I began a conversation on my Facebook profile as we began to look at the concept of hell and how it relates to some of the things we have or been taught many years ago. We started seeing that some of the concepts of hell were borrowed not from the Bible but extra-religious sources.
Before Christianity, many religion has taught about hell however, in Judaism and Jewish culture from where Christian organisations sprang forth made no mention of hell whatsoever in its documents. Even the original writings of the Apostles didn’t mention it.
There have been several confusions surrounding the idea of hell in Christianity and this article is not meant to clear every bit of that confusion but to some extent, we will be throwing light into many areas that seem to be grey in the Bible concerning this subject matter.
As a child, we were taught that Jesus, after his death on the cross descended into hell to fight satan and take over the keys of death from him. During the recitation of the Apostles Creed, we also recite that Jesus descended into hell. The wrong translation of Hades to Hell in earlier English translation didn’t help. Some dictionaries have also included Hades as a synonym for hell which didn’t use to be so.
People mix up several things to mean hell as a result of poor translation. For example, where the Bible talks about the land of the dead or grave (Sheol), people understand it to mean hell all thanks to King James Version of the Bible. Here is one example
“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” Psalms 9:17 KJV
The word translated to hell above is “Sheol”. Here are the renderings of alternative translations.
“The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God.” Psalms 9:17 NIV
“Death is the destiny of all the wicked, of all those who reject God.” Psalms 9:17 GNB
“The wicked shall depart to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.” Psalms 9:17 RSV
HADES, SHEOL, PARADISE, LAKE OF FIRE
There are so many portions of the English Bible that was poorly translated like the one above. To start explaining them one after another may mean writing a book. So, to save time, I’d just explain some of these terms that were wrongly translated throughout some English Bible.
- Hades is a Greek word which means the realm of the dead. It is explained as a place where those who didn’t die in faith suffer. Jesus consented to this when he cited it in his parable. If we should take his parable literally, we can see that the suffering in Hades is restriction of access to joy, peace, rest and water. These things are subject to theological debates.
- Sheol is a Hebrew word sometimes generalized as the realm of the dead for both the righteous and unrighteous or as grave. Let’s see a verse
“If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
Psalms 139:8 KJV
The correct rendering is
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Psalms 139:8 NIV
Some other translations use the word Sheol. Sheol is most commonly used in the old testament to refer to the state of being physically dead.
- Paradise is also a realm of the dead for the virtuous. This is what Jesus refers to as Abraham’s bossom. Those who die in faith are carried by Angels to Paradise. This is true if we should take the parable of Jesus literally. But of course, in most of Jesus parables, he has always used symbols or stories relating to Jewish traditions.
- Lake of Fire is the final judgement of God on the wicked, Satan and his cohorts. The Lake of fire is called the second death, it simply means separation from God. Some people say the lake of fire is hell but it gets confusing when they read Revelations 20:13-14 KJV
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
Let’s see the correct rendering
“The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.” Revelation 20:13-14 NIV
“Then the sea gave up its dead. Death and the world of the dead also gave up the dead they held. And all were judged according to what they had done. Then death and the world of the dead were thrown into the lake of fire. (This lake of fire is the second death.)” Revelation 20:13-14 GNB
As you can see, the misconception of hell keeps us even more confused, it creates some kind of distortion and leaves us unbalanced when attempting to answer people’s questions.
The Bible truly didn’t mention hell anywhere both in the Old and New Testament. That is why most Bible translations don’t have hell even a single time. Hell could mean hades to one person or mean Lake of Fire to another person but the prevalent teaching concerning hell only creates confusion and distortion.
IS SATAN IN HELL? DID JESUS WENT TO HELL WHEN HE DIED?
Back to the main issue, people teach that Jesus went to hell to fight Satan when he died and they often quote Colossians 2:15 to prove this. “He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities…” Didn’t suggest or indicate that Jesus went to hell to fight satan neither does it indicate that Satan or anyone is in hell.
“In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” – Colossians 2:15 NLT
Look at those words carefully.
1. He disarmed Spiritual rulers and authorities
What does it mean to disarm? It means to win over, to deprive of means or to render powerless. Jesus rendered the spiritual rulers and authorities powerless, this isn’t about the devil alone, it includes the power and authority of the law which is the power of sin.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 NIV
By Grace and Truth, the enemy was disarmed. He will no longer accuse the brethren because we have been justified in Christ Jesus by grace.
2. He shamed them publicly by his victory on the cross
When Jesus was crucified on the cross, the sacrifice for sin was done once and for all. As his blood got spilled, the sin issue was settled forever and he lifted up his voice saying “it is finished”. The war was finished on the cross not somewhere in hell! The cross till today is the symbol of Christ’s victory over the spiritual rulers and authorities. The cross proves that the enemy has got nothing on us anymore. Hallelujah!
JESUS PREACHED IN SHEOL
We have established that Jesus didn’t go to hell to fight satan, we have also seen that some prevalent concepts of hell is an interpolation of different unrelated things. However, Jesus did go to sheol (the land of the dead). I had written an article on this “The Journey to Hades“.
“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison” 1 Peter 3:18-19 RSV
“For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God.” 1 Peter 4:6 RSV
Physical death is only a pathway to the land of the dead and this is why Jesus promised the thief “today, you shall be with me in paradise…”
“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 NLT
Jesus didn’t promise him that they would be in heaven “today”, he promised that they would be in paradise “today” because they were going to die physically that day.
There were two things Jesus did in the Land of the dead
- To preach to the spirits in prison. These are men who had died before his coming.
- Christ went to perfect the Old saints who died in the hope of salvation. Every man’s perfection lies in Jesus.
“You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect…” Hebrews 12:23 NLT
The Bible however didn’t suggest anywhere that Satan is in Sheol talk more of Jesus engaging him in any fight in a bid to take over authority. Satan lost us right there on the cross.
SATAN WILL BE DESTROYED FOREVER
Although I have pointed this out before, I want to do it again. The Bible tells us
“The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished. Afterward he must be released for a little while.” Revelation 20:3 NLT
At the moment, Satan has not been bound and people are still being deceived. If he has been bound, no one would be deceived again. So, it’s also untrue to assume that Satan has been thrown into abyss or hell. He could not be operating from bondage after all because the purpose of keeping him bound is so that he can’t carry out any further deceit again.
However, we now know what will be of Satan in the future. Let’s read that verse again with Amplified version
“And the angel hurled him into the abyss, and closed it and sealed it above him [preventing his escape or rescue], so that he would no longer deceive and seduce the nations, until the thousand years were at an end. After these things he must be liberated for a short time.” Revelation 20:3 AMP
We were not told why the devil has been left to keep deceiving people for now, we were not told why he would be bound only to be release again but we know whatever God does is in his own wisdom. We also know that God wants all men saved and has provided every means possible to get men accept his offer of Jesus and the salvation found in him. All we know is that the deceiver will be destroyed utterly at God’s time.
I hope this has been able to open your eyes to some things that has been a shallow topic in Christian circles. I want to encourage you, to make the habit of studying the word. Sometimes, we need to get ourselves prepared so that we can answer any question been thrown at us by people who are seeking the truth and what the Bible says concerning some of the things we profess.
I call you blessed.