IX. What happened when Old Testament Saints died? There is an interesting statement found on 11 occasions in the Old Testament. It speaks of one dead as being “gathered to his people.” This phrase is never used in the New Testament. Here are a few examples: “Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.” (Genesis 25:8) “And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.” (Genesis 25:17) “And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people:” (Deuteronomy 32:50)
That statement has perplexed Bible students for years. Some believe it just means that the dead body becomes the possession of the living relatives to bury where they want. Others believe the statement refers to an afterlife reunion with loved ones.
Some of the newer “per-versions” of the Bible do not tackle the subject at all – they just delete these words without any explanation. Matthew Henry in his commentary explains it this way, “His body was gathered to the congregation of the dead, and his soul to the congregation of the blessed.” Where was this gathering of Old Testament saints? It was to the place referred to by Christ in Luke 16:19-31. As you read it, notice the 6 references to Abraham:
“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
This word hell comes from “Hades” which means “the place of departed souls.” It appears to be in 2 compartments within eyesight of each other. One for the damned, a place of torment. The other for the blessed, a place of comfort. The Old Testament saints were considered “captives” of that place within the heart of the earth until Jesus came and led them out at His Resurrection. Jesus’ soul went into hell (Hades) when He died: “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Acts 2:27) “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.” (Acts 2:31) “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40)
This intriguing story of Samuel shows us how he was brought up from the lower parts of the earth by the request of King Saul with the help of the witch of Endor. “Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.” (1 Samuel 28:11-15) Samuel said he was “disquieted” when he was brought up. He appeared to have been in quiet comfort, resting. This would reconcile Christ’s teaching about Hades with Abraham, who was comforted.
X. What happened when Old Testament sinners died? People in the Old Testament days were either converted or unconverted – Psalm 51:13 “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” The truths that we saw under the last point also apply here. These departed souls also go into Hades (hell), but into the place of torment where the Rich Man was – see Luke 16:19-31 again. The Old Testament saints were resurrected when Jesus rose from the grave. They ascended into Heaven. Those that were sinners remained in the same place. There is no reference to them ever coming out.
- Descended into Hell (jessicahof.wordpress.com)
- Old Testament on Jesus’ Resurrection (citizenofnewjerusalem.wordpress.com)
- Day 57- Saturday (365daysoffocus.wordpress.com)