In last week’s article, I responded to the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) doctrine on hell. I will continue to discuss the same topic in today’s article, but I will focus on Sheol and Hades.
…The HARD TRUTH with Dr. Kennedy Musonda, Ph.D.
The teaching on hell has created much confusion for two reasons. First, some English Bibles have translated four words as hell: Sheol (Hebrew), Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus (Greek). Besides, other terms such as the lake of fire, furnace of fire also refer to hell.
Sheol is a Hebrew word that predominantly means the world of the dead or underworld. In the Old Testament (OT), the Jews believed that Sheol was a place where people who die go. It had two compartments.
The compartment for the wicked who suffer in the torment of fire and the righteous’ compartment, which is paradise or Abraham’s bosom or paradise (Luke 16:20-31).
The paradise section is believed to be empty after the death and resurrection of Jesus (Ephesians 4:8- 10). It was believed in the OT that everyone who died went to Sheol (Genesis 37:26-36). For instance, Jacob is said to have been gathered to his people (Genesis 49:33), yet his body was buried approximately two months later.
Another example is that of Samuel, who was ‘sent’ from Sheol to tell Saul that “tomorrow, you and your sons will be here with me” (1 Samuel 28:19). Although Saul and his sons died the following day, their bodies were only buried three days later (2 Samuel 31:7-13), meaning that it was their souls that went to be with Samuel in Sheol.
I know the story is controversial, but the narrator does not say the demon impersonated Samuel, but he just identifies Samuel as Samuel. In the New Testament, there is a story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16:20-31, which depicts the Old Testament Scenario.
When the two died, Lazarus went to paradise, part of Sheol, while the Rich Man went to the hell (hades) part of Sheol. Some denominations and individuals who reject the reality of hell want us to believe that this story is a parable. It is the only way they can go around the truth of hell’s existence (hades). Parables do not mention names of people, let alone names of actual people that existed like Moses and Abraham.
The New Testament term for Sheol is Hades (Psalm 16:10 quoted in Acts 2:27). In the New Testament, there is a difference between Gehenna and Hades. The only way you can distinguish these two words is by looking at the Greek words that have been translated as hell.
Gehenna appears in the Bible twelve times while Hades appears eight times. Sheol/Hades is an intermediate state or holding place for sinners who continue to be tormented in the fire until the final resurrection when they appear before God during the white throne judgment (Revelation 20:12-13).
The second problem is that Sheol and Hades have been translated as the grave. The word Sheol appears sixty-five times in the Bible. It is translated as pit three times, as a grave, thirty-two times, and as hell, thirty-one times. Hades appears in the Bible eleven times but has been translated as hell ten times and grave once.
The Hebrew word for grave is querber, and of the sixty-four times it appears in the Bible, it is translated as a grave thirty-four times; sepulcher twenty-six times and burying place four times. Because Sheol has been translated as the grave and hell, it has led to confusion resulting in erroneous teaching that denies the existence of an intermediate state or present hell (Hades), where the dead sinners go before the final judgment.
It has also led to other false teachings of soul-sleep, unconscious existence, and annihilation (utter destruction leading to non-existence). Next week I will look at the difference between Gehenna and Hades.
Author: Dr. Kennedy Musonda an international development consultant holds a Bachelor and Master of Social Work, a Bachelor of Arts in Theology, a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Ph.D. in Business Administration.
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