A BIBLE STUDY OF DEATH: WHAT DOES GOD SAY?
by Marty McDonald
When we try to discern what the Word of God has to say on a subject, the first priority is to go before Him in prayer. This is not only to ask Him for understanding, but to put us in the mind set of humility to accept what the Bible actually says; even if it runs contrary to the teachings, practices and beliefs we've held since childhood. One natural reaction to experience is hurt pride! A remedy to this is to let God be right and the teachings of men be held suspect. If our teachings and beliefs come from other sources than the Word of God then they are not valid in God's eyes, no matter how old those doctrines are or how many people adhere to them!
The doctrine of the immortal soul is but one example of teaching that does not come from the Bible. In fact, this belief finds its origins in ancient Babylon and was propagated down through the centuries by the Egyptians and Greeks. The idea of an ever-burning hellfire and the eternal punishing of unrepentant sinners was heavily influenced by a long poem written in the early 14th cent. by Dante Aligheri called, The Divine Comedy. The Catholic church adopted many of these ideas and blended them with misinterpreted scriptures, thus a totally false teaching emerges.
The church of the first century followed the teachings of Jesus Christ as well as His living example. The universal church that emerged in the third century was quite different! Jude warned that men had crept into the true body of Christ and were turning the grace of God into licentiousness (i.e. license to sin) Jude 3-4. Whenever this "church'' conquered a pagan country in the name of Christ, they would blend the customs of that country with Christianity rather than preaching repentence from dead works. The origins of many of today's mainstream Christian doctrines are rooted in pagan sun worship and rites of fertility gods. Let's look at the immortal soul idea and what the Bible actually says about what awaits each of us upon our earthly demise!
The word "soul" in the Bible was translated from a variety of words by the KJV scholars. In the Old Testament, the main Hebrew word rendered soul was nephesh which means, "anything that breathes; an animal." It can also refer to a "person" or even a "dead body". The same word, nephesh, is translated creature when referring to animals in Genesis 1:21,24; 2:19; 9:10,12,15,16 and Leviticus 11:46. Nephesh is rendered "dead body" or "the dead" in Lev.19:28; 22:4; Num.5:2; 6:11 and 9:6,7,10. The soul, then, is merely an air breathing entity that is subject to death and decay. IT IS NOT IMMORTAL! Man does not have a soul, he IS a soul! When God breathed the breath of life into Adam, he "...became a living soul." Gen.2:7.
The Bible says plainly that the soul can die! "The soul that sins it shall die" Ezek.18:4,20. Ecc 3:20 states that the same fate awaits both man and beast, "all are from the dust, and all return to dust." Yet, the Bible reveals that there is a vast difference between man and beast. That difference is not an immortal soul. The Bible can be searched from cover to cover and the term "immortal soul" will not be found! According to 1Timothy 6:15-16
Jesus Christ alone has immortality at this time and only He has it to give! If He has to give it to us then logic dictates that it is something that we do not now have. This will be shown further as we go along. When a person dies he has no consciousness beyond that point. Notice what several scriptures say about death:
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish (Psalm 146:4).
The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence (Psalm 115:17) Note: If dead Christians were in the presence of God right now, being conscious, they would definitely be praising Him!.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thank?s (Psalm 6: 5)
Notice in the New Testament what Jesus had to say. "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3:13).
And Peter, speaking on the day of Pentecost. "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day" (Acts 2:29). "For David is not ascended into the heavens..." (Acts 2:34).
Speaking of the great examples of faith by Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah the writer of the book of Hebrews says in chapter 11:13 "These all died in faith, not having received the promises..." After naming off another tremendous list of heroes of the faith in verse 39 of the same chapter, "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise".
As is plainly shown in the Word of God, when a person dies, he is totally unconscious and there is no hope of living ever again unless God resurrects (meaning to stand up) him from the dead. The dead have no knowledge of the passage of time.
When God created animals He made each after its own kind... Gen 1:24-25, but, when it came time to create man He said, "Let Us make man in OUR IMAGE after OUR LIKENESS" (vss.26-27). We were created after the God kind! Not only do we have a fleshly appearance like God's, we also think like Him - at least as far as the ability to reason, make decisions, possess self-consciousness, create, etc. His is so far above ours, we can only comprehend what He chooses to reveal to us. Yet, of all the creatures on the face of the earth, only mankind possesses the one God-given component that imparts mind power! The Bible calls this "the spirit in man". This spirit is not the man - it is the spirit essence from God that is IN the man. Joined with the brain of the man, it forms the human mind.
But there is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding (Job 32:8).
Now we can find out what man is and God's plan for him!
The burden of the word of the LORD against Israel. 'Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him (Zechariah 12:1). \
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1Corinthians 2:11-14.
So, now we have this part of the puzzle solved. Man is a mortal soul; man has a spirit that gives him a mind; and at this point when he dies, his spirit stops being conscious. The Bible calls this, death sleep. Like sleep, death is a condition in which a person is not conscious and from which a person can be awakened! Notwithstanding the mainstream churches' warning about "soul-sleep", the Word of God is our authority! What God has to say about death would require some rethinking and a lot of repenting of false doctrine on the part of the majority of Christianity! Here are but a few scriptures that plainly show death to be a state of unconscious sleep.
So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David (1Kings 2:10).
And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers (2Samuel 7:12) .
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose (Matthew 27:52).
And when he was come in, he saith unto them, 'Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth (Mark 5:39).
Author's question concerning this verse: If this little girl's immortal spirit consciously left her body when she died, and had gone on to her eternal reward or punishment - why would our Lord bring her back here? Also, if she were conscious during this "departure", this would have been a prime opportunity for her to testify of what it was like on the "other side"! It appears though, that she was only hungry!
After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep (1Corinthians 15:6).
Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished (1Corinthians 15:18).
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (1Corinthians 15:51.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep (l Thessalonians 4:14-15).
The following scriptures also describe death as sleep or unconsciousness:
1Kings 11:21,43; 14:20,31; 15:8,24; 16:6,28; 22:40,50
2Kings 8:24; 10:35; 13:9,13; 14:16,22,29; 15:7,22,28; 16:20; 20:21; 21:18; 24:6
2Chronicles 9:31; 12:16; 14:1; 16:13; 21:1; 26:2; 27:9; 32:33; 33:20
God's Word shows conclusive evidence that the dead ARE NOT CONSCIOUS AND MAN DOES NOT HAVE AN IMMORTAL SOUL! By using the authority of God's Holy Word, we'll cover thoroughly the many obvious questions, objections, etc., which will untwist centuries of misapplied scripture.
So just what does become of the human spirit at death? Notice Ecclesiastes 12:7 "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." The spirit returns to God, Who, (for lack of a better description) "files it away" until a resurrection. If the person had God's Holy Spirit united with their spirit at the time of their death, they will be resurrected to immortality at the return of Christ. If they were not begotten with the Spirit of God at the time of death, they will be raised back to physical life in the resurrection to judgment at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ. We'll deal more with the resurrections later.
The spirit in man can be likened to a mold or a recording of the entire person; preserving memory, knowledge, character and even outward appearance. It can be removed from the person at death to be replayed at the time of God's choosing. During the interim, the person has no consciousness or knowledge of the passage of time.
The Bible teaches the resurrection of the dead, plain and simple. Let us now tackle some of the inevitable questions and arguments concerning the scriptures, which appear to say that the reward of the saved is in heaven, and the reward of sinners is eternal life in an ever-burning hellfire!
In Genesis 2:17 God told Adam (whose name means "mankind") "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." As we all know, Adam did eat of that tree. Incidentally, the true origin of the immortal soul lie was when Satan told Eve, "Ye shall not surely die" Look at Rev. 12:9! Yet Adam didn't die that very day... or did he? He lived a very long hard life and died at 930 years old. What then is the death of which God refers to?
Notice Jesus' words in Matthew 10:28 "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: (Greek word is psuche, which means spirit) but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (here, hell is from the Greek gehenna - more on this later). God can destroy (ie. wipe out of existence) for all eternity! Death is the cessation of life!
Hebrews 9:27 "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" We all have this appointment with physical death at least once. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. Therefore the death penalty is obviously not the physical death referred to in Hebrews 9. Is there possibly a death from which there can be no resurrection? Yes, I'm afraid there is according to the Bible. After Christ's return to this earth John tells us in Revelation 20:4-6: 4
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 ("But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first resurrection.
6 "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." (Parenthesis in verse 5 were added for clarification)
Now we're beginning to see that not only does the Bible teach a first and second resurrection, there is also a first and second death! With the teaching in the mainstream of God's law being "done away", the truth of the resurrections gets only further mired down in the Babylon of confusion. What a Mystery. We know that God is not the author of this confusion. "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints" (1Corinthians 14:33).
When Adam sinned, the law demanded his eternal death. He has been asleep awaiting the resurrection to judgment for over five-thousand years. The KJV once again clouds the meaning of this resurrection by using the words condemnation and damnation in place of the word judgment. When Jesus spoke of the resurrection He used the word judgment.
Look at John 5:28-29 "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the [1st] resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the [2nd] resurrection of damnation (Greek: krisis - judgment)". Various meanings of judgement include: teach, evaluate, test, reprove, punish, rule, condemn. It is only through the book of Revelation that God shows us these resurrections to be a thousand years apart!
We all know John 3:16 by heart. Let's go on to the next verse, John 3:17 "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." Jesus is speaking of every person who has ever lived, not just the few that God has called to the true knowledge of salvation now. 2Peter 3:9 says God is "... not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
Now for a closer look at both resurrections individually.
Rev. 20:6 says that those in the first resurrection are "blessed and holy" and, the second death has no power over them. Jesus revealed that this resurrection is the gathering of His "elect". ie.. Those who have:
(1) Repented of sin 2Cor 7:10 (the breaking of God's law, (1John 3:4).
(2) Have accepted His shed blood for forgiveness of those sins (Heb 10:19-22).
(3) Been baptized into Christ's death, Rom 6:3-6; and
(4) Received the gift of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands Acts 19:6.
Take note in Acts 2:38 "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit".
Only those within whom God's Spirit is dwelling either at the time of their death or, if alive at the time of Christ's coming are considered Christians, so says the Bible! "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Romans 8:9).
In the Olivet prophecy of Matthew 24:29-31, Jesus tells us precisely the time sequence of when this resurrection will take place: It will be:
(1) after the tribulation - v29.
(2) After the heavenly signs.
(3) Jesus will appear in the clouds of heaven in power and great glory - v30. THEN, verse 31, "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
When is this trumpet?
"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1Corinthians 15:52). If this is the last trump, then there are one or more trumpets that precede it! Where do we look to find a succession of trumpets? Revelation 8-11:15. The seven last trumpets of
God! The last trump, (7th) is the one that announces Jesus' return, His Wrath upon the unrepentant, the rewarding of the saints, ie: 1st resurrection, and so on. Since we have plainly seen that we do not already have an immortal soul, then 1Corinthians 15:20-23 begins to make so much more sense! There is an order to God's plan!
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept." Only Christ has immortality at this time, but thanks to His perfect sacrifice, all will have their chance!
21 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
Now go to 1Corinthians 15:51-55. Speaking to the Christians at Corinth, Paul reveals that immortality is something that must be put on. At this point, the second death has no power over the translated Christians because they are now immortal!
1Thessalonians 4:16-17 now becomes clearer:
16 "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." I emphasized clouds & air in this verse to bring to light the fact that those in the first resurrection are to meet Christ inside this earth's atmosphere, not up in heaven! Nowhere does the Bible claim that the saved go to heaven as their reward! Jesus said that He is bringing His rewards with Him! Rev 22:12 Keep this fact in mind.
...Those who meet Christ in the air at His return will descend with Him to the Mount of Olives outside of Jerusalem! Zechariah 14:4-5 says "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east... and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee".
What will these resurrected, immortal saints be doing? The Word has a lot to say:
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10).
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne (Revelation 3:21).
Revelation 20:6 (last part) "but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him (Daniel 7:27).
As is clearly shown, the earth is the inheritance promised to those who enter the Kingdom of God. This is the same promise given to Abraham on down through the centuries to everyone who receives God's Spirit. Galations 3:29 "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Matthew uses the term Kingdom of Heaven to express the same idea that Mark, Luke and John use as Kingdom of God. There are many such expressions that all mean the same thing. For instance, Jesus, in His sermon on the Mount, Matt.5:5 "The meek shall inherit the earth." While yet in verse 3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Obviously, the meek are not going to be down here while the poor in spirit are up in heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven/God will be here ruling the earth after Satan is bound up and locked away (see Rev. 20:1-3). This will be the time of "restoration of all things" spoken of in Acts 3:21.
Armed with this truth of the Kingdom's coming to rule on this earth and the fact that the saints will be co-ruling with Christ, then the parables concerning the kingdom become remarkably clear! Read the parable of the pounds in Luke 19:12-27 for example. The "nobleman" is Jesus who went to a "far country" (heaven) to receive the Kingship and will return to this earth. The ten servants given one pound each are each Christian, given a measure of God's Spirit. The nobleman's citizens hated him, just as Jesus' countrymen and the world as a whole reject Him. Jesus, upon His return, will reward His servants according to how much they overcame by the Holy Spirit by giving them authority over the nations. Those enemies that refuse to repent at the resurrection to judgment a.k.a. THE GREAT WHITE THRONE, will be burned up in the lake of fire.
To further drive this point home of the Kingdom coming, here are a few descriptive passages: Isaiah 2:2-4; 9:6-7; 11:1-11; 40:9-11; Micah 4:1-5. Remember Jesus said in Rev.22:12 "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be". That's not even a fraction of all the scriptures pertaining to the first resurrection but it should suffice for now so that we can move on to the second resurrection.
Those who are in the first resurrection will be immortal, that is, their names are written in the Book of Life. The masses of people raised in the second resurrection are not in this Book, therefore they will be raised to physical life.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works (Rev 20:12).
They can still be destroyed in the Lake of Fire if they will not repent and live God's way! Here is where we will begin to unravel the erroneous doctrine eternal hellfire and get to God's awesome truth!
As we have seen, only Jesus has lived beyond the grave by having been resurrected. As a matter of fact, Colossians 1:18 says that He is the "firstborn from the dead". This is the TRUE meaning of being "born again" - being born as a spirit! See John 3:3,6 & 1Cor 15:50 (more on this later, in another study). Everyone else who has ever lived from Adam until Christs' return are still dead, not conscious, awaiting a resurrection. Remember John 3:13, Acts 2:29, 34 & 1Cor 15:12-19.
The vast majority of human beings who have ever lived have never known Jesus Christ, let alone heard His name. There are whole nations of idol worshipers, "heathens" who have lived and died in the four thousand years prior to His first coming. There are millions or perhaps billions who have lived, or are alive right now who believe a totally false gospel about Jesus Christ!
He prophesied of this mass deception in Matthew 24:5 "For many shall come in my name, saying, I (Jesus) am Christ; and shall deceive many." This is also pictured by the rider on the white horse in Revelation 6:2. This is FALSE CHRISTIANITY! Revelation 17 shows a woman (church) who commits spiritual harlotry and is a mother of harlots who came out of her. She, (this great false church) is called "Mystery, Babylon the Great" and claims to be the affianced bride of Christ. God calls this church a whore spiritually because she has blended the customs and practices of ancient pagan Babylon with Christian doctrine thereby committing spiritual fornication!
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication (Rev 17:1-2).
She is a "mother of harlots," which means that her daughters came out of her and they too are committing the same whoredoms, although they protest their mother.
Will God destroy these people if they, although very sincere, were deceived? What about the Jews? They rejected Jesus at His first coming! Romans 11:7 shows that they were actually blinded by God from salvation, at that time. Does this seem fair and just as God claims to be? Read on in that same chapter, especially Romans 11:32! There must be a time coming when they, as well as all humanity will be given the truth. This could only be the time of the second resurrection.
When explaining the purpose of the parables (Matthew 13:10-15) Jesus reveals that it is ONLY given to His disciples to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to the multitudes it is not given! A parable is used to conceal, NOT reveal a meaning - a parable is the same as a riddle. See Proverbs 25:2 "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter."
The majority of this world has been blinded to this very day by God Himself! Is this fair? Well, considering the second resurrection, when Satan will not be around any longer to deceive, you bet it's fair! God could not be more loving, just and merciful.
This period of time is called the Great White Throne judgment Rev 20:11. This is after Satan is cast away. The world will be at the end of one thousand years of peace, righteousness, and restoration under the rule of Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords. The glorified saints will be ruling under His authority during this time (see Rev 5:10). Then notice in Rev 20:12, that the dead, both small and great, will stand before God to be judged. The verdict will be guilty and the penalty of the second death will be handed down. But wait! Also notice that "books" are to be opened. What books are these?
The Greek word translated "books" here is biblios. Sound familiar? Yes, the Books of the Bible will be opened to everyone's understanding for the first time for them! They will all now be given the opportunity to repent and have Jesus' precious shed blood remove the eternal death penalty. I would venture to say that at least 99% will indeed repent.
Bear in mind, that the reason we know these people are brought back in fleshly bodies is that, if their names were already in the Book of Life then they would have been in the first resurrection a thousand years before and they would be immortal. So, why is the Book opened? Could it be so that names can be added to it ?
The obvious question would be, how long will people have to repent of breaking God's law and begin growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ? The only clear indication that we have is a prophecy concerning the Millennium in Isaiah 65:20
There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.
Apparently 100 years! Is this a second chance? Absolutely not! Only when a person has the truth completely revealed to them, and are not under deception, can they make the decision to go God's way or choose death. Jesus said in John 6:44, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."
Those who are drawn by God to His truth in this lifetime have a bit more to overcome than those in the second resurrection. Namely a world system that is completely controlled by Satan himself. Considering the rewards, there is no comparison. Those who are in the true body of Christ and have this understanding are being judged now, in this lifetime. Notice 1 Peter 4:17 "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" So, we see that the vast majority of mankind has not even had their first chance yet.
Then what is the purpose of this life?
Allow me to answer that with another question. If all we had ever known was paradise, what would the choice be? We have experienced six-thousand years of mankind going its own way under the influence of Satan. With all our great technology to aid us, we still can not turn our hearts away from vanity, lust, greed, violence etc. This is best described in Jeremiah 17:9. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" God does not want robots, HE WANTS CHILDREN! But He will not force anyone to love Him and go His way. The choice between life and death will be given during the second resurrection. If anyone simply refuses to repent, then the most merciful thing a loving God can do is to put them out of their misery. That is where the Lake of Fire comes in and the need to understand Jesus' teaching concerning it.
Jesus mentioned a number of people as examples from history, who will rise in the resurrection to judgment. Such as: Sodom, Gomorrah, Tyre, Sidon, Ninevah and those living in His day. Mercy will be shown to all, but the gentile cities find their judgment period more bearable than those who personally heard Jesus' teachings and yet rejected Him!
Matthew 10:15 "Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city" (the cities which rejected His teachings).
To those cities which saw His miracles, Christ said in Matthew 11:21-22,
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you."
The same rebuke was applied to Capernaum. "But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee" (Matthew 11:24).
Matthew 12:41-42 states that, "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here."
Perhaps the famous valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 comes to mind. Notice especially verses 5-14. This is a resurrection to flesh and blood bodies! This is everyone who ever lived from the HOUSE OF ISRAEL and THE HOUSE OF JUDAH.
I wish that there were time to cover the prophecies concerning these two peoples in this study. A lack of understanding on the part of the so called "experts" on television has a lot of people deceived, as to the time sequence of end-time events. We will do another study on this subject.
The truth of Almighty God concerning the resurrections is so fantastic, yet it is rejected by a deceived Christianity. Why is this? How many agonizing hours and sleepless nights have we spent wondering about a friend or loved one who has passed away not having been "saved" as they say? We have to be honest with ourselves and allow God's word to show us what is TRUTH, not man's misinterpretations and traditional theologies. The "pride" that I mentioned at the beginning of this study does not want to let go. When faced with the truth, many if not all, of the pastors and authorities in the mainstream denominations would rather reject this out of hand. They realize that once the first leg of their theological tables start to crumble, they must then go on to reexamine the others! And there are many others.
God does indeed require something of every one of us who desire to call on His name. We have to repent of sin, which means to STOP SINNING. Jesus Christ's sacrifice cannot be applied to anyone who will not do what He says! Of course, there is no one without sin; I'm speaking of a way of life and an attitude of mind...
Look at what Jesus had to say in Matthew 7:21-23.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (The original text word for iniquity is lawlessness).
These are people who believe in the name of Jesus and thought they were therefore Christians. They had done many great things in His name but, they had not repented of sinning. We tend to forget that the demons believe in God also; James 2:19 "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble."
As I alluded to, in the beginning of this study, we all desperately need to ask ourselves; "Why do I believe what I believe and where did this belief come from"? We were born in a ready-made world along with our "teachers" before us. We were told what to believe and not to question those teachings. In the case of Protestant and Catholic doctrine, to question would mean a certain sentence to hell for eternity. A very effective way to keep people in line I might add. There is only ONE truth of God and it's in the Bible. Our country's constitution guarantees us the right to believe what we want to believe, but your Creator does not allow that. It's His way, or death. We all must repent, seek Him, and be ready to do some heavy changing.
AND NOW TO THE MISCONCEPTIONS OF HELL
The translators of the King James Bible used the word "hell" in place of no less than four words, three of which have entirely different meanings. It stands to reason why this was done. If they had in fact left the original words in place, then the immortal soul or heaven/hell doctrines could not be supported by misapplied and/or poorly translated scripture.
In the Old testament, the Hebrew word exchanged for the word hell is "sheol", which simply means a "pit in the ground" or a "grave". It means nothing else!
In the New testament, one of the Greek words rendered hell by the KJV translators is the word "hades" which, like its Hebrew counterpart, simply means "the grave".
Another word translated hell in the N.T. appears only once in scripture and that is the Greek word, "tartaros". It is located in 2Peter 2:4. Translated into English it means "the darkness of the material universe", "dark abyss" or "prison". This verse, in its context, is speaking of the state of restraint that the demons (spirits) are being held until judgment. This place is obviously not for humans, because as we have exhaustively shown, people are unconscious when they die.
The only other word translated hell is the Greek word, "gehenna". It is used twelve times in the New Testament. Gehenna is the Greek term for the Valley of Hinnom, which is just outside the border of Jerusalem. In the time of Jesus, the Valley of Hinnom served as a waste disposal area. Garbage from the city, as well as the carcasses of sacrificed animals, and executed criminals were brought here to be burned. Due to the massive amounts of refuse, the fires of gehenna burned continuously and there was never a time when parasitic worms stopped feeding! Gehenna was referred to by Jesus as "unquenchable fire" because it burns until it has nothing left to consume. For example, Jude 7 speaking of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah says, that they are "set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." Are Sodom and Gomorrah still burning? Of course not. The term "eternal fire" defines the origin of that fire, which is the fire of the Eternal.
The Jews of Jesus' day knew very well what He was speaking of. Here are some scriptures, which deal with this despicable place revealed in the Old Testament. 2Chronicles 28:2,3; 33:6, Isaiah 34:3,9-10, Jeremiah 17:27, Joel 2:1-3 and Malachi 4:1-3. Thus the Valley of Hinnom became the symbol for the judgment of the wicked. When Jesus used the term gehenna, He was picturing what is yet to come with the lake of fire of Revelation 20. NOWHERE in the Bible is Gehenna pictured as some ethereal region where the wicked experience eternal torment!
The Bible plainly shows that the wicked will be burned to ashes when thrown into this fire.
For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." 3 "And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts (Malachi 4:1).
Notice that whenever everlasting punishment is spoken of, it is in contrast to everlasting life. Those who are burned up in the lake of fire will be dead forever! Incidentally, the beast and the false prophet reference in Rev 20:10 is a mistranslation in the KJV. The original Greek says, "were cast" in place of "are", thus showing that they DO NOT survive the lake of fire. Obadiah 16 says "...and it shall be as though they had not been." This is everlasting punishment not everlasting punishing!
What about the weeping and gnashing of teeth? This is the obvious description of someone who is facing the second death, but will not repent. They are weeping because they are going to die forever and gnashing their teeth at God for carrying out the law's penalty for sin.
Incidentally, when the Bible says that the Christian is no longer "under the law", it means that Christ's sacrifice has removed the penalty of the second death from that person, having died the second death Himself. Nowhere does this expression mean that the law of God has been done away (see Romans 6:15-16). Jesus made the law even more binding on the Christian, because it will be written on his heart by the Holy Spirit.
What about the "worms that die not"? Are there worms that possess eternal life? This expression is used in connection with Gehenna fire (a trash dump) and anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting one of these places has seen "the worm that dieth not." They are the parasites, called maggots and grubs, which once they are old enough, pupate and become flies.
Here then is a list of every reference to gehenna translated "hell" by the KJV in the New Testament: Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6. I urge the reader to look up every one of these scriptures bearing in mind what gehenna is.
Then, read through this next list where "hell" is used instead of the Greek word hades, which always means the grave. Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23 Acts 2:27,31; 1Corinthians 15:55 Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14.
By blending these words and their meanings, the King James translators would have scriptures, which would corroborate the pagan doctrines of the immortal soul. Only in this way could you have a hell, which is:
(1) A dark region underground.
(2) Departed souls go there for eternal torment, and
(3) The fires burn and burn and burn.
It really makes God out to be very sadistic indeed, taking pleasure in the eternal suffering of the damned. Praise God for His truth, and that He is a just God of mercy and grace!
One question, that's sure to be posed, is Jesus' promise of paradise to one of the thieves being crucified with Him. Very few people are aware of the fact that neither the original Greek nor Hebrew texts used punctuation marks. The translators added these marks in order to make the meaning "clearer". This would be acceptable, but for the fact (as we've seen) the dead are not conscious! The translators altered the meaning of Jesus' statement to the repentant thief completely by placing a comma after the word you, instead of the word today, where it should be. Correctly translated, Luke 23:43 should read, "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee to day, thou shalt be with me in paradise."
Another passage of scripture, which has been quoted to try to prove that we go tho heaven when we die is, 2 Corinthians 5. Paul is seemingly telling the Corinthians that when we are absent from the body, we are instantly present with the Lord. A careful reading of this entire passage will show that our spirit dwells in this earthly physical body, which Paul here refers to as a "tent." If it is destroyed, our spirit will need to be clothed with something else. As he had already shown this same group of believers in his first letter, this new body will be composed of immortality (1 Cor. 15). He also told them that we will gain this new existence at the time of the FIRST RESURRECTION when Christ returns. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16 concurs with this belief by showing that the dead in Christ will rise first and that God will "bring with Him, those who sleep in Jesus". ll Corinthians 5 of course, stays consistent with this teaching, by saying that at this time, this dwelling is being preserved for us in the eternal heavens. BUT, we are earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is FROM heaven! Paul also knows that from the perception of a person who has died, this transformation is instantaneous, because they will not be aware of the passing of time.
Surely the story of Lazarus and the rich man will prove all of the goodies that Babylon would have us believe. Once again, the Word of God is our authority. The story is found in Luke 16:19-31. Lazarus is portrayed as righteous and the rich man as wicked.
First of all, the beggar died and was carried by angels into Abrahams' bosom. It does not say that he went to heaven. Being in someone's bosom is an expression that depicts a spiritually close relationship. Abraham is called "the father of the faithful" (Rom.4:12) and if we are Christ's, then we are heirs of the same promises God made to him (Galations 3:7,29). In Matthew 24:31 we've seen that Jesus will send His angels to gather His elect at the time of His return. Lazarus will be in this resurrection to immortality. This resurrection has not happened yet!
The rich man died and was buried. And in hades (the grave), he lifts up his eyes (a resurrection). The unrepentant rich man will certainly be in torment when he sees the flames of the lake of fire beginning to surround him. When someone is in extreme mental anguish their tongue will dry up, that's why the rich man asks for just a drop of water to cool his tongue. If he were on fire, a request for a bucket of water would be more in order. Plus, how many people can hold a rational conversation while their flesh is burning?
The rich man had no knowledge of the passing of time, while he was in the grave. To him, he had only just died (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Lazarus and Abraham will have already been immortal for a thousand years, before the rich man is resurrected and faces the lake of fire. The second death. Eternal death. The "great gulf" fixed between the two is mortality and immortality. Jesus used this short illustration to get His listeners to see the reality of the resurrection of the dead, both of the righteous and the wicked.
You have now been given a firm foundation from God's Word to continue this study on your own. There are many, many more scriptures that concern the rewards of the saints and the fate of the wicked.
Please check up on the teaching in this study? But also check up on the other guys too. The Bible gives us the criteria by which to prove whether or not we are preaching or hearing the truth. I use them constantly as a measuring rod, as we are instructed by the word of God.
Isaiah 8:20 "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
1John 2:3-4 "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
Psalm 111:10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever."
If your teachers proclaim that obedience of faith to God's commandments are not necessary, then the Bible says they are liars. That's not our word, it is God's! One commandment, which mainstream Christians are taught to break glares at us. It is the fourth commandment. Revelation 12:9 says that at the time of the end, Satan will have deceived the whole world! And it is evident that it has happened! As a matter of fact it began two thousand years ago in Paul's day, "For the mystery of iniquity (lawlessness) doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way." Also Paul speaks of a false gospel in 2Co 11:4. "For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him."
There are many other doctrines and practices in the world's Christianity that are just as deceptive, yet seem so right. We welcome discussion and studies if the reader(s) have the desire to learn God's truth. We've been asked before, "What difference does it make if I choose to believe what I've been told all my life?"
"About a thousand years!"
Taken from the "Return to Truth Ministries" Website.