Defense of Immortal, Conscious Souls (vs. Lucas Banzoli): #4

Defense of Immortal, Conscious Souls (vs. Lucas Banzoli): #4 November 9, 2022

4. Revelation 6:9: “Souls” in Heaven / 16 Biblical Proofs for Conscious Souls After Death 

Lucas Banzoli is a very active Brazilian theological writer, who denies that Jesus is immutable in His Divine Nature (i.e., judging by the standard of trinitarian classical theism, he denies that Jesus is God; hence cannot be classified as either a trinitarian or a Christian). He has a Master’s degree in theology, a degree and postgraduate work in history, a license in letters, and is a history teacher, author of 25 books, as well as blogmaster (but now inactive) for six blogs. He’s active on YouTube.

This is my 38th refutation of his articles (or portions of books). As of yet, I haven’t received a single word in reply to any of them (or if Banzoli has replied to anything, anywhere, he certainly hasn’t informed me of it). Readers may decide for themselves why that is the case.

My current effort is a major multi-part response to Banzoli’s 1900-page e-book, The Legend of the Immortality of the Soul [A Lenda da Imortalidade da Alma], published on 1 August 2022.  He claims to have “cover[ed] in depth all the immortalist arguments” and to have “present[ed] all the biblical proofs of the death of the soul . . .” and he confidently asserted: “the immortality of the soul is at the root of almost all destructive deception and false religion.” He himself admits on page 18 of his Introduction that what he is opposing is held by “nearly all the Christians in the world.” A sincere unbiblical error (and I assume his sincerity) is no less dangerous than a deliberate lie, and we apologists will be “judged with greater strictness” for any false teachings that we spread (Jas 3:1).

I use RSV for the Bible passages (including ones that Banzoli cites) unless otherwise indicated. Google Translate is utilized to render Lucas’ Portugese into English. Occasionally I slightly modify what appear to be inadequate translations, so that his words read more smoothly and meaningfully in English. His words will be in blue.

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See the other installments:

 #1 Preliminaries [11-1-22]
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See also the related articles:

Seven Replies Re Interceding Saints (vs. Lucas Banzoli) [5-25-22]

Answer to Banzoli’s “Challenge” Re Intercession of Saints [9-20-22]

Bible on Praying Straight to God (vs. Lucas Banzoli) [9-21-22]

Reply to Banzoli’s “Analyzing the ‘evidence’ of saints’ intercession” [9-22-22]

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From Genesis to Revelation, the only living soul after death that immortalists encounter is, guess what, in a text from Revelation: precisely the biblical book most characterized by symbolism . . .:

Revelation 6:9-11 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; [10] they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” [11] Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (pp. 98-99)

[T]here are no “souls” of martyrs in heaven squeezed at the base of an altar. The whole scene is simply a symbolic representation intended to reassure to those facing martyrdom and death who would eventually be vindicated by God. (p. 101)

Once again, Banzoli commits the elementary debating error of asserting a “universal negative.” I have caught him doing this many many times in my previous 37 refutations of his writings (all unanswered). It’s one of the dumbest things anyone can do in a debate, because the opponent only needs a single example to refute it. But I shall shortly provide several other examples. But before we get to that let’s closely examine what is going on here.

These are the actual souls of persons who lived on earth and were martyred. It might be asked: “how could they be seen, if souls are immaterial?” The answer is that God supernaturally allows them to be seen, just as angels, who are also spirits, are seen many times in Scripture, and just as God the Father (also an immaterial spirit) appears in various forms (burning bush, pillars of cloud and fire, etc.). These souls are quite alive, after their deaths, and await the resurrection of Christ. They have the ability to “cry out” (if not vocally, then by some means of communication), they’re intellectually curious about how long the persecution will continue, they have memory, a sense of justice, they’re capable of receiving blessings, and can comprehend admonitions and reassurances. This is all indicative of conscious spirits.  Barnes’ Notes on the Bible comments on the passage:

These souls of the martyrs are represented as still in existence; as remembering what had occurred on the earth; as interested in what was now taking place; as engaged in prayer; and as manifesting earnest desires for the divine interposition to avenge the wrongs which they had suffered.

John Calvin wrote about this:

If the souls of the dead cried aloud, they were not sleeping. When, then; did that drowsiness overtake them? Let no one here obtrude the expression that “the blood of Abel cried for vengeance!” I am perfectly ready to admit that when blood has been shed, it is an ordinary figure to represent it as calling aloud for vengeance. In this passage, however, it is certain that the feeling of the martyrs is represented to us by crying, because their desire is expressed and their petition described without any figure, “How long, O Lord, dost thou not avenge?” etc. (Psychopannychia, 1534)

Banzoli claims that this is the “only” instance of “living soul[s] after death” and then quibbles about how immortalists take this literally and most of the rest of Revelation only symbolically (which is untrue). It’s not the only instance. Here are several more:

1) The prophet Samuel appeared after death to King Saul (1 Sam 28:5-20). I wrote in a 2017 article about this:

The text treats Samuel as the real person. Samuel gives a true prophecy. . . . Saul wasn’t killed because of the [forbidden] seance [that he requested], but because of his prior sins:

1 Samuel 28:16-19 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy? [17] The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me; for the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your neighbor, David. [18] Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD, and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Am’alek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. [19] Moreover the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me; the LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.

. . . God allowed a dead saint to appear to the living. Whether Saul used a medium and sinned in that way is beside the point of the real Samuel appearing and giving a true prophecy. All agree that seances and other practices of the occult and sorcery, necromancy, etc., are forbidden. . . . The Samuel-Saul encounter was nevertheless a real one. It wasn’t a demon impersonating Samuel, because demons don’t utter true prophecies of judgment. . . .

I often use the event with Saul and Samuel to prove that Saints do know what is going on and that they are in communication with God. The former is evidenced by Samuel knowing what was and what had been happening to Saul and the latter is evidenced by Samuel knowing what was about to happen to Saul and his sons. . . . [therefore he was in existence as a conscious soul after death]

The witch certainly did not have the power to bring Samuel into existence if he was not already in existence.

The witch certainly did not have the power to make Samuel aware of everything that had been and was happening to Saul.

The witch certainly did not have the power to make Samuel aware of what was about to befall Saul and his sons. . . .

Note also that Samuel (like Abraham in Luke 16) never says that Saul shouldn’t ask him for advice (i.e., in effect, essentially the same as “praying” to him, or invoking him, since he has departed from the earth).

Rather, he notes the simple fact that the Lord had already turned against Saul; therefore, there was nothing left for Samuel to tell him. In other words, it would be giving advice that is impossible to give, given God’s expressed will.

2) John Calvin explains another argument for souls continuing to live after death, right from the words of Jesus:

What! are they not overawed by the words of the Lord when, calling himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he says, he is

“God not of the dead but of the living?” (Matthew 22:32.)

Is He, then, neither to be to them a God, nor are they to be to him a people? (Mark 12:27.) But they say that these things will be realized when the dead shall be raised to life. Although the question expressly asked is, Have you not read what was said concerning the Resurrection of the dead? this evasion will not serve their purpose. Christ having to do with the Sadducees, who denied not only the Resurrection of the dead but the immortality of the soul, convicts them of two errors by this single expression. For if God is God not of the dead but of the living, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had departed this life when God spoke to Moses calling himself their God, the inference is, that they were living another life. Those must surely be in being of whom God says that he is their God. Hence Luke adds, “For all things live to him, (Luke 30:28,) not meaning that all things live by the presence of God, but by his energy. It follows, therefore, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive. (Psychopannychia, 1534)

3) The story (not parable) of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16) also comes from Jesus, and in it He describes the words and actions of both of those men and also those of Abraham: all quite conscious indeed. Even if it were considered a parable (but they never have proper names in them), it couldn’t have false theology in it. The omniscient Jesus couldn’t have described actual events in a way that wasn’t true to fact and reality. Therefore, if He talks about conscious souls after death, then they do in fact exist.

4) Moses and Elijah appeared during the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mt 17:1-5).

5) Hebrews 12:1 refers to a “cloud of witnesses”. I have written about the implications of this. These dead saints couldn’t be witnessing events on earth if they were “asleep” and unconscious.

6) Even in the book of Revelation alone, there is a second mention of “souls” (despite Banzoli claiming there was only one instance anywhere in the Bible):

Revelation 20:4 . . . I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Banzoli might reply, “but see, they came to life, which means that they were asleep and unconscious till God zapped them back to life!” Nice try. The next verse provides the context: “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.” It thus defines “came to life” and “come to life” as being resurrected: that is, again receiving a body, and a glorified one (1 Cor 15:42-53), from God. Note that John “saw the souls” (i.e., they existed as immaterial souls), then he saw them being resurrected.

7) St. Paul referred to conscious souls “under the earth” (i.e., in Sheol / Hades: the intermediate afterlife) who would bow their knees to Jesus and confess that He is Lord (hard to do if one is unconscious):

Philipians 2:9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, [10] that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

8) Jesus promised the thief on the cross next to Him: “today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:43) . That couldn’t be hell, because Jesus wasn’t there. It couldn’t be heaven, because Jesus didn’t ascend to heaven for forty more days. What it’s referring to, then, is Sheol or Hades, where Jesus went to preach after He died (see the next entry). Jesus had already taught seven chapters earlier that human beings were conscious after death in Hades.

9) It’s very difficult to preach to unconscious “sleeping” souls. They were conscious, in Hades, and Jesus preached to them in-between His death and Ascension:

1 Peter 3:18-19 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; [19] in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison,

1 Peter 4:6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, . . .

10) Souls are “alive” in Sheol: the afterlife:

Psalm 55:15 . . . let them go down to Sheol alive; . . .

11) Those in Sheol can comment upon those who have newly arrived there:

Ezekiel 32:21 The mighty chiefs shall speak of them, with their helpers, out of the midst of Sheol: ‘They have come down, they lie still, the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.’

Isaiah 14:9-10 Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come, it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. [10] All of them will speak and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’

12) The Bible refers to “spirits” of men in heaven:

Hebrews 12:22-23 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, [23] and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

13) John Calvin commented on Acts 23:8 (below):

I fear they will cavil, and say that the words must be understood of the Holy Spirit or of angels. But this objection is easily met. He both mentioned the angels separately; and it is certain that those Pharisees had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit. This will be still better understood by those who know Greek. Luke uses the term pneuma without adding the article, which he certainly would have added had he been speaking of the Holy Spirit.

If this does not stop their mouths, I do not see by what argument they can either be led or drawn, unless they choose to say that the opinion of the Sadducees, in denying spirit, was not condemned, or that of the Pharisees, in asserting it, approved. This quibble is met by the very words of the Evangelist: for, after stating Paul’s confession, “I am a Pharisee,” he adds this opinion held by the Pharisees. We must therefore either say that Paul used a crafty and malicious pretence, (this could not be, in a confession of faith!) or that he held with the Pharisees on the subject of spirit. (Psychopannychia, 1534)

Acts 23:8 For the Sad’ducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.

14) John Calvin again brilliantly comments on Philippians 1:6 (below):

These men not only intermit the work of God for a time, but even extinguish it. Those who formerly went from faith to faith, from virtue to virtue, and enjoyed a foretaste of blessedness when they exercised themselves in thinking of God, they deprive both of faith and virtue, and all thought of God, and merely place on beds, in a sluggish and lethargic state! For how do they interpret that progress? Do they think that souls are perfected when they are made heavy with sleep as a preparation for their being brought sleek and fat into the presence of God when he shall sit in judgment? Had they a particle of sense they would not prattle thus absurdly about the soul, but would make all the difference between a celestial soul and an earthly body, that there is between heaven and earth. (Psychopannychia, 1534)

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

15) Calvin makes a similar argument regarding Philippians 1:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:1 (below):

When the Apostle longs to depart and to be with Christ, (Philippians 1:23,) do they think he wishes to fall asleep so as no longer to feel any desire of Christ? Was this all he was longing for when he said he knew he had a building of God, an house not made with hands, as soon as the earthly house of his tabernacle should be dissolved? (2 Corinthians 5:1.) Where were the benefit of being with Christ were he to cease to live the life of Christ? (Ibid.)

Philippians 1:23 . . . My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

2 Corinthians 5:1, 8 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. . . . [8] . . . we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Banzoli’s primary “refutation” of the strong evidence of Revelation 6:9-11 is to assert:

[H]ere we have a typical example of immortalist hypocrisy. They take the fifth seal literally because it suits them, though they do not do the same with the previous seal, nor with the next seal. How convenient. (p. 100)

Apparently, the only criterion for something being literal in Revelation is when it’s convenient to save the immortality of the soul, even if we must run over the most basic rules of hermeneutics with a tractor. All these examples show us how dishonest someone can be, in forcing biblical interpretation to favor their own ideas. Instead of proving that the soul in Rev[elation] 6:9 is literal, they simply assume it without proof, in order to try to deceive the reader of average intelligence who is not familiar with apocalyptic language and so is easily vulnerable to this kind of trick. A ploy of as little intellectual honesty as this demonstrates how desperate they are to find the platonic concept of soul at any cost – even at the cost of hermeneutics, integrity and the truth. It is shameful to see fifth-rate “Bible studies” citing Rev[elation] 6:9 . . . as the great “proof” of the survival of the soul in the Bible. Its proponents – some of whom even claim to be theologians – should be ashamed to lower themselves to this degree due to the lack of convincing texts. (p. 102)

This is nonsense. Revelation, though largely a symbolic book of visions (as virtually all agree) also contains actual historical events, which belong to the Last Days and/or (there are differing views on this) other periods of judgment. The “souls” of Revelation 6 were real people, who lived on the earth and were martyred. They are praying, and receive an answer. None of this sounds merely symbolic. Likewise, with some elements of the other seals. The second had to do with war; the third with economic difficulties. The sixth seal had to do with an “earthquake” (6:12) and other natural catastrophes.

Regarding the fourth seal, “Death” was “given power over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth” (Rev 6:8). This appears to be a reference to real and widespread judgment (including persecution) during the Last Days, or alternately, perhaps, to a great persecution at some other time in history; historical events. In either case, it’s not mere symbolism.

Pulpit Commentary, referring to Revelation 6:8 and the “fourth seal” (6:7) stated:

[T]he second, third, and fourth seals depict troubles which Christians and all mankind will have to undergo; some being afflicted more especially in one way, others in another. The troubles mentioned are not an exhaustive catalogue, but are typical of all sorrows; the selection being probably prompted by the Old Testament passages quoted below, viz. Leviticus 26:23-26; 2 Samuel 24:13; and Ezekiel 14:21.

These are literal events in history. Likewise, the description of “souls” in 6:9 seems to be just as real and literal. Commentators do, however, have several opinions over what “a fourth of the earth” means: most not holding to one-fourth of all the inhabitants. The larger point is that the book of Revelation is not divorced from actual history. It’s devoted — one might say — to the culmination of history. Banzoli’s argument here collapses. He’s simply making unsubstantiated statements about what his opponents supposedly believe. And that’s never impressive argumentation. It immediately strikes one as desperate, and intended to cover up a felt weakness in one’s position.

Apparently, the only hermeneutical criterion that counts for establishing what is literal or not in Revelation is what is convenient for one’s own taste and opinion– even if it goes against everything that is established in the whole of scriptures. (p. 103)

As I have demonstrated in this article, with fifteen scriptural cross-references and prooftexts, it is most assuredly not the case that such an interpretation of Revelation 6:9-11 “goes against everything that is established in the whole of scriptures”. If Banzoli disagrees with my argumentation, then let him attempt to refute it. But oops!: I momentarily forgot that he never does that with me (as I know from 37 individual examples of his non-replies and deafening silence). Maybe he’s applying this Bible verse to himself:

Proverbs 17:28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

I prefer to strive after the biblical path of the “wise man”:

Proverbs 9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning. (cf. 21:11)

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

This is dialogue, which I love. Lucas Banzoli seems to be quite unfamiliar with it and unwilling to engage in it. I think we could actually enjoy some challenging discussions if he would ever courageously venture out from his cave high up in the mountains.

Unable to form a compelling argument against the standard interpretation of Revelation 6:9-11, and seemingly desperate for any kind of reply whatever, Banzoli actually stoops to mocking these martyrs, as if their prayer was inappropriate; indeed sinful (and as if this forms any sort of argument against those he opposes). He raves about them for seven straight pages!:

[T]hose souls, instead of enjoying the delights of a Paradise [Rev 21:4], of unspeakable and endless happiness, are there, under an altar, screaming for revenge, as if heaven wasn’t enough for them if they didn’t see their earthly enemies suffering on the other side . . . (p. 103)

[T]hose souls were not just screaming: they were screaming with all their strength, as is rarely seen in the Bible. This is a startling contrast to the picture the Bible presents us with . . . [cites Rev 14:13] . . . those who died would be happy and find rest: the total opposite of the souls of the righteous crying out for revenge in the middle of Paradise, as immortalists imagine. Those souls were not at rest, but restless and troubled; they don’t even appear happy, because those who are happy don’t worry about taking revenge on anyone. (p. 104)

If these “souls under the altar” are really souls in heaven crying out out for revenge against their enemies, they ignore what Jesus taught . . . they only think about revenge, and worse: they do it in Paradise: precisely the last place one would expect to find even the worst of sinners nourishing such a feeling. . . . supposedly pious and already saved souls . . . spiteful and bloodthirsty souls . . . (p. 105)

In addition to not enjoying heaven, not having peace of mind and not praying for their enemies, they didn’t even have a shred of patience. It’s a question whether such souls should even be in heaven! The [biblical, inspired!] scene gets even more bizarre when we observe that those souls were not somewhere in the sky wandering around, but specifically under the altar (Rev 6:9). We don’t know exactly how many souls there were, but it takes a lot of creativity [for a biblical, inspired writer] to imagine the souls of the martyrs literally under a heavenly altar. (p. 106)

How many martyrs would fit on an altar of “one meter and thirty-five centimeters in height, with two meters and twenty-five centimeters on each side” (Ex 38:1)? Not many, I suppose, unless the text is referring to just a handful of squeezed and crammed martyrs – which goes against the idea conveyed in the text, which embraces a much larger number of people who died “because of the word of God and the testimony that gave” (v. 9). Half a dozen martyrs squeezed under an altar and screaming aloud for revenge against their enemies is an image very much more reminiscent of hell than heaven. (p. 107)

To summarize everything we’ve seen so far, think of the following scene: you die, leave your body and arrive in heaven, where you are in the presence of angels, of all the saints who ever walked the earth, all your friends and loved ones and, of course, with God himself. In this place there is no more sadness, no more crying, no more pain, nor grief, but only a feeling of perfect peace, of an unspeakable joy, an incomparable pleasure: an unparalleled satisfaction. Despite this, you hear far away piercing screams that are becoming more and more high-pitched and deafening the closer you get, until you come across a Dantesque scene: thousands of souls agglutinated who knows how under a small altar, fearfully demanding vengeance on their enemies (who were either already in hell, or would soon be there). (p. 109)

This demonstrates a truly outrageous ignorance of Scripture, Christianity, and particularly, the yearning for justice and righteousness — all things made right –, expressed in this instance with the well-known biblical cry of an imprecatory prayer, that has been a constant motif of Holy Scripture from the beginning. As the prophet Amos famously cried:

Amos 5:24 . . . let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Jesus prayed far more “revengeful” and righteously indignant prayers than these souls did:

Matthew 23:27-38 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. [28] So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. [29] “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, [30] saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ [31] Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. [32] Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. [33] You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? [34] Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, [35] that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari’ah the son of Barachi’ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. [36] Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation. [37] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! [38] Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.

Banzoli even trots out the old and tired “meek and mild Jesus” biblically illiterate stereotype, despite the Bible describing Him as follows:

Revelation 19:11-21 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. [12] His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. [13] He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. [14] And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. [15] From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. [16] On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords. [17] Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in midheaven, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, [18] to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” [19] And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army. [20] And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur. [21] And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

Jesus is our example to imitate, after all (1 Cor 11:1; Eph 5:1; 1 Thess 1:6). There is nothing whatsoever wrong in praying, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” (Rev 6:10). That’s not even “screaming for revenge,” as Lucas puts it. It’s simply inquiring when God will exercise His perfectly just judgment. How many of us pro-lifers have prayed similarly: “how long must this killing of the innocent continue, O Lord?” That’s not vengeance; it’s the quest for justice and compassion for those being mercilessly slaughtered and for the women who are exploited and abused for sexual or monetary purposes. We see several such “how long, Lord?” prayers in Holy Scripture (e.g., Ps 35:17; 74:10; 90:13; Hab 1:2)

Banzoli sanctimoniously sets himself up as judge of these holy martyrs (seeming to forget that he is dealing with Holy Scripture). But the actual inspired revelation in this particular text exhibits no such disdain at all. If their prayer was so terrible and sunk to a motive of mere self-interested, selfish revenge (as he blatantly and boorishly insinuates), certainly they would have been rebuked (for their sakes and the sake of us reading the passage). But they were not. Instead, the text commends them for “the witness they had borne” (6:9). Then they were “given a white robe and told to rest a little longer” (6:11). That’s a rebuke? Banzoli is quick to tongue-lash them as ungrateful complainers, but the Bible says nothing of the sort. Calvin wrote about the significance of white robes in Holy Scripture:

[T]hese white robes undoubtedly designate the commencement of glory, which the Divine liberality bestows upon martyrs while waiting for the day of judgment. It is no new thing for Scripture to designate glory, festivity, and joy, under the figure of a white robe. It was in a white robe the Lord appeared in vision to Daniel. In this garb the Lord was seen on Mount Tabor. The angel of the Lord appeared to the women at the sepulcher in white raiment; and under the same form did the angels appear to the disciples as they continued gazing up to heaven after their Lord’s ascension. In the same, too, did the angel appear to Cornelius, and when the son who had wasted his substance had returned to his father, he was clothed in the best robe, as a symbol of joy and festivity. (Daniel 7:9; Matthew 17:2; 28:3; Mark 16:5; Acts 1:10; 10:30; Luke 15:22 [cf. Rev 19:14].) (Ibid.)

That’s what is indicated by this text, but all Banzoli can do is mock martyrs who died giving witness to Christ. That’s not only outrageous, but it’s literally blasphemy. I would say that a man as spiritually clueless and carnal-minded as this outburst highly suggests has no business teaching other Christians. Paul taught that “revilers” wouldn’t even “inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:10). If they keep it up, they’ll end up in hell. So I highly recommend to Banzoli that he reconsider his practice of mocking and chiding martyrs for Christ, who are commended in heaven (and in inspired Scripture) for their righteous witness and actions. Nothing good can come of that, either for him or for his readers.

An immaterial soul couldn’t wear white robes, since robes cover a body, and these souls do not have a body. (p. 107)

As I alluded to earlier, such visual scenes appear in the Bible with regard to angels (immaterial spirits who are nevertheless on occasion made visible to men, in white robes):

Mark 16:5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed.

Luke 24:4-5 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; [5] and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?

Acts 1:10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,

These “men” are universally regarded by commentators as angels, who have no body. John actually calls these “men” at Christ’s tomb “angels”:

John 20:12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet.

So the “souls” in heaven somehow “wearing” white robes? No problem . . . at least not for sensible and objective exegetes, as opposed to those who have a furious ax to grind with the very text of the Bible itself, because it doesn’t agree with their own false and heretical and unbiblical tradition of men.

Immortalists must decide: do souls have a body? . . . or are they disembodied ghosts who couldn’t wear clothes? (p. 107)

Yes, we’ve decided: in some (partially mysterious) sense, the Bible teaches (several times) that immaterial angels are somehow clothed in white robes (just as God the Father was somehow “in” a white pillar of cloud: perfectly consistent with Revelation 6:9-11. Whether a Christian fully understands the Bible in every jot or tittle or not, he or she accepts it, with the understanding that we won’t ever fully understand everything in it. We accept those things in faith, knowing that we are dealing with inspired, infallible, spiritually discerned revelation, not mere philosophical thoughts.

Lucas Banzoli does something entirely different. He dislikes (indeed, intensely hates!) a passage in the Bible because it doesn’t fit into his preconceived notions, and so he lowers himself to flat-out bashing and mocking a biblical text (technically, to be fair: what he believes to be a literal distortion of a clearly symbolic-only text). This is the heretical, carnal mentality to a tee. And he does it for seven pages straight!

For Satan and his angels to have been cast out of heaven (Rev 12:7-8), imprisoned in the millennium (Rev 20:2), and condemned to the lake of fire (Rev 20:10), they must have some bodily form, even if invisible to our eyes (that is, to those who live in a lower dimension than theirs). (p. 108)

Banzoli now decides to go against (like the heretically-inclined habitually do) the massive historical consensus of Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, in believing that angels are immaterial spirits:

Hebrews 1:13-14 But to what angel has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet”? [14] Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?

Satan and his demons are also angels, but they are fallen angels. It doesn’t follow that they have physical bodies. Scripture often speaks metaphorically about them, just as it describes immaterial good angels as wearing “white robes”: as we have seen. Jesus Himself confirmed that a spirit is immaterial:

Luke 24:36-39 As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. [37] But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. [38] And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? [39] See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

The term “evil spirits” is used by Luke twice in his Gospel (7:21; 8:2) and four times in Acts (19:12-13, 15-16) in RSV, as synonymous with demons, used scores of times in parallel Gospel passages. So demons are spirits, and spirits are immaterial, Satan is a demon and an angel, so he is immaterial as well. Case closed. But those like Banzoli, who foolishly believe that the Bible is materially insufficient to determine theology, will reject this and invent their own false tradition. ‘Tis a pity and a tragedy.

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Photo credit: Saint Michael the Archangel and Another Figure Recommending a Soul to the Virgin and Child in Heaven, by Bartolomeo Biscaino (1629-1657) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Summary: Part 4 of many responses to Lucas Banzoli’s 1900-page book, The Legend of the Immortality of the Soul: published on 1 August 2022. I defend historic Christianity.

 


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