Question #1: Is the eternal punishment in Hell an eternity of physical torment with torture and a real literal physical fire? Or is it an eternity of mental torment with a symbolic fire? Or is it both?
Luke 16:23: And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
Could this be symbolic?
Response #1: Every place where the eternal state of unbelievers is discussed, the matter seems to be put in as straightforward a fashion as possible. I don't find any symbolism in this or in any other such passages (although the Luke passage is talking about the pre-judgment state of unbelievers which, while terrible, is not as bad as the lake of fire will be). It seems to me that eternal judgment even if it were being described symbolically (and I don't see how any of the passages that discuss it can be made into such) would still have to be painful. And if it is painful, what is the distinction? If the fire is a symbol of pain, then there will pain whether or not the fire is a symbol. So this is sort of circular: torment is torment. I don't see any need or reason to take these scriptures in anything but the straightforward way they offer themselves. I do think it is very dangerous to assume or to suggest or to teach that somehow "hell doesn't really exist" or "hell isn't really hell" or "hell isn't really so bad", and that is going to be the effect if not the purpose of an unjustified symbolic interpretation. All that does is give false comfort to those who may be headed in that direction. Believe me, those who reject God don't need any additional encouragement. Generally speaking, they have already blotted out the truth He has bestowed upon them through universal natural revelation (where the idea of a just God who will call them to account is a truth that once was clear to them from contemplating life and the universe). Removing eternal condemnation from their path in any respect and to any degree only lessens the chance, however slim, that they might some day turn to Him. Fire is scary. If we reduce what the scriptures say to "mental only" torment, most people will assume that it'll be tolerable, when that is exactly the opposite of what the scriptures teach.
We all have a "portion" in eternity. For believers, we all have a share in Jesus Christ and a place in the New Jerusalem forever, and eternal portion of blessing analogous to but exceeding in blessing to a degree yet unimaginable the portion each Israelite received on reaching the promised land. But for unbelievers, those who rejected God's offer of eternal life while yet in this life, their portion is in the lake of fire.
(7) The one who conquers (i.e., maintains the victory of faith to the end of life: 1Jn.5:4) will inherit these things (i.e., the blessings of the New Jerusalem), and I will be His God and he himself will be my son. (8) But as for the cowardly and unbelieving and foul and murderers and the sexually immoral and those involved in the occult and idolaters and all those who are liars (i.e., all who for a variety of reasons rejected Christ) – their portion (i.e., "inheritance") will be in the lake burning with fire and sulfur which is the Second Death.
For a complete treatment of these issues please see the following links:
The Last Judgment
The Lake of Fire
I have been told that death in the bible refers to separation (Rom 6:2,11,23; 7:4,8,9,11; 8:35; Gal. 2:19; Eph 2:1,5).", But a brother in christ believes that the second death is annihilation. He said:
The following is a list of these verses:
ROM 6:2 uses apothnesko
ROM 6:11 uses nekros
ROM 6:23 says thantos and it says it is the wage of sin
ROM 7:4 uses nekros
ROM 7:8 uses nekros
ROM 7:9 uses apothnesko
ROM 7:11 uses apokteino
ROM 8:35 doesn't contain any word about death
GAL 2:19 uses apothnesko
EPH 2:1 uses nekros
EPH 2:5 uses nekros
The only verse out of those examples that uses the same word for death "thanatos" is Rom 6:23 which seems to say that the second death is real.
On what statement do some base that the 2nd death is not actually death. The word used here is "thanatos" - death. It would indicate to me that the first death is the death of the body- the 2nd death is of the soul. If we say all unbelievers will burn forever then judging them according to their works would be moot and saying they suffer a 2nd death moot as well? The Bible clearly says that satan and his followers will be tormented forever - they won't suffer the second death. It also explicitly states that the saved will never suffer the second death. Only those from hell are judged according to their works and then cast with hell into the lake of fire to suffer the second death."
Our God is a just God and I don't believe he would hand out the same punshment for everyone. Do you?"
What do you think?
The list given is an apples and oranges comparison. The word nekros means "dead" – it is an adjective; the word apothnesko means "die" – it is a verb; the word thanatos is the only word in this list meaning "death" per se – it is a noun. To base an argument on different vocabulary may have some merit, depending upon how it is done, but failing to see that these are all different parts of speech invalidates any argument which fails to take these important distinctions into account. Further, all the words for death and the dead and dying as used in the Greek New Testament are conventional Greek words used for at least a thousand years by the time of the writing of the New Testament – and it would have been quite a shock to the millions of secular Greeks that used them that death somehow didn't really refer to literal death as their primary meaning. My point is that there is no way that the vocabulary would ever support a thesis of annihilation of the person after death. This is a theological question and has to stand or fall on what the Bible actually has to say about the state of unbelievers after death.
Secondly, the word used in Revelation 20 for death is (effectively by the time of writing of the NT especially) the only word for death (i.e., the noun form): thanatos. And it is always, in the NT, the word used for death (used nearly 100 times in the NT). So despite what the list tries to imply, this is not some "unique" word for death but rather is the word that the man on the street in the first century A.D. would use for death irrespective of the Bible.
Thirdly, while death is used in a variety of ways in the NT (see the link: in BB 3B "The three aspects of death"), nevertheless, all of them are real. Death is always "real", whether it is spiritual death, physical death, or eternal death. I suppose this person's argument is that since physical death is "real" in the sense that the corpse is lifeless, therefore eternal death ought to resemble that state. This ignores the fact that "lifelessness" from God's perspective is quite different from what secular human viewpoint would think. Unbelievers are "dead" to God even though they have breath in their physical bodies (spiritual death). Leaving this aside, however, beyond all argument an unbeliever is "dead" even by this person's definition, when they die physically. And yet, "dead" as they are, "really dead" by this definition, yet in this "dead" state they still are conscious in Torments (cf. the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:9-31), and they will still be able to appear before the Lord at the last judgment to be judged according to their deeds (Matt.25:31-46; Rev.20:11-15). Now if while they are really and truly physically dead they even now experience torments, and on that last day will be able to see and hear the Lord and be judged for their lives to be shown how their deeds were not sufficient for salvation absent faith in Christ, on what basis can we say that when they are cast into the lake of fire they will not "really" be experiencing the second death, even though they are likewise conscious at that point? In fact, if they were annihilated when cast into the lake of fire, this wouldn't be much of a punishment, since they would be unaware of any further suffering, having been annihilated. Whereas scripture is very clear about the continuation of the suffering for those excluded from the kingdom and instead thrust out into the darkness of the lake of fire, where the weeping and gnashing of teeth last for all eternity – it is "eternal punishment" (Matt.25:46):
But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into
the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of
Matthew 8:12 NIV
They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will
be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:42 NIV
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will
come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them
into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing
Matthew 13:49-50 NIV
"Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot,
and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be
weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Matthew 22:13 NIV
He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the
hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:51 NIV
And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness,
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Matthew 25:30 NIV
Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you
who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and
his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I
was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger
and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not
clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after
me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry
or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in
prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the
truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these,
you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal
punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Matthew 25:41-46 NIV
"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you
see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom
of God, but you yourselves thrown out.
Luke 13:28 NIV
But as for the cowardly and unbelieving and foul and murderers
and the sexually immoral and those involved in the occult and
idolaters and all those who are liars (i.e., all who for a
variety of reasons rejected Christ) –
(i.e., "inheritance") will be in the lake burning with
fire and sulfur which is the Second Death.
The notion of oblivion has in fact been a (false) comfort to many unbelievers in the history of the world often via a variety of philosophies and false religions. But it is a myth. Dying after rejecting Jesus, whether actively or passively, is a horrible thing to contemplate, because there will be no "peace in the grave" for such individuals: rather, like the devil whose example they are following, they will have all eternity to contemplate the folly of their decision (see the link: "Three questions in Isaiah: #3: 'Please explain the meaning of "their worm" in Isaiah 66:24'".
"For just as the new heavens and new earth which I am about
to make are going to continue before Me", says the Lord, "so
your seed and its name will continue. And it will come to pass
that from month to month and from Sabbath to Sabbath all flesh
will come to worship before Me", says the Lord. "And they will
go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who rebelled
against Me, for their worm will not die and their fire
will not be quenched and they will be abhorrent to all flesh".
In the One in whom we have been saved from that wrath to come, the One with whom we shall blissfully enjoy the New Jerusalem forever, or Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
I forwarded your response and received this:
"Again, the Bible specifically states that satan and his will burn forever. It specifically states the unbeliever will be judged and then cast with hell and death into the lake of fire and suffer the second death. It specifically states death will no longer exist. Since they are judged first and then cast in they could burn for a day or week depending on the sentence based on their works. By your reading they all get the same punishment for different works. Perhaps you think for your whole being to burn for a week is trivial - I am sure at some point you have at least burned just a small part of a fingertip - think about it. We, as the saved, are offered eternal life, the unbeliever is not. Hell, like death, according to Scritpure will cease with the second death. Please show me Scritpure.
Also, regarding the grammar lesson is quite wrong. All of the following are translated as dead and yes I can give Scripture - not opinion:
A strengthened form of a simpler primary word
θάνω thanō (which is
used for it only in certain tenses); to die (literally
or figuratively): - be dead, die.
From a presumed derivative of G5055; to finish life
(by implication of G979), that is, expire (demise): -
be dead, decease, die.
From an apparently primary word
νέκυς nekus (a corpse);
dead (literally or figuratively; also as noun): -
From G575 and G2348; to die off (literally or
figuratively): - be dead, death, die, lie a-dying, be
slain (X with).
You need to study hermeneutics. I'll keep it simple for you - by your reasoning death is not death. Did Jesus die for us or just seperate? Read John 3:16. Does perish mean to live forever. Words can and often do mean just what they say. Consider:
Mal 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. Hmm . . . does this just mean seperation???
And your "eternal" fire, hmm . . .
Jud 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
2Pe 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly;
hmm . . seems to me the example burns til it doesn't exist . . . if they are still burning let me know where they are - people have been trying to find them for a long time. Please do not respond unless you are quoting Scripture relevant to the discussion. The bible uses a very clear set of words to describe eternity. That phrase is used extensively to describe God (about twenty times). It is also used in Revelations to describe the punishment of satan and his followers (three times) and once to describe us - the saved. This phrase is used over a dozen times in Revelation alone and it is never used regarding the unbelievers and/or hell. This is the same author, in the same book, we are discussing. People will use Daniel 12:2 and Matthew 25:46 to prove eternal punishment. Regarding the verse from Daniel - it says their shame and contempt are eternal - not them. By way of analogy, Hilter will always be held in shame and contempt but he is dead. Regarding Matthew, the punishment is indeed eternal - they cease to exist - never to rise again. Notice that the unbeliever is punished, where as Scripture says satan and his are tormented. As Jesus says in John 3:16 they (unbelievers) perish - apollumi - (Strong's - From G575 and the base of G3639; to destroy fully ) This punishment, as you correctly state, is aionios. Aionios is the plural of aion - which means age. The punishment will last the ages - they are not going to rise again, and we - the saved - will be alive for ages. The Bible, especially in REV - which is the book and author under discussion, has a very clear wording sequence when describing eternity - age to age - aion to aion. The author of REV also states that there will be no more death (REV21:4). If this author means, as you say, seperation from God, then it would mean that no one could still be alive in the lake of fire (which we know is not true because we know satan and his will burn forever). I believe he means just what he says - death is death. Either way this verse would refute anyone being alive in hell."
"I can only point out that as is indicated for the verses you gave they selected lost as the best word whereas when quoting Jesus regarding John 3:16 the word perish was selected. I think we both know that in translation many words can carry different meanings because of the limtations of dissimilar languages. If we are to trust the translation then it clearly carries a much stronger connotation in John. Also note that the comparitive nature of the verse implies opposite results for opposing believes - Belief = life verses no belief = no life. IMHO"
Translations of scripture are useful tools, especially for those who do not know the original languages, but they must be understood grammatically and in terms of their actual use of language even in English in order to get any benefit out of them when it comes to careful analysis of this sort. Grammar is very important – otherwise we do not necessarily understand the particulars of the language as they are being used. To take the last part of this latest e-mail first and quickly, the word apollumi is also a verb, not a noun, and so falls into the same category of an "apples to oranges comparison". In the first e-mail, the analysis of the "specific words" is taken from a concordance – looks to be Strong's. Not a bad tool, but no substitute for the original Greek New Testament. Anyone with a solid grounding in English grammar understands that there is a big difference between a noun and a verb. The fact that Strong's lists different translations used for a word in the KJV has nothing to do with "the price of tea in China". That is because every translation of every Bible verse is an attempt to fit an English meaning into a Greek context (or Hebrew). Take away the context, and you take away the significance of the particular English translation. What I mean, put as directly as I can put it, is the mere fact that Strong's lists a possibility for translation does not mean that translation is capable of being fit into every place where the Greek word occurs. For example, Strong's lists "fame" as one possibility for the Greek word logos, and in rare circumstances that would be an acceptable translation. But that does not in any way give us the right to translate John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Fame." Simply put, there is just no substitute for actually knowing the language.
As stated before, the word for death in Greek is thanatos – none of these other words mean "death". Now, for example, there are words such as apokteino, a verb, which means "kill" but this one is sometimes translated "put to death". Because English is permitted to use a paraphrase verb-noun combination which includes the word "death" to translate this Greek verb (e.g., "put-to-death") does not make this verb a noun. That is because it cannot mean "death" on its own. The other examples given suffer from the same fatal grammatical/logical flaw and need not be discussed in detail for that reason.
Secondly, as pointed out before, "death" and "dead" are used in a number of ways in scripture. To take but a few examples. Jesus tells the reluctant follower in Matthew 8:22 to "let the dead bury their dead" – if the former were physically dead they would be unable to comply. In Luke 15:24 the prodigal son "was dead, but now is alive" – since he was never physically death this must be referring to spiritual death. And in Acts 10:42, Jesus is the Judge of the living and the dead – but these physically dead have to have consciousness and some corporeality in order to be judged, even while dead. The link provided previously ("The Three Aspects of Death") discusses this issue at great length, and one can find this sort of discussion in any standard evangelical systematic theology (i.e., not only is this position not unique to my teaching, but I know of no orthodox evangelical systematic theology that does not teach such a distinction in the biblical types of death).
Finally, the essence of the entire argument of "annihilation" here really rests on the claim that because Revelation 21:4 says "there will be no more death", that therefore unbelievers face obliteration. Now, being fair, it is very difficult to see the logic of this in the first place, let alone understand how one would ever come to the conclusion just from this scripture that such a state of affairs is necessarily and incontrovertibly the case. Far to the contrary, the statement in Revelation 21:4 is in fact made in the context of the believer's eternal future, and while it is thus certainly true that believers will never be subject to death again after the resurrection, for "the last enemy that shall be done away with is death" (1Cor.15:26), it is nowhere even implied that this has anything to do with the future of the unbeliever. What both of these verses clearly refer to is the everlasting life that we believers will possess with Jesus forevermore without even bringing the status of unbelievers into the picture.
In short, there is simply no scriptural evidence that even suggests that unbelievers will be obliterated, whereas the verses provided in the previous e-mail show quite clearly that their suffering is eternal. For in fact, we know from Jesus Himself that "their worm never dies" (Mk.9:48) that the fire is "eternal" and "never quenched" (Matt.25:41; Mk.9:48), that their punishment is "eternal" (Matt.25:46), that they will wail and gnash their teeth forever (Matt.8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; 13:28). Now since the lake of fire lasts forever (compare Matt.25:41 with Rev.19:20 and 20:10), and since the second death is the lake of fire (Rev.20:14: 21:8), then by necessity this particular "second death" will last forever for unbelievers, even as physical death has been abolished for believers. I see no validity in an argument that seeks to require a just God to vary punishment, because the crime is the same for all fallen angels and all unbelieving human beings: rejection of God's mercy in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. So to conclude, it would be well to consider two individuals who are not angels and who are very specifically said to face eternal torment in the lake of fire, namely the beast and the false prophet:
And the devil who was deceiving them was thrown into the lake
of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet also
are, and they will be tormented day and night forevermore.
And the same is true for all who chose to follow them and their master the devil by receiving the mark of the beast:
If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his
mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink of the
wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the
cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur
in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the
smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest
day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or
for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls
for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's
commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.
Revelation 14:9-12 NIV
In the blessed knowledge that in Jesus Christ we will never experience such a thing!
The same guy who believes that souls will be completely destroyed and quoted the same passages to prove it said:
"Please show me just 1 verse which says - not implies - an unbeliever is changed, puts on the immortal, or puts on the incorruptible.
Jud 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
2Pe 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly; hmm...seems to me the example burns until it doesn't exist...if they are still burning let me know where are they - people have been trying to find them for a long time."
I'm not sure how to reconcile the eternal fire (punishment) of Jude 1:7 with Sodom and Gomorrah no longer burning. Thanks in advance!
The "judgment of eternal fire" is future, not past. The KJV, as is often the case, is deliberately ambiguous here, saying "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire", but it would better to translate "going to be suffering . . .". The verb form here, hypechousi, is in the present tense. It definitely does not mean (and in the context almost certainly cannot mean) "having suffered" (for one thing, the best ms., Sinaiticus, has an indicative rather than a participle, but none of the mss. suggest an aorist which would be required for the meaning your correspondent is trying to induce). But "suffering" doesn't work either, for either interpretation. What we have here is an incipient future use of the present, not unheard of in Classical Greek but more common in the NT (it is essentially a Hebraism as Jude is unconsciously mixing Hebrew syntax, where this happens with the basic present forms all the time, to his Greek, where it is somewhat less common in "good" Classical Greek). To make a long story short, it is more difficult in the canons of NT Greek to make this verb look backward than it is to have it look forward (and that is equally true if one prefers to read a participle here). That is also what fits into the context we have here as well.
In its context, Jude 1:7 is referring both to the judgment on the fallen angels (as the point to be explained) and to the judgment of the unbelieving human beings of Sodom and Gomorrah (to whom these fallen angels are compared). Both will undergo a judgment of eternal fire (i.e., the lake of fire); the unbelievers are already in torments; the fallen angels involved in the Genesis 6 attempt to destroy true humanity are in Tartarus (2Pet.2:4). Neither are yet in the lake of fire but all will end up there – that is why the "judgment of fire" described in Jude 1:7 is "eternal". Notice it is to that future judgment of fire, the lake of fire, that the verse refers, not primarily to the fire and brimstone rained down on those towns – because, obviously, that did not affect the fallen angels at all who are the primary subject of Jude's discussion here (Sodom and Gomorrah are an illustration). Note also that in Jude 1:6 these fallen angels are being "reserved" for the future judgment (exactly as Matthew 25 and Revelation 20 teach; cf. 2Pet.2:4). And after all, Jude 1:7 does say "eternal fire". If words in the Bible mean anything, this would have to mean what it says – forever. Whatever other contradictions of logic someone may think they have found (and I don't see them here for the reason advanced above – the translation is confusing because the Greek is not simple), that does not allow the negation of clear statements such as this, at least not according to any orthodox hermeneutic system of which I am aware.
2nd Peter 2:6 would also benefit from a better translation than the KJV provides – not that it is out and out wrong, but the opening phrase is also misleadingly translated in that it admits of an interpretation which equates the "turning into ashes" with the fact that the Lord "condemned" them. In fact, the aorist participle of tephroo has antecedent action (as usual with aorist circumstantial participles of this sort), so that a more literal translation would be "having turned them into ashes, He condemned them". The destruction comes first, then the condemnation – to be carried out in full at some later point. No doubt the two are related in one sense (there has been a temporal judgment), but the eternal condemnation of the inhabitants is a separate thing, and that judgment along with its eternal manifestation has not yet occurred.
Thus I see not a sliver of contradiction here. The Bible is consistent throughout on this subject, and that explains why you will be unable to find many (if any – I know of none) serious theologians in the history of the Church who subscribe to the annihilation theory. That is a significant point in that on almost every other subject there is less than unanimity in traditional theology (to say the least).
This is his response to your email, and It seems a bit confusing. Here it is:
"First I will say I noticed that Mal 4:1 was not addressed - .Second, in the break down of Jude you start by saying it can't be past tense because the verb is present tense, then you say Jude really meant something in the future he just couldn't write good enough to say it right. Third, In context he is warning others not to digress from the right path. He clearly says the fallen angels have a future punishment in 1:6 and then "gives as an example" of what happened to a group of folks who had strayed in the past. Why not read it like he says- he says Sodom was an example. Period. It's called exegetical fallacy - assigning symbolism to make text fit theology. Consider 2Co 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. The simple meaning need not be made difficult to fit theology.
To continue consider the following:
1Ti 6:15 Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;
1Ti 6:16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting.. Amen.
Only God is the only immortal right now. The rest of us, the saved, don't become immortal until we are changed. Hence, while the unbelievers soul is resurrected, he is not changed - given immortality.
Mar 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Mar 8:37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
If the condemned do not die how have the lost their soul?
Rom 2:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life:
By your reasoning all are eternal without doing anything. If the condemned do not die they have eternal life.
1Co 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
The unbeliever is and will remain corrupt without the blood of Christ.
1Co 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
1Co 15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
This clearly refers to us, the saved. Note it say corruptible - not corrupted - we are clean by the blood of Christ. The unbeliever is not.
2Ti 1:10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
Immortality is brought by the gospel. Unbelievers do not "get" the gospel."
"Mat 12:31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
Blasphemy the Ghost: Some hold that this means to attribute the works of God to satan. Others hold that it also means to attribute the works of satan to God. Still others even more. (refer to the excerpts from some of the commentaries below)
Notice that in both halves of the verse that unto men is at the very end. Matthew could have left that off and still conveyed the meaning to men. Satan and his angels go beyond merely claiming his works are of God, he claims to be above God and His angels profess him as such. Those that receive the mark of the beast do this as well by receiving the mark. It is unforgivable.
The "average" unbeliever that will be condemned to hell and then die the second death does not commit the unpardonable sin and thus are not "tormented" forever and ever, but are instead sent to hell, then judged according to their works, then with hell and death are cast into the lake of fire to suffer the second death and be no more.
More things to consider (remember since the "age of grace" one must accept Christ to be saved):
Would you say a toddler has a soul? Yes If that soul dies as a toddler, by your reasoning, that toddler will burn for eternity. The toddler is an unrepentant unbeliever. Is that the act of a just God? Since the toddler wasn't "real bad" does that mean it will just have a bad sunburn - forever!?!
Did American Indians in the 1400's have souls. Yes By your reasoning, those Indians will burn for eternity. The Indians were unrepentant unbelievers. Since they had no knowledge of the Gospel (that we know of) does that mean they just get a first/second degree burn - forever!?!"
What do you think? Thanks in advance!
None of these passages or arguments even suggests, let alone proves, the theory of annihilation. This person continues to base his theory on the spin he wishes to impart to certain English words. For example, "immortality" is what believers have, not unbelievers, and we should hardly equate being conscious forever in the lake of fire "immortality" (the Bible doesn't) or take scripture to task because it doesn't express things in the terms we might prefer. Indeed, the whole point of the punishment of being in the lake of fire is that it is "death", specifically, the "second death"; but that it lasts forever and that the experience of it last forever, scripture makes clear.
In the interest of time, we'll take a look at Malachi 4:1 as an example (since he makes a special point of it). That passage clearly refers to the destruction of the unbelieving followers of antichrist at our Lord's return. Many if not all of the other passages adduced in support of this theory are likewise referring to the physical deaths of the wicked. But to assume that because a person is physically put to death by the Lord that ipso facto they will undergo annihilation in eternity is missing half a dozen or so logical steps. There is certainly nothing which prevents our Lord blasting antichrist's followers off the earth at the Second Advent, throwing them into torments, and then judging them with all the other unbelievers at the end of time.
The explanation given in my last e-mail of Jude 1:7 is lucid enough for someone with a rudimentary grasp of English grammar to understand, but it is clear from what was said that it was not read carefully. I stand by it.
Once again, the Bible is really very clear on this subject, as virtually everyone who has a genuine regard for scripture has concluded:
1) The lake of fire lasts forever (compare Matt.25:41 with Rev.19:20 and 20:10).
2) The second death is the lake of fire (Rev.20:14: 21:8).
3) Therefore the "second death" will last forever.
All this I have said before, two or three times in one way or another, but without what I would deem a responsive answer. So unless and until the previous e-mail is adequately addressed, I am unwilling to follow down this rabbit hole any further (since it is leading nowhere). I certainly don't lay this at your feet, but at this point on this particular exchange I have to advise you that it is my policy not to continue to respond to disputants like your friend when their discourse reaches the point of unresponsiveness or lack of civility – otherwise I would be doing little else with my time than talking to people who are really not even interested in listening.
Finally, this person has introduced a number of additional and quite extraneous arguments into the mix in his last e-mail. These are neither here nor there for the purposes of our present discussion, however, for your benefit, here are some links in case you would like to get some biblical answers on any of them.
On the subject of "soul" (not a separate "organ" and not capable of being "lost") versus spirit, please see the link: in BB 3A "The Human Spirit"
On the subject of unbelievers who may or may not have received the gospel, see the link: "What about those who never heard of Christ?"
On the subject of infant salvation, see the link: "Are the children of unbelievers lost?"
On the subject of the unforgivable/unpardonable sin, please see the links:
Have I committed the unforgivable sin?
What is the unpardonable sin?
In BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"
Thanks for your studies. Concerning what happens after death - why does the Bible say (after Christ's death) that David was still in the grave? You said all go to heaven or hell after death (after Christ's death and resurrection). Please see below concerning this, and please read this tract:
The word hell is "derived from the Saxon helan, to cover; hence the covered or the invisible place." (Revised Easton's Bible Dictionary) Hell means to cover, or hide.
In the King James Version of the Old Testament, originally written in Hebrew, there is only one word that was translated "hell." This Hebrew word is Sheol, and is used a total of sixty-five times. Sheol is translated "hell" thirty-one times, "grave" thirty-one times, and "pit" three times.
The prevailing idea, at the time of the translation of the King James Version, about hell being a place where the wicked are being tormented right now, has influenced the translators' interpretation of the Hebrew word Sheol. With the idea that hell is a place where the wicked are being tormented, the translators could not use the word hell to translate Sheol in every instance, for to do so would have put some of the most faithful servants of God in a place of torment.
For example, the first time the Hebrew word Sheol is used is in Genesis 37:35. "And all his [Jacob's] 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 37:35) Jacob believed that his son Joseph had been killed by a wild beast and said that he would go down into Sheol unto his son. In this verse the translators used the word grave instead of hell. If they had used the word hell, it would have revealed that Jacob believed Joseph was in hell, and that he expected to go to hell when he died.
Another example of the translators using the word grave instead of hell is found in Job 14:13. "O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave [Sheol], that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!" Job was experiencing much suffering, which finally caused him to ask God to let him go to Sheol where he knew he would have rest. "There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest." (Job 3:17)
If the translators had used the word hell in this case, the readers would soon learn that the hell of the Old Testament is not a place of torment, but a state of unconsciousness. Surely Job would not ask God to put him in a place where his suffering would be increased, and would last forever.
Another place where Sheol is defined for us is found in Ecclesiastes chapter 9. "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.… 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 [Sheol], whither thou goest." (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10)
This text sheds wonderful light on the Old Testament hell. We learn that there is no knowledge nor wisdom in hell, but those who are there "know not any thing."
Sheol is the only hell of the Old Testament, it is the only hell that God's people were told about for the first 4,000 years of history. Sheol is the only hell that the Jews were familiar with when Christ came. They understood that the wicked would be burned up in a lake of fire (Malachi 4:1), but this was not what they referred to as Sheol.
Hell in the New Testament
When we come to the New Testament, which was written in Greek, we find two Greek words that were translated "hell." One of these Greek words is equivalent to the Old Testament Sheol. This is clear by the fact that Peter quoted in Acts 2:27 from a verse in the Old Testament.
"Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [Hades], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." (Acts 2:27) Peter was quoting from Psalm 16:10. "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [Sheol]; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." (Psalm 16:10) When Peter quoted this Psalm, he used the Greek word adhV (Hades) to translate the Hebrew word lwav (Sheol).
From this we can see that when Christ died, His soul went to the Old Testament hell. If the translators had given us the word grave, then it would have shown that the soul of Christ slept in the tomb with His body. This of course would have been correct, but it would not have harmonized with their belief that the soul cannot die. So in this case the translators had to give us the word hell. The fact is that the hell of the Old Testament and the Hades hell of the New Testament mean "grave."
"I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell [Hades] and of death." (Revelation 1:18) Because Christ was dead; because His soul went to Sheol (the grave, or hell), He has the keys of hell, He has the right to unlock the prison of the grave and let the captives free. "To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house." (Isaiah 42:7)
Referring to the final judgment John wrote, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [Hades] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell [Hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." (Revelation 20:13, 14) Hell, or the grave, delivered up the dead that was in it. Hell was cast into the lake of fire. It is generally supposed that "the lake of fire" is hell, but here we see that hell was cast into the lake of fire to be destroyed.
"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." (1 Corinthians 15:26) "I will ransom them from the power of the grave [Sheol]; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave [Sheol], I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." (Hosea 13:14) The Lord says that He will destroy death and hell in "the lake of fire," which is called the "second death."
The other Greek word that was translated "hell" in the New Testament is geenna (Gehenna).
"Gehenna 'should be carefully distinguished from Hades (|hâid s|) which is never used for the place of punishment, but for the place of departed spirits, without reference to their moral condition' (Vincent)." (Taken from Robertson's New Testament Word Pictures on Matthew 5:22)
"The term 'Gehenna' arose from the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the Canaanites burned human sacrifices to Moloch. After the return of the Jews from the Captivity they made it a place of defilement, where the refuse of the city was thrown and burned. The name was applied to the place of future punishment by the Jews. The word is often used in the New Testament (Mt 23:33 5:29 10:28 18:9 Mr 9:43), and always denotes a place of future punishment." (People's New Testament Notes on Matthew 5:22)
"The Jews so abhorred the place after these horrible sacrifices had been abolished by king Josiah, that they cast into it not only all manner of refuse, but even the dead bodies of animals and of unburied criminals who had been executed. And since fires were always needed to consume the dead bodies, that the air might not become tainted by the putrefaction, it came to pass that the place was called geenna tou puroV [Gehenna with the color of fire]." (Thayer's Greek- English Lexicon)
A fire was kept burning in the valley continually to destroy whatever was cast into it. If a body was thrown into the valley and did not reach the bottom, where the fire was continually burning, but instead was caught on the jagged rocks surrounding the valley, then the worms would devour the body.
"Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation." (Isaiah 51:7, 8) This is what the Bible refers to when it says "their worm dieth not." Gehenna is the place that Christ used to describe the final destruction of the wicked in Mark 9:43, 44.
"And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: 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: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." (Mark 9:43, 44)
Gehenna, or "the valley of Hinnom" was used as a place where refuse and dead bodies were destroyed. When Jesus used the word "Gehenna" He meant destruction, as is clear in the following text: "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 [Gehenna]." (Matthew 10:28)
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Man does not have everlasting life without it being granted to him from God, and his eternal life depends upon eating of the tree of life.
After Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil "the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:" (Genesis 3:22) If Adam had eaten of the tree of life, he would have lived forever in his sinful condition. God, not willing that this should happen, prevented him from eating of that tree.
Thanks be to God who has provided for us a way to eat of the tree of life so that we can live forever. Jesus said that if we believe in Him we "should not perish, but have everlasting life." "Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14)
We must humble ourselves and repent; turn from our evil ways and live. "Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 33:11)
The Origin of Man
Where did man come from? "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) Man came from the dust of the ground.
What happens to us after we die? "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13) After we die, the Bible says that we are asleep.
Where do we sleep after we die? "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." (Daniel 12:2) "All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again." (Ecclesiastes 3:20) "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Genesis 3:19) When we die we turn into dust again, and sleep until the Lord awakens us.
"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit [Hebrew: Ruwach] shall return unto God who gave it." (Ecclesiastes 12:7) When a man dies, there will be a time when he lives again, whether he is raised in the resurrection of the just, or of the unjust. His mind, which contains his life history, will be given to him again at his resurrection. He will come forth from the grave with the same character and manner of thinking that he had before death.
When the dead are raised God will give them back their spirit (mind, or breath) which was in them before. During their sleep in the grave they were not alive anywhere. "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:26)
When God formed man out of the dust of the earth, He breathed into his nostrils the breath (spirit of man) of life. "All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit [Ruwach] of [or from] God is in my nostrils." (Job 27:3) The breath of life is that spirit that goes back to God who gave it. Even the wicked—when they die their spirit goes back to God who gave it. "Who knoweth the spirit [Ruwach] of man that goeth upward, and the spirit [Ruwach] of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" (Ecclesiastes 3:21)
The spirit of man goes upward to God who gave it. Whether the man was the vilest of criminals, or whether he was the most righteous saint, his spirit goes back to God who gave it. Man will live again, hence it is necessary for God to keep the record of what that man was like. A beast, on the other hand, will not live again, so his spirit goes down to the earth, never to be revived.
What is the Soul of Man?
"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) The body (dust) plus the spirit (breath or mind) equals a living soul. When the spirit (breath or mind) returns to God, then the soul is no longer living. The Hebrew word for "soul" is vp#k# (Nephesh), which means "living being." (Brown Driver and Brigg's Hebrew Lexicon)
This is why God said that even animals are living souls. "And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life [Nephesh—literally; "in which is a living soul"], I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so." (Genesis 1:30)
The Hebrew word "Nephesh" can also mean "mind, or tablet" (Strong's Hebrew Dictionary), in which is contained a record of every word, thought, and action of a person's life; his very being or who he is. When a man dies there is still a record kept of him. While he is dead he is not a living being but a dead one.
Can a Soul Die or Cease to Exist?
"The soul that sinneth, it shall die. …" (Ezekiel 18:20) This is not talking about the first death, from which all will return; but the second death, from which none shall return. "For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been." (Obadiah 1:16) After a man dies the first death the record of that individual will not be forgotten, but after the second death they will die completely, both body and soul.
"Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath [Ruwach] goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." (Psalm 146:3, 4) The spirit, or breath, of a man goes to God and he returns to the dust of the earth. What does the Bible tell us happens at this point? In that very day his thoughts perish; he can no longer think. He remains asleep in the dust, unconscious of anything, until the Lord raises him from the dead.
"But," some may say, "don't the righteous go straight to heaven when they die?" "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. … For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand." (Acts 2:34) David will be in heaven, but he has not yet ascended to heaven. Peter's argument was "We know that David is not in heaven, because his sepulchre is still with us." Peter knew that David's bones were still in the grave.
Christ is risen from the dead. Are His bones still in the tomb where He was buried? No! Anyone who still has bones on this earth could not possibly be in heaven. This is the argument that was made on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two. When Christ was raised from the dead, the Bible tells us, many were raised at that time. Are their bones still in the grave? Certainly not!
"And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (Matthew 27:52, 53) All those who are in heaven now do not have bones that remain on this earth.
"So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day." (Deuteronomy 34:5, 6) Moses died, and was buried, but no man could find his sepulchre because the Lord raised him from the dead.
"Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee." (Jude 9) The fact that Moses was raised from the dead is evident by his appearing with Elijah at the mount of transfiguration. Elijah was taken to heaven on a fiery chariot without seeing death. "And, behold, there talked with Him [Jesus] two men, which were Moses and Elias." (Luke 9:30)
David, who has not yet ascended to heaven, said, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." (Psalm 17:15) David will be satisfied when he awakes from death, not during the time that he is dead.
"Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." (Isaiah 26:19) The first thing we notice about this verse is that the dead men shall, at some time in the future, live again. These people are not living now, but they shall live at some time in the future. Right now they are those who dwell in the dust. We have already seen that when we die we return to dust, there to remain in unconscious sleep until the Lord raises us from the dead.
Are the Wicked in Torment Right Now?
"The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." (2 Peter 2:9) The unjust are being reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished. They are not being punished right now.
"That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath." (Job 21:30) The Lord is reserving the wicked for the day of destruction. They shall be brought forth, or raised from the dead, to the day of wrath.
When will the dead be raised from the grave? Paul exclaimed, "there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." (Acts 24:15) There will be two resurrections; one of the just, and one of the unjust.
"For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first." (1 Thessalonians 4:16) The resurrection of the just will take place first. It will happen at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the first resurrection.
"And they [the just] lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead [the unjust] lived not again until the thousand years were finished." (Revelation 20:4, 5) The first resurrection, which is the resurrection of the just, takes place at the return of Christ. The second resurrection, which is the resurrection of the unjust, takes place after the thousand years.
During the thousand years the righteous will live and reign with Christ in heaven while the earth is desolate with no inhabitants; for the wicked are dead upon the earth. "Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. … The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word." (Isaiah 24:1, 3)
Satan has said from the very beginning, "ye shall not surely die." Satan taught that man could disobey God and still live forever without dying. This statement is in direct contradiction to the word of God who said, "thou shalt surely die." God said that if man would disobey Him he would surely die.
Since that day Satan has continued to teach men that they will not surely die. According to Satan all men who have ever died are not really dead. Therefore, according to Satan, man can communicate with the dead. This cleverly opens the way for Satan himself, or one of his angels, to impersonate a deceased loved one. We see an example of this in the first book of Samuel. This is the only instance recorded in the Bible where someone supposedly communicated with the dead.
Saul's Visit with the Witch of Endor
"And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets." (1 Samuel 28:5, 6) Saul, the king of Israel, had walked contrary to the word of the Lord for so long that the Lord would not communicate with him by any means.
"Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee." (1 Samuel 28:7, 8)
Since the Lord would not communicate with Saul, he decided to use a forbidden means to try to communicate with a deceased prophet named Samuel. "A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them." (Leviticus 20:27) God had strictly forbidden any such communication with familiar spirits.
"Then said the woman [unto Saul], Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel." (1 Samuel 28:11, 12) Samuel was a righteous prophet of God, yet Saul asked the witch of Endor to bring Samuel up. Many Christians suppose that when a righteous man dies he goes up to heaven immediately. If this were true, then Samuel would have to come down from heaven, rather than up from the earth. Was this really Samuel that appeared to the witch of Endor? What saith the Scriptures. As before noted, the dead "know not anything," and are unconscious. Therefore, according to the Bible, there is no way that Samuel could have appeared, and spoken to Saul.
If Samuel was in heaven, as most preachers teach, then would God send him down to earth, in cooperation with a woman who was doing something that God condemned, to communicate with a man with whom God had stopped communicating? Samuel was asleep in the dust, not to regain consciousness until the Lord raised him from the dead. The spirit that was brought up with the likeness of Samuel was none other than Satan or one of his angels.
"So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse." (1 Chronicles 10:13, 14)
Clearly you can see the danger of opening yourself up to communication with the deceased.
"And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14) Satan can impersonate with unerring accuracy any person that he wishes. If we are deceived into believing that the dead are not really dead, but alive somewhere, we are opening ourselves up to accept the teachings and doctrines of devils.
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;" (1 Timothy 4:1) "For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." (Revelation 16:14) If we are going to stand the great trials that are soon to come upon the earth, we are required to search the Scriptures diligently to find truth from God Himself.
The Thief on the Cross
What about the thief on the cross? Didn't Jesus say that he would be with Him in paradise that same day? Let's look at what Christ said to him. "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:42, 43) The thief asked Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom;" (2 Timothy 4:1)
The thief was asking the Lord to remember him when He judges the quick and the dead. Jesus replied, "Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) Notice where the translators chose to put the comma in the previous sentence. When this was written, originally in Greek, there was no use of punctuation. Read this verse again with the comma placed after the word "today." "Verily I say unto thee today (at this moment), shalt thou be with me in paradise." Jesus was saying, "This day I am telling you that you will, at some point in the future, be with me in paradise."
It is also interesting to note that it would have been impossible for Christ to be saying that the thief would be with Christ in paradise on that very day, because Christ Himself was not in paradise that day. This fact is clearly brought out in the following verse. After Christ's resurrection He said to Mary, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (John 20:17)
The day that Christ was raised from the dead, Mary saw Him and was ready to fasten herself to him, thus restraining Him. Christ told her not to restrain Him because He had not yet ascended to His Father. Christ had not seen His Father face to face for over thirty years. He was eager to go and see Him. The fact that, on the third day, Christ had not yet ascended to His Father is clear evidence that He had not been to paradise on the day that He conversed with the thief on the cross.
The Rich Man and Lazarus
What about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? Some doubt that this is really a parable. They argue that it is not a parable because it starts out in a narrative form. They say that because it starts out, "There was a certain rich man, …" Christ was talking about an actual incident that took place. But this is not the only parable that starts out in this manner. For example, the parable of the prodigal son, which starts out like this; "A certain man had two sons: …" Another example, "Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, …" (Matthew 21:33)
"And with many such parables spake He the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake He not unto them: and when they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples." (Mark 4:33, 34) It is evident that Christ used a parable to illustrate almost everything He taught.
The prevailing idea in Christ's time was that a rich man was surely blessed by God, and his riches were clear evidence that he was going to be in the kingdom of God. On the other hand, the Jews believed that if a man was poor he was cursed of God, and the fact that he was poor was evidence that he would not make it to the kingdom of God.
This false idea was what Christ was combating with His parable about the rich man and Lazarus. The fact that the Jews had this idea, and also the disciples of Christ had this idea, is brought out in these next verses. "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?" (Matthew 19:23-25)
The response of the disciples is clear evidence that they believed that the rich men would certainly enter the kingdom. For, as they thought, if a rich man can hardly enter the kingdom, then we may as well not even try, because a rich man has a much better chance of making it than poor men like us. It was precisely to reveal the error of this idea that Christ told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
There were many of the Jews in Christ's time who fit the description of the rich man in this parable. Not only were many of them rich in earthly goods, but they had been given the oracles of God. It was their duty to impart the light that had been given them to others who were dying all around without hope of eternal life. Instead of looking upon the Gentiles with compassion, with a desire to share the wonderful riches that God had given them, they looked upon the Gentiles as one would look upon a poor man diseased with leprosy.
The rich man in this parable represented the Jewish nation. This is brought out by the repeated use of the term "Father Abraham". "And he cried and said, Father Abraham, …" (Luke 16:24) At another time the Jews "answered him [Christ], We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?" (John 8:33)
When the poor diseased man—who represented the Gentiles—died, he is said to have been brought, by the angels, into Abraham's bosom. "Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved." (John 13:23) This represented a close relationship with Abraham. The Jews thought that since they were descendants of Abraham they would be heirs of the kingdom of heaven.
Christ revealed that a man, though he be of the lineage of Abraham, if he did not bear the character traits of Abraham, was not counted as heir according to the promise. "They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham." (John 8:39, 40)
Christ taught, through His parable, that the Gentile—though not of the lineage of Abraham yet having the character traits of Abraham—is considered Abraham's seed. The Jews so highly regarded their relation to Abraham that they set him up as God. When the rich man was in distress, he called to Abraham to have mercy on him. "And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, …" (Luke 16:24) The Bible teaches, however, that there is salvation in none other than Christ. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
"Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." (Luke 16:27-31)
Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, had been raised from the dead to testify that Christ was the Messiah, yet the Jewish nation would not accept this. The rich man, along with his brethren, had every opportunity to know the truth and to be saved through the testimony of the sacred Scriptures. If they had rejected the Scriptures as the way of salvation, then they would not be persuaded even if one was raised from the dead.
I do not know anyone who would say that this parable describes, in every detail, the actual conditions after death. For one thing, the Bible never gives us any hint that Abraham is in heaven right now. Nowhere do the Scriptures teach that Abraham has already been raised from the dead, but rather is as David, whose sepulchre is with us to this day. "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. … For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand," (Acts 2:29, 34)
If we really want to know what the Bible teaches on a particular subject, we must gather all the references that deal with that subject and weigh the evidence. "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little." (Isaiah 28:10) We must be as the noble Bereans, who "searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Acts 17:11)
Please take the time to examine all the scriptures that deal with this subject. Do not be misled to accept one section of Scripture that appears to support an idea which the rest of the Bible clearly disproves, without taking the time to weigh all the evidence. A judge can only make a just decision after examining all the evidence on both sides of the issue. Please do not settle this issue without hearing all the Scripture testimony concerning it. "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him." (Proverbs 18:13)
For what torments is like, see Jesus' description in Luke 16:19-21 – it's unequivocal. As to the final state of the lost after their resurrection unto death, see Revelation 20:11-15, an equally unambiguous passage. In both cases, there is complete consciousness of those involved (i.e., no "soul sleep" as is true of believers as well; see Rev.6:11; 7:9 and 2Cor.5:3 Greek not English: explained at the following link: "Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State").
As to David, no doubt you are referring to Peter's Pentecost speech where he says at Acts 2:29: "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day." (NIV). I don't know how else Peter could have expressed the obvious fact that David had died and was buried and that his body had decayed in the grave (making it clear that Psalm 16 is talking about the Messiah, David's greater Son our Lord). But nothing in this verse in English or Greek can reasonably be made to suggest that David is not presently in heaven with the rest of departed Church. He certainly is (cf. Heb.11:40).
I am somewhat puzzled about the applicability of the rest of the information you have included here (not to mention the fact that I am in serious disagreement with you on quite a number of major assumptions you are making about Christian doctrine, the relationship of the "soul" and spirit in particular; see the link: in BB 3A "The Human Spirit"). So I will leave it to you to consider the above and write me back if you have any further questions on this matter.
In the Name of the One who has made a place for us with Him in heaven until His glorious return, the One who died for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thank you for your prompt reply. I will surely consider those passages, though I have learned that if there are , for example, 10 passages that say one thing clearly, and maybe two that seem to contradict (which we know cannot be true of the Word of God), then it is safer to go with the greater evidence. Ecclesiastes says plainly, 9:5 "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
9:6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any [thing] that is done under the sun (in this life)." And also, "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. (nor worshipping God, nor experiencing the bliss of eternal life...)" The fact is, the Bible plainly states that only God is immortal...until that day when Christ comes, and then our mortality will put on immortality, right?
1 Cor. 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
15:51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality.
15:54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." Praise the Lord! This is the hope we have...
So, only God is immortal (and ,maybe, several whom He has taken - Elijah, Enoch, Moses (remember, the devil contended with the angel over his body)
Sir, you talk about "soul sleep", and say there is no such thing - but our soul is life (that God breathed into Adam to make him a "living soul" - and Christ Himself said that Lazarus was "asleep" when he had been dead three days. So that WAS a "soul" that was "asleep"... It seems so plain to me. Did you know that the idea of an eternal suffering in "hell-fire", was not always a belief of the Church of God? It was the Roman church, in its fear-mongering, that created that theology. Yes, I believe the "wicked" (unsaved) will suffer greatly in fire - but the Bible is also clear that that will come to an end, Malachi t4:1 " For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do [this], saith the LORD of hosts.
I find peace in the realization that while the righteous are basking in the light of Christ, there won't be, somewhere where God can see (for He sees all) suffering and agony for ever and ever. This would mean that there is no end to sin, because what the tormented are thinking about, even speaking about Yahweh, would be sin.
Again, thanks for your reply. God bless,
In my experience, the Bible never contradicts itself. It is only that very often interpreters of scripture fail to correctly understand one or both passages wherein lies some "apparent contradiction". Very often too that failure is due to a misunderstanding of the original text in the original language, or a flaw in the systematic theology employed (whether realized or not), or even to a lack of due diligence. The Bible only has to say something once for it to be true. Therefore my method it seems is somewhat different from yours, and I believe the difference to be critical. If ten passages seem to say one thing but one passage clearly says another, it may well be that the one passage is misunderstood. However, in my experience and observation, it is often just as likely that the ten passages have been at least partly understood in error (often from some preconception about what the Bible really does or does not teach or because the person is using an English translation and repeating the misconceptions of the translators, etc.). In my experience and observation that "one passage" is often our salvation, because it is often the one safety net that keeps us from going astray by forcing us to reconsider everything from the ground up. Giving full and equal weight to all scripture is what orthodox theology is all about. So I would never wish to discount the clear meaning (or what seems to me to be the clear meaning) of any passage of scripture, even in the face of what I might otherwise think ought to be true. Very often we human beings are guilty of proceeding on all sorts of logical assumptions without even realizing what we are assuming. When we get doctrinaire about what we assume (especially if we don't even realize we are making an assumption) our capacity for learning and change begins to evaporate altogether. After all, the Bible is not logical, it is theological, and it teaches all sorts of things that to human logic are contradictory, but which in the wisdom of God are not so at all. For example, there is no conflict between the divine decree of history and human free will in history, even though many famous theological systems have spent their strength on trying to resolve this "logical inconsistency". Nothing is impossible for God, after all, and when scripture teaches two things we find inconsistent, we need to remember that the problem may very well lie with us and not with scripture.
Case in point is the Ecclesiastes passage you offer here. In my previous e-mail I suggested you have a look at Jesus' description of Lazarus and Abraham in paradise below the earth conversing with the rich man in torments, and also to the several passages in Revelation which describe the saints awaiting resurrection, many of whom have just come out of the Great Tribulation. In the first passage, the three mentioned have conversations, so are clearly conscious; in the second set of examples we also see living, waking, conscious behavior. It is certainly true that in both cases, and in the case of every departed human being, lost and saved, the body returns to dust (with a very few notable examples: Enoch, Moses, Elijah). Yet as Paul tells us in 2Cor.5:3 "and even though we are disrobed (i.e., suffer the death of these physical bodies), we shall not [even then] be found naked (i.e., we will have interim bodies between the time of our deaths and the resurrection, should there be a gap)". Even though this is irrefutably the Greek text (i.e., it is not a matter of a few variant readings: this is the text), most versions, operating from the assumption that this translation must somehow be wrong because the translators can't understand it or don't agree with it, do not reflect what scripture actually says. But if they had followed the rule I suggest at the outset of this e-mail, at least non-specialists would be able to discern from the English versions what is patently clear upon careful consideration: there is an interim "tent" or "body" for the spirit provided for all who die, whether they are taken to heaven (prior to the ascension to paradise below the earth) or to torments (to await the resurrection of the unjust and their final state in the lake of fire).
To return to your Ecclesiastes passage, I suppose I can see how on first blush it might seem to be inconsistent with the above. But then, one would equally have to accept based on your interpretation of this passage that it teaches that there is no resurrection of the dead at any time, if all is irrevocably lost at death (and I assume that you accept the resurrection of the dead as a necessary foundation of the Christian faith – please clarify if you do not!). In fact, I do not see a contradiction at all, when Ecclesiastes is correctly understood. The theme of Solomon's great book is the vanity of life – without God. "All is pointless!" is only true without God in the mix, and in the section you reference in chapter nine, Solomon begins as is often his wont in this book by telling us that he is relating an "evil under the sun" (v.3), that is, something that is grievous when human beings look at it objectively from a secular point of view. Solomon is preaching to those who live life and view life as if there were no God, and is showing them, by way of human logic divinely inspired, that if that were the case then everything would be pointless so that all their striving is entirely in vain. This is something people ought to know but in truth most human beings do live their lives as if they were immortal, and Solomon's book is God's great gift to such people, reminding them that they are not going to live forever in these bodies and showing them that their lives are thus entirely pointless – unless they turn to God ("remember the One who created you"; Eccl.12:1). So while taken out of context, bereft of their reason for being, these verses may seem to support the annihilation of the person after physical death, in truth what they are doing is making unbelievers face up to the fact that this is precisely the logic of the philosophy with which they are living their godless lives. Until they accept their pointlessness apart from God, they will never "sober up" and turn to God.
1st Corinthians 15:50ff. is another passage which has proved confusing to many people. Indeed, it has proved so confusing that the Greek text was garbled in a number of manuscript traditions, especially in verse 51. Blessedly, we are in possession of several early manuscripts (Sinaiticus in particular) which allow us to establish the true text. Here is how I translate the critical verses:
(50) But I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot
inherit the kingdom of God (i.e., live in eternity with the
Lord), nor can corruption inherit incorruption (i.e., we need
the resurrection to live forever). (51) Behold, I tell you a
mystery: all of us will fall asleep (i.e., all human beings are
destined to die physically), but not all of us will be changed
(52) in [that] moment of time, in the blink of an eye, at the
final trumpet blast (i.e., only believers will be resurrected at
Christ's return: unbelievers wait until the end of history). For
the trumpet will sound, and the dead will rise incorruptible,
and we (i.e., believers still alive) too will be changed [at
that time (i.e., the Lord's Second Advent return)]. (53) For
this corruption must put on incorruption, and this mortality
must put on immortality (i.e., in order to live forever with our
Lord). (54) And when this corruptible [body] puts on
incorruption and this mortal [body] puts on immortality, then
will be fulfilled this prophecy which has been written: "Death
has been swallowed up in victory. (55) Where is your victory, O
death? Where is your stinger, O death?" (56) Now the stinger of
death is the sin [nature] (i.e., it produces our sin), and the
power of sin is the Law (i.e., it reveals our sin). But thanks
be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus
1st Corinthians 15:50-57
Again, these verses, correctly translated, blend perfectly into the accepted doctrine of resurrection in its three phases for believers (as taught earlier in chapter 15) and its single, final judgment for unbelievers.
As to the "soul", this goes back to what I was saying in the introductory paragraph to this e-mail. The word "soul" is a Germanic one, and is not really a perfect fit for the words which actually occur in the Bible. It is often though not always used to translate the Hebrew word nephesh and the Greek word pysche, neither of which means anything like what the average person means when he/she says "soul". The "soul", if that is the word we choose to use, is not a separate organ or entity; it is rather the inner person and can alternatively be thought of as the "mind" or the "heart" – and indeed scripture uses both of these words as synonyms for the nephesh-psyche. The "soul" is where the spirit and the body come together, it is the confluence of our inner person in its entirety where we make our choices and decisions. In eternity, there will be no need for such distinctions since at that point there will be no tension between the body's indwelling sin and the human spirit's present desire (at least on the part of believers) to serve God. The "soul" or heart or (inner)-person is the battleground where our will chooses for God or fails to do so (following either the flesh or the spirit influenced by the Spirit), and the almost universal failure to appreciate this critical distinction between what the Bible actually teaches and what people "assume" about there being a "soul" as distinct from the human spirit has been responsible for breeding many other false doctrines. It would take a long and extended discussion to set this right so in the interest of space and time I encourage you to see the following link where all of this is made clear: "The Creation of Adam (and the Human Spirit)" in BB 3A.
As to Lazarus, Christ was clearly speaking of his body which in physical death gives the appearance of sleep. But we cannot take from this description of his "being asleep" that Lazarus was unconscious in paradise (cf. 2Cor.12:1-5). No one present with Jesus could see into paradise or be expected to realize that in the (in his case temporary) after-life that Lazarus was fully conscious. This "being asleep" is a euphemism along the same lines of "the grave" which is in fact only the resting place of the physical body (but that is the only thing we can see here on earth). So while "sleep" and "grave" describe the physical, earthly situation we can see, they do not preclude a spiritual consciousness in paradise. When Jesus tells the repentant thief, "I tell you the truth; today you will be with Me in paradise", we do not imagine they will both be sleeping, do we? Jesus, while in paradise, made a "proclamation of victory" to the Genesis six angels in Tartarus (1Pet.3:19) – not possible when asleep. This euphemism is for the benefit of us who remain in life, giving us comfort that our departed loved ones are free from the toil and trouble of this world (if they were believers), and we might be forgiven for taking your point of view – if it were not for the extensive evidence scripture provides to the contrary.
As to church history, I give its chronicling of Catholic teachings very little credence. According to Revelation's description of the seven church era's, the very first era which followed the age of the apostles, namely, the era of Ephesus, "left its first love" – by which I understand scripture to mean that in that very first post-apostolic generation/era the Bible came to be little valued in terms of its detailed teachings (see the link, in CT 2A, "Ephesus"). That certainly jibes with what little we do know about those early days. So I am not concerned with how the Bible was or is received by those who are not really interested in its teachings anyway, whether historically or contemporaneously. I am concerned greatly with what it actually says and what it actually means. As to the idea of eternity in hell, well, it certainly should get people's attention. It got the Roman governor Felix's attention (cf. Acts 24:25), but like Felix the amazing thing to me is that most unbelievers cope with the reality of judgment after death by putting it out of their minds entirely rather than by turning to God – the very thing they ought to do is the very thing they have chosen decidedly not to do.
As to the passage in Malachi, I don't even see a way on the face of it to make it say that unbelievers will not spend eternity in the lake of fire. But speaking of clear passages about eternal damnation, here is one that would seem to be irrefutable (and there are plenty of others: e.g., Is.64:24; Matt.25:41; Mk.9:48; Rev.19:20; 20:10; 20:15; 21:8; cf. Dan.7:9-11; cf. Rev.14:10-11):
If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his
mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink of the
wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the
cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur
in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the
smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest
day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or
for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls
for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's
commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.
Revelation 14:9-12 NIV
I certainly have no wish to see unbelievers subjected to this. But much more importantly we know the Lord "is not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2Pet.3:9; cf. Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26). The problem is that human history is entirely about choice, our choice in response to God through Jesus Christ and first and foremost Jesus Christ who by His choice died that we might have that choice.
Life is serious business. If it were just and righteous just to brush our sins away regardless of whether or not we wish to honor the sacrifice of the One who died to make that possible, there would be no point in any of this going on. Indeed, God could have made us all incapable of sin and rebellion in the first place. But then we wouldn't be who and what we are; we wouldn't be us. God has so designed history that we are blessed to have the opportunity to be saved by responding to our Lord Jesus in faith, and Jesus died so that every human being might have that same opportunity. But the chance and the choice to be saved are also the chance and the choice to reject that gracious provision of God the Father in the gift of His Son, and without both sides of this equation, there would be no true choice at all.
In the Name of the One who died that we might come to Him in faith and have eternal life through His blood shed to wash away our sins, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.