Hades and the afterlife

BeingsThis is the third in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.

Hades is a Greek god whose name means “The Unseen.” He is depicted as lord of the underworld, the abode of the dead. So it should come as no surprise that Jesus and the New Testament writers borrow from this familiar term to describe the realm of departed spirits.

What’s more, they cut through the mythology to present an accurate picture of the afterlife.

The word Hades appears 10 times in the New Testament, forming a linguistic bridge that takes us from the Old Testament view of life beyond the grave (in Sheol) to the New Testament position.

In coming to a biblically faithful understanding of Hades, it’s important to state what the word does not mean.
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I also saw the dead – Revelation 20:12

BeingsPreviously: Earth and heaven fled – Revelation 20:11b

The scripture

Rev. 20:12 – I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne … (HCSB)

I also saw the dead

Evidently these are unbelievers of all time summoned to final judgment. They are “dead” in three ways. First, they are spiritually dead, separated from God by their unbelief. Second, they are physically dead, having died and now having been physically resurrected to stand in judgment. Third, they are everlastingly and irreversibly dead; once their judgment is complete, they are cast into the lake of fire where they experience unending separation from their Creator and are shackled with the reality that God has given them what they desire: the freedom to live independently of Him for eternity.

John describes them as “the great and the small.” They are the famous and the obscure; the mighty and the frail; the elderly and the young; the educated and the unschooled; the peerless and the impoverished; the gifted and the ordinary; the blunt and the arcane; the religious and the atheistic; the moral and the decadent; the violent and the gentle; the arrogant and the fearful.

God is no respecter of persons. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:45). Christ’s offer of salvation is open to Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free. The kingdom of heaven is populated with people every tongue, people, kindred, and nation, and there is equal representation before the great white throne.
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Vision of walk into the light

Sheol and the afterlife

Woman is walking towards g

This is the second in a series of articles about the afterlife and the unseen realm.

Is there conscious existence beyond the grave? Where did Old Testament saints go when they died? Do the wicked really suffer forever in hell? Should you believe in ghosts?

These are important questions about the afterlife and the unseen world. Most religions deal in some way with these questions and appeal to a variety of authorities to provide answers.

This series explores the manner in which God’s Word describes life beyond the grave and the unseen world. In this column we examine the Hebrew term Sheol.  In future columns we address Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus, and other terms.
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Earth and heaven fled – Revelation 20:11b

Previously: A great white throne – Revelation 20:11

The scripture

Rev. 20:11b – Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. (HCSB)

Earth and heaven fled

John remarks, “Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them” (v. 11b). The idea of earth and heaven – the created order for mankind’s habitation – fleeing from their Creator seems to personify the passing away of “the first heaven and the first earth,” to be replaced with “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1).

The earth’s wicked stand in final judgment before God. They are about to be cast into hell for their sins. The redeemed already have been glorified. Therefore, God is putting an end to sin – and with it, an end to the consequences of sin in the created order. This has been His plan since eternity past and He has communicated it to us throughout human history.

The Fall results not only in death for Adam and Eve and their descendants; it results in a curse upon the earth (Gen. 3:17-19). Even so, before that curse is pronounced, the Lord promises a Redeemer – a virgin-born Savior who crushes the head of Satan and ultimately reverses the effects of the Fall (Gen. 3:15).

Throughout the Old Testament, we see several hundred prophecies of this promised Messiah and learn that He is to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem Eprathah (Isa. 7:14; Micah 5:2); that He is divine and will establish an everlasting kingdom (Isa. 9:6-7); that He is to suffer an excruciating death but conquer the grave (Ps. 16:9-11; 22:12-18); that in His suffering and death He is to bear the penalty for our sins (Isa. 53:3-6); that He is to  heal the broken-hearted (Isa. 61:1-2); and that He is to judge people and restore the earth to its sinless perfection (Isa. 66). We see the prophecies of the Suffering Servant fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
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Ten biblical truths about the afterlife

This is the first in a series of articles about the afterlife and the unseen realm.

Three-year-old Colton Burpo had a near-death experience (NDE) while on the operating table. When it was over, he described his “three minutes in heaven” in vivid detail, including encounters with Samson, John the Baptist, and Jesus, who had sea-blue eyes and owned a rainbow-colored horse.

Colton’s father, a Wesleyan pastor, believes the lad’s experience was real because he shared it with “the simple conviction of an eyewitness.”

You may read Colton’s story in Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, which ruled the best-seller list for 44 weeks. Millions of people have devoured the book, watched the youngster’s appearances on TV shows, and viewed the major motion picture based on his story.

Less popular but equally intriguing are books about NDEs in which people “die” for brief periods and experience the horrors of hell. To Hell and Back by cardiologist Maurice Rollins, for example, tells us that hellish NDEs have to be recorded and verified immediately after the person “returns” or the horrifying memories are repressed.

In any case, stories like Colton’s appeal to our desire to know more about the afterlife.

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