Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Few Days is Not So Long to Wait

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed unto him but a few days. Genesis 29:20

I wrote to you about this earlier, but I would like to address it one more time, because it is the answer to a real dilemma in many peoples' minds.

The proof text used by many to prove that we have immortal souls is the thief on the cross. Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43).

The Watchtower Bible has the comma on the other side of "today", and some claim that this makes all the difference. But there are no commas in the original text and it is a meaningless argument.

There is no escaping the fact that Jesus promised the thief that they would be together on "this day". Case closed? Almost all denominations, teaching that because the body of Jesus was in the tomb for three days, the only way they could be in paradise that day would be in "soulish form". This is considered to be one of the ultimate texts to prove the existence of immortal souls. Well over 99% of expositors agree.

These are people who do not test their interpretations to see if they are really right. If only Jesus had said, "This day your soul will be with my soul in paradise", they would have an airtight case. But there are no statements anywhere in the Bible about immortal souls.

Since this is a major doctrine in almost all churches, then where does it come from? It comes only by interpretation. Every true major doctrine has direct statements, even whole chapters devoted to it.

Please let me offer a Biblical alternative to this fruitless argument over the interpretation of one verse. I believe the answer is found in the perceived time experienced by Jacob concerning Leah. There are two times given for his period of waiting to marry her. One is seven years, the other is "a few days". Which is correct?

They both are. According to a calendar, the time was seven years. So why did God also include in the story that to Jacob it was but a few days? Because from Jacob's point of view that is all it was. The text could well have read that the seven years passed quickly because of the love he had for her. But the time lapse is also expressed according to Jacob's experience in actual days.

Those on the cross died before the day was over, in accordance with Jewish demands (even for criminals) that their bodies not be left for a second day. In the resurrection, the believing thief will awaken on the same day that he died. He will be in paradise with Jesus on that day, according to his perception.

Both Jacob and the thief are experiencing perceived time, just as one waking from surgery is unaware of any interval between the time when he falls asleep and when he awakens. This is the comfort that Jesus gave to the man on the cross.

Interpreters, please don't close your minds when you think you have the answer you desire. Test it. And really, really read the book of Genesis.

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