29 August 2008

Christians Unite!! Vote Your Conscience!

As another follow up to my comments on voting and politics, I just wanted to share with you a great candidate from a great party that I have voted for in every election since 1992, the Constitution Party.

As I mentioned before, we should not be voting for the candidate we think has the best chance of winning, but we as Christians should be voting on the best man running, based on God's qualifications. If every professing Christian voted for Baldwin, sure he probably wouldn't win; but all of a sudden , this "third" party would be known, as their numbers would shoot up to be greatly recognized. It may take an election or two, but it is not hard to make a third party become one of the main parties out there.

Evolution Confusion

More than once I have read in the writings of someone promoting evolution, how this planet was just right to support life. How other planets are too hot or too cold, or do not have the proper air quality to support life. Those type of comments have always confused me. Has anyone stopped to think about what is being said?

The very doctrine of evolution teaches that life has evolved to be what it is based on the climate and survival. So, life is the way life is (according to evolution) because it shaped itself to fit it's surrounding. So, the mentality that this planet is more adequately suited to support life is ridiculous. Life is not life because of the planet, the planet came first, and life "grew up" based on the surrounding it had.

Life could have just as easily "evolved" to support itself on Mars, and it would have evolved to survive in that planet's condition. Likewise the sun, why could it not support life of creature of fire? It all seems so backwards when you think about it. Based on evolution, life evolves changes in order to survive. So why couldn't it evolve to survive on other types of planets?

I was always curious as to how it could evolve in some areas, to survive. If one of these evolving sea creatures flopped up on the shore, and yet had no lungs to breath air, how did it evolve to breath air? Every time one of them plopped up on the shore, it would lay there and die from not being able to breath. Are we to assume that if enough sea animals jump up out of the water and die, that over time, one of the water creature will just develop a breathing apparatus and be able to survive? What happened to the first sea animal that came out of his mother with air breathing lungs? Wouldn't it immediately die in the water? Or did it's mother know what it was, and immediatly after birth the it up on the shore?

Well, enough rambling, the point is, this planet was made in order for it to comfortably support life. Life was in mind when this planet was created. However, life was created by God to be able to comfortably live on THIS planet. God could have just as easily created a life form fully able to conform to life on the Sun, or the Moon, or Jupiter, or Mars. In other words, God was not limited to creating life only on the Earth because it was the only one able to support life. God could have created life on any planet, and created it to live in it's climate perfectly.

So really, there is nothing so special about Earth or Man that makes either one of them have to be where they are. Which is simply to say, we are where we are, and Earth is like it is, being perfect for our living condition, because God perfectly constructed both according to his plan, to work together. God was not limited to only being able to work with Earth due to our and our human makeup, he could have done any number of things in any number of places.

Evolution takes way too much faith to believe all of this is an accident.

27 August 2008

Vote for Obama?

I know this may hurt some feelings, but in light of my previous post about our responsibility before God to vote for the best candidate that stands up for God's Word, and God's laws, I have to say. Any professing Christian who votes for Obama needs to seriously consider their faith in the Lord Jesus.

This is just one of so many videos you can find on YouTube that show the ridiculous views that Obama believes, and that should convince all Christians to stay away from him. Sadly, too many church goers get duped into the politics that unbelievers like then spin to get votes. WAKE UP AMERICA!

Obama's Dangerous Religious Agenda
A Shocking Report By Joel McDurmon—American Vision's Director of Research

• Learn about the "evangelical" religious leaders who
are shaping Obama's social agenda
• Discover what Barack Obama really believes...

Get the ABSOLUTELY FREE 32-Page Report Now!
No Purchase Necessary. No Shipping Charges. Just FREE!

25 August 2008

Christians and Voting

As voting seasons is upon us, I wanted to add my words to the always exciting discussion of politics. I will keep it brief, to the point, and hope not to stir up too much trouble (yeah right).

So, when it comes to politics, which of the two parties should a Christian support? Well, that is sort of a trick questions, as we should not be thinking about voting and politics with this mindset at all.

There are more than two parties than run during each election. Yet most people are inclined to only think and consider the main two parties. I am so tired of hearing things like "voting third party is to throw away a vote or voting for the other guy," "I have to vote for the lesser of two evils," etc.

Christian's should know that God is in charge of everything, including who gets into office. We should be voting for the person who has the right system of belief that we as Christians can support. It is not our duty to vote for the one we think is most conservative and has the best chance of winning; we should think of who would God want us to vote for...and put the results in his hands.

If Christians as a whole considered this mentality, then it may take an election or two or three, but you would all of a sudden see some third party candidates in the spotlight because of the increased votes they keep getting. We would no longer have simply two parties getting the press. People approach an election like it is the last one we'll ever have, so we'd better make it good. We need to have a multi-generational, and long term mind-set when it comes to change. We need to stop thinking only about what might effect this next election, and think of what might turn the tides...down the road if need be.

If every profession Christian out there just first registered to vote, but then actually went and voted for a candidate that they could in good conscience support as God's candidate, we would see a major change overnight I am sure. All of a sudden a Christian or super-conservative party would light up on the radar with huge numbers. But we will never see that as long as people keep relying on the same excuses they give for not wanting to vote for a smaller party outside of the main two.

We have more than two lousy choices. We have God on our side when we vote...are we on His side when we case our vote?

As Christians, we have a duty, a command, to vote and support the most godly candidate running, regardless of their party and chances of winning, and not just the lesser of the two evils. When you stand before God, will you be able to say "I voted for the candidate that most conformed to your ways, Lord" or will you be embarrassed by your lesser evil choice?


20 August 2008

Descended into hell? (Pt 5): Jeff Meyers' The Lord's Service

The Lord's Service - Jeffrey Meyers

I know I have given quite a bit of witnesses to the historical point I have been making, but as I find more and more, some are worth mentioning, so I will continue to give them as additional support for this historic view that is much too often forgotten by the modern church.

Today's resources will be some sections from the 2003 book on Covenant Renewal worship by Rev. Jeffrey J. Meyers, pastor of Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, entitled The Lord's Service. In chapter thirteen, which deals with the use of the Apostle and Nicene Creeds, he deals with the question "What does "he descended into hell" mean in the Apostles' Creed? While his reply is quite a few pages, here is an overview of some of his comments.

He starts by giving six possible meaning for the phrase, one of which is the view we have been discussing here (be sure to read the first four parts to catch up if you haven't already), which he lists as point five:
The phrase would be better rendered as "He descended into hades." It means that Jesus actually died, and His human soul and body were separated, His spirit leaving His body to inhabit for a time the place of the departed dead (sheol, hades).
Other points included various wordings or ways of saying He actually descending into the abode of the damned, what we normally would call hell or the lake of fire. One point is the common view in most Reformed circles these days:
It does not mean that Jesus literally "descended" to hell; rather, he symbolically descended into hell, that is, He literally suffered hell for us as our substitute on the cross.
He then begins his explanation of the points in saying:
Clearly the creed intends for the descent clause to add something to the affirmation that Jesus was "buried." More than that, it follows in a historic sequence of events: born, suffered, crucified, dead, buried, descended, rose again, ascended, and sits. The descent happened before the resurrection. The descent comes after his burial and before his resurrection. This carefully constructed historical sequence rules out the symbolic interpretation that is so common in Reformed circles... Furthermore, we know from history that this symbolic interpretation was not the view of the early Church, which was responsible for composing the creed.
Meyers goes on to discuss why some of the other views can be ruled out, then returns to further look at this view.
The questions therefore are: Did Jesus descend into hell or into hades? And what did he do there? Let us begin with what we do know. First we know that Jesus suffered as a human — that is, His body and soul were torn apart. That is what the Bible calls physical death. The biblical record says that when he died "He gave up his spirit" (John 19:30). Luke 23:46 tells us that Jesus Himself prayed, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." Now, if Jesus' human "spirit" or "soul" (the two words are used interchangeably in Scripture) departed the cross, where did it go? If Jesus' body was subsequently buried, then His soul must have gone somewhere. In other words, where was Jesus between Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning? And what we he doing? The descent clause has an answer.
He then proceeds to give an overview of the historical and Scriptural definitions and understandings of the sheol/hadaen realm; all of this and more has been explained in previous sections of this blog series. Following that, Meyers goes on to examine some of the views explaining what Jesus was doing, and the purpose for his preaching to the spirits in prison as we are told in Peter. At the end, he comes to the conclusion as to why he was there preaching, by referring to Luther's interpretation.
Luther understands the descent clause to refer to Christ's triumph over Satan and all of his hellish hosts. When Christ descended into hell it was an opportunity to proclaim His comprehensive victory over sin, death, and the devil himself. The soul of Christ descended to hell in order to destroy it for believers, thus "redeeming them from the power of death, or the devil, and eternal damnation of hellish jaws." (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration 9.4) Christ appears before Satan victorious to announce His victory on Satan's own turf. The very kingdom of Satan has been spoiled. Jesus appears in hell as Conqueror. As Christus Victor Jesus descended into hell: "Having disarmed principalities and powers, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:15).

Jesus' descent into hades to herald His own victory seems to be the most biblical option. Since the differentiation between hades/sheol (the Greek and Hebrew terms for the undifferentiated place of the departed dead, without reference to to blessedness or damnation) and hell (gehenna) is not always carefully distinguished in the Scriptures, this interpretation fits well with statements in the New Testament that clearly state that Jesus' soul departed for the place of the dead (hades) after his death. In Acts 2:27 Peter puts the words of Psalm 16:10 into the mouth of the resurrected Christ: "You will not abandon me to the place of the departed dead (hades)." The NIV mistranslates hades as "the grave." The soul of the man Jesus Christ was clearly separated from his body during the three days when His body rested in the tomb. His spirit/soul went to the place of the departed dead. he truly died and the evidence is that His body was buried and His soul departed for haded/sheol for three days until the reuniting of His soul and body at the resurrection.

Therefore the best way to understand the biblical data about hades/sheol before Jesus transformed it is to think of it as the place where departed souls went after death, either to experience blessing and peace from the Lord (the paradise side of sheol) or to experience the Lord's wrath (the damnation side of sheol)...

When we recite the creed saying "He descended into hell," we are confessing that Jesus truly died and that He proclaimed victory in the place of the departed dead, delighting the righteous and confounding Satan and the damned.
So, hopefully you have been following each part of this discussion, and are starting to see just what is being declared in the descent clause, and just how important it is to keep it and understand it.

Yes, there is more...

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

17 August 2008

Compared to Paul I am ___?

In Sunday School today we did an overview of the life of Paul, and I couldn't help but be personaly convicted by some of what was discussed regarding his persecutions. Have you ever stood back and looked at your life, witness and personal persecution and considered how it compared to one such as Paul?

While time were certainly a bit different during Paul's day, with him being a central figure in helping to launch the early Church upon a hostile Jewish and pagan society, I really have to wonder just how much different it was from where we have come today. Do we not have an ever growing hostility against religion and all things Christian from our American society and government? Sure, they haven't begun any kind of corporal punishment for our religion, but is that because they don't want to go that far, or is it because as a church (and individuals) we pose no serious threat to them, their establishments or authority?

Missionaries in foreign lands today put themselves in much more dangerous situations than most do in America. What do we do as a church that poses a threat to the growing humanistic and atheistic establishment, or as individuals that cause ripples in our local society's lifestyle? What activities do we do that have the potential to bring us under persecution?

Let us look at just some of what Paul went through in the name of Christ (taken from 2 Corinthians 11:24-28:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
History tells us that many people actually have died from the punishment of receiving thirty-nine lashes. Christ underwent such punishment himself. Yet Paul underwent the punishment five times...five times nearly beaten to death. His back most likely was one big scar. How many times would we go through such torture for the gospel's sake, before we changed our tune?
Three times I was beaten with rods.
We know some countries still practice "caning" which I assume is similar to being was Paul relates as being beaten by rods. Same thought...how many times would we go through this before we watered down our message/lifestyle?
Once I was stoned.
Stoning was a form of capital punishment. It was the equivalent of the death penalty. It was not a penalty that you were supposed to live through; it was supposed to end in death. This would be like saying "once I went to the electric chair" (thank you R.C. Sproul for that analogy). Whether Paul is relating that he was actually put through the full legal form of stoning, or just that he had suffered people throwing stones at him for his message, makes no real difference...rocks are rocks, and neither would be a pleasant experience.
Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
Sounds like Paul was attacked by just about everyone from all sides; his own people, the Gentiles, false brothers, and all types of places he went. Talk about being an outcast, Paul seems to have experienced much of that during his preaching years. At least (for now) we don't have it near as bad from town to town.

But here is the one that I think takes the cake:
And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
As if life wasn't already enough of a physical pain to him, on top of it all he was in constant anxiety from the very churches he helps start, he served, and he wrote letters to help instruct.

How many pastors today have been stressed out to the point of considered giving up preaching simply because of becoming overwhelmed by trying to deal with their one small congregation? Paul had many congregations he was "in charge" of, that relied on his help and guidance while he was out helping to preach and start new ones.

So Paul is dutifully going from town to town preaching to the Gentiles, helping establish fruitful congregations, and still at most every city he is met with opposition, tortures and imprisoning, all the while receiving letters of complaints, bickering and whining from congregations he previously helped establish. All of that for all of those years, finally brought to an end by his being beheaded by the sword. What a life! What a thorn in the flesh! What a witness for the gospel!

So, how was your week?

15 August 2008

The Book of Enoch (Pt 3) - Life of... (Pt 1)

At this point, I wish to simply share with you the history of the life of Enoch, according to the Jewish writing known as the Book of Jasher. While there is much discussion over the validity of this book actually being that which was spoken of in Joshua and 2 Samuel, most agree that it is of historic Jewish persuasion, and sheds light on early Biblical text.

I found it a fascinating read (though I have not finished it all yet), so I thought it worth sharing in this little series on Enoch. The Bible says very little about Enoch, while this Book of Jasher includes much more details, which is what I share with you here.

Book of Jasher - Chapter 3
And Enoch lived sixty-five years and he begat Methuselah; and Enoch walked with God after having begot Methuselah, and he served the Lord, and despised the evil ways of men. And the soul of Enoch was wrapped up in the instruction of the Lord, in knowledge and in understanding; and he wisely retired from the sons of men, and secreted himself from them for many days.

And it was at the expiration of many years, whilst he was serving the Lord, and praying before him in his house, that an angel of the Lord called to him from Heaven, and he said, Here am I. And he said, Rise, go forth from thy house and from the place where thou dost hide thyself, and appear to the sons of men, in order that thou mayest teach them the way in which they should go and the work which they must accomplish to enter in the ways of God. And Enoch rose up according to the word of the Lord, and went forth from his house, from his place and from the chamber in which he was concealed; and he went to the sons of men and taught them the ways of the Lord, and at that time assembled the sons of men and acquainted them with the instruction of the Lord. And he ordered it to be proclaimed in all places where the sons of men dwelt, saying, Where is the man who wishes to know the ways of the Lord and good works? let him come to Enoch. And all the sons of men then assembled to him, for all who desired this thing went to Enoch, and Enoch reigned over the sons of men according to the word of the Lord, and they came and bowed to him and they heard his word.

And the spirit of God was upon Enoch, and he taught all his men the wisdom of God and his ways, and the sons of men served the Lord all the days of Enoch, and they came to hear his wisdom. And all the kings of the sons of men, both first and last, together with their princes and judges, came to Enoch when they heard of his wisdom, and they bowed down to him, and they also required of Enoch to reign over them, to which he consented. And they assembled in all, one hundred and thirty kings and princes, and they made Enoch king over them and they were all under his power and command. And Enoch taught them wisdom, knowledge, and the ways of the Lord; and he made peace amongst them, and peace was throughout the earth during the life of Enoch. And Enoch reigned over the sons of men two hundred and forty-three years, and he did justice and righteousness with all his people, and he led them in the ways of the Lord.

And these are the generations of Enoch, Methuselah, Elisha, and Elimelech, three sons; and their sisters were Melca and Nahmah, and Methuselah lived eighty-seven years and he begat Lamech. And it was in the fifty-sixth year of the life of Lamech when Adam died; nine hundred and thirty years old was he at his death, and his two sons, with Enoch and Methuselah his son, buried him with great pomp, as at the burial of kings, in the cave which God had told him. And in that place all the sons of men made a great mourning and weeping on account of Adam; it has therefore become a custom among the sons of men to this day. And Adam died because he ate of the tree of knowledge; he and his children after him, as the Lord God had spoken.

And it was in the year of Adam's death which was the two hundred and forty-third year of the reign of Enoch, in that time Enoch resolved to separate himself from the sons of men and to secret himself as at first in order to serve the Lord. And Enoch did so, but did not entirely secret himself from them, but kept away from the sons of men three days and then went to them for one day. And during the three days that he was in his chamber, he prayed to, and praised the Lord his God, and the day on which he went and appeared to his subjects he taught them the ways of the Lord, and all they asked him about the Lord he told them. And he did in this manner for many years, and he afterward concealed himself for six days, and appeared to his people one day in seven; and after that once in a month, and then once in a year, until all the kings, princes and sons of men sought for him, and desired again to see the face of Enoch, and to hear his word; but they could not, as all the sons of men were greatly afraid of Enoch, and they feared to approach him on account of the Godlike awe that was seated upon his countenance; therefore no man could look at him, fearing he might be punished and die.

And all the kings and princes resolved to assemble the sons of men, and to come to Enoch, thinking that they might all speak to him at the time when he should come forth amongst them, and they did so. And the day came when Enoch went forth and they all assembled and came to him, and Enoch spoke to them the words of the Lord and he taught them wisdom and knowledge, and they bowed down before him and they said, May the king live! May the king live! And in some time after, when the kings and princes and the sons of men were speaking to Enoch, and Enoch was teaching them the ways of God, behold an angel of the Lord then called unto Enoch from heaven, and wished to bring him up to heaven to make him reign there over the sons of God, as he had reigned over the sons of men upon earth.

When at that time Enoch heard this he went and assembled all the inhabitants of the earth, and taught them wisdom and knowledge and gave them divine instructions, and he said to them, I have been required to ascend into heaven, I therefore do not know the day of my going. And now therefore I will teach you wisdom and knowledge and will give you instruction before I leave you, how to act upon earth whereby you may live; and he did so. And he taught them wisdom and knowledge, and gave them instruction, and he reproved them, and he placed before them statutes and judgments to do upon earth, and he made peace amongst them, and he taught them everlasting life, and dwelt with them some time teaching them all these things.

And at that time the sons of men were with Enoch, and Enoch was speaking to them, and they lifted up their eyes and the likeness of a great horse descended from heaven, and the horse paced in the air; And they told Enoch what they had seen, and Enoch said to them, On my account does this horse descend upon earth; the time is come when I must go from you and I shall no more be seen by you. And the horse descended at that time and stood before Enoch, and all the sons of men that were with Enoch saw him.

And Enoch then again ordered a voice to be proclaimed, saying, Where is the man who delighteth to know the ways of the Lord his God, let him come this day to Enoch before he is taken from us. And all the sons of men assembled and came to Enoch that day; and all the kings of the earth with their princes and counsellors remained with him that day; and Enoch then taught the sons of men wisdom and knowledge, and gave them divine instruction; and he bade them serve the Lord and walk in his ways all the days of their lives, and he continued to make peace amongst them. And it was after this that he rose up and rode upon the horse; and he went forth and all the sons of men went after him, about eight hundred thousand men; and they went with him one day's journey. And the second day he said to them, Return home to your tents, why will you go? perhaps you may die; and some of them went from him, and those that remained went with him six day's journey; and Enoch said to them every day, Return to your tents, lest you may die; but they were not willing to return, and they went with him. And on the sixth day some of the men remained and clung to him, and they said to him, We will go with thee to the place where thou goest; as the Lord liveth, death only shall separate us. And they urged so much to go with him, that he ceased speaking to them; and they went after him and would not return; And when the kings returned they caused a census to be taken, in order to know the number of remaining men that went with Enoch; and it was upon the seventh day that Enoch ascended into heaven in a whirlwind, with horses and chariots of fire.

And on the eighth day all the kings that had been with Enoch sent to bring back the number of men that were with Enoch, in that place from which he ascended into heaven. And all those kings went to the place and they found the earth there filled with snow, and upon the snow were large stones of snow, and one said to the other, Come, let us break through the snow and see, perhaps the men that remained with Enoch are dead, and are now under the stones of snow, and they searched but could not find him, for he had ascended into heaven.
This is an account that has been considered historically by many in the early church,to be the account of Enoch's life prior to be taken by God. We will resume our look at what followed in Enoch's life in a later section, but first we will look into some of the details that led up to the calling of Enoch away from earth.

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

14 August 2008

Descended into hell? (Pt 4): Philip Schaff and the Creeds

For today's segment, I turn to the ever popular set of books The Creeds of Christendom by historian Philip Schaff. While he gives a wealth of information on the history and stories behind the creed, I will focus strictly on some of the notes mentioned about the clause in question here.

The first notable thing, is right in the actual text of the creed, he has inserted a parenthetical thought after the descended clause, which says "Hades, spirit-world" and has a footnote marking for additional comments.

The footnote continues clarifying by stating:
Descendit ad inferna (other Latin copies: ad inferos, to the inhabitants of the spirit-world; so also in the Athanasian Symbol)...other Eastern Creeds...he descended into Hades... The words katoteros and inferna, taken from Eph 4:9, correspond here to the Greek Hades, which occurs eleven times in the Greek New Testament, viz. Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27,31; 1 Cor. 15:55; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14, and is always incorrectly translated hell in the English Version, except in 1 Cor. 15:55. Hades signifies, like the word Sheol, the unseen spirit-world, the abode of all the departed, both the righteous and the wicked; while hell (probably from the Saxon word helan, to cover, to conceal), at at least in modern usage, is a much narrower conception, and signifies the state and place of eternal damnation, like the Hebrew gehenna, which occurs twelve times in the Greek Testament, and is so translated in the English Bible... The American editions of the Book of Common Prayer leave it optional with the minister to use, in the Creed, hell, or the place of departed spirits; but it would be much better to restore or popularize the Greek Hades. The current translation, hell, is apt to mislead, and excludes the important fact — the only one which we certainly know of the mysterious triduum — that Christ was in Paradise in the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection, according to his own declaration to the penitent thief, Luke 23:43...

The clause has been explained in three different ways: 1. It is identical with sepultus (Rufinus), or means 'continued in the state of death and under the power of death' till the resurrection (Westminster divines). This makes it a useless repetition in figurative language. 2. It signifies the intensity of Christ's sufferings on the cross, where he tasted the pain of hell for sinners (Calvin and the Heidelberg Catechism). This is inconsistent with the order of the clause between death and resurrection. 3. An actual self-manifestation of Christ after the crucifixion to all departed spirits, Luke 23:43; Acts 2:27,31; 1 Pet. 3:18-19; 4:6; comp. Eph. 4:8-9; Col. 2:15; Phil. 2:10; Rev. 1:18. As such the descent is a part of the universality of the scheme of redemption, and forms the transition from the state of humiliation to the state of exaltation. This is the historical explanation, according to the belief of the ancient Church, but leaves much room for speculation concerning the object and effect of the descent.
So, as he mentions, to remove this clause from the Creed as some would suggest, does lose an important step in the redemptive process, and is suggested only because the modern church fails to understand what is being said by the early Church in this clause.

And his dismissal of the common misunderstanding of this clause is spot on too. Looking at the order of the Creed, it says he "was crucified, died, and was buried" then he descended. So logically it makes no sense to say this means he suffered great suffering on the cross as most Reformed today proclaim. It would be like saying he "was crucified, died, and was buried, and suffered on the cross." Huh? Does that make any sense at all? The order implies that the descent was something that took place after the burial. The composers of the Creed were trying to say something else, and we seek to remove or reinterpret, to the point of illogical interpretive gymnastics.

Richard D. Phillips, of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, in an article he wrote in 2000 (by the same title as my blog title oddly enough), wrote:
In the Apostles’ Creed we affirm together that Jesus was “crucified, dead and buried,” and then “descended into hell,” before “on the third day he rose from the dead.” The first thing we want to say about this is that it deals with the time between Jesus’ crucifixion on Friday (or on Thursday as an alternative view has it) and Sunday morning when He arose. Jesus went somewhere during this time and this answer affirms that it was to hell that he went...

The original languages help quite a lot in this case. The place where Jesus went after death in Hebrew is called “Sheol;” in Greek it is “Hades.” Both of those terms are used for the place where dead souls were said to go...

Therefore, when we say, “He descended into hell,” we are simply recalling that Jesus came under the power of death, and went to the place of the dead until His resurrection. Hell, in that terminology, is not the place of final judgment, but the place of all the dead awaiting judgment. He went to the place of the dead, being under the power of death until His resurrection. Romans 6:9 says, “Since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.” Logically, then, death once did have mastery over Jesus, and that would be during the time He descended into hell...

In the Old Testament, and even during the life of Christ, the dead are presented in Hades. For instance, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus says, “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side” (Lk. 16:22-23). This whole scene takes place in hell, that is, in Hades. On one side of hell, as it were, is paradise, where Abraham and Lazarus are. On the other side, beyond a great chasm, hell is really hell, and that is where the once greedy rich man now is. This also seems to agree with what Jesus said to the thief on the nearby cross who believed in Him: “Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”(Lk. 23:43). Presumably, then, Jesus went to hell, proclaiming his victory to those given over for damnation, while actually staying in the paradise precincts.

All of that is quite different from the situation set forth after the resurrection and ascension of Christ in the New Testament epistles. In 2 Cor. 5:7-8, for instance, Paul speaks positively about Christian death, saying, “We are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” It seems that after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the souls of His own are now in heaven – which is not what He said to the thief on the Cross, nor what the Old Testament says of believers. Perhaps, this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote in Ephesians 4:7, “”When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” After this, in the New Testament, hell is a place of punishment and final condemnation, a place to which neither Christ nor His people will ever go.

I feel that I am on the precipice of speculation and want to avoid going further than Scripture will take me. As Calvin said, “Where God makes an end of teaching, let us make an end of learning.” One thing, however, we can affirm with zeal, is that after His death and burial, Jesus descended into hell. And we can also say, as Michael Horton writes in his book on the Apostles’ Creed, “His hell gained our heaven; his curse secured our blessing; his incalculable grief brought us immeasurable joy.”1 Therefore, let us say it with conviction and with joy: “He descended into hell.”

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13 August 2008

Descended into hell? (Pt 3): N.T. Wright on Hebrew Resurrection Thoughts

For this, and hopefully the next couple parts, I would like to visit some of what other people say in support of this line of thinking. While it may not be the most common understanding in today's churches, there are many today who have, after much study, come to understand these issues.

In this case, I would like to look at some comments regarding the Hebrew understanding of life after death (life in Sheol), and this comes from the 2003 magnum opus on resurrection by N.T. Wright. As he is about to begin expounding on verses that show a future resurrection of the dead, he prefixes the section by saying:

The Resurrection of the Son of GodIt is important once more to be clear on the key topic before we go any further. The texts we shall consider, however we understand their detailed nuances, are not speaking about a new construal of life after death, but about something that will happen after whatever 'life after death' may involve. Resurrection is not just another way of talking about Sheol, or about what happens, as in Psalm 73, 'afterwards,' that is, after the event of bodily death. It speaks of something that will happen, if it does, after that again. Resurrection means bodily life after 'life after death,' or if you prefer, bodily life after the state of 'death.' That is why it is very misleading - and foreign to all relevant texts - to speak, as does one recent writer, of 'resurrection to heaven.' Resurrection is what did not happen to Enoch or Elijah. According to the texts, it is what will happen to people who are at present dead, not what has already happened to them. If this point is grasped, a good deal becomes clear; if forgotten, confusion is bound to follow. (Wright, N.T., The Resurrection of the Son of God, 2003, 108-109)
So, hopefully you can understand that he is saying that the texts he is to begin dealing with (such as Daniel 12) are teaching of a resurrection from the life that was after death, the intermediate state for those who had previously died. This validates what we have covered previously in examining the Hebrew thought of life in Sheol, after physical death ends.

Wright continues in a later chapter referring to Hebrew beliefs in future life for the dead, saying:
The evidence suggests that by the time of Jesus, roughly in the middle of the period we are now examining, most Jews either believed in some form of resurrection or at least knew that it was a standard teaching. Comparatively few remained skeptical. Some held to a kind of middle position - not exactly that of Psalm 73, but not too far off from it either - in which the blessed, albeit disembodied, immortality awaited the righteous after death...

In approaching the man-coloured palette of beliefs, we must remind ourselves once more that the words 'resurrection' and 'immortality' have become used far too loosely, often as though they were equal and opposite, so that one might swap them to and fro as alternatives within the same sort of sentence or paragraph. The reality is more complex. Those who believed in resurrection believed also that the dead, who would be raised in the future but had not been yet, were alive somewhere, somehow, in an interim state. (ibid. 129-130)
So, while it may be common belief in our churches today to believe that Old Testament saints died and were immediately lifted to heaven, that was not the historical Hebrew understanding, nor does it really even logically fit with Scripture teaching in general; but that is a topic for another day.

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Descended into hell? (Pt 2): Death and Afterlife in Hebrew Thought

We saw in part one a basic foundation for thought on what was to be understood by the Apostle's Creed when it says (about Christ), that "he descended into hell." Hopefully you can more of what is NOT being said by this clause.

Let us move on now to lay out some background to the Hebrew thought of death, the grave, Sheol, etc. Though this part, I will be focusing mainly on extra-biblical texts that are of Hebrew origin, in order to show the mindset and teachings around the time of Christ, and their influence ultimately on the Creed's clause.

Before moving to those sources, let me first share this quote from a more modern author. This is directly connected to the passing comment made in the quote from Easton's Revised Bible Dictionary near the end of part one, regarding Luke 23:43. It said:
The blessed dead are in that part of Hades called paradise (Luke 23:43). They are also said to be in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).
Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with him that day in paradise. Most often this is explained as being a promise of the thief being with Christ in heaven that very day, however, we shall see that is not the understanding of paradise or of their destination that day at all.
The fact that Jesus uses the term “paradise” is highly significant. In intertestamental Judaism we have seen that it denotes the Edenic abode of the Lord’s saints, both the final kingdom and the intermediate resting place of the dead. Often it is located in heaven. In can also be in Hades. … All of this must be taken seriously in understanding what Jesus said to the thief. He promised this repentant sinner the fellowship of paradise, the dwelling place of the faithful dead even before the resurrection, that very day.

Jesus could have been in paradise and “hell” at the same time. With respects to “hell,” Acts 2:27 and 31 refer to Psalm 16:10 and actually say that Jesus went to Sheol or Hades, the realm of the dead. Nowhere does it say that he went to Gehenna, the “hell” of final punishment. Great confusion has been caused by the King James translation of both Hades and Gehenna as “hell.” We have seen that intertestamental Judaism pictures Sheol/Hades as containing different locations or compartments in which the dead of different eternal destinies are quartered. Both believers and unbelievers populate the general realm of the dead. Further, we know that the Rabbis thought of paradise as located in Hades. (Cooper, James W. Body, Soul & Life Everlasting. 1st ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Company, 1989. 141, 143.)
I suggest you read that part a second time, and listen to what is being said. This train of thought is so alien to most in the church today, that I hope you'll grasp what Cooper is saying before we move on.

Let us now move on to now examine some of the extra-biblical, intertestamental texts Cooper referred to, to see the influence and understandings of the Hebrew people at the time of Christ.

Let us start by looking at a concise definition from one of the most reliable and trustworthy online sources...Wikipedia (ok, you can laugh a little):
Sheol (שאול) is the Hebrew language word denoting the "abode of the dead"; the "underworld", "grave" or "pit". In the Hebrew Bible it is portrayed as a comfortless place beneath the earth, beyond gates, where both the bad and the good, slave and king, pious and wicked must go after death to sleep in silence and oblivion in the dust. (emphasis mine)
Now, for a bit more in depth view and description, let us turn to the Jewish Encyclopedia:
It connotes the place where those that had died were believed to be congregated. Jacob, refusing to be comforted at the supposed death of Joseph, exclaims: "I shall go down to my son a mourner unto Sheol" (Gen. 37:36, Hebr.; comp. ib. 42:38; 44:29, 31). Sheol is underneath the earth (Isa. 7:11, 57:9; Ezek. 31:14; Ps. 86:13; Ecclus. [Sirach] 51:6; comp. Enoch, 17:6, "toward the setting of the sun"). It is very deep (Prov. 9:18; Isa. 57:9); and it marks the point at the greatest possible distance from heaven (Job 11:8; Amos 9:2; Ps. 139:8). The dead descend or are made to go down into it; the revived ascend or are brought and lifted up from it (I Sam. 2:6; Job 7:9; Ps. 30:4; Isa. 14: 11, 15). Sometimes the living are hurled into Sheol before they would naturally have been claimed by it (Prov. 1:12; Num. 16:33; Ps. 55:16, 63:10), in which cases the earth is described as "opening her mouth" (Num. 16:30). Sheol is spoken of as a land (Job 10:21, 22); but ordinarily it is a place with gates (ib. 17:16, 38:17; Isa. 38:10; Ps. 9:14), and seems to have been viewed as divided into compartments (Prov. 7:27), with "farthest corners" (Isa. 14:15; Ezek. 32:23, Hebr.; R. V. "uttermost parts of the pit"), one beneath the other (see Jew. Encyc. v. 217, s. v. Eschatology). Here the dead meet (Ezek. 32; Isa. 14; Job 30:23) without distinction of rank or condition — the rich and the poor, the pious and the wicked, the old and the young, the master and the slave — if the description in Job 3 refers, as most likely it does, to Sheol. The dead continue after a fashion their earthly life. Jacob would mourn there (Gen. 37:35, 42:38); David abides there in peace (I Kings 2:6); the warriors have their weapons with them (Ezek. 32:27), yet they are mere shadows ("rephaim"; Isa. 14:9, 26:14; Ps. 88:5, A. V. "a man that hath no strength"). The dead merely exist without knowledge or feeling (Job 14:13; Eccl. 9:5). Silence reigns supreme; and oblivion is the lot of them that enter therein (Ps. 88:13, 94:17; Eccl. ix. 10). Hence it is known also as "Dumah," the abode of silence (Ps. 6:6, 30:10, 94:17, 115:17); and there God is not praised (ib. 115:17; Isa. 38:15). Still, on certain extraordinary occasions the dwellers in Sheol are credited with the gift of making known their feelings of rejoicing at the downfall of the enemy (Isa. 14:9, 10). Sleep is their usual lot (Jer. 51:39; Isa. 26:14; Job xiv. 12). Sheol is a horrible, dreary, dark, disorderly land (Job 10:21, 22); yet it is the appointed house for all the living (ib. 30:23). Return from Sheol is not expected (II Sam. 12:23; Job 7:9, 10; 10:21; 14:7 et seq.; 16:22; Ecclus. [Sirach] 38:21); it is described as man's eternal house (Eccl. 12:5). It is "dust" (Ps. 30:10; hence in the Shemoneh 'Esreh, in benediction No. 2, the dead are described as "sleepers in the dust"). (emphasis mine)
Again, take the time to look up the references to see the language Scripture uses directly. I believe once we regain a better understanding of what the Jews believed, and what the New Testament writers said to them regarding these issues, we will see the importance of the Creed's clause.

Let me move on to other historic writings. These gives a more visual picture to the thought of this place of the dead. I will start first with a more commonly known figure in church history, the first century Jewish historian Josephus. He wrote a writing on the Hadean realm to the Greeks for their understanding. It would be so nice if today's "Greeks" understood this:
Now as to Hades, wherein the souls of the righteous and unrighteous are detained, it is necessary to speak of it. Hades is a place in the world not regularly finished; a subterraneous region, where the light of the world does not shine; from which circumstance, that in this region the light does not shine, it cannot be but there must be in it perpetual darkness. This region is allotted as a place of custody for souls, in which angels are appointed as guardians to them, who distribute to them temporary punishments agreeable to everyone’s behavior and manners.

In this region there is a certain place set apart, as a lake of unquenchable fire, whereinto we suppose no one hath hitherto been cast; but it is prepared for a day aforedetermined by God, in which one righteous sentence shall deservedly be passed upon all men; when the unjust and those that have been disobedient to God, and have given honor to such idols as have been the vain operations of the hands of men, as to God himself, shall be adjudged to this everlasting punishment, as having been the cause of defilement; while the just shall obtain an incorruptible and never-fading kingdom. These are now indeed confined to Hades , but not in the same place wherein the unjust are confined.

For there is one descent into this region, at whose gate we believe there stands an archangel with an host.; whose gate when those pass through that are conducted down by the angels appointed over souls, they do not go the same way; but the just are guided to the right hand, and are led with hymns, sung by the angels appointed over that place, unto a region of light, in which the just have dwelt from the beginning of the world; not constrained by necessity, but ever enjoying the prospect of the good things they see, and rejoice in the expectation of those new enjoyments, which will be peculiar to every one of them, and esteeming those things beyond what we have here. With whom there is no place of toil, no burning heat, no piercing cold, nor are any briers there; but the countenance of the fathers and of the just, which they see always smiles upon them, while they wait for that rest and eternal life in heaven, which is to succeed this region. This place we call The Bosom of Abraham.

But as for the unjust, they are dragged by force to the left hand by the angels allotted for punishment, no longer going with the good will, but as prisoners driven by violence; to whom are sent the angels appointed over them to reproach them and threaten them with terrible looks, and to thrust them still downwards. Now these angels that are set over these souls, drag them into the neighborhood of hell itself; who, when they are hard by it, continually hear the noise of it, and do not stand clear of the hot vapor itself; but when they have a nearer view of this spectacle, as of a terrible and exceeding great prospect of fire, they are struck with a fearful expectation of a future judgment, and in effect punished thereby; and not only so, but where they see the place [or choir] of the fathers and of the just, even hereby are they punished; for a chaos deep and large is fixed between them; insomuch that a just man that hath compassion upon them cannot be admitted, nor can one that is unjust if he were bold enough to attempt it, pass over it.
And while this may sound strange to you, it was not so strange during that time. Here is what we find in the Book of Enoch, which we have mentioned already in my other writings on this book, and its influence on the New Testament and popularity during the early church period. In this book we find:
And thence I went to another place, and the mountain [and] of hard rock. And there was in it four hollow places, deep and wide and very smooth; three of them were dark and one bright; and there was a fountain of water in its midst. How smooth are the hollow places and deep and dark to look at. Then Raphael answered, one of the holy angels who was with me, and said unto me: 'These hollow places have been created for this very purpose, that the spirits of the souls of the dead should assemble therein, yea that all the souls of the children of men should assemble here. And these places have been made to receive them till the day of their judgment and till their appointed period [till the period appointed], till the great judgment (comes) upon them.'

Then I asked regarding it, and regarding all the hollow places: 'Why is one separated from the other?' And he answered me and said unto me: 'These three (dark ones) have been made that the spirits of the dead might be separated. And this division (bright one) has been made for the spirits of the righteous, in which there is the bright spring of water. And such has been made for sinners when they die and are buried in the earth and judgment has not been executed on them in their lifetime. Here their spirits shall be set apart in this great pain till the great day of judgment and punishment and torment of those who curse for ever and retribution for their spirits. There He shall bind them for ever. And such a division has been made for the spirits of those who make their suit, who make disclosures concerning their destruction, when they were slain in the days of the sinners. Such has been made for the spirits of men who were not righteous but sinners, who were complete in transgression, and of the transgressors they shall be companions: but their spirits shall not be slain in the day of judgment nor shall they be raised from thence.' Then I blessed the Lord of glory and said: 'Blessed be my Lord, the Lord of righteousness, who ruleth for ever.' (1 Enoch 22:1-4, 8-13)
The vision of the place here matches exactly to the parable Jesus gave of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. You have the separation of the two, yet within sight of each other. You have the mention of the Rich man being tormented, as well as the fountain that Lazarus had access to. Interesting indeed!

The Apocalypse of Zephaniah tells this story:
Again I turned back and walked and I saw a great sea. But I thought that it was a sea of water. I discovered that it was entirely a sea of flame like the slime which casts forth much flame and whose waves burn with sulfur and bitumen. They began to approach me.

Then I thought that the Lord Almighty had come to visit me. Then when I saw, I fell down upon my face before him in order that I might worship him. I was very much afraid, and I entreated him that he might save me from my distress. I cried out saying, “Eloe, Lord, Adonia, Sabaoth, I beseech you to save me from this distress because it has befallen me.

The same instant I stood up, and I saw a great angel before me, his hair was spread out like the lionesses. His teeth were outside his mouth like a bear. His hair was spread out like a women’s. His body was like a serpent’s when he wished to swallow me. And when I saw him, I was afraid of him so that all of my parts of my body were loosened and I fell upon my face. I was unable to stand, and I prayed before the Lord God Almighty, “You will save me from my distress. You are the one who saved Israel from the hand of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. You saved Susanna from the hand of the elders of injustice. You saved the three holy men, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, from the furnace of burning fire. I beg you to save me from my distress.

Then I arose and stood, and I saw a great angel standing before me with his face shining like the rays of the sun in glory since his face is like that which is perfected in its glory. And he was girded as if a golden girdle were upon his breast. His feet were like bronze which is melted in a fire. And when I saw him, I rejoiced, for I thought the Lord God Almighty had come to visit me. I fell upon my face, and I worshipped him. He said to me, “Take heed. Don’t worship me. I am no the Lord Almighty, but I am the great angel, Eremiel, who is over the abyss and Hades, the one in which all of the souls are imprisoned from the end of the Flood, which came upon the earth, until this day.”

Then I inquired of the angel, “What is this place to which I have come?” He said unto me, “It is Hades.” Then I asked him “Who is the great angel who stands thus, whom I saw?” He said, “This is the one who accuses men in the presence of the Lord.” (Apocalypse of Zephaniah 6; emphasis mine)
The Fourth Book of Ezra tells us this:
He answered and said “If you are alive, you will see, and if you live long, you will often marvel, because the age is hastening swiftly to its end. For it will not be able to bring the things that have been promised to the righteous in their appointed times, because the age is full of sadness and infirmities. For the evil about which you ask me has been sown, but the harvest of it has not yet come. If therefore that which was sown is not reaped, and if the place where the evil has been sown does not pass away, the field where good has been sown will not come. For a grain of evil seed was sown in Adam’s heart from the beginning, and much ungodliness it has produced until now, and will produce until the time of the threshing comes! Consider now for yourself how much fruit of ungodliness a grain of evil seed has produced. When heads of grain without number are sown, how great a threshing floor they will fill!”

Then I answered and said, “How long and when will these things be? Why are our years few and evil?” He answered me and said, “You do not hasten faster than the Most High, for your haste is for yourself, but the Highest hastens on behalf of many. Did not the souls of the righteous in their chambers ask about these matters, saying “How long are we to remain here? And when will come the harvest of our reward?” And Jeremiel the archangel answered them and said, “When the number of those like yourselves is completed; for he has weighed the age in balance, and measured the times by measure, and numbered the times by number; and he will not move or arouse them until that measure is filled.” (Fourth Book of Ezra 4:26-37; emphasis mine)
The Odes of Solomon are said to have been written sometime around the end of the first century after Christ. So these were written from the perspective of Christ speaking, and describe the happenings during his three days in the earth:
I was not rejected although I was considered to be so
And I did not perish although they thought it of me
Sheol saw me and was scattered
And Death ejected me and many with me
I have been vinegar and bitterness to it
And I went down with it as far as its depth
Then the feet and the head it released
Because it was not able to endure my face
And I made a congregation of living among his dead;
And I spoke with them by living lips;
In order that my word may not fail.
And those who died ran toward me;
And they cried out and said “Son of God, have pity on us.
“And deal with us according to your kindness,
And bring us out from the chains of darkness.
“And open for us the door
By which we may go forth to you,
For we perceive that our death does not approach you.
“May we also be saved with you,
Because you are our savior.”
Then I heard their voice,
And placed their faith in my heart.
And I placed my name upon their head
Because they are free and they are mine.
(Odes of Solomon 42:10-20)
This thought pattern ties in very neatly with what Peter said happened during the three days, that after Christ died in the flesh and became alive in the spirit, he went and preached to those in prison (Hades) (1 Peter 3:18-19), as well as his conquering of death (the place) and having the keys to death and Hades (Rev. 1:18). It also helps us to understand that God did not leave the soul of Jesus (or David) in Sheol (Ps. 16:8-10 and Ps. 49:15).

Well, that is enough of a backdrop to show the point at hand, and hopefully you are starting to see the story line here. Death was understood to be considered more of a place that just a state of being physically without life in the body. Death was the place all mankind went after physical death. It was a prison that held all mankind separate from God. It was considered "down below," under the earth," in the dust," etc. It was a place that was ruled by the "strongman" that Jesus came to bind, plunder and overthrow so He could take the keys to death and Hades to restore fellowship with God.

In the next part, we will begin to tie this all in to what the Scriptures tell us about death, Christ works and accomplishments, and hopefully give you good reason to stand up straight and repeat the "he descended into Hades" clause loudly and proudly.

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Descended into hell? (Pt 1): Considering Hell, Hades and Sheol

The Apostles Creed is often recited in many churches, and many people say it without much thought to what is being said or meant. Those who do think on it tend to have an issue with one line in particular, "He descended into hell," which causes some to even avoid saying the creed altogether. In some denominations, this line has been entirely removed from the creed.

What is the big deal? What is all of the fuss about?

The fuss is due to our misunderstanding of the language of the creed translation, in conjunction with the Scriptures, and the foundation for what is being said in this line. This misunderstanding causes churches to either drop the line, or reinterpret the meaning of it, as is the case in most Reformed churches these days.

In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem writes:

...unlike every other phrase in the Creed, it represents not some major doctrine on which all Christians agree, but rather a statement about which most Christians seem to disagree. It is at best confusing and in most cases misleading for modern Christians. My own judgment is that there would be all gain and no loss if it were dropped from the Creed once for all (Systematic Theology, Zondervan, 1994, pp. 583-594)
I would disagree with this comment, as it does cause us to lose something that has actually already been lost to the modern reader.

When it says he descended into hell, are we to understand that Jesus went to what we would understand as the lake of fire, that place of everlasting fire that is said to be the ultimate judgment? The problem we have has it's root in the misunderstanding of the English term hell. The KJV Bible has been one of the main culprits for this misunderstanding, with it being one of the most predominant English Bible for centuries. It used the term "hell" in most all cases for the original terms Sheol, Hades and Gehenna, equating them all with the understanding of the lake of fire. However, that was not the traditional Jewish thought on the matter, and we as Greek thinking modern pew warmers, have lost the understanding of these terms.

Sheol is the Hebrew word for the place of the dead, and Hades is the Greek counterpart to it. Both describe a place in the Jewish understanding, and that place is not equivalent to the lake of fire. Likewise, Gehenna is the name of a literal place of burning, but was most often used by Christ as a term of coming judgment upon Jerusalem, and was likewise not to necessarily equated with the lake of fire spiritual judgment.
The idea which most Christians have attached to the word hell, is a place of eternal punishment for all the wicked. Wherever they meet with this word in reading their Bibles, it calls up the idea of such a place of punishment…

There is one fact, which deserves attention at the outset, of which many readers of the Bible are ignorant. The fact I allude to, is, that the word hell does not occur once in all of the Old Testament, where it means a place of eternal misery for the wicked. The fact is indisputable; no man can doubt it who will take the trouble to examine the matter for himself. (Walter Balfour, An Inquiry into the Scriptural Import of the Words Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna: All Translated Hell, in the Common English Version. 2nd ed.
So, if hell (i.e. lake of fire) is not found in the Old Testament, then what do we make of all of the uses of Sheol that have been translated as hell? Let us look at the definition of the Hebrew term Sheol from the Strong's Concordance:
1) sheol
1a) the underworld
1b) Sheol-the OT designation for the abode of the dead
1b1) place of no return
1b2) without praise of God
1b3) wicked sent there for punishment
1b4) righteous not abandoned to it
1b5) of the place of exile (fig)
1b6) of extreme degradation in sin
So, as we can see, it is not necessarily to be considered as the lake of fire, but we see many aspects of what it means. It is a place, the abode of all the dead, righteous and unrighteous where there is no return (that they seem to know of).

So, going back to the Creed, if we were to go along with the Greek translation instead as some churches use, which says "he descended into Hades" then we get a different understanding of what is being said. He did not descend to the lake of fire, he descended to the realm of the dead. Some other translations actually say "he descended to the dead," which is applicable too.

A further definition is given from the Easton’s Revised Bible Dictionary (slightly edited for pertinence):
Derived from the Saxon helan, to cover; hence the covered or the invisible place. In Scripture there are three words so rendered:

1. Sheol, occurring in the Old Testament sixty-five times. It is rendered "grave" thirty-one times (Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; 1 Sam. 2:6 etc.). The Revisers have retained this rendering in the historical books with the original word in the margin, while in the poetical books they have reversed this rule. In thirty-one cases in the Authorized Version this word is rendered "hell," the place of disembodied spirits. The inhabitants of sheol are "the congregation of the dead" (Prov. 21:16)

It is:
a. the abode of the wicked (Num. 16:33; Job 24:19; Ps 9:17; 31:17 etc.);
b. of the good (Ps. 16:10; 30:3; 49:15; 86:13 etc.).
Sheol is described as:
a. deep (Job 11:8)
b. dark (Job 10:21,22)
c. with bars (Job 17:16)
d. The dead "go down" to it (Num. 16:30, 33; Ezek. 31:15, 16, 17)
2. The Greek word hades of the New Testament has the same scope of signification as Sheol of the Old Testament. It is a prison (1Pet. 3:19) with gates and bars and locks (Matt. 16:18; Rev. 1:18) and it is downward (Matt 11:23; Luke 10:15). The righteous and the wicked are separated. The blessed dead are in that part of hades called paradise (Luke 23:43). They are also said to be in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).
I hope you will take a moment and look up the various passages used to get a better understanding of the use of the word and descriptions found in the Scriptures. I wish to end here, feeling there is enough of a foundation to get most people thinking further. I hope to show that if we were to follow the advice of Grudem or the practice of some churches these days who remove the line, that we are in fact removing an essential doctrine of redemption and salvation.

In part two I will focus on building the background of this place, with many examples of Jewish literature talking on this subject in hopes of showing what the common thought was that came to highly influence both the Scriptures and the Creed.

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

04 August 2008

All Things to All People? - OUT OF CONTEXT SCRIPTURE!

I really wish some publisher would produce a good "reading" Bible. What I mean by that, is a Bible with no chapter/verses numbers and divisions, but written in letter form like most originally were. I feel that the verse numbering has given us a history of people taking verses out of context and building whole theological views on these sections. In this little subsection of my blog, I wish to reveal some of the uses of Scripture that I commonly hear that are used just like that...out of context.

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Cor. 1:19-23)
Here is an example that I have heard personally quite often. I started hearing it more back in the days when I spent more time with Christian hard rock musicians. When people would ask why they had long hair, sang such loud music, had so many tattoos, etc. it was common to hear them explain how they were "becoming all things to all men" by taking on the look of those they were trying to reach.

Unfortunately, I think they read right over what is being said. It said I (Paul) have become all (multiple) things to all (multiple) people; it does not say he became one specific thing to reach one specific group. In order for people to use this verse in such a manner, they would need to show how they have made themselves (in presentation and actions) to be multifaceted. A large, tattoo covered, long haired, fully body pieced individual may associate with a crowd of like manner, but how would that person come across if they were to go do work with the elderly, or any group outside of that realm they normally seek to reach?

The moral of the story...don't arrange your lifestyle and physical appearance to focus on one group of people and then defend it with these words of Paul...that is not what Paul was saying. Don't "limit" yourself to how God can use you. Get out of your comfort zone occasionally, and become someone to somebody you normally may not fit in with.

View Other "Out of Context" Verses