The doctrine of hell is disturbing. The very idea of suffering and separation beyond the grave elicits a wide range of responses, from anguish to anger.
The possibility of departed loved ones languishing in outer darkness only adds to the grief of those laying flowers on their graves.
Some atheists cite hell as a reason to deny the existence of a loving God.
What’s more, Anglican cleric John Stott, who wrote the influential book Basic Christianity, found the idea of eternal suffering in hell so repugnant that he rejected it in favor of annihilationism.
According to a 2014 survey by LifeWay Research, fewer Mainline Protestants believe in hell than do Americans in general (55 percent vs. 61 percent, respectively).
And for many evangelicals, hell remains an inconvenient truth.
This is the second in a two-part series on the whereabouts of Jesus between His death and resurrection.
In the previous column we addressed different views about where Jesus went between His death and resurrection.
Now, we briefly examine five New Testament passages that in some way touch on the subject. Keep in mind the most biblically faithful view: Jesus neither went to hell (Gehenna) nor to Hades (the temporary abode of the dead) but to heaven after His death.
Acts 2:27 – “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. “(KJV)
In this portion of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, he quotes from Ps. 16:10, a psalm of David and a Messianic psalm that Peter applies to Jesus.
The word translated “hell” in the King James rendering of Acts 2:27 is the Greek term Hades, which is similar to the Hebrew word Sheol. In both cases, it is a flexible term that most often refers to the temporary abode of the dead but can mean “grave.”
The New International Version (NIV) translates this, “Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” This is preferable because the context emphasizes that Christ rose bodily from the dead as opposed to David, whose body is still there.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) renders this passage, “because you will not leave my soul in Hades, or allow your Holy One to see decay.” This translation acknowledges that David’s soul went to Hades without assigning Jesus’ soul to the same place.
This is the first in a two-part series on the whereabouts of Jesus between His death and resurrection.
One of the more puzzling questions about the redemptive work of Christ is where His soul went between death and resurrection.
The Gospel writers confirm that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb after His death, and remained there until His resurrection.
But what about the immaterial part of Jesus – namely His soul and / or spirit?
One view is stated in the Apostles’ Creed: “He [Jesus] descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead.”
The meaning of this phrase is much debated. The traditional interpretation is that Christ went to the abode of the dead to preach the gospel to Old Testament saints in order to set them free for the full experience of heaven.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church embraces this view, as do many Protestants.
However, theologian Wayne Grudem points out that the troublesome phrase, “He descended into Hell,” is a “late intruder into the Apostles’ Creed that never belonged there in the first place and that, on historical and Scriptural grounds, deserves to be removed.”
Rev. 20:14 – Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. (HCSB)
The second death
Revelation uses the term “lake of fire” or “lake of burning sulfur” to describe the destiny of God’s enemies, who are:
- The beast and the false prophet (Rev. 19:20)
- The Devil (Rev. 20:10)
- Death and Hades (Rev. 20:14)
- Anyone whose name is not written in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:15)
- Cowards, unbelievers, the vile, murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars (Rev. 21:8)
Jesus refers to this place as gehenna – a term derived from the Valley of Hinnom, traditionally considered by the Jews the place of the final punishment of the ungodly. Located just south of Jerusalem, this valley is the scene of human sacrifices to the god Molech and is declared “the valley of slaughter” by Jeremiah.“ Whatever its historical and geographic meaning, its usage in the New Testament is clearly a reference to the everlasting state of the wicked, and this seems to be the thought in every instance,” writes John Walvoord in Four Views on Hell (p. 20).
This is the fourth in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.
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.