Death, Hell and Your Mortal Soul: What happens when you die? What and where is hell? My soul isn’t immortal? What is soul?
Sometimes we need to go back to fundamentals. One of the most fundamental doctrines is one which is grossly misunderstood by many Christians. The doctrine of hell (as it is taught by many) is not found in God’s word but was invented or rather, co-opted, by the hierarchy of the churches centuries ago. By pulling a few verses of scripture from here and there, chiefly from the New Testament, THE CLERGY HIGHER-UPS INVENTED FOR THEMSELVES A VERY POWERFUL TOOL BY WHICH THEY CAN KEEP CHRISTIANS UNDER CONTROL.
However, we cannot speak about hell without taking about death and immortality and the term soul and spirit. All of these concepts are interwoven. Upon reflection, most people will agree that what a person believes about what happens to him after death will govern to a great extent how that person lives his life. One cannot talk about death without talking about life.
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary has about a half a column as a definition of life; but the primary definition, and the one which concerns our study is: “1A - the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body.” Thus it involves an awareness or a consciousness of SELF and of people and things outside of self. When we go to sleep or when we get knocked unconscious, although it is a shutting down of many of the functions and characteristics that we call life, yet a person is still considered alive. But it is a matter of degree. They are alive on a lower level. In fact, if a person has had a hard day and they are really tired out, don’t we sometimes say: “He’s DEAD to the world.” Likewise, death has been likened to sleep by the Scripture writers; hence, by God Himself.
A Common Funeral Scenario: The Scriptures tell us that death is an enemy. Yet, we know that most of us can recall having been in a funeral parlor and hearing someone say things like: “Yes, well brother Zeb is no longer with us; he is up in heaven with Jesus now.” Or you hear ministers say: “Well, ol’ brother Jim is no longer with us now; he has gone to be with the Lord up there in heaven. He has left this tired, worn out, old, pain-ridden body here for us to bury; but he has moved on to a place now where he is with Jesus; where there is no more pain, no more sorrow, and Jesus is wiping away all of his tears.” But how does that common scenario square with death being the oppose of life? It doesn’t.
Thousands of ministers teach, and millions of Christians believe, that when Uncle Jim died, that only HIS BODY died; but his REAL self, his soul, went on living somewhere else. They say Jim is either in heaven, if he were “saved;” or in a terrible torturous, very painful type of existence (LIVING) in hell if he were not saved. Of course, if he were a Catholic, then you have the third opinion where you can go to a place they call “purgatory” which is like a temporary hell from which you get “prayed out of and paid out of.” In any case, people who believe that your body dies, but your soul, your “real self” goes on living somewhere else, are falling for the same original lie that the serpent convinced mother Eve to believe way back in the Garden of Eden.
In Genesis 3:4 we read: “And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die.” Or in other words, you don’t REALLY die. But what did Eve say that God had told her in the verse before that? Verse 2: “And the woman said unto the serpent, we may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest YE DIE.”
He didn’t say “lest your BODY die, Eve; but don’t worry about it because your real self, your soul, will go right on living.” Yet what do many believe today? That you don’t REALLY die. We are believing the lie of the serpent. What we are describing here is the false doctrine of “the immortal soul.” You have probably heard that phrase hundreds of times, yet you will not find it in the Bible.
In U.S. News and World Report there was an article a few years ago called “Hell’s Sober Comeback.” It said: “Christians trace their belief in hell to the words of Jesus as recorded in the gospels. He spoke of it often as a fiery hell and an unquenchable fire awaiting those who reject God and defile themselves. But Jesus painted only a sketchy picture in His preaching. Much of what Christians believe about hell today is the result of centuries of theological development and literary imagination...Then, in about the second century B.C., under the influence of Greek and Persian philosophy, Pharisaic Judaism began to embrace the idea of the immortal soul.”
Notice it said, it “came from Persian philosophy.” Where was ancient Babylon? It was in that area which was later called Persia, wasn’t it?
IS DEATH A FRIEND OR AN ENEMY?: Before we get further into what the Bible teaches about the soul, let’s go back to the question: Is death an enemy or a friend? If it were true immediately after death a saved person goes to heaven to be with Jesus, logic tells us that we Christians should then look forward to death and look upon our death as a friend. After all, it’s just a little door that we go through to be with the Lord. So why in the world does seemingly everybody, even supposedly the most pious, born-again Christian, struggle like the dickens to grasp life when they get hit by a car, or get in a life-threatening accident or get shot in a war time situation or something? We all fight like the dickens to save this body, don’t we, to save our life. We think it’s because we instinctively know that death is an enemy. The Scriptures declare it to be so. Paul told us: “The last ENEMY that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26)
Why is death an enemy? Because it is the cessation of life! Totally completely! We know it instinctively. Secondly, death is an enemy because God decreed that death was the penalty for Adam’s transgression, his disobedience. “The wages of sin is death, (Romans 6:23) and that “death passed to all men, (Romans 5:12) because of Adam’s sin.
THE BIBLE MEANING OF “SOUL”: We now need to analyze the creation (literally, the formation) of Adam to find out what the Bible means when it uses the English word soul. We need to lay this ground work before we can discuss the doctrine of hell. The idea of a burning hell taught by the churches is not difficult to debunk, and we are going to examine it in depth further on. Once we get a proper understanding of what death is, then the true meaning of hell falls very logically right into place. The truth fits together perfectly. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and MAN BECAME A LIVING SOUL”. (Genesis 2:7)
That is one simple little sentence, yet pregnant with vital information. Bear with us as we analyze several key words in it. And the Lord, and that should never have been translated “Lord,” but left as “Yahweh,” God’s name; And Yahweh God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed (The word breathed is the Hebrew word Nahach; Strong’s #5301, and it means “to inflate” or “a breath” or “to puff,” in other words, “to blow.”) So God breathed or inflated or puffed into Adam’s nostrils the breath, that’s #5397, neshamah, which is a primitive root meaning “a puff” or “a breath” or “wind” or vital breath, and it is translated breath about a dozen times and also translated as spirit about two dozen times. Another Hebrew word, #7307, ruwach, is also translated as breath or spirit and appears to be virtually synonymous with neshamah.
So God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath (or spirit) of life; and man; and of course, most of you know that the word man is #120, audam, which derives from #119, which means “to show blood in the face, to flush.” We say today “to blush, to turn rosy.” It is translated “to be dyed or to be made red or made ruddy.” The Bible describes David the king as a man of RUDDY countenance. And man (or Adam) became a living - #2416: chay (pronounced khah’ee) and it means alive, living. The last word in Genesis 2, verse 7 is soul, and it is #5315 in Strong’s which is nephesh. It is derived from #5314, “a primitive root,” meaning “to breath.” So properly, this #5315 means “a breathing creature.” So what it is saying here is that Adam became a living, breathing creature, but your Bible uses the word soul instead of breathing creature. “ADAM BECAME A LIVING SOUL.”
WORD MEANINGS CHANGE OVER THE CENTURIES. This is exactly what has happened with soul, spirit, hell and a number of other terms that we are exploring. With one exception, which is an obvious mistranslation, the hundreds of times the word soul in the Old Testament appears, it is ALWAYS translated from the Hebrew word nephesh, which, as we said, means a breathing creature. We believe that the best synonym today that we should have is either breathing creature or simply the word life. A lot of the confusion would be cleared up if we just ignored the word soul when we see it in the Old Testament and simply substitute in your mind that word life or living creature. It works every time. That gets away from the part of the misunderstanding that many people have about what the word soul means.
Notice that Genesis 2:7 says that God breathed into his nostrils the SPIRIT or breath of life. Sounds exactly like artificial resuscitation, doesn’t it? So when God energized that body with the breath or spirit of life, the result was a living soul. The Bible says man is a soul, i.e., a living, breathing creature. To reiterate: When God placed the spirit of life into a Body the result was a soul. Let us share with you the best allegory of this that we have ever heard.
Think of an ordinary 100-watt light bulb in a lamp socket. The bulb is likened to your body. From the wall outlet is a wire carrying electrical current. That is the energizing force and it is likened to the spirit. When the lamp switch is turned on, the current flows through the bulb, energizing it and we have a phenomenon called light. The light is likened to your soul. So when God takes spirit and energizes or quickens a body, what do you get? A soul! YOU ARE A SOUL. Conversely, when you unplug the lamp, where does the light go? We say it goes “out.” When you permanently lose your spirit; your breath, where does your soul go? It doesn’t go anywhere; it just doesn’t exist. So we can say that the soul vanishes just like the light does. It disappears; it goes “out.” In other words, it dies or it simply is not. This is the simple, true, biblical meaning of soul.
IS YOUR SOUL IMMORTAL?: It should already be quite clear that the soul cannot be immortal. We will provide scriptural proofs shortly, but once we have established that the doctrine of an immortal soul is a lie, then where does that leaves the doctrine of your soul going to heaven or to hell immediately after you die? It leaves that doctrine totally without foundation! Here’s a challenge: Try to find in your Bible anywhere you can find a verse telling you that your soul goes to heaven. You can’t find it. The closest it comes to saying that is in Psalm 107:23-30, especially verse 26. But, upon examination, it really has nothing to do with your soul going on to heaven as it is taught in the churches. Of course, we know there ARE verses that the preachers quote to teach that your soul goes to heaven when you die, but none of those verses clearly teach that either. It is only by having that preconceived notion in mind and then reading that into it that they can teach that your soul goes to heaven after death. In contrast, the Bible does clearly speak on a number of occasions about souls dying or perishing or being destroyed. That in itself is undeniable proof that souls cannot be immortal. For example, in Leviticus we find the following: “And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same SOUL WILL I DESTROY from among the people.” (Leviticus 23:30)
In the Book of Job we find Job lamenting his predicament, where he says: “When I say, my bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint; then thou scariest me with dreams, and terrifies me through visions: So that MY SOUL CHOOSETH strangling, and DEATH rather than my life.” (Job 7:13-15)
His soul chooses what? Death. Another example; and you can’t get it any more clear than this; is found in Ezekiel, where we find Yahweh speaking: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: THE SOUL THAT SINNETH IT SHALL DIE.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
Since “all have sinned...” it is self-evident that all souls will die. Isaiah 53 is a prophecy of the Messiah and in verse 12 the prophecy says: “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong: because he hath POURED OUT HIS SOUL UNTO DEATH: and as numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 52:12)
Notice that it says that the Messiah would pour out His soul unto death. Christ’s soul would die. To perceive the fuller meaning here, however, we must examine that word soul a bit deeper now. In its various forms it appears in the Old Testament 498 times, and in every single instance (except one mistranslation in Job) it comes from Strong’s #5915: nephesh. At the outset, we noted that one could simply substitute the word life anywhere the word soul is found, and thus avoid the confusion which has resulted form preconceived ideas implanted in our minds by tradition (but erroneous) church teaching. One can make that substitution with no damage to the true concept of soul.
However, the Hebrew meaning is much fuller than the solitary English word life can express. Among other things, nephesh also carries the idea of our “self-ness” (not to be confused with SELFISHNESS), i.e., our unique, individual personhood, which encompasses the mind, will and emotions; personality. In other words, the idea of soul (self, life) includes the capabilities of (1) mind: i.e., the reasoning, thinking and intellect (at whatever level); (2) the will: i.e., those things involved with desire, intent and decision-making; and (3) the emotions: i.e., those things we often refer to as the “matters of the heart,” such as love, joy, contentment, grief, sadness, anger, jealousy, etc.
WHERE IS YOUR SOUL?: Coming back to the verse in Isaiah 53 which states that Christ would pour out his soul unto death, we must also take into consideration Leviticus 17:11 where we learn that “the life of the flesh is in the blood...” The word life is Strong’s #5315, nephesh, the same word elsewhere translated soul nearly 500 times. So where is your soul? “The soul of the flesh is in the blood!” By the way, this answers the question which has puzzled many for centuries: When does life begin?...at conception or at birth? The Biblical answer is clear: Life begins in the embryo as soon as there is blood!...for the life is in the blood.” Now there’s God’s answer for your pro-abortion acquaintances! Leviticus 17 speaks further of the blood of animals being sacrificed (i.e., poured out) as “an atonement for your souls.” Thus, when Christ sacrificed His Blood, He poured out His life (soul) unto death as an atonement “once and for all.” No more animal blood sacrifices were needed, since the life-soul-blood of the Messiah was perfect; sinless and spotless, pure and undefiled.
To verify from the New Testament the fact that souls die, look at Acts 3:23. Peter is speaking on the day of Pentecost and he is talking about Jesus in this verse: “And it shall come to pass, that EVERY SOUL, which will not hear that prophet (referring to Christ) SHALL BE DESTROYED from among the people.”
James, the Apostle admonishes: “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him: Let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall SAVE A SOUL FROM DEATH and shall hide a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)
There are other passages which we could cite, but those we have given should be adequate to any honest Bible student for scriptural proof that the soul perishes, that the soul dies, that it can be destroyed.
ARE YOUR “SOUL” AND “SPIRIT” THE SAME THING?: There are many in the church world who equate spirit with soul, but such cannot be the case. Those are two very distinct Hebrew words. In the Old Testament spirit or breath or life force is the word ruwach, about 400 times, and it is also from neshamah a few times, as we noted earlier. That is the word spirit. But the word soul, in the New Testament is PSUCHE (pronounced psoo-kay), totally different. Just keep this illustration of the light bulb in mind and it will remain clear to you. Remember, in Genesis 2:7, it does NOT say that man became a living or a breathing SPIRIT. That would be a redundancy. Since spirit is breath, it would be like saying man became a breathing breath! Man has spirit or breath like a light bulb has electricity. The spirit is not the man. The electricity is not the light bulb nor is the electricity synonymous with the light emitted by the bulb. To verify this in Scripture turn to Ecclesiastes: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: (Man is formed from dust and to dust he shall return; his body - the light bulb - breaks down), and THE SPIRIT SHALL RETURN UNTO GOD WHO GAVE IT (but your soul goes to heaven, right? No, it doesn’t say that, does it? The spirit, energizing life force returns to God, but that IS NOT“the real you.” Your soul doesn’t go anywhere; it simply is no more. The current is switched off; the light goes out. It doesn’t go anywhere).
WHAT AMERICANS BELIEVE ABOUT HELL: Having laid that groundwork, we are now ready to discuss hell. Let us return to the article by U.S. News and World Report and give you some statistics from a survey that was made in several different years over recent decades. It compares what percentage of Americans said they believed in hell in 1952, 1965, 1981 and 1990. In 1952, 58% of Americans said they believed in hell and then the percentage went down through the 60s and into the 80s. And then in 199 it has gone up and even surpassed 1952 to where it said that 60% of Americans say they believe in hell. Here’s the fascinating part, though: the question was asked (and this was only in 1990; they didn’t ask this in previous years): “What do you think your chances are of going to hell?” Well, it was 4%. Four percent of people think they are going to hell.
Now if the scriptural truth about hell were understood by our Christian people, instead of 4% saying that they believe they would go to hell, the answer would be 100% of us are going to hell, if the Lord tarries. What? You mean that all of us are going to hell? Ye, indeed, but don’t panic! The meaning of the word hell has changed drastically. In the Old English, the word was a noun and a verb. Hellan in Old English meant to conceal or to cover or to hide. And therefore, in the noun form, hell was a concealed or covered place, a hidden place, such as a grave or a pit. They used to say they were going to hell some potatoes. Today, we would say we are going to put them in a root cellar or a pit. Centuries ago, if they were going to thatch a roof on a house, they were going to hell a house, to cover it. By the way, a covering for a head is called a HEL-met. Thus, at the time of the translation of the King James version, the word hell was used nearly synonymously with the words grave and pit to translate the Hebrew word Sheol and the Greek word hades.
But here this survey says that 60% of Americans believe in hell and we would dare say that 98% of those who believe in hell believe in an unscriptural, eternal barbecue pit type of hell. The article begins: “It is the horrifying flip side of heavenly paradise. A place of endless torment, a fiery abyss to be shunned by prudent seekers of religious piety. Hell is every believer’s worst nightmare and its presence is being felt more acutely today than it has in decades. Long before Jonathan Edwards struck primordial fear into the hearts of 18th century New Englanders with is sermon, ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,’ the blazing imagery of an infernal netherworld haunted the religious conscience. Indeed, the prospect of punishment beyond the grave for the wicked has been part of Christian teaching since the days of Jesus. It has its roots in ancient Judaism...(Yes, Babylonian Judaism; not the Hebrew Old Testament! It is one of the Jewish fables we were warned about in the Book of Titus).
As much as Jesus said about hell, he left enough unsaid so that His followers have been debating its nature, purpose and duration ever since. What is hell? It is hot or cold? Is the fire real or metaphorical? Is the torment physical or psychological? Are the condemned punished forever or are they rehabilitated? Or perhaps annihilated? Above all, who goes to hell?
It is interesting that all of the views in this entire lengthy, cover story article share one thing in common: That after the body dies, the soul goes right on living somewhere else, in some other place or some other state. Even when they quote someone towards the end of the article who holds the holds the annihilationist view point, the implication is that the soul goes on living after death, or at least until it is annihilated. Continuing from the article again: “A more contentious debate is raging among evangelicals over the traditional view that the torments of hell are everlasting. That view is being challenged by a small but influential group of scholars who argue that it is based more on pagan philosophy and classical literature than on the Bible itself, (and they are correct). Such highly regarded theologians as Clark H. Pinnock; John R.W. Stott, and Philip E. Hujghes contend that rather than suffering endlessly, those who ultimately reject God will simply be put out of existence in the “consuming fire” of hell.
Those who subscribe to this view are called “annihilationists.” Pinnock asks: “How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness as to inflict everlasting torture upon His creatures, however sinful they may have been?...A God who would do such a thing, said Pinnock, is more nearly like Satan than God. Stott contends that in Biblical imagery, fire’s main function is to destroy and that while the fire of hell may be eternal and unquenchable, it would be very odd if what is thrown into it proves indestructible. Hughes argues that the traditional belief in unending punishment is linked to the erroneous belief in the innate immortality of the soul. A belief, he says, is based more on Plato than on the Bible . The immortality of which the Christian is assured, is not inherent in himself or in his soul but is bestowed by God.”
So you see, on the one hand, you have Stott and Pinnock agreeing that perhaps fire is not some kind of eternal, torturous, everlasting punishment. But they also perpetuate the error that your soul goes on living after death, even though they believe it is not immortal since the souls of the wicked are later annihilated. Continuing from the USN & WR article: “Defenders of the traditional view disagree citing scriptures referring to hell as a place of everlasting punishment where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That, says David F. Wells, professor of theology at Cornwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, would hardly be true of those who do not exist. Traditionalists also argue (listen to this now, this is one of their arguments) that annihilationism takes some of the punch out of gospel preaching. To tell the unrepentant that the worst fate that could befall them is extinction, says Harold Brown, theology professor, makes continuing in sin seem risky.”
In other words, what they are saying in effect is: “Let’s lie to the people so that we can get them saved. We have to have the eternal barbecue idea to scare them into not sinning.” Their other point; about the scriptures describing hell as a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, we don’t find that in the scriptures. We recognize that weeping and gnashing of teeth is in the Bible, but it is NOT describing hell. It is talking about those who are outside the Kingdom. It does not say anything about hell in those verses. Later, in another installment of this study, we are going to look at a lot of specific passages which the hell fire preachers and the “immortal soul” teachers use to make their case. But next, I want to show definitively and conclusively from God’s Word what hell is and then we will handle objections that might arise.
THE TRUE BIBLICAL MEANING OF HELL: The word HELL in the Old Testament is translated from only one Hebrew word - Sheol, #7585 in Strong’s. Sheol appears 65 times in the Old Testament; 31 times it is translated hell, 31 times it is translated grave and 3 times it is translated pit. None of these portray a place of everlasting, torturous, conscious agony, whether physical or psychological. Now the question might logically be asked: why did the King James translators render just one Hebrew word by three different English words? It is very simple. We do not think they were necessarily trying to deceptive. They did it because the three English words are (or at least WERE) nearly synonymous. But they each have a slightly different shade of meaning and it would appropriate to select the one that they felt best portrayed the sense of Hebrew context. For example, in Number 16:28-33, we find the incident where Korah, Dathan and Abiram are leading a rebellion against Moses. And Moses gets instructions from Yahweh on how to deal with them and so there is a little contest here. Moses says to the people of Israel in verse 28: “Hereby ye shall know that Yahweh has sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. If these men (Korah and company) die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then Yahweh hath not sent me. But if Yahweh make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into THE PIT; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked Yahweh. And it came to pass as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them. And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down ALIVE INTO THE PIT, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.”
So the word PIT in verse 30 and 33 is Sheol, elsewhere translated hell or grave. Now can you see why they translated it pit here instead of grave? It is because Korah and his friends went down quick (alive). An earthquake occurred and they fell down in and the earth closed up and then they were dead. But they went down into the pit alive. It was not a grave when it opened up; it was a pit and they fell in. So that’s why the King James translators used the word pit instead of grave for Sheol there and we think appropriately so.
HELL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: Now let us look at a few cases where Sheol was translated grave and lets substitute the old English word hell. The first occupance of Sheol in the Bible is in Genesis 37. This is the story where Jacob is given the bloody coat of his son, Joseph, and he assumes that Joseph has been killed by wild beasts since his brothers had dipped the garment in blood. “And he knew it and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave (Sheol) unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.” (Genesis 37:33-35)
Now just look at how ridiculous it is to put the modern definition of hell into this context. Jacob would have said “For I will go down to hell unto my son mourning.” Was Jacob saying that he was going to die and go down into some fiery abyss where people consciously burned forever, since his son Joseph was there and he wanted to be there with him? Utterly ridiculous, it’s absurd! You can examine the same types of cases in Genesis 42:38 and Genesis 44:29. Let us not look at the book of Job, where we find: “Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? Are not his days also like the days of an hireling? As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work; So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me. When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? And I am full of tossing to and fro unto the dawning of the day. My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope. O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good. The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more; thine eyes are upon me, and I am not. (What is he saying? That he’s going to die, that he’s just about had it with life). AS THE CLOUD IS CONSUMED AND VANISHETH AWAY; SO HE THAT GOETH DOWN TO THE GRAVE (to Sheol) shall come up no more.” (Job 7:1-9)
When a cloud vanishes, where does it go? It dissolves into apparent nothingness, doesn’t it? Keep that in mind and notice that seven chapters later in Job 14, Job is still lamenting and saying that he wishes he were dead: “O that (and he is speaking to God in this case) thou wouldest hide me in the grave (in Sheol) that through wouldest appoint me a set time and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, TILL MY CHANGE COME. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee; thou wilt have a desire to work of thine hands.” (Job 14:13-15)
So in verse 13 he says: Oh God, that you would hide me in the grave, in Sheol. If you use the word hell there, it makes it absurd again, if you understand it in the modern way that the word hell has been perverted. In fact, it turns the Word of God into absolute nonsense. Was Job saying that he wanted to go down and burn for awhile. Ridiculous! What is Job saying in the rest of the verse there?...God, I can’t take it any more, rest me - put me at rest in the grave until the days of my appointed time. I will wait until MY CHANGE comes; you will call and I will answer. You will want to see the work of your hands later on in time. When will that time be? The answer is in: “Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! (God answered Job’s prayer, did He not?) That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever. For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall sand AT THE LATTER DAY upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet IN MY FLESH shall I see God.” (Job 19:23)
It doesn’t say that he will see God in his disembodied soul, does it? What was Job looking forward to after his death? Did he expect his soul to fly off to heaven there for awhile where he would see God and play a harp and float on clouds for a few millennia? Or did he believe that his body would go into the grave (Sheol) hell and later he, the real Job, would be reconstituted, as it were? You have to do more than just add water in this case. You have to have the power of the Almighty to bring Job back together again. And in his flesh he would see God, when? At the resurrection, not at his death.
Now let’s look at one more: “O Yahweh God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee: Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; For my soul (or ‘my life’) is full of troubles and my life draweth nigh unto the grave (unto hell, Sheol).” (Psalms 88:1)
My life draweth nearer to hell?! Did the great King David, a man after God’s own heart, really expect that he was going to be roasted alive for an unending period of time? Or was he simply saying that he felt like he was close to the grave, meaning death, the end of life? The meaning is simple, logical, clear and obvious.
Let’s look now at some examples in the Old Testament where Sheol is translated hell and see if it simply means grave or if it really means a place of everlasting torment for the dead, who, according to the Judeo-Christian churches, aren’t really dead anyhow. “When the waves of death compassed me, the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell (Sheol) compassed me about; the snares of death PREVENTED me.” (2 Samuel 22:5-6)
Was David afraid of death because he imagined he was going to roast and toast for eternity? Of course not! He feared death, just like all men do, when truly confronted with it. Death is an enemy, remember? PREVENTED is a word that has changed meaning also. Here it means that the snares of death confronted David. It is also important to note that the word sorrows there would be better translated throes. In other words, when a person is in great agony or approaching death; or perhaps you have even witnessed animals in the throes of quivering of death. David said that he was in such a bad state before Yahweh delivered him, that he felt like he was in the throes of his approaching death.
Let’s turn again to Job again, chapter 26 to set the context, in chapter 25, Bildad the Shuhite had made some statements and Job is rebutting Bildad here as he talks about God to Bildad. “But Job answered and said, How has thou helped him that is without power? How savest thou the arm that has no strength. How hast thou counseled him that hath no wisdom? And how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is? To whom has thou uttered words? And whose spirit came from thee? Dead things are formed from under the waters and the inhabitants thereof. (Now here, in this next verse, is where Job is talking about Yahweh) He said Hell (Sheol) is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.” (Job 26:1-6)
Those two clauses or phrases in verse 6 are a parallelism. Hell is naked, destruction has no covering. The hell there (Sheol) is the grave; the grave is naked or open before God. Destruction; that’s what happens in the grave, destruction (by worms) has no covering. Once again, if we simply substitute the word grave for hell, it makes perfect sense. The grave is empty.
We read in Amos: “I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered. Though they dig into hell (Sheol) thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down: And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence...” (Amos 9:1-3)
This is talking about the Lord’s judgment upon a sinful people. If the hell spoken of here were some place where the dead are punished, why would God say He is going down to hell to retrieve these people just so he could bring them back up here and lop their heads off with a sword? It doesn’t make sense, does it? Unless you understand that in this case, pit would have been a better translation. And so God is saying that these people who have been wicked, or sinning, that though they try to get away by digging a hole or a pit in the earth, I (God) will go down there and get them out. Or if they try to go up into heaven; and he is not talking about the heaven where YHWH is, he’s talking about the sky or simply meaning UP IN A HIGH PLACE, since the first part of verse 3 says “though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel,” What is Carmel? It is a mountain up there in the air. So notice the contrast: If they go down and dig a pit, I’ll go down and get them. If they climb up and try to hide up in the rocks on the mountain, up there in “the heavens,” I’ll go up there and get them and I’ll bring them down. And they are going to be judged.
From these examples, the Old Testament concept of Sheol ought to be clear. If one wished, one could analyze every single one of those 65 cases of Sheol and see how the eternal hellfire taught by the Judeo-Christian churches is preposterous. It simply isn’t there. That is why you seldom, if ever, will hear preachers preach on “hellfire and brimstone” from the Old Testament alone. Let us proceed now to examine the word hell in the New Testament. This is where those who teach this false doctrine really have a heyday, primarily because they are not well grounded in the Old Testament. We need to remember that God said of Himself in Malachi 3:6 that He doesn’t change. This is confirmed in the New Testament in the Book of Hebrews: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Therefore, if the Old Testament teaches that we have no immortal soul, and it does; and that when we die, we go into the grave and we remain there until the resurrection; and that is what we have shown that it teaches, then the New Testament should harmonize with those doctrines, unless God changed His mind about hell.
We are also told by the prophet Jeremiah that to burn people never entered God’s mind: “And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; WHICH I COMMANDED THEM NOT, NEITHER CAME IT INTO MY HEART.” (Jeremiah 7:31)
For a second witness: “They have built also the high places of Ba’al, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Ba’al, WHICH I COMMANDED NOT, NOR SPAKE IT, NEITHER CAME IT INTO MY MIND.” (Jeremiah 19:5)
This is such an important thing that God gives us a third witness: “And they built the high places of Ba’al, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; WHICH I COMMANDED THEM NOT, NEITHER CAME IT INTO MY MIND, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.” (Jeremiah 32:35)
HELL IN THE NEW TESTAMENT: The Greek rod hades is used 11 times in the New Testament. Ten times it is translated hell and one time as grave. In 1 Corinthians 15 we find Paul recording the great resurrection chapter in his epistle. In the last phrase of verse 54, we read: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave (hades; translated as hell every other time in the New Testament; so it could read “O hell.”) where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:54)
If we understand hell to be that which is taught by Judeo-Christianity, the burning hellfire doctrine, then we would say that hell has a great victory, wouldn’t you? Most of humanity, according to them, is going into it and only that small percentage of human beings that are “saved” are going to escape hell. So hell truly has a great victory, if you MISunderstand what it is. But Paul here is quoting the Old Testament, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? When can this rhetorical question be asked and we would get the proper answer? In other words, when is death conquered? When you die?...Or at the resurrection?...Obviously, at the resurrection, at the last trump; and that’s what he says in verse 52, at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible. And until that time, the dead are, as it were, asleep.
Turn verse 20: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. (“Slept” meaning “died”). Verse 12: “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Now watch carefully, “But if there be no resurrection of the dead,” then that’s okay because we go to heaven when we die anyhow. Do you see the point? The teaching of an immortal soul, that when you die, you don’t really die; it makes the doctrine of the resurrection of no effect. Why do we need a resurrection if our real selves are already with Jesus at our death?!! Here is what the verse really says: “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen?” In other words, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ didn’t rise either!
And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is in vain, we are wasting our time. If there is no resurrection of the dead, we have no hope, we’ve been had! But Paul goes on to say in verse 16: “For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised; And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” Oh, gosh, we thought they were okay since they were in heaven? No, Paul says those who are dead have no hope either. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.” It is extremely important that you understand this. OUR HOPE IS IN THE RESURRECTION, NOT IN GOING ON LIVING IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOU DIE!
“SLEEP” A BIBLE METAPHOR FOR “DEATH”: Death is likened to sleep in many places in the Old and the New Testaments. We will cite just a couple of examples. Daniel 12:2, talking about the time or the end: “And many of them that SLEEP IN THE DUST of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
This is an obvious reference to those who have died. Look at the last two verses in chapter twelve in the Book of Daniel: “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.” Talking to Daniel now, “But (but you Daniel) go thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.”
What an excellent opportunity for the angel to tell Daniel all about his “immortal” soul. But notice, the angel did not say, “Well, Daniel, you don’t worry about it now, it’s a long time off. You are going to die and go to heaven and play a harp there at God’s throne until it’s time for the end of days. And then you’ll come back here to earth.” No, he said: “Daniel, don’t worry about the future. You’re going to die; the end is a long ways off and you are going to rest or ‘sleep’ in the dust until then.”
In the New Testament, we find this in the favorite passage of the rapture-believing fundamentalists: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which SLEEP IN JESUS WILL GOD BRING WITH HIM.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)
It doesn’t say the “saved” dead are conscious and up in heaven with Jesus, although many preachers read that into it. Rather, it says they sleep in Jesus; they are dead. Death is, by definition, and absence of life! Then, it goes on to say, that at the last trump, “...the DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST (They were dead in the graves, but now God has put spirit and body back together again and they are once again living souls), then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds (and so forth, and it is off point to get into the rapture discussion at this time).
Other references to sleep likened to death can be found in Job 7:21; 14:12; Psalm 13:3; 17:15, Luke 8:52-53; John 11:11-13, and 1 Corinthians 15:16-18 and 20.
HADES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT: Let’s look at some more occurrences in the New Testament of hades, which is translated grave only once and is translated hell 10 times. In Matthew 11:21, Jesus is speaking. Jesus had lived quite a bit of time in Capernaum, and, if you remember, He did many miracles there. Yet, for the most part, the inhabitants of that town did not believe in Him. So Christ grew angry with Capernaum and a couple of other cities here, so it says: “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee, Ceresin! Woe unto the Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to hell (hades) for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (Matthew 11:20-23)
So He is saying Capernaum shall be brought down unto hell. Does that mean some great big, “humongous” front-end-loader is going to scoop of the whole village of Capernaum and dump it into some burning pit somewhere, some eternal fire which will burn that city for eternity? Well, obviously not. Again, it makes it ludicrous to attach the modern meaning of hell to this passage. What it is saying is that Capernaum would go to the grave. In other words, there would be no more Capernaum. In Bible dictionaries and commentaries, if it gives you any information about it nowadays, it will say that over there along the Sea of Galilee is the ruins of the village of Capernaum and the ruins stretch along the coast for about a mile. Thus, we can truly say that Capernaum went to hell, to the grave.
In the Book of Acts chapter 2, we find Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost and quoting David says: “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (That was a messianic prophecy that David had given, prophesying that the soul of Christ would not be left in hell, the grave. In verse 31, it is interpreted) He (David, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, meant was going to go down and He wouldn’t stay there in hell, in the grave? Of course not, it’s talking about the grave. Christ died, His corpse was placed in a grave, but He did not remain there. He arose from the grave alive! Isn’t the truth simple when you really understand it?) This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For DAVID IS NOT ASCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS..” (Acts 2:27-31)
Remember, Peter was speaking on the day of Pentecost, which is AFTER the passion, death, burial and resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now if the doctrine of heaven that the Judeo-Christian churches teach is true, they would certainly say that the great king David would be one sure candidate for heaven, right? But Peter says David is NOT in haven! Where is he? He is dead in the grave, just like everyone else, waiting for the resurrection!
We went into great detail in another study on Roman Catholicism because this is one of their foundational proof texts, which is not really any proof at all. “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell (hades) shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
HADES: Hell, will not prevail against Christ’s church. The word gates here is symbolic, as it often is in scripture, of government or simply “power.” What this verse means is simply that the power of death, or the power of the grave (hell) will not prevail against Christ’s church, the ekklesia, the called-out ones. Why won’t the power of the grave prevail against us? Because of Christ’s resurrection and His promise to raise us. Death is swallowed up in victory!
In Revelation we can see how this verse ties right back to the one we just read: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen; and have THE KEYS OF HELL AND OF DEATH.” (Revelation 1:18)
The risen Christ is telling John the revelator that He (Christ) has the keys of hell, the keys of the grave. What did He tell Peter? The gates of hell won’t prevail against My church. Jesus is telling John here, “I have the keys to the gate of hell. It (the grave, death) cannot hold you.”
Further in Revelation we read: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” (Revelation 6:8)
If this were the literal, burning hell that the Judeo-Christian preachers teach, we have an awfully funny situation here, don’t we? John sees a pale horse and something or someone is riding on the horse. Why, it’s Dr. Death. And then along comes Hell, presumably also on a horse, following Dr. Death. You see what happens when one tries to literalize what is meant to be interpreted as symbolic. Death and the grave are two different ways of saying the same thing.
THE TITANS IN TARTARUS: Aside form the gehenna references, there’s one more instance of the word hell in the New Testament. It is translated from the Greek word tartaros or tartoo. We fined it in 2 Peter: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment...” (2 Peter 2:4)
That word hell is tartaros. There is very little that we can say with certainty about this because it only occurs once. What we can say is that it appears to be closely parallel to Jude 6. Compare its similarity: “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”
One thing is for sure; one cannot take this verse in 2 Peter or Jude 6 and create an eternal hellfire doctrine from it. First of all, it talks about darkness. We believe these things are symbolic anyhow, but you wouldn’t expect the eternal, literal hellfire to be dark, would you? Secondly, this refers to ANGELS and not to men. Thus, one cannot build a doctrine dealing with the eternal destiny of men based on something that Scriptures talk about only once, and that in reference to angels.
Greek mythology sheds some information (We hesitate to say “sheds some light”) on this. Hades was originally the name of the god who presided over the place of the dead. It was either a dark, underground realm or a distant land, but it was not originally a place of eternal torment. Of course, it did imply the continued existence of the soul after death. The god, Hermes, led the dead into Hades, but the path was blocked by the River Styx.
But a boatman named “Charon” could provide a ferry. Greek mythology also tells the tale of Tartaros who was the father of a race of giants, the Titans (hence, the name “Titanic”). They rebelled against Zeus, the chief god, and as punishment, the Titans were condemned to a place far below Hades called Tartaros. Tartarus (English spelling) was a place of torment for these wicked giants. In time, TARTARUS LOST THE DISTINCTNESS AND BECAME SYNONYMOUS WITH HADES, BRINGING WITH IT THE ETERNAL TORMENT IDEA.
The Bible tells us in Genesis that “there were giants on the earth in those days” (the Nephilim), and that would make a very speculative study. But that is getting a little too far afield for now. But we did want to point out that single, other occurrence of the word hell, so you know that it is different from both hades and from gehenna. But it occurs only once, so therefore no eternal hellfire doctrine can be built from it.
Gehenna is actually a transliteration from two Hebrew words: ge-hinnom which means “valley of Hinnom” or “valley of the sons of Hinnom.” Gehenna is used twelve times in the New Testament. Strong’s Lexicon gives this definition: “Used figuratively as a name for the place (state) of everlasting punishment, translated hell.”
Dr. Bullinger in the marginal note of his Companion Bible says of the word gehenna, that it is; “a transliteration of the Hebrew ge-hinnom, that is valley of Hinnom or valley of the sons of Hinnom, where were the fires through which children were passed in the worship of Moloch. Moloch [alt. Spelling: Molech] was an Ammonite god, a baal. In the Old Testament tophet was the Hebrew word used because it was a place n this valley. In our Lord’s day this idolatry had ceased but the fires were still burning there for the burning of the refuse of Jerusalem. Hence, gehenna was used for the FIRES OF DESTRUCTION ASSOCIATED WITH THE JUDGMENT OF GOD.”
This bears looking into a little further. In 2 Kings we find a list of some of the Godly things that King Josiah did when he came to the throne. He tried to put away evil as much as he could: “And he (Josiah) brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the Hahweh, where the women wove hangings for the grove. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and beak down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city. Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the Yahweh in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren. And he defiled TOPHETH, WHICH IS IN THE VALLEY OF THE CHILDREN OF HINNOM, THAT NO MAN MIGHT MAKE HIS SON OR HIS DAUGHTER TO PASS THROUGH THE FIRE TO MOLECH.” (2 Kings 23:7-20)
In Jeremiah, God decrees: “For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, saith Yahweh; they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it. And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Ninnom, to burn their sons and daughters in the fire; WHICH I COMMANDED THEM NOT, NEITHER CAME IT INTO MY HEART.” (Jeremiah 7:30)
Sacrificing children to Molech was an absolutely horrid and gruesome practice. The idolaters had this huge, bigger-than-life-sized, hollow statue of Molech. The statue had its arms out-stretched and attendants or priests would stoke up the fire down beneath, inside the statue. There was a cavity in the chest of the idol. The “worshipers” would approach bearing their sacrifice; an infant child! They would lay the child on those hot arms and the arms would mechanically retract, depositing the living infant into the chest cavity and down into the flames. Thus, they would burn their children alive as a sacrifice to that baal god.
Burning people alive in a fire was a practice of the heathen Canaanites which our Israelite forefathers followed after. But God said in Jeremiah that this kind of thing never came into his mind and He DID NOT COMMAND IT. Yet, countless Christian ministers teach that very doctrine of burning people alive in hell?
Only they go one better than our Israelite progenitors. In the hell of the churches, there is no surcease. It is eternal burning in torture and agony. Yet God had clearly stated twice that He commanded no such thing; that it did not come into his mind. (Jeremiah 7:30; 32:35)
Later, at the time of Christ and even before that, the gehenna, the valley of the son of Hinnom which was right outside the city of Jerusalem, right over the walls as a matter of fact, became a place for burning garbage. They dumped all the refuse and garbage of the city there. The fires burned continually. This, they were described as never-ending fires. However, not only was garbage consumed and destroyed there, but the corpses of criminals were also cast there. A criminal who was about to be executed well knew that. Therefore instead of receiving a decent burial, his name and reputation would be humiliated by his corpse being cast into the fires of gehenna. (hell). Note that gehenna was a place for the disposal of carcasses, not for burning people alive! And certainly not forever. The fires of gehenna burned “forever,” BIT NOT THE CORPSE OF THE CRIMINAL; for after a period of time the body was consumed.
In his epistles, Paul did not once use the word gehenna. Why not? Because he was writing to the so-called “gentiles,” people whom we know to have been actually the True Tribes of Israel in the dispersion. They lived in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Galatia, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France, Greece, Italy and etc. Chances are, they wouldn’t have had the foggiest idea what Paul was talking about, were he to have made the reference to gehenna, the Jerusalem city dump. Instead, when he talked about the judgment of the wicked, Paul used words like “consumed” or “destroyed.” (For example 2 Thessalonians 2:8) James used gehenna once in James 3:6 where he was talking about the tongue as a fire. The use there is obviously symbolic.
CHRIST’S USE OF GEHENNA: Let us now consider the Master’s use of this word gehenna. Jesus used gehenna eleven times. Before we examine any of those specific cases, though, remember this: If the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament, and he is. And if he doesn’t change in his essential character, (Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6) then if he said that the idea of burning people alive never came into His mind in the Old Testament, then how can God (in the form of Jesus Christ) in the New Testament teach that frying people forever is what he plans to do to the unsaved!?
To claim such a judgment on the unsaved is saying that god is not “the same yesterday, today and forever.” If in the New Testament he is reneging and now plans to burn people alive forever, it would not only mean that he changed his mind, but that his essential character had undergone a drastic metamorphosis. That makes God out to be double-minded, a schizophrenic in modern parlance, i.e., God is mentally ill! If such were the case, neither you nor I would claim him as our God. So either God is a psycho case, or the theology of some preachers is in grave error! Of course, the latter is the case. In the Old Testament, God Himself called that heathen practice an abomination, and we will therefore find the Savior’s teaching on hell to be in total agreement in the New Testament.
When Christ used the word gehenna, he used it as a metaphor to indicate total destruction, in other words, the death; the total extinction, of an individual life (soul). Mark Chapter 9 is an especially important example to discuss because in all of the passages similar to it, one can easily see how they pervert these verses to teach the hell-fire doctrine. We are going to harmonize it and show that it reconciles perfectly with the Old Testament concept of hell/shoel. Matthew 5:29-30 is a parallel passage to Mark 9:43.
We find Jesus saying: “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; for it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into HELL (gehenna), INTO THE FIRE that never shall be quenched. (Our opponents say: ‘Aha, see there? Hell is fire!’) Where their worm dieth not, and THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED. (‘Oh, and it’s eternal fire to boot!’). And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life than having two feet to be cast into hell (gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out; it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell (gehenna) fire. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:43-48)
As we ponder that passage, let us ask the reader: Has anyone of you in whole life ever had an occasion where your hand or feet (e.g. waking into some place where Christians shouldn’t go), or your eyes looking upon someone or something has led you into temptation and sin? We are guilty, anybody else? We all probably are. Yet we don’t see people walking around that have lopped off a leg or an arm, or plucked out an eye. Why have we not obeyed the Scripture? Can’t you see what the Scripture is saying? Your eye offended you or your leg offended you. Shouldn’t you cut it off!? Well, we are being facetious, of course; everyone understands that Christ is speaking figuratively here. What he is saying is that we need to reject carnality. It’s going to get us in trouble if we don’t. What kind of trouble? What will be the consequences if we don’t control our limbs, our bodies? Two-fold consequences:
First, notice verse 43 of Mark 9; Jesus says: It’s better for thee to enter INTO LIFE maimed. In verse 45, He says to cut your foot off; it is better for thee to enter halt INTO LIFE. Notice though, that in verse 47, it doesn’t say enter “into LIFE;” instead, Jesus reveals the meaning of WHICH life He is referring to: He speaks of entering INTO THE KINGDOM of God. So the life that He is talking in verses 43 and 45 is referring to POST-RESURRECTION LIFE in the kingdom of God. Our bodies will be incorruptible at that time, so we don’t believe that anyone will be missing a leg then. So Christ is saying that if you want to get into the post-resurrection kingdom, you’d better be cautious now so that your flesh, your carnal nature, doesn’t cause you to be wicked. But if you are continuing in wickedness; and that implies that you are not repenting, then Christ is saying that instead of entering into LIFE in the kingdom age, you will be sentenced to the opposite: DEATH!
And that death is the destruction of your body (including yourself, your soul), which destruction Jesus figuratively symbolizes here by gehenna. So the first consequence of disobeying the Lord’s command here was to suffer death (non-life) in the Kingdom Age.
The second consequence was that you could end this mortal life as an executed criminal with your corpse consumed on the garbage dump, the fires of gehenna-hell.
Now this was a very clear and dramatic word picture and metaphor for the Israelites living around Jerusalem to understand, because, as we said, it was the dead bodies of CRIMINALS who were burned there, not the average person. So the people clearly understood that Christ was saying this: Be careful of sinning (becoming a criminal) or you’ll end up on that burning garbage dump. They also understood that He did NOT mean that their bodies would be alive when the fire consumed and destroyed them.
FIREPROOF, IMMORTAL WORMS?? Verse 48 is a colorful expression; it says: “Where their worm dieth not, and the fired is not quenched.” Taken literally, it sounds like we’ve got asbestos-clothed, immortal worms there, doesn’t it? However, a little familiarity with the ancient methods of incinerating garbage at Jerusalem will dispel this ridiculous notion. Those who teach the literal, burning hell-fire doctrine will often mention brimstone in connection with the hell-fire. They are correct. Brimstone is another word for sulphur. It was added to the “hell-fire” (the gehenna dump) because it made it a much hatter fire. Thus, it would assist in the more efficient destruction of the refuse in gehenna. Can you imagine situations; maybe after a big feast day in Jerusalem, where there was a lot of garbage and it got piled so high on the dump that the flames never reached certain parts of the garbage way down beneath. Consequently, it would provide an ideal environment for the breeding of maggots and all kinds of worms. These worms and maggots would breed and breed and breed, generation after generation after generation. And so that is what Christ is talking about when He says “their worm dieth not.” He is not talking about one worm never dying; He’s talking about generation after generation of worms.
Likewise with phrase “unquenchable fire.” It is not talking about an eternal fire except in the sense of “limited eternity” if you will pardon the oxymoron for the sake of explanation. This is an important point because very often, EVERY DAY, in fact, we all use absolute terms when we don’t really mean what we are saying in an absolute sense. We use absolute terms and expressions ALL THE TIME. There, we just gave you two examples. Do we literally mean “every day” and “all the time?” Of course not; we did not expect it to be interpreted literally. Nor did Jesus when He said that the fire is not quenched.
To illustrate further: In any city fire department, we can easily imagine a fire crew returning from trying to save a warehouse. Let us suppose it was a total disaster, a total loss of the building. One firefighter might say to the other: “Man, that was an unquenchable fire!” In other words, they couldn’t extinguish it. They just had to let it burn itself out. No one takes the word “unquenchable” literally and expects the warehouse to still be burning in one, two or a hundred years from now. But in city dump situation where new fuel (refuse and garbage) is being continually added to the flame, one might easily and quite correctly refer to the fire as unquenchable. Also the coal mine fires that have been burning for years, would be considered as unquenchable. So, to take these Bible passages and to teach an eternal hell-fire doctrine is twisting them to fit a preconceived idea - an idea which matches the doctrines of the Babylonian mystery religion of the ancient pagans. On the other hand, our effort here is to demonstrate how these passages CAN BE HARMONIZED with the truth of the rest of Scripture.
ANSWERING OBJECTIONS: Having now given the correct understanding of the meaning of gehenna, it is necessary to dissect each of the remaining occurrences of it in the New Testament. Instead, let us now turn to the objections to our positions on the doctrines of the mortal soul and the doctrine that hell is simply the grave. It would require a small book to refute in copious detail the several Bible passages often brought up by the immortal soul teachers and the hell-fire preachers. We must limit our discussion here to abbreviated answers to some of the most common objections; yet we hope the abbreviated answers will suffice to properly understand these passages. Since the false doctrine of a burning hell-fire after death requires an immortal soul doctrine, the following selected passages may deal with either or both concepts. They are in no particular order.
WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH:“And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30)
Notice first of all that the word hell is not in this passage or anywhere near it (The nearest place is verse 41, which we will cover shortly). Yet people ASSUME that Jesus is talking about hell-fire. It doesn’t say that though, does it? Furthermore, in the other places in Scripture where it says “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” it does not mention hell there either. This is a kingdom parable and Christ is simply pointing out that those who are thrust out of the kingdom will greatly regret it; described by the word picture of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Besides, if verse 30 is describing hell-fire, how can it be dark?
But some will say hell is mentioned in verse 41. This is a favorite of the hell-fire preachers: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and for his angels.”
And of course those preachers would link this up with a gehenna fire and it is easy again to see how a case can be made by our opponents. However, does it say anything here about consciousness or torture? No! It simply says that the FIRE is everlasting.
This verse is another way that Christ was pointing out to His listeners that they should act charitably in this life, lest when they are raised to face judgment ON THE DAY OF RESURRECTION (not immediately upon their death), they would find themselves headed for the judgment of (the second) death, not life in unending torture.
Let us continue in verses 42 - 46: “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger and ye took me not in; naked and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT; BUT THE RIGHTEOUS INTO LIFE ETERNAL.”
Now someone’s going to say, “Well, see there? It says ‘everlasting punishment.’ Now if that isn’t clearly teaching that the wicked suffer forever in hell, I don’t know what is.”
May we ask you to read it again? It doesn’t say anything about conscious suffering there, does it? It says that the righteous inherit life; the wicked inherit death, not a torturous life. Death is the punishment, not life! Get it? Think about it for a moment: If this eternal barbecue pit idea were true, then in Romans 6:23, Paul should have said: “For the wages of sin is everlasting life in pain and agony.” But he did not, he said: “The wages of sin is DEATH.” Death = non-life! Can it be any more clear?! As the words everlasting and eternal, again they are mistranslations. Are we denying unending life for the righteous? God forbid! Hear the above-cited tapes for a full discussion of these and similar terms.
“...NOT ABLE TO KILL THE SOUL...”: One radio Bible teacher claimed that Matthew 10:28 proves that your soul lives on after death. Christ is speaking to His disciples and says: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Christ was warning His followers about persecution and possible martyrdom. He was saying don’t fear those people who can kill your body but they cannot KILL YOUR SOUL, i.e., take your life. (Soul is synonymous with life, as shown in the first part of this study). But what life does Jesus mean here? Resurrection life, when God puts body and spirit back together resulting in your then-incorruptible soul. That’s the implication in His words. Christ goes on to say that His disciples ought to fear the One who has the power to raise you in the resurrection to a judgment of condemnation (“to destroy body soul and body in hell”)
THE SOUL’S IMMORTALITY “PROVED” BY THE TRANSFIGURATION: Some will claim that the soul lives on after death because Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah at his transfiguration. “After six days Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them into an high mountain apart, and was TRANSFIGURED before them, and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias, talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord it is good for us to be here, if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.”
See, Moses and Elijah were there, so obviously we know that they died centuries before and here they are alive...or are they? No! Read the very next verse: “And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell THE VISION to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.”
Did they really see a flesh and blood Moses and Elijah? Or did they see a vision? THEY SAW A VISION. Moses represents the law. Elijah represents the prophets. They also saw a vision of Jesus in His post-resurrection body, foreshadowing to these three selected apostles, that after His death and resurrection, Jesus will have fulfilled the law and the prophets. Seeing a vision of Moses and Elijah is no proof at all of the immortality of the soul.
ENOCH TRANSLATED:“And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24) Now look at: “by faith ENOCH WAS TRANSLATED THAT HE SHOULD NOT SEE DEATH; and was not found, because God had TRANSLATED HIM: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:5)
Some teach from this that Enoch was “translated” directly into heaven without dying. But if this were the case, then several immediate problems appear. 1). Did God grant Enoch an exemption to the rule: “as in Adam ALL die?” 2). Jesus declared in John 3:13 that “no man hath ascended up to heaven.” (The abode of God) except Christ Himself who came down from heaven. 3). In the listing of the great men of faith in Hebrews 11 (including Enoch (Hebrews 11:5)), it plainly states: “THESE ALL DIED in faith, (and if you think “going to heaven” is the promised reward for believers, it continues) NOT HAVING RECEIVED THE PROMISES.”
In Genesis 5:24, the phrase “he was not” is used elsewhere to clearly indicate death. (See Psalm 37:36; Job 7:21; Jeremiah 31:15) The word took is from the Hebrew laqach which has a wide variety of meanings. According to Young’s Concordance, it is translated 63 times as “receive” or “accept.” Thus, when Enoch died, God accepted him; i.e., because of Enoch’s faith, God accepted him as righteous. That Enoch “should not see death” does not mean that he did not die. Of several other possible interpretations, we offer the following; Enoch died relatively young (for that era). God sometimes takes the righteous at a young age, lest they become contaminated by the wicked (Cf. Lot) Enoch died young, so that he should not see death (i.e., be dead) in the Kingdom Age. Instead, he would be resurrected to life in that Age, because by faith he saw the promises afar off.
ELIJAH’S TRANSLATION: Those who teach that Enoch was translated off to heaven point out that the Hebrew word for translated is the same one which describes Elijah’s whirlwind experience. “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (2 Kings 2:11)
First, notice it was a whirlwind which carried Elijah away, not a fiery chariot, as some teach. Secondly, the word heaven is the atmosphere, the sky; not the heaven meaning the abode of God. Thirdly, Elijah survived the experience of being borne aloft by a tornado; it has happened numerous times in history, since we find him approximately 20 years later, still on earth and writing a letter to the king. “And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah.” (2 Chronicles 2:11)
Since “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (at the resurrection), we must assume that Elijah died some time later, just as all other mortals.
PAUL’S DESIRE TO BE WITH THE LORD:“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)
Other methods of reconciling this are feasible, but the simplest explanation is that, after his death and although perhaps thousands of years would pass, Paul’s next conscious moment would be at the resurrection when he would be “present with the Lord.” “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” (Philippians 1:21-24)
Again, although we could offer a long, detailed explanation of this passage which would require two pages or more and with different arguments, we would come to the same conclusion, the same simple explanation given for the preceding passage (2 Corinthians 5:8) applies here as well.
Just before Paul’s martyrdom, he wrote to Timothy about his expected reward: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, shall give me AT THAT DAY: and not to me only, but UNTO ALL THEM ALSO THAT LOVE HIS APPEARING.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)
It is clear that Paul expects to receive his crown of righteousness not immediately upon his death, but AT THAT DAY of resurrection when Christ appears to reward Paul along with all the others who love His appearing. All would receive it at the same time, not to each individual upon his death.
SOULS UNDER THE ALTAR:“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.” (Revelation 6:9)
Oh Boy! At first glance, it sure sounds like those souls are immortal. After all, there they are, “crying out.” But remember, the book of Revelation is highly symbolic. Everybody knows that. Yet in order to support a false doctrine some will take this verse and make it literal. But if you are going to literalize there, you would have to literalize verse 8, also...which we had fun with in the first part of this study: “Dr. Death riding the horse,” etc.
No, John was seeing visions, not literal events. The passage in question needs to be understood in light of Leviticus 4:7. That is where the instructions were given for the Levitical priests when they were sacrificing a bullock on the horns of the altar. They were to drain the blood and let the blood flow out ONTO THE GROUND UNDER THE ALTAR. Leviticus 17:4 teaches us that the LIFE IS IN THE BLOOD. What is being depicted here in symbolic form in Revelation 6, is that the Christian martyrs had symbolically poured out their blood (souls, lives) under the altar (onto the ground) as a sacrifice. As for the “souls crying out,” we must go to Genesis 4, the story of Cain and Abel. “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s BLOOD CRIETH unto me FROM THE GROUND.” (Genesis 4:9)
Do you see? Again, metaphors, symbolic language. This is what is being depicted in Revelation 6. The idea that the souls under the altar crying out is a proof text for the immortality of the soul is totally lacking in merit.
THE THIEF ON THE CROSS:“And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, if thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39)
The misinterpretation of this verse depends entirely on a comma. There were no commas or periods or verse numberings in the ancient manuscripts. In fact, some manuscripts (called Uncials) were written in all capital letters with ALLTHEWORDSRUNNINGTOGETHER like that. The capitalizations, the chapter and verse divisions, the punctuation was all put in by the translators. No doubt they were doing the best job they could, but they all had certain pet doctrines, so they would naturally punctuate the Scriptures to fit what was prevalent as a doctrine at the time. So there is nothing inspired about a comma. Here is how the KJV and many other versions have the last part of verse 43: “Verily I say unto THEE, TODAY shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
To see that this verse harmonizes with the rest of the teaching of Scripture, we simply move a comma. Then we have: “Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.” We changed the word order from “shalt thou” to “thou shalt,” which is just as acceptable as the former when translating from the Greek. In fact, the Young’s Literal Translation renders it: “Verily I say to thee, To-day with me thou shalt be in the paradise.”
Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible and the Concordant Version also concur. Although Dr. Bullinger used the Authorized Version in his Companion Bible, in his footnote on verse 43 he states: “To-day” Connect this with “I say,” to emphasize the solemnity of the occasion; not with “shalt thou be”...
Thus, it is very clear, Christ was telling this man, “I’m telling you today, friend: you’re going to be with me in paradise.” The thief would die on the cross that day; he would lie dead in the grave for hundreds of years, but at the resurrection, he would be welcomed by Christ into the kingdom. Furthermore, Jesus did not say the thief was going to heaven either. He promised him “paradise,” which is synonymous with the kingdom of heaven on the earth, not heaven itself.
DID SAUL TALK TO THE RESURRECTED SAMUEL?: In 1 Samuel 28:7-20, we read the story of King Saul consulting the witch of Endor, a story occasionally used to teach that the dead are not really dead. A closer examination of the story, however, will reveal certain grave reservations to allowing this to prove any such thing.
In the first place, it is a bold assumption to claim that Samuel actually appeared. The passage indicates that Saul did not see anyone. He had to ask the woman necromancer to describe what SHE saw. Based upon her description, “Saul perceived that it was Samuel.” (Verse 14). Saul then assumed from here description that it was Samuel. The ensuing conversation (verses 15-20) is then given from Saul’s perspective that it was actually Samuel with whom he was speaking; or at least with the spirit of Samuel. But as we have shown in the first half of this study, the spirit is not the person. (Remember the light bulb analogy?) When death occurs, the spirit (breath, vitalizing force/energy) returns to God, the body decomposes in sheol (the grave) and the soul IS NOT. Samuel had died. His body was in the process of decay. Without the joining of body and spirit, there is no soul, so Samuel’s soul did not exist. His spirit had returned to God. One might respond: “Well, maybe god sent it back temporarily.” No, because even if we were to grant that the “real Samuel” were contained in his spirit, this possibility is precluded by: “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against YHWH, even against the word of the YHWH, which he kept not, and also for asking COUNSEL OF ONE THAT HAD A FAMILIAR SPIRIT, to enquire of it.”
Notice: “enquire of IT.” not “HIM.” Additionally, the words in italics in the above verse were inserted by translators. Removing them, the last clause reads: “and also for asking of a familiar spirit, to enquire of it.”
There is no possibility that this “spirit” could have been Samuel because the word spirit, when referring to a person’s spirit, is in the Hebrew language either ruach or neshamah. But in every case in the Bible where we find the phrase “familiar spirit,” those two words are translated from one Hebrew word owb, (Strong’s #178) which Dr. Strong defines as: “prop. A mumble, i.e. a water-skin (from its hollow sound); hence a necromancer (ventriloquist, as from a jar).”
`Thus, a familiar spirit is the mumbling of a (usually, self-deluded) ventriloquist-necromancer, not the spirit of a person. It is important to note that in the Scriptures, the PERSON is represented as being where the body is. (See Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29; 11:17; Acts 2:29; 5:5-10; 8:2; 1 Corinthians 15:4, 35)
King Saul was deceived into thinking he was hearing from Samuel the prophet. Unquestionably, God gave Saul this deception, and in doing so, he even rebuked Saul through the perceived “Samuel” for trying to consult a prophet beyond the grave when God had already refused to answer him “by prophets.” (Verse 15) “Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing YHWH is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?” (1 Samuel 28:16)
That God allowed the witch of Endor to prophesy truthfully concerning Saul and Israel’s fate on the morrow is beside the point. After all, we recall that God caused the false prophet Balaam to prophesy blessings on Israel against Balaam’s will. (Numbers 24)
A second objection to allowing this passage to teach that when we die, we don’t really die, is that even if we were to agree that this really was Samuel here, it does not at all prove that he was alive in sheol or anywhere else either before or after “his” appearance to Saul via the witch. Nor does it follow that all dead people are similarly alive after death.
Thirdly, if we accept this was the real Samuel, then we are believing that an evil witch has the power to resurrect a person from the grave. The Bible nowhere attributes such a power to witches and it makes a mockery of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead through our Lord Jesus Christ.
HE LED CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE:“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” (Ephesians 4:8)
Many churches, particularly of the fundamentalist variety, use this verse to teach the “compartment theory” of the state of the dead. The following is taken from the note on this passage in a popular study Bible: “Descent into Hell: Before the death of Christ, both the lost and saved went to Hades (Hebrew Sheol) although it was divided into the place of torments and the paradise of God (also called Abraham’s bosom)...When Jesus hung on the cross, He consoled the penitent thief that he would be in paradise with Christ on that day. One of the accomplishments of the Resurrection was to lead ‘captivity captive,’ that is, to remove Old Testament saints from Abraham’s bosom (Hades) and lead them to heaven...When a Christian dies today, he goes immediately into the presence of God...”
A tip-off that the compartment theory might be suspect is when one learns that this theory originated in the Jewish Talmud, the Pharisaic “traditions of the elders.” Ephesians 4:8 is basically a quote form Psalm 68:18. It behooves us, therefore, to examine the context in which it is found. “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; YEA, FOR THE REBELLIOUS ALSO, that YHWH God might dwell among them.”
The entire Psalm is a praise to God for His great power and accomplishments in bring salvation to His people, Israel. In that, this verse is also a Messianic prophecy of the ultimate salvation to be brought by the work of Christ. As such, it foresees the time of Christ’s ascension to heaven. The phrase “led captivity captive” is an ancient expression denoting triumph over one’s enemies, with the resultant freeing of those who had been captured. (See Judges 5:12)
In Ephesians Paul applies it to the accomplished work of Christ. By His sacrifice on the cross and triumphant resurrection, Christ “led captivity captive.” He triumphed over the greatest enemy; death, and freed all those who believe in Him from the captivity of ultimate death.
The compartment theorists would have us believe that the gifts given by Christ were to those “saved” folks in Abe’s bosom, that they could now go to heaven. But the gifts given TO MEN are explained in verses 11 and 12: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Furthermore, when we notice in the Psalm that the gifts were given “to the rebellious also,” then, the compartment theory is utterly deflated. Yes, Christ gave the above gifts to men to minister to sinners, to rebellious men, to “perfect them” and to edify (to build up and strengthen) the body of Christ. If we were already perfect and non-rebellious, we wouldn’t have need of these ministerial gifts. And what is the ultimate goal of the perfecting of the Christians? Again, from the Psalm: “that YHWH might dwell among” us.
PREACHING TO “SPOOKS”: Another passage sometimes used to “prove” that the dead are not really dead is found in 1 Peter 3: “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.” (1 Peter 3:18-20)
The typical interpretation of this passage by the “you don’t really die” crowd is that when Jesus died and went to hell (hades), He preached a sermon there to the “spirits in prison.” Overlooked is the fact (according to their theology) that if these spirits are inj hell, they are either in the “saved” compartment, or the “lost” compartment. If they are the saved, then they don’t need a preaching sermon because they are already believers. They were just twiddling thumbs for a few millennia waiting until Christ would come and lead them off to heaven. If they are the lost spirits, then they have already had their chance and “they would not repent though one went to them from the dead.”
The fact is, Christ did not go anywhere and preach a sermon after He died. He lay in the tomb until His resurrection. Even though most KJV versions do not show this, the words “went and” did not appear in the Textus Receptus. (See Green’s The Interlinear Bible, a TR-based literal translation) In addition, the word “preached” is not the normal Greek word used in cases of preaching sermons. The word here is kerusso. Both Strong’s and Young’s give the meaning to cry or proclaim as a herald. Jesus Himself did not proclaim anything audibly to any spirits in hades. Peter is referring to the fact that Christ’s death and resurrection heralded the triumph over the grave to “the spirits in prison.”
Then, just who were these spirits in prison? Well, they certainly were not men, either dead or alive; for men are never referred to as “spirits.” Even in this very passage (verse 20), that Noah and his family are called “souls,” not spirits. It is our opinion that the spirits in prison is a reference to the angels in Jude 6 and which Peter himself refers to in 2 Peter 2:4-5. How the angels (spiritual beings) got there or how they were chained is outside the scope of this study, but of this we can be sure: men are mortal. When they die, they die. They do not go on living in some other realm of the spirit or soul or some other such unscriptural, Talmudic nonsense.
THE LAKE OF FIRE: All of the appearances of the phrase “lade of fire” are in the book of Revelation. “And death and hell (hades) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14)
First, let us note that hell/hades is not The lake of fire since it is hell itself that is cast into the lake of fire. That phrase “lake of fire” must be symbolic. It cannot be a literal lake and it’s not literal fire. That would be like saying a “lamp of darkness,” or a “Caucasian Negro” or an “ice cube of boiling water.” Perhaps you could describe a lake of fire if you are talking about an oil tanker cargo that spilled on Lake Erie and got ignited. But we don’t think God has that in mind here. Lake and fire just don’t go together naturally. So it’s symbolic. But what does it symbolize? I speaks of God’s Word, His law and His judgments. The context in Revelation 20 is the Great White throne Judgment. The same symbolic elements of fire and water are combined in Another passages describing the Great White Throne judgment. “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the FIERY FLAME, and his wheels as burning fire. A FIERY STREAM issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.” (Daniel 7:9-10)
Water is, of course, a type of God’s Word. His commandments were graven in stone by a fiery finger. His Word and his judgments are a consuming fire. God’s Word decrees that the penalty for sin is death. Now let’s look back at 14: “And death and hell (hades, meaning grave, ‘death and the grave’) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
This shows that the last enemy, death, is itself overcome and destroyed. Death and the grave are cast into God’s judgment and overcome by the power of His Word (Also, remember Christ is the incarnate Word). This is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 15 where it says that the last enemy to be destroyed is death itself. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 14:15)
The previous verse just declared that the lake of fire IS the second death. So lets pull out the phrase “lake of fire” and substitute “second death” there: “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the second death.” It would be unwise at this point for us to expound further on the lake of fire. Instead, we wish to allow you, the reader, to ponder the ramifications of what we have presented so far. There is much more to be gleaned in connection with this passage, but “many of you are not able to bear it” until we first provide a line-upon-line, logical progression of other intermeshing doctrines. This we are currently in the process of doing.
THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS: We had thought and even stated in the first part of this study that we would explain the Rich Man and Lazarus in this concluding part. Regrettably, space precludes that for now.
CONCLUSION: It is a sad fact that the doctrines concerning the mortality of the soul and the true, Biblical meaning of hell which we have taught in this study is rarely found in professing Christendom today. With the rise of the Church of Rome in the early centuries after the apostles, the truth of God’s Word concerning the state of the dead was perverted in order to give the church hierarchy control over people.
After all, for most people it is not being dad that is so fearful, it is the pain often associated with passing through death’s door. Thus, if clergymen could persuade Christians that they, the clergy, had the power to determine if and how much pain you would suffer AFTER death; and for eternity!, well, that would be the penultimately effective tool to keep the dumb sheep in line during this life. And it worked superlatively for centuries, during the era now known quite appropriately as the Dark Ages.
But God’s truth on this subject began to break through the darkness at the time of the Reformation. Witness the words of just two of the reformers. Oh, that the words of Bible translator William Tyndale would once again reverberate in the pulpits of the churches and in the minds of Christians. “In putting departed souls in heaven, hell and purgatory you destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul strove to prove the resurrection...The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put THAT SOULS DID LIVE FOR EVER. And the Pope joineth the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshly doctrine of philosophers together; things so contrary that they cannot agree.”
Or let the colorful masterstrokes of words by Martin Luther become once again as well known as his hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our god. In Prop. 27, published in A.D. 1520, Luther wrote: “I permit the Pope to make articles of faith for himself and his faithful; such as...that the soul is immortal, with all those other monstrous opinions to be found in the Roman dunghill of decretals.”
But alas! The vast majority of Protestantism has now returned to the dunghill of Rome and re-entered the Dark Ages insofar as these two vital doctrines are concerned. Orthodoxy decrees the immortality of the soul and that hell is a place where the unsaved live in conscious and excruciating fiery flames for eternity. Luther and Tyndale and other Reformers would be labeled heretics today. Naturally, church hymnody reflects theology. Consequently, in many denominational hymnals, a popular hymn, The Solid Rock, has the words thus, which words are falsely credited to Edward Mote in 1832. Actually, Mote plagiarized the words originally written by Martin Luther, changing only one phrase.
Line 1). My hope is built on nothing less
2). Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
3). I dare not trust THE SWEETEST FRAME,
4). BUT WHOLLY LEAN ON JESUS’ NAME,
5). On Christ, the solid Rock I stand:
6). All other ground is sinking sand.
Luther’s original was identical, except that for lines 3 and 4, he had written:
3). I dare not trust THE SERPENT’S LIE
4). REGARDING IMMORTALITY.
With the return in the past few centuries of the Babylonian doctrine of eternal hell-fire and the immortal soul, Luther’s “heresy” had to be “cleaned up” in hymns or dropped into Orwell’s “memory hole.” But Luther was right. God had told Adam and Eve: if you sin, you will die. They sinned when they believed the lie of the adversary, the serpent, who said to them in effect: “You won’t REALLY die.” And maybe the adversary added: “...only your body dies, the real you; your soul, goes right on living.” Because of that sin, death and morality have passed down upon all of us. We are born mortal. We are born a-dying.
For those who want to continue to believe that great lie, the very first lie that caused the very first sin, then they ought to consider this. They are refusing the truth. They have not the love of the truth, and in 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11, God warns that for those who do not live the truth. God will send a great delusion that they might believe a lie. And so what do we have today? Apparently, we have a lot of people that do not have a love for the truth. They continue to flock to the multiple thousands of ministers who can supposedly prove that you don’t really die. For lack of space, we have not answered all the objections, or in as full of detail as we would have preferred, but we trust that what we have presented is ample evidence to persuade even the most doctrinal-cement-encrusted Christian to pursue this study further.
Those are enough examples of hell as translated from hades. You can look up the few other ones that we have skipped and thin you will be able to easily see the correct interpretation.
God’s Word declares consistently from Genesis to Revelation the truth that: yes, you really die. But the good news for believers is: you will live again; AT THE RESURRECTION. When one knows the Bible truth about death and hell and your moral soul, it is a very comforting message, but only because of the fact that our Savior died and rose again. We are comforted because we know that we will be like Him AT THE RESURRECTION. Thanks be to God for giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Ask yourself the following question: “If the wages or penalty for sin is burning in hell forever and Christ paid this penalty, why is He not burning in this hell, instead of being at the right hand of God? Common sense would tell us that the penalty could not be greater than the price paid for it.