August 16, 2015
This lesson begins with some thought provoking questions that will hopefully start other questions that will be answered in this lesson.
Where will your spirit go when you die?
Most Christians will quickly answer this question with “Heaven.” There is a problem though. Nowhere in the Bible, Old Testament or New, does it say this.
Where did Jesus’ spirit go when he died?
Most Christians will quickly also answer this question with “Heaven.” There is a problem though – it isn’t true. According to the Bible translation you are using, Acts 2 says twice that his soul went to Hell, Hades, or “the place of the dead.” Many other verses back that up and some of those will be quoted in this lesson.
Why would Jesus go to Hell? He lived a perfect and faultless life, didn’t he? Some people have tried to explain it by saying that Jesus’ spirit went to Hell because he had taken on the sins of the world. In this lesson we will explain why that isn’t why he went to Hell.
Where did Moses’ spirit go when he died?
Most Christians will quickly also answer this question with “Heaven.” There is a problem though – that can’t be true.
For God loved the world in this way: so much that he would give up his son, the only one, so that everyone who
trusts in him shall not be lost, but he shall have eternal life. (John 3:16)
But a thief does not come except to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have whatever
is abundant. (John 10:10)
How would it be possible for Moses, or any of the Old Testament saints, to have eternal life in Heaven before Jesus came? If that was possible then there would be no point in Jesus coming, for people were already enjoying eternal life.
Conversely though, it might seem harsh that they should go to Hell.
Where will the dead believers go after the resurrection?
Most Christians will quickly also answer this question with “Back to Heaven.” There is a problem though – that makes the resurrection meaningless. If you are in Heaven when the resurrection occurs and are then raised in a new body and then go back to Heaven, what is the point of having a new body? If you were happy in Heaven before before receiving the new body in the resurrection and you are just as happy in Heaven afterward, the new body is of no value.
Paul says we should console believers by saying we will see dead believers again in “???”
Most Christians will quickly also answer this question with “Heaven.” There is a problem though – that isn’t what the Bible says. Paul specifically says we will see them again at the resurrection.
Throughout the New Testament the hope of the apostles, and the churches they started, was on the resurrection. In our time the focus has turned to Heaven.
Where will you spend eternity?
Most Christians will quickly also answer this question with “Heaven.” There is a problem though – that isn’t what the Bible says. It is clear in Revelation, and Old Testament prophets spoke of it as well, that we will spend eternity on the New Earth and the place that God has prepared for us will come down to the New Earth from Heaven.
Where will the unbelievers spend eternity?
Most Christians will quickly also answer this question with “Hell.” There is a problem though – that isn’t what the Bible says. On judgement day the unbelievers will be pulled out of Hell / Hades / “the place of the dead” and judged. Those not found in the book of life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire along with Hell / Hades / “the place of the dead”.
Most Christians do not understand heaven and hell or the realms of the universe, or the resurrection, judgement day, the New Earth, or the Lake of Fire.
Relationship to Earth, Sky, and Space
We are spiritual beings united with physical bodies. When the body dies, the spiritual being is separated from it.
This points to a spiritual realm and a physical realm. The physical realm includes the entire universe. No matter where you go in the physical realm, there is no way to get to the spiritual realm. This diagram shows the physical realm between the spiritual realms of Third Heaven and Sheol.
In this lesson we will use the Old Testament Hebrew word “Sheol” instead of the words “Hell” or “Hades.” This is due to the
confusion associated with those places
I think it is best to think of the physical realm as a small piece that has been set aside within the spiritual realm. It was created to be a lesser place – a shadow of the spiritual realm.
We understand that the Earth is not flat and that the heavens above are not stacked up on it. We know that, from different points on the Earth’s surface, “up” is a different direction. When someone from the diametrically opposite position on Earth from us points up, he or she is pointing in the opposite direction we are when we point up. This drawing shows the heavens, the earth, and Sheol as God describes them.
God is consistent in this. When Jesus ascends to heaven after his Resurrection he rises up until he is covered by a cloud. When Samuel is brought up from the dead by the Witch of Endor,1 he comes up from the ground, as though the place of the dead was beneath our feet.
Beginning with the Earth and moving up, we find the first heaven, which we call the atmosphere. This is where birds fly and clouds wander. Moving up from that, we find the second heaven, which we call space. This is where the moon, planets, sun, and stars exist. It is interesting to note that the Bible identifies these heavens as being separate realms, when human observation might lead us to believe that the points of light in space would be lights within the atmosphere.
The physical realm is also a shadow realm. I am quite convinced that much of it, maybe all of it, is a shadow of things in the spiritual realm. This apparent contradiction is for our instruction. For example, the sun, moon, and stars and the facts that the sun rules the day and the moon rules the night tell us about God, who is the light; Satan, who only reflects light and has no light of his own; and all the angels. You probably know that some of the objects in the Jewish temple were shadows of things in heaven and that the Jewish feast days were shadows of the Messiah’s plan of salvation. In addition, water, which we can’t live without for more than a few days, tells us about the living water that we need.
As mentioned in the last section, it isn’t possible to move up from the second heaven to the third heaven. There is no physical up that would take you there. To get to the third heaven, we would need to step out of the universe, but, of course, we cannot do that. However, the third heaven is real, and the Apostle Paul refers to it in 2 Corinthians 12:
I knew a man in the Messiah more than 14 years ago, whether in the body or without the body, I do not know, God himself knows, who was snatched up unto the third Heaven.
In this verse, Paul is describing himself in this way so as not to boast. Therefore the “man in the Messiah” is Paul. His point is that he doesn’t know what form he was in, but he was taken to the third heaven and saw it.
Going down from Earth, we see Sheol, as it is called in the Old Testament and in some New Testament translations, or Hades, as it is called in the Greek texts, or hell in most English texts. The word Hades began as the name of the Greek god of the underworld and over time, it also became the name of the underworld, the place where the dead went. The Greek idea of the place of the dead, Hades, is very different from the Hades the Bible describes. The name hell comes from Old English as the name of the place of the dead. The ancient Germanic hell was also a very different place from the Judeo-Christian place of the dead.
I prefer not to use hell or Hades and instead use the Hebrew word Sheol. As you will see, Sheol has become confused with the ideas of hell and Hades. This is one way in which some ideas from pagan religions have crept in to Christianity.
Like the third heaven, Sheol isn’t a place that you can get to from the physical realm. You can’t dig a hole deep into the earth and expect to get to it. Medieval books and drawings often depicted it as a subterranean place with fires burning everywhere and demons torturing naked people.2 They did not understand correctly. Those images come from the minds of humans, not the Bible. The only way to get to Sheol is to be born and then to die a physical death.
The first thing that will come as a surprise to many Christians is that all the dead go to Sheol rather than the godly going to heaven and the ungodly going to hell. Jesus describes this place in his story about the rich man and Lazarus:
There was a certain rich man, and he wore fine white linen and purple and everyday he celebrated luxuriously. And there was a certain poor man whose name was Lazar and he lay at the gate of that rich man, being stricken with abscesses. And he longed to fill his belly with the fragments that fell from the rich man’s table, but also the dogs would come licking his abscesses.
But that poor man died and Angels brought him to the Bosom of Abraham. And the rich man also died and he was buried. And suffering in Sheol, he lifted up his eyes from afar off and he saw Abraham, and Lazar in his bosom. And he called in a loud voice and he said, ‘My father, Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazar to dip the tip of his finger in water and moisten my tongue for me; behold, I am suffering in this flame.’ Abraham said to him, ‘My son, remember that you have received your good things in your life and Lazar, his evil things, and now, behold, he is comforted here and you are suffering. And along with all these things, there stands a great abyss between us and you, so that those who would pass from here to you are not able, neither is whoever is there able to pass over to us.'” (Luke 16:19-26)
Three places are mentioned here: the Bosom of Abraham, Sheol, and the abyss. The Bosom of Abraham is more a description of a place than its name. The word bosom symbolizes care or protection, so the Bosom of Abraham means “under the care or protection of Abraham.” The abyss separates the place where Abraham is from the rest of Sheol.
Some people argue that the Bosom of Abraham is heaven, but there are good reasons to say that this is not so. Jesus knew what heaven was and uses the word many times. Here he uses Bosom of Abraham, but when he is on the cross in Luke 23, he uses the word paradise:
But Yeshua said to him, “Amen, I say to you that today you shall be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23: 43)
Some people want to believe that paradise is another name for heaven, but the following passage from 2 Corinthians 12 indicates that this is not correct, as Paul indicates that he made separate trips to the third heaven and to paradise:
I knew a man in the Messiah more than 14 years ago, whether in the body or without the body, I do not know, God himself knows, who was snatched up unto the third Heaven.
And I knew this man, if in a body or if without the body, I do not know, God himself knows, who was snatched up to Paradise and heard words that are unspeakable, because it is not authorized for a man to speak them. (2 Cor. 12:2-4)
Paul describes two separate events with two separate destinations. One destination is the third heaven. The other is same place where Jesus says he will be in Luke 23:43 above.
Many Christians so desire to believe that the godly go to heaven that they don’t realize that heaven isn’t where Jesus went when he died. In this passage Peter describes where Jesus did go when he died:
Because the Messiah also died once for the sake of our sins, the Righteous One in the place of sinners, to bring you to God, and he died in body and lived in his Spirit. And he preached to those souls who were held in Sheol, these who from the first were not convinced in the days of Noah when the long-suffering of God commanded that there would be an ark, upon the hope of their repentance, and only eight souls entered it and were kept alive by water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)
Here, we see Jesus preaching to the souls in Sheol, and we can infer that he is with them. The following also says he was in Sheol:
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will you allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. (Ps. 16:10, NASB)
In Acts 2:27, Peter quotes the verse above as a prophecy that the Messiah would die and rise again:
“Because you did not leave my soul in Sheol and you did not give your pure one to see destruction.”
We should also not forget the result of Jesus’ having been in Sheol and having risen again. We see this in Revelation 1:18:
I am he who lived and died, and behold, I am alive to the eternity of eternities, amen, and I have the key of Death and of Sheol.
Having the key means that he has the ability to come and go and do as he pleases.
We also see in Romans 10:6-7 that Jesus did not go to heaven when he died:
But the righteousness which is in faith says thus: “You shall not say in your heart, ‘Who ascended to Heaven and sent down the Messiah?, and who went down to the Abyss of Sheol and brought up the Messiah from among the dead?'”
Jesus himself spoke about where he had been in John 20:17:
Yeshua said to her, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to join my Father, and go join my brothers and say to them that I ascend to join my Father and your Father, my God, and your God.”
Because he says “I have not yet ascended to be with my Father” – who is in heaven – we know that he has not been there.
Going back to the discussion of the Bosom of Abraham, Jesus’ change from using Bosom of Abraham when he was preaching, to paradise when he was on the cross is important because Bosom of Abraham conveys the idea of being under the protection of the covenant with Abraham and, thus, the covenant with Israel, but this covenant excluded Gentiles. However, when Jesus preached to the pre-Noah people in 1 Peter 3:20, he was bringing any people who would accept him into the new covenant, shown by the change from Bosom of Abraham to paradise.
We don’t know much about the abyss because there are so few references to it, but one appears in Luke 8:30-31:
But Yeshua asked him, “What is your name?” But he said to him, “Legion”, because many demons had entered him. And they were begging him that he would not command them to enter the abyss.
John Accomando, from the Facebook group “ The three Views on the Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post Tribulation“, makes a good point when he says “consider John 14:1-3, which is a picture of the betrothal. The Lord described one day coming to receive us unto Himself. How can thousands of believers, therefore, go to Heaven each day? That would mean the bride has been with the bridegroom for 2,000 years.” John doesn’t use the word but I believe he alludes to a pre-marital relationship, shacking-up.
Hell as a Place of Punishment
In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man finds himself in Sheol, but angels carry Lazarus to the place of protection. The rich man is “suffering in Sheol” and says “have pity on me and send Lazar to dip the tip of his finger in water and moisten my tongue for me; behold, I am suffering in this flame.”
Why is he suffering? Some will say this is his punishment for the life he lived, but that cannot be true. God would never punish anyone who had not been judged, and we know that judgment day for the unfaithful is still at least one thousand years away and will certainly not happen until after Jesus the Messiah returns.
It may seem that Abraham’s message to the rich man shows this is a punishment, “My son, remember that you have received your good things in your life and Lazar, his evil things, and now, behold, he is comforted here and you are suffering”. Having good things in this life is not a sin and living in poverty does not make one righteous. Abraham’s point is that the rich man lived for the good things in life, did not prepare for the afterlife and now does not have the protection Lazarus has due to his preparation. Therefore the rich man is not suffering due to punishment.
Instead, the rich man suffers because he does not have life. We in the Western world think of life and death as being opposite states of existence, but the Bible doesn’t portray it that way. In the Bible, it is possible to have existence but not have life. This is the rich man’s state. His body had life, which may also be called the breath of life or the water of life, but he is now separated from that body, and the place that he is in has no water of life. That lack of water of life feels like dryness to him – a dryness so intense that it feels like flame.
In Matthew 12:43, Jesus describes cast-out demons having a similar experience:
But whenever a foul spirit goes out from a man, it wanders about in places without water in them, and it seeks rest and does not find it.
The demons’ access to the water of life is cut off when they are cast out. As we see in Matthew 8:29-31, even enjoying the life that flows within pigs was better than that:
And they cried out and they were saying, “What do we have to do with you, Yeshua, Son of God? Have you come here before the time to punish us?” But there was distant from them a herd of many pigs grazing. But those demons were begging him and saying, “If you cast us out, allow us to go into the herd of pigs.”
Those in the Bosom of Abraham do have the water of life, and the rich man’s words tell us that. He asks for only a drop on his tongue.
So, whether you call it Sheol, Hell, or Hades, it is not a place of punishment. The torment in that place comes from being a spirit without a body and, therefore, without life. The Bosom of Abraham is a place of protection.
The torment would indeed be horrible, so being left in a place like Sheol without the water of life might seem like a punishment, but this death, this separation, is the consequence of sin and has been so since the time of the original sin.
Don’t misunderstand what I’ve said. There is a judgment day and there is a place of punishment, a second death and separation, but that place is not Sheol, Hades, or Hell.
Sheol is a temporary place for all who go there. In the end, after Judgment Day, it will be thrown in the lake of fire, according to Revelation 20:14:
And Death and Sheol were cast into the Lake of Fire – this which is the second death.
Before that, though, the Messiah will return. At that time, all those on the paradise side of Sheol will be judged and resurrected into new spiritual bodies that will ascend to be with the Messiah and to rule the Earth with him for one thousand years.
Then, on Judgment Day, everyone left in Sheol will be brought out and will not receive new bodies. As far as we know, everyone in that group will be found guilty and will be punished with the lake of fire – eternal separation from God, eternal separation from the water of life, eternal separation from his light, and eternal separation from his love.
After Judgment Day, those who have stayed with the Messiah will continue on, living with God in new heavens and a new Earth3 that have replaced the current ones.
It’s important to clarify that Sheol is not the same as what the Roman Catholic Church calls purgatory. Purgatory has no biblical basis and so does not exist.
Some people are so adamant that the faithful go to heaven when they die that they maintain their false belief even when they see that the Bible says otherwise. To rationalize this belief, they say, in general, that when Jesus was in Sheol, he cut a path from there to heaven so all of the faithful could get to heaven. The lesson “Moving Paradise” discusses this claim.
Another problem with the view that Christians will go straight to Heaven is perfection. Death does not make us perfect so how is it possible that imperfect people could exist in heaven? The Roman Catholic Church understands the problem here, but most Protestants do not understand perfection enough to understand the problem.
Unfortunately the Roman Catholic Church resolved the problem by inventing Purgatory, a place where people could be purged and perfected by fiery torment. With that invention it became possible to have the people who had perfected themselves in life go straight to Heaven and those who hadn’t completely perfected themselves in life could go to Purgatory to finish the process.
First, no man can perfect himself in life. That simply isn’t possible. Second, perfection does not come by the suffering of torment. Third, the Bible is quite clear about perfection, when and how it happens. Consider these verses.
I have not yet received it, neither am I yet perfect, but I run so that I may obtain that thing for which [Jesus] the Messiah apprehended me. 13 My brethren, I do not consider myself to have obtained it, but I know one thing: I have forgotten that which is behind me and I reach out before me, 14 And I run toward the goal to take the victory of the calling of God from on high in [Jesus] The Messiah. 15 Let those who are perfected, therefore, be governed by these things, and if you are governed by anything else, God will reveal this also to you. (Philippians 3:12-15)
In the verses above we see Paul saying that he himself is not yet perfect.
But when perfection shall come, then that which is partial shall be nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:10)
Above we see that perfection has not yet come. Then next we see that when it does come we will all be perfected together.
[They were] persons of whom the world was not worthy; and they were as wanderers in desert places and in mountains and in caves and caverns of the Earth. 39 And all of these, concerning whom there is a testimony of their faith, did not receive the Promise 40 because God provided for our benefit that they would not be made perfect without us. (Hebrews 11:38-40)
Paul is referring to the Rapture in the last verse above. This can be seen more clearly in 1 John 3:2-3.
Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not been revealed until now what we are going to be, but we know that when he has been revealed, we shall be in his likeness, and we shall see him just as what he is. 3 And everyone who has this hope upon him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
The Opposing View Presented
The teaching in this chapter is difficult for most people in the church to hear. For many centuries most of the church has taught that, when you die, you go straight to Heaven or Hell forever. This persists I believe because so few churches teach the Millennium, Great White Throne Judgment, or the resurrection of anyone but Jesus. With only a little thought these Biblical principles invalidate the “Heaven or Hell forever” teaching.
It may come as a surprise to many that nowhere in the Bible does it say that anyone will go to Heaven when they die. To get that idea from the Bible requires eisegesis, filling in the blanks with imagination and ignoring or twisting scriptures.
I asked the author of a large theology website to show me where the Bible said that anyone would go straight to Heaven. These are the verses and reasoning he sent me.
Because of this we trust and we long to depart from the body and to be with Our Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)
Author: This states that once our mortal bodies die, we go to be with the Lord.
No it doesn’t. The author imagines that there is no intermediate state between life and death. Paul shows that he believes there is one when he says “we shall not all sleep” (1 Corinthians 15:51). Jesus also mentions “sleep” as an intermediate state for Lazarus. Notice that he does not say that Lazarus, a believer, is in Heaven. The Old Testament also supports an intermediate state. Daniel 12:2 refers to it and other verses do as well.
Paul doesn’t mention the intermediate state in the verse above because it isn’t relevant to his point. Without realizing it, we make statements like Paul makes here. If I say “I long to depart New York and to be in San Antonio” the listener understands that I won’t vanish from New York and instantly be in San Antonio. There is a process involved. I have to get in my rental car, drive to the airport, get on a plane, wait for hours, get off the plane, get in my car, and drive home.
Jesus made the same kind of statement in John 16:10, when he said “I go to be with my father”. Here’s what actually happened. He went from the site where he spoke those words to the Garden of Gethsemane, then to various courts in Jerusalem, then to crucifixion, then to Sheol, then resurrected, then here and there for 40 days, then he ascended to be with his father.
Paul does mention the intermediate state in 2 Corinthians 5:3-4 “If also whenever we are clothed we shall not be found naked. For as we are now in this house, we are made to groan by its weight, and we do not want to strip it off, but to put on over it, that its mortality may be swallowed up by life.” In these verses he describes three states of being: in an Earthly house, naked, and in a house from Heaven. He says that although we groan in this house we do not want to strip it off and be naked. Instead he says we want to have the house from Heaven swallow up the earthly house which is a reference to the Rapture. In his statements he makes it plain that he does not want to be in the naked state. He would look forward to that naked state if he would be with God, but instead he looks forward to the Rapture. Therefore we know that there is an intermediate state and it is not with God.
And Moses and Elijah appeared to them as they were speaking with him (Matthew 17:1-8 especially verse 3).
Author: There Moses and Elijah were both alive, prior to the resurrection and not in their physical bodies.
The author’s point here is a continuation of his previous point. He is saying that Moses and Elijah do not have physical bodies, and Paul said that he longs to leave his physical body and to be with our Lord. Therefore Moses and Elijah are in Heaven. Nothing in this verse says anything about where Moses and Elijah are. Therefore it cannot be used as supporting evidence for the premise. At best it would be used to show the location of Moses and Elijah … if the main premise was true.
Author: And in addition to the many other verses discussing Heaven as the dwelling place/destination for believers, to focus in on some specific ones, I would present:
The author tries to increase the impact of his argument by claiming there is a large body of verses he can draw from to support the idea. There are not, as we will see.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (Philippians 3:20)
This verse is problematic in this area and is different in other translations. The Greek has “politeuma” meaning “government” or “citizenship”. The Aramaic translation used in this book has the word “business.” By combining those meanings we see Paul’s point is not that we will go there but that we are members of a body governed from there. We are made members of that body by the Holy Spirit, who is from there.
To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (1 Peter 1:4)
The author imagines that because our inheritance is in Heaven now that we will go there to get it. Revelation 22:12 says “Behold, I come at once, and my reward is with me, and I shall give to every person according to his work.” Our reward comes to us, not us to the reward. A similar argument is often raised using “In my father’s house there are many rooms” (John 14:2). The response is essentially the same. Revelation describes the holy city coming down to us.
But Yeshua said to him, “Amen, I say to you that today you shall be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Author: So even though the thief’s body was to be left behind after he dies, the thief would be with the Lord in paradise.
The author assumes that Paradise is a synonym for Heaven. It is not, as shown earlier in this chapter. Also, Jesus did not go to Heaven when he died – he went to Sheol or as it says in some translations “hell.”
Some might say that Jesus died as a sinner and that is why he went to hell. This idea comes from 2 Corinthians 5:21
For he who had not known sin made himself to become sin in your place, that we would become the righteousness of God in him.
That isn’t what the verse is saying though. On closer examination we realize that we can become sinners but we cannot become sin. Similarly, as we look later in the verse, we realize that we can become righteous but we cannot become righteousness. Paul is using some artful language to make his point. Peter makes the same point in less artful language.
He took all of our sins and lifted them in his body to the cross, for as we are dead to sin, we shall live in his righteousness, for by his scars you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
Now we can begin to see that they are talking about the Jewish sacrifices for sin which were a foreshadowing of the sacrifice that Jesus would make. In those sacrifices there was a symbolic transferal of sin from the person to the sacrificial animal. The animal did not become a sinner. Instead the animal was the carrier of the sin and its blood was the symbolic atonement (payment) for that sin. This is stated even more clearly in Romans 3:25.
This one whom God preordained as the atonement, by the faith of his blood, for the sake of our sins which we had formerly sinned,
Nothing can be more important in resolving questions like this than understanding what the Apostles taught the first churches as recorded in the Bible. We’ve already seen Paul teach about the naked state in 2 Corinthians 5:3-4 as a bodyless state between the earthly body and the resurrection body.
We also see support in the apostle’s teaching on hope. In 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul comforts the church with the hope that they have saying
I want you to know my brethren, that you should not have sorrow for those who are asleep, as do the rest of mankind
who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
His point is that we should not be sad for those Christians who have died because we have a hope, which he then describes
For if we believe that Yeshua died and arose, in this way also God shall bring [to be] with him those who have fallen asleep in Yeshua. (1 Thessalonians 4:14)
We see this in almost every epistle. The great hope of the apostles, which they pass on to the churches to comfort them through persecution and death, is the Second Coming and the resurrection that comes with that.
In modern times we do not comfort the suffering and the survivors this way. Instead we comfort them with words like “He’s in a better place now” or “He’s with Jesus and the angels”. But nowhere in the epistles do the apostles comfort anyone that way. The reason is that they knew the truth.
How the church got this false teaching
For all cases where false teachings have gotten into the church, the general answer is the same – people wanted it because they thought it benefited them. Sometimes it was the laity; sometimes it was the leaders; sometimes both. If a false teaching offered nothing or added trouble, you can be sure that someone would have pulled out a Bible and said “Show me where that is.”
It might seem insane for the people to bring a false teaching into the church and believe it will benefit them. It’s a false teaching. It’s also a new teaching, which should make it suspect. Of course they don’t see it as a false teaching. They’ve convinced themselves it is a true teaching because they want it to be true.
The Catholic church has many examples of false teachings coming in. Purgatory was loved by the people because it gave them a chance after death to work off the debt of their sins and still receive everlasting life.
The introduction of many of the false teachings into the Catholic Church can be dated from historical records. The further back it happened, though, the fewer records there are available. That’s the case with the false teaching of Heaven and Hell. It was introduced soon after the apostles were gone. There is only one record I know of that deals with the topic. This was written by Justin Martyr, who was born in 100 AD and died (martyred) 65 years later. He is one of the earliest church fathers whose writings have survived to our time.
Justin also stated, “For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians” (Dialogue. Chapter 80).
We see two things here. There were already those who were teaching that their souls would be taken to Heaven when they die. We see that the elders of the church were fighting against it. We also know who won that fight. The church today almost universally believes their souls will be taken to Heaven when they die.
In his book Basic Theology, Ryrie discusses the state Between Death And Resurrection. He covers the unredeemed prior to Jesus, the unredeemed after Jesus, and the redeemed prior to Jesus. The redeemed after Jesus are never covered. Apparently there is no need to because everybody already knows the answer – they go zooming up to Heaven.
As an example of how bad teachings lead to further bad teachings, Ryrie refers to the redeemed prior to Jesus. No such thing can exist. It is Jesus’ death that redeems and that redemption cannot come until he dies. Undeterred, Ryrie has them zooming off to Heaven as well. If the spirits of the Old Testament saints went to Heaven then there is no purpose in Jesus’ sacrifice. He said he came to give them everlasting life, but apparently, they already had that.
This has a secondary problem. Knowing the spirits of the Old Testament saints cannot go to Heaven leaves the question, then where did they go. If your model has only Heaven and Hell then there is only one remaining choice and that seems like a poor reward for a saint.
Getting back to Justin, he may be using hyperbole in describing the belief of that false teaching, that “there is no resurrection.” He may be saying that the effect of that teaching is that the resurrection has no purpose. Whatever the case, the modern teaching of Heaven and Hell is not exactly as Justin describes. Instead the resurrection has been made unimportant by this false teaching. Many Christians don’t know about a resurrection. Why would they? It offers them nothing. Most churches don’t even mention it. The only resurrection that is mentioned is that of Jesus.
Other Christians do know about the resurrection but have never considered that you can’t go to Heaven forever and also be resurrected. They exist in that state where two conflicting ideas are both believed to be true.
Also, because of this false teaching, none of them look forward to the Second Coming as the apostles did. With Heaven forever as their destination, there is nothing in the Second Coming for them.
The Place of the Dead
The New Testament contains 5 references to a place that most Christians would not recognize. It is neither Heaven nor Hell.
It is the place where the spirits of all the dead go.
And was revealed the son of God in power and by the Holy Spirit, who arose from the place of the dead, Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord. (Romans 1:4)
It is the place where the spirit of Jesus went. This resolves the problem in Acts 2 where many translations say that his spirit went to Hell or Hades. It also ridicules those who have tried to explain Acts 2 by saying that Jesus went to Hell because he became guilty of the sins of the world.
For we know that the Messiah arose from the place of the dead and he shall not die again, and death has no authority over him. (Romans 6:9)
This is largely a repetition of the verse above.
I also consider all these things a loss for the majesty of the knowledge of Yeshua the Messiah, my Lord, him for whose sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all as a dung heap, that I may gain The Messiah, 9 And be found in him, while I do not have my own righteousness, which is from the Law (Torah), but that which is from the faith of the Messiah, which is the righteousness that is from God, 10 that by it I may know Yeshua and the power of his resurrection, and that I may share in his sufferings and be conformed with his death, 11 that perhaps I may be able to come to the resurrection from the place of the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)
Note this. This is the Apostle Paul saying that he does not expect to be in Heaven at the time of the resurrection. He expects to be in the place of the dead.
Call to mind Yeshua the Messiah, who arose from the place of the dead, he who is from the seed of David according to my Gospel, (2 Timothy 2:8)
This is another confirmation that Jesus’ spirit did not go to Hell or to Heaven but to a place where the dead are.
Now the God of peace, who brought forth from the place of the dead the great shepherd of the flock, Yeshua the Messiah our Lord, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 perfect you in every good work to do his will and perform in us whatever is excellent before him by Yeshua the Messiah, to whom is glory to the eternity of eternities. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
Another confirmation concerning where Jesus’ spirit went.
I’ve spent far more time on this teaching than I planned to spend. I’ve only done so because this bad teaching is so very hard to remove from the church. But it’s important -Good teachings cannot be built on a bad foundation.
11 Samuel 28:3
2s.v. “Hell,” Wikipedia, accessed Dec. 9, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fra_Angelico_010.jpg