A Bible study from Faithbuilders
Requests for printed copies should be sent to: Faithbuilders Fellowship, 8060 Wing Span Drive, San Diego, CA 92119
OUR ANSWER to this question begins with consideration of an earnest petition to God by the prophet Job. This patient man wished to escape the personal effects of Satan's affliction. At the height of his agony, Job pleaded with the LORD: "O that thou wouldest hide me in sheol,...until thy wrath be past..." (Job 14:13 American Standard Version [ASV]). Sheol is a word in the Hebrew language, variously translated hell, grave and pit. All 31 appearances of the word 'hell' in the Old Testament King James version of the Bible are translated from sheol. This means that Job really asked to be hidden in hell!
Other significant uses of this important word must also be examined if one would really learn about hell. Perhaps you recall how the faithful patriarch Jacob feared that his grief and sorrow over the loss of his beloved son Joseph might hasten his death. What he said was that he would "go down into sheol [hell] unto my son mourning" (Gen. 37:35). And the prophet David foretold that Messiah would not be left in hell [sheol] (Psa. 16:10). On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter quoted from Psalm 16, and affirmed that its testimony, "Thou [God] wilt not leave my soul in hell [hades]...," was written of Jesus (Acts 2:25-30). That Psalm and Peter's quotation from it translated into Greek testify that the Hebrew word sheol, the Greek word hades, and the English word hell are all of the same meaning. Thus, Bible teaching is that at death not only the wicked, but also the righteous, are in hell.--Psa. 9:17, Prov. 7:27, 9:18, Isa. 14:15, Ezek. 31:17
This truth would be appreciated by more readers of the Bible if the KJV translators had used the same word to represent sheol each time it appears in the Hebrew manuscript. But they wrote 'grave' for sheol 31 times, often when reference was to faithful servants of God (four other Hebrew words are also translated grave); and they wrote 'pit' for sheol three times (nine other Hebrew words are also translated pit).
In an effort to eliminate such unjustified discrimination, the translation committee for the ASV Bible determined to leave sheol untranslated each of the 65 times it appears. That was in 1901, four years (1897) after Joseph Rotherham copyrighted The Emphasized Bible, which prints hades (the Greek equivalent) each time sheol appeared in the Hebrew manuscript.
Although Job did not fully understand God's plan to rescue mankind from death and its condemnation (Gen. 3:15 [Rom. 16:20], Gen. 12:3 [Gal. 3:8], Gen. 22:18), he prayed to God "...that thou 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 the work of thine hands" (Job 14:13-15). That affirmed his confidence in resurrection! Many other holy prophets of God also wrote of the coming time of blessing and resurrection.--Psa. 49:15, Isa. 65:9,17-19, Ezek. 16:53-55, Dan. 12:2,3, Hos. 13:14
And Jesus assured (in view of the sacrifice He was determined to complete) that all who die in Adam would at a future time "hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto a resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto a resurrection of judgment" (John 5:28,29 RSV) There is no justification for the word 'damnation' seen there in the KJV. The Greek word krisis means and has been translated 'judgment' in John 5:22,27,30 and in 38 other uses in the New Testament, and should be also in John 5:29, as it is in most translations. This promise of our Master is indeed good news when it is understood that in true judgment, a trial always precedes the sentence (the outcome of the trial). And when God's "judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."--Isaiah 26:9
The Biblical testimony regarding hades, only a portion of which is referred to in this folder, concludes in the book of Revelation. "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death" (Rev. 20:13,14). In this manner Jesus showed the awakening of all the dead that are in hell; and also the blessing of all under the condemnation of death but not yet dead; and as well the blessing of all those unable to find reasonable solutions to the perplexing issues of daily life which keep them in restless turmoil and discontent--those in "the sea." Specially note that death and hell are cast into the lake of fire after the dead which were in them shall have been delivered out of those states or conditions. What great cause for hope is that promise!
The "lake of fire" is one of many symbols used in the book of Revelation; it is not a literal place. It is a symbol of "the second death"...death from which there is no provision for an awakening (Rev. 20:14). "The second death" is in marked contrast to the universal death, which may be termed 'Adamic death', inherited from Adam by his entire human family. Adam died because of his wilful disobedience to God's specific instruction, and all share in Adam's dying life through the natural process of generation by procreation. "For as in Adam all die..." is the way the Apostle Paul expressed it in 1 Cor. 15:21. All descendants of Adam who die without having become members of God's faith family, "the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10), will have their full opportunity to come to righteousness of character and perfection of being tomorrow, through repentance and belief in Jesus. All such will have full freedom of choice to cooperate with God when his righteous principles are written in human hearts during the coming Earthly Kingdom Age. That will be their time of individual eternal judgment which Jesus promised in John 12:47,48. Mankind will be freed from the present influence and deception of Satan, the wily opponent of truth and righteousness. He will have been effectively imprisoned, bound, restrained, so as not to deceive.--Rev. 20:1-3
Jesus used gehenna as a symbol of utter destruction (Matt. 5:22,29, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15,33, Mark 9:43,45,47, Luke 12:5--see also James 3:6). It is of the same meaning as "the lake of fire" in Revelation, discussed above. The strongest use of gehenna is in the parallel accounts, Matt. 10:28 and Luke 12:5, where our Master emphasizes God's authority and power. While the Pharisees could persecute their enemies to the death, only God's judgment could prevent one from receiving an awakening from the dead, were their sins to be so totally wilful as to deserve the severest punishment.
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