Is Hell Eternal?
Or Will God's Plan Fail
By Charles Pridgeon
Chapter Nine: The Significance of Hades
The word "Hades" means "unseen" and it is the term used in the New Testament for the invisible world of departed spirits. It is a gross error to use the word always in a bad sense and translate it by the word "hell," for Hades has a good part as well as a bad part. The good portion is regarded as above the bad portion. The good part is called Paradise (Luke 23:43); and we may infer that the bad portion is called "Tartarus" (2Pet. 2:4): "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus," etc. (literal). Jesus said to the dying malefactor, "Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise." The expression "Abraham's Bosom" is a Jewish term synonymous with at least a part of Paradise (Luke 16:22). The usage of the word "Sheol" is that it is the Old Testament synonym for Hades.
The word "Hades" occurs in the following passages of the Scripture:
Matt. 11:23," And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell (Hades): for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day."
Matt. 16:18, "The gates of hell (Hades) shall not prevail."
Luke 10:15, "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shall be thrust down to hell (Hades)."
Luke 16:23, "In hell (Hades) he lifted up his eyes."
Acts 2:27, "Wilt not leave my soul in hell (Hades)."
Acts 2:31, "His soul was not left in hell (Hades)."
1Cor. 15:55, "O grave (Hades), where is thy victory?"
Rev. 1:18, "Have the keys of hell (Hades) and of death."
Rev. 6:8, "And his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell (Hades) followed with him."
Rev. 20:13 "Death and hell (Hades) delivered up the dead which were in them."
Rev. 20:14, "And death and hell (Hades) were cast into the lake of fire."
The Hadean state is the state into which the departed pass immediately upon death and there remain till the resurrection. It is, therefore, frequently spoken of as the Intermediate State.
There are those who hold that it was true that the saved entered Paradise in the Old Testament times and in the early Gospel times; but since Jesus ascended on high, they assert that the righteous immediately enter the highest heaven. We do not think that this position can be established by Scripture. The principal text that is quoted to prove this view is Eph. 4:8, "Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." The leading "captivity captive "is made to refer to our Lord leading the righteous out of Paradise into heaven itself; whereas, the phrase "He led captivity captive" refers to the conquering of enemies and leading them in triumph. We have almost the same phrase in Judges 5:12. There it is seen as a Hebrew idiomatic expression referring to the conquering of enemies and leading them captive. So in our Lord's death on the cross and His ascending on high, He spoiled principality and power and made a show of them openly through the power of His death and resurrected life. Satan could not keep Him down and He ascended high above all enemies. Satan and all his hosts are already, potentially, conquered foes. Their captivity was sealed by His resurrection and ascension. Col. 2:15 says that on the cross Jesus spoiled principalities and powers. He conquered death and the grave and Satan and his hosts. He ascended as victor, having broken the power and authority of the enemy, Satan; therefore, He could give power to His own (Eph. 4:11). The Christian blessing that Christ gives us has been snatched from the enemy. He gives us peace and joy and every good thing which the enemy has stolen from mankind. Christ divides the spoil (Luke 11:22) and the Word tells us that all the powers of darkness are in captivity to His power (Eph. 4:8). He will manifest this dominion at the proper time. To those who trust Him Satan is already a conquered foe. This view also makes Paradise a prison holding the redeemed as captives, whereas, it is a heaven for this stage of things, even tho God has something higher for them at the Second Coming of the Lord. The blessed condition of Lazarus in Paradise is certainly set forth in Scripture (Luke 16:25).
In addition to this we have one or two very clear texts. Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost which was after the ascension of Christ, says, in Acts 2:34: "For David is not ascended into the heavens." It certainly would seem strange that David should be left in Paradise if Jesus took all the saints up with Him. Again, John 3:13 reads; "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." We believe that the failure to realize the full force of this text arises from the fact that it is not usually observed that this verse thirteen was spoken by John, the writer of the Fourth Gospel and not by our Lord. For at the time Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, Christ had neither died nor ascended; and, besides, the verse asserts that the Son of man was then in heaven. This was not true till after He ascended: as God He might be everywhere, but as Son of Man He was not in heaven till He ascended there. John is writing these words long after the ascension of Christ, and he says that Christ is the only one who "hath ascended up to heaven" This becomes plainer when we remember that Jesus Himself did not ascend into the heavens immediately upon His death but only after the resurrection. Neither shall we: and for the believer the resurrection is always in connection with the Second Coming of the Lord; and for the unbeliever at least a thousand years thereafter.
The Church needs to emphasize the fact that the full measure of rewards is not given till we get our glorified bodies; and also that the Lake of Fire and Brimstone, except in reference to the anti-Christ and false prophet, is not brought to our notice till the closing portion of the Millennium and that most are not cast into it for at least a thousand years after Christ's Second Coming.
Many theologians seem to teach that we immediately receive all God has for us when we die. The full harvest of both joy and suffering comes only after the Second Coming of the Lord. This does not derogate from the fact that Paradise is a blessed state, or that Tartarus is a place of suffering. We believe more than this; viz., that rewards and punishments begin in this life, that heaven and hell begin here. He alone can go to Paradise or heaven who has heaven begun in him and he alone can go to hell, Tartarus, or the Lake of Fire, who has hell begun here. The Intermediate, or Hadean state, will have more of both joy and suffering than we have in this life, but the fuller state, heavenly or hellish, will not come until after the resurrection.
Our Lord manifests Himself in these three conditions. We know that He manifests Himself to His children here in this life. We know that He manifests Himself in the next state, for "to depart, and be with Christ is far better." He will manifest Himself in the resurrected state, for "When Christ . . . shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:4).
It is a source of great comfort to know that we never lose our identity in the Intermediate, or in any state.
Our Lord went and preached to the spirits in prison that were aforetime disobedient in the days Noah (1Pet. 3:18-29). He went after He was killed and was quickened in spirit. He greeted the repentant thief in Paradise, but it was especially in the Tartarus portion that He is said to have preached to the very same antediluvians who would not heed Noah's preaching.
Dives and Lazarus are represented as having preserved their identity and as knowing each other.
Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration were manifested from the Hadean state--their identity was preserved.
David, in speaking of the death of his little son, says, "Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him." There would have been no comfort in this if he and the child were not the same in identity and also that recognition and association were facts.
The phrase, "Gathered to his fathers," so frequently used of death, means more than having their bodies in the grave, even tho some saw only as far as that. In speaking of the Lord as the "God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," the Scripture adds, "For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him" (Luke 20:37,38).
It helps us to understand the fact of identity and real recognition after death to recall that identity in the particles of our body is not necessary for the preservation of identity. The atoms of our bodies are changing every moment and entirely change every few years, and yet we know each other and count each other's personality as permanent.
Progression and advance do not alter identity. Besides, altho this natural body is laid aside, there is a spiritual body that awaits us at the resurrection; and even in this life we get an earnest of that spiritual body forming within us (2Cor. 5:5). "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2Cor. 4:16). If this is true here, how much more in the Intermediate state!
Even the unsaved pass into the next life with the forces of their spirit which formed and made their body in this life. This spiritual body goes with them into the Hadean state, no matter how warped and dwarfed it may become. Each one that passes out of this life reaches the next life in exactly the same spiritual condition in which he was when he died. Death did nothing for him except to separate him from his earthly body. The intermediate state is for discipline, punishment, a process of judging, and for improvement, progress, and growth. There are those who without others will "not be made perfect" (Heb. 11:40); and there are others whose "spirits are made perfect" (Heb.12:23).
Our Lord, after His death, was quickened in spirit and went and preached to those who were disobedient in the days of Noah (1Pet. 3:18-20); this is proof of conscious activity in the Hadean state.
If there ever was a wicked company it was that of Noah's day. The word "to preach" is to herald, but it is the same word as that which refers to John the Baptist's preaching, and to Paul when he preached "Christ and Him crucified." In the next Chapter (1Pet. 4:6), we read that "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." This word for "preach" is the word "to declare glad tidings," and the result was to bring judgment upon them and also for conversion; viz., to "live according to God in the spirit." Our Lord did this kind of preaching once and He is "no respecter of persons." If He preached to this company that was as degraded as any company in the world, He will do so again, and He will not neglect less guilty companies.
Let it be remembered that the First Epistle of Peter was written to a persecuted company of believers. It was written during the reign of cruel Nero. Christians were being imprisoned and martyred, the attempt was made to stamp out Christianity. The people were tempted to discouragement and it took grit and grace to witness for Christ. The Apostle encourages them in their "fiery trial." He tells them "if ye suffer for righteousness' sake (our Lord suffered in that manner) happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror." Then he tells them to "sanctify the Lord in your hearts as God" (literal); and go on with your preaching and witnessing, for if they kill you (so the argument runs), they will not stop you: they killed Christ but death only opened for Him a larger field; so, believers, fear not, if they kill you, you will only have a wider field of usefulness opened, your opportunities for saving souls will increase.
How many teach that death ends God's power over lost souls! As if Satan, who has them, were stronger than God, and that God was no longer loving, whereas it is Christ who holds the keys (Rev. 1:18)!
"God forbid that I should limit the time of acquiring faith to the present life. In the depth of the Divine mercy there may be opportunity to win it in the future."*
*Luther's letter to Hansen von Rechenberg in 1522. Quoted, page 168, in The After Life by Henry Buckle (George W. Jacobs & Co. Phila., Pa.).
Bengel also quotes* Luther's exposition of Hosea as accepting the idea that Christ appeared to the souls of some who in the time of Noah had been unbelieving, that they might recognize that their sins were forgiven through His sacrifice.
*(Bengel's Gnomon, translated by Charlton T. Lewis, M.A., page 748, under 1Peter 3:20; Perkinpine & Higgins, Phila., Pa).
To us the Scripture is plain enough, unless there is prejudice to warp the judgment. John 5:25 is large enough for this thought and more: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live."
How many a mother weeping for her children refuses to be comforted because they are not! The mother's prayer and work seems to have been for nought. They are dead in the land of the enemy. Hear the Word of God: "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Thus saith the LORD: Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy" (Jer. 31:15,16). These words were in part fulfilled in our Lord's childhood at the slaughter of the innocents; but their complete fulfilment will not take place till the proud, self-willed, unbroken and dead children of Ephraim, and all other such children, repent and God's Word is fulfilled, "I will surely have mercy upon" them, "they shall come again from the land of the enemy" (Jer. 31:16-20).
The suffering of the rich man in Tartarus had certainly done wonders for him. He probably had never been concerned about his "brothers" before. Now he is more than solicitous. It was more than earthly water that he thirsted for. He had no physical tongue. His thirst was spiritual, and only the spiritual water of life could satisfy him. He is not saved yet, but he is moving already in that direction.
But, says some one, "There was a great gulf fixed between the righteous and the wicked." The next clause, as it reads in the Greek, does not say that they" can not" pass over but that they "may not" be able to pass over, for Christ had not yet died and made the way. That gulf is fixt, even in this life, between the righteous and the wicked. "He that believeth not is condemned already," "the wrath of God abideth on him." "He that believeth is not condemned" (John 3:18,36). Man has no power to cross the gulf but Christ has. By His death He bridged it, He is the Bridge. He has the "keys of Hades and of death" (Rev. 1:18). He bridged it when He died and went and preached to the spirits in prison and He will do it again. He so unites Himself to His Church of every dispensation that "the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." There is no power in Hades that can block the work of Christ and of the Church in Hades to keep a repentant soul from Christ. Some one may say, "They can not repent." That may be true n part, but only in part for the only true repentance that counts anywhere is His gift (Acts 5:31). His command is always an enabling.
A helpful writer thus expresses himself:*
"There is one thing which astonishes me beyond measure, and that is, that any attempt to show from Scripture that the salvation of Christ is more embrasive than has been commonly imagined, calls forth a display of bitterest hostility, and the most cruel misrepresentation. It is one of the puzzles of human nature. Unless experience has taught us otherwise, we should be inclined to think that a Christianity whose chief characteristic is described by St. Paul as being 'charity' which 'hopeth all things,' would hail with intense delight the thought of salvation beyond the grave for poor unfortunates who have lived and died without, in some cases, one of the religious advantages which we enjoy. That the attitude of a man or woman, bearing the name of a pitiful Christ, toward any suggestion of such a hope would be, 'Thank God! Tell me, are there any statements in the Bible upon which I can rest such a magnificent belief? How devoutly I wish you may be right in what you say: How far more glorious and attractive will it make the Gospel for me!'"
*Our Life After Death, by Rev. Arthur Chambers (Geo. W. Jacobs & Co., Phila., Pa.), page 135.
Of those who are righteous the Hadean state will be for them a time of further training, discipline and development. "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). In place of the work of grace being finished God will carry it on till the Day of Christ and that day reaches not only to His coming but to the end of the ages. May we not pray as well as preach in the Intermediate state? Yes, and beyond, for our Lord still does both, and He is in the resurrected state. Our work will extend through all time. He "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ; . . . That in the dispensation of the fulness of time He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth" (Eph. 1:3,10). God has called us to a magnificent service which will bring to us an ample discipline and a fuller glory.
When man fell it was a twofold fall. He fell into spiritual selfhood and he fell into an earthly nature. To get man back he has to die two deaths: he has to die to the natural and earthly and he has to die to self. If in this life man does not have these deaths wrought in him, then he enters the Hadean life with its judgments, discipline, training, and service. If man is still stubborn, there awaits him, and all such, the Lake of Fire and Brimstone, which is "the second death." The first death slew the natural and animal and took him into the Hadean state, and at its end, it and death, that is, all in Hades that have not repented are cast into the Lake of Fire where the process of the second death awaits, which is the death of all selfishness.
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