Hades and the SOUL
This is a continuation of the article on Old Testament Sheol. From the previous study it is clear that the Old Testament Hebrew word, Sheol, is equivalent to the New Testament Greek, Hades. These are all-inclusive terms for “death,” or the “realm of the dead.” While they include the grave, in strong disagreement with SDA theology, they are by no means exclusive terms for the grave. Sheol/Hades also includes the abode of conscious souls, or spirits, of the dead.
Seventh-Day Adventists teach that, at death that which returns to God is only the breath of life, and not a conscious eternal part of man. They reject the idea that some part of mankind is inherently immortal and can continue a conscious existence outside of the body at the moment of death. Like Jehovah’s Witnesses, SDAs teach that Hades is only the “grave” for the body and all conscious existence ceases at death until recreation at the resurrection.
Since there are scores of very good books in circulation which adequately refute the SDA theology of conditional immortality, I will not repeat most of those arguments. In conjunction with my chapter on Old Testament Sheol, I will limit my discussion to the use of Hell in the New Testament.
It is the purpose of this study to demonstrate that Hades is not exclusively the same as the “grave” or “tomb,” and that all “souls” and bodies went to Hades before Calvary. It will also be demonstrated that inspired writers deliberately chose Hades instead of “sepulcher” in order to teach that conscious existence survives death and the grave before the resurrection of the body.
It is unfortunate that the various Bible versions give so many different meanings to the same Greek words. Only the New American Standard is consistent. For example, in the King James Version of the New Testament, the English word “Hell” occurs 33 times from 3 different Greek words: Gehenna (22 times), Hades (10 times), and Tartaros (1 time). The RSV and NASV, plus margin notes in many King James Versions, distinguish between these three words. Gehenna is the “lake of fire,” into which Death and Hades are cast in Revelation 20:14. Although Sheol is Hades, for some unknown reason, the KJV often incorrectly translates Sheol as “grave,” but only translates Hades as “grave” once.
Like the previous study of Sheol in the Old Testament, the following information provides the Greek words used and available for expressing truth in the New Testament:
One: Thanatos (Strong’s 2288), in the King James, is translated “death” 120 times and “grave” once in 1st Cor. 15:56.
Two: Mneimion (Strong’s 3419) is derived from “memory” and is a visible remembrance, memorial, or monument. It occurs 41 times: as “sepulcher” 29 times, “grave” 8 times and “tomb” 4 times.
Three: Gehenna (Strong’s 1067) is “Hell” of the “lake of fire” and occurs 22 times as “Hell.” Except for James 3:6, only Jesus used the word. It is the Hebrew word for “valley of Hinnon” transliterated into Greek.
Four: Hades (Strong’s 86) occurs 10 times, and is always “Hell in the KJV. Many versions clarify by using Hades instead of “Hell.”
Five: Abussos (Strong’s #12) is the English “abyss.” It occurs 9 times: “bottomless pit” 7 times and “deep” twice.
Six: Phrear (Strong’s 5421) occurs 7 times: “pit” 5 times and “well” twice.
Seven: Bothunos (Strong’s 999) occurs 3 times: “ditch” twice and “pit” once.
Eight: Tartaros (Strong’s 5020) occurs once in 2 Peter 2:4.
What is Hades? While the KJV translated Sheol as “grave” in 31 of its 64 O. T. occurrences, the KJV only translated Hades as “grave” once in its 11 N. T. occurrences B yet Sheol and Hades are the same in Acts 2:27 and 2:31. However, like Sheol, Hades is neither the “grave” nor the “lake of fire.” The most fundamental error of those who teach conditional immortality is their mistranslation of Hades as “grave.”
Mark 12:26 And as touching the dead, that they rise: have you not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spoke to him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
Mark 12:27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: you therefore do greatly err.
Most Jews who heard Christ’s sermons believed that, at death, their spirits either went to Eden, to the throne of God, or into Abraham’s bosom (Matthew Henry Commentary, Luke 16). Jesus’ statements in Mark 12: 26, 27 went beyond the resurrection to the continued consciousness of the spirit (see verses 18-27). When the Sadducee asked a mocking question about the resurrection, Jesus’ answer implied that the Sadducee was also wrong about the nature of the immortal spirit. Not only did he “err” about the resurrection, but he “greatly erred” about death itself. Yahweh told Moses “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” He did not say “I was their God and I will be their God again at the resurrection.” Jesus’ commentary on His own statement as Yahweh to Moses in Exodus 3:6, 14-16 was “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.” Jesus did not say that God “will be” the “God of the living” after the resurrection. Instead, He said that God is presently the “God of the living” because the spirits of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still alive! God is the God of the “living” because there is no death of the immortal spirit.
The reality of conscious existence of the spirit expressed by the Greek word, Hades, merely continued the Hebrew understanding of Sheol. Just as we have seen that the Hebrew word, Sheol, had an upper area for the righteous and a lower region for the wicked, so did the Greek word, Hades in the New Testament before the resurrection of Christ.
Matt. 11:23 (Luke 10:15) And you, Capernaum,, which is exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to Hell [Hades]; for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
Jesus prophesied that Capernaum would “be brought down to Hades” for rejecting the Gospel. If Hades were only the grave, then this statement would be meaningless because all die and go to the grave. Obviously, all those living in Capernaum in Jesus= time have long ago physically met death and physically been buried in the grave. Therefore, the meaning of Hades here must go beyond that of a mere grave at death. Capernaum still survives as a city today.
Therefore, since all die, Jesus’ promise would have been meaningless if He were merely saying that they would die and go to the grave! Jesus used Hades instead of mneimion (grave) to teach that they would continue conscious punishment when they died, because they had rejected His gospel.
Matt. 16:18 And I say also to you, That you are Peter [petros: little rock], and upon this rock [petra; giant rock] I will build my church; and the gates of Hell [Hades] shall not prevail against it.
In this verse Hades is not the grave, but a kingdom, or city, with fortified “gates.” Jesus was teaching that Satan’s plots, schemes, and strategy to overthrow the church would fail. If the church is here portrayed attacking the gates of its enemy, it would prevail and retrieve the spirits of the saints from Sheol/Hades at the soon ascension of Christ (Eph. 4:8-10; 2 Cor. 12:1-4). On the other hand, if the enemy is portrayed here attacking believers, Hades would similarly be unable to retain or grasp the spirits of believers.
The phrase, “gates of Sheol,” occurs only once in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 38:10. While King Hezekiah declared in verse 18 that “Sheol cannot praise thee,” verse 19 explains that he meant the spirits in Sheol shall not praise you “in front of the living.” “The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day, the father to the children shall make known thy truth.” Therefore, the context of this statement does not teach that those in Sheol are unconscious, but that they cannot return to earth to praise God before the living (also Luke 16:26).
Again we must ask, if Jesus meant “grave” (mneimion) or “death” (thanatos), then, why did He not use those words instead of Hades?
Neither did David believe that his body and spirit would eternally reside in their respective pars of Sheol: “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave (Sheol), for he shall receive me” (Ps. 49:15). Solomon also declared that the righteous would overcome Sheol: “The way of life is above to the wise that he may depart from Hell (Sheol) beneath” (Prov. 15:24).
Luke 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
Luke 16:23 And in Hell (Hades) he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Luke 16:25 .. now he is comforted, and you are tormented.
Luke 16:26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Hades is only the grave. They teach that Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the rich man is only a parable and does not teach truth about conscious suffering in Hades.
In response to the “parable only” claim, first, this story is surrounded in Luke by other statements which are not called parables by Jesus (lost coin, 15:8-10; prodigal son, 15:11-32; unjust steward, 16:1-12; serving two masters, 16:13-18; Hades; forgiveness, 17:1-6; service, 17:7-10). Although Jesus’ parables probably came from His own eye-witness accounts, the biblical evidence suggests that Jesus had shifted from parables to plain teaching. However, whether these are parables, or not, is irrelevant, because Jesus used real incidents for illustrations as parables. Since no parable actually names people, Jesus’ audience might have actually known this Lazarus.
A second area of disagreement involves the use of the word, Hades. Greek religion and language had already been used in Israel for over 300 years when Jesus told this [story]. Hades was not the grave in the Greek language! The Greek view of Hades was that of consciousness after death and a river of separation.
However, since Jesus’ teachings were usually taken from everyday common knowledge, it is inconceivable to think that He would reach back into a pagan Greek understanding of Hades to teach any lesson! Jesus used known, recognized, truth to illustrate further truth. He reached back beyond the Greek definition of Hades into the Old Testament concept of Sheol, or the realm of both dead bodies and conscious spirits.
The rich man looked “up” from the lower part of Hades and saw Abraham and Lazarus “afar off” across a “great gulf” in the upper part of Hades. This corresponds to the Old Testament idea of Sheol which is much older than the Greek idea of Hades. In Sheol the wicked would have to look “up” from the “lowest part,” the “recesses of the pit,” the “lower parts of the earth,” and the “depth of Sheol” (Deut. 32:22; Isa. 14:15; Eze. 32:24; Jonah 2:2).
“Abraham’s bosom” and “paradise” are both ideas from the Hebrew Talmud. Before Christ’s ascension, “Abraham’s bosom” was located in the upper region of Sheol, corresponding to the “paradise” portion of Hades. Old Testament writers understood this to be a temporary place for conscious souls nearer the “gates,” or entrance to Sheol. Compare Gen. 37:35; Ps. 49:15; 86:13; 139:8; 141:7; Prov. 15:24; Isa. 5:14; 38:10.
Jesus said that the rich man was BEING “in torments.” Once again, Jesus would not possibly use a lie to teach a truth; such was against His divine character. He could have, and did, illustrate the truth of this parable without resorting to a pagan Greek mythological lie. Again, the Old Testament teaching of conscious torment in lower Sheol agrees with Jesus’ teaching here. Compare Job 26:5; Psalm 116:3; Song of Solomon 8:6; Isaiah 14:9,10; Ezekiel 32:21, 31.
Since the events of Luke 16 correlate with the Old Testament teaching of Sheol, there is absolutely no reason to conclude that Jesus used the Greek mythological prototype of Hades to teach truth. The truth is that, after Christ’s ascension, conscious existence survives death in the Heavenly Paradise for the souls of the righteous and in Hades for the wicked. Those souls in Sheol/Hades cannot return from there to earth to praise God (Isa. 38:18, 19).
Acts 2:24 Whom [Christ] God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that he should be held by it.
Acts 2:27 Because you will not leave my soul in Hell (Hades), neither will you allow your Holy One to see corruption.
Acts 2:31He [David] seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in Hell (Hades), neither did his flesh see corruption.
Seventh-day Adventists teach that the “body” plus the “breath from God” produces a “living soul.” They use Genesis 2:7 as if it were the only text in the entire Bible. This is fully discussed in many other books. Next, they reason, death reverses this: the “body” returns to dust and the “spirit,” or life principle, returns to God and the “soul” ceases to exist until the resurrection. Although SDAs call this “soul sleep,” they really mean “annihilation,” because the soul ceases to exist at death.
However, Acts 2:27 quotes Psalm 16:10 and clearly teaches that the “soul” continues to exist after the body dies. At Christ’s death, His Divine Immortal “soul” went to one part of Hades while His human body, or flesh, risked decay, or “corruption,” in the grave section of Sheol/Hades.
Acts 2:27 Greek: soul, psuche (5590) was not left in Hell, Hades (86)
Ps. 16:10 Hebrew: soul, nephesh (5315) was not left in Hell, Sheol (7585)
Acts 2:27 KJV body neither His flesh did see corruption
Ps. 16:10 KJV body: neither wilt Thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption
The Old Testament clearly teaches that, at death, the “soul” goes into Sheol (Psalm 16:10; 30:3; 49:15; 86:13; 88:3; 89:48; Prov 29:14). It does not cease to exist; neither does it go to the grave. Sheol is also called the deep “pit” (bor: 953) (Ps 30:3; 88:6; Prov. 28:17).
Contrary to the KJV and NIV translations, but in agreement with the NAS and RSV translations, Qeber (Strong’s 6913), not Sheol, is the Hebrew word for “grave,” “tomb,” or “sepulcher” and is equivalent to the New Testament Greek mneimion. Qeber occurs 84 times; the “soul” is NEVER said to go there, only the body. Neither does the “soul” go to the shallow “pit” (pachath: 6354).
The Old Testament writers were divinely inspired and carefully chose the correct words to convey truth. While Sheol/Hades includes the entire realm of the dead, including the grave, it is proof of inspiration that the body always [went] to the grave/memorial (qeber/mneimion) part of Sheol/Hades while the soul/spirit (nephesh/psuche) always [went] deeper into Sheol before Christ’s ascension.
Was Jesus Christ a different kind of man than we are in his humanity? Seventh-day Adventists build their argument of death on Genesis 2:7 and teach that man ceases to exist at death when the body dies and only the life-principle (not the immortal soul) returns to God. What about Jesus? Did Jesus cease to exist when His body died and His breath was exhaled? How do SDAs explain that? Where did the eternal omniscient omnipotent divine part of Jesus go between Friday evening and Sunday morning?
Gen. 3:24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
Luke 23:43 And Jesus said to him, Verily I say to you, To day you shall be with me in paradise.
Ephesians 4:8-10 ..When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up above all heavens, that he might fill all things).
2 Cor. 12:4 How that he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Rev. 2:7 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches. To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
In disagreement with SDA theology about death, the soul of Christ did not cease to exist while His body was in the tomb. The tree of life from Genesis 3:24 is seen in heavenly paradise in Revelation 2:7. This change of location may have occurred between the time of Jesus’ [story] in Luke 16 and Paul’s vision in Second Corinthians 12:1-4. Many interpret Ephesians 4:8-10 as the explanation of when this change in location took place. Since it is unlikely that an above-ground sepulcher would be called a “lower part of the earth,” Ephesians 4:9 must refer to the abode of the soul in the depths of Sheol/Hades. Once again the familiar Old Testament contrast between heaven being “far above all heavens” and Sheol/Hades extending far beneath the earth is clear. The abode of the body in the tomb is not discussed in these texts.
The point here is that Jesus’ soul did not cease to exist at his death. While his body was in the tomb, some part of Jesus moved Paradise to heaven. SDAs cannot say that Jesus’ soul survives death, but the souls of others do not.
Rev. 1:18 I am He that lives and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of Hell (Hades) and of death.
Revelation 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell (Hades) followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Rev. 20:13-14 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hell (Hades) delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and Hell (Hades) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Once again, from the list at the beginning of the article, mneimion, the Greek word for “grave,” “tomb” and “sepulcher” occurs 41 times in the New Testament. Since the “grave” is only part of Hades and “death,” the New American Standard correctly retains Hades as Hades and does interpret it as the “grave.” Hades and “death,” like Sheol and the “pit,” are all-inclusive terms which include both “graves” for the body and various lower regions for departed souls.
Although there is some kind of parallelism involved between Death and Hades in Revelation 1:18; 6:8 and 20:13-14, it is also obvious that some subtle differences are also implied in these three sets of texts. In 1:18 Christ has the “keys,” plural, of places named Hades and Death. In 6:8 they are personifications: Death sits on a pale horse and Hades is following closely behind. In 20:13-14 Death and Hades are two different places. In order to be consistent with the Old Testament texts already studied, the sea gives up both the bodies and the souls of the dead deposited therein while the land gives up the bodies and souls deposited in Death and Hades. The souls of the wicked dead were consigned to conscious punishment in the deepest parts of the pit or the sea (Jonah 2:2-6; Eze. 32:24). Those cremated, burned at the stake and consumed by animals would similarly also be included, because of the second resurrection of the wicked (John 5:29; Rev. 20:1-5). A review of the Old Testament use of Sheol is necessary in order to understand these texts. When 20:14 says that Death and Hades were cast into Gehenna, the lake of fire, after judgment, it must include both the bodies and the souls found within Death and Hades. While the Apostle John, the inspired writer of Revelation used the common Greek word for “grave” and “sepulcher,” mneimion, 16 times in the book of John, it does not occur even once in the Revelation. Therefore, since both Death and Hades include more than merely the “grave,” the absence of mneimion in Revelation is a strong argument against the SDA belief that conscious souls do not continue in Hades after the death of the body.
SDAs counter this argument by teaching that the judgment in Revelation 20:13-14 follows the end of their “Investigate Judgment” which began in 1844 and will end immediately before Christ returns to earth. Therefore, since nobody’s eternal fate could have been sealed before 1844, no dead unbeliever is suffering yet. Also (they say), it makes no sense for those who had already been suffering in Hades to be raised, judged for the first time, and then cast again into Gehenna’s lake of fire.
Actually, the judgment that determines eternity fell on Christ at Calvary (Heb. 9:26-27). The Gospel itself is a judgment message and those who reject it are judged already (John 3:16-19; 5:24). When a person believes the Gospel, the judgment, death and resurrection of Christ become the believer’s. Therefore, the believer does not face a future judgment to determine guilt (Rom. 8:1; Heb. 9:28). By rejecting the Gospel, the unbeliever does not require another future judgment which will determine guilt or innocence (John 3:18-19). The Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20 merely proves to all creation once-for-all that God is just and has always been just, even in respect to the suffering unbelievers in Sheol/Hades.
Rev. 14:10-11 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name.
Rev 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
Rev 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whore-monger, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Seventh-day Adventists get their marching orders from the three angels= messages of Revelation 14:1-12. They teach that the 144,000 of 14:1-15 are from their church, God’s exhibit to the world that His Law can be perfectly obeyed. The three angels= messages describe their mission, and verse 12 is a summary description of themselves as Sabbath-keepers who have the prophetic guidance of Ellen G. White (compare with 19:10).
Therefore, common sense should tell us that SDAs would teach that unbelievers [should] suffer “for ever” “day and night” because of verses 10 and 11 located in the very heart of their own mission statement. Yet, amazingly, they actually teach that unbelievers will soon burn up after being cast into the lake of fire! It seems ironic for God to place the Bible’s strongest description of continuing torment of the soul in verses 10 and 11.
Do unbelievers cease to exist when their non-immortal bodies are cast into the lake of fire B as SDAs teach happens at death? No, otherwise the present tense verbs of 14: 10-11 and 21:8 are meaningless and the fire would soon burn out. Therefore, and this is important, that which is being punished must be the conscious souls, or spirits, of the unbelievers.