Sunday, February 16, 2014

Death - And Everything That Happens Thereafter


Death - And Everything That Happens Thereafter

More often than not, what is commonly held (even by the majority of Christians) to be clear Bible teachings about the judgment, the resurrection and most especially about death and hell is not at all what the Bible teaches about these things, but instead reflect pagan (Greek and Roman) corruptions of what the Bible really teaches.  As a result of this paganized understanding that many Christians have concerning these topics, there are a large number of texts in the Bible that very specifically address these topics that are summarily dismissed and altogether ignored when these topics are preached from the pulpit or taught in Bible studies, for the simple reason that those texts cannot be made to harmonize with that paganized understanding.  Quite simply, these ignored texts are so out of line with what many pastors and teachers have been taught to believe that they have no idea what to do with them. 


What I propose to do here is take a close look at what the Bible really teaches about these things.  I will attempt to answer, from the Bible, such questions as: What happens to people when they die?  Where do they go? Or do they go anywhere at all?  Do people really have immortal souls? And just what is a soul anyway? How does the resurrection fit into the picture?  How do you reconcile those texts used to preach an eternal hell with those that picture a temporary hell?  Can they be reconciled?  Etc. 

And sorry, but no, this is not sound-bite theology.  You may actually have to read more than just a single paragraph or two. 



(Part 1)
Reserved unto the Day of Judgment

Let’s begin with a look at the judgment of the dead. When does it happen? And where are the righteous and the wicked while they are waiting for that judgment? Are people burning in hell today? Do the righteous go straight to heaven when they die?

The Wicked

Matthew 13:40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

2 Peter 2:9 tells us that: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.”

And when is this "day of judgment"? John 12:48 tells us: “the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” This is in agreement with the first text above (Matthew 13:40-42), that God does not send his angels to gather the wicked and cast them into the "furnace of fire" until "the end of the world." And since we have not yet fully reached the end of the world, according to this scripture, no one is yet cast into hell.

The wicked are "reserved" until the "day of judgment," -- and that the day of judgment is "in the last day," -- that is, "the end of the world" when according to 2 Peter 2:9 the wicked are "punished" -- that is, "cast into a furnace of fire."

But that leaves a very important question unanswered.

If the wicked are not now burning in hell fire; if in some way as it says in 2 Peter 2:9 the wicked are being reserved until the proper time comes for their punishment; then where are they? Where are the wicked dead now? How are they being "reserved"?

To find the answer to these questions, we must turn to the book of Job. Here we find this statement concerning the fate of the wicked.

Job 21:30 For the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction They shall be brought forth to the day of wrath. … 32 Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.

So, Where are the wicked that have died? How are they being reserved to the day of judgment? The answer is that they are still in their graves -- and there they will remain, there they are “reserved” waiting to be “brought forth to the day of wrath” which is “the day of destruction” when they are judged and cast into the fire.

This is in perfect agreement with the Biblical teachings of the resurrection -- a resurrection of the righteous and a resurrection of the wicked at the end of the world.

The Righteous

But what about the righteous? Are they also sleeping in their graves, waiting for the end-time resurrection? The answer is YES, they are. Consider the cases of David and Daniel. What does the Bible have to say about what happened to them in death?

David ---
2 Samuel 7:12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.

This statement concerning David is confirmed by Peter in the New Testament.

Acts 2:29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day.

Acts 13:36 For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:

And Peter’s meaning is that David has not yet ascended to heaven, has not yet been resurrected, but is still very much dead and buried in accordance with what Scripture says about the dead.

Daniel ---
Daniel 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. … 13 "But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days."

And so, the Bible shows death to be a sleep.  Indeed, Jesus uses that very word to describe the dead.

John 11:11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up." 12 Then His disciples said, "Lord, if he sleeps he will get well." 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead.”

Psalm 13:3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.



(Part 2)
If the dead are in the grave, what are they doing there?

In the previous section we established the fact that the dead, both the righteous and the wicked, are sleeping in their graves reserved till last day, when they will face judgment.  So then, when the Bible says the dead are sleeping, just exactly what does that mean?  Do the sleeping dead have any awareness, any consciousness of what is happening around them?  If the dead are sleeping, just how soundly do they sleep? What does the Bible have to say about it?

For starters let’s read from a couple of passages in Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

And for good measure let’s look at Job too.

Job 14:10 But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? 11 As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: … 12 So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. … 21 His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them.

Here in these passages the Bible gives us an actual description of what it is like to be dead.  The Bible describes death as an unconscious sleep, with the dead person having no perception of anything that is happening in this world, not even those things directly touching their most dearly loved ones here on earth.  They do nothing, they know nothing, they feel nothing. 

But what about all those haunted houses? Aren’t they proof that the dead are awake?  No they are not.  Consider the following text.

Job 7:9 As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, so he who goes down to the grave does not come up. 10 He shall never return to his house, nor shall his place know him anymore.

And so - unless the dead are sleep-walking (and they‘re not), there are no haunted houses.  So much for Halloween.  So then, what are people seeing if not the departed dead?  Quite simply, they are witnessing demonic manifestation, devils impersonating the dead.  But that is for another lesson.

And one more from Psalms - very important.

Psalms 115:17 The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.

This same understanding of death is presented in the prayer of Hezekiah as recorded in Isaiah 38.

Isaiah 38: 18 For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth. 19 The living, the living man, he shall praise You, As I do this day

The dead do not praise the Lord.  Can you imagine someone going to heaven right after they die and never once giving a single word of praise to God?  The dead do not praise God because the dead are, as the Bible has so very clearly explained in the texts we looked at above, very soundly asleep.  And so they will remain till they are called out of their graves at Jesus’ coming. 



(Part 3)
The Ultimate Wake-up Call

As we have already seen, the dead sleep in the grave until the time of the resurrection when they will face the judgment. And we have also discovered that “there is no work or device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.” Death, as we have read in both Ecclesiastes and Job, is essentially a state of non-existence - an unconscious sleep. According to the Bible, in death you know nothing, you feel nothing, you do nothing. There are no thoughts, no love, no hate - nothing - until the resurrection. Which means all those dead saints are going to have a very tough time answering all those prayers that are prayed to them.

As Job put it, “till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.” But there is good news -- that is no problem for the Christian, for we also read:

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

So then, “in the end of the world,” “when the heavens shall pass away,” the resurrection will happen. First the righteous will rise to receive their “gift of eternal life”, and then, after a time the wicked will rise to receive their “wages” - death.

So as we can see - the dead sleep. But they don't sleep forever. As we have already read, they only sleep until "the end of the days." Then comes the mother of all the wake-up calls.

John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, [it is not here yet] in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Note from where the dead are called. They are called from the grave as Job 21 stated in the previous post.

Job 21:32 Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.

Jesus, referring to death, called it "sleep," because it is a death from which all will be awakened as it says in John 5 above -- either in the Resurrection of Life, or the Resurrection of Damnation.

1 Thessalonians 4: 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.



(Part 4)
The Exceptions

What I posted above is the general rule for the vast majority of people. We live, we sleep in death, we are resurrected in one of two general resurrections at the end of time.

But there are exceptions to this general rule - and the Scriptures very carefully note the occurrences of each exception. The two principle exceptions to the general rule are Moses and Elijah.

As for Moses - Hebrew tradition is that God resurrected Moses seven days after his death. The New Testament book of Jude alludes to this event.

Jude 9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"

God had come to resurrect Moses, but the devil had other ideas. The resurrection of Moses would have been the first ever resurrection of someone who had died - and the devil did not like that at all. If the devil could have had his way, Moses would have forever remained in his grave.

As for Elijah, he never died, but was taken up to heaven in a flaming chariot.

2 Kings 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

And so both Moses and Elijah are accounted for. Their appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus is accounted for. Moses - a representative of the dead who will in the last days be raised up from the dead. Elijah - a representative of those still living when Jesus come, and who are caught up to be with Jesus without ever seeing death.

1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

The other notable exception to the general rule are the 24 elders found in Revelation.

Revelation 4:4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.

Revelation 5:8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

So, where did these 24 elders come from?

Matthew 27:50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many [not all] bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Note that this was only a limited (not a general) resurrection. It is from these people whose graves were opened, these sleeping saints who were awakened and raised, that the 24 elders most likely come.

And so, the general rule holds - with noted exceptions to that rule



(Part 5)
The Second Death

Let’s look again at John 5:28.

John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, [it has not happened yet] in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Note from where the wicked are called. They are called from the grave as Job 21 stated in a previous text. Now let’s put this in combination with another very well-known scripture statement.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The "death" spoken of here as being the "wages of sin" is the second death from which there is no resurrection. How do I know that? Simple. All - both the righteous and the wicked die the first death and go to the grave. But the first death is only temporary - lasting only until the resurrection.

Jesus referring to the first death called it "sleep" because it is a death from which all will be awakened as it says in John 5 -- either in the Resurrection of Life, or the Resurrection of Damnation.

The "death" spoken of in Romans 3:23 however is the "death" that only the wicked receive as contrasted with the free gift of eternal life that God gives to the righteous.

Jesus in a number of his parables speaks of this separation of the wicked and the righteous that takes place at the end of the world. It is here in these two resurrections that this separation actually takes place.

Now -- it has been said by some that the death spoken of in Romans 6:23 is really eternal life. The only difference between the “wages” and the “gift” being where that life is spent.

In their minds, Romans 3:23 is rewritten to read “the wages of sin is eternal life [in hell]; but the gift of God is eternal life [in heaven].”  But is that what the Bible teaches? No it is not. This mental rewrite of Romans 3:23 has more to do with preserving the pagan doctrine of eternal torment than it has to do with the Biblical teaching on hell and death.

So just what does the Bible mean by death? Is death just eternal life in hell? Is it to be eternally separated from God? Or is death really just exactly that in the most obvious sense of the word?

Let’s look again at some texts we have already seen.  Let’s look again at how the Bible itself describes and defines death.

Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

And for good measure let’s look once again at these texts from Job too.

Job 14:10 But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? 11 As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: . . . 12 So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.

Job 14:21 His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them.

As we have already seen, the wicked are reserved in the grave until the time of the resurrection when they will be judged. And now we discover that “there is no work or device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.” Death, as defined by the Bible - as we have read in both Ecclesiastes and Job - is essentially a state of non existence - an unconscious sleep. According to the Bible, in death you know nothing, you do nothing. There are no thoughts, no love, no hate - nothing - until the resurrection.

And so coming back to Romans 6:23 we find that when we allow the Bible to define itself - we see that “death” cannot merely mean eternal life spent in a somewhat more unpleasant place than heaven --- But that “death” means just exactly that - dead!!!

John 3:16 is another very well-known verse that touches on this topic and parallels Romans 6:23 in what it has to say in regard to the contrast between the fate of the wicked and the righteous.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

One group perishes or dies, the other receives eternal life. And this pattern is found everywhere in the Bible where it contrasts the opposing ultimate fates of the righteous and the wicked.

When does this second death - this ultimate destruction of the wicked occur?

According to the Bible the second death is the result or product of the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

And so we see that whatever else the fire may do, it ultimately brings on the second death. And the only way to interpret "death" here is the way the Bible defines it. And the Bible gives no other descriptions of death than what we have already read - it being a state of non-existence, with no thoughts, no emotions, nothing.



(Part 6)
Do We Really Have An Immortal Soul???

The entire doctrine of eternal torment, the belief in an everlasting hell as held by many Christians, comes as a result of the erroneous belief that man has an immortal soul. 

The belief in the immortality of the soul was originally a pagan concept that made its way into mainstream Christian belief.  This idea of an immortal soul leads naturally to a belief in an eternal hell.  After all, the reasoning goes, if a soul cannot die, if it is immortal, then hell itself must also be just as eternal as heaven.

And so we will look into the question as to whether or not man really does have an immortal soul. 

In 1 Timothy 6:16 we read that God "only hath immortality" and thus, that immortality is not natural to the human soul -- That is why it is spoken of as a "gift" in Romans 6:23.

BUT the Bible does however, in one place, speak of the immortality of the human soul, (immortality even for those who disobey God), but there is a catch -- It is the devil who is preaching the sermon.

Yes it is true, the very first sermon ever preached on the immortality of the human soul was preached by Satan to Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?  2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.

God says, "the soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Ezekiel 18:4,20). Satan says, "Ye shall not surely die." And guess who the world has chosen to believe? The majority of Christians (there are a few who know better) have chosen to preach Satan's message -- whether you go to heaven or hell, you will live forever. Of course it is generally understood that life in hell would be somewhat unpleasant at best, but you will live forever, they say.

But does man by nature have immortality? Or is it a gift that we must receive? What does the Bible say.  It says “the gift of God is eternal life” in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23). And this eternal life, this immortality is something we are given at the coming of Jesus. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:53-54).

The Bible is clear, immortality is a gift that we must receive. It is not something we already have by nature.

After man's fall God cast them out of the Garden of Eden. Why???

Genesis 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

And so, fallen man has never eaten of the Tree of Life, and so man does not have an immortal soul. As the Bible says:

1 Timothy 6:6 [God] only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

Next  we will search the scriptures to find out just exactly what a soul is.



(Part 7)
Just exactly what is a soul anyway?

Ok, just what exactly is the soul?  If we are going to determine whether or not we have such a thing as an immortal soul, we should at least be able to determine what a soul is.  And we are in luck.  It just so happens that the Bible gives us some very clear cut descriptions of just exactly what the soul is.

In relating how God created man, the Bible says: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). 

Notice carefully what happened.  God formed a body from the earth.  Then the Creator breathed into that lifeless body the breath of life.  And man BECAME a living soul. 

The soul as defined here is a combination of the body and the breath of life.  Neither of them alone make up a soul, but both of them together is what makes a soul.  The breath of life without the body is not a soul.  Neither is the body without the breath of life a soul.

The breath of life proceeds from God himself.  When God formed the body of man from the dust of the earth it was perfect, yet it had no life in it.  The Creator took that lifeless form and breathed into it the breath of life, “and man became a living soul.”  God did not give man a soul, but the text says that man became a living soul.

Now consider the following verse. “And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air.” (Genesis 2:19. So these animals were not only made of the same dust of the ground that man was made of. Do they also have the same God-given breath of life? What does the Scripture say?

Genesis 7:15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.

Therefore, it is written of man and animal alike:  “For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even one thing befalls them: as the one dies, so dies the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20).

What then is the soul?  It is a body endowed with life by the Creator.  A living being is a soul.  Adam’s body was formed of the dust of the ground and the breath of life from God was breathed into it in order that he might become a living soul.

Where was Adam before he was created?  He did not yet exist.  Prior to his creation the dust of the ground existed, but it was not Adam.  God had long had life within Himself before He made man, but that life was not Adam.  Until the dust of the ground and the breath of life came together to create one being, Adam did not exist.  But when the two were brought together and combined by God into one, this combination resulted in the existence of a living soul.

As an analogy, consider the making of a wooden box.  If you combine nails and some select pieces of wood together in a certain way, you have a box.  The nails by themselves are not the box.  Neither are the select pieces of wood by themselves a box.  But combined together in a certain way they become a box.  Now after you have made that box, if you were to pull the nails out of the boards, would you still have a box?  No.  You would have a pile of lumber and a sack of nails.  The box no longer exists.  The box went back to where it came from - a state of non-existence. 

And so, if the soul did not exist until God combined the breath of life with the body of clay, then what happens to the soul when the breath of life is removed from the body?

Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Death is the cessation of life for man.  He ceases to be a living soul at death.  The soul is not, as many sincere Christians have believed, a separate entity existing within man’s body, which is separate from that body and immortal.  That is why it is written: “The soul that sins, it shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4). 

This is God’s own declaration that the soul is not immortal.



(Part 8)
What is Hell’s Purpose?

What is the purpose of hell?  What exactly happens to those who end up there?  To answer these questions, let’s start with Psalm 37:20.

Psalm 37:20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.

Again we find that "the wicked shall perish". But this time we have a clue as to how they shall perish. The text says that "enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs".

The fat of lambs was burned on the Altar of Burnt Offerings in the courtyard of the temple. And after it had burned up there was nothing left of it. And so continuing this parallel, this scripture goes on to say, "they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away."

Hell was never intended for people. Scripture tells us that hell was originally designed for the devil and his angels, beings who had become so wedded to sin that they, in essence, became sin. In ancient times when an Israelite sinned, they brought a sacrifice (symbolic of Christ) to the altar and there confessed their sins over it, symbolically transferring their sins to the sacrificial animal. That "sin bearing" sacrifice was then slain; its blood would be carried into the sanctuary and the fat of its body would be burned on the altar, symbolically destroying the sin. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was born, lived and died, that we might be delivered from our bondage to sin. Sin cannot be allowed to exist forever. An end must be put to it. But when by our own choices we become so wedded to our sins that the sin and sinner in essence becomes one and there is no longer a distinction between sin and sinner, then the sinner must be ultimately be destroyed along with their sin.

When something is consumed by fire until there is nothing left but smoke you can pretty well consider the object is gone. And this, the Bible says, is the fate of the wicked. This is what hell fire does. This is the second death. When you are dead, especially in the case of the second death - you are gone forever. Those who die the second death will never be awakened. The second death, in contrast with the first death that all die, is never referred to in the Bible as sleep.

Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day comes that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

Here we see the wicked completely burned up, leaving "them neither root nor branch." This implies the total destruction of the wicked, even to the point of non-existence. And notice also that it says, "the day comes" showing that it had not yet come, in agreement with what we read at the first, that hell won't burn until the end of the world comes. Psalms 21:9 makes essentially the same statement.

Psalm 21:9 Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the LORD shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them.

And so yet again we find that hell fire totally destroys its victims, bringing about the second death. Now if those who burn in hell fire are totally consumed by the fire, we ask: will the fire itself keep burning even though there is nothing left to burn? Isaiah tells us that it will not.

Isaiah 47:14 Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.

Here again we find that the wicked will be burned in the fire, and "they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame." And as we have already seen in the previous texts -- it is in the power of the flames to consume the wicked into smoke.

But Isaiah 47:14 takes this one step further than the previous texts have. After the wicked have been delivered into the power of the flame and consumed into smoke, Isaiah says, "there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it."

Nor is this the only text to imply that the fire goes out. Look at Malachi 4:1 again, this time adding verse 3.

Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. … 3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.

"They shall be ashes under the soles of your feet." Again we see the total destruction of the wicked. And where the fires of hell once burned, after the last of its victims are consumed, and even the coals have grown cold, there the saints will walk in perfect safety. Both hell and sinners will be no more. We see another  interesting statement on this matter in the book of Psalms.

Psalm 37:10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.

It says "the wicked shall not be." Why? Because as we have been reading, the wicked have been burned up, nothing but smoke and ashes left. Not so much as a hot coal remains. They will be "ashes under your feet."

That verse goes on to say, "thou shalt diligently consider his place." Now what is the "place" of the wicked? The Bible is very clear. The place of the wicked will be in the lake of fire. And what does Psalms 37:10 have to say about this "place". It says, "and it shall not be." When the wicked are no more, hell is no more. Look for it ever so carefully, ever so diligently, and you will not find it. Because "it shall not be." As Isaiah 47:14 said, "there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor a fire to sit before it."



(Part 9)
Where does Satan fit in this picture?

Up to this point, we have been looking at the fate of the wicked in general. Now let’s look at the fate of Satan in particular and see how it compares with what we have learned so far.

Will the devil himself suffer in hell in the last days? Or is the devil in charge of hell? Well the Bible is very clear, as we shall see, that the devil is not in charge of hell. In fact, the lake of fire was originally prepared by God for the devil and his angels. God's original purpose for hell was to destroy the devil and his angels. Humans will have a place in the lake of fire only if they ultimately choose to give their allegiance to Satan rather than to God. If in this world they have chosen Satan as their master, God will honor that choice. Thus where their master, Satan, goes there too they will follow.

Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

Revelation 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

There in that “lake of fire” Satan will receive his full punishment right along with all those who have chosen him as their master. 

And yes, I did catch the "everlasting fire" and “for ever and ever” phrases in those texts, and I will get to that soon.  But first let’s look at Ezekiel 28. In Revelation 20:10 (above) we found that the devil will be cast into hell. It is in Ezekiel 28 that we discover what will happen to him in that fire.  Ezekiel 28 begins as a prophecy concerning the king of Tyrus, but it quickly becomes apparent that the real focus of the prophecy is the spiritual power behind the throne, a.k.a Satan. “Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” (Ezekiel 28:14-15).

Now drop down a couple of verses to the part that is of interest to us in this study.

Ezekiel 28:18 “Therefore will I [God] bring forth a fire from the midst of thee [Satan], it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. 19 All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.”

Notice several points here. First we see that Satan will be "devoured", and brought "to ashes," in perfect agreement with all that we have read so far. Notice also that it says of Satan, "never shalt thou be any more." Again in agreement with what we have learned so far in this study.

And I say so far, because in the next several parts we will be looking at texts that will appear to be in direct contradiction to everything we have studied to this point.



(Part 10)
Forever and Ever

Now the real fun begins. Remember Revelation 20:10 that I quoted in the previous post.  Let’s take another look at it, and this time focus on the “for ever and ever” phrase found in it.

Revelation 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Now what in the world are we going to do with a text like that? Here we have just examined text after text after text that very clearly tells us that hell is not eternal, that the wicked, and even Satan himself in due time will be consumed into smoke and ashes, and that the fires of hell will go out. And now we read that the devil, at least, will burn for ever and ever.

What are we to do? Where do we begin sorting this out? Is the Bible in conflict with itself?

The difficulty does not lie in the devil being cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, or in his torment there. With those points we have no problem. The apparent contradiction arises over the phrase "for ever and ever."

Well, what does the Bible say about it? As always, we must let the Bible interpret itself. Does the Bible always mean “for all eternity” when it says “forever?” Do we always mean “for all eternity” when we say it?

A quick examination of Bible texts using the term "forever" will easily show that the Bible uses "forever" in two distinctly different ways. Sometimes the Bible does mean “for all time without end,” and it is usually clear from the context when this is the case. However, it also uses the term (many times) to describe an event of limited duration. This parallels our own modern usage of the word “forever.” We can use the word to mean for all time without end, or much more commonly, use it to describe an event that takes a limited, measured amount of time. For example, waiting at a check-out counter at a supermarket. Sometimes it takes “forever” to get through those lines. It is not unusual to say we waited “forever” at the doctor’s office. Get the picture?

In Exodus 21:2-6 and 1 Samuel 22-28 "forever” is defined by the length of a person’s life. Here in these texts "forever" equals a lifetime -- however long or short that lifetime may be. This concept ties in very nicely with what we have learned about the fate of the wicked in hell fire. A person burns in hell “forever” - or until they are all burned up. Jesus says each person receives punishment according to their works. It would seem logical, then, that a person who committed one murder,  would not burn as long as someone like Hitler or another person whose sins were particularly heinous.

But perhaps the most dramatic example of the use of "forever" to describe an event of limited duration is in Jonah 2:6 where Jonah, in describing his experience in the belly of the whale, says that he was in the whale’s belly, "forever." And I imagine that to Jonah, those three days and nights did indeed seem to last "forever."

Now the question is, which of these two usages of "forever" do we use in understanding the lake of fire of Revelation 20:10? Is there some way of knowing? Or do we just pick the one that we like the best? The answer is simple.  What we do is look for the usage that most perfectly harmonizes with the rest of scripture. We’ll try them both on for size and see which one fits.

Because most Christians believe in and teach an eternal, never-ending hell, we will plug that definition into Revelation 20:10 first and see where that takes us.

When we use this definition, we immediately run into a problem. The Bible is made to contradict itself. If "forever" in Revelation 20:10 means never ending, for all time without end, then it must plainly contradict all the Scripture that we have looked at describing the total destruction and end of the wicked, and even the end of hell itself. And because those scriptures cannot be made to reconcile with such an interpretation of “forever” most Christians get around this issue by simply ignoring all those other texts. But we can't do that.

But what about the second, non-eternal, use of "forever?" Will it work any better? Let’s find out. We have already seen that the "non-eternal" definition of "forever" is allowed by the Bible. And when we plug this definition into Revelation 20:10, we also discover that there is no longer any contradiction between this text and those we read earlier telling us of the ultimate destruction and death of the wicked in hell. Hell is "forever" in the same way that Jonah's stay in the whale’s belly was "forever," a very unpleasant and seemingly endless nightmare for those who must experience it.



(Part 11)
“Unquenchable” Fire

Yes, you say. That is all fine and well, (refer to part 10 above), but what about those texts that speak of “unquenchable” fire? Surely an unquenchable fire can't go out, can it? Well, let’s look at the texts in question.

Matthew 3:12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (also Luke 3:17).

Isaiah 66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Mark 9:43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

These three, Matthew 3:12, Isaiah 66:24, and Mark 9:43-44 are representative of the texts that speak of an unquenchable fire.

That a fire is unquenchable or will never be quenched does not mean that it will never go out. It just means that it cannot or will not be put out until there is nothing left to burn. The only way it can go out is to burn itself out. And we can know this with certainty, because the Bible gives us an actual real life example of unquenchable fire in action and tells us what the end result of the fire was. Look at Jeremiah 17:27. Here Jeremiah gives a warning prophecy against Jerusalem in these words:

Jeremiah 17:27 But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.

Here it is prophesied that a fire that "shall not be quenched," in other words, an unquenchable fire, would burn and "devour" the gates and palaces of Jerusalem. The actual fulfillment of this prophecy is recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:19-21. Note how it reads:

2 Chronicles 36:19 And they burnt the house of God, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. 20 And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia:  21 To fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten [70] years.

The fires burned as they were predicted. But are they still burning? No. And why not? Is it because they were put out? No. For God said that the fire would not be quenched - that is, they would not be put out. They went out because there was nothing left to burn, only smoke and ashes. The fire was unquenchable, that is true. Nothing the inhabitants of Jerusalem could have done would have put out that fire. By the word of God, not until the gates and palaces of that city had been devoured by the flames would they go out.

And so it will be with the wicked at the end of the age. Said Isaiah 47:14, "They shall not deliver themselves for the power of the flame." The fire is unquenchable. So long as one sinner remains, the fire will burn. Not until all are consumed into smoke and ashes will the flames go out.

Isaiah 47:14 Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.

We have covered the topic of “unquenchable” fire. In our next study we will see what the Bible has to say about “eternal” and “everlasting” fire.



(Part 12)
Eternal/Everlasting Fire

Ok, so unquenchable fires can’t be put out, but they do burn themselves out. But what about "everlasting fire?" Surely "everlasting" fire can't go out, can it? I mean, doesn't the very name imply that it will burn for all eternity? The text in question is Matthew 25:41 which goes like this:

Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

What do we do with this text? We do just as we have been doing, and look in the Bible to see what is has to say about everlasting fires. And in looking through the Bible we come across Jude 7, where we find not just merely "everlasting" fire, but nothing less than "eternal" fire. And surely "eternal" fire will never go out, or so we would think considering the name given to it. But again, as in the case of unquenchable fire, the Bible gives us a real life example of "eternal" fire. Let’s look at Jude 7.

Jude 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

This text says that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire is a specific "example" of "the vengeance of eternal fire." Now just what does "eternal" fire do to something it burns? Well, let’s look at 2 Peter 2:6 and find out. Here Peter is describing the very same event we just read about in Jude 7 -- the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire. But notice what he has to say about it.

2 Peter 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.

The fire turned the cities to "ashes." If eternal fire burns for all eternity, then those fires should still be seen burning those cities. But the fires cannot be found today. Nothing was left of those cities but smoke and ashes. It is just as we have been reading all along.

Malachi 4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.

And notice that Peter also describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as "an example unto those that after should live ungodly." This is what their fate will be, "ashes."

And so we still find perfect agreement between all Scripture on this subject.

Unquenchable fire consumes to ashes.

Everlasting/Eternal fire consumes to ashes.

A perfect harmony throughout. Now let’s go back to Matthew 25:41 (which we also saw in the previous post) and find out exactly what is "everlasting" about "everlasting fire". And to do this we will also add verse 46 to the picture.

Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: … 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

So, what is everlasting about everlasting fire? The answer is - its results. "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment." And notice that it says "punishment" not "punishing." There is a difference. The wicked are consumed by hell fire into smoke and ashes, and this is the second death from which there will never be a resurrection.  That is their ultimate punishment, and it is eternal, everlasting.

Notice also how this text contrasts the fate of the wicked and that of the righteous. "Everlasting punishment" on one hand, and "life eternal" on the other. And does that remind you of a text we looked at early on in this study? Like Romans 6:23 perhaps? Let’s look at it again.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

And so we find ourselves coming full circle back to where we began. Let’s look at a couple more texts to see again just what is everlasting about hell fire.

2 Thessalonians 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:  9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.

Again we find, "everlasting destruction" to be the result of the "flaming fire" -- not "everlasting destroying."

Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Again emphasizing the two resurrections, and the opposite fates of those in the different resurrections. Also note again that it is from the grave, the "dust of the earth" from which the dead rise, just as we have read in some of our earlier texts.

Can you see how the Bible as a whole paints a most consistent picture? And how just a little extra Bible study can clear up seemingly impossible conflicts?



(Part 13)
Rewarded According To Your Works

Is hell a one-size-fits-all punishment for the wicked, or is the degree of punishment proportional to the evil a person has done? To discover the answer to this question, let’s begin in Revelation 2, where Jesus says:

Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

This ties in with Jesus' statement in Matthew 16:27 where he says:

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

What a person receives when Jesus comes will depend, for better or worse, on what they have done here in this life. This is stated even more clearly in Luke 12:47-48.

Luke 12:47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

Those who will suffer the least will be those who do not know God's will, and "commit things worthy of stripes." Does this mean that it is better to remain in ignorance of the Bible and its teachings? No, because this does not cover deliberate ignorance. For if you chose to willfully remain ignorant of the Bible and its teachings then you are held accountable for what you could have known. But that is another topic.

The point to be made here is that God's punishment of the wicked is a measured response, in keeping with justice on one hand and with mercy on the other. Thus the use of the word "wages" in Romans 6:23. "The wages of sin is death."



(Part 14)
The Rich Man and Lazarus

If you want to know what the point of a parable is, what it is trying to teach, go to the punch line. In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the punch line is this: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." (Luke 16:31). Everything about the parable leads to this one thought.

The Parable:

Luke 16:19-21 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

The rich man in this parable symbolizes the Jews who had been blessed above measure with spiritual treasure. To them had been given the oracles of heaven, the living manna, with which they were to feed a spiritually starved world. To them had been given "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises" (Romans 9:4).

The beggar Lazarus represented those outside of Israel, those who did not know God, who did not have the spiritual treasure given to the Jews, but who were hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Matthew 5:6).

The words of Isaiah were well known to the Jews: “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). Unfortunately, the Jews had not shared their spiritual wealth with the Gentiles. Instead, they regarded the Gentiles as "dogs" who would have to be satisfied with the spiritual crumbs falling from their masters' tables. The metaphor was known to the Jews -- Jesus himself had used it before, testing not only the heart of His disciples, but also the faith of a Canaanite woman, when He said, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."  She responded accordingly: "Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' tables" (Matthew 15:26, 27).

Continuing with the parable, Jesus said:

Luke 16:22-25 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; And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 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. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime received thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

Here is a warning to all who have God’s truth and are unwilling to share it. Just as manna when hoarded became corrupted, stank and bred worms (Exodus 16:20), even so, spiritual truth shut up and hoarded corrupts the religion, and that religion becomes a stench, so to speak. Just because you think you have truth, don’t be so smug as to think yourself something special. As Jesus said: “freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). The only way true religion can stay alive is by continual giving. Those who never give will one day wake up and discover to their dismay that they have lost it all. This principle holds true for all who profess to serve God in all ages. This warning applies to present day Christians as surely as it did to first century Jews. Hoarded light, hoarded truth, an exclusive attitude will create a religion that stinks and breeds worms.

The rich man probably believed himself to be blessed and in special favor of God, while the beggar, because of his miserable condition, would have been considered cursed of God. But imagine their surprise to find that the reality was the opposite.

Matthew 8:11 "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

The Jews had enjoyed rich spiritual blessings while on earth but had done nothing to bless or enrich their neighbors. No further reward was due them.

Luke 6:25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

The poor in spirit, symbolized by Lazarus, would inherit the kingdom of heaven. The Gentiles, who hungered and thirsted after righteousness, would be filled. The "dogs" and sinners, so despised by the self-righteous Pharisees, would enter heaven before them.

Matthew 21:31 Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

Continuing the parable, Jesus says: “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.” (Luke 16:26)

Between the saved and the lost, between those who are raised in the first resurrection and those who are raised in the second resurrection, there is a great gulf fixed. Once the irrevocable decree is spoken, there is no changing sides, no second chances. And what is that irrevocable decree? "He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” (Revelation 22:11-12). The word is spoken. By this decree that great gulf is fixed over which none can pass.

The parable concludes with the rich man begging for his brethren to be warned against sharing his fate. Asking Abraham to send Lazarus on this mission, he alleges that "if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent." (Luke 16:30). But Abraham replies, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." (Luke 16:31).

Jesus thus rebuked the Pharisees for their disregard of the Scriptures, foreseeing that even a supernatural event would not change the hearts of those who persistently rejected the teachings of "Moses and the prophets." The miracle of raising the real-life Lazarus from the dead soon afterwards confirmed the accuracy of Jesus' conclusion. One did rise from the dead, yet the brothers of the "rich man" did not repent. In fact, the Pharisees were so infuriated by this display of divine power they plotted to kill Lazarus in order to silence his testimony against them. His very life was a continual reminder, and rebuke, to them of their own hypocrisy.



(Part 15)
Saul, Samuel and the Witch of Endor

1 Samuel 28:6 And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.

The Lord never turned away a soul that came to Him in sincerity and humility. Why then did he refuse to answer Saul? The reason is that Saul had by his own acts forfeited all the methods of inquiring of God. He had rejected the counsel of Samuel the prophet; he had exiled David, the chosen of God; he had slain the priests of the Lord. How then could he expect to be answered by God when he had cut off every channel of communication that Heaven had ordained? Cut off from communication with Heaven, Saul in his desperation determined to seek help from a forbidden source.

1 Samuel 28:7 Then Saul said to his servants, "Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her." And his servants said to him, "In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at Endor."

Disguising himself, Saul makes his way by night to the place where the witch lived.

1 Samuel 8:11 Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" And he said, "Bring up Samuel for me." 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, "Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!" 13 And the king said to her, "Do not be afraid. What did you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth." 14 So he said to her, "What is his form?" And she said, "An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle." And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.

The Bible never says that Saul saw Samuel or that he even heard him. He received his information second-hand from the witch, and only concluded it was Samuel from her description. It is apparent from these verses that the conversation between Saul and the supposed “Samuel” apparition was conducted through the woman as a medium.

It is highly unlikely that the apparition posing as Samuel was actually Samuel himself. First of all, it is highly doubtful that witches have the power to waken the dead, even more unlikely that God would ever allow such a thing to happen. If God refused to communicate with Saul through any legitimate method of communication (for Saul had cut off every means of communication God had appointed), why then would God allow communication through an expressly forbidden means? And besides, as we read in verse 6, God had already refused to answer Saul by prophets, and presumably that would include dead prophets too.

What then did the woman see, and for whom was she acting as a medium in communication with Saul? It is obvious that if the apparition was not from Heaven there is only one other possibility It was a demonic manifestation, a demonic impersonation of the dead. (And as a side note - this is also the secret behind so-called hauntings).

And what was the result of Saul’s necromancy? How did God respond to Saul’s inquiry?

"So Saul died ... for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; And inquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him." (1 Chronicles 10:13, 14.)

Note that last underlined portion in the text above. “And inquired not of the Lord.” That tells us that whatever message Saul received from the supposed Samuel apparition conjured up by the Witch of Endor, that message was not of the Lord. And as Samuel was a man of God, a prophet of the Lord, then it was not Samuel who gave that message. Where was the real Samuel during all of this? He was asleep in his grave, awaiting the resurrection, as are all the dead.



(Part 16 - Conclusion)
God's Love

In conclusion, why does all this matter? Why have I spent so much time and energy on this topic? It matters because, more than any other subject, this topic reveals Who God is. If God is love (people ask), what will He do with the wicked? Or never mind the wicked, how will He treat those Who simply don’t believe in Him, or choose not to accept Him as Lord of their lives? Will He cast them into an everlasting, burning torment? If that is the kind of God He is, how can He present Himself as a God of love?

Is He an angry, vengeful, sadistic monster, or a God of justice and mercy? Who is He, really? Can He be trusted?

Just where does God's love come into this? Well, first of all, He isn't going to subject the wicked to an endless, unbearable torment. And that is a manifestation of love in itself. But there is more. The wicked must be destroyed, or else they would forever mar the universe with their curse. But if they must be destroyed, God has chosen to do it in a manner consistent with both mercy and justice. We know our lives are brief:

James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

And very many similar statements are to be found throughout the Bible - showing how very short and uncertain our life is. So, how much punishment is enough? One year? Two? A hundred? A thousand? How about one year for every second of your earthly life? Or perhaps a trillion trillion centuries of the most utterly horrible torment for every nano-second of your earthly existence? A life that God himself has likened to a "vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanishes away?"

Well, according to those who preach an eternal hell that would not even be a beginning, much less an end of the torment. That is not God's way. Our God is a God of mercy and justice. Where is there either mercy or justice in such a picture of hell as is commonly preached? But we know from Scripture that hell will not be never-ending.

And this is good news! So many people have heard the common doctrine of an ever-lasting, eternally burning hell, where souls are tormented for eternity, and have turned their backs on God. “If God is like that,” one atheist proclaimed, “then I hate Him!”

But God is not like that. God is love. He calls His act of ultimately destroying sinners His “strange act,” (Isa. 28:21) for He is not willing that any should be lost. However, allowing sin to continue forever is neither justice nor mercy. Evil has done great harm to this planet and those who dwell therein. Just as Sodom and Gomorrah finally filled up their cup of iniquity; just as those in Noah’s time had gone “far enough” and God had to step in, lest man destroy himself, so too the time will come when God will have to put an end to evil lest evil put an end to mankind.

In Christ God has made such an abundant provision for the salvation of all, regardless of when or where they were born, regardless of how much or little they know of the Bible, regardless of whether or not they have ever so much as heard the name of Christ, that none need ever to be lost. God Himself says:

Ezekiel 33:11 "Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'

1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.

God loves YOU!!! Don’t let that love have been in vain.