The Hell of the Bible
Being Chapter 5 of the Book
The Wages of Sin is Death.—Rom. 6:23
VARIOUS VIEWS ON ETERNAL TORMENT AND HELL.—THEIR EFFECTS.—HELL AS AN ENGLISH WORD.—HELL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.—ALL TEXTS IN WHICH SHEOL IS TRANSLATED HELL.—ALL OTHER TEXTS WHERE SHEOL OCCURS.—RENDERED GRAVE AND PIT.—HELL IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.—HELL FROM THE GREEK WORD HADES.—CHRIST IN AND RESURRECTED FROM HELL—HADES.—OTHER OCCURRENCES OF THE WORD "HELL."—GEHENNA RENDERED HELL.—SHALL BE IN DANGER OF GEHENNA.—MATTHEW 5:22-30.—ABLE TO DESTROY BOTH SOUL AND BODY IN GEHENNA.—UNDYING WORMS AND QUENCHLESS FIRES.—MATTHEW 23:15, 32.—SET ON FIRE OF GEHENNA.—TARTAROO RENDERED HELL.—PARABLE OF THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS.—THE GREAT GULF TO BE BRIDGED.— PARABLE OF THE SHEEP AND THE GOATS.—THE FINAL ADJUSTMENT OF HUMAN AFFAIRS.— EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT.—"THE LAKE OF FIRE AND BRIMSTONE, WHICH IS THE SECOND DEATH.—REVELATION 21:8.—THE DEVIL, BEAST AND FALSE PROPHET TORMENTED.—TURNED INTO HELL.—DID THE JEWS BELIEVE IN ETERNAL TORMENT?—CHOOSE LIFE THAT YE MAY LIVE.—FORGIVABLE AND UNFORGIVABLE SINS.—FUTURE RETRIBUTION.—LET HONESTY AND TRUTH PREVAIL.
"To the Law and to the Testimony; if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no Light in them."—Isa. 8:20.
A CORRECT understanding of this subject has become almost a necessity to Christian steadfastness. For centuries it has been the teaching of "orthodoxy," of all shades, that God, before creating man, had created a great abyss of fire and terrors, capable of containing all the billions of the human family which He purposed to bring into being; that this abyss He had named "hell"; and that all of the promises and threatenings of the Bible were designed to deter as many as possible (a "little flock") from such wrong-doing as would make this awful place their perpetual home.
As knowledge increases and superstitions fade, this monstrous view of the Divine arrangement and character is losing its force; and thinking people cannot but disbelieve the legend, which used to he illustrated on the church walls in the highest degree of art and realism, samples of which are still to be seen in Europe. Some now claim that the place is literal, but the fire symbolic, etc., etc., while others repudiate the doctrine of "hell" in every sense and degree. While glad to see superstitions fall, and truer ideas of the great, wise, just and loving Creator prevail, we are alarmed to notice that the tendency with all who abandon this long-revered doctrine is toward doubt, skepticism, infidelity.
Why should this be the case, when the mind is merely being delivered from an error, do you ask? Because Christian people have so long been taught that the foundation for this awful blasphemy against God's character and government is deep-laid and firmly fixed in the Word of God—the Bible—and, consequently, to whatever degree that belief in "hell" is shaken, to that extent their faith in the Bible as the revelation of the true God is shaken also; so that those who have dropped their belief in a "hell" of some kind of endless torment, are often open infidels and scoffers at God's Word.
Guided by the Lord's providence to a realization that the Bible has been slandered, as well as its Divine Author, and that rightly understood it teaches nothing on this subject derogatory to God's character, nor to an intelligent reason, we will attempt to lay bare the Scripture teaching on this subject, that thereby faith in God and His Word may be re-established in the hearts of His people, on a better, a reasonable foundation. Indeed, it is our opinion that whoever shall hereby find that his false view rested upon human misconceptions and misinterpretations, will, at the same time, learn to trust hereafter less to his own and other men's imaginings, and by faith to grasp more firmly the Word of God, which is able to make wise unto salvation.
That the advocates of the doctrine of eternal torment have little or no faith in it is very manifest from the fact that it has no power over their course of action. While the denominations of Christendom sustain the doctrine that eternal torment and endless, hopeless despair will constitute the punishment of the wicked, they are mostly quite at ease in allowing the wicked to take their course, while they pursue the even tenor of their way. Chiming bells and pealing organs, artistic choirs and costly edifices, upholstered pews and polished oratory, which more and more avoid any reference to this alarming theme, afford rest and entertainment to fashionable congregations that gather on the Lord's day, and are known to the world as churches of Christ and representatives of His doctrines. But they seem little concerned about the eternal welfare of the multitudes, or even of themselves and their own families, though, one would naturally presume that with such awful possibilities in view they would be almost frantic in their efforts to rescue the perishing.
The plain inference is that they do not believe it. The only class of people that to any degree show their faith in it by their works is the Salvation Army; and these are the subjects of ridicule from almost all other Christians, because they are somewhat consistent with their belief. Yet their peculiar, and often absurd, methods, so strikingly in contrast with those of the Lord of whom it was written, "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street (Isa. 42:2), are very mild compared with what might be expected, if they were fully convinced of the doctrine. We cannot imagine how sincere believers of this terrible doctrine can peacefully go from day to day about the ordinary affairs of life, or meet quietly in elegance every Sunday to hear an essay from the pulpit on the peculiar subjects often advertised. Could they do so while really believing all the time that fellow mortals are dying at the rate of one hundred a minute, and entering
"That lone land of deep despair," where
"No God regards their bitter prayer"?
If they really believed this few saints could complacently sit there and think of those hurrying every moment into that awful state described by that good, well-meaning, but greatly deluded man, Isaac Watts (whose own heart was immeasurably warmer and larger than that which he ascribed to the great Jehovah), when he wrote the hymn—
"Tempests of angry fire shall roll
To blast the rebel worm,
And beat upon the naked soul
In one eternal storm."
People often become frantic with grief when friends have been caught in some terrible catastrophe, as a fire, or a wreck, though they know they will soon be relieved by death; yet they pretend to believe that God is less loving than themselves, and that He can look with indifference, if not with delight, at billions of His creatures enduring an eternity of torture far more terrible, which He prepares for them and prevents any escape from forever. Not only so, but they expect that they will get literally into Abraham's bosom, and will then look across the gulf and see and hear the agonies of the multitudes (some of whom they now love and weep over); and they imagine that they will be so changed, and become so like their present idea of God, so hardened against all pity, and so barren of love and sympathy, that they will delight in such a God and in such a plan.
It is wonderful that otherwise sensible men and women, who love their fellows, and who establish hospitals, orphanages, asylums, and societies for the prevention of cruelty even to the brute creation, are so unbalanced mentally that they can believe and subscribe to such a doctrine, and yet be so indifferent about investigating its authority!
Only one exception can we think of—those who hold the ultra-Calvinistic doctrine; who believe that God has decreed it thus, that all the efforts they could put forth could not alter the result with a single person; and that all the prayers they could offer would not change one iota of the awful plan they believe God has marked out for His and their eternal pleasure. These indeed could sit still, so far as effort for their fellows is concerned; but why sing the praises of such a scheme for the damnation of their neighbors whom God has told them to love as themselves?
Why not rather begin to doubt this "doctrine of devils," this blasphemy against the great God hatched in the "dark ages," when a crafty priesthood taught that it is right to do evil that good may result?
The doctrine of eternal torment was undoubtedly introduced by Papacy to induce pagans to join her and support her system. It flourished at the same time that "bull fights" and gladiatorial contests were the public amusements most enjoyed; when the Crusades were called "holy wars," and when men and women were called "heretics" and were often slaughtered for thinking or speaking contrary to the teachings of the Papacy; at a time when the Sun of Gospel Truth was obscure; when the Word of God had fallen into disuse and was prohibited to be read by any but the clergy, whose love of their neighbors was often shown in torturing "heretics" to induce them to recant and deny their faith and their Bibles—to save them, if possible, they explained, from the more awful future of "heretics"—eternal torture. They did not borrow this doctrine from the heathen, for no heathen people in the world have a doctrine so cruel, so fiendish and so unjust. Find it, whoever can, and show it up in all its blackness, that, if possible, it may be shown that the essence of barbarism, malice, hate and ungodliness has not been exclusively appropriated by those whom God has most highly favored with light from every quarter, and to whom He has committed the only oracle—His Word. Oh! the shame and confusion that will cover the faces of many, even good men, who verily thought that they did God service while propagating this blasphemous doctrine, when they awake in the resurrection to learn of the love and justice of God, and when they come to know that the Bible does not teach this God-dishonoring, love-extinguishing, truth-beclouding, saint-hindering, sinner-hardening, "damnable heresy" of eternal torment.—2 Pet. 2:1.
But we repeat that, in the light and moral development of this day, sensible people do not believe this doctrine. However, since they think that the Bible teaches it, every step they progress in real intelligence and brotherly kindness, which hinders belief in eternal torment, is in most cases a step away from God's Word, which is falsely accused of being the authority for this teaching. Hence the second crop of evil fruit, which the devil's engraftment of this error is producing, is skepticism. The intelligent, honest thinkers are thus driven from the Bible into vain philosophies and sciences, falsely so-called, and into infidelity. Nor do the "worldly" really believe this doctrine, nor is it a restraint to crime, for convicts and the lower classes are its firmest adherents.
But, says one, Has not the error done some good? Have not many been brought into the churches by the preaching of this doctrine in the past?
No error, we answer, ever did real good, but always harm. Those whom error brings into a church, and whom the truth would not move, are an injury to the church. The thousands terrorized, but not at heart converted, which this doctrine forced into Papacy, and which swelled her numbers and her wealth, diluted what little truth was held before, and mingled it with their unholy sentiments and errors so that, to meet the changed condition of things, the "clergy" found it needful to add error to error, and resorted to methods, forms, etc., not taught in the Scriptures and useless to the truly converted whom the Truth controls. Among these were pictures, images, beads, vestments, candles, grand cathedrals, altars, etc., to help the unconverted heathen to a form of godliness more nearly resembling their former heathen worship, but lacking the power of godliness.
The heathen were not benefited, for they were still heathen in God's sight, but deluded into aping what they did not understand or do from the heart. They were added "tares" to choke the "wheat," without being profited themselves. The Lord tells who sowed the seed of this enormous crop. (Matt. 13:39.) The same is true of those who assume the name "Christian" today, who are not really at heart converted by the truth, but merely frightened by the error, or allured by promised earthly advantages of a social or business kind. Such add nothing to the true Church; by their ideas and manners they become stumbling blocks to the truly consecrated, and by their inability to digest the truth, the real food of the saints, they lead even the few true pastors to defraud the true "sheep" in order to satisfy the demands of these "goats" for something pleasing to their unconverted tastes. No; in no way has this error accomplished good except in the sense that God is able to make even the wrath of man to praise Him. So also He will overrule this evil thing eventually to serve His purposes. When by and by all men (during the Millennium) shall come to see through this great deception by which Satan has blinded the world to God's true character, it will perhaps awaken in them a warmer, stronger love for God.
Seeing, then, the unreasonableness of man's view, let us lay aside human opinions and theories and come to the Word of God, the only authority on the subject, remembering that
"God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain."
In the first place bear in mind that the Old Testament Scriptures were written in the Hebrew language, and the New Testament in the Greek. The word "hell" is an English word sometimes selected by the translators of the English Bible to express the sense of the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek words hades, tartaroo and gehenna—sometimes rendered "grave" and "pit."
The word "hell" in old English usage, before Papal theologians picked it up and gave it a new and special significance to suit their own purposes, simply meant to conceal, to hide, to cover; hence the concealed, hidden or covered place. In old English literature records may be found of the helling of potatoes—putting potatoes into pits; and of the helling of a house—covering or thatching it. The word hell was therefore properly used synonymously with the words "grave" and "pit," to translate the words sheol and hades as signifying the secret or hidden condition of death. However, the same spirit which was willing to twist the word to terrorize the ignorant is willing still to perpetuate the error; almost saying, "Let us do evil that good may come."
If the translators of the Revised Version Bible had been thoroughly disentangled from the Papal error, and thoroughly honest, they would have done more to help the English student than merely substitute the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek word hades as they have done. They should have translated the words. But they were evidently afraid to tell the truth, and ashamed to tell the lie; and so gave us sheol and hades untranslated, and permitted the inference that these words mean the same as the word "hell" has become perverted to mean. Their course, while it for a time shields themselves, dishonors God and the Bible, which the common people still suppose teaches a "hell" of torment in the words sheol and hades. Yet any one can see that if it was proper to translate the word sheol thirty-one times "grave" and three times "pit," it could not have been improper to so translate it in every other instance.
A peculiarity to be observed in comparing these cases, as we will do shortly, is that in those texts where the torment idea would be an absurdity the translators of the King James Version have used the words "grave" or "pit'; while in all other cases they have used the word "hell"; and the reader, long schooled in the Papal idea of torment, reads the word "hell" and thinks of it as signifying a place of torment, instead of the grave, the hidden or covered place or condition. For example, compare Job 14:13 with Psa. 86:13. The former reads, "Oh, that Thou wouldst hide me in the grave [sheol], etc.," while the latter reads, "Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell [sheol]." The Hebrew word being the same in both cases, there is no reason why the same word "grave" should not be used in both. But how absurd it would have been for Job to pray to God to hide him in a hell of eternal torture! The English reader would have asked questions and the secret would have gotten out speedily.
While the translators of the Reformation times are somewhat excusable for their mental bias in this matter, as they were just breaking away from the old Papal system, our modern translators, specially those of the recent Revised Version, are not entitled to any such consideration. Theological professors and pastors of congregations consider that they are justified in following the course of the revisers in not explaining the meaning of either the Hebrew or Greek words sheol or hades and by their use of the words they also give their confiding flocks to understand that a place of torture, a lake of fire, is meant. While attributing to the ignorant only the best of motives, it is manifestly only duplicity and cowardice which induces educated men, who know the truth on this subject, to prefer to continue to teach the error inferentially.
But not all ministers know of the errors of the translators and deliberately cover and hide those errors from the people. Many, indeed, do not know of them, having merely accepted, without investigation, the theories of their seminary professors. It is the professors and learned ones who are most blameworthy. These have kept back the truth about "hell" for several reasons. First, there is evidently a sort of understanding or etiquette among them, that if they wish to maintain their standing in the "profession" they "must not tell tales out of school"; i.e., they must not divulge professional secrets to the "common people," the "laity." Second, they all fear that to let it be known that they have been teaching an unscriptural doctrine for years would break down the popular respect and reverence for the "clergy," the denominations and the theological schools, and unsettle confidence in their wisdom. And, oh, how much depends upon confidence and reverence for men, when God's Word is so generally ignored! Third, they know that many of the members of their sects are not constrained by "the love of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:14), but merely by the fear of hell, and they see clearly, therefore, that to let the truth be known now would soon cut loose the names and the dollars of many in their flocks; and this, to those who "desire to make a fair show in the flesh" (Gal. 6:12) would seem to be a great calamity.
But what will be the judgment of God, whose character and plan are traduced by the blasphemous doctrine which these untranslated words help to support? Will He commend these unfaithful servants? Will He justify their course? Will the Chief Shepherd call these His beloved friends, and make known to them His further plans (John 15:15) that they may misrepresent them also to preserve their own dignity and reverence? Will He continue to send forth "things new and old," "meat in due season," to the household of faith, by the hand of the unfaithful servants? No, such shall not continue to be His mouthpieces or to shepherd His flock. (Ezek. 34:9, 10.) He will choose instead, as at the First Advent, from among the laity—"the common people"—mouthpieces, and will give them words which none of the chief priests shall be able to gainsay or resist. (Luke 21:15.) And, as foretold, "the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid."—Isa. 29:9-19.
The word "hell" occurs thirty-one times in the Old Testament, and in every instance it is sheol in the Hebrew. It does not mean a lake of fire and brimstone, nor anything at all resembling that thought: not in the slightest degree! Quite the reverse: instead of a place of blazing fire it is described in the context as a state of "darkness" (Job 10:21); instead of a place where shrieks and groans are heard, it is described in the context as a place of "silence" (Psa. 115:17); instead of representing in any sense pain and suffering, or remorse, the context describes it as a place or condition of forgetfulness (Psa. 88:11, 12.) "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, in the grave [sheol] whither thou goest."—Eccles. 9:10.
The meaning of sheol is "the hidden state," as applied to man's condition in death, in and beyond which all is hidden, except to the eye of faith; hence, by proper and close association, the word was often used in the sense of grave — the tomb, the hidden place, or place beyond which only those who have the enlightened eye of the understanding can see resurrection, restitution of being. And be it particularly noted that this identical word sheol is translated "grave" thirty-one times and "pit" three times in our common version by the same translators—more times than it is translated "hell"; and twice, where it is translated "hell," it seemed so absurd, according to the present accepted meaning of the English word "hell," that scholars have felt it necessary to explain, in the margin of modern Bibles, that it means grave. (Isa. 14:9 and Jonah 2:2.) In the latter case, the hidden state, or grave, was the belly of the fish in which Jonah was buried alive, and from which he cried to God.
(1) Amos 9:2.—"Though they dig into hell, thence shall Mine hand take them." [A figurative expression; but certainly pits of the earth are the only hells men can dig into.]
(2) Psa. 16:10.—"Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption." [This refers to our Lord's three days in the tomb.—Acts 2:31; 3:15.]
(3, 4) Psa. 18:5 and 2 Sam. 22:6—margin.—"The cords of hell compassed me about." [A figure in which trouble is represented as hastening one to the tomb.]
(5) Psa. 55:15.—"Let them go down quick into hell"—margin, "the grave."
(6) Psa. 9:17.—"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." This text will be treated later, under a separate heading.
(7) Psa. 86:13.—"Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell"—margin, "the grave."
(8) Psa. 116:3.—"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me." [Sickness and trouble are the figurative hands of the grave to grasp us.]
(9) Psa. 139:8.—"If I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there." [God's power is unlimited: even over those in the tomb He can and will exert it and bring forth all that are in the graves.—John 5:28.]
(10) Deut. 32:22.—"For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn into the lowest hell." [A figurative representation of destruction, the utter ruin, of Israel as a nation—"wrath to the uttermost," as the Apostle called it, God's anger burning that nation to the "lowest deep," as Leeser here translates the word sheol.—1 Thess. 2:16.]
(11) Job 11:8.—"It [God's wisdom] is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell [than any pit]; what canst thou know?"
(12) Job 26:6. — "Hell [the tomb] is naked before Him, and destruction hath no covering."
(13) Prov. 5:5.—"Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell [i.e., lead to the grave]."
(14) Prov. 7:27.—"Her house is the way to hell [the grave], going down to the chambers of death."
(15) Prov. 9:18.—"He knoweth not that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell." [Here the harlot's guests are represented as dead, diseased or dying, and many of the victims of sensuality in premature graves from diseases which also hurry off their posterity to the tomb.]
(16) Prov. 15:11. — "Hell and destruction are before the Lord." [Here the grave is associated with destruction and not with a life of torment.]
(17) Prov. 15:24.—"The path of life [leadeth] upward for the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." [This illustrates the hope of resurrection from the tomb.]
(18) Prov. 23:14.—"Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell" [i.e., wise correction will save a child from vicious ways which lead to premature death, and may also possibly prepare him to escape the "Second Death."]
(19) Prov. 27:20. — "Hell [the grave] and destruction are never full: so the eyes of man are never satisfied."
(20) Isa. 5:14.—"Therefore hell hath enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure." [Here the grave is a symbol of destruction.]
(21, 22) Isa. 14:9, 15. — "Hell [margin, grave] from beneath is moved for thee, to meet thee at thy coming." … "Thou shall be brought down to hell." [the grave—so rendered in verse 11.]
(23) Isa. 57:9.—"And didst debase thyself even unto hell." [Here figurative of deep degradation.]
(24, 25) Ezek. 31:15-17.—"In the day when he went down to the grave, … I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit. … They also went down into hell with him, unto them that be slain with the sword." [Figurative and prophetic description of Babylon's fall into destruction, silence, the grave.]
(26) Ezek. 32:21.—"The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him." [A continuation of the same figure representing Egypt's overthrow as a nation to join Babylon in destruction—buried.]
(27) Ezek. 32:27.—"And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell with their weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads; but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, though they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living." [The grave is the only "hell" where fallen ones are buried and lie with their weapons of war under their heads.]
(28) Hab. 2:5.—"Who enlargeth his desire as hell [the grave] and as death, and cannot be satisfied."
(29) Jonah 2:1, 2.—"Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God, out of the fish's belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and He heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and Thou heardest my voice." [The belly of the fish was for a time his grave—see margin.]
(30, 31) Isa. 28:15-18.—"Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell [the grave] are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore, saith the Lord, … Your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell [the grave] shall not stand." [God thus declares that the prevalent idea, by which death and the grave are represented as friends, rather than enemies, shall cease; and men shall learn that death is the wages of sin, and that it is in Satan's power (Rom. 6:23; Heb. 2:14) and not an angel sent by God.]
Gen. 37:35. "I will go down into the grave unto my son."
Gen. 42:38.—"Then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave." [See also the same expression in 44:29, 31: The translators did not like to send God's servant, Jacob, to hell simply because his sons were evil.]
1 Sam. 2:6.—"The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up."
1 Kings 2:6, 9.—"Let not his hoar head go down to the grave with peace. … His hoar head bring Thou down to the grave with blood."
Job 7:9.—"He that goeth down to the grave."
Job 14:13.—"Oh, that Thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that Thou wouldst keep me secret until Thy wrath be past, that Thou wouldst appoint me a set time, and remember [resurrect] me!"
Job 17:13.—"If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness." [Job waits for resurrection—"in the morning."]
Job 17:16.—"They shall go down to the bars of the pit [grave], when our rest together is in the dust."
Job 21:13.—"They spend their days in mirth, and in a moment go down to the grave."
Job 24:19, 20.—"Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned." [All have sinned, hence "Death passed upon all men," and all go down to the grave. But all have been redeemed by "the precious blood of Christ"; hence all shall be awakened and come forth again in God's due time—"in the morning." Rom. 5:12, 18, 19.]
Psa. 6:5.—"In death there is no remembrance of Thee; in the grave who shall give Thee thanks?"
Psa. 30:3.—"O Lord, Thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit." [This passage expresses gratitude for recovery from danger of death.]
Psa. 31:17.—"Let the wicked be ashamed; let them be silent in the grave."
Psa. 49:14, 15, margin.—"Like sheep they are laid in the grave: death shall feed on them; and the upright [the saints—Dan. 7:27] shall have dominion over them in the morning [the Millennial Morning]; and their beauty shall consume, the grave being an habitation to every one of them. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave."
Psa. 88:3.—"My life draweth nigh unto the grave."
Psa. 89:48.—"Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?"
Psa. 141:7.—"Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth."
Prov. 1:12.—"Let us swallow them up alive as the grave: and whole, as those that go down into the pit" [i.e., as of an earthquake, as in Num. 16:30-33].
Prov. 30:15, 16.—"Four things say not, it is enough: the grave," etc.
Eccl. 9:10.—"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
Song of Solomon 8:6.—"Jealousy is cruel as the grave."
Isa. 14:11.—"Thy pomp is brought down to the grave."
Isa. 38:10.—"I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years."
Isa. 38:18.—"The grave cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth."
Num. 16:30-33.—"If … they go down quick into the pit, then shall ye understand. … 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."
Ezek. 31:15.—"In the day when he went down to the grave."
Hosea 13:14.—"I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction. Repentance shall be hid from Mine eyes." [The Lord did not ransom any from a place of fire and torment, for there is no such place; but He did ransom all mankind from the grave, from death, the penalty brought upon all by Adam's sin, as this verse declares.]
The above list includes every instance of the use of the English word "hell" and the Hebrew word sheol in the Old Testament. From this examination it must be evident to all readers that God's revelations for four thousand years contain not a single hint of a "hell," such as the word is now understood to signify.
In the New Testament, the Greek word hades corresponds exactly to the Hebrew word sheol. As proof see the quotations of the Apostles from the Old Testament, in which they render it hades. For instance, Acts 2:27, "Thou wilt not leave My soul in hades," is a quotation from Psa. 16:10, "Thou wilt not leave My soul in sheol." And in 1 Cor. 15:54, 55, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave [hades], where is thy victory?" is an allusion to Isa. 25:8: "He will swallow up death in victory," and to Hos. 13:14, "O death I will be thy plagues; O sheol, I will be thy destruction."
Matt. 11:23.—"And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell," Luke 10:15: "Shalt be thrust down to hell." [In privileges of knowledge and opportunity the city was highly favored or, figuratively, "exalted unto heaven"; but because of misuse of God's favors, it would be debased, or, figuratively, cast down to hades, overthrown, destroyed. It is now so thoroughly buried in oblivion, that even the site where it stood is a matter of dispute. Capernaum is certainly destroyed, thrust down to hades.]
Luke 16:23.—"In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments." [A parabolic figure explained further along, under a separate heading.]
Rev. 6:8.—"And behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him." [Symbol of destruction or the grave.]
Matt. 16:18.—"Upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." [Although bitter and relentless persecution, even unto death, should afflict the Church during the Gospel Age, it should never prevail to her utter extermination; and eventually, by her resurrection, accomplished by her Lord, the Church will prevail over hades — the tomb.]
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, … Peter … lifted up his voice and said, … Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, … being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God ['He was delivered for our offenses'], ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains [or bands] of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it [for the Word of Jehovah had previously declared His resurrection]; for David speaketh concerning Him [personating or speaking for Him], 'I [Christ] foresaw the Lord [Jehovah] always before My face; for He is on My right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore did My heart rejoice, and My tongue was glad; moreover also My flesh shall rest in hope, because Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell [hades, the tomb, the state of death], neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou [Jehovah] hast made known to Me [Christ] the ways of life.'" (Acts 2:1, 14, 22-31.) Here our Lord, as personified by the prophet David, expresses His faith in Jehovah's promise of a resurrection and in the full and glorious accomplishment of Jehovah's Plan through Him, and rejoices in the prospect.
St. Peter then proceeds, saying—"Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day [so that this prophecy could not have referred to himself personally; for David's soul was left in "hell"—[hades], the tomb, the state of death—and his flesh did see corruption]: Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he, seeing this before [prophetically], spake of the resurrection of Christ [out of "hell" — hades, the tomb — to which He must go for our offenses], that His soul was not left in hell [hades—the death state], neither His flesh did see corruption." Thus St. Peter presents a strong, logical argument based on the words of the prophet David—showing first, that Christ, who was delivered by God for our offenses, went to "hell," the grave, the condition of death, destruction (Psa. 16:10); and, second, that according to promise He had been delivered from hell, the grave, death, destruction, by a resurrection—a raising up to life; being created again, the same identical being, yet more glorious and exalted even to "the express image of the Father's person." (Heb. 1:3.) And now "this same Jesus" (Acts 2:36), in His subsequent revelation to the Church, declares—
Rev. 1:18.—"I am He that liveth and was dead, and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell [hades, the grave] and of death."
Amen! Amen! our hearts respond; for in His resurrection we see the glorious outcome of the whole Plan of Jehovah to be accomplished through the power of the Resurrected One who now holds the keys of the tomb and of death and in due time will release all the prisoners who are, therefore, called the "prisoners of hope." (Zech. 9:12; Luke 4:18.) No craft or cunning can by any possible device wrest these Scriptures entire and pervert them to the support of that monstrous and blasphemous Papal tradition of eternal torment. Had that been our penalty, Christ, to be our vicarious sacrifice, must still, and to all eternity, endure such torment, which no one will claim. But death was our penalty, and "Christ died for our sins," and "also for the sins of the whole world."—1 Cor. 15:3; 1 John 2:2.
Rev. 20:13, 14.—"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged, every man, according to their works. And death and hell [the grave] were cast into the lake of fire: this is the Second Death." ["The lake of fire" is the symbol of final and everlasting destruction. Death and hell [the grave] both go into it. There shall be no more death; "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."—1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:4.]
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