Eternal Hope – Part 30

Eternal Hope – Part 30

November 2008

Dear Co-Laborer,
Eternal Life
Part 30


In the Pseudepigrapha, “soul” and “spirit” are used interchangeably. At death the entire personality, minus the body, descends into Sheol. Such people are as much alive as those living on the earth. Interestingly, Daniel does not contain the word “soul;” the writer uses only “spirit.”

Reflections on The Letter of Aristeas

You will remember that when Alexander the Great died in the midst of his conquests, his kingdom was divided into four parts. One of his generals, Ptolemy, took control of Egypt. (Cleopatra was the last of the Ptolemys.) Ostensibly, Aristeas was an officer at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.). He writes to his brother to chronicle the events leading to the Septuagint version of the Old Testament Law.

He is the first Jewish apologist to use allegory, a method of interpretation widely used in the church. He believed, as did many Jewish apologists, that Greek philosophers derived their wisdom from the Law of Moses. “It is not too much to say that the writer’s one object is to demonstrate the supremacy of the Jewish people – the Jewish priesthood, the Jewish law, the Jewish philosophy, and the Jewish Bible.”[1] I can find nothing of the eternal in the letter.

Reflections on The Books of Adam and Eve

The story begins after the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden. Subsequent to Cain and Abel’s birth, Eve dreams of Abel’s pending murder. Michael, the archangel, comforts her with the promise of Seth. From here the story moves to the dying of Adam surrounded by his sixty-three children. Seth, having never been exposed to death, seeks to reverse the process by returning to the Garden of Eden. Opposed by the devil, Seth returns. Before Adam dies, he makes Eve promise to tell the children of their sin and separation from God. God comforts them with the promise of the resurrection, and Michael brings Adam for cleansing and keeping in paradise until the fulfillment of the promise.

The author probably wrote between the first and fourth centuries A.D. “…the uniform absence of polemic against the Christians, the wide and tolerant view of the future of the Gentiles, the conception of Adam’s or rather Eve’s sin (so nearly akin to that in Paul and 4 Ezra), the old simple hopes of the future Resurrection, the glaring dissimilarity of the Christian interpolated passages… render the earlier date far the more probable for the bulk of the work.” [2]

I find no mention of Messiah in this work, although the author does make reference to the resurrection as illustrated by: “… and Eve wept and said: ‘Woe is me; if I come to the day of the Resurrection, all those who have sinned will curse me saying: Eve hath not kept the commandment of God.’”[3]

Reflections on The Martyrdom of Isaiah

Before dying, King Hezekiah of Judah calls his son Manasseh and Isaiah the prophet into his presence with final instructions before he dies. Isaiah warns the king that Manasseh will ignore his instructions; he will serve the forces of evil. Taking a number of prophets with him, Isaiah departs into the mountains in order to pray and fast for Manasseh. Manasseh, now King of Judah, finds and arrests Isaiah charging him with a number of capital offenses. The king executes Isaiah by sawing him asunder.

Hebrews 11:37 and a number of the Patristics refer to this work. Because the early church quickly turned anti-Semitic, and because the author was in all probability a Jew, it seems best to date it somewhere in the first century A.D.; later Jewish works were not accepted in the church. I can find no reference to the eternal in this writing.

Reflections on The Secrets of Enoch

This work is also called “Slavonic Enoch” or “2 Enoch.” Charles dates the author of this work 1 – 50 AD. The Epistle of Barnabas, and other writings of the Patristics, divides time into seven 1000-year periods. At the end of the sixth 1000-year period Messiah establishes His kingdom lasting 1000 years, following the pattern of God in creation. Thus, the Messianic kingdom is a period of rest. From this comes the Christian idea of the millennial reign of Christ.[4] The author of the Secrets of Enoch adopts the same view of history: “I said to him: Earth you are, and into the earth whence I took you you shalt go, and I will not ruin you, but send you whence I took you. Then I can again receive you at My second presence. And I blessed all my creatures visible and invisible. And Adam was five and half-hours in paradise. And I blessed the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, on which he rested from all his works. And I appointed the eighth day also, that the eighth day should be the first-created after my work, and that the first seven revolve in the form of the seventh thousand, and that at the beginning of the eighth thousand there should be a time of not-counting, endless, with neither years nor months nor weeks nor days nor hours.”[5]

As in Revelation 20, the millennium ends with the final judgment: “And those men took me and led me up on to the second heaven, and showed me darkness, greater than earthly darkness, and there I saw prisoners hanging, watched, awaiting the great and boundless judgment, and these angels were dark-looking, more than earthly darkness, and incessantly making weeping through all hours. And I said to the men who were with me: Wherefore are these incessantly tortured? They answered me: These are God’s apostates, who obeyed not God’s commands, but took counsel with their own will, and turned away with their prince, who also is fastened on the fifth heaven.”[6]

Interestingly, the author believes in the pre-birth existence of the individual. I am not sure, but this may be the influence of some of the Greek philosophers who believed in the transmigration of the soul. Or maybe it comes from his concept of election and the fact that God knew us before the foundation of the world: “And Pravuil[7] told me: All the things that I have told you, we have written. Sit and write all the souls of mankind, however many of them are born, and the places prepared for them to eternity; for all souls are prepared to eternity, before the formation of the world.”[8]

Although it is a fairly long quote, note how Enoch contrasts Paradise with the abode of the damned: “And those men took me thence, and led me up on to the third heaven, and placed me there; and I looked downwards, and saw the produce of these places, such as has never been known for goodness. And I saw all the sweet-flowering trees and beheld their fruits, which were sweet-smelling, and all the foods borne by them bubbling with fragrant exhalation. And in the midst of the trees that of life, in that place whereon the Lord rests, when he goes up into paradise; and this tree is of ineffable goodness and fragrance, and adorned more than every existing thing; and on all sides it is in form gold-looking and vermilion and fire-like and covers all, and it has produce from all fruits. Its root is in the garden at the earth’s end. And paradise is between corruptibility and incorruptibility. And two springs come out which send forth honey and milk, and their springs send forth oil and wine, and they separate into four parts, and go round with quiet course, and go down into the PARADISE OF EDEN, between corruptibility and incorruptibility. And thence they go forth along the earth, and have a revolution to their circle even as other elements. And here there is no unfruitful tree, and every place is blessed. And there are three hundred angels very bright, who keep the garden, and with incessant sweet singing and never-silent voices serve the Lord throughout all days and hours. And I said: How very sweet is this place, and those men said to me: This place, O Enoch, is prepared for the righteous, who endure all manner of offence from those that exasperate their souls, who avert their eyes from iniquity, and make righteous judgment, and give bread to the hungering, and cover the naked with clothing, and raise up the fallen, and help injured orphans, and who walk without fault before the face of the Lord, and serve him alone, and for them is prepared this place for eternal inheritance. And those two men led me up on to the Northern side, and showed me there a very terrible place, and there were all manner of tortures in that place: cruel darkness and unillumined gloom, and there is no light there, but murky fire constantly flaming aloft, and there is a fiery river coming forth, and that whole place is everywhere fire, and everywhere there is frost and ice, thirst and shivering, while the bonds are very cruel, and the angels fearful and merciless, bearing angry weapons, merciless torture, and I said: Woe, woe, how very terrible is this place. And those men said to me: This place, O Enoch, is prepared for those who dishonor God, who on earth practice sin against nature, which is child-corruption after the sodomitic fashion, magic-making, enchantments and devilish witchcrafts, and who boast of their wicked deeds, stealing, lies, calumnies, envy, rancor, fornication, murder, and who, accursed, steal the souls of men, who, seeing the poor take away their goods and themselves wax rich, injuring them for other men’s goods; who being able to satisfy the empty, made the hungering to die; being able to clothe, stripped the naked; and who knew not their creator, and bowed to the soulless and lifeless gods, who cannot see nor hear, vain gods, who also built hewn images and bow down to unclean handiwork, for all these is prepared this place among these, for eternal inheritance.”[9]

“I saw those who keep the keys, and are the guardians of the gates of hell, standing, like great serpents, and their faces were like quenched lamps, and their eyes were fiery, and their teeth were sharp. And they were stripped to the waist. And I said before their faces, ‘Would that I had not seen you, nor heard of your dongs, and that those of my race had never come to you!’ Now they have sinned only a little in this life, and always suffer in the eternal life.”[10]

Because Greek thinking influenced him, the author of this work does not consider the body worth redeeming. Nevertheless, he does see Enoch clothed with a spiritual body after his transfiguration: “And the Lord said to Michael: ‘Go and take Enoch from out of his earthly garments, and anoint him with my sweet ointment, and put him into the garments of My glory.’ And Michael did thus, as the Lord told him. He anointed me, and dressed me, and the appearance of that ointment is more than the great light, and his ointment is like sweet dew, and its smell mild, shining like the sun’s ray, and I looked at myself, and I was like one of the seven highest angels.”[11]

Most of those who die righteous go to the third heaven; Enoch has the privilege of entering the seventh heaven. The Secrets of Enoch, following the pattern of other writings in this era, consider good works the condition that must be met to gain eternal life.

Your friend in Christ throughout eternity,


[1] Op cit., Charles, Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. II, page 85
[2] Ibid. page 137.
[3] The Books of Adam and Eve, “Apocalypsis Mosis 10:2.”
[4] Cf. Revelation 20:1-3
[5] Secrets of Enoch 32-33:1
[6] Secrets of Enoch 7:1-2
[7] Evidently, one of God’s angels
[8] Secrets of Enoch 32:1-2
[9] Secrets of Enoch 8-10
[10] Secrets of Enoch 43:1-2 as quoted from Charles, R.H., A critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life in Israel, in Judaism, and in Christianity, pp. 265-266
[11] Secrets of Enoch 22:8-9