Introduction: Whenever I have to argue before a court I try
to think of all the questions that I am likely to be asked
by the judges. I carefully consider what is the best answer,
and then I practice that answer. The goal is to avoid being
asked a question I have not considered and then, when the
pressure is on, trying to come up with a persuasive answer.
We should do the same when it comes to our Christian
beliefs. We need to consider the hard questions and
carefully construct a solid compelling answer. Just as with
everything else, the Holy Spirit guides me into the best
thinking. For our study this week, let’s team up with the
Holy Spirit, consider the hard questions about the state of
the dead, and explore solid Biblical answers!

I. Odd Stories

A. Read Luke 16:1-2. Why is the manager being fired?
(Poor management of his master’s assets.)

B. Read Luke 16:3. What problem is uppermost in the
manager’s mind? (How will I live? How will I earn
a living?)

C. Read Luke 16:5-7. What do you say about the
manager’s solution? (It is absolutely dishonest.
It reflects the reason he was fired – he does not
put his master’s interests first.)

D. Read Luke 16:8-9. Who is speaking here? (Jesus!)

1. What have you learned from this story? (That
being dishonest and selfish, especially if you
are good at it, is what God commends.)

E. Read Luke 16:10. Does this conclusion follow from
the story? (Not at all. If you read Luke 16:11-13
Jesus reinforces His conclusion that honesty and
faithfulness are fundamental. We must “serve”
honesty rather than serving a drive to be rich.)

1. Is Jesus accidentally telling a story that
completely contradicts the point He is making?
(Jesus is asking us to look beyond the obvious
to understand His point. His point is that we
must be smarter than the world and use the
world’s tools to advance the Kingdom of God.
If you do not use the best approach, you are
stealing from God.)

F. Read Luke 16:19-23. What have you learned from
this story? (The sick poor go to heaven. The well-
fed healthy rich go to hell.)

1. Is that consistent with the teachings of the
Bible? Applied to today, are the homeless and
sick headed straight to heaven? Can we get a
small picture of heaven by going to Los
Angeles and visiting the homeless encampments?

G. Read Luke 16:24-25. In this story Abraham says
those who did well in life suffer in hell and
those who experienced bad things enjoy heaven. How
did Abraham end up in heaven? He was a rich and
successful man! Shouldn’t he, of all people, be in
hell? (This is another story that makes no sense.
It is contrary to the teachings of Moses who links
obedience to blessings and disobedience to being
cursed. Deuteronomy 28.)

H. Read Luke 16:27-28. What does the rich man want?
(Lazarus to travel to earth and warn the rich
man’s five brothers. My guess is the warning is
that they should stop being rich.)

I. Read Luke 16:29-31. Is Jesus once again asking us
to look beyond the obvious (and obviously wrong)
elements of the story to discover His point? (Just
as Jesus was not commending dishonesty in the
first story, He is not suggesting a standard for
judgment or teaching about the state of the dead
in this story.)

1. What is Jesus’ point? (Those who do not “hear”
the Bible will not “hear” a resurrected Jesus.
This is not a story about the state of the

II. Grammar and Punctuation

A. Read Luke 23:39-43. Who is going to be “in
paradise” today? (Jesus and one of the criminals
crucified with Him.)

1. Is our defense about the state of the dead all
about punctuation – which the original Greek
did not contain? Should we move the comma from
before “today” to after “today?” (I think the
argument for moving the comma around is
unpersuasive. If you were speaking to someone
would you say, “Today I’m speaking?” Of course
not. It is obvious that you are speaking now.)

B. Read John 20:15-17. What does this say about Jesus
visiting His Father in Paradise on Friday (the day
of His crucifixion)? (This does not turn on
punctuation. Jesus tells Mary that He has not yet
ascended to His Father and Paradise.)

C. We have an apparent conflict between the two
statements of Jesus. How would you resolve this?
(First, the point Jesus is making at the cross was
not about timing, it was about salvation. Whereas
the point to Mary was specifically about the
timing of Jesus’ return to heaven. Second, in a
Greek discussion post I found “I say to you
today”)is a Hebrew idiom to express certainty. It
would be like saying in modern English “You can
take this to the bank.” No one would think you
should travel to a bank. The expression is about
trustworthiness. What Jesus is really saying to
the criminal is “You can be certain of salvation.”
This understanding solves the conflict between
what Jesus said to the thief and said to Mary.)

III. Preaching to Spirits

A. Read 1 Peter 3:18-20. Who are these “spirits in
prison?” (Those who did not listen to the warnings
of Noah.)

1. Where is this prison? (It must be hell.)

2. Did Jesus go to heaven and then to hell? (Some
argue that Jesus went to hell to preach after
His death, but before His resurrection.)

B. Let’s focus 1 Peter 3:18-19. Who is the “he” in
verse 19? (The prior reference is to the Holy
Spirit. The natural reading of this is that Jesus
preached through the Holy Spirit.)

1. The next question is why do some think this
happened when Jesus was resting in the grave?
(The text does not say that.)

C. Re-read 1 Peter 3:20. Does this answer the “when”
question? (Yes, it says during the days of Noah
God was patient.)

D. Read Isaiah 14:16-17. Are sinners in prison? (Yes.
This makes it clear. Jesus did not visit hell.
Before His incarnation Jesus worked through the
Holy Spirit to convert Noah’s audience.)

IV. Spirits Under the Altar

A. Read Revelation 6:9-11. This is one of the most
difficult passages, at least on the surface,
because it specifically refers to conscious
“souls” in heaven who have been martyred for their
faith. Are these souls able to have intelligent
conversations? (Yes, according to the text.)

1. Do these souls have bodies? (They must,
otherwise what would they be doing wearing
white robes?

2. If they have bodies, does that mean that they
were resurrected? (The context tells us this
is before the Second Coming, otherwise they
would not be complaining about the lack of a
judgment. Thus, their resurrection is before
the Second Coming of Jesus.)

3. If we just stopped here is this story
necessarily inconsistent with the doctrine of
soul sleep – the dead await resurrection at
the Second Coming? (No, because it reflects an
exception we have previously discussed: the
resurrection of Moses (Jude 9). If God
resurrected Moses and took him to heaven, He
certainly could have done this for others.)

B. Let’s re-examine a few details. Read Revelation
6:10. Does it seem reasonable that people will be
complaining in heaven? Will they be seeking
vengeance? Compare Luke 23:34 and Acts 7:59-60.

C. Re-read Revelation 6:9. If you have complaints in
heaven, would it be understandable for them to
come from those who were forced to live “under the

1. Read Leviticus 4:18. Is this symbolic of where
these souls live? (Yes. This seems an unlikely
place to live in heaven.)

D. Re-read Revelation 6:11. Consider the response to
their complaint: go back to sleep. Does that seem
reasonable, or consistent with living in paradise?

E. There are many problems with this account if it is
taken literally. That gives us reason to believe
it is symbolic – and thus the details say nothing
about the state of the dead.

F. Friend, we will know the true answer when we get
to heaven, but this side of heaven I think the
Bible teaches that the righteous dead sleep until
Jesus’ Second Coming. Do you agree?

V. Next week: The Fires of Hell.

Copr. 2022, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are
from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard
Version ), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing
ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All
rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within
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Holy Spirit as you study.