I have recently been made aware that there are videos making the rounds in the University of Ghana concerning supposed revelations that God is giving to people on hell and the ‘hereafter’. I undertake to share with you Biblical reasons for my disappointment with this situation. The children of light must be seen to bask in its rays, yet professed Christians shun their Bibles for the destructive inventions of false prognosticators and unbiblical philosophy.
The discussion is adapted from a letter I wrote in reply to questions on the matter.
The letter is reproduced below.
I hope you’re doing well by God’s grace despite your recent exasperations.
I’d like you to know that the righteous indignation that you have for what’s going on around you is getting rarer and rarer. If you have it then it is certainly because God has laid it upon your heart to bring others into His light. I just want you to not ignore that, but to persevere in the search for truth so that you can be more deployable by God in that regard.
Now to answer your questions, I must first confess that I’m really surprised to hear that people are getting supposed revelations from hell of the state of the dead and of the rapture at Legon. Not that it is not to be expected in the last days, but I’ve not yet been aware of it, so thank you. It is worth investigating.
Like you know, hell is not a presently existing location. Hell is an English translation for four words used in the Bible, all referring to the state, not place, of death. The farthest the Bible ever goes to a geographic description of hell is the six-foot deep hole we call the grave. In fact one of the four words I mentioned, shoel, refers exactly to this. It means grave.
Shoel is used ubiquitously in the Old Testament. It finds particularly plentious use in the book of Job, in which we are shown something important.
In Job 14:13, Job asks God to remember him while he is in sheol, that is, in the grave. Job asked this in hope of the resurrection, praying that God, when he comes to receive the faithful unto Himself, will not forget that He has a servant, who served Him long long ago in the Earth, and who lies in a grave somewhere in the Earth. If Job, a righteous man, goes to sheol, then it cannot be a place of evil torment, so the English translation “hell” cannot refer to this.
The second word that is translated as hell is Hades. If you read any Greek mythology as a child (I regret that I did), you would easily recognise this to be the Greek word for the underworld. In the Greek pagan religion it was understood that people died and went to Hades, which was the realm of the evil god Pluto or Dis (Roman) or Hades (Greek). It is clear that Bible writers used it simply because it was the Greek word used to refer to the state of the dead, and not because they agreed with the pagan philosophy.
For example,in Revelation 20:14, Hades is cast into the lake of fire. If Hades is a place of torment then the Devil and evil people would rather be cast into it. Rather, Hades is cast in, with them, into the real place of torment, the lake of fire. This is the end of sin (the Devil and the wicked) and of death (Hades).
The lake of fire is the only proscribed place of torment given in Scripture. It is never even referred to as hell, and it is an event that will take place in the future. This fire will burn upon the earth, not under it in some cavernous crevices deep down below.
The other word translated to hell is Tartarus, used only once in 2 Peter 2:4 in the Greek rendition. A basic understanding of the Great Controversy between good and evil includes an appreciation of what happened when Lucifer dissented from the courts of Heaven. He was cast down. Where? Onto the earth (Revelation 12:12)!
So Peter refers to Satan’s banishment from the realms of Heaven and from any possibility for redemption (chains of darkness), as death. Does Christ not say that those who do not believe in Him, though they live are dead (John 3:18)? So Satan and his angels are chained to their fate. They are already condemned, that is why they are reserved unto judgement. It’s interesting that Revelation 12:12 makes the same allusions, saying that he (the Devil), knows that his time is short. So Tartarus is no place of present torture as the Devil presently lives so freely among us, causing trouble and giving fake visions of a false hell. It is his present state of permanent condemnation. Remember, only the lake of fire will be used to punish or torment anyone.
The last word has posed some the most difficulty: Gehenna. In Mark 9:43, Christ says it’s better to enter life maimed that to enter hell whole, where the fire is not quenched.
Here, for hell, the Lord used Gehenna. Why? Because he was painting a graphical picture for the hearers. He often did that with parables. As it happened, right outside Jerusalem, there was a city dump called Gehenna.
Here, all the city’s trash was taken and was burned. As can be expected, it was a constantly maintained fire as there was daily refuse to take care of. A cloud of smoke rose continually out of it signifying the flame even when it was at its lowest.
As a symbol of the lake of fire, Christ warned the people to cast off the desirables that eventually lead to punishment and prefer to enter Heaven carrying their cross. Pure and simple.
The fire in Gehenna, like I said, was kept perpetually alight, and was not quenched. This is so only because there was always something for it to burn. Like any fire, when the object of consumption is consumed, the fire dies.
In much the same way, the lake of fire will not be quenched by anyone, but it will die when it has consumed the last object. The Bible teaches this ubiquitously: Matthew 3:12, Isaiah 47:14, Malachi 4:1, etc.
In Revelation 14:11 and 20:10 say the wicked will burn for ever. If for ever is understood to mean ad infinitum then it would appear the Scriptures contradict themselves. But this is not so. For ever in scripture can also mean ‘until the natural end of the thing in question’ or ‘as long as a thing or person lives or exists’. It comes from the Greek ‘enon’ from which we get ‘eon’, meaning an unspecified (not an unending) period of time. See Jonah 2:6, Exodus 21:6, 1 Samuel 1:22, 28.
How do we know which way to understand for ever in Revelation 14 and 20? Easy.
Jude 7 teaches that Sodom and Gomorrah were burned with eternal fire, yet they are clearly not burning today, and Jude says those cities are set forth as an example of how things will happen in the future. Their ‘eternal’ fire therefore was a fire that burned ‘for as long as they existed’, not ad infinitum.
Fundamentally, however, it is easy to tell, as Christians, that there are only two choices available to each person: life and death. John 3:16 is well known but apparently little understood. Those who believe in Christ have life everlasting. Those who do not, perish. They don’t live eternally in fire.
Romans 6:23 is also well known: for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We only have the one or the other. Even the angels can be killed by God, and some of them certainly will (Satan’s evil ones, of course). Only God, and it must be emphasised, only God, is truly immortal (1 Timothy 6:15, 16).
There are those who say that death is only the separation of the wicked from the presence of God. This is a sad and most hypocritical if not ignorant position to hold. What then happens to God’s omnipresence? Men have to discard the very fundamental nature and attributes of God to defend indefensible man made traditions.
The modern confusion about the state of the dead and of hell was born in the Dark Ages, within the period of the 1260 year prophetic period in which the true church had to hide from the dragon and its church (Revelation 12). They invented the idea that man had an immortal soul which would go into punishment in purgatory to pay for his sins and attain perfection before moving on into heaven. They then proposed that if the relatives of the dead made good enough financial contributions to the the church then these tormented could be prayed for and their torment shortened. It was this evil that procured massive amounts of currency for the apostate church, that little horn, spoken of by Daniel the prophet (Daniel 7).
It is interesting also to note that this invention was not altogether novel. It finds its root in the very first deception that the dragon spewed into the ear of man, that unlike God had warned, if you of the fruit, “Ye shall not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4).
This idea that man is immortal comes from the Devil, and it is only this devilish philosophy that can support the idea that when people die their immortal souls go into some place immediately, whether Heaven (which has no place for such devilish theories), or hell (which is a silent, dark six feet deep hole in the ground).
Just a thought: If the righteous rise only on the last day (John6:39, 40, 44, 54, 11:24) then how much more the dead, who are reserved unto eternal punishment (see final verses)?
Your friends can be rest assured that all such revelations come from the one who has to defend and reinforce this deception, not from the One who says that He knows how to reserve the righteous unto the resurrection and the unrighteous unto damnation( 2 Peter 2:9, 3:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:3).
The dead will have their day of resurrection, on which to receive their judgement and punishment (see Revelation 20).
Until then, let man content himself with his mortal soul, prepare for death, in which there is no knowing or working or writhing (Ecclesiastes 9:10), and hope to make the first resurrection of the righteous or else to live to see the second coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:15 – 17, 1 Corinthians 15:51 – 58). Otherwise let them prepare for sudden destruction on that day, (2 Peter 3:10,11, 1 Thessalonians 5:2,3), and for the horrible second resurrection of the wicked (Revelation 20:5, 12 – 15).
As hard as it might be for some to say, Amen.
As a University community it must be the hallmark of our avowed intellectualism to pursue the truth. We must search the Scriptures, as Isaiah advices, For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isaiah 28:10).
As long as we follow Christ in this manner, His reward for our diligent search will be the blessing of light, and truth. May God bless you who choose so to do, and inspire those yet uncommitted to this way, for the truth sets us free.
Photo credit: orthodox-christianity.com