HADES: SOME OBJECTIONS
Doubtless many will take exception to some of the views offered in the foregoing pages; and, while we regret this, yet we must make it clear that we write not of what we have been taught by our fellowmen, but from a close personal study of God’s Word. We are convinced that we have set forth nothing other than the Scriptural doctrine of Hades and allied themes, brief, concise, and to the point; this we are prepared to offer to God, to His glory, knowing that there is no duplicity in our heart.
Probably the chief objection will be that the saints do not go to Hades at death, but direct to heaven and we shall be asked — "Have you never read 2 Corinthians 5:8 where Paul says that ‘to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord’ or Philippians 1:23 — ‘having a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better’"? To this we answer that we are aware of the many Scriptures used to support the view that the departed saints are now in heaven, but — we cannot accept these as they are texts in isolation and as such they may support that particular view, they do not harmonise with the rest of the Scriptures on this teaching, and in fact even contradict it, this we hope to show in this section. Let us now look at these ‘mainstays’ of this view and examine them a little closer and see if they say what they are supposed to say.
If we were to read 2 Corinthians 5: 8 in the R.V. or a good literal translation, we will note that there is a slightly different rendering, but never-the-less an important one. There is reads: "absent from the body and to be home with the Lord." This, it will be admitted, does not require the force of "present with the Lord." To be present with the Lord DEMANDS that the person should always be before the Lord’s presence. To be at home demands only that the person be required to dwell in the abode supplied by the Lord — let it be where it will. Take an example from daily life: one can be living at home with one’s father yet the father be seldom there because he is a travelling man. On the other hand, to be present with one’s father demands that he should be accompanied on his travels.
Paul’s yearning to be at home with the Lord requires nothing more than what was the desire of the Old Testament saints when they spoke in a similar strain. Job speaks thus: "I know that Thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house (BAYITH - HOME) appointed for ALL living" (Job 30:23). The word "BAYITH" is rendered some 25 times in the Old Testament as "home." The word used in the New Testament is "ENDEMEO" and the translators render it as "home" in verse 6: "whilst we are at HOME in the body, we are absent from the Lord." As we have seen in our study, the saints of the old economy looked forward to going to this "abode" of the Lord at death — it was our equivalent to going home to be with the Lord, although nowadays WE have changed its sense to "going to heaven." To the saint who is that little bit older in the Lord than others, we ask, "Does it not seem a pleasant prospect at times to be finished with this sinful world and to depart to be at home with the Lord?" Before we leave this, let it be recalled that in the 23rd. Psalm, it speaks of the Old Testament saint going "through the valley of the shadow of death ... FOR THOU ART WITH ME." Now the destination of the saint in this passage will not be doubted — it was Sheol, yet he was assured of the presence of the Lord. In Psalm 116:15 we read, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Is the saints’ death any more precious today than it was 3000 years ago when this was written? Christ the Lord conformed in every instance the customs of death as laid down by the Father, who are we that we should set these aside and MAKE OUR OWN WAY THROUGH DEATHS DARK VALE?
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
It is held that this verse teaches that when Christ ascended to the Father, He led captivity captive — meaning the captive saints of Sheol were loosed from their bondage, and ever since have (and do) dwell in heaven with the Lord. There is no doubt that in isolation this text can be made to say this; but if it is to read harmoniously with the rest of the scriptures then it cannot mean what has been stated above. The expression "led captivity captive" is used twice in the Old Testament. The first occurs in Judges 5: 12, and is the cry of Deborah to Barak who had returned victorious from a battle with Sisera. She was instructing him as the victorious commander to lead forth in a victory parade in which he would go in front of his chained ENEMY CAPTIVES. Deborah certainly did not mean that he was to gather his own soldiers who may have been prisoners of Sisera and whom had been released at victory.
The second mention is found in Psalm 68: 18, and it has the same thought. The Psalm records a military operation — when God arises His enemies are dispersed and those that hate Him flee. Then after a mighty victory, we read in verse 18, which Norlie translates as, "You have emerged victorious carrying off captives and receiving tribute from men, EVEN FROM REBELS." The same translator renders Ephesians 4:8 as, "When He went on high, He took many captives with Him, and He gave gifts to men."
We ask a simple straightforward question at this point: did Paul when he quoted this verse from Psalm 68, mean to reverse the interpretation from the original? This reversal of the meaning seems to us more like the work of man — especially in the light of Colossians 2: 15 where Paul distinctly tells us that Christ, having spoiled (gained the victory) over principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly (a public spectacle) in which He triumphed over them in it. These then are the captives which the Lord led forth in triumph, and this harmonises with the tenor of Scripture rather than clashing even to the point of contradiction.
Further, if the general interpretation of Ephesians 4: 8 is correct, can it be explained why, when these captive saints were led out of Sheol and into heaven, was king David left behind? Peter, speaking under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in Acts 2: 29, 34, concerning David says, "Men [and] brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. ... For David is not ascended into the heavens. ..." The time factor is very important here, for Peter speaks on the Day of Pentecost which was ten days AFTER the Lord ascended into heaven. We are told by those who see in Ephesians 4: 8 the saints being led aloft, that Sheol — or at least that part called Abraham’s bosom and Paradise — is now empty; but how can this be so if even one saint were left behind and most certainly David is still there? We have shown by quoting the early church writers that none of them believed that saints to be anywhere other than that place called Abraham’s bosom.
Then, it is objected, Paul in Philippians 1: 23 had a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better — does not this carry the import that the saint goes to heaven at death? To isolate this verse on its own, it could be made to say so; but we do not believe that it does — this is reading into it what one WANTS to see there. We have shown that it is GAIN for the saint to die, and he who is living in the fullness of the Lord actually looks forward to "being with Christ"’ but whether he wants to believe it or not, he will go to that "home" spoken of by Job (30: 23) and Paul (2 Corinthians 5: 8). These saints are not tucked away in a corner and forgotten about until the resurrection — no, far from it for they are alive unto God (Luke 20: 38) and can commune with the Lord (Revelation 6: 9-11). They — being unhindered with the body of sin and being in nature, spirit — can appreciate the presence of the Lord to a degree far beyond that which we can comprehend. This is the thought behind the words of Philippians 1: 6, where the good work of Christ CONTINUES in the believer until the day of Christ, which will be the day of his perfection. Let us acknowledge that even in this body of sin, we can still appreciate to some degree the presence of the Lord — for has He not promised this to His people (Matthew 18: 20)?
If we had read further in Ephesians 4 and had gone to verse 10, we would have had the answer concerning the presence of the Lord. There we read, "He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all heavens THAT HE MIGHT FILL ALL THINGS." That is, that He might fill the universe with His presence; and, must not this be so for the fulfilment of Matthew 18: 20? The Psalmist had this thought in mind when he wrote, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou [art] there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou [art there]." No matter where the saint goes in life or death, he is assured of the presence of the Lord.
Let us not forget the circumstances in which Paul wrote the words of Philippians 1: 23. He was languishing in prison, chained night and day to a Roman soldier, and the treatment of prisoners in those days left a lot to be desired. Remember also that he was now an old man with a hard physical life behind him (2 Corinthians 11: 23-29). Under such circumstances can we be surprised that he yearned to be with Christ which is far better? But, let us be honest, does Paul say WHERE he is going in order to be with Christ? If we say "heaven" then we are reading into the Scriptures something that we ASSUME to be there, and this can be a dangerous course in the study of the Word of God. We say then that there is insufficient evidence in these words of Paul to substantiate a premise that his departure would mean his going to heaven. Our answer is that there is nothing in these Scriptures that are not satisfied in our remarks of Philippians 1: 23; but, however, we are of the opinion that these scriptures refer to a yet future event when the resurrected saint shall be caught up to be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4: 17).
is probably the final and most important objection is found in Paul’s words of 2 Corinthians 12: 1-14. He speaks of an
experience which doubtless he had himself, although, whether it was himself or
someone else is immaterial. The fact of the matter was that he was caught
away to the "third heaven" (verse 2) and caught away to
If we read the text aright, we see that Paul speaks of visions and revelations (plural), so we must expect him to speak of more than one experience, and when we continue to read we see that he does. It says in our version that he was "caught up" to the third heaven — it does not say so in the Greek. The word rendered "Caught up" is HARPAZO and literally means to "catch away" BUT DOES NOT CONVEY THE SENSE OF DIRECTION. This can only be gained by adding the appropriate word and thus indicating direction. The translators in this case have added "up" and, no doubt, rightly. There are far too many references in scripture as to the direction of heaven to cause doubt on this point.
When we come to the second experience, we see that they assume it was the same one he had already spoken of, and again they add the word "up." This however, is quite wrong, for nowhere in scripture do we get the impression that "paradise" is up in heaven. (The word is mentioned three times in the New Testament: Luke 23:43; Revelation 2:7; and in our text).
There can be no doubt at all as to the meaning of "paradise" in Luke 23:43, or its location — for the thief received the promise that he would be there that same day with the Lord Jesus. If we read in the scripture that three days later the Lord had not yet ascended into heaven, and also that when He died He descended into the lower parts of the earth, we must conclude with the Jewish belief that paradise was part of Sheol, which, by the way, the Lord condoned in Luke 16. (Compare Luke 23: 43; John 20: 17; Matthew 12: 40; Romans 12: 7; Ephesians 4: 9).
The mention of paradise in Revelation 2: 7 on its own is incomplete, for then it is only part of a term which in its fullness is "the paradise of God"; and this we believe to be part of the future (Revelation 22: 2). Whereas the "paradise" of Luke and 2 Corinthians has to do with the believer in the spirit or unclothed state (2 Corinthians 5: 1-4) BEFORE resurrection. The "paradise of God" will be enjoyed by the believer in his clothed state i.e. in the spiritual body AFTER the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).
These, we would hazard, are the chief objections that could be raised to what has been written and they are not really objections, except of course if they are read with a view to supporting a theory.
In our study, we have dealt with the theme of Hades and have tried to keep within the limits of what the scriptures reveal concerning it. We have not brought in any other topics other than the "lake of fire" which we touched only lightly because it is the ultimate of Hades (Revelation 20: 14) and therefore closely connected. We trust that this short treatise will be used of the Lord to exercise His people to a more diligent study of His own precious Word, wherein alone is to be found truth. Oh, that we were more like the Bereans of old, who searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so (Acts 17:10-11). Unfortunately, we are not; for if a thing is said from the pulpit or something is read in the book of a "sound" author, these are accepted without question or investigation. In closing, let the Word of God as spoken through David have the last word: "It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man" (Psalm 118: 8).