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Keys to Death

Revelation 1:17-18
Heaven, Hell and
the Immortal Soul

by haRold Smith
a citizen of the Commonwealth
(Ephesians 2:12)

For Yeshua also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to YHVH, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit of YHVH: by (or through) which Spirit also He (YHVH) went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which some time were disobedient, just as when once the longsuffering of YHVH waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." 1Peter 3:18-20

In the same way the Church and Lucifer (click on highlighted words to view content). have been found not to be scriptural entities through the way they have been traditionally presented, so are "heaven" and "hell" (Mark 7:13). The phrase "He descended into hell" originated with the Roman Catholic Church and is found in the Apostles' Creed - but has only been known since the third century. This phrase was evidently derived from an unusually-worded portion of Peter's First Epistle above. However, the first thing to note in this passage from Peter is that the Greek word "Hades" (translated as "hell") does not actually appear. "Hades" is the underworld god of Greek mythology and, even though it is mentioned as "hell" in the Creed (and elsewhere in both OT and NT Greek translations), it does not appear in the Original Hebrew Writings - particularly not appearing as a holding place of permanent punishment of those utterly lost forever (previously noted in the article Defining Enemies). Words mean things - but the absence of words in scripture does not call for assumptive speculation. These words describing whatever kind of preaching took place in the passage from Peter quoted above - were not in hell. They were given in the world of men and, evidently, in the world of those who lived prior to the flood known as the Antediluvians. The passage itself confirms this fact as there were only eight righteous souls who were delivered from that Antediluvian period because they listened to that preaching. So, if these concepts are not found in scripture - where did they come from? Our popular imagery of hell can be traced to Roman Catholic writers like the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), author of Dante’s Inferno; and the English poet John Milton (1608-1674), author of Paradise Lost, who also set forth the same concepts in a fashion highly acceptable to the Roman Catholic faith. Yet none of these concepts of hell can be found in the Original Writings - or, for that matter, in the Messianic Writings. We get indignant at the mention of purgatory, knowing that’s not found in scripture. But, our popular concepts of hell come from the same place as does purgatory - a traditional Roman Catholic theology of an afterlife of immortality undergirded by Greek mythology and philosophy.

By assuming the Hebrew word sheol to be on the same order in meaning as "Hades", bible commentators have taken this passage in Peter to mean that those who died before and in the flood were present as spirits in some sort of subterranean holding-tank (and, by extension, any who died later) to be given a second opportunity to receive "Christ". However, this idea of hell being a place of eternal punishment only became most prominent in Dante's Inferno, written in 1314, depicting an allegorical journey through hell - but, this book is a work of fiction written to support the Catholic theology. This traditional theology is not found anywhere in scripture. Commentators who suppose that Yeshua went to these entrapped souls after his death to offer them a second chance to embrace the Nature of Spirit ignore the rest of scripture that does not remotely suggest anyone gets a second chance after their death to hear and respond to the Words of YHVH. For example, Hebrews 9:27-28 ays, "And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Yeshua, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save (deliver from death) those who are eagerly waiting for him". This one scripture effectively puts to rest the doctrine that claims "all will ultimately be saved" - for only those who were looking for His coming by fashioning their lives according to the Words of YHVH while they were alive will be delivered from the pangs of death (John 14:23-24). Other bible scholars have argued that the "spirits in prison" referred to by Peter are fallen angels (as mentioned in Jude 6-7) removed from the world scene at the time of the flood and "...have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day". The difficulty with this argument is that nowhere in scripture is redemption offered to angels. For example, in the incident at Gadera with the demon possessed man, the demons begged Yeshua to give them more occupancy in the present, not to grant them mercy (Matthew 8:28-34). Still others argue that Yeshua preached only to the spirits of the righteous dead who lived before his time, and when he did so, he emptied a realm of Hades, called Purgatory, leading those who were waiting there out and into some kind of Paradise (also not found in scripture, see One Covenant, a History), but, as noted, Purgatory is not found in scripture - only in Dante's Inferno. For the faithful, the scripture is clear, "to be absent from the body is to be at home with YHVH" - who abides in eternity (2Corinthians 5:6-8, Isaiah 57:15).

"Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith." Habakkuk 2:4

An acquaintance recently commented that if scripture did not mean "soul" there would have been another word used. However, neither Habakkuk nor Paul (quoting this verse in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11) nor YHVH ever use the English word "soul". The Hebrew word, nephesh has been translated into the English "soul" because of the influence of the Greek word psyche in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Tanakh (OT) known as the LXX) - but there is no Hebrew thought in the Original Writings of a man's soul being separated from the rest of what it means to be human. The division of man into "body-mind-soul" is a thoroughly Greek invention elaborated on by the Greek philosopher, Plato, in his book "the Republic". In the Hebraic perspective, human beings are one homogenized entity - the person, the nephesh. When the Hebrew Sha'ul (Paul) cites the Hebrew Habakkuk, he is not speaking about the English soul as if the soul could be saved but the body could not. Paul is speaking about the entire person, the nephesh - just as the verse in Habakkuk suggests, it is not a man's soul that is "puffed up", it is a man's entire way of being in the world. It involves everything about this man – his thoughts, his choices, his feelings, his will and his consequent actions. the Lake of Fire Compounding this doctrinal error is the unscriptural belief that humans possess an immortal soul. To this day, sophisticated scholars within Christendom teach that, at death, the soul goes to a place called "heaven" for doing well, or to purgatory or "hell" for committing various degrees of evil. This concept of the immortality of the soul being something apart from the rest of a man only began appearing into what became "Christian" theology some 200 to 250 years after the Resurrection of Yeshua when the writings of Ignatius, Marcion and Origen began the process of syncretism (the merging or fusion of different systems of thought or belief). Their writings coincide with the period from which the dominance within the Hebraic community called "the Way" (Acts 24:14) began to shift in perspective from ancestral Hebraism to Greek philosophy. However, the scriptures do not teach the immortality of the soul; rather, they reveal, "The soul that sins, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4-20). Neither do the scriptures reveal that when one dies, the soul goes to heaven or hell. Rather, it clearly shows that when one dies, he or she awaits the resurrection of the dead - both of the righteous and of the wicked (Daniel 12:2, John 5:25-29, 1Corinthians 15:24-28, Revelation 20:14-15, Revelation 21:8). The apostles were witnesses that Yeshua was resurrected from the dead, fulfilling the promise of YHVH that is vital to others within His Family having the hope of also being raised from the dead "just as" He was (Romans 8:11, see Just As, Even So).

The King James Version of the bible indiscriminately translates three different words as "hell" - the Hebrew word, sheol, plus the Greek words hades and gehenna. In the same regard as we have noted the handling of the word "soul", the English word "hell" has been used in translation for the Hebrew word sheol - but, sheol is a word whose root meaning is "unseen", as when one is in the grave they are unseen. In the Original Writings (OT), the King James Version translates sheol as "hell" 31 times, "the grave" 31 times, and "the pit" three times. Yet in the Original Writings sheol was not a place of punishment for faithful Jacob was there (Genesis 37:35), righteous Job also longed for it in Job 14:13 and David spoke of going to sheol in Psalm 49:15. Scripture records Yeshua's visit there in Psalm 16:10 and Acts 2:24-31. In all these cases, the scriptural description is "unseen" because they were dead - not in some ethereal holding place. Various arguments about sheol being a temporary intermediate-state compartment in the underworld are simply not found in the words given to us in scripture but are a reflection of the mythological "Hades". It is only with the Messianic Writings that additional "revelation" begins to appear under the guise of "Christian theology" which defines events that follow death for the non-believer and for the believer. Thayer, in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, describes gehenna "…as the name of an actual valley on the southeast of Jerusalem (where it remains today); more accurately, it is the Valley of Hinnom described in Joshua 15:8 called because of the cries of the little children who were thrown alive into the fiery arms of Moloch, an idol having the form of a bull containing an altar of fiery coals that was never put out or "quenched" (1Kings 11:7, Acts 7:43). The Hebrews so abhorred the place after these horrible sacrifices had been abolished by King Josiah (2Kings 23:10) that they continued to 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 "Gehenna - the valley of fire". Gehenna has often been mistakenly linked with the "lake of fire" described in Revelation 20:14-15 where, after the resurrection, those whose nature have not been conformed to the Nature of Spirit are extinguished - not held in some indeterminate punishment.

If there is no "hell" that can be found in scripture - then, is there a real "heaven"? There is, but it must be seen from the Hebraic perspective these Hebrew texts describe it in order to understand that heaven is not a "place" - but, rather, a state of being. The usual Hebrew word for "heavens" is shamayim, a plural form meaning "heights, elevations". The Hebrew word marom is also used as an equivalent to shamayim, meaning "high places, heights" while the phrase "heaven and earth" is used to indicate the whole universe (Genesis 1:1, Jeremiah 23:24, Acts 17:24). According to Hebrew scripture there are three heavens: the firmament, as "fowls of the heaven" (Genesis 2:19, Psalm 8:8, Lamentations 4:19, etc.); the starry heavens - that which can be seen (Deuteronomy 17:3, Jeremiah 8:2); and, while the religion of Christianity has laid exclusive claim to it, the "heaven of heavens," or "the third heaven" referred to by Paul in 2Corinthians 12:2 actually originates in the Original Writings of Deuteronomy 10:14, 1Kings 8:27 and Psalm 148:4. Therefore, with the Hebraic definition of heaven considered to be that which is "lifted up or exalted, lofty" - it is to this "third heaven" this discussion is focused for that is where the "throne of YHVH" is located. Heaven is YHVH's throne (Isaiah 66:1, Matthew 5:34). When YHVH changed His place of abode, His dwelling place, into the hearts of men who would embrace His Nature on Yom Shavuot (Day of Pentecost) - heaven moved with Him. This is the day when the Covenant YHVH made with Himself was fulfilled, for it was on this day that the same words originally given in stone and accompanied with fire were now able to be written on the hearts of men. The manner of delivery had changed – BUT THEY ARE STILL THE SAME WORDS WITH THE SAME ACCOMPANIMENT OF FIRE (Exodus 20:18-21, Jeremiah 31:31-34, see One Covenant, the Fulfillment).

Yom Shav'uot

Yom Shav'uot (the day of Pentecost)
This particular Shavuot spoken of in Acts 2:1-4 was an epochal event in the annals of mankind. for it was on this day the Creator, who had been previously relegated to make His abode in the heavenlies because of the disobedience of the first son of the family, Adam; was able to restore His Residency, His Kingdom, to abide, make His dwelling place within the hearts of His Family (and all who would attach themselves to His Family) as it had been in the beginning - made possible through the obedient sacrifice of the second Son, the Kinsman Redeemer (Romans 5:19). YHVH's throne is set where His Kingdom is. The Kingdom of YHVH tells us "who" it belongs to, the Kingdom of Heaven tells us "where" it is located - but there is only one Kingdom Yeshua was sent to restore to His Family (Matthew 15:24). Since heaven is YHVH's Throne, when His Throne moved, heaven moved with Him and the Essence of His Nature and Character could now be etched on the beings of men willing to fashion and conform their lives after His Nature; thus, fulfilling His Promise to Israel, His Hebrew family, to restore what had originally been purposed in the Garden of Eden - a people who would manifest His Name, His Image, and present the Light of His Being by their behavior to the world (Isaiah 49:6, Luke 2:32, see One Covenant, a History). In Luke 17:20-21, Yeshua tells us that Kingdom is within or among the faithful - but, Isaiah 57:15 also informs us that YHVH abides or dwells in eternity.

Whether we like it or not, arguments about the age of the universe may be irreconcilable. There is evidence both for a recent creation, and there is also evidence for an ancient universe. It is our stereotypical thinking about the nature of time that causes a problem. We view time as an absolute - as a single dimension measured by a fixed master clock. In reality, time is multidimensional but, because of the separation away from the Eternal One, we are trapped in one-dimensional linear time and extrapolate our limited understanding across the ages from a narrowness of vision. The "spirits in prison" are simply those who are separated from the eternal, timeless Nature of Spirit - and they exist in all generations of men (Psalm 24:3-10, see the King of Glory for a scriptural understanding of a generation). To be able to see the broader perspective of eternity requires our vision to undergo some stretching beyond what has been traditionally handed down to us (Mark 7:6-8). The Messianic Writings announce that all men in their natural state are "dead through trespasses and sins…following the course of this world…the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:1-2). Sin is merely a separation from the Nature of the Source of Life, YHVH by disobedience to His Words - and IS the definition of death, which prevents an entry into the Kingdom of YHVH (Matthew 7:21, John 3:3, see what it means to be Born Again).

"For this cause was the gospel of the Kingdom of YHVH also preached to them that
are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh,
but live according to the Spirit of YHVH" 1Peter 4:6

As Yeshua was hanging on the tree anticipating His death, He told the thief hanging alongside Him. "Today, you will be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). This word, "paradise", is translated from the Greek word paradeisos. It is a word whose origin is not found in either Greek or Hebrew but in the languages of eastern Asia. It is a word primarily used of the plantations, kept gardens and places for animals which surrounded the palaces of Persian kings. It is a word the Greek translators inserted thinking it more appropriately described a Greek view of what "heaven" must be - not comprehending that heaven is not a place but a state of being (Luke 17:20-21). There is no word for paradise in the Hebrew language – there is only "gan 'aden" (Hebrew for Eden Garden), the state of being the Father cultivated with a particular man to be a delight to Him. It was here YHVH created the Hebrew Adam to abide in His Presence through the manifestation of the Image of the Nature of his Father. As a Hebrew understanding this perspective of the Father, Yeshua was telling the man on the cross next to him that with the sacrifice of His obedient Blood; the Garden, the place of delight to the Father where we choose to abide in the Present Presence of eternity had been restored (Hebrews 3:12-15, see the Kinsman Redeemer series). The gospel of YHVH's promise of the restoration of His Kingdom lost to His family of Israel in the Garden has gone out to every generation - the same gospel Yeshua preached to the House of Israel (Luke 4:43). The Father has shown Himself to be an Eternal Spirit (Luke 4:24). His Very Name, YaHoVeH, means the Present Presence.

To understand Spirit, therefore, is to first come to a Hebrew understanding of eternity. Most believe eternity begins when they die; however, as seen in Isaiah 57:15 YHVH abides, occupies, dwells, and lives in eternity. Revelation 22:13, Isaiah 44:6, and Isaiah 48:12 tell us that, with YHVH, there is no beginning and there is no end. He IS the Alpha and the Omega; He IS the beginning and the end. Without a beginning and without an ending - there is only right now. If we are to abide in YHVH, we must abide in the same dimension that He occupies - which is right now, right now, right now. Yeshua's admonition to take no thought for tomorrow was a comment about abiding in the Nature of Spirit today (Matthew 6:34). With YHVH there is no future and there is no past - only now. The reason Yeshua was seen on the mount of transfiguration with Elijah and Moses was because they, too, were abiding in the Eternal Presence of YHVH (Matthew 17:1-3). Time is a man-made system of measurement from one cyclical event to another. If there is no beginning and there is no ending, there can be no cyclical event from which to take a measurement from nor an ending to calculate the measurement between the two events - hence, there is no time in eternity. Even though Hebrew words have been translated into the English paradigm as "time" time - there is no specific word for "time" as we know it in Hebrew. The Hebrew words translated as "time" have meanings relating to a general "day" (yom), an appointed meeting (mo'ad), an event ('ad), a second event (sha'ne), a footstep (pah'am), in that case or place ('az), etc. Our concept of time was invented in 1847 to serve the purposes of the British Rail System. Obviously, this "railway time" (as it was called) was needed to coordinate the management of the trains traveling through each town across Britain - but it did not interfere with the "local" time kept in those towns. It wasn't until 1929 that the world adopted the 24 hour global time measurement. Although we imagine that time "zones" have always been part of life, this is not true. They are less than 100 years old – and they are entirely artificial, determined only by the agreement of various nations to divide the globe into roughly 15 degree longitudes.

By looking even further back in history, we find that the mechanical clock was not invented until the 13th century. Prior to that invention, time was usually determined by sun dials. Of course, using a sun dial meant that the time of the day varied according to the season and the location on the globe. In other words, before 1929 there was no worldwide standard of time measurement. More importantly, the adoption of a universal standard of time was motivated by the need to regulate production across geography. (Lewis Mumford, "The Monastery and the Clock", page 326). Why is this little recognized fact so important for us? It is important because once we see why our lives became regulated by this artificial device, we can begin to comprehend that the 24 hour day and the 24 global time zones are completely independent of the biblical Hebraic perspective. No "day" in scripture is 24 hours long - no year is 365¼ days. Everything depends on the season, the geography and the designation of sacred time. In fact, the only standard of measurement in scripture is the Sabbath and its occurrence every seven days is completely independent of astronomical clock time. The "week," a cyclical measure not connected to any astronomical event, is rooted in the Sabbath - established by YHVH at creation, not by the sun and the moon or the rotation of the earth. This is important in understanding where principles of man have replaced the fundamental aspects of YHVH - and frees us to immerse ourselves solely in His Nature. To remember to observe the Sabbath as YHVH instructed in Exodus 20:1-17 IS to immerse ourselves in His Nature which abides in eternity.

So, then, if our traditional concepts of heaven and hell are not in accordance with scripture - just what is the promise we are given to hope for? What does it mean to be risen from the dead? What is the hope of glory found in Yeshua (Colossians 1:27)? A promise is not realized until it is fulfilled. It is we who try to overlay a man-made concept of time upon someone who abides in a place where time is non-existent. The Hebrews of the Messianic Writings understood that when a person dies - they just die (Mark 9:9-10). The reason Yeshua was the "first among many brethren", was to example before us what waiting on that promise was about (Romans 8:29, see a Pre-Determined Destination). When Yeshua was in that tomb - He was dead. He did not go anywhere - He was in the grave. Yeshua did not resurrect Himself - that was the Father's doing. Had the Father not raised Him, He would still be there (Romans 8:11). Since there is no "time" in eternity, consequently, there is only a split second between a person's death and their resurrection. This is why scripture describes those who have died as being "asleep" because when you are asleep, there is no conscious awareness of the passage of "time". Events that may be separated by hundreds or thousands of years in our time frame can pass in eternity "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (1Corinthians 15:52). This is how, from a Hebraic perspective, Yeshua could be slain "from the foundation of the earth", before Adam, without actually having existed before his appearance in the flesh. Becoming echad (Hebrew for "one") with the Spirit of the Father means entering into the eternal dimension of Spirit. It was through the Resurrection that YHVH was showing to all of creation His Faithfulness in keeping His Covenant to restore His Kingdom to His Family and all who would attach themselves to that family (Leviticus 19:34).

the IN HIS IMAGE series
Part One - the Present Presence
Part Two - Heaven, Hell & the Immortal Soul
Part Three - The Father's Will
Part Four - In Perpetuity

First, understand this: during the last days scoffers will come, following their own desires and asking, "Where is this promised 'coming' of His? For our fathers have died, and everything goes on just as it has since the beginning of creation.", But, wanting so much to be right about this, they overlook the fact that it was by YHVH's Word that long ago there were heavens, and there was land which arose out of water and existed between the waters, and that by means of these things the world of that time was flooded with water and destroyed. It is by that same Word that the present heavens and earth, having been preserved, are being kept for fire until the Day of Judgment when ungodly people will be destroyed But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with YHVH one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. YHVH is not slow in keeping His promise, as some people think of slowness; on the contrary, He is patient with you; for it is not His purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that all should reach repentance. However, the Day of YHVH will come "like a thief." On that Day the heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will melt and disintegrate, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up. Since everything is going to be destroyed like this, what kind of people should you be? You should lead holy and godly lives as you wait for the Day of YHVH and, thereby, work to hasten its coming…
2Peter 3:3-12

Please feel free to email them to me at While not claiming to have all the answers, it would be an honor to share with you what the Spirit is uncovering.