The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead - Commentary

...ted them. They are described as “the souls of those who had been slain” (Rev. 6:9). They were living in the presence of God, they were neither inactive nor in a state of soul sleep. These passages teach us that there is a better state of existence awaiting Christians after they die.

The Souls Of The Wicked In Hades

Sheol

The Old Testament does not directly say that much about the place of punishment, but this does not mean that it is entirely silent. There is the interesting discussion concerning the concept of Sheol in the Old Testament. The word Sheol is translated with hell, grave and pit in the KJV. Strictly speaking, hell (Gehenna) does not yet exist. Hell is the place final torment in body and soul. It is popular to speak of the wicked now going to hell, yet, strictly speaking, they go down to Hades, not Hell. Hell is the place of final punishment after the resurrection and final judgment. Both the righteous and the wicked are said to go to Sheol (Gen. 37:35; Num. 16:30; 2Sam. 1:23; Ps. 49:15,16; 88:3; 89:48; Eccl. 9:10; Isa. 5:14; Hos. 13:14) and that's why in our modern versions (e.g. the ESV) it is never rendered with "hell", but either transliterated or rendered with grave. Sheol has two significations: the place of punishment for the wicked and the grave. Dr. Sam Waldron writes, based on several uses of the word Sheol in the Bible (Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 44:29-31; Num 16:30, 33; Deut. 32:22; 1 Sam. 2:6), that “Sheol, whatever more specific meaning it may take on, is that which is below. It is the place below.”[6] This means that it is opposed to that which is above, heaven as it is sometimes contrasted with heaven (Job 11:8; Ps. 139:8; Amos 9:2).

It is not my desire to go into a long discussion on the interpretation of Sheol-Hades. No view on it is unanimous. The word Sheol generally refers to the grave or place of punishment for the wicked. The word is in many cases context-bound, and not a single definition can fit all of its uses. We've noted above that the souls of the righteous, even in the Old Testament, went directly into the presence of God. Therefore, when even the righteous are said to go to Sheol this does not have the connotation of them being in torment, obviously. In these cases it seems that Sheol simply means the grave. In fact, the righteous are said to be delivered from Sheol (Prov. 15:24; Ps. 49:14-15). The righteous are delivered from the punishments of Sheol and they are delivered from the power of death. Dr. Waldron writes:

Fifthly, the Old Testament teaches that the righteous are delivered from Sheol, in spite of the fact that in one sense the righteous die and go to Sheol, the grave (Prov. 15:24; Ps. 49:14-15). This requires us to distinguish between a place of punishment in the afterlife, from which the righteous are delivered, and the grave, which symbolizes it and from which the righteous in general are not delivered till the last day. Otherwise the teaching that the righteous are delivered from Sheol would have no meaning.[7]

It is important to note that when Sheol simply signifies the grave, only the body of man goes to the grave, the soul of man either enters into its Master's joy or into misery after death. The following passages, according to William G. T. Shedd, fit the meaning of Sheol as grave: 1 Samuel 2:6; Genesis 37:35; 44:31; Job 14:13; 17:13-14; Psalm 6:5; 88:3; 89:48; 141:7; Numbers 16:33; Ecclesiastes 9:10; Hosea 13:14. He says that "Sheol in the sense of the g...


A Review of Hell Under Fire

Hell Under Fire:

Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment

By Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson

Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment. Ed. by Christopher W. Morgan, Robert A. Peterson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004).

Had this book sitting on my shelf for a while and thought that it would merely be an academic book and a dry read. I couldn't be more wrong. Surely it was academic, but never on a level that made it impossible for an average Bible student to understand.

The Book and Its Content

The authors are top-notch theologians in our day who in this book respond to Annihilationism and Universalism, while at the same time give a biblical and holistic picture of hell. The subject of hell is sobering and terrifying. As believers we know that thanks to Christ we have been saved from this awful fate, which we should recognize--we rightly deserve. We likewise believe that all those without the Gospel of Christ, do not have a hope, are under the wrath of God and will everlastingly be under the wrath of God. It is terrifying to think of that and we cannot, without sympathy, discard the emotional appeal of Universalists and Annihilationists. The Bible is the sole infallible and highest authority for the Christian and if the Bible teaches that historical view of hell, then my emotions do not matter and cannot settle the truth about hell. It is as simple as that.

This book contains 10 chapters dealing, containing among other things, 

  • a historical survey about hell up to our day (chapter 1, by Albert Mohler Jr.); 
  • the OT and hell (chapter 2, by Daniel I. Block); 
  • the Lord Jesus and Hell (chapter 3, by Robert W. Yarbough); 
  • Paul and Hell (chapter 4, by Douglas J. Moo); 
  • the Apocalypse and Hell (chapter 5, by G. K. Beale); 
  • Biblical and Systematic Theology as it relates to hell (chapters 7-8, by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, respectively); 
  • an examination of Universalism and its arguments (chapter 8, by J. I. Packer); 
  • an examination of Annihilationism and its arguments (chapter 9, by Christopher W. Morgan); and finally
  • Hell and pastoral theology (chapter 10, by Sinclair Ferguson).

There is a ton to be learned in these chapters by the Bible student. What is to be learned from this book should not only fill our heads with information, but motivate us to share the Gospel with the lost because of the dreadful fate which faces them if they receive not Christ and His righteousness.

The reason we believe in the existence and everlasting nature of hell and of its punishment is simply because we believe that Holy Writ teaches it. If it were not for the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who spoke more often about hell than Heaven, we would not believe in Hell, because it is so repugnant to our fallen natures.

Interaction

This work continually interacts with popular scholarship as it regards the nature of hell and the arguments for and against Annihilationism in Evangelicalism. Authors most cited and interacted with include John Stott, Clark Pinnock, David Powys and Edward W. Fudge. The authors of this work continually argue that Annihilationists do not look at the whole portrayal of hell as presented by Scripture, but rather choose to focus on and emphasize specific portrayals of hell with neglect to the rest. This accusation is also leveled against those who hold to the traditional view of Hell who emphasize the punishment aspect ...