The statement will probably come as a great surprise to the vast majority of modern Christians, even including the bulk of prophetical students, that for the first five centuries after Christ the mediaeval and modern doctrine that dead saints are [now] in heaven was unknown.  But such is the fact. "The most ancient of all the Fathers," says Dr. Pearson in his classic work on the Creed, "were so far from believing that the end of Christ's descent into Hades was to translate the saints of old into heaven, that they thought them not to be in heaven yet, nor ever to be removed from that place [from Hades/Sheol] until the general resurrection: very few (if any) for above five hundred years after Christ did believe that Christ delivered the saints out of Hades."


While this antagonism of the first five centuries to the modern view is not by itself a sufficient disproof of the doctrine, it frees us at once from any obligation to defend it as a sacred deposit reaching us from the Apostles, and puts us instantly on our guard lest, in accepting it, we are accepting an error of the later 'fathers.'  The denial of the modern belief of the first five centuries after Christ is a fact of the first magnitude.


Now there is no question, our Lord Himself being our Instructor, that in His lifetime, as throughout all preceding ages, the saved dead were in Hades; for "all" - as Solomon had said (Eccles. 3: 20) - "go unto one place."  It is obvious that the Hades to which his angelic escort carry Lazarus is not heaven, since within its confines is 'this place of torment' (Luke 16: 28).³  The two compartments of the abode of the dead our Lord unveils more clearly than has ever been done before or since: Sheol, and Abaddon (or Death); two places, so that our Lord says - "I hold the keys [in the plural] of Death and of Hades" (Rev. 1: 18); and, ultimately, Death and Hades, as outworn prisons, are cast into the “Lake of Fire” (Rev. 20: 14), which in its turn is named 'Death,' the eternal abode of the wicked.  Thus we are on sure ground in stating, on Christ's authority, that within His lifetime all the saved dead were in Hades.  "No MAN," He says, at least up to the moment He spoke the words, "HATH ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN" (John 3: 13).


Next, we find that our Lord Himself descended into Hades in His compassing all human experience.  Paul says:- "He also descended into the lower parts of the earth" (Eph. 4:10)  "who shall descend into THE ABYSS - that is, to bring Christ up from the dead?" (Rom. 10: 7).  So therefore Peter spake of the resurrection of the Christ, that "neither was HE left in Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption" (Acts 2: 27,31). The Representative Man's descent into Hades to fulfil all human experience proves that up to that moment the descent was all human experience still.


But this establishes a point crucial to the revelation of the intermediate state. The Saviour said on the cross to the dying malefactor, - "This day shalt thou be with me IN PARADISE" (Luke 23: 43): the Paradise of which He speaks must therefore be a section of Hades, for into Hades He went immediately on dying: and this is put beyond all challenge or doubt by our Lord Himself saying to Mary in the garden, three days later, "I HAVE NOT YET ASCENDED UNTO MY FATHER" (John 20: 17); that is, for three days and three nights HE had been below, in the Paradise which is "IN THE HEART OF THE EARTH" (Matt. 12: 40).  This Paradise therefore - Paradise without an epithet - cannot be the Paradise on high, which is described as "the Paradise of GOD" (Rev. 2: 7).  Thus Paul's words are illumined as with a lightning-flash.  Probing the heights above and the depths beneath, he says:- "I know a man caught away - not up -  even to the third heaven; and I know such a man" - on another occasion and in another direction - "caught away into Paradise" (2 Cor. 12: 2).  Our original Paradise, or Eden, does not appear to exist: our future Paradise is the intermediate home of God's people of all dispensations between the Paradise that is gone and the Paradise to come.


So therefore in our Lord's lifetime, and in our Lord's own experience, the holy dead are in Hades; and next, as a later stage, on the other side of the Ascension - and this is critical - we have once again the solid utterance of inspiration that the saved dead are in Hades STILL.  For speaking ten days after the Ascension, and so ten days after the current view supposes that our Lord had taken all the saved dead to heaven with Him, the Apostle says :- "David is NOT ascended into the heavens" (Acts 2: 34).  "His tomb," Peter says - his unbroken tomb - "is with us," a proof positive (argues the Apostle) of a spirit - [disembodied soul, Ed.] – un-ascended into heaven, un-risen, left in Hades.  Therefore the conception that since the Ascension [of Christ] redeemed souls in dying wing their way up to the Throne of God is quite untrue.  Thus the comfort Jesus gives to John thirty to forty years after the Ascension, when the Apostle falls at His feet 'as one dead,' is - "I hold the keys of Death and of Hades" (Rev. 1: 18), Hades thus being no more emptied than Abaddon, but both being now in the direct, personal custody and control of Christ.  For our Lord has "led captivity captive" (Eph. 4:8)  - He has enslaved the underworld, dying "that he might become Lord of both the dead and the living" (Rom. 14: 9); and the 'captives' that graced His train (if there were any) were the Powers of Darkness that sought to arrest the ascending Lord (Col. 2: 15).


Now therefore we are prepared for a word of Christ which covers the whole Church throughout the centuries until His return.  "Upon this rock," He says, "I will build my church; and the gates of HADES shall not prevail against IT" (Matt. 16: 18) - shall not overpower, shall not master, the holy dead.  Thus towards the close of His ministry our Lord said:- "I will build my church," which was then, therefore, non-existent; and shortly after Pentecost we read - "great fear came upon the whole church" (Acts 5: 11), thus mentioned as existing for the first time: therefore between these two dates - doubtless (as almost universally believed) at Pentecost, the Church was born.  Now this is decisive.  For if our Saviour had emptied Paradise at His Ascension ten days before Pentecost, it could not have been the Church that was removed, for the Church was then non-existent; and it follows that either the Church has never been in Hades at all - which would exactly negative our Lord's words - or else, if the saints are in heaven, a later emptying has taken place of which Scripture knows nothing.  The truth is obvious - the whole Church (with the slender exception of the living rapt at the close of the Age) experiences Hades down twenty centuries until, the moral fetters of sin having been broken, in due time the massive gates roll back to let forth the rising saints.


A crucial fact finally crowns the evidence.  Ten centuries after the First Resurrection, and in the moment of the final muster of the dead for judgement, from both departments of the underworld - and not from one only - stream up the dual dead.  "Death and Hades give up the dead which are in THEM" (Rev. 20: 13).  The dead issuing from Hades as distinct from Death, or Abaddon, cannot have died later than the First Resurrection, for no righteous die in the Kingdom (Isa. 65: 20), and the unrighteous, dying, go to Abaddon.  Exactly in accord with our Lord's words:- "All that are in the graves shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5: 28).  Thus what the entire Church held for the first five centuries after Christ is the truth; namely, that HADES HOLDS ALL THE DEAD UNTIL RESURRECTION - THE FIRST, and then the final - has done its work, when Death and Hades themselves - the old prison-houses now useless in a deathless eternity - "were cast" - literal localities, for ever ceremonially unclean - "into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20: 14).


Scanty but precious light is cast on our intermediate home - when we shall be "at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5: 8). "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain: to depart and be with Christ; for it is far better" (Phil. 1: 22): "far, far better, even than a life which 'is Christ'" (Bishop Moule). "Dying is hard," once said an old saint, "but death is delightful."  The revelation comes with great force, for Paul alone of mankind had been in ParadiseThus the worst that can happen to us, physically, only brings something inexpressibly superior: negatively, our greatest enemies are all outside Paradise - the world, the flesh, and the devil; and positively, there is a presence of Christ so comforting as to surpass anything known on earth."





[All matter in square brackets is mine. – WHT.]


In the A.V. translation the reader is prevented from the study of death and resurrection because of its indiscriminate use of the word "hell", which today is believed by the vast majority of believers to mean the eternal state of the lost. Sheol (the Hebrew word, equivalent in meaning to the Greek word "Hades") and Hades in the A.V. are rendered "grave," "pit," and "hell."  However, in any Greek/English Interlinear, or the Revised Version (1881), the distinction is made.  This is one example, and a very important one, where the R.V. translation (and even the N.I.V. translation in certain places)  are superior to that of the A.V. - Authorised King James Version. 


Hades is taken for the whole abode of the dead in the underworld of Hades: for 'the rich man in Hades' is said to have "looked up (presumably from a lower region of Hades) and saw Abraham far away," (Luke 16: 23); so also Korah's company "went down alive into [not Abaddon, but] Sheol" (Num. 16: 30).  Hades is sometimes confined to the holy compartment, (Rev. 1: 18; Luke 16: 26, etc.).


Many of the ancient fathers understood of the descent into Hades, as placed in the lowest parts of the earth; and this exposition must be expressed so probable, that there can be no argument to disprove it.  "That the soul of Christ was in Hades," says Augustine, "no Christian can deny" (J. Pearson, D.D.).  St. Basil, commenting on Psalm 49: 15, - " But God will redeem my soul from the hand of Hades, for he shall receive me," - writes thus - "He clearly prophesies the descent of the Lord into Hades, who will redeem the prophet's soul also together with those of his saints from that place, so that they shall not remain there."  This can only happen at the time of resurrection, when body, soul, and spirit, are reunited.


In 2 Corinthians chapter twelve, verses two and four, there is no indication of any particular direction.  The Greek reads :.. "I know not, God knows, caught such a one to the third heaven" (verse 2).  "that he was caught into the paradise and heard unspeakable words …" (verse 4).  The English translators have inserted the word "up", apparently on the assumption that the third heaven and Paradise are one and the same place; whereas it is obvious (from the studied repetition) that Paul's seizures were separate experiences sampling antithetical localities.  The heaven in which Enoch and Elijah, and possibly the saints of Matt. 27: 52, is doubtless this 'third heaven' - the third, apparently, from the throne, that is the nearest to the earth. (Panton).


[Every Scriptural truth is a death-blow to all error. - "Paradise" (according to Scripture) is (at present) the intermediate home of God's people of all dispensations (Ages) between the Paradise (in Eden) that is gone and the Paradise (of God) to come.  For according to Scripture the first resurrection has not yet taken place, (Rev. 20: 4-6).  No mortal man has yet received an immortal body.  This fact is easily proved by the words of Christ, and the death of God's Two Witnesses, (Luke 20:36; Rev.11: 3-7). "Where I am going", said Jesus to His disciples, "you cannot follow now, but you will follow later", (John 13: 36); and if the question is asked: - 'Does "later" mean at the time of death? the answer is a definite NO!   "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going there - (the Father’s house in heaven) - to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me" (John 14: 2-3); cf 1 Cor. 15: 21-23; 1 Thess. 4: 15, 16).] 


[King David's unbroken tomb, is not a positive proof that his decomposed body has not been resurrected, for it is evident that the resurrection body can pass through solid matter.  Proof of the latter is stated in the case of our Lord, as recorded in John 20: 19.  Furthermore, it is not the spirit that ascends from Hades, but the soul.  There are spirits in Hades, but they are angelic creatures.  The ‘spirits in prison’ in the underworld, may possibly refer to the Nephilim, (Gen. 6: 2, 4)..


The expression "led captivity captive," is one used frequently to endeavour to disprove that the disembodied souls of the godly dead are no longer in Hades.  It is asserted that the words refer to the godly dead who were (supposedly) transferred from Hades into heaven at the time of the resurrection of Christ.  But in Judges 5: 12, where we have the first mention of the expression, it refers to enemies, not friends!  This is another instance where a false doctrine is asserted by means of one reading into a portion of Scripture what is not stated in that Scripture.  We must always interpret Scripture by Scripture, not by our personal beliefs, which may be biased.  If all (or any of) the godly dead were transferred out of Hades at the time of Christ's resurrection, then what is the meaning of the numerous passages which teach us the contrary?  Resurrection is the reuniting of the soul and spirit to an immortal body, and according to the Word of God, this has not yet taken place.]


[I do not agree with Mr. Panton's definition of the "Church."  I believe the Church is a called out company of believers chosen by God, which began with Adam and will continue at least until the end of the Lord's Millennium.  We read of "the Church in the wilderness" (Acts 7: 38), referring to the redeemed "children of Israel".


"The assumption that the souls issuing from Death and Hades embrace only such as incur the punishment of the Lake of Fire is based upon the false hypothesis that all believers rose from the dead at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom" (Lange).  This is what the Scriptures teach.  The first resurrection is one of reward (Phil. 3: 11; Heb. 11: 35): for the righteous, (Luke 14: 14).  If all believers rise in the first resurrection, why would it be necessary to open and examine "the Book of Life,” a thousand years later? (Rev. 20 : 11-15; 20: 4-6)].


"Where can I go from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths (Hebrew, "Sheol), YOU ARE THERE," (Psalm 139: 8)  "The fundamental fact, so constantly ignored, is that, until resurrection, the body is unredeemed (Rom. 8: 23)," (Panton).  For disembodied souls to enter into the Divine presence in heaven without a resurrected, immortal body, is for uncleanness to enter the Holy of Holies: for death, (with the Curse clinging to it), to enter into the presence of Life. "In the Lord's trenchant words: ‘GOD IS NOT THE GOD OF THE DEAD’ (Matt. 22: 32).  By resurrection ONLY can He prove Himself the God of a Patriarch now (Luke 16: 23) in Hades,"(Panton).


"The falling into oblivion the truth of Hades not only dislodged the doctrine of the millennium - for who would wish to descend from the supernal Glory even to a millennial earth, after (in some cases) thousands of years in the immediate presence of Deity? - but even more disastrously dislodged the truth of the resurrection, which, for spirits [i.e., disembodied souls] already in the full glory of God, becomes as fantastic as it is unnecessary." (Govett).