Category Archives: Life after Death

Growing weary of constantly correcting false teaching

 Headstone free tombstone clipart clipart image

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What should I say to a person who claimed this?

“Hades” which is the Greek term used to translate the Hebrew term Sheol, basically refers to the grave or the abode of the dead and clearly the parable of the rich man and Lazarus describes this intermediate state as being a place of consciousness. But sheol during the Old Testament period also describes a place devoid of consciousness, for example Ecclesiastes 9:5, Ecclesiastes 9:10; Psalms 88:12 (NIV). In other words the intermediate state proceeding (sic)[1] the resurrection has more than one meaning.[2]

1. Hades, the place of departed souls

Those who know Hebrew and Greek disagree with him. [3]

According to OT Hebrew commentators, Keil & Delitzsch, ‘Sheol denotes the place where departed souls are gathered after death’ (n d:338). As a general description, this is not referring to the grave.

Image result for hell clipart public domain One of the leading exegetical Greek word studies edited by Colin Brown states:

In the LXX [Septuagint] hades occurs more than 100 times, in the majority of instances to translate Heb sheol, the underworld which receives all the dead. It is a land of darkness, in which God is not remembered (Job 10:21f; 26:5; Ps. 6:5; 30:9 [LXX 29:9]; 115:17 [LXX 113:25]; Prov. 1:12; 27:20; Isa. 5:14) (Brown 1976:206).

So in the Septuagint (OT Greek), hades is a Greek translation of the Hebrew, sheol.

There are further explanations of hades and sheol in my articles,

On this Christian forum (online), the regular rejection of the orthodox doctrine of life-after-death and the immortality of the soul has become such a drone that a person expressed dismay over what was happening. I understand and sympathise with his perspective.

However, a biblical response is needed to this disillusionment.

2. Growing weary of correction

Jim Parker wrote:

There is truly nothing new under the sun.
Here, we seem to be on a wheel which periodically brings around OSAS,[4] faith alone without works, no eternal punishment in hell, baptism’s just for show, and a few other favorites which don’t come to mind at the moment.

I have attempted to show where people’s comments have been illogical or taken totally out of context only to find that logic and context are concepts with which many, not only do not know anything about the subject, but, often, don’t even suspect there is something to be known. I have attempted, in response to “proof-texts” to show the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey used to say) only to have them either dismissed out of hand or completely ignored and then be assailed with another barrage of “proof-texts.”
I grow weary.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in its petty pace from day to day and all our yesterdays light fools the way to dusty death.


Proof-text after proof-text after proof-text drip like a leaky faucet from day to day and all the light of logic and learning offered is snuffed out by fools in darkness on their way to the next pop-theology Bible study.[5]

I encouraged him not to become weary in doing good through correcting those who proof-text out of context to modify or change what the Bible says about life-after-death issues.

3. Do good to everyone – correct false teaching in the family of faith

Doing good to everyone sounds more like good works in the community (food hampers, meeting human need) and to believers at church. However, could it have a broader application?

Let’s look at a few verses in context:

Image result for false doctrine clipart public domain6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal 6:6-10 ESV).?

We will use this section of Gal 6 to apply to the title of this thread, ‘Contradictions and the soul of man’,[6]

  • Those taught the word (about the immortal soul) should teach this good word (immortal soul) to the teacher.
  • It is possible to be deceived in this teaching – hence the term ‘contradictions’;
  • God is not mocked because what is sown in eisegesis will reap its reward (loss, penalty or punishment) in confusion over the nature of what happens at death for believers and unbelievers.
  • The one who sows to his own fleshly understanding of what happens at death – no hell for unbelievers and no soul/spirit to enter the Intermediate State for believers – will reap corruption. In this post title, this is called ‘contradiction’.
  • The one sowing to the Spirit by obedience to Scripture regarding eternal damnation and eternal salvation will not reap corruption of understanding but will be enlightened by the Spirit’s understanding.
  • Refuting and challenging such fleshly understanding can cause some to grow weary in the good action of challenging incorrect exegesis. Those who remain true to Scripture will reap truth if they don’t give up.
  • On this Christian forum, we have the opportunity to do good to everyone by agreeing, challenging, correcting and defending the truth of what the Scriptures say about the immortal soul. There are no contradictions in Scripture, only ‘apparent human contradictions in understanding’. Instead of promoting feel-good Christianity (no eternal damnation), we have the opportunity of doing good by correction. It doesn’t feel good at the time of giving correction over and over as it can become wearying. But it is important to continue to be faithful exegetes and not base our responses on being politically correct and following Rob Bell’s view of no eternal punishment in hell.
  • Let us continue to do good on this forum and in other situations (whether in a church setting or the general community) by challenging and correcting views that are contrary to Scripture in regard to eternal life and eternal damnation (Matt 25:46 ESV).

Yes, it can be wearying but we are exhorted by Paul to the Galatians to ‘not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up’ (Gal 6:9 ESV).

Jim’s response was: ‘It still feels like trying to teach a pig to sing. All it does is annoy the pig’.[7]

I understand that it is tough going on many occasions, even on this forum. However, this is our biblical responsibility before God (see 1 John 4:1-3 ESV).[8]

The challenge to Bible teachers is that they will endure a ‘stricter judgment’ (James 3:1-2 ESV) because of the requirements placed on God’s teachers of testing the spirits to discern false prophets (and false profits) and those who do not confess Jesus as being from God. This means weeding out those who proclaim a human Jesus without the deity of Christ or a divine Jesus without the humanity of Christ (the latter being a form of Docetic Gnosticism). It applies to all other departures from biblically orthodox doctrines.

3.1 Docetic Gnosticism explained

One error that invaded the church in its first few centuries was Docetic Gnosticism. What is it? Church Historian, Earl Cairns, explained the Docetic Gnosticism threat:

Image result for clipart gnosticismGnosticism, the greatest of the philosophical threats, was at its peak of power about 150. Its roots reached back into the New Testament times. Paul seemed to have been fighting an incipient form of Gnosticism in his letter to the Colossians. Christian tradition related the origin of Gnosticism to Simon Magus [Acts 8:9-24], whom Peter had to rebuke so severely. Gnosticism sprang from the natural human desire to create a theodicy, an explanation to the origin of evil. The Gnostics, because they associated matter with evil, sought a way to create a philosophical system in which God as spirit could be freed from association with evil and in which man could be related on the spiritual side of his nature to Deity….

To explain Christ, they adopted a doctrine known as Docetism. Because matter was evil, Christ could not be associated with a human body despite the Bible’s teaching to the contrary. Christ as absolute spiritual good could not unite with matter. Either the man Jesus was a phantom with the seeming appearance of a material body (Docetism), or Christ came upon the human body of Jesus only for a short time between the baptism of the man Jesus and the beginning of His suffering on the cross. Then Christ left the man Jesus to die on the cross. It was the task of Christ to teach a special gnosis or knowledge that would help man save himself by an intellectual process (Cairns 1981:98-99)

With the advent of the Internet there are more opportunities to sow seeds of false doctrine and water the seed into full-blown false teaching. This is happening in droves on Christian forums.

Keep watch, brother in Christ. Don’t grow weary in doing good in correcting false doctrine and proclaiming orthodox teaching.

3.2 Correctly explaining Scripture

Is it doing good to correct false teaching? In the context of exhorting Timothy to be a worker approved by God (2 Tim 2:14-26 ESV), Paul wrote, ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth’ (2 Tim 2:15 ESV). The New Living Translation translates this as, ‘Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth’ (emphasis added).

What is the danger of false teaching, whether it be on life-after-death theology or any other teaching? Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is clear that he, the pastor, should be one who is ‘rightly handling the word of truth’. What is the meaning of ‘rightly handling’?

‘Rightly handling’ is the Greek, orthotomounia, present tense, active voice, infinitive. Being present tense, it refers to continual action by pastor-teachers to correctly explain God’s word of truth (the Scripture). Explaining truth means the teachers also correct errors. The Greek is a late and rare compound word (orthos and themnw) that means ‘cutting straight’ and is the only time it is used in the NT. The LXX uses it in Prov. 3:6 and 11:5 for constructing straight paths. There is a parallel verse in Heb 12:13 (ESV), ‘Make straight paths for your feet’ (Robertson 1931:619).

Theodoret explains it to mean ploughing a straight furrow. Parry argues that the metaphor is the stone mason cutting the stones straight since themnw and orthos are so used. Since Paul was a tent-maker and knew how to cut straight the rough camel-hair cloth, why not let that be the metaphor? Certainly plenty of exegesis is crooked enough (crazy-quilt patterns) to call for careful cutting to set it straight (Robertson 1931:619-620).

In dealing with the false teaching of soul sleep, annihilation of the wicked at death, and no eternal punishment for unbelievers, there is need for correctly explaining the word of truth. This involves constructing straight paths of the true meaning of Scripture. To do this, often one has to cut out foreign, false teaching and provide correct exegesis by cutting straight to the heart of the text. This involves historical, grammatical, contextual understanding of all sentences in Scripture.

4. Be warned: True prophets acknowledge the truth about Jesus

John warned us in 1 John 4:1-3 (NLT):

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

While this addresses a threat in the early church of Gnosticism, it has broader application. Gnostics did not and do not believe Jesus had a real body of flesh. Second John 1:7 (NLT) addresses the same issue: ‘I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist’. Today there is similar opposition from people who do not believe that Jesus is God (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, Oneness Pentecostals, Christian Science, Armstrongism,[9] etc).

The anti-Christian website of Religious Tolerance (Ontario, Canada) claimed this as a Gnostic belief about Christ: ‘Some Gnostic groups promoted Docetism, the belief that Christ was pure spirit and only had a phantom body; Jesus just appeared to be human to his followers. They reasoned that a true emissary from the Supreme God could not have been overcome by the evil of the world, and to have suffered and died’ (Robinson 1996-2007).

4.1 Application of 1 John 4:1-3

Visit Christian forums such as Christian, Christianity Board, and Christian and you’ll get some views of how people allegedly listen to the voice of God for preaching, teaching and direction in their lives.

They will claim to speak by the Holy Spirit. John warns us that:

  • We must test what these people say to discern if it comes from God. Here you need the Scriptures and spiritual insight by the Spirit to bring discernment.
  • You know they speak by the Spirit if the following happens:

clip_image002 (a) They acknowledge that Jesus had a real human body while on earth. That demonstrates the person has the Spirit of God.

clip_image002[1] (b) If they don’t acknowledge the truth about Jesus (from Scripture), they are not from God. Therefore, a person who does not view Jesus as God cannot be a true prophet or teacher of God.

clip_image002[2] (c) That person has the spirit of Antichrist, which means he/she is proclaiming teaching that is anti-Christian.

clip_image002[3] (d) Antichrist is coming into the world and already is here.

This is a serious biblical exhortation to determine how to discern false teaching in the body of Christ. Pastors and teachers in the Christian churches must not be slack with these responsibilities. I note in passing that Bible teaching has a low level of priority in the seeker-sensitive model that dominates the contemporary church.

4.1.1 Pop-psychologizing church

Dorothy Greco addressed some of this problem in her article for Christianity Today, How the seeker-sensitive, consumer Church is failing a generation (Greco 2016). Greco makes this pointed analysis:

Many churches gradually, and perhaps unwittingly, transitioned from being appropriately sensitive to the needs of their congregants to becoming – if you’ll permit some pop-psychologizing – co-dependent with them.

What does co-dependence look like within a church? Avoiding sections of Scripture out of fear that certain power pockets will be offended. Believing that repeat attendance depends primarily upon the staff’s seamless execution of Sunday morning – rather than the manifest presence of God. Eliminating doleful songs from the worship repertoire because they might contradict the through line that “following Jesus is all gain.”

Jesus was neither a co-dependent nor a businessman. He unashamedly loved those on the margins and revealed himself to all who were searching. He seemed quite indifferent about whether or not he disappointed the power brokers. Additionally, Jesus understood that the irreducible gospel message—that we are all sinners in need of being saved—was, and always will be, offensive. No brilliant marketing campaign could ever repackage it.

4.1.2 Bill Hybels’ shocking confession

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Bill Hybels

In 2007, Bob Burney provided this assessment of the seeker-sensitive movement, with quotes from Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Church’s research:

Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s findings are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You? co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels himself called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking” and “mind blowing.” And no wonder: it seems that the “experts” were wrong.

The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

If you simply want a crowd, the “seeker sensitive” model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth (Burney 2007).

What a shocker of a confession that they ‘made a mistake’, got it wrong and invested millions of dollars into promoting something worldwide that does not make disciples of Christ but promotes a way to get crowds into the church.

4.1.3 Promoting nonsense, the work of Satan and of pure evil

This is the kind of response that could lead Jim Parker (cited above) to despair over what is taught on this Christian forum and want to give up participating there:

You are free to believe what you want to believe.
If a man can believe that all men were born with immortal souls and that our … senses and our awareness and our ability to reason and perceive will live forever, and at the same time also believes 1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NIV) tells us God alone is immortal, then the question I have to ask myself is what other nonsense does he believe in?
He can philosophise all he wants to reconcile these differing views to his concept of reality so that he can continue promoting and maintaining the grotesque and vile idea that God will condemn the least knowledgeable and least offensive of souls who die without Christ to be tortured, screaming in agony forever, but in the end he will see what he believes is in fact nothing other than the work of Satan… or to put it another way, it is a work of pure evil.[10]

I couldn’t let him get away with this kind of assault on orthodox Christian belief of eternal damnation.

(a) Believe whatever you want

Am I free to believe what I want to believe about what happens at death for believers and unbelievers?

No I’m not![11]clip_image003

I’m only free to believe the truth about Jesus and the whole of revealed truth. 1 John 4:1-3 (NLT) provides my teaching responsibility of testing the spirits:

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.

(b) Supporters of torment in hell: The work of Satan and of pure evil

This was the accusation promoted on this Christian forum that those who philosophise and promote the grotesque and vile idea of God’s condemning ‘the least knowledgeable and least offensive of souls who die without Christ to be tortured, screaming in agony forever’, are promoting ‘the work of Satan’ and ‘it is a work of pure evil’.

I responded:[12]

Are you accusing others on this forum and me who believe in eternal life and eternal damnation that we are promoting ‘the work of Satan’ and that what we teach ‘is a work of pure evil’?

Is that what you are declaring on this forum about these people and their teaching?

He came back with a copy and paste of his post to which I had responded.[13]

I pressed him further: ‘So is what I write on this forum in support of eternal damnation for unbelievers “a work of pure evil”?’[14]

Image result for justice emblem australia public domain

5. God alone is immortal

In spite of this person’s opposition to the immortal soul, he does raise a good point. First Timothy 6:15b-16 (NIV) states: ‘God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen’. This also is affirmed in 1 Tim 1:17 (ESV) where God is described as ‘the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God’.

Since God alone is immortal, how can we speak of immortal souls of human beings? Although 2 Timothy 1:10 speaks of another dimension of immortality besides that of God, here’s the context:

8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News (2 Tim 1:8-10 NLT).

God’s plan was to show us his grace through Jesus Christ and an important dimension of that grace is that the power of death has been broken and the way of life, which brings immortality to human beings, has been illuminated through the Gospel.

What does this ‘immortality’ mean in v. 10? It comes through the Gospel, so applies to Christian believers.

It transcends by far mere endless existence or even endless conscious existence. The gospel of our Savior Christ Jesus is far better than anything Plato ever excogitated.[15]

It is clear … that though even here and now the believer receives this great blessing in principle, and in heaven in further development, he does not fully receive it until the day of Christ’s re-appearance. Until that day arrives, the bodies of all believers will still be subject to the laws of decay and death. Incorruptible life, imperishable salvation, in the full sense, belongs to the new heaven and earth. It is an inheritance stored away for us (Hendriksen 1957:234)

Jim Parker stated it well on the Christian forum:

When scripture speaks of God as immortal, (1 Tim 6) the meaning is that God has no beginning or end. That is the more precise meaning of the word “immortal” in Christian theology.

When scripture speaks of man as immortal, (1 Cor 15) the meaning is that man, as a created being, does have a beginning but that, after the resurrection, he will have no end. So, in Christian theology, the word “immortal” when applied to man, is not the same as when referring to God.

That’s why 1 Co 15:53 (RSV) says: For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.

Our nature, as created by God and damaged by sin, is now perishable and mortal. At the resurrection, our nature will “put on”, as something unnatural to it, imperishability and immortality. It will put on those attributes because Jesus, by His death and resurrection, has destroyed death and perishability.[16]

The dynamic equivalence of the New Living Translation translates 1 Cor 15:53 (NLT) as, ‘For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies‘. So, Christian believers will receive their immortal bodies at the resurrection according to 1 Corinthians 15:53.

This principle should not be difficult to understand. God alone is the only one with immortality, which means he has no beginning or end. For human beings, it is a derived immortality through the Gospel. Human beings had a beginning but their eternal life will never end, thus meaning it is immortal.

Therefore, there is another meaning of immortal. Our immortality of the soul is in a derived sense and applies to all people, believers and unbelievers. Second Timothy 1:10 (ESV) speaks of God’s purpose and grace ‘which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’.

5.1 Secular immortality through biology

The scientific community and secular media enjoy speaking of immortality on earth. Here is but one example from the Daily Mail,

‘Scientists say humans really could become IMMORTAL like the characters in new film Self/Less, but only if they’re wealthy’,

While the technology remains in the realm of science fiction, experts have claimed that the ability to create immortal humans may not be all that far-fetched.

I would see immortality coming from the biological sector,’ said University of Arizona researcher Wolfgang Fink, during a recent panel discussion in California.

‘If you manage somehow to prevent cell death from happening or if you extend the life span of cells beyond their natural life span’ (Zolfagharifard 2015).

5.2 What a shock is coming!

What astonishment they have coming! The Scriptures as the God-breathed word of God could not be clearer: ‘Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’ (Heb 9:27 NIV). There is not a chance of immortality on this earth. ALL will die or face the Lord alive if they are alive on earth when he returns to the earth.

This is what happened 2,000 years ago with Jesus:

After saying this, he [Jesus] was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:9-11 NLT).

6. Conclusion

There is a torrent of false teaching surrounding life-after-death issues, particularly from those who oppose eternal torment for unbelievers. Correcting this false theology often becomes laborious for the astute Bible teacher. This issue of growing weary from false teaching was raised by an orthodox Bible teacher on a Christian forum.

An examination of sheol in the OT and its translation as hades in the LXX and the NT, denotes the place where departed souls of all people are gathered after death.

I suggested that doing good to everyone (Gal 6:6-10) included correcting false doctrine. One example that caused the early church a lot of strife was Docetic Gnosticism – Jesus only seemed to have a physical body but it was not so. Orthodoxy promotes that Jesus is God but at his incarnation he became a fleshly human being. True prophets acknowledge the truth about Jesus – he has always been God but at the first Christmas he became a human being of flesh (but did not cease to be God).

First John 4:1-3 demonstrates the responsibility of the church in correcting false prophets. Seeker-sensitive Christianity is not creating disciples according to a survey conducted at Willow Creek Community Church, the creator of seeker-sensitive services. Instead, it is generating a pop-psychologised church for the contemporary marketing generation.

A person chimed in with the statement that I can believe whatever I want to regarding life after death. No I can’t! I must conform to what the Scriptures state. This person claimed that those who promoted eternal damnation for the wicked were doing the work of Satan and my belief about damnation of the wicked is a work of pure evil.

This article affirms that what the Bible teaches is that God alone is immortal – having no beginning or end – and that human beings have a derived immortality. This means that they have a beginning at conception but have an existence that is eternal – eternal life or eternal damnation.

The secular community wants to invent immortality through biology. What a shock they have coming. Immortality is God’s provision for the damned and the saved: ‘Just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment’ (Heb 9:27 NLT).

To my dying day, I will engage in the task of correcting false doctrine in the church and on the streets and Internet. I ask the same of godly teachers who check my teaching and the teaching of others (whether in a formal church setting or on the Internet) by comparing what is taught with Scripture. We need to become and function as ‘Bereans’ (see Acts 17:11).

What will you do about false teaching in the church, even YOUR church?
‘Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true’ (Acts 17:11 NIV).7.

7.  Works consulted

Brown, C (ed) 1976. The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 2. Exeter: The Paternoster Press.

Burney, B 2007. A shocking “confession” from Willow Creek Community Church., (online) 30 October. Available at: (Accessed 2 November 2007). This is no longer available at Townhall, but I located it at Crosswalk. Available at: (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church, rev & enl ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Greco, D 2016. How the seeker-sensitive, consumer Church is failing a generation. Christianity Today (online). Available at: (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Hendriksen, W 1957.[17] New Testament commentary: Exposition of Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.
Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Tr by J Martin (from the German). Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Robertson, A T 1931. Word pictures in the New Testament: The epistles of Paul, vol 4. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Robinson, B A 1996-2007. Gnosticism: Beliefs and practices (beliefs and practices). Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (online). Available at: (Accessed 29 October 2016).

Zolfagharifard, E 2015. Scientists say humans really could become IMMORTAL like the characters in new film Self/Less, but only if they’re wealthy. Daily Mail (online), 23 July. Available at: (Accessed 22 December 2016).

8.  Notes

[1] I think he means ‘preceding’.

[2] Christian 2016. Contradictions and the soul of man (online), freewill#57. Available at: (Accessed 29 October 2016).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#64.

[4] OSAS = Once-saved-always-saved.

[5] Contradictions and the soul of man, Jim Parker#68.

[6] This is my response in ibid., OzSpen#71.

[7] Ibid., Jim Parker#72.

[8] This is my post at ibid., OzSpen#74.

[9] This was when this cult was led by Herbert W Armstrong.

[10] Ibid., freewill#75.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#76.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#77.

[13] Ibid., freewill#75. The copy & paste is at freewill#78.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#79. At this point I reported him to the moderators for his flaming and goading.

[15] Oxford dictionaries online (2016. s v excogitate) gives the meaning of excogitate as to ‘think out, plan, or devise’.

[16] Ibid., Jim Parker#97.

[17] Hendriksen previously published The Pastorals as a single volume. It is now incorporated in this combined volume.


Copyright © 2017 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 June 2018.

No torment forever and ever (Revelation 14:11)??

Image result for clip art flames public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The destiny of unbelievers at death continues to bother some Christians. Some believe that the Bible confirms eternal punishment (meaning punishing with torment forever after death) for unbelievers. Others consider that this eternal damnation is false teaching.

There was a back and forth between people who believe in eternal damnation of unbelievers and those who reject this doctrine on an Internet Christian forum.

One fellow said:

Those verses [Mat 25:46 and Rev 14:11] say that their punishment/torment goes on, continues, for ever.

In order for the punishment/torment to continue forever the person being punished/tormented also must "go on forever."

A person who is reduced to a pile of ashes can no longer be punished or tormented.

I don’t understand why that is so hard for you to grasp.[1]

This person supported the eternal torment for unrepentant unbelievers after death.

1. Torment of unbelievers does not continue forever

Another had been defending no eternal punishment for the wicked on a Christian forum. He wrote:

Rev 14:11 doesn’t say their torment continues forever. It clearly says the smoke of their (Beast worshippers) torment rises forever. And furthermore this occurs in the presence of the Lamb, not in Hell or the Lake of Fire. Is it your view that the Lamb will be in Hell tormenting the lost forever?

Revelation 14:10 he himself also will drink of the wine of the anger of God that has been mixed full strength in the cup of his wrath, and will be tortured with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. ?

The Bible doesn’t say that the lost’s eternal punishment is torment forever. It clearly teaches that death (a second death) is the punishment called for.[2]

2. Proof-texts lead to wrong conclusions

Image result for proof-texts clip art

My response was:[3]

This is what happens when you pluck one verse (Rev 14:11 ESV) out of context and make it a proof-text. Let’s look at the context:

6 Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgement has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

8 Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labours, for their deeds follow them!” (Rev 14:6-13 ESV).

3. The teaching of Rev 14:6-13 (ESV) is that

clip_image002 John in his revelation saw angels who had an eternal gospel to proclaim to people on the earth from every nation, tribe, language and people (v. 6).

clip_image002[1] That message was to fear God and give him glory because …

clip_image002[2] An hour of judgment has come (v. 7).

clip_image002[3] Another angel proclaimed that message of the fallen Babylon the great who made nations drink the wine of the passion of sexual immorality (v. 8)

clip_image002[4] Another angel, with others following, announced in a loud voice that anyone who worships the beast and its image and receives the mark of the beast will drink of the wine of God’s wrath and will experience the full strength of the cup of God’s anger, being tormented with fire and sulphur (vv. 9-10).

clip_image002[5] This experience of God’s wrath and anger will be in the presence of holy angels and the Lamb (v. 10).

clip_image002[6] smoke%20clipartThe smoke of this torment goes up for eis aiwnas aiwnwn, i.e. for aeons of aeons. The meaning is that ‘smoke’ (a symbol) of this torment is for ‘many eons, each of vast duration, are multiplied by many more, which we imitate by "forever and ever." Human language is able to use only temporal terms to express what is altogether beyond time and is timeless. The Greek takes its greatest term for time, the eon, pluralizes this, and then multiplies it by its own plural’ (Lenski 1943/1963:48, 438).

clip_image002[7] ‘Smoke’ is parallel to ‘fire and brimstone’ and is human language to convey what is experienced in the place where the worshippers of the Beast experience torment that continues for multiplied aeons. This is hell with eternal torment, using symbolic language (v. 11).

clip_image002[8] If one wants to water down the ‘aeons’ to make it less than forever and ever, John makes that impossible in v. 11 because he adds, ‘they have no rest, day or night’. There is no rest 24/7 for the unbelieving worshippers of the Beast.

clip_image002[9] It is not surprising, therefore, that John – in light of the horrific eternal experiences of the unbelievers – calls on the saints to endure and keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (v. 12).

clip_image002[10] In contrast to those serving the Beast, those who die in the Lord are blessed from now on. They rest from their labours (again this contrasts with the horrible experience of those drinking God’s wrath and the cup of his anger) – v. 13.

3.1 The damned experience torment forever after death

There are excellent, contextual reasons to demonstrate that Rev 14:11 (ESV) refers to the damned who experience torment for aeons multiplied by aeons – forever and ever. The verse reads, ‘And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshippers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name’.

They receive no rest day and night from this. It’s in the presence of the Lord because it is the Lord’s wrath they experience.

Coffman’s Commentary on Revelation 14:11 is:

Verse 11

and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name.

The doctrine of the New Testament is so strong and emphatic with regard to the eternal punishment of the wicked, that we are simply not allowed to set it aside as, "sub-Christian, or to interpret it in such a way as to remove the abrasive truth of eternal punishment."[Mounce’s commentary, p. 277] Jesus spoke of this at greater length than did any of his apostles. After we have made every allowance for the figurative nature of the apocalyptic language, there still remains, "the terrifying reality of divine wrath,"[Mounce’s commentary, p. 277] to be poured out upon those who persist in following the devil. It is no light matter to abandon the holy teachings of the sacred New Testament, and to substitute the easy rules of man-made, man-controlled, and man-centered religion.

3.2 The torment of God’s wrath in the presence of the Lamb

Therefore, the context of Rev 14:11 (ESV) demonstrates that those who are serving the Beast, the unbelieving damned, will experience the torment of God’s wrath in the presence of the Lamb for aeons upon aeons – forever and ever Amen!
That’s clear Bible teaching and one has to do a lot of squirming to make it say that unbelievers do not experience eternal torment. It’s called eisegesis to impose another reading on it.

See my other articles on this topic:

clip_image003Is there literal fire in hell?

clip_image003[1]Is hell fair?

clip_image003[2]Are there degrees of punishment in hell?

clip_image003[3]2 Thessalonians 1:9: Eternal destruction

clip_image003[4]Hell in the Bible

clip_image003[5]Paul on eternal punishment

clip_image003[6]Hell and judgment

clip_image003[7]Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die

4. Works consulted

Lenski, R C H 1943/1963. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. John’s Revelation. Minneapolis MN: Augsburg Publishing House (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. edn.).


5.  Notes

[1] Christian 2016. Apologetics & Theology, ‘The soul of man’, Jim Parker#117. Available at: (Accessed 13 October 2016).

[2] Ibid., chessman#119.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#120.


Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 October 2016.

Jesus as the one way, except ….

Jesus Is The Way

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A skeptic about Jesus as the only way to salvation showed up on Christian He wrote:

I was born again in 1970, worked with Campus Crusade for Christ, attended Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and have been waist-deep in theology for many, many years. So, yeah, I’ll match “Christian credentials” with other posters, if that’s important to you.
Do I believe my statement, “Pretty soon the category of people ….”?

Yes, I do. The exceptions pretty much reduce the doctrine to “the only way, except when …,” which is quite different from “the only way.” It strikes me as slightly bizarre that the hardline “only way” folks are willing to consign all Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, not to mention Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, to Hell, while carving out exceptions for those who have not reached the fictional age of accountability or are mentally disabled. (True hardliners, of course, permit no exceptions – so at least their theology is consistent, albeit repulsive).??[1]

My reply was:[2]

Key with Jesus name on itGod does not talk of exceptions; that is human language to try to explain what seems unreasonable to us when we deal with God’s kingdom and who should enter. God’s language is that he has made provision for the salvation of certain people in His ways. I have addressed this as it relates to children in, Children and heaven.
Now to your view that Jesus as the ‘only way’ consigns Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons & JWs to hell. So did God mean it when he said,

‘You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them’ (Ex 20:3-5 ESV)?

Yes, he did mean it and if the nation violated God’s laws they suffered the consequences. This is because God is a jealous and holy God who will not tolerate other gods of worship. He’s the same God in OT and NT – in spite of what some higher critics want to say about the alleged differences.
Those who do not submit to the Trinitarian Lord God are serving ‘other gods’ and such worship is forbidden if one wants to get into God’s kingdom. You’ll probably label me as a hardliner. The fact is that I want to remain faithful to Scripture and the one who said his people are to have no other gods, is the same one who said that Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6 ESV) and that there is salvation in no other person than through Jesus (Acts 4:12 ESV).

A.  The ‘only way’ is a fabrication

He stated:

Do I consider that Jesus as the only way to salvation to be “hollow” and/or a fabrication?

No, I suspect that the conventional doctrine is probably fundamentally misguided, meaning that we are not fully grasping what Jesus meant. (I am admittedly troubled by how many of the really puzzling and divisive doctrines have their roots in John and Revelation, but I realize that concerns about inerrancy are not permitted at this site.) I will not be surprised at all to meet hordes of people in Heaven whom the hardline “only way” folks would not now recognize as Christians at all. On the other hand, I will not be shocked if the most hardline “only way” folks are entirely correct and even infants are consigned to Hell – nothing requires God to be the sort of God we might like Him to be. On all of these potentially repulsive doctrines, my position is simply that we will eventually see that the end result is worthy of the Creator of the Universe.?[3]

Knock KnockThe fundamental doctrine of Jesus as the only way to salvation is not misguided, as you suggest, but is based on God’s holiness and perfection in determining who should be saved and how they should be saved and enter His presence.

Seems to me that your Jesus is one of syncretism who allows anyone into his kingdom because the hardline ‘only way’ Jesus is too narrow minded for a syncretistic view.
You claim that you are ‘troubled by how many of the really puzzling and divisive doctrines have their roots in John and Revelation”. Acts 4:12 (ESV) is not in John’s writings. Neither is Acts 13:26 (NIV), which provides this insight, ‘Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent’. God-fearing people have received the message of salvation.

Acts 10:43 (NIV) confirms: ‘All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name’. They believe in Jesus for salvation. Then they become Christians and are no longer Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Shintoists, pagans, New Agers, JWs, Mormons, secularists, atheists, agnostics, etc. They become born-again Christians who have received Jesus as the only way to salvation.

B.  An area of agreement

However, there is one area in which I would agree with you: ‘Nothing requires God to be the sort of God we might like Him to be’. There will be God-fearers who make it into God’s kingdom whom we would never know how they came to fear God. However, I dare not make ‘one way’ Christians into hardliners who are unreasonable. Those who believe Jesus is the ‘only way’ to salvation are following what Scripture teaches.
God doesn’t dance to your or my tune. He sets the boundaries for who is in and who is out of the kingdom. From the teaching available to us, salvation through Jesus Christ alone is the only way to become a Christian (John 14:6 ESV; Acts 4:12 ESV).

C.  One way in other religions

It is a fallacy to think that evangelical Christianity is for hardliners who require Jesus as the one and only way to salvation.

Have you checked out these other religions and what they consider as the way to enlightenment and Paradise? See my articles:

bronze-arrow-small  Is Islam a religion of peace at its core?

bronze-arrow-small  Visualization and Affirmation

bronze-arrow-small The dangers of Eastern meditation

Take a read of these other articles that demonstrate that Christianity is not the only faith that promotes a narrow way:

designRed-small  Why Hinduism is the “Eternal way”, the true religion (Western Hindu);

designRed-small Buddhism, The ‘only’ way to enlightenment.

designRed-small Islam, ‘This is Islam – The Only Way for This Life and The Hereafter’ (The Islamic Bulletin).

DirectiondesignRed-small What about atheism? Its one way must exclude belief in God. See Atheist Foundation of Australia where it states that membership is open to ‘any natural person, who subscribes to the Objects of the Foundation and agrees to be bound by its Rules, may be admitted to membership by the Committee’. What are the objects of the foundation?

    i. To encourage and to provide a means of expression for informed free-thought on philosophical and social issues.

ii. To safeguard the rights of all non-religious people.

iii. To serve as a focal point for the community of non-religious people.

iv. To offer verifiable information in place of superstition and to promote logic and reason.

v. To promote atheism.

So even atheism has a one-way to membership through your acceptance of its 5 objects.

I wish you good fortune in trying to find the secret to the Google, Bing or Yahoo one-way formulas they use to search the Internet for your words.

D.  The Jesus’ one-way difference

What makes Jesus as the only way different to other world religions and philosophies? Briefly, these are fundamentals you will not find in other religions:

clip_image002 Forgiveness of all your sins (Matthew 6:14-15; 1 John 1:9).

clip_image002[1] Freedom from the guilt of sin (Psalm 103:8-12; Romans 8:1);

clip_image002[2] Eternal life that begins now and extends into eternity (Matthew 7:13-14; John 3:16; 1 John 5:13-14);

clip_image002[3] Ultimately this eternal life means life after death and ultimate Paradise in the presence of God (Luke 23:43; John 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; Revelation 21:1-27).

E.  Conclusion

Because other ways state they are the only way to various ultimate realities, which ones forgive sins and guarantee eternal life? This is the one that means changed lives in the present as well? It changes drunkard abusers into loving husbands whose life focuses on serving others.

Only one! That’s the Christ of Christianity who saves people from sin, cleanses the guilt, offers peace within and peace eternally, and an eternal relationship with God.

F.  Notes

[1] Christian 2016. Apologetics & Theology, 24 June. ‘It’s so simple’, Runner#17. Available at: (Accessed 25 June 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[3] Ibid., Runner#17.


Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 August 2016.

Abraham’s bosom and heaven

Image result for clipart heaven public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What happens at death for Christian believers?

I was in discussion online with a few people on the meaning of paradise, the third heaven, heaven, and Abraham’s bosom. To one person I said:

There is enough evidence that at death the body returns to dust (whether in the grave or cremated) and the spirit returns to God. I’m indeed pleased about that as I get older and move towards the time of my elevation to Paradise, heaven, Abraham’s bosom, my Father’s house – whatever one wants to call it. All of these words are in Scripture and they apply to where believers went at death.[1]

This is confirmed in Ecclesiastes 12:7 (ESV), ‘And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it’.

No reconciliation with God in Old Testament?

A fellow replied to me:

I am wondering how Abraham’s bosom can be the third heaven if it existed at a time before Jesus died?

I can agree that all there were en route to being with God. But only after Jesus died could any man be reconciled with God. That is why it was called Abraham’s bosom and not heaven. A place on the other side of a divide in Hades.[2]

I cannot agree[3] with his statement that ‘only after Jesus died could any man be reconciled with God’. We know that Abraham was justified by faith. This is confirmed in several NT places. Rom 4:1-3 (NASB) states:

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

This last statement is found in Gen 15:6 (ESV), ‘And he [Abram] believed the LORD, and he [the Lord] counted it to him as righteousness’. See also Zechariah 4:6ff and Melchizadek (Gen 14; Heb 7). In addition:[4]

clip_image002 Abraham was called ‘the friend of God’ (2 Chron 20:7; Isa 41:8; James 2:23);

clip_image002[1] Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel ‘saw the God of Israel’ (Ex 24:9-11).

What could be a more powerful example of the relationship Moses had with God than in the details of what is written of Moses in the closing verses of Deut 34:9-12 (ESV)?

And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

So, there was not a prophet like Moses in Israel, ‘whom the Lord knew face to face’. Now that’s a powerful example of a relationship, knowing someone face to face! The Lord worked signs and wonders through Moses and there was mighty power and great deeds of terror demonstrated by Moses in the sight of all Israel. Why was he able to do these miraculous deeds? The Lord worked through him in his relationship with God.

clip_image002[2] David, in spite of his many failings, was a ‘man after God’s own heart’ (see the David and Goliath episode, 1 Sam 17:1-58; David’s relationship with God is seen especially in Psalm 119:47-48; Acts 13:22). Since the Lord was David’s shepherd – Psalm 23 – that speaks of a solid relationship of the sheep with the shepherd.

Jim George pursues this theme in A Man After God’s Own Heart (Harvest House 2008).

Abraham’s bosom and the third heaven

Image result for public domain clipart on heaven

This person responding to me asked a penetrating and good question. How can ‘Abraham’s bosom’ refer to the third heaven if it existed before Jesus’ death? That is a presumption he made. The story is recorded before Jesus’ death in Luke 16, but was the story told by Jesus before his death? Was it historical narrative or parable? That has been the discussion by Bible scholars and teachers for many years.

What is the third heaven? Three heavens are identified in Scripture:

clip_image003 The first heaven is associated with the firmament, which refers to the sky and is called ‘the heavens’ – the earth’s atmosphere (examples are in Genesis 2:19; 7:3, 23; Psalm 8:8).

clip_image003[1] The second heaven is a reference to outer space, the starry heavens (Deuteronomy 17:3; Jeremiah 8:2; Matthew 24:29).

clip_image003[2] The third heaven is the language Paul used in 2 Corinthians 12:2 (ESV), ‘I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows’. Then in the next verse (2 Cor 12:3 ESV), this ‘third heaven’ was associated with paradise: ‘And I know that this man was caught up into paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows’. So, paradise seems to a part of the third heaven.

Therefore, the third heaven is the place where God and the angels (and human beings) live. In the Old Testament it is called ‘the heaven of heavens’ (see Deut 10:14) and ‘the highest heaven(s)’ (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 148:4). The language of Psalm 2:4 explains another dimension of the third heaven, ‘He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision’. Here location of God is called ‘the heavens’. The context of Psalm 2:4 in Psalm 2:1-3 is the nations raging, the people plotting and the kings and rulers opposing the Anointed God.

There is an excellent article explaining these three uses of heaven on the Let Us Reason Ministries website, ‘How many heavens are there and what is the third heaven Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 12?

The ESV translates Luke 16:22 for ‘Abraham’s bosom’ as meaning ‘the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side’.

There is a long-standing debate over whether this is an actual incident from Jesus or a parable told by Jesus. I accept it as a parable (some contest that a real name, Lazarus, cannot mean a parable and makes it an incident) which means there was only one primary point to be made. I accept it as an illustration of what happens at death for the believer and the unbeliever. I will not discuss further the parable, non-parable views as they are detailed and not easy to resolve. The place to resolve that is to go to commentaries for detailed discussions on such.

In the Talmud, ‘Abraham’s bosom’ was used as a synonym for heaven. See the explanation of ‘Abraham’s bosom’ in the Jewish Encyclopedia. In Judaism, the Talmud includes discussions and commentary on various aspects of Jewish history, law, customs and culture. It has two parts, the Gemara and the Mishnah. The Talmud moved from oral to written form, starting about the second century AD and was completed about the fifth century AD.

There are actually two works known as “Gemara”–the Babylonian Gemara (referred to as “Bavli” in Hebrew) and the Palestinian (or Jerusalem) Gemara (referred to as “Yerushalmi“). The term “Gemara” itself comes from the Aramaic root g.m.r (equivalent to l.m.d, in Hebrew), giving it the meaning “teaching” (Gemara: The essence of the Talmud).

This article in GotQuestions? gives a helpful summary of the meaning of Abraham’s bosom:

Abraham’s bosom is referred to only once in the Bible—in the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). It was used in the Talmud as a synonym for heaven. The image in the story is of Lazarus reclining at a table leaning on Abraham’s breast—as John leaned on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper—at the heavenly banquet. There are differences of opinion about what exactly Abraham’s bosom represents. Those who believe the setting of the story is a period after the Messiah’s death and resurrection see Abraham’s bosom as synonymous with heaven. Those who believe the setting to be prior to the crucifixion see Abraham’s bosom as another term for paradise. The setting is really irrelevant to the point of the story, which is that wicked men will see the righteous in happiness, and themselves in torment, and that a “great gulf” exists between them (Luke 16:26) which will never be spanned.[5]

Therefore, the expression ‘Abraham’s bosom’ could refer to something similar to the OT, ‘As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace’ (Gen 15:15 NASB), i.e. gathered to his people. It could refer to the expectation to be received by Abraham (Apocrypha 4 Macc 13:17 NRSV; Talmud and Hebraica, ch 16.20). Some have even suggested it is a picture of the messianic banquet (Lk 13:28-30) [suggestions by Earle Ellis (1981:206)].


I consider the story about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) relates to what happens at death and whether it is an actual story or parable, it tells us about it. It is not a story designed to explain Abraham’s bosom versus third heaven, paradise or heaven. It deals with what happens at death and where believer and unbeliever go and what they experience. I accept that this story is a parable, as do Earle Ellis (1981:201, 205); Norval Geldenhuys (1979:424); A T Robertson (1930:224); William Hendriksen (1978:782), and Walter Liefeld (1984:991). However, I do not consider that any damage is done to the teaching on life after death if the story is historical or parable.

In spite of an online person’s objections, I find biblical evidence that there were prominent OT people who had a relationship with God. These included Abraham, Moses, and David.

The issue in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is to differentiate between the nature of the place where the righteous person was – in paradise and experiencing comfort, compared with where the wicked person was at death – in torment in Hades. Between these two places a ‘great gulf’ is fixed that cannot be bridged (Luke 16:26).


Works consulted

Ellis, E E 1981. New Century Bible Commentary: The Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co./London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott Publ. Ltd.[6]

Geldenhuys, N 1979. Commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Hendriksen, W 1978. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Liefeld, W L 1984. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke, vol 8, 795-1059. F E Gaebelein (gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House).

Robertson, A T 1930. Word Pictures in the New Testament: The Gospel According to Luke, vol 2. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.


[1] Christianity Board, ‘When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be’, 15 February 2016, OzSpen#57. Available at: (Accessed 19 February 2016).

[2] Ibid., KingJ#99.

[3] The following is my response at ibid., OzSpen#101.

[4] I have added these extra examples of OT persons with a relationship with God after I made the online response. My wife brought these to my attention.

[5] GotQuestions? 2002-2016. What is the difference between Sheol, Hades, Hell, the lake of fire, Paradise, and Abraham’s bosom? (Accessed 23 February 2016).

[6] The original edition was published in 1966 by Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd. This copy is based on the 1981 softback edition.


Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 October 2016.

Do Christians go to heaven immediately when they die?

Heaven or Hell

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What do you think Christians believe about this critical topic? I found a sampling on a Christian forum on the Internet that may give some insights into what the evangelical Christian community believes. There are a few grabs from that thread. A person started the thread with:

cubed-iron-sm ‘Many old hymns of the church, and some new ones, talk about going to heaven when we die. Crossing over. Pearly gates etc…. Why is that, when clearly heaven is NOT the Christian’s destination? Jesus said no one has seen the father, so why do a lot of Christians espouse this?’[1]

cubed-iron-sm ‘I would say that since heaven is “My Father’s house”, and since Jesus Himself said “I will come back and take you to be with that you also may be where I am”, that pretty much tells me that the saved will indeed one day cross over and see the pearly gates. That is… heaven.  So clearly heaven is our destination’[2]

cubed-iron-sm ‘People don’t go to heaven when they die.  They must already be there before they die’.[3]

cubed-iron-sm ‘The Father’s house [John 14:1-10] is the NEW Jerusalem, not heaven’.[4]

cubed-iron-sm ‘Just because no one accended (sic) to Heaven except Jesus doesn’t mean no one ever will’.[5]

A. What about Stephen at death?

I’m not convinced by that last statement.[6]

Stephen was proclaiming the Gospel and was being stoned to death. What did he see as he was dying? This is what we read in Acts 7:55-60 (ESV):

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Stephen saw the Lord – the Son of Man – in the heavens, at the right hand of God. This is where Stephen was going at death. There is no soul sleep here or Abraham’s bosom (rich man and Lazarus) or Paradise (thief on the cross). When Stephen was dying, he ‘gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God’ (Acts 7:55). Stephen saw ‘the heavens opened’ and the Son of Man was there with God himself.

Concerning death and heaven, here we have Stephen dying and he knew he was going into the presence of the Lord and Stephen said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’. Stephen saw Jesus in heaven and asked Him to receive Stephen’s spirit.
This sounds very much like what Paul wrote in 2 Cor 5:6-8 (ESV):

‘So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord‘.

There seems to be evidence here that Stephen went to heaven, where Jesus was, at death. Therefore, we should not be adamant about no heaven at death for Christian believers.

The person who started this thread challenged what I wrote here:

Jesus received Stephen’s spirit in the same place that He did the thief’s spirit, in paradise. I’d be careful to not take literally the wording used in Acts 7, otherwise you will have a tough time dealing with v 60 where it says Stephen “fell asleep”.

As far as what Paul writes in 2 Cor 5, this is often taken out of context, as Paul states he would “prefer” to be with the Lord, it does not indicate ones death accomplishes that, otherwise who is Jesus coming back for?
The best indication we have of where believers go when they die, is in Luke 16, formerly called Paradise.[7]

B. What happens at death?

Image result for coffin public domain(courtesy

I replied to this person’s objection:[8]

Jesus received Stephen’s spirit into heaven as Acts 7:55-56 indicates.

I have covered the meaning of ‘sleep’ at death in my article, ‘Soul sleep – a refutation‘. ‘Sleep’ is a metaphor for death. It does not refer to sleeping after death, instead of going into the Lord’s presence, as seen in my exposition. There is no ‘tough time’ as an exegete in dealing with Stephen who ‘fell asleep’ at death (Acts 7:60) when one knows the meaning of why OT and NT used ‘sleep’ for death.

I have not taken 2 Cor 5:8 out of context as 2 Cor 5:1-10 is dealing with the heavenly dwelling. Some of Paul’s emphases here are that ‘we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord’ (2 Cor 5:6:ESV). AND, ‘we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord‘ (2 Cor 5:8 ESV). When will we be away from the body and at home with the Lord? That happens at the Christian’s death. The topic is leaving this body to be home with the Lord. When does that happen? At death. That is what verse 6 states, which I’ve quoted.

This objector stated, ‘Jesus received Stephen’s spirit in the same place that He did the thief’s spirit, in paradise’. He was imposing ‘paradise’ on the text in Acts as that word is never mentioned in Acts 7:55-60.

Who is Jesus coming back for at his second coming? The body that is turned to dust after death is not at home with the Lord. It will be the time of union of spirit and body. The resurrection body is described in 1 Cor 15:35-49 (ESV).

Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NLT) tells us what happens at death, ‘For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it’. So, at death our spirit returns to God and the body becomes dust in the grave.

What, then, is the meaning of 1 Thess 4:16-17 when it states that ‘the dead in Christ shall rise first’?

As indicated with Stephen, when he died from stoning (Acts 7:55-60) and looked into heaven, he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God in heaven and Stephen’s spirit was received there (Acts 7:59). Whether one calls it paradise, heaven, ‘my father’s house’, at death, the spirit of Christians goes to that place and the body goes to the grave to become dust. At the last day when Christ returns, the body as dust will be raised and there will be a union of the resurrected body and the glorified spirit. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

C. Heaven and eisegesis

What is eisegesis? See Exegesis v. Eisegesis. Here is a quote from Dr. James White’s forth-coming book “Pulpit Crimes” on eisegesis, which indicates that it means:

The reading into a text, in this case, an ancient text of the Bible, of a meaning that is not supported by the grammar, syntax, lexical meanings, and over-all context, of the original. It is the opposite of exegesis, where you read out of the text its original meaning by careful attention to the same things, grammar, syntax, the lexical meanings of the words used by the author (as they were used in his day and in his area), and the over-all context of the document. As common as it is, it should be something the Christian minister finds abhorrent, for when you stop and think about it, eisegesis muffles the voice of God. If the text of Scripture is in fact God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and if God speaks in the entirety of the Bible (Matt. 22:31) then eisegesis would involve silencing that divine voice and replacing it with the thoughts, intents, and most often, traditions, of the one doing the interpretation. In fact, in my experience, eisegetical mishandling of the inspired text is the single most common source of heresy, division, disunity, and a lack of clarity in the proclamation of the gospel. The man of God is commended when he handles God’s truth aright (2 Tim. 2:15), and it should be his highest honor to be privileged to do so. Exegesis, then, apart from being a skill honed over years of practice, is an absolutely necessary means of honoring the Lord a minister claims to serve. For some today, exegesis and all the attendant study that goes into it robs one of the Spirit. The fact is, there is no greater spiritual service the minister can render to the Lord and to the flock entrusted to his care than to allow God’s voice to speak with the clarity that only sound exegetical practice can provide (in Reformation Theology, emphasis added).

The person who started the thread did not like what I wrote above so he interjected:

It doesn’t say that, you’re inferring it.

Jesus had already established the pattern, which was consistent with the thief on the cross. Nothing changed between those two events. Paradise is NOT the same as heaven, otherwise Jesus lied. Stephen had a vision, he did not actually SEE God.

My point is the whole thing needs to be interpreted from within scripture, NOT on it’s (sic) own. Heaven has NEVER been the believers destination, Eternal Life is.[9]

This is a false accusation against what I wrote. He has invented here my views. He is an expert in building a straw man logical fallacy, which is a false view of a person’s position.

From that person’s statements, this is the false information:

blue-satin-arrow-small His view was that nothing changed after the thief on the cross. This is false because the thief on the cross died under the Old Covenant and before Jesus’ resurrection.

blue-satin-arrow-small I never said Paradise was the same as heaven. The fact remains that Paradise was the term Jesus’ used under the Old Covenant with the thief on the cross. Heaven is the term used of Stephen when he was dying and he ‘gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God’ (Acts 7:55 ESV). Jesus didn’t lie. Paradise was an Old Covenant term while heaven is that used under the New Covenant.

blue-satin-arrow-small This person’s claim that Stephen had a vision is false as Act 7:54-60 doesn’t describe it as a vision. Stan invented what I did not say in his response to me.

blue-satin-arrow-small Stan’s claim is that Stephen ‘did not actually SEE God’. What does Acts 7:55 (ESV) state, ‘ But he [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God’? How can one see the glory of God if God is not there? Acts 7:56 (ESV) states, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at he right hand of God’. So he saw the Son of Man and God. Otherwise how could he know that the Son of Man was at God’s right hand?

blue-satin-arrow-small I agree with this person that it needs to be interpreted ‘within Scripture’ if that means comparing Scriptures, but his claim is false that ‘heaven has NEVER been the believers destination, Eternal Life is’. Heaven was Stephen’s destination. Being present with the Lord at death was Paul’s goal (2 Cor 5:8).

This fellow engaged in eisegesis when he pushed his view that believers do not go to heaven at death and tried to gloss over the biblical evidence provided.

Robert Morey’s summary of the view espoused in Scripture is:

That the Epistles would further develop what happens to the soul after death and go beyond the gospel material is also expected. The apostles were conscious of the fact that their understanding was clouded during their sojourn with Christ (John  12:16). It was only after Pentecost and the final revelations given to the apostles that they could, at last, speak of death and the afterlife with clarity. It was only after the last pieces of the cosmic puzzle of revelation were given that they could see the whole picture.

Before Christ’s ascension, believers as well as unbelievers were said to enter Sheol or Hades. After Christ’s resurrection, the New Testament pictures believers after death as entering heaven to be with Christ (Phil.  1:23), which is far better than Hades. They are present with the Lord (2  Cor 5:6-8), worshiping with the angelic hosts of heaven (Heb.  12:22, 23) at the altar of God (Rev.  6:9-11). Thus believers do not now enter Hades but ascend immediately to the throne of God.

In the New Testament, there is, therefore, a development of understanding which took place after Christ’s resurrection. Before Jesus was raised from the dead, the apostles assumed that everyone went to Sheol or Hades. This Hades had two sections, one for the righteous and one for the wicked. But Christ’s resurrection changed this picture. Thus Paul uses the language of transition when he speaks of Christ taking the righteous out of Hades and bringing them into heaven (Eph.  4:8, 9).

That Christ went to Hades, i.e., the world beyond death, is clear from Acts  2:31, While in Hades, Peter pictures Christ as proclaiming to “the spirits now in prison” the completion of His atonement (1 Pet. 3:18-22). Whereas “paradise” in the gospel account (Luke 23:43) referred to the section of Hades reserved for the righteous, by the time Paul wrote 2 Cor. 12:2-4, it was assumed that paradise had been taken out of Hades and was now placed in the third heaven.

According to the post-resurrection teaching in the New Testament, the believer now goes to heaven at death to await the coming resurrection and the eternal state. But, what of the wicked? The wicked at death descend into Hades which is a place of temporary torment while they await the coming resurrection and their eternal punishment (Robert Morey, Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna, Faith Defenders, based on Morey 1984, ch 3).

D. Ecclesiastes 12:7, death and the spirit[10]

(image courtesy


There is an interesting OT verse that speaks of what happens at death: Ecclesiastes 12:7 (ESV), “And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it”. Other translations are:  “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (KJV); “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (NIV).

Some who support annihilation for the unbeliever at death want to translate ‘spirit’ as ‘breath’. None of these translations uses “breath” instead of “spirit”. Why? Because that is not what the word means in context. See the support for “spirit” translated as “breath” by the Seventh-Day Adventists HERE.

How do we know that “spirit” in Eccl. 12:7 does not mean “breath”?

If we look at the context in Eccl. 12:5, it states what is happening at death, “Man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets” (ESV). What happens at death as breath ceases is not what is stated in Eccl. 12. It is referring to human beings going to their “eternal home”, which means at death, “The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (ESV). How do we know?

Eccl. 3:21 asks, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (KJV). The implication is that the spirit of beasts perishes with the body (goeth downward to the earth), but the human spirit survives death (as in Eccl. 12:5-7). It is inaccurate contextually to say that “the breath of man goeth upward”. Why? Because at death, the breath ceases but the person lives on.

Psalm 104:29 also emphasises that the breath ceases at death: “Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust” (KJV). Cf. Gen. 3:19; Job 10:9; Ps. 90:3; 103:14; and Eccl. 3:20.

The person pushing his view that a person does not go to heaven and meet with God did not like this emphasis.

E. Solomon no longer believed in the God he once knew

Therefore, this fellow on the Christian form imposed this meaning on what I wrote:

I think it’s important to keep Ecclesiastes in context, it was written by Solomon as an old man in a depressed, back slidden state. His perceptions were not those of the wisest man in the world, but of a man who had lost hope. It is one of a very negative and lonely King who no longer believed in the God he knew in his glory days. His wisdom had turned to fatalism. NOT an accurate depiction of the reality of ETERNAL LIFE, as Jesus promised us.[11]

Note his emphases regarding Solomon who was the human author of the book of Ecclesiastes:

design-blue-small Keep Ecclesiastes in context;

design-blue-small Solomon was an old, depressed, back-slidden man;

design-blue-small He had lost hope;

design-blue-small This very negative and lonely King no longer believed in the God he used to know.

design-blue-small His wisdom was fatalism;

design-blue-small So, Eccl 12:7 is not an accurate depiction of eternal life that Jesus promised.

My immediate response was:[12]

From where did you gain that information? You did not refer to the content of what I wrote.

The fact that this book of Ecclesiastes is contained in the OT indicates that it is God-breathed Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17). Even though it is a view from ‘under the sun’ (Eccl. 1:3), it comes with the stamp of God’s authority on it.

The fact remains that this is what happens at death: ‘the dust returns to the earth as it was [the human body], and the spirit returns to God’ (Eccl 12:7). This is confirmed by Paul, ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Cor 5:8 ESV). To the Philippians he wrote: ‘My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better’ (Phil 1:23 ESV).

The response was:

F. Did you read Ecclesiastes 1:1-4?

(King Solomon & the Ark of the Covenant, image courtesy


His reply to the above was that he had gained his information,

From years of study … just like you.

So you’re advocating /asserting that there is NO negative content in scripture? Did you read the first four verses of Ecclesiastes 1? Do you agree that life is meaningless and that the earth remains forever? Do you accept that the sun hurries around the earth to rise everyday?
Come on Oz….I expected far more proper exegesis from you then you evidence here.

As far as 2 COR 5:8 is concerned, what Paul states as a desire does in no way imply what you assert. He knew full well we would only see Jesus when He returned, as he states throughout his letters. Inferring what you do into this verse is NOT supportable. Both verses refer to Paul’s desire, NOT what will happen when He dies. The same holds true for Heb 9:27… because we do not get judged immediately after we die, anymore than we see Jesus or God after we die.
http://www.truthabou…t-with-the-lord [13]

Note the link. He obtained his information from this Bible teacher online.

G. What happens when another invents your or my views about life after death theology?

This applies to all attempts to give a false view of a person’s statements or perspectives on any topic.

My reply was to tackle him head on as he had invented claims against my view that were false.[14]

You are inventing a straw man fallacy again. You state: ‘So you’re advocating /asserting that there is NO negative content in scripture?’ At no place in my post did I state that. You’re engaged in eisegesis of my post. If you continue to do this to me, I’ll not reply again.

When we use logical fallacies, we need to understand that

a fallacious argument can make productive conversation impossible. Logical fallacies are often used by politicians and the media to fool people because they have the deceptive appearance of being reasonable—despite their exploitation of our emotional, intellectual, and psychological weaknesses (Lumen Learning: Writing Skills Lab).

Why is it impossible to have a logical discussion when logical fallacies are used? It is based on the person’s use of fallacious (erroneous, faulty, distorted) reasoning. When illogic is used, reasonable conversation, debate and writing cannot be pursued in a logical manner.

Eccl 1:1-4 (NIV) reads:

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.

‘Everything is meaningless’ is the view from the perspective of those who ‘toil under the sun’ (1:3). The RSV translates v. 2 as, ‘Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity’. That seems like a fair estimate of the world if one is looking at it from a secular point of view, i.e. ‘under the sun’. However, this is also the view expressed in Ps 90:3-10; 102:24-26; 35:5ff; Gen 5:29; 47:9. Solomon is affirming what is stated elsewhere in the OT.

The word translated as ‘vanity’ or ‘meaningless’ is hebhel. What does it mean? Hebrew exegete H C Leupold explained:

The exact force of the word “vanity” (used thirty-one times in the book – BDB) must be ascertained most carefully. We have retained the traditional rendering “vanity of vanities,” but this was done because it is the least objectionable of the available translations. The word “vanity,” hebhel, really means a “vapor” or “breath,” something like the breath that condenses as we exhale into the cold winter air, condenses and disappears at once. Now the point is, shall hebhel be translated “transitoriness” or “vanity”? Does it refer to that which is fleeting or to that which is utterly futile? That latter connotation is the one usually associated with the English term “vanity” in connections such as these.

It is our conviction that hebhel connotes primarily that which is fleeting and transitory and also suggests the partial futility of human effort. Certainly, to construe that the verse in such a way as to make it mean practically that life is futile and utterly empty would mean to put a pessimistic meaning into the term that is not warranted by facts. The word emphasizes rather how evanescent earthly things are, how swiftly they pass away, and how little they offer while one has them (Leupold 1969:40-41)

So, Stan, the exegesis of the term ‘meaningless’ or ‘vanity’ is not what you want to make it. More than that, I was dealing with Eccl 12:7 and not with Eccl 1:1-4. When I do the hard yakka with accurate exegesis of Eccl 1:1-4, I do not conclude as you do. I urge you not to accuse me about information that has no basis in fact when compared with what you posted. Your straw man included imposing on me the need to exegete Eccl 1;1-4 when I did not mention it.

You have demonstrated what happens when you try to exegete the OT from an English translation with your statement from Eccl 1:4 (NIV), ‘the earth remains forever’. The earth remaining forever means nothing more than

the earth is the permanent ground on which this coming and this going of generations actually takes place.

The connection being what it is, there cannot be an assertion here about the eternal duration of the earth, for the expression “forever” (le’olam) is frequently very relative in its meaning and here signifies little more than “a good long while.” One need not, therefore, fear that this verse contradicts Ps. 102:25f. – “Generation” (dor) being the new and important issue in the thought development, though a noun here stands first in the sentence (Leupold 1969:45).

You state, ‘Do you accept that the sun hurries around the earth to rise everyday?’ You are referring to Eccl 1:5 (NIV) that states, ‘The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises’. That is a perspectival observation for any human being and when Solomon gives his human view of life ‘under the sun’, that is an accurate view of what human beings see. It is not meant to be a scientific explanation that would satisfy the demands of cosmologists. Ecclesiastes is referring to ‘the ceaseless round of rising, setting, and hastening back to the starting point’ (Leupold 1969:46).

Stan, I think you ought to quit bragging about your exegetical prowess. You have failed in your examination of these passages from Eccl 1:1-4.

As for 2 Cor 5:8 (NIV), the souls of believers go immediately into God’s presence. What Paul asserts as a desire would make no sense in the God-breathed Scriptures if that is not what happens at death. Your view lacks biblical exegesis. Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, explains:

Death is a temporary cessation of bodily life and a separation of the soul from the body. Once a believer has died, though his or her physical body remains on the earth and is buried, at the moment of death the soul (or spirit) of that believer goes immediately into the presence of God with rejoicing. When Paul thinks about death he says, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). To be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord. He also says that his desire is “to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil 1.23). And Jesus said to the thief who was dying on the cross next to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43), The author of Hebrews says that when Christians come together to worship they come not only into the presence of God in heaven, but also into the presence of “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb 12:23)…. God will not leave our dead bodies in the earth forever, for when Christ returns the souls of believers will be reunited with their bodies, their bodies will be raised from the dead, and they will live with Christ eternally…. (Grudem 1994:816-817).

As for Heb 9:27 (NIV), it states, ‘Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’. What do you want that to mean? You state: ‘we do not get judged immediately after we die, anymore than we see Jesus or God after we die’. This plainly is a false statement. Nowhere in Heb 9:27 (NIV) does it state that people will be be ‘judged immediately after we die’. That is your invention. It’s eisegesis with your imposing your beliefs on the text. Heb 9:27 (NIV) does state that people will die once and after that face judgment but nowhere does this verse state when that judgment will happen after death. Nowhere! That really is very poor exegesis by you, Stan.

This is another false statement by you: We will not ‘see Jesus or God after we die’. Jesus proved you wrong when he said to the thief beside him,  “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV). At death, the thief ‘saw’ Jesus because he was with Jesus. We know from 2 Cor 5:8 that Paul would be ‘absent from the body and present with the Lord’. In Phil 1:23 (ESV) Paul affirms his desire to ‘depart and be with Christ, that is better by far’ rather than remain on earth. His desire would be pointless if such a reality of dying and being with Christ was not possible. When Stephen was being stoned, he ‘gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God…. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’ (Acts 7:55, 59 ESV). Where was the Lord Jesus? He was standing at the right hand of God, so Stephen at death had his spirit received by the Lord Jesus.

The exegetical evidence from OT and NT overwhelms your false position that believers do not go directly into the Lord’s presence at death. At death believers go to be with the Lord and their bodies rot in the grave (returning to dust) only to be resurrected at Christ’s second coming when the resurrected body will be joined with the spirit (1 Cor 15 NIV).

Before Christ’s resurrection, both believers and unbelievers went to Sheol/Hades – two separate places in that location (see Isa 14:9-20; 44:23; Ezek 32:21; Lk 16:22-23). After the resurrection, believers go to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23) which is better than Hades. According to 2 Cor 5:6-9, believers are present with the Lord and are worshipping with the angelic hosts in heaven (Heb. 12:22-23).

Dumbing down my exegesis doesn’t work. This fellow erected a straw man fallacy. I have sound biblical grounds for the position I maintain. What he created was a false view of my theology on life after death.

If you want to read this fellow’s response to me, see StanJ#63. There are way too many red herring logical fallacies in his posts for me to address them. A red herring fallacy happens when a person doesn’t deal with the specific issues I raise but is off and running with what he/she wants to talk about. In this case, this fellow was pushing his own agenda of no heaven at death for the believer and that Solomon was not an inspired author when he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. His view denigrates the authority of the Old Testament and makes him the superior judge of what is authoritative.

H.  How red herring fallacies work

My assertions about Stan’s using a red herring fallacy are not fallacious but are truthful. I find the following explanation of a red herring fallacy to be helpful in what this fellow does. Let’s examine what he does, based on this explanation of the red herring by The Nizkor Project.

Fallacy: Red Herring

Also Known as: Smoke Screen, Wild Goose Chase.

Description of Red Herring

A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of “reasoning” has the following form:

  1. Topic A is under discussion.
  2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).
  3. Topic A is abandoned.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim.

This is what Stan does over and over with others and me on this forum. This is an example of Stan’s red herring with me, using this Nizkor Project explanation:

  1. I (Oz) was discussing topic A: “The fact remains that this is what happens at death: ‘the dust returns to the earth as it was [the human body], and the spirit returns to God” (Eccl 12:7). This is confirmed by Paul, “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8 ESV). To the Philippians he wrote: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil 1:23 ESV)’ (OzSpen#56).
  2. Topic B was introduced by Stan in the guise of being relevant to what Oz said about Heb 9:27 when Stan said: ‘The same holds true for Heb 9:27…because we do not get judged immediately after we die, anymore than we see Jesus or God after we die’ (StanJ#61). I showed Stan that ‘As for Heb 9:27 (NIV), it states, “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”. What do you want that to mean? You state: “we do not get judged immediately after we die, anymore than we see Jesus or God after we die”. This plainly is a false statement. Nowhere in Heb 9:27 (NIV) does it state that people will be “judged immediately after we die”. That is your invention. It’s eisegesis with your imposing your beliefs on the text. Heb 9:27 (NIV) does state that people will die once and after that face judgment but nowhere does this verse state when that judgment will happen after death. Nowhere. That really is very poor exegesis by you, Stan’ (OzSpen#62). I demonstrated to Stan that his interpretation of Heb 9:27 – that ‘we do not get judged immediately’ is adding to what Heb 9:27 states. That’s because the text does not state when that judgment will take place.
  3. Thus StanJ abandoned Oz’s Topic A.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for this fellow to admit that he used a red herring logical fallacy in this instance or to get him to admit that he used  this tactic with others. I’ll let others expose what he does in inventing his kind of reply, that often does not relate directly to what the other poster stated. Is this how he operates in normal conversation in a church situation?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are you prepared to sing with and endorse ‘When we all get to heaven (Terry Blackwood, Karen Peck & friends)?

Have I presented enough evidence in this thread to demonstrate that heaven is the Christian believer’s destiny at death?

I’m ready. Are you?

I. Conclusion

Whether in Old or New Testaments, the Bible is clear on where believers go at death. They go into the presence of the Lord God that is called variously paradise, heaven, the Father’s house and Abraham’s bosom.

Some low views of Scripture were expressed in this thread. I understand[15] that this questioning of the authority or denigration of the OT seems to me to be associated with a low view of the attributes of God, especially his truthfulness. If God’s words are not true, he will be treated as a liar or person who can’t be trusted with instructions in the OT. Yet, Scripture affirms that ‘God is not man, that he should lie (Num 23:19 ESV) and ‘it is impossible for God to lie’ (Heb 6:18 ESV).

I consider that a person’s view of Scripture revolves around  his or her view of God. See my series, ‘Can you trust the Bible? Part 1‘.

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Leupold, H C 1969. Exposition of Ecclesiastes. London: Evangelical Press/Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House (copyright 1952, The Wartburg Press).

Morey, R A 1984. Death and the Afterlife. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.


[1] Christianity Board, StanJ#1, ‘When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be?’ 3 February 2016. Available at: (Accessed 15 February 2016)

[2] Ibid., IAM4JESUS#2.

[3] Ibid., lforrest#3.

[4] Ibid., StanJ#4.

[5] Ibid., Iforrest#12.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#17. This is my response to Iforrest#12.

[7] Ibid., StanJ#18.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[9] Ibid., StanJ#21.

[10] I raised this issue in ibid., OzSpen #53.

[11] Ibid., StanJ#54.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#56.

[13] Ibid., StanJ#61.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#62.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#59, responding to justaname.


Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 26 April 2018.

Sheol is translated as Hades

Heaven or Hell

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

Where did people go at death prior to Christ’s coming? How do the Scriptures describe what happens at death in the OT?

On a Christian forum on the Internet, a person wrote: ‘Hades is a different creature then (sic) sheol’.[1] Those who know Hebrew and Greek disagree with him.

My response was:[2]
According to OT commentators Keil & Delitzsch, ‘Sheol denotes the place where departed souls are gathered after death’ (n d:338).

One of the leading exegetical Greek word studies edited by Colin Brown states: ‘In the LXX [Septuagint] hades occurs more than 100 times, in the majority of instances to translate Heb sheol, the underworld which receives all the dead. It is a land of darkness, in which God is not remembered (Job 10:21f; 26:5; Ps. 6:5; 30:9 [LXX 29:9]; 115:17 [LXX 113:25]; Prov. 1;12; 27:20; Isa. 5:14)’ (Brown 1976:206).
So in the LXX, hades is a Greek translation of the Hebrew, sheol.

There is a further explanation of hades and sheol in my articles,

Works consulted

Brown, C (ed) 1976. The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 2. Exeter: The Paternoster Press.

Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d.[3] Tr by J Martin (from the German). Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


[1] Jasonc#114. Christian Apologetics & Theology, SOUL SLEEP – TRUE/FALSE (online). Available at: (Accessed 19 September 2014).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#115.

[3] This is from a 1980 printing by Eerdmans.


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 November 2015.

The Intermediate State for believers and unbelievers: Where do they go at death?

cemetery-pictures-public-domain-1 (4)

(image courtesy onemillionfreepictures)

 By Spencer D Gear

Christian forums on the Internet are places for provocative interaction and also promotion of false doctrine. I’ve interacted on a number of sites and found this to be so.

On one forum I met a fellow who stated:

“Where is the scripture that states Paradise as being a literal place for spirits upon death? Aside from the Rich Man and Lazarus…I believe that to be a parable…”[1]

My response was:[2] This is not the place for a detailed exposition. For that I recommend, Robert A. Morey (1984).

Before Christ’s resurrection, both believers and unbelievers went to Sheol/Hades – two separate places in that location (see Isa 14:9-20; 44:23; Ezek 32:21; Lk 16:22-23). After the resurrection, believers go to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23) which is better than Hades. According to 2 Cor. 5:6-9, believers are present with the Lord and are worshipping with the angelic hosts in heaven (Heb. 12:22-23).

We understand that Christ went to Hades at death (see Acts 2:31). When Jesus was in Hades, Peter explains that Christ was proclaiming to “the spirits now in prison” (1 Peter 3:18-22).

However, in the Gospel records (e.g. Luke 23:43), Paradise refers to the section of Hades reserved for the righteous. By the time of Paul’s writing in 2 Cor. 12:2-4, Paradise seems to have been taken out of Hades and is now the third heaven.

So, with progressive revelation, we understand that after the resurrection of Jesus, the believer who dies goes to heaven at death and there awaits the future resurrection to the eternal state.

What about unbelievers now? The Scriptures seem to teach that they go into torment in the intermediate state in Hades, awaiting the final judgment. Peter described it this way:

“Then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment” (2 Peter 2:9 NIV)

“To hold” in the Greek of this verse is a present, active infinitive, meaning that the wicked are being kept where they are, captive continuously. This verse clearly refutes annihilation of the wicked after death as there would be nothing “to hold” until the judgment day if they had no existence. Peter says the unrighteous are “continuing their punishment”, this phrase is interpreting a present, passive participle that indicates the unbelievers are being continuously tormented/punished. The Greek grammar of this text clearly states that the wicked dead are experiencing torment as they await the final judgment.

We read about the final judgment in Rev. 20:13-15 when Hades (the place for the wicked who died after Christ’s resurrection) will be emptied of the wicked dead and will face God for judgment. At that point, the wicked will be cast into hell.

That’s a very brief overview of how I understand the intermediate state for believers and unbelievers and the final judgment of unbelievers.

Works consulted

Morey, R A 1984. Death and the Afterlife. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.


[1] Big Drew #60, Christian Forums–>Theology–>Christian Apologetics, “Heaven?” #62, available at: (Accessed 23 September 2010).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #62.
Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 June 2016.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 and what happens at death

nuclear explosion by tzunghaor - atomic bomb, bomb, clip art, clipart, explosion, explosive, mushroom cloud, nuclear, nuke, weapon,

(courtesy Openclipart)

By Spencer D Gear

A Seventh-Day Adventist fellow with whom I’ve been in dialogue online for years on a Christian forum continues to push his SDA view of annihilation of the unbeliever at death. Or, he will say that there is nothing at death for the non-Christian.

This is what he wrote to me:

Eccl. 9:5 “for the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing.” and 10 “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Refute those.[1]

We can make these points about Eccl. 9:5, based on the text: [2]

1.  There is here noted one advantage that the living have. They ‘know that they shall die’. This does not seem to be a sarcastic comment by the Preacher (the Koheleth) of Ecclesiastes. The thought is that a living human being has a distinct advantage that he/she will one day die. He/she is then able to arrange  a lot of things in his/her life on earth to prepare to meet the issue of death.

2.   But ‘the dead know nothing’. All opportunities for them for action and achievement are gone after death. It’s a thing of the past and the dead now know nothing. They don’t have any reward in the after-life (yet) and their memory is forgotten.

3.   So is this an absolute denial of all hope for them after death? That is what his SDA church promotes for unbelievers. However, that is not what this verse teaches. We have no right to think that this is a statement about the state of the dead in the afterlife. The Preacher is only expressing the relation of the dead to this life. How do we know? The next verse tells us. That’s why it is always good to look at the verse in context and not to quote an isolated verse, as this SDA fellow had done.

4.   Eccl 9:6 tells us, ‘Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and for ever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun’ (ESV). So what the dead have experienced in this life – love, hate, envy – has gone. It has perished. And the dead are not sharing what has happened for them when they were alive on earth – their life ‘under the sun’. The dead do not have a higher reward than what they had in their life ‘under the sun’. They are out of this life, have no reward, and all of the ‘under the sun’ emphases have perished.

5.   This ‘under the sun’ emphasis also appears in this same chapter, Eccl. 9:3.

6.   The SDAs, by taking an isolated verse like Eccl 9:5 to support his doctrine of annihilation and pushing it to the limit of his kind of extremist, negative interpretation is not satisfactory exegesis of the text. He has NOT obtained his annihilation doctrine and nothingness-after-death for the unbeliever from this text. He has imposed the SDA annihilationist view on the text. This is called eisegesis and is an illegitimate way of obtaining the meaning from any text, whether that be the local newspaper or the Bible.

7.   In fact, Eccl 12:7 presents a contrary view to the SDA’s interpretation of Eccl 9:5 with this statement, ‘And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it’ (Eccl 12:7 ESV).

8. Eccl. 9:5-6 demonstrates, according to the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, how hopeless life is when anyone confines herself/himself to life ‘under the sun’ for satisfaction. She/he is faced with a hopeless situation.

9.   There is not a word in Eccl 9:5 that supports an emphasis on annihilation. He gets it from his Seventh-Day Adventist church. And Eccl 12:7 clarifies the meaning of Eccl 9:5 and clearly refutes his interpretation.

At death, the dust of the decayed human body returns to the earth and the spirit of the holistic being returns to God who gave the spirit at birth.

So there you have what I consider is a careful, but brief, refutation of the SDA’s, view on this one verse.

To refute the false doctrine of annihilation, see my articles:


Grim Reaper

(courtesy ChristArt)

Works consulted

Leupold, H C 1969. Exposition of Ecclesiastes. London: Evangelical Press (This is based on a 1969 reprint by Baker Book House Company of the 1952 edition by The Wartburg Press).


[1] harold.fair#43, Christian Fellowship Forum, Fellowship Hall, ‘Soul sleep’. Available at: (Accessed 4 June 2014).

[2] This was my response at ibid., ozspen#45. Much of what I’ve written here is based on the exegesis and exposition of H C Leupold on Ecclesiastes (Leupold 1969:211-212).


Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 July 2018.

Is hell fair?

Hell is Real

(image courtesy ClipArt)

By Spencer D Gear

Bertrand Russell, the atheistic British philosopher, was no friend of the biblical doctrine of hell. His provocative, penetrating, and blasphemous words were:

There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching — an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance find that attitude in Socrates….

You will find that in the Gospels Christ said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell”…. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world….

I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him as His chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that (Russell 1996)

The Bertrand Russell Society gives these details about Russell: ‘Bertrand Arthur William Russell [3rd Earl] (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970).[1] Russell lived to be 97 years of age. It was he who said, ‘When I die, I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive’ (Russell 1967:47).

A.  Eternal punishment for temporal sin is unfair?

However, it is not unusual in conversation with Christian believers to hear some object to eternal punishment in hell for the wicked. I encountered this on a Christian forum with a fellow who wrote:

The ultimate sin, it is said, is to reject a relationship with Christ. But hell punishes a bad choice made over a finite lifetime for eternity, for no chance of parole.

Yes, I understand that God “cannot tolerate sin” and that God’s love also requires judgment. Isn’t it a contradiction, however, to speak of God’s infinite, unchanging love while simultaneously talking about casting sinners into the pits of hell for all eternity?

Sorry…that doesn’t make much sense to me.[2]

My initial response was,[3]

I don’t find any inconsistency in God’s treatment of sinners. Why? It’s because God is the absolutely fair, absolutely just/righteous, absolutely good, absolutely holy God. When we stand before him, we will not be able to announce to him, “God you were unfair in your treatment of me, the sinner. You don’t have a clue about doing what is right for the sinner”. Those kinds of thoughts will not enter my mind because they are based on my puny, limited, finite thinking.

I ask: Are there degrees of punishment in hell? I am convinced the answer to that question is, ‘Yes’.

This fellow’s comeback was, ‘If He’s “absolutely fair” (and I believe He is), then why plunge people into oblivion for all eternity for sins committed during a finite lifetime?’[4]

The following is my reply to him:[5]

I’m of the view that this matter rises or falls on (1) our understanding of the eternal attribute of God, (2) the nature of human beings, and (3) whether or not we think the human soul lives forever. If our souls are not eternal, then sins do not have eternal consequences. They are temporary. But that is not the case.

The reality is that we are beings who live forever. We are made for an eternal relationship with God, who is the eternal Being. Therefore to sin against the eternal God, reject his overtures to us, has eternal consequences.

My understanding is that when we think of sins as being temporal and not having eternal consequences, then we begin to think that eternal hell is unfair.

When I understand the eternal nature of sins, and the eternal attribute of the One against whom I sin, I understand why Jesus’ sacrifice for sin was the necessary sacrifice. Is it fair that the eternal Son of God had to be sacrificed for temporal sins? That’s the wrong question. The eternal Son of God was sacrificed on the cross because sin has eternal consequences.

Hebrew 7:27 states, ‘He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself’ (ESV).

B.  Eternal punishment in hell is fair

So the reason why eternal punishment in hell is fair is because:

(1) Of the nature of God,

(2) The nature of human beings, and

(3) The eternal consequences for human sin against the eternal God.

God is absolutely just and always does what is fair and righteous. That’s why the consequence for sin for the unregenerate is eternal.

See Michael Houdmann’s article, How is eternity in hell a fair punishment for sin?

Another wrote, ‘That’s [i.e. eternal hell] something they invented that it was eternal to scare the people. It’s more like a washing machine, like the Jews taught before this was invented’.[6]

How should one reply to this kind of serious allegation?[7]

I asked, ‘Are you saying that Jesus invented eternal punishment to scare people?’ It was he who stated:

“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt 25:46 ESV).

The word aiwnios (eternal) is the very same word associated with punishment as with eternal life. Therefore, eternal punishment is as long as eternal life will be. What’s the meaning of aiwnios?

This fellow made a serious allegation when he said that ‘that’s something they invented … to scare people’ because he was accusing Jesus of doing that.

Why doesn’t he accept what the Scriptures state? He seems to be inventing his own theology that avoids eternal punishment. Eternal punishment is the teaching of Jesus.

Somebody had the audacity to state,

No Augustine, before him they didn’t preach eternal damnation.

Did it ever occur to you that the reason people don’t believe this is that they reach out to atheists, who fell off their faith primarily because of eternal hell preaching and people doubting their faith because of the concept of eternal hell which isn’t even Biblical?

Plain reading of the mistranslated text leads to it, not plain reading of the original.[8]

I responded:[9]

My, oh my!! I do wish that you would read the Church Fathers and accurately report what they believed about hell. Before Augustine there were definitely church fathers who believed in the hell of eternal punishment.

Please take a read of this summary of material in the article, The Early Church Fathers on Hell.

I pray that you will report accurately what the Church Fathers BEFORE Augustine truly believed, instead of providing us with this misrepresentation.

The response was rather disjointed and called on some rather controversial resources:

Sorry, could be, but I don’t care what church fathers say, most of them were antisemites anyway, I care about what the jews before that taught and what the Bible teaches.

I read this:

Matthew 25:46 In the original Greek it says kolasin aionion, which is the opposite of eternal torture. The pharisees taught eternal torture and used timorion aidion.

Greek used timoria for a revenge punishment and kolasis for a correction punishment.

If Jesus meant eternal torture He would have used timorion aidion or timorion ateleutelon, just like the Pharisees who did believe in eternal torture. aionios comes from the Hebrew olam, which is an undefined period.

Augustine wrote that most christians in his time believed in universalism, which he rejected.

Justinianus (482 – 565) forced the church to teach eternal damnation, which lead to translators in the Middle Ages translating aionos with eternal, which wasn’t so in the time of Justinianos.[10]

How should I counter?[11]

You actually do care what the church fathers believed. Your writing on this forum confirms your view when you stated: ‘No Augustine, before him they didn’t preach eternal damnation’.

I was responding to what you wrote about those who were ‘before him’, i.e. the church fathers who were before Augustine.

The facts are that there were church fathers before Justinianus who believed in eternal damnation. Thus, I seriously question your statement that Justinianus ‘forced the church to teach eternal damnation’. That is not the case. You seem to be creating your own view of things – perhaps fed by some others of like persuasion.

Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon studied aiwnios from the time of the Septuagint and concluded that it means ‘eternal’ and in many passages, including Matt. 25:46, it means ‘without end … eternal life’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:28).

Seems as though you are trying to promote another agenda.

This person replied:

No I read this and believe it now, well, not 100% sure when I read this comment. I don’t know much about church history and not enough about this theory, just read this what I translated here and more on forums and also from a theologian and Sadhu Sundhar Singh saw it.

There are texts like with the Pharisees that will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come and others will, for Sodom judgement would be more bearable (sic), he who knew not what his Master wanted will be punished less. Doesn’t sound like one eternal hell for everyone.[12]

It is pleasing to see that a person will admit his lack of knowledge in this area. But this didn’t stop her from spruiking her lack of knowledge in the area.[13]

1.  St Augustine on eternal punishment

Eminent early church father, St Augustine, in his prominent production, City of God, wrote:

“But eternal punishment seems hard and unjust to human perceptions, because in the weakness of our mortal condition there is wanting that highest and purest wisdom by which it can be perceived how great a wickedness was committed in that first transgression” (The City of God, Book 21, chapter 12).

St Augustine continues concerning eternal life and eternal punishment and one of the passages we are discussing, Matt 25:46 (ESV):

They who desire to be rid of eternal punishment ought to abstain from arguing against God, and rather, while yet there is opportunity, obey the divine commands. Then what a fond fancy is it to suppose that eternal punishment means long continued punishment, while eternal life means life without end, since Christ in the very same passage spoke of both in similar terms in one and the same sentence, These shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into life eternal! Matthew 25:46 If both destinies are “eternal”, then we must either understand both as long-continued but at last terminating, or both as endless. For they are correlative—on the one hand, punishment eternal, on the other hand, life eternal. And to say in one and the same sense, life eternal shall be endless, punishment eternal shall come to an end, is the height of absurdity. Wherefore, as the eternal life of the saints shall be endless, so too the eternal punishment of those who are doomed to it shall have no end (The City of God, Book 21, Chapter 23).

Human perceptions are hard to take in light of the reality proclaimed by Jesus himself in Matt 25:46 (NLT), ‘And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life’.

2.  Norman Geisler on everlasting punishment

Systematic theologian and apologist, Dr Norman Geisler, further confirms this position:

If destruction did mean “annihilation” when used of the unbeliever’s post-death state, it would not be “everlasting” destruction, for annihilation is instantaneous; annihilation does not stretch over a long period of time, let alone forever, but only takes an instant and then is over. If someone undergoes everlasting destruction, then they must have an everlasting existence. (Analogously, just as the cars in a junkyard have been destroyed but are not annihilated – they are beyond repair or irredeemable – so the people in hell are not extinguished but are simply irredeemable and irreparable) [Geisler 2005:396, emphasis in original].

I’m sticking with Jesus’ firm word on Matt 25:46 (ESV) – with sound support from St Augustine of Hippo and Norman Geisler – that eternal punishment for unbelievers is as long as eternal life for the believers. Trying to interpret from a contemporary Western perspective or using an emotional response doesn’t stack up with the biblical evidence.

C.  What’s the meaning of aiwnios in Greek?


(image courtesy ChristArt)

My response was rather pointed![14] And you trust a link to a website that is titled ‘Evangelical Universalist’.[15] Anyone who tries to defend universalism is not promoting biblical Christianity. It is an oxymoron to use the language of ‘evangelical universalist’.

Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon studied aiwnios from the time of the Septuagint and concluded that it means ‘eternal’ and in many passages, including Matt. 25:46, it means ‘without end … eternal life’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:28). This is an authoritative Greek dictionary (lexicon), yet you seek your definition from one who claims to be an ‘evangelical universalist’. Why, oh why do you do this?

If you wanted to understand an English word, would you go to a strange unrelated source, or would you go to an English dictionary for an accurate definition? I urge you to go to an authoritative Greek dictionary like Arndt & Gingrich to determine the meaning of aiwnios (eternal, without end).

I made a further response:[16]

However, you stated at #96, ‘I don’t know much about church history and not enough about this theory’.

I suggest that you are digging yourself into a theological hole for which you don’t have an exegetical ladder to get out – based on your own statement about your lack of knowledge in this area.

This person replied to my question, ‘Why, oh why do you do this?’ with this content that revealed her ignorance, ‘‘Euhm, when I have a question I ask google. Thanks for the tip to not trust anything.’[17] My reply should be predictable to her and others:[18]

Do you know what that means? Since when was Google an authoritative source for the Greek language? It may lead you to an authoritative source if you know the source you look for AND it is available on Google.

Would you please direct me to a website that contains the entire Arndt & Gingrich Greek lexicon that is available free to all Internet users? However, to read Arndt & Gingrich, you’ll need to be able to read the Greek words. I recommend that you be more discerning about the sources that you quote when trying to understand the meaning of a Greek word in the Greek New Testament. Using a search engine such as Google or Bing will not help you do that automatically.

Google is a wonderful and powerful search engine. It is the primary search engine I use for surfing the Internet. But its work is to search for sites. Its job is not to be an authoritative source for what it finds. What it finds is only as accurate as the information fed into it by a user. It is the user’s responsibility to assess the credibility of the content of what Google finds.

This is a sad situation where a woman is replying to topics on an Internet forum and she is right out of her depth.

Also recommended

See my other articles on hell:

clip_image001What is the nature of death according to the Bible?

clip_image001[1]2 Thessalonians 1:9: Eternal destruction;

clip_image001[2]Hell & Judgment;

clip_image001[3]Hell in the Bible;

clip_image001[4]Should we be punished for our sins?

clip_image001[5]Paul on eternal punishment;

clip_image001[6]Where will unbelievers go at death?

clip_image001[7]Torment in Old Testament hell? The meaning of Sheol in the OT;

clip_image001[8]Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die;

clip_image001[9]Will you be ready when your death comes?

clip_image001[10]What happens at death for believer and unbeliever?

clip_image001[11]Does eternal destruction mean annihilation for unbelievers at death?

clip_image001[12]Refutation of Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death;

clip_image001[13]Near-death experiences are not all light: What about the dark experiences?

Works consulted

Geisler, N 2005. Systematic theology: Church, Last things, vol 4. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Russell, B 1967. Why I Am Not a Christian. London: Unwin Books.

Russell, B 1996. J R Lenz (ed), Why I am not a Christian (online).[19] Madison NJ: Drew University, available at: (Accessed 20 October 2013).


[1] The Bertrand Russell Society, available at: (Accessed 20 October 2013).

[2] Ringo84, #82, Christian Forums, General Theology, Hamartiology, ‘Is hell fair?’, available at: (Accessed 11 October 2013).

[3] OzSpen#83, ibid.

[4] Ringo84, #84, ibid.

[5] OzSpen#88, ibid.

[6] Messy#85, ibid.

[7] With the following, I responded as OzSpen#89, ibid.

[8] Messy#90, ibid.

[9] OzSpen#91,

[10] Messy#92, ibid.

[11] OzSpen#93, ibid.

[12] Messy#96, ibid.

[13] See Messy #97, #99, ibid.

[14] OzSpen#100, ibid.

[15] This was in response to a link provided at Messy#99, ibid, to: (Accessed 11 October 2013).

[16] OzSpen#103, ibid.

[17] Messy#101,

[18] OzSpen#104, ibid.

[19] At the beginning of this article, it was stated: ‘Introductory note: Russell delivered this lecture on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall. Published in pamphlet form in that same year, the essay subsequently achieved new fame with Paul Edwards’ edition of Russell’s book, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays … (1957)’.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 April 2018.

Do evil doers experience eternal destruction or annihilation at death?

Bad Computer

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

In understanding the Old Testament, when compared with the New Testament, there is a fundamental principle of biblical interpretation that must be remembered. I learned it in Bible College in the 1970s and in Seminary in the 1980s. This is the principle of progressive revelation.

1. The principle of progressive revelation

What does it mean? Norman Geisler explained:

According to the doctrine of progressive revelation, God does not reveal all His truth at once, but only part at a time, progressively, over a period of time. For example, God did not reveal explicitly from the very beginning the doctrine of the Trinity: he first revealed that He was one (cf. Deut. 6:4) and then later that there are three persons in this one God (cf. Matt. 28:18-20. The same is true about God’s plan of salvation; it was unveiled only a piece at a time from the beginning (from Gen. 3:15 to John 3:16)….

Revealing only part of the truth is not necessarily a lie. At no time in this progressive revelation did God affirm what was false. All that He said was true, but He did not say all from the very beginning. He told the whole truth about part of what He wanted to reveal, but He never revealed the whole of what He wanted to say at once (Geisler 2003:366).

In the very first book I ever used on biblical interpretation in Bible College, Bernard Ramm wrote of progressive revelation:

By progressive revelation we mean that the Bible sets forth a movement of God, with the initiative coming from God and not man, in which God brings man up through the theological infancy of the Old Testament to the maturity of the New Testament. This does not mean that there are no mature ideas in the Old Testament nor simple elements in the New Testament. Progressive revelation is the general pattern of revelation (Ramm 1970:102).[1]

So when it comes to understanding life after death, God does not reveal all his truth on this topic in the Old Testament. More details were given progressively over a period of time but a fuller blossoming in the New Testament. We will see this as we examine….

2. Psalm 92:7 and eternal destruction

Let’s see how the Hebrew of Psalm 92:7 should be translated at the end of the verse. Psalm 92:6-7 in the King James Version[2] reads:

A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.

7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:

The American Standard Version of Psalm 92:6-7 reads:

A brutish man knoweth not; Neither doth a fool understand this:

7 When the wicked spring as the grass, And when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; It is that they shall be destroyed for ever.

This is how one person on Christian Forums reacted to this verse as translated in the King James Version and American Standard Version:

The nice thing about the translations other than KJV and ASV, though, is that they are actually written in English as we read it and understand it. The word “brutish,” for example, in the KJV/ASV is simply grotesque. And words like “knoweth” or “do flourish” are abysmal. And what does it possibly mean to be destroyed “forever”? Are we talking cycles of destruction or continual destruction or what? It could mean that the destruction is so final that such people will never see the light of day again. The phrase is not only unclear, but almost comical since it seems to imply that what is “destroyed,” is not quite destroyed yet. There must be a better way of understanding the temporal markers than “destroyed forever” (whatever that means). Rather, I think, the temporal markers are an answer to the problem at hand….

So here is how I translate it:
The incompetent one does not know,
the fool does not comprehend this:
when the wicked sprout like weeds
and all troublemakers flourish,
[it is] only until their extermination [Psalm 92:6-7].[3]

Here are examples from a few other translations:

3. Various translations

These are some translations of the last Hebrew word in verse 7, with the translated word in bold:
The ESV of Psalm 92:6-7 reads:

The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
7 that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;

The NIV of Psalm 92:6-7:

Senseless people do not know,
fools do not understand,
7 that though the wicked spring up like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.

The NLT of Psalm 92:6-7:

Only a simpleton would not know,
and only a fool would not understand this:
7 Though the wicked sprout like weeds
and evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.

The NRSV of Psalm 92:6-7:

The dullard cannot know,
the stupid cannot understand this:
7 though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction for ever,

The New American Bible of Psalm 92:7-8:

A senseless person cannot know this; a fool cannot comprehend.

8 Though the wicked flourish like grass and all sinners thrive, They are destined for eternal destruction;

The New Jerusalem Bible of Psalm 92:7-8:

A senseless person cannot know this; a fool cannot comprehend

8Though the wicked flourish like grass and all sinners thrive, They are destined for eternal destruction;

The New Jerusalem Bible of Psalm 92:6-7:

Stupid people cannot realise this, fools do not grasp it.

7 The wicked may sprout like weeds, and every evil-doer flourish, but only to be eternally destroyed;

NET Bible of Psalm 92:6-7

The spiritually insensitive do not recognize this; the fool does not understand this.
7 When the wicked sprout up like grass,
and all the evildoers glisten,
it is so that they may be annihilated.

I asked Paul, my son, who is a Hebrew exegete, for his view on the meaning of the last word in Psalm 92:7, shamad. I asked:

I have a question about how some of the Bible translations have translated the last word(s) of Psalm 92:7. I’ve highlighted in bold. Most of them have an equivalent of “destruction forever” or “eternal destruction” but the NET Bible translates it as “annihilated”. Would you be able to do some Hebrew exegesis to help me to understand which of these is the correct translation?
I have not been able to get any help from my Old Testament commentaries by Plummer. Leupold, and Keil & Delitzsch.

This was his response:

The answer is probably both.  Hebrew is an approximate language.  If you have a look through your tools, the word is Strong’s number 8045. shows the range of meaning is quite wide, and possibly includes annihilation.  Not only that, to be “destroyed for ever” might have the implication of “destroyed completely”, as in “destroyed for good” or “destroyed for all time”.

4. Various words used by the King James Version for ‘hell’

4.1 Three Words as “Hell”[4]

In the New Testament, the KJV translators used the word “hell” somewhat generically to represent three different Greek words. The Greek words are (1) gehenna, (2) hades and (3) tartarus. Gehenna is found 12 times in the New Testament (Matthew 5:22,29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6). Hades is found 11 times (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14) and tartarus 1 time (2 Peter 2:4).

4.1.1 Gehenna, Hell Proper[5]

Gehenna had its origin in association with the valley of Hinnom, actually meaning this. In the Old Testament times, when Israel went into idolatry, human sacrifices took place in this valley next to Jerusalem in the worship of Molech as they would “burn their sons and daughters in the fire” (2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3; Jeremiah 7:31). The valley was looked upon as being polluted and unclean, and in New Testament times was used somewhat as a city dump with continual burning, we understand. It was with that backdrop the term gehenna was adopted and applied to the place of eternal punishment. Such is its coinage and use. This is hell in what the modern usage of the term “hell” conveys.

4.1.2 Sheol, the Old Testament place for the righteous and unrighteous at death

The following examples of the use of Sheol, where people went at death, in the OT use figurative language to explain the conditions there. These include:

1. Sheol has “gates” to enter and “bars” to keep one in (e.g. Job 17:16; Isa. 38:10). Thus, by use of this figurative language, Sheol is described as a realm from which there is no way to escape.

2. Sheol is described as a shadowy place, a place of darkness (Job 10:21-22; Ps 143:3).

3. Sheol is regarded as being “down”, “beneath the earth”, in “the lower parts of the earth” (Job 11:8; Isa 44:23; 57:9; Ezek 26:20; Amos 9:2). These figures of speech are designed to tell us that Sheol has another existence – it is not part of this world that we live in. But there is another existence that has a different dimension. It is not sending the dead into non-existence or to be annihilated.

4. It is a place for reunion with ancestors, tribe or people (e.g. Gen 15:15; 25:8; 35:29; 37:35; 49:33; Num 20:24, 28; 31:2; Deut 32:50; 34:5; 2 Sam 12:23). Sheol is the place where all human beings go at death. Jacob looked forward to his reuniting with Joseph in Sheol. These OT references confirm that death meant separation from the living, but reunion with the departed.

5. There are indications that there could be different sections in Sheol with language such as “the lowest part” and “the highest part” (Deut 32:22).

6. What are the conditions for a person who goes to Sheol? At death a person becomes a rephaim, i.e. a ghost, shade, disembodied spirit, according to the Hebrew lexicons and dictionaries of the OT (see Job 26:5; Ps 88:10; Prov 2:18; 9:18; 21:16; Isa 14:9; 26:14, 19). Instead of saying that human beings pass into non-existence at death, the OT states that a person becomes a disembodied spirit. Keil & Delitzsch in their OT commentary define rephaim as “those who are bodiless in the state after death” (Keil & Delitzsch n d:52).

7. Those in Sheol converse with each other and can even make moral judgments on the lifestyle of those who arrive (Isa 14:9-20; 44:23; Ezek 32:21). So, they are conscious beings when in Sheol.

8. Those in Sheol do not have knowledge of what is happening for those who are still alive on earth (Ps 6:5; Eccles 9:10, etc.)

9. Some of the spirits in Sheol experience the following:

a. God’s anger (Deut 32:22). Here, Moses states of the wicked that “a fire is kindled by my anger and it burns to the depths of Sheol” (ESV).
b. Distress and anguish (Ps 116:3);
c. There is writhing with pain; they are trembling (Job 26:5). Here the Hebrew word, chool, means to twist and turn in pain like a woman giving birth to a child.

From the OT revelation, we know that the righteous and the wicked went to Sheol at death (Gen. 37:5), but the OT believers did not have a clear understanding of what to expect in Sheol. That was left for the progressive revelation of the NT to reveal more for us. Because of this principle of progressive revelation, the OT believers did not have the information that was needed to approach death with peace and joy (see Heb. 2:14-15).

Not once does Sheol in the Old Testament mean non-existence or annihilation.

Now we move to an understanding of Hades. Robert Morey considers that

this word forms a linguistic bridge which takes us from the Old Testament view of death to the New Testament position. The importance of a proper interpretation of this word cannot be stressed.

In the Septuagint [the Greek Old Testament], Hades is found 71 times. It is the Greek equivalent for Sheol 64 times. The other seven times it is found in the Septuagint, it is the translation of other Hebrew words, some of which shed significant light on what Hades meant to the translators of the Septuagint (Morey 1984:81).

4.1.3 Hades, The Unseen World [6]

We are told that Hades, in its etymology, properly means unseen. The basic stem of the word means ‘seen’, but it has the little a privative before it, thus making it signify unseen. All behind and beyond the veil of death is unseen. Thus, it is fittingly called Hades. At death the spirit enters into the unseen world of the dead. The word itself does not necessarily specify whether this state is bad or good. By itself it is generic, but it can be more specific, according to the context and other Scripture. Interestingly, in the account of the rich man and Lazarus, it is said that in “hell” (Hades, KJV) the rich man lifted up his eyes being in torment. With his death, Jesus is said to have gone to Hades (Acts 2:27,31). (This is the word behind the KJV’s translation of “hell” here). Jesus had earlier said to the thief on the cross, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Evidently, the story of the rich man and Lazarus unveils the situation as it was (and perhaps is). The good and the bad are partitioned by a great gulf, it would seem, one being in comfort and the other in discomfort. All of this anticipates the Day of Judgment when eternal heaven and hell will begin.

4.1.4 Tartarus, The Abyss[7]

Tartarus is only referred to in one place in the New Testament, 2 Peter 2:4. It is found in the words “cast them down to hell” (to send into Tartarus). It is the bottomless abyss, the confinement place of the wicked, fallen angels.

5. The English Word “Hell” [8]

But what is the actual and literal meaning of the English word “hell” used repeatedly in the KJV of the Bible? This may come as a surprise to many, but the English word “hell” back in 1611 meant about the same as hades, that being covered or unseen. The Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (John McClintock and James Strong) that first came out in 1867, says this of the term, “Hell, a term which originally corresponded more exactly to Hades, being derived from the Saxon helan, to cover, and signifying merely the covered, or invisible place—the habitation of those who have gone from the visible terrestrial region to the world of spirits. But it has been so long appropriated in common usage to the place of future punishment for the wicked, that its earlier meaning has been lost sight of.” This does not negate the teaching of a place of future punishment and fire as seen in the word Gehenna and the umbrella word, Hades. It just throws more light on the use of the word “hell” in the King James Version.

I’m grateful for this excellent summary of this material that I’ve used above and refer you to Gibbons’ article.

6. Conclusion

Based on Psalm 92:7, evildoers, the wicked, at death will be doomed to eternal destruction or annihilation.

However, it is important to understand that the destiny of unbelievers at death is not described by one verse and that destiny is progressively revealed as we move from the Old Testament into the New Testament. Other dimensions include those described by Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna above.

With the more detailed evidence on life after death in progressive revelation from the Old Testament to the New Testament, the context of 2 Thess. 1:7-9 (ESV) tells us:

  • unbelievers will be repaid with affliction;
  • In this affliction, God is inflicting vengeance;
  • This vengeance is called ‘eternal destruction’;
  • And it means being ‘away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might’.


Geisler, N 2003. Systematic Theology: God, Creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House.

Keil, C F & Delitzsch, F n d. Commentary on the Old Testament: Job, vol 4. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company.[9]

Morey, R A 1984. Death and the Afterlife. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Ramm, B 1970. Protestant Biblical Interpretation: A Textbook of Hermeneutics (3rd edn). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.


[1] Then Bernard Ramm proceeds to give examples of this from the New Testament.

[2] This is probably from the 1769 revision of the KJV. It is not from the original 1611 edition. This is how the KJV 1611 edition reads for Psalm 92:6-7: ‘A brutish man knoweth not: neither doeth a foole vnderstand this. 7 When the wicked spring as the grasse, and when all the workers of iniquitie doe flourish: it is that they shall be destroyed for euer’.

[3] Christian Forums, Bibliology & Hermeneutics, ‘Anyone else here reads the American Standard Version?’, childofdust #60, 2 November 2012. Available at: (Accessed 3 November 2012).

[4] The following material is based on the exposition by J. Gibbons, ‘”Hell” in the King James Version’, available at: (Accessed 11 October 2012).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] This is from the 10 volume Old Testament commentary.


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 June 2016.