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Gehenna and the afterlife

Save us from the fire

This is the fourth in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

The ultimate destiny of the wicked is the same habitation created for Satan and his demons – a place in English we call “hell,” and a place Jesus and the New Testament writers describe variously as Gehenna, “outer darkness,” “eternal fire,” “eternal punishment,” “lake of fire,” and “the second death.”

While Sheol and Hades generally depict the temporary abode of the dead, Gehenna and its associated terms describe the place of everlasting future punishment for those whose names are not written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15).

The term Gehenna is derived from the Valley of Hinnom. Located southwest of Jerusalem, this steep, rocky valley is the scene of human sacrifices to pagan deities (2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6) and is declared the “Valley of Slaughter” by Jeremiah (Jer. 7:31-34).

The picture of a place where fires are never quenched and worms never stop feasting on corpses became to the Jewish mind an appropriate representation of the ultimate fate of idol worshipers.

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Hades and the afterlife

Beings

This is the third in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers. 

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.

What Hades does not mean

Hades does not mean death, because the Greek word Thanatos is used for death in the New Testament. Further, death (Thanatos) and Hades appear together in Rev. 1:18, so they cannot mean the same thing.

Second, it cannot mean grave, because the Greek work Mneema depicts the place where the bodies of the deceased are buried.

Third, it cannot mean hell, the place of final punishment for the wicked, because the Greek word Gehenna is used for hell in the New Testament. Further, Hades is cast into the lake of fire in Rev. 20:14.

Fourth, Hades is not the intermediate state of Christians between death and resurrection, because the Greek word Ouranos depicts heaven.

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Sheol and the afterlife

Woman is walking towards g

This is the second in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers. 

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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Ten biblical truths about the afterlife

This is the first in a series of excerpts from “What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

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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The Christian’s resurrected body

Memphis Belle is one of the most celebrated aircraft of World War II. Named after the girlfriend of chief pilot Robert Morgan, the lumbering B-17F Flying Fortress carried the first U.S. crew to complete twenty-five combat missions over Europe before returning to America, where the airmen were hailed as heroes during a three-month tour to sell war bonds and raise morale.

Based in England, Belle coursed through flak-filled skies over France and Germany in 1942-43. The ten-man crew battled Nazi fighter planes while delivering their payloads before returning to base through the same threatening skies. 

The crew’s survival through more than two dozen missions was rare indeed. In all, the Army Air Forces lost thirty thousand airmen in battles against Nazi Germany. During the heaviest fighting, U.S. bomber-crew airmen had a one-in-four chance of survival.

The plane’s exploits were featured in a 1944 documentary and retold a generation later in a major motion picture.

For a time after the war, however, Memphis Belle sat outdoors, neglected, until an ambitious restoration project began, requiring more than one hundred workers and thousands of hours to scrape paint, bend metal, and fabricate parts. 

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