by haRold Smith
a citizen of the Commonwealth
"Behold, the eye of YHVH is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their nephesh from death..." Psalm 33:18-19
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 - which has only been known since the third century. This phrase was evidently derived from an unusually-worded portion of 1Peter 3:18-20. 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. So, if the concept of hell is not found in scripture - where did it 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 it is 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 under girded by Greek mythology and philosophy.
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 previously noted in the handling of the word "soul", the English word "hell" or "Hades" has been used in translation for the Hebrew word sheol - but, remember, Hades is a place of Greek mythology not found in Hebraic culture. 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 - so 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.
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, as we will see). But, as noted, Purgatory is not found in scripture, only in Dante's Inferno - which is a work of fiction. 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).
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. 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.
So, then, if our traditional concepts of heaven, hell and an immortal soul 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? 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). When Yeshua was in that tomb - He was dead. He did not go anywhere - He was in the grave. The reason Yeshua was the "firstborn among many brethren", was to example before us what waiting on that promise was about (Romans 8:29).
Part One: Where Is Heaven?
Part Two: Is There A Hell?
Part Three: The Immortal Soul
|"Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs, who sleep in the dust of the earth, will hear YHVH's Voice and come out; some to the resurrection of life, and some to the resurrection of judgment. " John 5:28-29 (quoting Daniel 12:2)|
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. While not claiming to have all the answers, it would be an honor to partake with you of what the Spirit is uncovering.