Friday, April 18, 2008

Hell, Hades, or Sheol?

There seems to be confusion over the presence of Hell in the Old Testament and how we may reconcile this doctrine in light of the New Testament. First, we must come to an understanding of particular terms that relate to where people go when they are dead. The first of these terms we come upon is Sheol. This word is used in the Old Testament to mean the place of the dead. What is interesting about Sheol is that we find in the Old Testament that both the righteous and the wicked were sent there (Genesis 37:35 [Jacob], Psalm 16:10 [David/Christ], Proverb 5:5 [Immoral Woman], Isaiah 38:10 [Hezekiah], Hosea 13:14 [Unrepentant Israel/Ephraim/Samaria]). This fact shows that Sheol is not Hell (Gehenna). Looking forward to the New Testament, we see the use of the terms Hell (Gehenna), Hades, Paradise, and Death. First, we will look at Hades. In Acts 2:25-28, we see the following:

“For David says concerning him [Christ], ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’”

The text here is a reference to Psalm 16:8-11 and uses the term Hades in the place of Sheol. This would mean that Hades in the New Testament serves the same function and is in fact the same as Sheol in the Old Testament. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 teaches us two things about Hades (Sheol). First, it reinforces the Old Testament teaching that it is the place of the dead. Second, verse 26 shows that while the righteous and the wicked are both sent there, a great chasm exists which separates one from the other. Reconciling the place of Lazarus (Abraham’s Bosom) with such verses as Ephesians 4:8-9,

“Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.' (In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.),”

and Luke 23:43,

“And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’,”

we find that Abraham’s Bosom is synonymous with Paradise. We also find that during His death, Christ’s physical body remained in Death (the tomb) while His soul descended into Hades (Paradise, but not Hell as Hades is not Gehenna). After the resurrection and with the Ascension of Christ, the souls of those in Paradise (Old & New Testament Saints from the Fall to the Ascension) were led out of their temporary captivity in Hades/Sheol to their eternal home in Heaven. From the Ascension of Christ, all the elect who died prior to the Ascension as well as all the elect who will have died prior to the rapture of the Church shall go directly to Heaven as Paradise in Hades/Sheol has been abolished. Additionally regarding the rapture, those souls who have died in Christ will be reunited with their physical bodies, while those who are alive in Christ shall be caught up with them and both shall be changed to glorified bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-55). What has not changed, however, is that those who die apart from Christ will still be sent to Hades.

So, why is it that Christians preach that those who die unregenerate shall go to Hell? First, Scripture teaches that Satan and his demons are destined to Hell (2 Peter 1:4, “Tartarus”). This Hell (Tartarus) is also referenced in Matthew 25:41 (eternal fire) and Mark 9:43-48 (Gehenna) as the destiny of unrepentant sinners. Viewing these verses, their similar punishments, and their similar occupants, we can conclude that Tartarus/Gehenna/Eternal Fire/Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20, 20:10) are all synonymous.

Finally, Revelation 20:14 shows that Death and Hades give up those who are in them (that is, both the physical bodies and souls of the wicked are eternally reunited) and that they are abolished by being cast into the Lake of Fire (Hell) along with the eternal damnation of the reprobate to Hell in the judgment known as the Second Death. Taking all these points into consideration, all the elect shall ultimately spend eternity in Heaven while all the reprobate shall ultimately spend eternity in Hell.

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