Heaven or Hell?

I happened to turn to a talk radio program and the guest had just written a book. Apparently he had been diagnosed as being dead for more than an hour. He stated that he could personally confirm that there was no Hell. He said, in fact, that the Old or New Testament could not prove there was a Hell. I knew that was not true. He could believe whatever he wanted but the Bible could not be more clear in explaining what occurs once we die.

A recent survey stated that 10% of Americans did not believe there was life after death and 9% were not sure. It shouldn’t surprise us to know that there are thousands of false teachers who are continually trying to persuade those who have never studied the Bible that they are teaching the truth. But are they? The Bible states that when a person dies they will either go to Heaven or Hell. However, that has not always been the case.

We are told in I John 3:10 – “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” We know that to go to heaven we must be a child of God. We are told the children of the devil will go to Hell. One of my favorite verses! I John 3:24 – “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

In the Hebrew text Hell was called Sheol. When Sheol is translated into English it describes Hell or Hades. Sheol, a place where the dead exist – Proverbs 9:19 KJV, Sheol, a place for the wicked and those who forgot God – Psalms 9:18 KJV, A godly Jacob expected to go to Sheol – Gen. 44:29 – Amplified O.T., All men will go to Sheol, the realm of the dead – Psalm 89:48 Amplified O.T.

Prior to the resurrection of Christ, when a person died under the Old Covenant, both believers and non-believers went to Sheol (Hell or Hades). It was a temporary dwelling place for the soul. Luke describes a story that Jesus told in Luke 16:19 -26. The story concerned a rich man and Lazarus a beggar. They both died and went to Sheol. However, one went to Abraham’s bosom or Paradise and the other went to a “place of torment”. The rich man who was in agony saw Lazarus standing beside Abraham. He called out to Abraham and asked that he have pity on him and have Lazarus dip the tip of his finger in water and cool the rich man’s tongue. Abraham stated there was a great chasm between them and that he could not get to the place of torment from Paradise. Meaning once you are in the place of torment you could not cross over. Many believe the chasm between them was the Abyss or the Bottomless Pit where the most evil spirits are housed until the Antichrist will come.

When Christ was crucified He went from the cross to Sheol or Hell. Matthew 12:40 – “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Those who died under the Old Covenant could not enter Heaven because the sacrificed blood of animals could not forgive their sins. Sinners, not having been forgiven, could not enter the presence of God. Christ, taking the thief on the cross beside Him went to Paradise where God’s people were being held. All those who had been waiting temporarily in Paradise were forgiven of their sins by Christ and then ascended to Heaven. Acts 2:34 – “For David did not ascend to heaven” John 3:13 – “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.” Ephesians4:8 & 9 – “This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?” Paradise is no longer in Hell and the Old Testament saints were sent to Heaven by Christ. We believe Scripture says that Jesus descended into Hell to release those saints who were waiting to enter God’s presence. He then gave the gift of salvation to those still alive by grace through faith. After Pentecost those having received the Holy Spirit, at death, go to join those Old Testament saints in Heaven where Christ remains until His second coming.

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4 Comments

  1. davekessler

     /  June 15, 2009

    I have a disagreement with the statement that Christ went to Hell. The “heart of the earth” can literally translate “deep in the ground”. So this can simply refer to the grave where Jesus was buried.

    Yes, I do believe that when He died, He went to “Abraham’s Bosom” and essentially opened the gates of Heaven so that those who had died but were not destined for Hell could finally enter Heaven since Jesus’ death had finally paid their price for salvation.

    So while yes, Jesus went to let the saints in, there is no direct statement that He actually went into Hell that I am aware of. What would be the purpose of such a trip for Him?

    So I guess my main issue is relating Sheol and Hell as synonyms as this then can take your statement and say “When Christ was crucified He went from the cross to Hell” which is not what the Bible says.

    Reply
    • donaldboyd

       /  June 16, 2009

      Dave,
      We must agree that this is really a non-essential to eternal life. Whether Sheol is in the earth or not I can only go by what Scripture says. We know that Christ from the cross, with the thief, went to Paradise or Abraham’s bossom. My research shows that both Jewish and Christian theologians believe that Sheol included Paradise, the Abyss and the “Place of Torment”. Jesus tells the story of Lazarus. The rich man was able to see Abraham and Lazarus. Can we agree on Jesus’ story? What Scriptures are you using to refute Matthew 12:40, Ephesians 4:8 & 9, Psalms 9:18 KJV, Psalms 89:48 and Gen. 44:29 Amplified O.T.? Don P.S. Christ will go anywhere to rescue believers.

      Reply
  2. davekessler

     /  June 16, 2009

    Don,

    Yes, we both agree that this topic is non-essential to eternal life. The Cross is the only essential.

    In the story in Luke, it clearly defines 2 places, Abraham’s Bosom (or “side” depending on the translation) and Hades.

    If Sheol is the “waiting room” before judgement, then it would seem to reason that it is simply the land of the dead. When the text was translated from Hebrew to Greek, the Greek idea of Hades as being the “land of the dead” from Greek mythology seemed a natural fit. So in many of the Greek manuscripts, Sheol=Hades. Since in Revelation we see that Hades was tossed into the lake of fire (Hell) with all of those in Hades, the assumption of Sheol=Hell is made.

    However, as we see in Luke, there were 2 distinct places. So as you can see, I am not “refuting” any of those scriptures, just refuting the fact that Sheol=Hell.

    As Abraham says in the Lazarus story, those in Hades cannot cross over to Abraham’s Bosom.

    So I am simply saying that Sheol being the land of the dead with places for both believers and non-believers, Christ went to “free the saints” from their waiting in Abraham’s Bosom by opening the gates of Heaven for them.

    Matthew 12:40 – Jonah was physically in the whale for 3 days. Christ was physically in the grave for 3 days.

    Ephesians 4:8-9 – the statement of ascension is referring to Jesus first having to descend from Heaven to Earth.

    Psalms 9:17 – KJV translates Sheol as Hell here, but the word is also translated Grave an equal number of times. Many modern translations simply leave it as Sheol because of such debate. I find interesting that it says that the “wicked shall return to Sheol”. So if this translates to Hell, then did the wicked come from hell to begin?

    Genesis 89??? – sorry, my Bible has Genesis ending in chapter 50. So I am honestly not familiar with this one.

    Yes, Christ will go anywhere to rescue believers, but as Hebrews 9:27 tells us, man is destined to dies once and then be judged. So those in Hades are already dead, waiting for judgement day where they will be cast into Hell. There is no way for them at that point to come to Christ according to scripture.

    ——

    Also, know that I am simply engaging this as theological debate between Christians. On my mother’s side, I had a Lutheran upbringing (Southern Baptist on my Fathers side – talk about opposites!) and it always bugged me with “The Apostle’s Creed” when it said that Jesus descended into Hell.

    Come to find that it is again a matter of translation with some versions saying that he descended to hell where others say he descended to the dead.

    Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology) has a great quote on this:

    “unlike every other phrase in the Creed, it represents not some major doctrine on which all Christians agree, but rather a statement about which most Christians seem to disagree. It is at best confusing and in most cases misleading for modern Christians. My own judgment is that there would be all gain and no loss if it were dropped from the Creed once for all”

    Reply
    • donaldboyd

       /  June 17, 2009

      Dave,

      Thanks for pointing out my reply error. The original blog had the correct Scripture. In the future, I will take more time in replying. My original reply has been corrected. Don

      Reply

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