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the Old Testament
Cosmology: Introduction and Definitions
Part 1: The Old Testament - Buildings
Bodies in Heaven: Angels and Spirit
Humans and Angels: How Similar are
Hell in the Old Testament
Part 2: From Christ's Death to His
Part 3: Christ's Return Through His
Part 4: The Final Judgment and Eternity
Replaced or Restored: "Restarts" vs.
the First Start
Replaced or Restored: Genesis 1 and Angels
Replaced or Restored: Precedent Reveals
Restoration (Part 1)
Replaced or Restored: Precedent Reveals
Restoration (Part 2)
Replaced or Restored: More on the
Creation of Angels (Part 1)
Replaced or Restored: More on the
Creation of Angels (Part 2)
Cosmology: Composite Chart
the Old Testament and in particular, prior to the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ, those who died in faith were
not permitted to go into the presence of God because atonement
had not yet been provided.
The word "hell" occurs 31 times in the Old Testament. All
31 of those times, the word translated "hell" is the Hebrew
word "sheol." While the English word "hell" has connotations
as a place of punishment for the condemned, sheol does not
have such connotations. Sheol simply refers to the abode of
the dead in general, not particularly the place of the punishment
for the wicked. In fact, sheol was divided into two compartments,
one for the righteous dead and one for the wicked dead. And,
more specifically, the Jewish concept of sheol was the "underworld,"
or in other words, a place within the earth, underneath the
And these concepts are substantiated in scripture. The first
indication we have that prior to the death and resurrection
of Christ, the righteous dead remained in Sheol comes from
1 Samuel 28:6-20. In this passage, Saul enquires of the LORD
but the LORD will not answer him. So, Saul then goes to a
witch from Endor who, by Saul's request, brings up the spirit
of Samuel from the dead. First, in verse 11, both Saul and
the witch refer to "bringing up" a spirit. This phrase itself
indicates the belief that dead spirits resided "below" or
"under" and thus needed to be "brought up."
And in verse 13-14, Saul asks the witch to describe what she
sees as she brings up Samuel. The witch replies saying, "I
saw gods ascending out of the earth" and "an old man cometh
up." Now, the Bible does not deny that this is really occurring
nor does it qualify this as a trick of some sort. Instead,
the Bible testifies that Samuel actually answers Saul in verse
16. Therefore, the Bible records the reality of these events,
particularly that the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel resided
within the earth. Thus, this Biblical account substantiates
the Jewish concept of sheol as a place below the surface of
the earth where the righteous dead resided.
In the New Testament, Jesus himself explains further. In Luke
16:19-31, during a parable, Jesus describes sheol in similar
Luke 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was
clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every
day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which
was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be
fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table:
moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came
to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels
into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was
buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments,
and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me,
and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in
water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime
receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things:
but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great
gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you
cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from
thence. 27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father,
that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28 For I
have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest
they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham
saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them
hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one
went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he
said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither
will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Now, we have no reason to believe that Jesus' depiction of
these things is inaccurate. The presumption should be that
Jesus' words are not misleading regarding this arrangement
of the place of the dead. One other thing that is significant
is that the setting of this parable is BEFORE the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should not confuse
what is depicted in this parable with the situation regarding
the dead after the death and resurrection of Christ himself.
Now, what do we learn from Jesus' description in this parable.
First, we see that the place of the dead is divided into two
compartments separated by a gulf so that those on either side
cannot go to the other side. However, the fact that Abraham
and the rich man are able to communicate indicates that, although
divided, these compartments are in the same general overarching
location. Second, we see that the beggar is taken to the side
on which Abraham resides. This side of the place of the dead
is a place of comfort. And the name for this portion of the
place of the dead (where the righteous) go was "the Bosom
of Abraham." As we will soon see, this place of the righteous
dead was also known as "Paradise." Third, we see that the
rich man goes to the other side of the gulf, which is described
as a place of fiery torment.
Here, in the words of Jesus' himself we have corroboration
for the Jewish concept of sheol. And not only that, but Jesus'
words also align perfectly with 1 Samuel 28, where the prophet
Samuel is depicted as arising out of the earth.
Additionally, in Luke 23:43 we find Jesus on the cross about
to die and he promises the thief that "To day shalt thou be
with me in paradise." What does Jesus mean here by Paradise?
Did he mean he and the thief were going to the garden of Eden?
Did he mean he and the thief were going into the presence
of God in heaven? Well, since as we have shown, the Jewish
concept of Jesus' day as upheld by both 1 Samuel 28 and Jesus
himself in Luke 16, was that the righteous dead such as Samuel,
Abraham, and the beggar Lazarus, was a place within the earth.
So, as a matter of precedent, we should conclude that this
"righteous" thief was going, not to heaven and the presence
of God, but to the place of the righteous dead within the
earth, the Bosom of Abraham. Thus, the term Paradise would
simply be another synonym for the Bosom of Abraham.
The Greek word translated Paradise in Luke 23:24 is "paradeisos."
For the Greeks, paradeisos referred to the Persian concept
of a well-watered grove, garden, park, or hunting ground,
which for the Greeks was a part of hades set aside for the
heroic among others and as distinguished from the portion
of hades where some of the dead were tortured.
1 Peter 3:18-21;4:6 tells us more.
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for
sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God,
being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the
Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the
spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient,
when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah,
while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight
souls were saved by water.
...4:6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also
to them that are dead, that they might be judged according
to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
Peter tells us that when Christ died, he went and preached
to the spirits of the dead who were in prison, particularly
those who were disobedient in the days of Noah before the
flood. Although we will discuss 1 Peter 3 and 4 again later
on in our study as we move to where the dead go after the
resurrection of Christ Jesus, for now it is important to note
that 1 Peter also corroborates the Jewish concept of sheol
as a place of the dead. 1 Peter 3 and 4 demonstrate particularly
that disobedient spirits were kept in a prison, which is consistent
with the concept of sheol presented in Luke 16, where we find
the rich man in a fiery prison separated from the bosom of
Abraham by a gulf.
But, not only was sheol a prison for the wicked dead, but
it was also a prison for fallen angels and demons. In Luke
8:31, Jesus is casting the Legion of demons out of a man and
the demons ask not to be sent to the abyss. In Jude 1:6 and
1 Peter 2:4 we see that some angels are likewise imprisoned
in a place of deep darkness. Revelation 9:1-2,11 speaks of
an angel being let out of this abyss during the tribulation.
And similarly, Revelation 20:1-3 speaks of the chief adversary
as being chained in this abyssal pit for the duration of the
1000 year reign of Christ, after which he is let out again
for a short time.
Even the Greek words used in the New Testament reflect the
Jewish concept of sheol. There are several words translated
as hell in the New Testament. Of those Greek words, the two
that are relevant to this portion of our study are "hades,"
"tartaros," "phrear," and "abussos." Tartaros is by definition
a dark subterranean region where the wicked dead are imprisoned.
Hades also is defined as a dark place within the earth where
the dead spirits reside. The New Testament also uses the word
"pit" or "abyss" (such as Revelation 9), which is the Greek
word "phrear" and refers to a pit below the surface of the
earth. In Luke 8:31, the demons beg not to be cast into the
deep, which is the Greek word "abussos," which again refers
to a deep gulf or chasm within the earth where the dead reside.
In fact, phrear and abussos are used almost interchangeably
throughout the book of Revelation to refer to the deep pit
of imprisonment for fallen angels (Revelation 9:2).
In conclusion, based upon 1 Samuel 28, Luke 16, and 1 Peter
3 and 4, we can conclude that throughout the Old Testament,
prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, both
the wicked and the righteous went to a place below the surface
of the earth known in general as sheol in the Old Testament
Hebrew and hades in the New Testament Greek. Sheol was divided
by a gulf. On one side of this gulf was a compartment known
as Paradise or Abraham's Bosom where the righteous dead such
as Samuel, Abraham, and the beggar Lazarus went and experienced
comfort. On the other side of this gulf was a place of imprisonment
where the wicked dead and fallen angels were kept in chains
and fiery torment spoken of in Jude 1 and 1 Peter 2. This
place of imprisonment for the wicked was known interchangeably
as Tartaros, the abyss, the pit, or the deep (abussos and
So, when we speak of hell in the Old Testement times prior
to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we must be
careful and deliberate. The English word "hell" automatically
denotes a place of torment for the wicked. However, Sheol
was not exclusively a place for the wicked. Sheol contained
a place for both the torment of wicked dead and the comfort
of the righteous dead.
We should note that Sheol is a separate place, distinct from heaven and earth. However, these departed spirits are not allowed to leave Sheol and enter the presence of God in heaven or roam about the earth.
This concludes our examination of the heaven and hell in the
Old Testament prior to the death and resurrection of Christ
Jesus. We will now move on to our next division of time starting
with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and concluding
with the return of Jesus Christ and the beginning of his millennial
(Days of Creation)