The Place of the Dead

This is the third installment of my series dealing with annihilationism and whether there is any support for it in scripture. The previous two installments are “Is There a Case for Annihilationism?” and “Theological Models of Man”.

This is the final background post before I begin dealing with A. J. Pollock’s “HADES and Eternal Punishment”. In his polemic against any non-traditional understanding of eternal punishment Mr. Pollock places a great emphasis on defining what the Hebrew word Sheol means. Therefore it is important for me to clearly define what I understand Sheol to be.

In the interest of providing a full definition of what I believe Sheol is I am going to quote from Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s “The Place of the Dead” which provides a solid definition of Sheol that I will use as a reference. Also, in the interest of fairness, I do want to point out that Dr. Fruchtenbaum holds to the traditional doctrine of eternal conscious torment for those who reject Jesus Christ.

Here is Dr. Fruchtenbaum on Sheol:

From these sixty-four passages where this term [Sheol] is used, six deductions can be drawn concerning what Sheol was.

First, in the Old Testament period, Sheol was a place that both the righteous and the unrighteous expected to go upon death (Ps. 89:48). The righteous ones, the saints of the Old Testament, expected to go down to Sheol in Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; Job 14:13; Psalm 16:10; and Jonah 2:2. The unrighteous also expected to go down to Sheol in Numbers 16:30, 33; Job 24:19; Psalm 9:17; 49:14; and Ezekiel 32:21.

The second deduction is that it was a place more dreadful for the unbeliever than for the believer. Although both believers and unbelievers went down to Sheol in the Old Testament, it was far more dreadful for the unbelievers than it was for the believers (Job 24:19; Ps. 9:17; 49:14).

The third deduction is that there are different levels or compartments in Sheol. The fact that there are references to the lowest Sheol teaches the fact that there are different levels in Sheol or there are different compartments in Sheol (Deut. 32:22; Ps. 86:13).

The fourth deduction concerning Sheol is that the direction of Sheol was always downward. When people talked about Sheol, it was a place that was downward (Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; Num. 16:30, 33; I Sam. 2:6; I Kg. 2:6, 9; Job 7:9; 11:8; 17:16; 21:13; Ps. 30:3; Prov.5:5; 7:27; 15:24; Is. 5:14; 14:9; Ezek. 32:21; Amos 9:2).

The fifth deduction is that Sheol was a place of consciousness. Those who went down to Sheol were in a state of consciousness (Is. 14:9-10; Jon. 2:2).

The sixth deduction concerning Sheol is that Sheol was not removed from God’s jurisdiction (Job 26:6; Ps. 139:8; Deut. 32:22).

Thus, Sheol was a major term for the unseen world.

From what I have been able to determine in my studies,this understanding of what Sheol is the majority opinion among Protestants. Going forward it will also be a great help to set out which Old and New Testament terms I hold to be equivalent and which ones I do not:

  • The Hebrew word Sheol is equivalent to the Greek word Hades (often translated hell in our English bibles).
  • The New Testament terms Lake of Fire and Gehenna (also often translated Hell in our English bibles) are equivalent
  • Sheol and Hades are not equivalent to Lake of Fire and Gehenna.

I think that fills in the background information I will need.

[Click on link to see the next installment in this series: Hades and Eternal Punishment: Pages 1-2]

Explore posts in the same categories: Annihilationism

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