Hades and Eternal Punishment: Pages 7-12

I am continuing with my analysis of A. J. Pollock’s defense of the traditional doctrine of eternal conscious torment (see HADES and Eternal Punishment ). In my last post we saw Pollock’s case that the Hebrew word Sheol never means a literal grave, which I have no quibble with (see Hades and Eternal Punishment: Pages 2-7). What did seem very novel to me is his assertion that Sheol/Hades is not a literal place but a condition. As far as I know this teaching appears to have died out in the years since Pollock wrote this tract. I still have not changed my belief that Sheol/Hades is a literal place but is not a literal grave as Jehovah’s Witnesses appear to believe. Pollock doesn’t directly challenge that belief as far as I can tell.

In this post I quote pages 7 through 12 where Pollock first states that the Greek words mnemeion (grave) and Hades are equivalent to the Hebrew words Qeber (grave) and Sheol. Once again I agree with him on this point and really don’t have much to add.

Secondly he tells us not to pay much attention to the book of Ecclesiastes. In fact Pollock spends a lot of time telling us not to use the book of Ecclesiastes too heavily in our study of, well, just about anything. I would agree that Ecclesiastes must be interpreted carefully like any other book of scripture. However I think he comes too close to dismissing the entire book of Ecclesiastes as being unworthy of study. This quote provides a flavor of his take on Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes is a profoundly interesting and helpful book, but it must not be approached as divine revelation, but as the inspired record of the summing up by human wisdom of the problems of life and death, while here and there Solomon shows that he possesses a glimmering light of what is beyond, God-given of course.

The truth of the matter is that the book of Ecclesiastes must contain something God wants me to know. How does Pollock determine which phrases are “glimmering lights” and which aren’t. It looks like that will remain a mystery to us. If I want human wisdom I don’t need to read the Bible, all I need to do is turn on the TV or read a newspaper. The world is drowning in human wisdom. It always has been and will continue to be until the Lord’s return. My biggest concern here is that using this logic it becomes very easy to dismiss any book or passage out of hand that we don’t like.

Before providing Mr. Pollock’s discussion I would like to quote Arnold Fruchtenbaum on his beliefs about Hades. I hold the same basic beliefs about Hades as Dr. Fruchtenbaum does. I should also make it clear that Dr. Fruchtenbaum believes in the traditional doctrine of eternal conscious torment. Here is Dr. Fruchtenbaum:

From these ten references on Hades in the New Testament, seven deductions can be drawn.

First, Hades is the same as Sheol. Hades is the Greek term for the Old Testament Sheol, so everything that is true of Sheol is automatically true of Hades. This is evident from the fact that while Psalm 16:10 used the term Sheol, when that verse is quoted in the New Testament (Acts 2:27, 31), it is called Hades. So Sheol and Hades are one and the same, Sheol being the Hebrew term and Hades being the Greek term.

The second deduction is that it was a place for both the righteous and the unrighteous. In Luke 16:19-31 the unrighteous rich man is in Hades. But the Righteous One, Yeshua (Jesus), was also in Hades according to Acts 2:27, 31.

Third, Hades had two main compartments (Lk. 16:19-31). The section for the unbeliever was Hades proper, and the section for the believer was known as Abraham’s bosom. More will be said about this later in this manuscript.

The fourth deduction is that, although both believers and unbelievers went down to Hades, it was especially severe for the unbelievers (Mat. 11:23; Lk. 10:15; 16:19-31).

The fifth deduction is that the direction of Hades was always downward, never upward (Mat. 11:23; Lk. 10:15).

The sixth deduction is that it was a place of consciousness, not a place of unconsciousness (Lk. 16:19-31).

The seventh deduction is that Hades is a temporary state. It is not the eternal state, but only a temporary state (Rev. 20:11-15).

The Place of the Dead
Arnold Fruchtenbaum
p. 7

I think it is useful to compare Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s deductions against what Mr. Pollock has to say about Hades. Now, without further ado, here is Mr. Pollock:

Let us now turn to the New Testament, and follow up the equivalents of qeber and sheol there, and we shall find exactly the same rules apply to them.

MNEMEION (Greek) = QEBER (Hebrew), grave, sepulchre, a locality.

HADES (Greek) = SHEOL (Hebrew), the state of disembodied souls, i.e., a condition.

In the New Testament, as in the Old, there is no difficulty as to the word ‘grave ‘.

  Let us first see the Greek equivalent in the Septuagint for the Hebrew word sheol. The Septuagint is the name of the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek completed by the Jews of Alexandria and so called because it is said to be the work of seventy translators employed by Ptolemy Philadelphus, King of Egypt about 280 B.C.

Out of sixty-five times in which the word ‘sheol’ occurs in the Hebrew, the Septuagint renders it ‘hades’ on all but four occasions. Twice it is translated ‘thanatos’, the Greek word for death; twice it has no equivalent.

Not ONCE do they translate it grave. Does this not prove they had a much clearer idea of the meaning of the word sheol than our English translators, who wrongly translated it grave thirty-one times, and that in spite of its having no plural or locality, and the fact that they had translated it thirty-one times by another totally different word, ‘hell’.

But this is a matter of translation, of more or less weight. Let us come to the New Testament. Scripture itself decides the question authoritatively for us. Compare the following Old Testament Scripture with the New Testament quotation:

“Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell [sheol] neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption” (Ps. 16:10).

“Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell [hades]; neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27).

This puts the matter beyond dispute. Scripture itself settles the point for us.

A further remark must be made here before we proceed, or else the enquirer will be expecting help from the wrong quarter.

There is no such revelation of the unseen state in the Old Testament as is found in the New. “Life and immortality [literally, incorruptibility]” are distinctly said to be brought “to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). The time arrived for God to make a fuller revelation on this solemn subject consequent on the death of His blessed Son which met all His righteous claims and put man under a deeper responsibility than before.

It is not that the Old Testament is not as fully inspired of God as the New. The Old is of EQUAL INSPIRATION AND AUTHORITY with the New, but God has been pleased to make a fuller revelation on these subjects in the New. It is emphatically not a question of evolution but of revelation.

The reader may be warned to treat with grave suspicion writers who, whilst presenting a large array of texts from the Old Testament, principally drawn from Job and Ecclesiastes, fail to give adequate testimony from the New. He will find that such writers treat the partial revelation God in His unerring wisdom has given in the Old Testament as the final word to be said on the subject. They likewise often mistake the inspired record for revelation whilst ignoring the fuller revelation of the New Testament.

Ecclesiastes is much quoted by unsound writers in this way. For instance, how often is the following passage quoted to prove that at death the soul sleeps and becomes unconscious:

“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten” (Eccl. 9:5).

But the following verse, which explains the point of view of the writer, as of the whole book indeed, is generally not quoted:-

“Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done UNDER THE SUN” (Eccl. 9:6).

The writer here speaks of what is “under the sun.” As far as he knows the dead know nothing of what had interested them when alive in the environments of this life.

Ecclesiastes is a profoundly interesting and helpful book, but it must not be approached as divine revelation, but as the inspired record of the summing up by human wisdom of the problems of life and death, while here and there Solomon shows that he possesses a glimmering light of what is beyond, God-given of course.

He was at once the wisest and richest of men, He had the greatest opportunities of gratifying himself, guided by a maximum of human wisdom yet he made a terrible mess of his life and stands as a proof that man must be controlled by the Spirit of God to be right in his spirit in relation to God and eternity.

His book is the marvelously clever wail of a disappointed man, for he begins by saying:

“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2).

We repeat it is not divine revelation, but the divinely INSPIRED record of human doubts and disappointment.

That Solomon himself contradicts such an interpretation of Ecclesiastes 9:5 as that of soul-sleep is evident. He says:

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and, the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7).

Is it too much to say that Solomon differentiates between the unconscious body in the grave and the conscious spirit in sheol or hades? We do not think so.

Let anyone examine candidly the theories of such anti-Christian systems as Millennial Dawnism, Seventh Day Adventism, Christadelphianism, Christian Science, and the like, and he will find the appeal in support of their speculations is mainly to the Old Testament, the books of Ecclesiastes and Job being largely drawn upon for this purpose and quite misunderstood by them.

The following statement by the late Mr. F.W.Grant in his monumental work, “Facts and Theories as to a Future State,” is illustrative of this trait. Reviewing Mr. Roberts’ book and exposing the Christadelphian fallacies contained therein, he writes:-

“Thus for his own views, out of over fifty passages produced, nine belong to the New Testament, and forty-seven to the Old. Whilst out of passages which he thinks might be adduced as against his views (though scanty in number) nine out of ten are from the New Testament. …Really does it not seem a question between the Old Testament and the New?

“It is not that; but still there is a tale these quotations tell, the moral of which will be found in 2 Timothy 1:10, where the Apostle tells us, that Christ ‘hath abolished death and brought life and incorruption [not immortality] to light through the GOSPEL.’

“That means that these writers are groping for light amid the shadows of a dispensation where was yet upon this subject comparative darkness. They look at death as it existed before Christ had for the believer abolished it.

“They look at life there where as yet it had not been ‘brought to light.’ No wonder if they stumble in the darkness they have chosen” (pages 124, 125).

And I am afraid in such cases they do not want the light, but impose upon their readers their own theories of darkness.

To return from this necessary digression: We have seen that sheol (Hebrew) and hades (Greek) are equivalent terms. Let us now consider the Scriptural testimony as to hades.

In the New Testament, hades is translated hell ten times and grave once. The passage where it is translated grave is:-

  “O death, where is thy sting? O grave [hades], where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55).

Why the translators should translate it ten times hell and make one solitary exception is inexplicable. Probably they were influenced in this by a desire for elegance of language.

We shall now find that the same comparison that we found existing between qeber (Hebrew, grave) and sheol (Hebrew, disembodied soul-condition) exists between mnemeion (Greek, grave) and hades (Greek, disembodied soul-condition ).

 

  • Mnemeion occurs in the plural ten times.
  • Hades never occurs in the plural.

 

  • Mnemeion is spoken of as the exclusive possession of an individual.
  • Hades is never so spoken of.

 

  • Mnemeion is spoken of as “his [Joseph’s] own new tomb” (Matt. 27:60). “Laid it in a tomb” (Mark 6:29). “The sepulchres of the righteous ” (Matt. 28:29).
  • Hades never has such language used in connection with it. It is addressed, as we have seen, as “O grave ( hades )”, but is never translated “a grave”, “his grave”, etc.

 

  • Mnemeion has a geographical position. “And came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city ” (Matt. 27:53), proving the graves were in the vicinity of Jerusalem. “In the garden a new sepulchre” (John 19:41).
  • Hades has no geographical position.

 

  • Mnemeion is spoken of in relation to the body going into it. “Behold the sepulchre, and how His body was laid” (Luke 23:55).
  • Hades is never spoken of in relation to the body, for the obvious reason that it has no relation to it.

 

An apparent exception to this may be urged in that the rich man in hades is said to lift up his eyes. But the statement is symbolical and intended to express the thought that the soul is conscious after death and able to take cognizance of its surroundings. The Bible is full of such symbolism. For instance, God is a Spirit and therefore incorporeal. Yet we read of His “back parts,” His face, His eyes, His nostrils, His feet, His hands, etc., etc., all intended to convey definite thoughts in symbolic language. For instance, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (Psalm 34: 15-16).

 

  • Mnemeion is spoken of as a possession on this earth, just as we may possess a house or a field. “And he laid it [the Lord’s body] in his own new tomb” (Matt. 27:60).
  • Hades is never so spoken of.

 

  • Mnemeion can be dug or made. “And he laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock ” (Matt. 27:60).
  • Hades is never so spoken of.

 

Of course we could give further proof texts as to the above distinctions between grave and sheol in the Old Testament, and grave and hades in the New Testament, but enough has been pointed out to prove overwhelmingly that sheol, or hades, is not the grave.

Further, when it is a question of the grave, we necessarily expect much more evidence in the Old Testament than the New, for the reason that the Old Testament covers the history of man over a period of 4,000 years whilst the New Testament covers less than 70 years. The first writer of the Old Testament was separated from the last by over 1,000 years, whilst the first and last writers of the New Testament were separated by considerably less than 100 years.

Seeing then that sheol and hades are equivalent terms and that there is no dispute as to the word for ‘grave’, the evidence on the point is conclusive.

If any reader can after verifying this evidence still state that sheol or hades mean the grave, then I charge him with deliberate deception. He may have been deceived hitherto; from henceforth such a person would be a deceiver. Alas! we are not surprised to find such in the world, men lost to every sense of shame, for we read, “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13).

An instance of this has just come to hand.

Can the reader wonder that we challenge the honesty of such a man as the late “Pastor” Russell of Millennial Dawn notoriety? An organ of his, Everybody’s Paper, was thrust into our letterbox since writing the above. Imagine our surprise and disgust when we read the unblushing statement, which surely he must have known to be utterly false: “Every educated minister now knows that the Hebrew word translated “hell” in the Old Testament Scriptures means the tomb – the state of death – the only hell that was known for four thousand years.”

Further, sheol or hades affects necessarily both saint and sinner. And as the body, lying in death (a condition) must in a general way be in the grave (a locality) so the soul, which is in hades (a condition) must be somewhere (a locality). Now Scripture tells us plainly where the souls of the Lord’s people are after the death of their bodies.

We read:-

“He [David] seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in hell [hades], neither His flesh did see corruption” (Acts 2:31).

The Lord’s spirit was in hades between the time of His death and His resurrection. He Himself asserted where His spirit would be and in doing so proved where the believer’s would be for He said to the dying thief:

“Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me IN PARADISE” (Luke 23:43).

And Paul wrote:-

“We are willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

The soul of the Christian is then with Christ in bliss.

But the Lord likewise throws light upon the state of lost souls in hades. Most vividly does He contrast the state of the blessed with that of the lost.

HADES and Eternal Punishment
A J Pollock

pp. 7-12

[Click on this link to see the next installment in this series: Is “The Rich Man and Lazarus” a Parable?]

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