R5: Scriptural precedent determines that death is indeed a “sleep” as it is the scriptures that teach us such. To claim we should listen to extra-biblical references to understand a biblical teaching is another example of desperation.

      R6: Note that John says in verse 9 John says “AFTER THIS I SAW” an obvious reference to the 144,000 that he just saw. AFJW can submit his view all he cares to but that does nothing to overturn the view that we hold. He evidently feels that just because he espouses a view that this is some overturning our view. Maybe he needs to review exactly what it means to overturn someone’s view. I will therefore repeat that AFJW has done nothing to overturn our view. If he thinks he has he needs to be specific rather than a generic reference to past comments. There is certainly far more reason to believe they are different groups contextually than to believe they are actually one and the same.

      R7: AFJW needs to address why the great crowd needs to still be led to waters of life after they come out of the great tribulation, if they are indeed part of the 144,000 who have received immortality. The language of having to be led to waters of life does not bespeak immortality. AFJWs first defense of this question said that if the great crowd is in the intermediate state, then there was no problem. However, he later stated that it didn’t matter whether they were in the intermediate state, so I am still wondering how he answers this question. Which is it? Does it matter or not? What’s the actual answer?

      R8: AFJWs defense of Philippians 2:9-11 also stands as nothing more than his view. As I said, anyone who acknowledges Jesus as their Lord would be necessity be a Christian. He evidently claims that those under the ground are the wicked that get resurrected just to be destroyed. This is nowhere taught in the scriptures. In fact, Paul says that the “unrighteous” that are resurrected enjoy a “hope” along with the righteous. (Acts 24:15) Being resurrected to destruction is certainly not a hope.

      R9: Scriptural precedent should rule the day, not someone’s personal view or extra-biblical definitions.

      1. The Bible clearly defines death as sleep, for death is unconsciousness. There is no reason to think that suddenly come the NT, the definition of death as sleep is somehow different than what it was in the OT.

      2. The Christian hope is never spoken of as the intermediate state between death and resurrection. In fact Paul said it was something that was not desired. Therefore the eager expectation and hope of Paul was clearly not a “naked state” , but one of being clothed with the body received upon resurrection.

      3. God cannot sin, he would therefore not consult with the Devil and a witch. That should be obvious to anyone.

      For these reasons, and more to follow if necessary, I see AFJWs position to be indefensible.

      Regards,
      Rotherham

      1. answersforjws says:

        A1: R1- A rhetoric filled paragraph indeed! I have demonstrated that “two” things are in view. I have pointed out that the article used of the two is anaphoric, describing life and death. There is no “but” between the reference to the two and departing and being with Christ. There is no similar term to suggest a change either (interestingly, prior releases of the NWT inserted “but” to give the appearance of a third option, but it was never in the Greek text). Paul has inserted an explanation of why he is pressed between the two. Rotherham would seem to have Paul tells us that he is pressed between the two but give us no idea why!

        A2: Rotherham would rather have the “precedent” he determines than an exegesis of the text itself. When Rotherham is forced to deal with the text itself as a whole, his position falls to pieces because he is unable to walk through the text line by line in a way that makes sense of everything Paul says.

        A3: R2- Death isn’t gain for Christ because he says “to live is Christ,” which is to say gain for Christ. Paul will live for Christ and glorify him so. If death was gain for Christ, to live and to die would be Christ.

        A4: Rotherham’s appeal to 2 Corinthians is not particularly helpful for him because he overlooks the fact that being naked is a possibility! We can be without our bodies! For Rotherham, we can never be in such a state. We are either alive and awake, or dead and unconscious. Yet the Christian has a third possibility. Indeed, it is not our “hope,” which is the resurrection, but this does not mean we do not get to have this state. Of course Paul is expressing his desire to not die in his state at that time. Paul writes to the Philippians 6-7 years after penning 2 Corinthians, by which time his circumstances had significantly changed.

        A5: R3- The problem for Rotherham is Paul’s final hope was not an option for him. He is not weighing that, he is weighing “the two” things he is “hard pressed between.” Rotherham tells us, “Oh, Paul just added the third thing he really wants,” but he won’t explain how that stands antithetical to death in the very next verse! He won’t tell us how this third option gets in the mix without any term of distinction in the text such as alla or de as previous NWTs had included to advocate such a view.

        A6: R4- More opinion from Rotherham and no scripture. I am depending purely upon scripture, Rotherham is giving us his personal opinion. I gave the example of men being used to kill Jesus as part of God’s will being carried out. Rotherham didn’t try to touch this for obvious reasons…. Matthew 17 is sitting out there in plain sight as well.

        A7: R5- Sleep is a metaphor for death. Rotherham wants to take it literally. If it is literal it is no longer a metaphor, but Rotherham himself doesn’t believe it is literal, for sleep is not truly death. The body is still animated during sleep. Rotherham is setting himself up as the authority for determine the meaning of the metaphor rather than historical use.

        A8: R6- Of course events take place for John in temporal order, but this does not mean anything concerning order of existence for the group. Contrary to Rotherham’s assertion, John does not see the 144,000 in Revelation 7, he only hears about them.

        A9: Let us examine carefully what Rotherham has stated on one point: “ I will therefore repeat that AFJW has done nothing to overturn our view. If he thinks he has he needs to be specific rather than a generic reference to past comments.” Yet what did I actually do? I not only pointed to the specific post, I highlighted the arguments I made in the post with the following: “ I have noted the symbolic/spiritual language, including their identification as “Israel,” the numbers used for them, the tribes and I’d add the description of them as virgins in Revelation 14. Rotherham wants to contrast these with the great crowd, yet I submit that one is a spiritual description John hears and one is a literal sight John sees.” These are very specific arguments. Their identification as Israel, which Rotherham agrees is spiritual. The use of the number 12,000, which Rotherham must agree is spiritual because he says the tribes are spiritual because they do not match up with the true tribes of Israel. And of course their identification as virgins, which Rotherham says is spiritual. Everything is spiritual for Rotherham apparently BUT the number 144,000.

        A10: I’ve noted specific points about the great crowd as well. They must be sealed, for otherwise they are tormented by the locust in Revelation 9. Rotherham will deny this, but not based upon anything in scripture. Further, Revelation 7:3 tells us that it is “the servants of our God” whom the angels seal, and yet those of the great crowd are God’s servants! So they are necessarily sealed, meaning they are in some way identified with the 144,000.

        A11: R7- I wonder if Rotherham takes the waters literally. John 7:38 finds this unlikely. However, Rotherham says they are living through the tribulation, so at this point he doesn’t have them resurrected and immortal. He seems to have argued from a perspective he does not even hold!

        A12: R8- On the contrary, I need only go to the source of the passage, Isaiah 45:23-24 were even those angry with God will cower before him on their knees. Paul does not say the unrighteous have a hope, he says that he and those with him have a hope that both will be resurrected. Jesus calls this a resurrection to judgment. (John 5:29)

        A13: I will respond to Rotherham’s bullets one by one:

        1) Sleep is a metaphor, not a literal description, and one existent outside of Jewish/Christian writings. Appealing to a metaphor for a literal description is to do injustice to the text.
        2) I have not suggested that the intermediate state is the Christian hope, but it will be what we experience until our hope is realized. Everyone has an intermediate state, but not everyone experiences the same thing within it. Rotherham has looked to Paul’s views at two different points in his life, ignoring that circumstances had changed for him. Rotherham additionally missed that being naked was a possibility for Paul, a view Rotherham does not share.
        3) God did not consult with anyone. But this does not mean he did not allow the witch to do what she did, just as he allowed the Jews to kill Jesus as part of his will. Rotherham won’t accept the inspired text for what it says.

        A14: Rotherham wants to import ideas foreign to the text and have us accept his views, but time after time we see he distorts the evidence. He mixes metaphors with literals (sleep), he contrasts spiritual/symbolic language with literal language (Revelation 7 and the 144,000 and great crowd), and he inserts points of contrast when none are presented (Philippians 1). Let’s allow the Bible to speak for itself rather than to try reasoning our own ideas into the text. The Bible isn’t nearly that complicated.

  9. rotherham2 says:

    R1: As stated before, Biblical precedent should rule our understanding, and I find that AFJW does not follow Biblical precedent when it stands against his view. Because of this, I will once more state the Biblical precedent that I believe destroys AFJWs view, and then I think it is time to let the readers decide who has best made their case.

    R2: Biblical precedent #1
    Death is likened to sleep. It is not literal sleep; it is likened to sleep because the dead are unconscious. This is laced throughout the scriptures as a consistent view. There is nowhere that the Bible teaches a conscious intermediate existence. We should always let absolutes rule the ambiguous references, not the other way around.
    Ecclesiastes 9:5-10 clearly teaches that the dead are conscious of nothing at all. The Psalmist (Ps. 104) also tells us that in the day that man dies, his thoughts perish. Isaiah tells us that the dead cannot laud God nor give to him praise. Lazarus was spoken of as sleeping. Early Christians were spoken as having “fallen asleep” (in death). 1 Thes. 4 assures that those Christians who experience a resurrection at the parousia of the Lord, are prior to that, sleeping in death. AFJW would have us believe that this is not the case, relying upon extra-biblical references to make his case. He should realize that the only valid argumentation comes from Biblical precedent, not from pagan views and writings.

    R3: Biblical precedent #2
    For Christians who experience death, the intermediate state is NEVER held out as their hope. Paul’s negative reference to a naked state should solidly establish that. Paul not wanting to be in a bodiless naked state does not in any way teach that there is consciousness in that naked state. What AFJW forgets is that in Phil. 1, Paul’s clear hope and eager expectation would have to be the thing that he would prefer. Otherwise the context makes no sense. Since the intermediate state is never the Christian hope, then Paul cannot be choosing that as the preferable state to be in.

    R4: Biblical precedent #3
    God does not commit sin. For God to collaborate with the Devil and a witch to have Samuel pronounce a prophecy to Saul while dead, that would have been a sin deserving of death. This is a far cry from removing his protection from his Son and allowing humans to facilitate his death. However, to collaborate with the Devil and facilitate the contacting of the dead, and using the mediumship of a witch to pronounce a prophecy to Saul via one who was dead is unthinkable on God’s behalf. AFJW has God being party to a death dealing sin. It is clearly a sin, something that God would not commit. God clearly condemned such actions with the threat of the death penalty for doing so.

    Other considerations:

    R4: Matthew 17 is spoken of as a vision. There is no reason to think it was anything more than that, a vision. AFJW would have us believe that these dead ones were resurrected if they are supposed to have actually seen real bodies. Yet he denies that happened. How then did they experience those bodies if they were not visionary?

    R5: In Phil. 1, to live is Christ, naturally, as Paul spent his life preaching and teaching the Christ. To die is gain because not only would his life be a testimony to Christianity but it would also lead directly to resurrection. One cannot be with Christ via resurrection without first experiencing death. One cannot experience the hope and eager expectation, that being resurrection, without first dying. So it would be entirely natural to contrast death with life, and resurrection with remaining in the flesh, with no hint of an intermediate conscious existence being mentioned.

    R6: Paul clearly states that he either does not know or does not make known his preference between life and death. His language is unmistakable. AFJW would have us believe that Paul actually did know and actually did make it known. This stands as a contradiction to Paul’s words.

    R7: There is no reason to demand that the seal of God mentioned ion Rev. 9:4 is the same as the sealing of the 144,000 in 7:4. The timing and the situation are different. One who is sealed can also mean one who has been approved, authenticated, confirmed. Not everyone spoken of as having a seal are of the 144,000.

    R8: Paul does indeed say that the unrighteous have a hope via the resurrection. Look at the sentence as it is written. There is no difference between the hope mentioned for either the righteous or the unrighteous in that sentence. Remember, the word “hope” is ALWAYS used as word denoting the acquisition of something good. If AFJW cannot find an example otherwise, he has no argument. The unrighteous indeed have a hope. What of the countless dead who never had a chance to even know Jesus Christ? Since all who are saved must acknowledge Jesus as their Lord, that would mean countless dead ones are lost because they were born at the wrong time in history. God doesn’t base judgment upon chronology.

    R9: As I stated at first, I believe I will allow the readers to decide after this who has presented the better arguments as it appears to me that Biblical precedent is being ignored and I don’t really see the value in continuing to try to convince someone who will not deal with Biblical precedent.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

    1. answersforjws says:

      A1: R1- Rotherham talks about precedent, but I’ve focused only on 4 scriptures (which is not to say I haven’t cited some related texts, especially within the confines of Revelation as to what certain things mean, but they haven’t been a focus). If we want to discuss the Bible as a whole, there are numerous other scriptures I could introduce in support of an immaterial soul. However, I’ve tried to focus on three issues with these texts. 1) Does the Bible teach that there is conscious existence after death (1 Samuel 28; Matthew 17). 2) Does the Bible teach that Christians go to be with Christ at death (Philippians 1)? 3) Does the Bible teach that there are two distinct groups of Christians in the current age with different hopes (Revelation 7, 14)? I have not attempted to establish some type of pattern throughout scripture, because to do so would not be possible within this forum. It shouldn’t be necessary. We should be able to read scripture and accept it at face value. We should be able to exegete the text of scripture and let each writer speak for himself, in context. Rotherham does not want to allow this however, and must instead import his own ideas that in some cases explicitly contradict the very text in question.

      A2: R2- The language isn’t one of likening. Scripture doesn’t say, “Death is like sleep.” Sleep is a term used for death. It is a metaphor for death. I fully embrace the text Rotherham has cited about the state of the dead. I don’t believe that the dead historically existed in a conscious state, but this does not have anything to do with whether there is an immaterial soul that can be awakened. Neither does this mean that Christians must have the same expectation. Given Rotherham’s theology, he must be the first to claim that Christian expectations do not necessarily align with those held in ancient Israel.

      A3: R3- This is a straw man. Of course the Christian hope isn’t the intermediate state. This should be evident in the fact that it is indeed an intermediate state! It is not our final expectation, the final outcome we all yearn for. It isn’t even our ideal state. We don’t want to be dead under normal circumstances. Nevertheless, Paul wasn’t under normal circumstances when writing to the Philippians. He was imprisoned and suffering persecution. Paul’s hope and expectation were not things immediately attainable. He didn’t have an immediate hope of resurrection. It was not going to happen any time soon. He had before him only “two” things, life in the current age or death.

      A4: R4- This entire paragraph is rather ironic. First, Rotherham wants to talk about God allowing sin only and it being acceptable, but doesn’t imagine that perhaps God merely allowed the witch to raise Samuel and merely allowed him to tell what would transpire. But of course the text in Acts doesn’t say that God merely allowed Jesus to die. God predestined them by his own hand (Acts 4:27-28)! In other words, God took direct action to bring these things to pass.

      A5: The overarching issue, however, is this. Rotherham is faced with explicit statements in scripture. He is told it was Samuel. I have cited multiple passages where the inspired writer says it is Samuel. Rotherham denies the word of God and says it was not. I know of no ancient precedent for Rotherham’s interpretation. If he can present one I’m happy to consider it. I have cited Matthew 17 where Matthew himself says it was Elijah and Moses, and Rotherham says it was not. He dismisses it as a vision, yet a vision need mean nothing more than a miraculous sight! Indeed it was. Rotherham rejects to explicit statements of the word of God.

      A6: R5- Though Rotherham previously insisted that Paul did not want to die, it seems that he is now willing to acknowledge he does. Yet Rotherham imports a gain that Paul does not discuss in this context. Rotherham must jump all over the Bible to get Paul to explain himself when if one takes away Rotherham’s presuppositions everything fits together in a nice, neat package. If dying was going to “lead directly to the resurrection,” it would seem all Christians would want to die, but as Rotherham points out, Paul previously did not want to die (2 Corinthians 5). The resurrection was not an option immediately before Paul. Indeed, it was his ultimate hope, but it was not something he could immediately attain even in death. Look closely at what Paul writes:

      21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 [s]But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know [t]which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.

      A7: In verse 21 Paul presents the two options. 1) Live for Christ or 2) Die and gain. In 22 he says if he lives on in the flesh (option 1) it will be fruitful labor, so he will do work for Christ. In 23 he first says he is hard pressed between both (living and dying), having the desire to depart and be with Christ (die, option 2)), but to remain in the flesh (live [option 1] per verse 22) is necessary.

      A8: I’ve asked this repeatedly and I’ll ask again. How is continuing to live according to verse 24 a contrast to the resurrection if that is what verse 23 presents?

      A9: R6- Perhaps Rotherham missed that Paul said it was death which is gain for him! This is no different than saying that he desires to depart and be with Christ. He is articulating what is best for him, but this is not necessarily his choice. He said if he continued to live it would be fruitful labor, something he also desired. Rotherham would have us stop in verse 23 and say, Aha! Paul makes his choice! But this requires we ignore the “yet”/”but” in verse 24 that contrasts with that statement wherein he weighs in on the second option. But again, how is living a contrast with what Paul desires if that means only the resurrection? It doesn’t add up.

      A10: R7- Where in Revelation is anyone else sealed? There is no sealing even occurring in the text of Revelation 9, but an allusion to an earlier sealing. Additionally, I’ve noted that those sealed in Revelation 7 are “the servants of our God,” a group to which the great crowd belong.

      A11: R8- Rotherham is simply incorrect. This is a grammatical issue at the core. The unrighteous are not the subjects of hope. Paul says that it is he and the Jews who share the hope, all of which viewed themselves as among the righteous, for whom it was a hope. I’ll leave judgment to God and Christ and not move beyond scripture. I’d rather avoid speculations and stick to what scripture says explicitly.

  10. rotherham2 says:

    R1 I will now present my summary and conclusion. As I have stated before, I think enough has been covered and established so that the readers can make an informed choice as to who best presented their arguments.

    R2 I think we have covered and recovered the points that are relevant within this topic. Naturally, I remain convinced that the soul does indeed die as spelled out throughout the Bible and that there is no such thing as a conscious afterlife. The scriptural precedent throughout is that the dead one is sleeping, awaiting resurrection, including Christians who have died. (1Thes. 4 etc.) AFJW argues, not with Biblical precedent, but with isolated scriptures that cannot be interpreted the way he interprets them and have the Bible remain harmonious with itself. In the end, they violate Biblical precedent.

    R3 Also, Paul clearly stated that he either did not know or he would not make known his preference between life or death. AFJW would have us believe he did indeed know and did indeed make known his preference, in direct contradiction to Paul’s words nearly in the same breath. I will accept what Paul said.

    R4 I am thoroughly convinced that God would not employ a witch to deliver a “prophecy” to Samuel. The notion is preposterous. I am convinced that Matthew 17 in regards to the transfiguration was a “vision”. Nothing has been or can be offered to demonstrate otherwise. The passages offered by AFJW simply do not come close to establishing an intermediate life. I would recommend the reading of an article that deals with the true object of the resurrection at the following link for those who are interested. If there is an intermediate life then the object of the resurrection has to be the body. Paul demonstrates otherwise.
    http://www.truetheology.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=154

    R5 As is often the case, AFJW misses the point in regard to Paul’s preference. Death and resurrection are not synonymous in any one’s dictionary, I would hope. Therefore, when Paul revealed his actual preference, resurrection, he could contrast that with LIFE, because one would first have to die to be resurrected. But that in no way equates death with resurrection. Paul said nothing about immediately experiencing his preferemce in any case. He was simply expressing preference, and surely his preference was the same as the eager expectation and hope that he just mentioned, which we know that nowhere is that hope an intermediate state. The Christian hope after this life is always the hope of the resurrection.

    R6 Paul clearly states that both the righteous and the unrighteous have a hope via resurrection. No massaging of the text will present a different idea than the one that is presented via Biblical precedent. Hope is always the acquisition of something good.

    R7 I appreciate AFJWs time and efforts but I don’t see the need to continue with this any longer. I will allow AFJW the final word. I would encourage him in the next post to present his summary as I have done here.

    Regards,
    Rotherham

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