Difficult Scriptures About Death, Hell, Heaven, and Earth

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● Luke 23:43. Today in Paradise? Was Jesus promising the thief hell?

The text in the King James Version implies that Jesus promised this man an immediate life in Paradise, ostensibly to be realized on the very day of their crucifixion. However, Acts 2:22-32 states that Jesus was in “hell” after his crucifixion, and Acts 10:40 assures us that God did not raise Jesus up until the third day.

Did Jesus in fact promise this thief a resurrection in hell? No, this problem was created by the poor punctuation of Bible scribes or translators in Luke 23:43. The comma should go after the words “To day” instead of before them. Because punctuation was not specified in the original Greek, Bible scribes placed punctuation according to their best understanding. In this case, it was a mistake. Lamsa notes that “The comma could come before or after today.” Rotherham similarly notes and reads, “Verily I say unto thee this day: With me shalt thou be in Paradise.” These were indeed words of comfort.

Lesson: Do we ever do this when we interpret the experiences that God brings into our life? Sometimes we place the comma in
the wrong place or even a period where God places a comma. It is easy to miss God’s true meaning in our life when we do our own punctuation and not wait for God to reveal it. In 2 Timothy 1:2-10, fear forced Timothy to place a period on his ministry where the Apostle Paul reminded him that God gave him the inspiration and the motivation to keep going! TNA

● 1 Kings 17:21. “Let this child’s soul come into him again.” How could the child’s soul come into him again?

If we look at more modern translations, the thought of 1 Kings 17:21 is, “Then he [Elijah] stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the LORD and said, O LORD my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him” (New American Standard Bible). The Hebrew word translated “soul” in the King James version and “life” in the NASB version is nephesh, Strong’s number H5315. It means “properly a breathing creature, that is, animal or (abstractly) vitality.” The root Hebrew word from which nephesh is derived is naphash (Strong’s H5314), which means “to breathe.”

Elijah was asking for the breath of life, or life, to be restored to the boy, just as God breathed the original breath of life into Adam and he became a living being. “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [nephesh]” (Genesis 2:7 NASB). In addition, the scriptures do
not say the soul of the child was anywhere else while he was dead. The child or soul was dead until he was brought back to life following Elijah’s prayer (Ezekiel 18:4). EK

● Psalm 55:15. “Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick [alive] into hell.” How can hypocrites go down alive to hell?

In our modern-day vernacular, we use the phrase; “I wish they were stopped dead in their tracks” to describe our hope for our enemies who are doing things against us or against God. This properly summarizes the figure of speech that King David used in Psalm 55:15 and explains how King David’s enemies would have been stopped while they were alive. When speaking of the destruction of Babylon (the beast, false prophet and their supporters) in Revelation 19:20, the resurrected Jesus Christ
says Babylon (an organization, not a person) would be destroyed while still actively campaigning against God. The word “hell” in Psalm 55:15 is from the Hebrew word sheol, which does not describe a place of torment but a condition of death. Jacob expected going to sheol (Genesis 42:38) if he lost his son Benjamin, after losing Joseph earlier. Like Jacob and David, we should always speak the truth and let our Heavenly father and the power of the truth do any work of retributive justice. TNA

Editor’s note: Or possibly David may have been asking God to kill them while they were yet active.

● 1 Peter 3:18-19. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” How could Christ die and preach to the spirits in prison?

Peter wrote this after Jesus’ resurrection, when for a short period of time he directly conversed with him; a time in which many things were conveyed to the Apostles which were not
recorded (John 21:25). The spirits in prison are the fallen angels (vs. 20, 2 Peter 2:4, and Jude 1:6). The latter two scriptures indicate that these spirits are imprisoned in some realm awaiting a future judgment. Judgment (krisis) implies
a trial more than a condemnation, so some of these imprisoned spirits seem redeemable.

Apparently, Jesus was in his resurrected spirit nature (alive) when this occurred. The phrase “by which” means an action resulting from the immediately previous text (compare Acts 6:10, 1 Corinthian 15:2, Hebrews 11:4). Therefore, going to the spirit prison resulted from Jesus being made alive in the spirit. Being a spiritual being allowed Jesus to travel (“he went,” G4198, travel) to a spiritual realm. This illustrates the Lord’s compassion, i.e. that not even a bruised reed would be rejected by him. Brethren have had prison ministries, but any effort to help the weak in spirit or fallen in nature should be applied if the flax is still at least smoldering. RD

Editors’ note: More credibly, Jesus preached by example. His faithfulness even unto death was the lesson that He preached unto the fallen angels. (See also Wilson’s Diaglott.)

Editor’s note: All but one of the best manuscripts of 1 Peter 3:18 read, “For Christ also hath once died for sins.”

● Matthew 5:22 (KJV). One who condemns his brother’s motives “shall be in danger of hell fire.” But the Revised Version margin says, “Gr. Gehenna of fire.” What is the difference?

Three Greek words, confusingly, have all been translated “hell” (KJV and others): hades, gehenna, and Tartarus.

Hades (lit. “unseen;” used 10 times) translates the Hebrew sheol in the Old Testament (Psalm 16:10, quoted in Acts 2:27). Hades means the condition of death, particularly Adamic death (under which all humanity is born). Hades is to give up all its dead before it is destroyed in “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:13-15).

Tartarus (used only once, 2 Peter 2:4), to the ancient Greeks, was “a dark abyss, as deep below Hades, as earth below heaven, the prison of the Titans, etc.” (Liddell & Scott, abridged edition, 1880). Tartarus describes the condition of the fallen angels since the Flood, having forfeited their ability to materialize.

Gehenna (ge = ground + Hinnom; so Valley of Hinnom; used 12 times), on the southwest side of Jerusalem, was a garbage dump, with fires kept burning continuously to utterly consume
everything thrown into it. Gehenna is the symbolic “lake of fire,” the second death (Revelation 20:10, 14-15), extinction — oblivion.

Most times gehenna is a warning to the church now, but twice it is spoken to the Pharisees (Matthew 23:15,33), and never to the
Sadducees (though they were guiltier). The Sadducees saw nothing beyond death; so they would not understand “second death.” The Pharisees could. We can. JP

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