Tagged: Sheol

Death and Hades gave up their dead – Revelation 20:13

nessPreviously: The book of life – Revelation 20:12b

The scripture

Rev. 20:13 – Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works. (HCSB)

Death and Hades gave up their dead

We should recall that the resurrected Jesus declares in Rev. 1:18, “I was dead, but look – I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Even before the cross, Jesus tells Peter that the forces of Hades will not overpower His Church” (Matt. 16:18).

Death is a reality that all people experience as a consequence of sin (Gen. 2:17). Hades is the abode of the dead. Therefore, Death and Hades are tied inextricably to sin. But Jesus, who added to His deity sinless humanity (John 1:14), tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9). Through His finished work on the cross, He paid our sin debt and conquered the grave so that Death and Hades have no lasting grip on those who place their faith in Him.

The bottom line of John’s vision of Death and Hades giving up their dead is that ultimately every person will be physically resurrected and spend eternity either in the new heavens and earth or in the lake of fire. A time is coming when there is no longer physical death or an intermediate existence where people wait to put on resurrected bodies and stand in final judgment. Just as Jesus is Judge of all (John 5:22), He is Lord over sin, death, and the realm of the dead.
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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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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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Smoke came up out of the shaft – Revelation 9:1-12

Previously: The key to the shaft of the abyss – Revelation 9:1-12

The scripture

Rev. 9:1 – The fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. The key to the shaft of the abyss was given to him. 2He opened the shaft of the abyss, and smoke came up out of the shaft like smoke from a great furnace so that the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke from the shaft. 3Then out of the smoke locusts came to the earth, and power was given to them like the power that scorpions have on the earth. 4They were told not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green plant, or any tree, but only people who do not have God’s seal on their foreheads. 5They were not permitted to kill them, but were to torment [them] for five months; their torment is like the torment caused by a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6In those days people will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.

  7The appearance of the locusts was like horses equipped for battle. On their heads were something like gold crowns; their faces were like men’s faces; 8they had hair like women’s hair; their teeth were like lions’ teeth; 9they had chests like iron breastplates; the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses rushing into battle; 10and they had tails with stingers, like scorpions, so that with their tails they had the power to harm people for five months. 11They had as their king the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon. 12The first woe has passed. There are still two more woes to come after this. (HCSB)

Smoke came up out of the shaft

When Abaddon opens the shaft of the abyss, John records that “smoke came up out of the shaft like smoke from a great furnace so that the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke from the shaft” (v. 2). Some commentators, like Matthew Henry, see the smoke symbolically: “The devils are the powers of darkness; hell is the place of darkness. The devil carries on his designs by blinding the eyes of men, by extinguishing light and knowledge, and promoting ignorance and error. He first deceives men, and then destroys them; wretched souls follow him in the dark, or they durst not follow him” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Rev. Rev. 9:1–12).

Others who take this passage figuratively describe the smoke as heresy, or the obscuring of human civility and common decency. While Satan and his demons are behind these dark deeds, they do their work through human agents, who disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness (see 2 Cor. 11:13-15). Satan works tirelessly to blind the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-4). His kingdom is darkness and his citizens follow him blindly. Like the smoke that ascends from the shaft of the abyss, false teachings obscure the light that reveals our sin and leads us to the truth of God’s Word. There is no doubt that the thick smoke rising up from the pit may accurately depict spiritual darkness.

There are some interpreters, however, who see the smoke as a literal judgment, rising up from the earth due to a volcano or an earthquake. Just as the plagues of Egypt impacted earthly elements – water, earth, vegetation and sky – the judgments of Revelation are God’s ways of using His fallen creation to illustrate the depths of human depravity, the heights of His holiness, and the severity of His wrath.

Warren Wiersbe comments: “Jesus compared hell to a furnace of fire (Matt. 13:42, 50), an image that ought to make people stop and think before they jest about it. The smoke polluted the air and darkened the sun, which had already been darkened when the fourth trumpet sounded” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Rev. 9:1).

One final thought: The imagery of thick, dark smoke is used in several ways in the Old Testament to illustrate God’s dealings with sinful people. Smoke accompanies the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:28). It attends God’s judgment of the nations (Isa. 34:10). And it envelopes the Lord on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:18). In each case, smoke is a visible manifestation of God’s power and divine purpose. He destroys wicked cities with fire and sulfur so the wicked can experience it and the righteous can witness it. He judges the nations in such a way that there can be no mistaking He is angry with sinners who rebel against Him and reject His gracious offer of forgiveness. And He delivers the law to His chosen people in such a way that they respond in terror to His holiness.

To the eye of the unbeliever, there may be no distinguishable difference between the smoke of the abyss and the smoke of Mt. Sinai. Smoke is smoke. But to the one who trusts in God’s Word, there is a distinct difference between the two. Satan uses darkness to hide his evil ways. The Lord uses it to reveal His wrath and keep sinful people from seeing Him directly, which would lead to their instant death (Ex. 33:20).

Next: Locusts came to the earth — Revelation 9:1-12

The key to the shaft of the abyss — Revelation 9:1-12

Previously: The fifth trumpet — Revelation 9:1-12

The scripture

Rev. 9:1 – The fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. The key to the shaft of the abyss was given to him. 2He opened the shaft of the abyss, and smoke came up out of the shaft like smoke from a great furnace so that the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke from the shaft. 3Then out of the smoke locusts came to the earth, and power was given to them like the power that scorpions have on the earth. 4They were told not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green plant, or any tree, but only people who do not have God’s seal on their foreheads. 5They were not permitted to kill them, but were to torment [them] for five months; their torment is like the torment caused by a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6In those days people will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them.

  7The appearance of the locusts was like horses equipped for battle. On their heads were something like gold crowns; their faces were like men’s faces; 8they had hair like women’s hair; their teeth were like lions’ teeth; 9they had chests like iron breastplates; the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses rushing into battle; 10and they had tails with stingers, like scorpions, so that with their tails they had the power to harm people for five months. 11They had as their king the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon. 12The first woe has passed. There are still two more woes to come after this. (HCSB)

The key to the shaft of the abyss was given to him

This falling star is given the key to the shaft of the abyss. The word “abyss” appears 10 times in scripture (HCSB), seven of these times in Revelation. A survey of these passages helps us understand that the abyss is not hell but a place of temporary confinement:

  • Ps. 140:10 – David implores God concerning wicked and violent men who pursue him: “Let them be thrown into the fire, into the abyss, never again to rise.” This, no doubt, is a reference to the abode of the dead and is similar to the Hebrew Sheol.
  • Luke 8:31 – The demons cast out of the man called Legion beg Jesus “not to banish them to the abyss.” This appears to be a place of confinement for demons but not hell (Gehenna), which is their ultimate destiny.
  • Rom. 10:7 – Paul quotes Moses to make the point that Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes, and that salvation is by faith. Citing Deut. 30:13, he writes, “‘Who will go down into the abyss?’ that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.” But in Deut. 30:13, Moses says, “Who will cross the sea, get it [the message of life] for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?” How do we reconcile Moses’ use of “sea” with Paul’s use of “abyss?” Just as Moses is making the point that God’s message of life is near to the people – “in your mouth and in your heart” (v. 14) – Paul is asserting that salvation has come to us through the resurrection of Christ. Paul’s use of “abyss” is similar to David’s in Ps. 140:10 to mean the abode of the dead, which Jesus evidently visited between His death and resurrection.
  • Rev. 9:1, 2, 11 – The term “abyss” is employed here to mean a place where demonic “locusts” are confined and over which Abaddon rules. More about these locusts later.
  • Rev. 11:7 – One called “the beast that comes up out of the abyss” makes war with two witnesses and slays them. This could be a reference to the Antichrist, who some commentators say rises from the dead, and therefore comes up out of the abode of the dead, or it could be a demon who comes out of confinement in the abyss to kill God’s servants.
  • Rev. 17:8 – The same beast of Rev. 11:7 is described as coming up from the “abyss” and ultimately headed for “destruction.”
  • One other note: Peter writes that “God didn’t spare the angels who sinned, but threw them down into Tartarus and delivered them to be kept in chains of darkness until judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). The Greek word translated Tartarus describes a subterranean place of confinement lower than Hades. It is a place where demons are confined. Possibly, Tartarus and the abyss are the same place, or at least related.

So, when we come upon the word “abyss,” it’s wise to consider the context. In some places, the word is used to describe the abode of the dead – similar to the Hebrew Sheol or the Greek Hades – and in other places, particularly in Revelation, it is used to depict a place, perhaps deep in the heart of the earth, where some demons and Satan are temporarily confined.

Abaddon is given the key to the shaft of the abyss. We are not told who gives him the key, but likely it is the Lord or a holy angel acting on the Lord’s behalf. If the abyss is a place of confinement for demons, it is the Lord who has banished them there and the Lord who must acquiesce to their temporary release. The “key” in scripture symbolizes authority. In Rev. 1:17-18 Jesus declares, “I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look – I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Since Jesus defeated Satan on the cross, it is quite likely He now holds the key to the abyss as well and grants the release of demons to bring judgment upon those who trample His blood beneath their feet.

Without apparent hesitation, Abaddon opens the shaft of the abyss. He chooses to unleash evil upon the earth in perfect harmony with God’s permission. What the king of the abyss intends for evil, the King of the universe plans for good – the judgment of the wicked and the glory of God’s holiness. It is like this throughout scripture. Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery; years later, after he becomes second in command in Egypt and rescues his father and his brothers from starvation, he tells them, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result – the survival of many people” (Gen. 50:20). And the apostle Paul, tormented by a “messenger of Satan,” is prevented by that same messenger from sinning by exalting himself (2 Cor. 12:7). In fact, Paul discovers that God’s grace is sufficient for him, and he writes, “I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10).

Next: Smoke came up out of the shaft — Revelation 9:1-12