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There are four common views of this: 1. Dispensationalist view: Those who died before Christ are under a different dispensation (such as conscience or Law) and if they died in faith according to that dispensation, they went to the presence of God. 2. Abraham's bosom--Those who preceded Christ and who trusted in God were held in a edenic place (Abraham's bosom) until such time as Jesus descended into hell and let them loose to go to the Father--thus the opened graves at Jesus death. 3. Covenant view: There is only one covenant. In one sense Jesus died before the foundation of the world, so they went immediately to the presence of the Father. 4. Soul-sleep view: All souls sleep in the "ground" until the righteous are called forth for reward and the unrighteous for judgement. I hold a covenant view.
the old testament saints looked toward the Cross we, look back at the Cross. they trusted God to send to Messiah, we have trusted Him, in that He sent the Messiah,
Joh 8:56Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.Joh 8:57Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?Joh 8:58Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
The people who have replied to this thread are much more experienced scholars than me, but I'm more for the belief that Abraham's Bosom, or what I believe is referred to as Sheol in the OT, still exists and that nobody will be pulled out of it until Judgment day.
Revelation 6:9-11 [KJV] - And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
As far as a person's destination before Christ, I think it's a mixture of living by the Law, looking forward to Christ, and this verse.
1 Peter 3:18-20 [KJV] - For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
I believe that bolded part refers to Jesus descending into Sheol/Abraham's Bosom and preaching to the dead (saved and unsaved alike?)
[Edit] Actually reading that Revelation quote makes me think that Sheol will be emptied out of the saved during the Rapture and then start to fill up again during the tribulation (yeah I'm pretrib).
the believers were in Abraham's bosom(aka paradise) until the ressurection of Christ
THAT chamber is now empty
Paradise Jesus said to the thief on the cross who repented "Today (Present tense) you will be with mein paradise" (Luke 23:43). This thief was neither baptized nor partook of the Lords supper he believed and was promised to be with Jesus. He did no works but only believed. This is hard to accept for those who add requirements to be saved or busy themselves to earn their way to heavens abode. What was the location of paradise when Jesus spoke this? At that point in time paradise was located inside the earth in Hades which was divided into two primary parts as seen in Luke 16. The righteous went to the side called paradise (Abraham's bosom) the unrighteous went to Gehenna (hell). Some argue that the word "today" is not the timing of where the thief would be, but when Jesus was saying it to him. While we can it pick over words, the meaning is obvious in the context of the statement. He would be with Jesus, where did Jesus go that day? Paradise. Eph. 4:8-10 Therefore he says "when he ascended on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts to men" "Now this he ascended what does it mean but that he first descended into the lower parts of the earth. 10: He who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens that he might fill all things." Those who had been waiting in faith in the compartment called Paradise (Abraham's bosom) were led in ascending to heaven with Jesus in his ascension. Jesus descended to the lowest parts first means he went from the farthest heights to the lowest. The lower parts of the earth is the word Hades. The word Sheol (Hebrew) and Hades (Greek) are two different words for the same thing. Mt. 12:40 tells us that the location of Hades is in the center of the earth. This could refer to the incarnation although in its context it appears to mean he descended into the area of Hades to receive those out he would ascend with. 1 Pt.3:19: "Being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. By whom also he went and preached (proclaimed) to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah..." Here is another account of Jesus with those who have passed from this life and still exist. Those who were believers in Jesus before he died were then presented his victory at the cross. The verb preached is not the Greek word evangelize to preach the good news but kerusso meaning to announce or proclaim which would fit judgment not a redemptive call. This event occurred between Christ's death and resurrection, While his body was put in the tomb His God / Spirit went to the place of confinement for the angels to announce their coming judgment. There are numerous views of who these beings are. The view that is best supported is actual spirits (angels or demons) because of its consistent use in this manner throughout the New Testament. Peter writes in his 2nd epistle about the angels in prison (in the abyss and Tartarus) that are awaiting the judgment indicating they are the same beings he is addressing in 1 Pt. Hades is divided into two parts of which no one can cross over from one to the other. On the Hell side of Hades there are both angels and humans being confined awaiting their eternal punishment. In this 2nd compartment there is a division for both angels and humans. For the humans their is Abaddon and the pit. For the fallen angels there is the Abyss which is a temporary place of confinement in which they will be let out during the tribulation.(Rev.9) The other division is Tartarus which is a permanent place of confinement for those angels of Gen.6 (Jude 6, 2 Pt. 2:4) 1 Pt.4:5" Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. 6: For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." There are numerous views for this passage some relate this to Noah's preaching. but this couldn't be since the gospel was not yet known. One thing we know it does not mean the gospel is preached to those who are currently dead. The better fitting view is that the gospel was preached to those who were at the time alive and then died, just as it is currently being preached to those alive. That they were judged in the body by dying but are alive now (live in the Spirit like God). After the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus paradise was moved to heaven. The area for the righteous was emptied out, now the believer goes directly to heaven. From the New Testament teaching we find that the new location of paradise is heaven. Christ when seated at the right hand of God sends the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and gave spiritual gifts to the new entity, the Church. Paul also stated before he recalled this account of his visit to the third heaven that all believers go there when they die 2 Cor.5:8 "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. not Soul sleep , not purgatory. There are three heavens distinguished in scripture. the first heaven our immediate atmosphere, where birds fly.(Gen.1:20; Jer.4:25 ; Mt.8:20; Acts 10:12).The next heaven is a level above our atmosphere called outer space where the planets, the stars and the sun and moon are located.(Gen.1:14-18,22:17;Mt.24:29;Rev.6:13) These first two are visible portions of the universe. The third heaven is invisible, and references are found in many of the major books of the Old Testament. In the New Testament the Gospels, the book of Acts, 2 Cor.; Eph.;Col. and other epistles mention it. Jesus testified of its reality saying he came from there. Paul testifies of it and writes of his experience in 2 Cor.12:2 where he was brought to the third heaven where God dwells and in vs.4 calls it Paradise. Yet he did not tell anyone of this revelation for 14 years because it was so awesome and unlawful to speak of. Today we have so many claims of people going to heaven one would think there are daily flights of the Spirit going. It has become very lawful to write about their experiences. If one checks out what is being said from the heavenly travelers they will find it is contradictory to each others tall tales and especially to the bibles. Jesus stated in Jn. 14:2-4 that he went ahead of us to prepare a place in heaven which is where his father dwells. That where he is we may be also. When Stephen was martyred he looked up to heaven seeing a vision of the Lord standing- and said Lord Jesus receive my Spirit (under inspiration of the Holy Spirit). He knew he was going to be immediately transferred into heaven the location of the Lord. When Christ ascended he led captivity captive (Eph.4:8-10), those who had waited in faith in Abraham's bosom for their sins to be removed were gathered together in another place, the new Paradise in heaven. Rev.2:7 "To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God which is now in heaven.In Rev.22:2 we find this tree is located in the new Jerusalem (Heb.12:22-24). (Whether this is symbolic or literal is a matter of view, the fact is we will partake of it). The location of paradise will again change in the future to be on the new earth, as the new Jerusalem comes down and the dwelling place of God is with man forever (Rev.21:1- Rev.22). The same tree that Adam was forbidden to eat from, so that he would not become eternal in his fallen state, will be offered to everyone that has received their immortal resurrected bodies.
And of course, Jesus was crucified before the foundations of the world were laid. In other words, the cross was and is and will be, just as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit were and are and will be. When we understand that God is eternal, more than eternal, and that the cross has always been, and only happened on a specific time in our flesh and blood world, then we understand that those who have trusted in Him have been protected and comforted in their life after death. In the cross, every created thing was crucified, and also death was crucified. The first death is a passage into what comes next. Those who trust in Him have no part in the second death, which is eternal.