568-1798 IS NOT THE 1260 OF PROPHECY
The Sabbath Has Benn Changed Many Times
122 Errors in GC Intro, 317-408 (1 of 3)
1. My Testimony and Introduction
2. Seventh-day Adventism in a Nutshell
3. Biblical Inspiration and Ellen G. White
5. The Sanctuary in Daniel
6. The 2300 Day Prophecy and the Year-Day Principle
7. The Cleansing of Daniel 8:14
8. The Daily Sacrifice
9. Pattern-Fulfillment
10. Sin Transfer into the Sanctuary
11. The Truth about the Biblical Sanctuary
12. Books of Heaven
13. Rooms in the Heavenly Sanctuary
14. Inside the Veil
15. The Day of Atonement and the Scapegoat
16. Antiochus IV Epiphanes; 164 B.C.
17. Creation Sabbath
18. Weekly Sabbath
19. Shadow Sabbaths
20. Greater and Lesser Sabbaths
21. Jesus and the Sabbath
22. The Sabbath in Acts
23. Christian Liberty and Holy Days
24. The United States, Roman Catholicism and the Mark of the Beast
25. Two Different Three Angels' Messages
Appendix 1: Sheol, Abaddon and the Soul
Appendix 2: Hades and the Soul
Appendix 3: Jewelry, Dress Code and Deceit
165 ERRORS FROM GC P411-444 (2 OF 3)
50 Errors in GC P563-678 (3 of 3)
Achilles' Heel of Seventh-day Adventism: Daniel 8:8-13
Ben Carson, Dishonest Seventh-day Adventist
Book Reviews and Endorsements
Dialog with SDA on the Law, 2014
Hell: After-Death Punishmetn
Questions on Daniel from an Andrews University Scholar
Marc Rasell and Russell Kelly dialog, Oct 2009
Marc Rasell and Russell Kelly dialog-2, Oct2009
Sunday Blue Law Paranoia of SDAs

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Exposing Seventh-day Adventism
Russell Earl Kelly, PHD

Chapter 11 completely destroys the investigative judgment premise and is the most important chapter in this book. Newly improved July 2008. http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/sda/id51.html

Sheol: Article

By Russell Earl Kelly, PHD



June 25, 2008



Note: This article is greatly condensed from the chapter on Sheol in my book, Exposing Seventh-day Adventism.




Sheol is one of the most mysterious words in the entire Bible. It conjures up such Old Testament companion words as the “rephaim,” or “spirits of the dead,” “the nether world,” “shadows,” “the bottoms of the mountains,” and Abaddon.  Most of us have never noticed Sheol in our Bibles. It is usually translated into words such as “grave,” pit” and “Hell.”


Does the soul immediately enter its full reward or punishment before the resurrection of the body?  Does the soul enter only a partial reward or punishment and await its full reward or punishment after resurrection?  Does the soul cease to exist entirely until the resurrection for one judgment of both body and soul? Do only the souls of the righteous survive death and the souls of the wicked cease to exist without any punishment? All of these views are current within Christianity today.


The King James Version translates Sheol as “Hell” 31 times, “grave” 30 times and “pit” 3 times. The New King James revisers left Sheol as “Hell” 18 of the 31 occurrences; however, it changed “Hell” to Sheol 13 times, “grave” to Sheol 4 times, “pit” to Sheol once and “grave” to “Hell” once. The New International Version never uses the word “Hell” in the Old Testament!  It translates Sheol as “grave” in 56 of its 64 occurrences; “death” is used 6 times and “depths” once. Only in Deuteronomy 32:22 does the NIV approach the truth with “the realm of death below.” However, in contrast to these, the New American Standard Version and the Revised Standard Versions wisely avoid interpretation by simply leaving the word as Sheol in all occurrences.


Seventh-day Adventists, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, teach that the soul does not exist apart from the body, and, therefore, both the righteous and unrighteous actually cease to exist at death. Although SDAs soften this by calling it “soul-sleep,” it is a doctrine of “non-existence,” or “annihilation.” Only after an after-death judgment (which began in 1844) and re-creation, they teach, will the righteous enter the presence of God. The wicked will then be judged and finally completely destroyed soon after they are cast into the lake of fire.


Other Christians, especially conservatives, accept the traditional position. These believe the Bible teaches that, for mankind, life and death are both physical and spiritual. The physical part ends when the body dies. On the other hand, at the moment of death, man's spiritual being continues a conscious existence in another place. The Old Testament name for the place of both bodies and souls is Sheol.


Many of these believe that, before the resurrection of Christ, the souls of both the righteous and the wicked went into one of several regions of Sheol,  the New Testament Hades. At Christ’s ascension, he transplanted the upper Paradise portion of Sheol containing the souls of the righteous to heaven itself, into the presence of God. They believe that this is a conscious existence, an intermediate state, between the death of the body and the resurrection of the body. The souls of the wicked remain in conscious, or semi-conscious, torment in Sheol, or Hades.


Since many Christians confuse Sheol, Hell and Hades with the “lake of fire” (Gehenna), translating  Sheol  as “Hell” also contributes to the confusion.




The majority of reference books agree that Sheol includes the grave but is much more than the grave. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says it is the “unseen world, the state or abode of the dead” and “not a state of unconsciousness.” The Nelson’s Bible Dictionary says it is “The abode of the dead, the unseen world, an underground region, shadowy and gloomy, where disembodied souls had a conscious but dull and inactive existence.” The Oxford Companion to the Bible says it is “a

general dwelling place of souls after death; the wicked dwell in a deeper section than those of the righteous. Smith’s Bible Dictionary (hell) says

It is deep and dark in the center of the earth, having within it depths on depths, and fashioned with gates and bars. In this cavernous realm are souls of dead men, the Rephaim and ill spirits. It is clear that in many passages the O.T. Sheol can only mean the grave.” The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Sheol) says “The world of the dead....  There seems to be an allusion to the belief that there is a dark and deep abyss beneath the center of the earth, inhabited by departed spirits, but not necessarily a place of torment....  In the great majority of cases in the OT, Sheol is used to signify the grave....” The Vine’s Expository Dictionary (Sheol) says “ the word means the state of death.” And the Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Dictionary, 1960 (grave) calls Sheola poetic expression for the grave.”




Sheol is the proper place-name for “death,” “the pit,” and “the realm of the dead.” Although it includes the place for both the conscious “soul” and the “grave” for the body, it never stands for either of them alone. While Sheol is the place-name, “death” is the general description, and “the pit” is the geographical description. All three terms contain souls and graves.


One: Sheol, death and the pit are all-inclusive and inter-changeable terms.


Two: Sheol is the proper place-name which includes death and the pit. It most often focuses on the soul.


Three: “Death” is the general descriptive term which includes Sheol and the pit. It also can be a personification.


Four: “The pit” is the geographical description of Sheol and death. The pit is a very deep multi-chambered chasm in the earth with caves, or recesses. It contains both the graves and the souls of the dead.


Five:    In Sheol, souls are in a conscious, or semi-conscious, dull and dark condition. They can become aroused, become excited, see, speak and hear.


Six: Before the resurrection of Christ, the souls of the righteous were also in Sheol at rest and peace.


Seven: The souls of the wicked in Sheol receive some kind of torment and suffering.


Eight: “Souls” are located in the deeper and deepest parts of Sheol, death and the pit.


Nine: “Graves” are only one part of Sheol, death and the pit. They are usually located in the upper parts around its mouth.


Ten: “Grave” is NOT equivalent to Sheol, death and the pit. It is only a part of them.




For the following linguistic reasons, Sheol should never be translated as “grave.”


One: Old Testament translators agree that Sheol is the only word permissible for the Greek Hades.


Two: In contrast to qeber and qeburah, which are often plural, Sheol is always a singular place name.


Three: While Sheol is never translated as “tomb,” “sepulcher,” or “burying place,” qeber and qeburah are the commonly accepted words for “grave.”


Four: Since other very common words were in use for “grave” and “tomb,” Sheol must indicate something other than the grave.


Five: Since Sheol is never “tomb,” and qeber and qeburah are never Sheol or Hades/Hell, then Sheol should never be translated as “grave.”


Six: Scripture consistently states that the soul (nephesh) goes to Sheol or the pit at death, never to qeber or qeburah.


[Note: For the sake of clarity, the New American Standard Version will be used as the main text.]




                                                                      JOB AND SHEOL


The word Sheol occurs eight times in Job, but is undetectable because it is not translated as Sheol in most versions. In the KJV, Sheol is translated “grave” five times, “Hell” twice and “pit” once. However, significantly, it is never translated as “sepulcher” or “tomb.” Qeber occurs five times in Job; it is translated “grave” four times and “tomb” once.


Those speaking in Job knew the difference between the place of Sheol in general and the grave specifically. Job said that some yearn for death and the “grave” (qeber) (3:21, 22); the body is carried to the “grave” (qeber) (10:19); when his days end, the “grave” (qeber) comes next (17:1).  “Yet shall he be brought to the “grave” (qeber), and shall remain in the “tomb” (gadiysh) (21:32).


While the grave (qeber) specifically received the body, Sheol was known as the place-name of both bodies and souls in death. Job said “my flesh is clothed with worms” (7:5), “my life is but breath” (7:7) and man vanishes into Sheol at death (7:9). Zophar said that the “depths of God” and the “limits of the Almighty” are “as high as the heavens” and “deeper than  Sheol” (11:7-8).


Job 14:10-22 should be viewed as Job’s unenlightened complaint rather than as theological doctrinal truth about death. Job did not anticipate revelation through Christ, His judgment and the resurrection. Job wished that he could be like a tree which is cut down and springs to life again when its still-existing roots find water (14:7-9). Job wanted to be hidden in Sheol and hope for a future resurrection (14:13).


While expecting the grave (17:1), Sheol (17:13) and the pit (17:14), Job’s desire was to go down into Sheol with hope (17:15-16). Job said that the rephaim, or “departed spirits,” consciously “tremble under the waters and their inhabitants” because Sheol is naked before God who sees all (26:5-6).


                                                                 GENESIS AND SHEOL  


Like Job, the Hebrew of Genesis makes a clear distinction between the “grave” and Sheol. Qeber and qeburah, the usual words for “grave,” “tomb,” “sepulcher” and “burying place,” occur thirteen times in Genesis. Abraham called Sarah’s burial cave a qeber (23:4, 6, 9, 20); Jacob called Rachel’s grave a qeburah  (35:20); Jacob’s grave was a qeburah (47:30) and qeber (49:30); Joseph called his own grave a qeber (50:5, 13-14).


However, Sheol, not qeber, or qeburah, was chosen by Jacob when he complained about not seeing Joseph or Benjamin again. Jacob believed that his sorrow would continue into Sheol, the conscious realm of the departed souls after death. He expected to go “down to Sheol in sorrow” (Gen 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31).




Although Sheol can also include “death,” “death” should only be an acceptable translation when it is inclusive of both Sheol for the soul and the grave for the body. Sheol is the whole and its parts are places for both souls and graves for bodies. “Grave,” a part of Sheol, should not be used for the whole.


Hannah’s statement in First Samuel 2:6 that “the LORD brings down to Sheol” can, therefore, include “death,” but it also goes beyond our idea of “grave.”


Joshua through Second Chronicles only contain Sheol four times (1 Sam 2:6; 2 Sam 22:6 and 1 Kg 2:6, 9) while qeber/qeburah for “grave, tomb, sepulcher” occur thirty times. The kings were placed in their graves at death. Scripture does not state that any person died and the “body” was placed by man into Sheol at death!!! This demonstrates that “grave” and Sheol are not interchangeable terms!




There are twelve (12) texts from nine books which make it crystal clear that Sheol reaches far deeper than a shallow grave and cannot possibly be the same thing (Job 11:7-9; Num 16:30; Deu 32:22; Ps 86:13; 139:8; Prov 9:18; Isa 7:11; 14:14-15; Eze 31:16; Jonah 2:2, 6; Amos 9:2).


At least part of Sheol is much deeper than the grave! Several texts are comparisons of extremes. Bible writers believed that Sheol was located far below the earth’s surface. Even the King James translators translated Sheol in the above texts as “Hell” instead of their usual “grave.” The word “grave” simply does not fit the description given in these texts.




The Bible often depicts Sheol/Hades and death together, not as equals, but as companions (Job 17:13-16; 24:19-20; Prov 5:5; 7:27; Ps 55:15; Isa 28:15, 18; Hab 2:5; Rev 6:8; 20:13-14).


Job 17:13-16; 21:13,32 and 24:10,20 can give an incorrect conclusion if not compared to Job 11:7-8 and other texts which make Sheol much more than and much deeper than the grave.


Sheol, “death,” and “pit” are not limited to only “grave” in the Bible and equating them merely confuses theology. Although “death” often focuses on the grave, death and Sheol are described as companions. Since Sheol, “death” and “the pit” all include “grave,” all three have more than one inner “chamber” and all three include both the destiny of the body and the destiny of the soul.


Old Testament man, like modern man, used the term “death” to refer to the destiny of the body, the soul, either, or both! The point is that our everyday language does not always distinguish between what we believe happens to the body and the soul! The “house” of “death” is named Sheol; that house has rooms which contain souls and bodies; the house looks like a deep pit.


The New Testament sheds further light on the relationship between death and Sheol, or Hades in Revelation 6:8 and 20:13-14. In these texts “death” and Hades  are distinct companions. In Revelation 6:8 death claims the bodies, while Hades claims the souls. In Revelation 20:13-14, in agreement with the O. T. Sheol, the depths of the “sea” contain both bodies and souls. However, since most do not perish at sea, the general description will be that “death” will give up the bodies, while Hades will give up the “souls”! Although this differs somewhat from Old Testament usage, the dual residence for departed bodies and souls is still clear. Annihilation is not seen.


In summary, although the full revelation of the meaning of death, Sheol, and judgment awaited “the truth” in Jesus Christ, O. T. writers often, though not always, distinguished between the body and soul by the words they chose. The dualism was clear -- while the body went to the grave in Sheol at death, the souls went to another chamber of Sheol. One could speak of both events as one in reference to time. Both were in the pit, but Sheol extended much deeper than the tomb and was a place of conscious awareness.


When death and Sheol/Hades are cast into the lake of fire (Gehenna), the second death, or final separation from God occurs. No longer will any enter THE death, or separation from God (Rev. 21:4). However, those conscious souls from Sheol will either continue in God’s care, or in Gehenna (Rev. 14:11; 21:1-4, 10-11).




Job 7:9‑11 When a cloud vanishes, it is gone, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up. He will not return again to his house, nor will his place know him anymore. Therefore, I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. NAS


Job 14:12-13 So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens be no more, He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep. “Oh that Thou wouldst hide me in Sheol, that Thou wouldst conceal me until Thy wrath returns {to Thee,} that Thou wouldst set a limit for me and remember me!


Ps. 6:5  For there is no mention of Thee in death; in Sheol who will give Thee thanks?


Ps. 31:17  Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I call upon Thee; let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol.


Eccl. 9:10-11 Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do {it} with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going. I again saw under the sun...”


Of the 64 Sheol texts, the preceding 5 are favorites with those who teach that the soul ceases to exist at death. However, reaching such conclusions ignores the clearer teaching of many other Sheol texts and all of them as a unified doctrine.


The purpose of these texts is to teach that there is no return to the “land of the living” after death to communicate with those who are still alive. Those still alive cannot hope to have their departed return, or be conjured up, in a séance to impart truth to them. And those about to die should quickly say what they can before they die.


Job 7:9-10 is explained in 7:11. “Therefore I will not refrain my mouth, I will speak.” He would speak while he was still alive and had the chance to speak to others who are still alive.


Job 14:12-13 is partially explained in 14:14-15. While suffering excruciating pain, Job wished that God would “hide” him in Sheol until His wrath had passed, until the end of the world if necessary. Job does not state that he would be non-existent or unconscious in Sheol, but only that he would not return to the living until God allowed it. Man will physically “live again” on earth, body and soul, when his body is resurrected and his “change comes” (verse 14).


In Psalm 6:5 David was physically and emotionally defeated. He called on God in 6:4 to “Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.” After David had been delivered, he “remembered” God and praised Him before all Israel! However, those in Sheol could not return (*through a séance or otherwise) and remind others of the goodness and greatness of God. *Note: There were notable exceptions such as resurrection.


Psalm 31:17 is, again, from the perspective of the living, the wicked are silenced in Sheol.


Ecclesiastes 9:10 deserves special attention. In practical language, it says that one should do what one could do while still alive. Once dead, we cannot do anything to help those still alive. The dead cannot return to perform work or to impart knowledge or wisdom. Neither are they going to be able to finish such work or impart such knowledge in Sheol. Jesus Himself made a similar statement in Luke 16:27-31. Though the rich man was certainly conscious and knowledgeable in Sheol/Hades, he was unable to pass that knowledge back to his relatives who were still alive.


Most of Ecclesiastes, like 9:10, is surrounded by texts like 9:9 and 9:11 which refer to “under the sun.” With few exceptions, Solomon was describing how unenlightened vain men see life without God’s guidance. The conclusion of Ecclesiastes is found in 12:13-14 “Fear God and keep His commandments. For God will bring every act to judgment” (12:14). Without future punishment of the wicked and rewards for the righteous, life makes no sense, and God is not fair. Divine justice will be delivered in the next life, whether in Sheol/Hades, Paradise, or Gehenna, the lake of fire!


Isaiah 38:9-20 reveals how Old Testament man thought. King Hezekiah is the speaker on his death-bed (38:9). He said “I shall go to the gates of Sheol”" at death (38:10). Since he will be in Sheol, he will not “see the LORD or man any more in the land of the living” (38:11). Hezekiah asked God for healing (38:16). Afterwards, having been forgiven and healed, he said that God “has in love to my soul [nephesh] delivered it from the pit [bor: 1097] of corruption [7845: shachat ]” (38:17).


King Hezekiah continued, “For Sheol cannot thank Thee, death cannot praise Thee; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Thy faithfulness.” The key text follows immediately, “It is the living who give thanks to Thee, as I do today; a father tells his sons about Thy faithfulness.” The dead in Sheol cannot praise God to the living on earth, because they cannot return to the land of the living from Sheol before the resurrection of the body!  Hezekiah could not praise God to his children from Sheol, neither could he teach them God’s truth.


It is not the purpose of these texts to teach that souls in Sheol are either non-existent or unconscious to God or unconscious to each other. They teach that souls in Sheol are unconscious in relation to those still living on earth. They cannot praise God in front of their children to teach the truth of God.




Ps 16:10 For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay [shachat ].


Read Psalm 16:10; 30:3; 49:14-15; 86:13; 88:3; 89:48 and Proverb 23:14. These texts contain a very important fact about the relationship between the “soul” and Sheol at death. They also provide a remarkable demonstration of Bible inspiration. Research was made trying to link “soul” (Strong's 5315) with qeber and qeburah (6913 and 6900), the usual Hebrew words translated as “grave.” In the Hebrew of the above texts, the “soul,” nephesh, goes to Sheol or the “pit” at death!!!  The list includes every text that combines “soul” and Sheol. The “soul” is never said to enter qeber or qeburah at death!!! Again, the words, bor and shachat  for “pit” refer to both Sheol for souls and the grave for bodies. However, Sheol is never translated as “tomb” or “sepulcher.”


Bible writers correctly refuse to translate Sheol as “tomb/grave,” or qeber/qeburah as “Sheol/Hell.” Since Sheol does not mean “tomb,” and qeber/qeburah do not mean Sheol/Hades, these words should not all mean “grave”!




Job 14:13 Oh that Thou wouldst hide me in Sheol, that Thou wouldst conceal me until Thy wrath returns {to Thee,} that Thou wouldst set a limit for me and remember me!


Ps 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; for He will receive me.


Read Job 14:13; Psalm 16:10; 49:14-15; Proverb 15:24 and Isaiah 57:2. In the Old Testament both righteous and wicked souls went into the various chambers of Sheol at death (1 Sam 2:6; Job 21:13; Ps 6:5; 18:5). Concerning the righteous in Sheol, the preceding texts describe it as a place where “peace” is acquired and where Job wanted God to “hide” his soul from God’s wrath until the resurrection. Also, there is indication of at least some mourning and sorrow over the loss of loved ones in Sheol (Gen 37:35; 42:38; 44:29; 44:31).


What does Proverb 15:24 mean? Does it mean that the righteous will not die, or that they will live longer because they are righteous? Or is it a hint that Old Testament man hoped for something even better than Sheol, perhaps above with God?


Although Psalm 16:10 has reference to Christ in the New Testament, in context it also gave hope to Old Testament man that God would eventually “redeem” man even from Sheol and not abandon him there (Ps 49:15).




One: Job and Moses believed that Sheol was a place for punishment after the death of the body. See Job 21:13; 24:19; 26:5-6; Numbers 16:29-33 and Deuteronomy 32:22.


Numbers 16:29-33 says something interesting about the location of lowest Sheol. When Korah challenged Moses’ authority, Moses said in verses 29-33 “If these men die the death of all men, or if they suffer the fate of all men, {then} the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD.”


Death was not an “entirely new thing”; neither was men dying in earthquakes. The “entirely new thing” was going “alive” directly into the depths of Sheol, both body and soul! These Bible verses are meaningless if Sheol only means “grave”! While most graves were shallow, because of the earthquake, the “graves” for the body were extraordinarily deep inside the earth in Sheol with their souls.


In Deuteronomy 32:22 a “fire is kindled in God's anger that will punish unto the “lowest Sheol” and “set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” Just as Jacob’s sorrow for Joseph would not stop at the grave, neither does God’s anger stop at the grave. Deuteronomy distinguishes between Sheol and qeber, because, in 34:6 Moses was buried in his grave (qeber). Deuteronomy 32:22 is also the only verse in which the NIV translators ventured beyond “grave,” “death” and “depth” to translate Sheol as “the realm of death below.”


Two: David, Solomon and the other writers of Psalms believed that souls were punished in Sheol after death. See Second Samuel 22:6; Psalms 9:17; 86:13; 8:3-6; 116:3; Proverb 23:14 and Song of Solomon 8:6.


When out of God’s will, David identified with the wicked, and compared his pain with that of Sheol. David said his “sorrows” were those of Sheol (2 Sam. 22:6) and his soul was delivered from the “lowest Sheol” (Ps 86:13). Psalm 116:3 may be the strongest verse in the Bible describing the suffering in Sheol with “terrors,” “distress” and “sorrow.”


Texts such as Psalm 9:17 and Proverb 23:14 should be translated as Sheol rather than the NIV’s “grave.” Since all go to the same grave, the statement that “the wicked shall be turned into Sheol” does not make sense unless some kind of justice is indicated (Ps 9:17). Likewise, Proverb 23:14 ---that the child “will not die,” but his “soul” will be delivered “from Sheol”--- makes no sense if only the grave were meant.


Three: Isaiah believed that suffering would continue in Sheol after death. See Isaiah 14:9-20.


While discussing the future of the king of Babylon (a type of Lucifer), Isaiah 14 is a very vivid description of conscious existence after death in the lower world of Sheol. Verses 10, 11, 16 and 17 are actually spoken by the souls in Sheol. It seriously challenges the assertion of those who deny the continued conscious survival of the soul after death prior to the resurrection of the body.


In 14:9 the “spirits of the dead” are “excited,” “aroused,” and “raised” to meet the dead king of Babylon. In 14:10 they “all respond” and speak. In 14:11 they remind the king that his body will be eaten by worms in the grave-part of Sheol. Thus while some part of the king is conscious in Sheol, his body will be eaten by worms in another part!


In 14:15 God promised the King of Babylon that he would be brought down to Sheol which is located in the “recesses of the pit” --- here contrasted with qeber, the grave. The word for “recesses”  in the NAS, yerekah, is translated as “sides” in the KJV, “depths” in the NIV and RSV, “lowest depths” in the NKJV and “uttermost parts” in the ASV. Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Old Testament Lexicon also includes “extreme parts.” It is obvious that these descriptions refer to more than the first six feet of the grave and this extent of poetic exaggeration is unwarranted.


Those that “see” and “speak” in verses 10-18 are the departed spirits, the “rephaim” already in Sheol. Next, verse 19 declares that his body will be cast out of the grave [qeber]. These texts make no sense if the soul has ceased to exist. They clearly indicate conscious activity in Sheol. They also carefully point out that the king’s body will be cast out of qeber, not Sheol. Two different places in the pit are being described here.


Four: Ezekiel believed that the dead would continue to be conscious in Sheol.


See Eze 31:16-17; 32:21, 27, 31. In 31:16 God promised to cast Pharaoh “down to Sheol” with those who “descend” “into the pit,” or into the “nether parts of the earth.” The other heathen nations also went “down into Sheol” (31:17). The wicked speak to Pharaoh out of Sheol ---not out of qeber, the grave (32:21). The wicked nations are “there,” meaning Sheol (32:22, 24, 26, 29). They are all in the “nether parts of the earth” (32:24). The numerous texts describing the location of the wicked in Sheol consistently indicate someplace other than a shallow grave. God Himself declares that Pharaoh will “see” the other slain nations in Sheol (32:31).


Five: Jonah believed that the wicked would continue to suffer in Sheol after death.


See Jonah 2:1-6. While out of God’s will, Jonah, like David, identified with the wicked, and compared his pain with that of Sheol.  Jonah described himself as being in the “belly of Sheol” (2:2), in the “deep” (2:3), “out of Thy sight” (2:4), and “at the roots [bottoms] of the mountains” (2:6).


Jonah and David both used Sheol and “pit” to describe the location of the conscious soul after the death of the body. Their word selection reflected their belief that Sheol extends much deeper than an ordinary grave, like a prison pit with bars and cords in the very deepest part of the earth and sea.


Job, Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jonah all used the word, Sheol, to describe a place of suffering after death. Admittedly, many of the texts are surrounded by poetic imagery which places tangible descriptions on the hopes and fears of Old Testament man. However, while taking this imagery into consideration, the vocabulary reflects what Old Testament man “believed” happened after death.


For the wicked, Sheol was a dark place of consciousness deep inside the earth or in the deepest parts of the sea. God punished sinners there (Num 16:29-33; Deu 32:22; Job 24:19). It was a place of sorrow, distress, terror, trembling and jealousy (2 Sam 22:6; Job 26:5; Ps 88:3-6; 116:3; Song of Solomon 8:6; Jonah 2:6).  And it was a place where the wicked were expelled from God’s presence (Jonah 2:4).


Although souls in Sheol appear to be in a state of weakness and stillness (Isa 14:10; Eze 32:21), they are neither non-existent nor completely unconscious. The souls are fully capable of becoming aroused and becoming excited (Isa 14:9). Once fully aroused, the wicked in Sheol could see, hear and speak (Isa 14:10; Eze 32:21, 31).




See Psalm 30:3; 88:3-6; 114:7; 141:7; Proverbs 1:12; 7:27; Isaiah 5:14; 26:19 and Ezekiel 31:16-17; 32:21-31. Without a proper definition of Sheol the passages in Ezekiel become extremely confusing. Sheol, the pit, and the grave are all mentioned. Sheol, “death” and “the pit” are the “house” while “souls” and “corpses” are the residents of its “chambers.”


The pit is best described as containing the graves of bones and corpses scattered around its mouth and sides. The souls of the wicked occupy the pit’s lowest regions at the bottoms of the mountains either in the heart of the earth or the bottom of the sea. While “souls” are located in one part of Sheol, death and the pit – “graves” occupy another part of Sheol, death and the pit. Sheol and the pit “swallow whole” its inhabitants, both body and soul (Prov 1:12).




See Job 26:5-6; Psalm 88:3, 10; Proverbs 2:18; 9:18; 21:16 and Isaiah 14:9; 26:14, 19. Like Sheol and Abaddon, rephaim (Strong’s #7496) is another word that remains unrevealed in many versions. It only occurs in the eight texts above. The KJV usually translates it as “the dead” and the RSV prefers “shades.” The NIV does, however, read “spirits of the departed” and “departed spirits” in Isaiah 14:9 and 26:14 respectively. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon calls the rephaim “ghosts of the dead,” “shades” and “spirits.”


The rephaim are not dead bodies in a tomb. Job 26:5 says they “tremble” and Proverb 21:16 mentions the “assembly,” or “congregation of departed spirits.” In Isaiah 14:9, Sheol is excited and arouses the “spirits of the dead.”


Isaiah 26:19 is the most interesting rephaim text. First it says that the “dead” [mut: 4191] will live and their “dead bodies” or “corpses” [nebelah: 5038] will rise. Second it says that the “departed spirits,” or rephaim will awake and shout. By defining Sheol as the place of both souls and bodies, this passage makes sense. None of the rephaim texts suggest that they are either unconscious or non-existent.




See Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10; First Chronicles 10:13-14 and Isaiah 8:19; 29:4. "Necromancy" was (and still is) an almost universal practice of consulting “familiar spirits” through séances using witches, wizards or spiritual mediums. “Familiar spirits” occurs sixteen times in the Old Testament, and its companion, “unclean spirits,” occurs twenty-five times in the New Testament. Although the “spirits” (if actually conjured up) are fallen angels, or demons, many believe that they are the departed souls of their loved ones. Our actions demonstrate that we reject the idea of an unconscious, or non-existent, soul at death.


Although the Old Testament teaches that souls are conscious in Sheol, Scripture also teaches that God does not normally allow communication between them and the living. King Saul attempted to seek counsel from one who consulted with the dead. Whether one believes that King Saul actually spoke with a familiar spirit, or Samuel himself is irrelevant. Either conclusion is an admission that King Saul believed that some part of mankind survived death in another realm. The prohibitions against the practice prove that Old Testament man believed that consciousness survived death.




See Job 26:6; 28:22; 31:12 and Proverbs 15:11; 27:20. Sheol and Abaddon are paired in Job 26:6; Proverbs 15:11 and 27:20. While the King James translates it as “destruction” all five times, the New King James, and the New International Version, often capitalizes the word, thus indicating that it is either a place-name or personification. Sheol and Abaddon, like Sheol and death, appear to be inseparable. Since “destruction” is translated from twenty-four different words in the KJV, here again, the NAS’s Abaddon is best left un-translated in order to avoid doctrinal error in God’s Word.


As mysterious as Sheol, Abaddon may be the deepest part of Sheol, even deeper than the place for the departed wicked souls of mankind. God is constantly viewing two places -- Sheol and Abaddon (Job 26:6). This would not be necessary if they only contained dead bodies!!!  Both those in Abaddon and those in the death of Sheol consciously “hear” (Job 28:22). If God knows what is happening in Sheol and Abaddon, then He certainly knows what is happening in men's hearts (Prov 15:11).


2 Pet 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into Hell [tartaros] and committed them to pits of darkness [gloomy dungeons: NIV; gloomy caves: TLB], reserved for judgment…


Rev 9:11 They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.


Rev 20:1‑3 And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the abyss, and shut {it} and sealed {it} over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.


It is very likely that Abaddon, Tartaros and the “bottomless pit” are identical. Abaddon’s description also fits the “pit” of deepest Sheol. Abaddon may be the same place where some of the fallen angels are kept and thus corresponds to Tartaros. In Revelation 9:11, Abaddon is the angel of the abyss, or bottomless pit, thus connecting Abaddon with the pit. Since Satan, “Death and Hades/Sheol” will all be cast into “the lake of fire” (Rev 20:10, 14), one may conclude that Abaddon and its inhabitants will meet the same fate as the wicked in Sheol.




Ps. 16:10 For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay [qeburah: pit, corruption].


Acts 2:27 Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay [corruption].


Acts 2:31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.


Eph 4:9 (Now this {expression,} “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?


1 Pet 3:18-19 For Christ also died for sins once for all, {the} just for {the} unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;  in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits {now} in prison.


Psalm 16:10 is quoted in Acts 2:27, 31; 13:35 and alluded to in Acts 13:34, 36, 37. It is applied to Jesus Christ.


One: The texts prove that the New Testament meaning of Hades and the Hebrew Sheol are interchangeable. 


Two: Jesus’ “soul” [psuche] went to Sheol/Hades at death. It did not cease to exist.


Three: Jesus’ body, or flesh, did not see corruption or decay in the pit [qeburah ]. Although “pit” includes the entire “death” concept, the words for “grave,” “tomb,” and “sepulcher” are not used here. The Greek word of “corruption” is diaphthora (Strong’s 1312) and is defined as the bodily decay after death.


Four: According to Ephesians 4:9, Jesus “descended into the lower parts of the earth.” This is another connection between Sheol and Hades, and not to the grave. Jesus’ grave, tomb, or sepulcher was a cave above ground. Although the Greek word for grave occurs forty times in the New Testament, it is clearly not the “lower parts of the earth” which has a distinctly Sheol/Hades implication.


The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary says, “[This is] not the place of torment; nor, on the other hand, merely the grave, which is not referred to until the next clause; but the unseen world of disembodied souls: the Hebrew Sheol, the Greek Hades.” [Acts 2:27]


[Quotations from Barnes Notes and The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary have been removed.]


See Luke 16:22-23, 26; 23:43; Second Corinthians 12:4 and Revelation 2:7. Before the resurrection of Christ, “Paradise” is first seen corresponding to the upper division of Sheol/Hades, the habitation of the righteous souls. In Luke 16:19-31 Lazarus is conscious and at rest with Abraham and the rich man is conscious and in torment in the lower region of Hades. Jesus promised the dying thief on the cross, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” There is a great gulf separating the two regions.


After Christ’s resurrection, “Paradise” seems to have been transferred to heaven. At the time of Christ’s crucifixion, Paradise, or upper Sheol, was still part of Hades. Jesus did not “ascend” that day, but “descended” (John 20:17)!  Ephesians 4:8-9 states that “When he [Christ] ascended up on high, he led captivity captive,” because He had “descended first into the lower parts of the earth.” Years later, the Apostle Paul described “Paradise” as being “in the third heaven” (2 Cor 12:2-4). Even later, the Apostle John on Patmos also placed Paradise in heaven (Rev 2:7). The change of Paradise from Sheol/Hades into Heaven must have occurred between Christ’s resurrection and ascension. This change may also explain the events of Matthew 27:52-53 as “first-fruits” to God. Compare also Colossians 2:15, First Corinthians 15:20-23 and possibly First Peter 3:18-22. The souls of the departed righteous had not ceased to exist and lost consciousness.


Those who believe that souls cease to exist at death and await re-creation along with the resurrected body must ask themselves, “Where did Jesus’ soul go when He died? Did Jesus the God-man cease to exist from Friday evening until Sunday morning? Was His “soul” “nothing-ness,” or was His “soul” a “something” which continued to exist?




Job 14:10 But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he?


Job pondered the question long ago. The NAS says “man expires”; the KJV says “gives up the ghost” and the NIV and RSV say “breathes his last.”


See Job 10:11-15. Job requested God to “hide me in Sheol” until His wrath is finished and wait “until my change comes” when God calls. This is not God’s statement of the facts of death; it is Job’s hope.


See Isaiah 28:15-18 and Hosea 13:14. The “soul-sleep” (more accurate “annihilationist”) position rests primarily on a pre-supposition that the “soul” does not exist separate from the body and that there is no consciousness after death. A secondary pre-supposition equates Sheol with “the grave.” Since it has become very clear that Sheol is never solely the grave, the “soul-sleep” position must be abandoned.


The doctrine that the “soul becomes non-existent at death” can only be used as an explanation of a handful of the Sheol texts. It ignores the definition of Sheol, the location of Sheol and the conscious status of souls in Sheol.


The view that souls enter a very active full reward or punishment immediately at death is also far from adequate. First, if one places the Bema, or Judgment Seat of Christ, in the future, then one implies that Christ has not yet determined the “degrees” of reward for the saints whose souls are already with God in heaven. Likewise, if the Great White Throne Judgment will decide the “degrees” of punishment for the wicked, then they must not already be suffering to their full extent in Sheol/Hades.


In other words, the joy of souls in the presence of God without their immortal bodies must be less than the joy experienced after the Bema and after the time when they will receive their immortal bodies. Likewise, the suffering of the wicked in Sheol/Hades must be less than when they receive varying degrees of punishment and are cast into the lake of fire.




The following is this author’s suggested solution. It accounts for the Sheol texts and the status of souls both before and after death.   


Eccl. 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.


One: After-death “judgments,” whether the “Judgment Seat of Christ” for the righteous or the “Great White Throne Judgment” for the wicked, do not determine whether or nor one is “righteous” or “unrighteous”! Judgment is the time when God “evens things out.” The wicked who have prospered will suffer loss. The righteous who have suffered will be blessed. Only degrees of reward or punishment are determined in the after-death judgments.


Heb. 9:26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

Heb. 9:27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this {comes} judgment,

Heb. 9:28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without {reference to} sin, to those who eagerly await Him.


Two: Although the declaration in Hebrews 9:27 that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this {comes} judgment” is used by many to prove that God will not determine anybody’s salvation until after death, it actually does not say, or mean, that at all.


Verse 26 states that Christ died once for all time for all sins. At Calvary he brought together “all of the ends” (Greek: sun-te-lei-a) of all ages and paid one sacrifice for all sin (past, present, and future). All of the guilt and condemnation of judgment for all sins fell on Christ when he offered himself a perfect sacrifice (Rom 5:18-19; Heb 7:27; 9:12; 10:10; 1 Jn 2:2). 


The key word in Hebrews 9:26-28 is “once,” not “judgment.” Christ died “once” for all sin (9:26); man is appointed to die “once” for his sins (9:27); Christ’s sacrifice, having been offered “once,” is sufficient to guarantee salvation to believers (9:28). It is linguistically and theologically improper to separate verse 27 from verses 26 and 28. Verse 27 begins with “and inasmuch as...” and verse 28 continues the thought with “so also....” Those who “eagerly await Him” have already had Christ’s judgment imputed, or placed into their account. Those who have accepted Christ do not face a  judgment of condemnation but look forward to His appearing “a second time for salvation,” for the final redemption of the body (Jn 5:24; Rom 8:1, 14-23; 2 Cor 5:21).


Three: God knows all things and does not require an after-death judgment lasting over 160+ years already to determine who shall be saved (Heb 4:13; 1 Jn 3:20; Isa 46:10). Revelation 6:9 describes the righteous as already under the altar --God recognizes them as His own. In 9:4 and 14:1 God knows who have His seal, or name.


Four: The names of the redeemed are written in the book of life before the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:15).


Five: Mankind’s living-faith response to God’s truth and calling determines his ultimate standing before God. Although man’s destiny is to die and enter some kind of judgment, God’s judgment on Christ at Calvary moved up the judgment verdict which determines salvation to decisions made while alive (Heb 9:27-28).


John 3:18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


John 5:24 He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.


Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  [Note: “no condemnation” literally means “no contrary judgment sentence or verdict”]


Gal 3:9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.


Tit 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.


Six: The “righteous” are called “righteous” even BEFORE they enter Sheol. As one of the righteous, Job expected his part of Sheol to be a place of safety until God's wrath was past, until the end of time if necessary (Job 14:13; 17:13-16). Other righteous persons looked to Sheol without fear (Ps 16:10; 49:15; 88:13; Prov 15:24; 23:14).


Seven: In addition to the preceding texts, the following texts also teach that believers already possess God’s judgment verdict of eternal life, access into His presence, adoption as His children, deliverance, an eternal guaranteed seal, forgiveness of all sin guilt, judgment-guilt immunity, justification, ownership by God, peace, perfection, presence as sinless in Christ, sanctification, a seating with him in heaven and holy standing in His presence (Matt 28:20; Jn 3:16; 14:16, 27; Rom 3:24; 4:3; 5:1, 2; 8:15, 33; 1 Cor 1:30; 6:19, 20; Eph 1:7, 13; 2:8; 3:12; 4:30; Phil 4:7; Col 1:13; 2:13; 3:1, 3; Titus 3:5; Heb 9:26; 10:14, 19, 22).


Eight: The souls of the righteous are already safe and secure at peace in the custody of God. This was upper Sheol/Hades, and is now called “Paradise” in the presence of God. Although ultimate salvation is secure, and souls are in God’s presence, bodies have not been resurrected and believers have not been “judged” to determine the “degrees” of final reward. The present reward is much more than an unconscious sleep, but less than with the resurrected body (Rom 8:14-23).


Nine: The “wicked” are also “wicked” BEFORE they enter Sheol/Hades and judgment (Job 21:13, 29, 30; Num 16:30; Ps 9:17; 31:17; 49:14; 55:15; Prov 5:5; 7:27; 9:16; Isa 5:14; 14:9-15; Eze 31:15-17). They are designated as such before death.  Most of the book of Revelation describes God’s wrath falling on the wicked before the judgment because they were already determined to be wicked (Rev 6:17; 8:4; 11:18; 12:12; 14:8, 10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 18:3; 19:15).


Therefore the Great White Throne Judgment does not determine whether or not the wicked are guilty. This final Judgment demonstrates to the entire creation that God’s judgments are “true and righteous” because the wicked steadfastly continued to “blaspheme” God and refused to repent (Rev 16:7, 11).


Ten: The souls of the wicked are still in the lower regions of Sheol/Hades away from the presence of God, but not His sight. Their ultimate damnation was decided when they rejected God while alive. However, their bodies have not been resurrected and they have not yet been “judged” to determine the “degrees” of their final punishment in the lake of fire/Gehenna. Although they are already suffering some kind of punishment for rejecting God, their current consciousness is also more than sleep, but less than their full punishment.


Eleven: The Great White Throne Judgment will totally, finally, and eternally separate the wicked from the righteous and, especially, from God. Whatever punishment is received in lower Sheol/Hades will be infinitely greater in the “lake of fire.”


Twelve: Due to the nature of progressive revelation, one should not expect to find a complete understanding of what happens at death in the Old Testament. Even Job admitted that he had declared wonderful things that he did not understand (42:3).




Sheol is a “place” and not a “state of mind” or non-existence. The inspired Bible writers used terminology such as “going down to Sheol,” “into Sheol,” “lowest Sheol,” “deeper than Sheol,” “Sheol is my house,” “gates of Sheol” and many other physical terms to describe Sheol. They give no evidence that it simply means a total cessation of existence at death. God unleashes his anger against the wicked in Sheol even before the judgment of the last day.


Just as Sheol or Hell are never translated from the common Hebrew words for “grave,” neither should Sheol be translated as “grave.” First, translating Sheol as “grave” diminishes its all-inclusive meaning and assigns it to a mere six-foot deep hole in the earth. Second, translating Sheol as “grave” robs it of its meaning as the place-name where both souls and bodies reside after death. Third, translating Sheol as “grave” breaks its vital connection with the “soul.”


It is also partially incorrect to translate Sheol as Hell. For many, this incorrectly makes it identical to Gehenna, or the “lake of fire” instead of merely Hades. Jesus Himself distinguished between Hades and Gehenna. Just as our language would not permit us to use Hell when we meant the grave, Bible writers do not use Hades when they meant Gehenna.



Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 44:29,31;  Numbers 16:30,33;  Deuteronomy 32:22;  1st Samuel 2:6;  2nd Samuel 22:6;  1st Kings 2:6,9;  Job 7:9; 11:8; 14:13; 17:13,16; 21:13; 24:19; 26:6; Psalm 6:5; 9:17; 16:10; 18:5; 30:3; 31:17; 49:14,15; 55:15; 86:13; 88:3; 89:48; 116:3; 139:8; 141:7;  Proverb 1:12; 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:11,24; 23:14; 27:20; 30:16; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Song of Solomon 8:6; Isaiah 5:14; 14:9,11,15; 28:15,18; 38:10,18; 57:9; Ezekiel 31:15,16,17; 32:21,27; Hosea 13:14,14; Amos 9:2; Jonah 2:2; Habakkuk 2:5

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Russell Earl Kelly, PH. D., 316 Aonia Road, Washington, Ga 30673