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Chapter 11 - Clarifying the condition of hell
The word Sheol in the Hebrew and Hades in the Greek are both translated 'hell'. Both words indicate that which is veiled and where those who have died reside. One way of looking at life after death is that prior to the resurrection of Christ hades had two regions. The first was populated by those who died without faith. The second was populated by those who were faithful. This is described by the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
It may be that when Christ rose and took 'captivity captive', the region of Hades sometimes called paradise was emptied and the souls of the righteous were relocated. We might see a little of their condition from Revelation where those righteous martyred await the return of the Lord.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. - Revelation 6:9-11
These are described as 'under' an alter. While cognizant of the passage of time and desiring to be avenged, they are described as being 'at rest'.
Those who die as Christians seem to be with the Lord although it is not known if they are in the same location as those who are martyred in the tribulation.
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. - 2 Corinthians 5:8
Those who have no faith and are not part of the body of Christ still reside in Hades. We get a picture of communication between Abraham and the rich man from what Jesus described. However, we also get a picture of communication in Ezekiel.
The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword. - Ezekiel 32:21
We see a picture of even mighty victorious warriors sharing with their victims all of whom come to have shame for their works.
There be the princes of the north, all of them, and all the Zidonians, which are gone down with the slain; with their terror they are ashamed of their might; and they lie uncircumcised with them that be slain by the sword, and bear their shame with them that go down to the pit. Pharaoh shall see them, and shall be comforted over all his multitude, even Pharaoh and all his army slain by the sword, saith the Lord GOD. - Ezekiel 32:30-31
Even Pharaoh who was slain by those mightier will take comfort in that those who defeated him are also with him in Hades.
We see that there is recognition, memory, and shame in Hades (Sheol). We see that the rich man (who had no interest in Hades prior to death) comes to such an understanding that he desires that someone return to warn his brothers.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. - Luke 16:27-31
We can see that the experience of Hades imparts an understanding that most resist while alive. It may be that this experience produces an appreciation of truth such that all who are exposed to it come to such an understanding that they eventually recognize that Jesus is truth.
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:10-11
We might be able to gain a little more understanding of what the unsaved experience in Hades by considering the word the rich man used to describe his 'torment' (basanos). The word was used to describe a touchstone. This was a stone that was used to determine the purity of a coin. If one rubbed the coin on a touch stone, the color left on the stone would indicate its purity. The word came to be used of the torture Greek slaves were subject to in giving testimony in court. This testimony was preferred because it was felt that testimony under adversity was closer to the truth.
The rich man also refers to the experience of 'flame'. However, Abraham contrasts the comforts of the rich manís earthly life with the rest Lazarus now receives. This may be reflective that hardships in the earthly life help one see the truth of Godís sovereignty whereas an experience with difficulty in Hades finally shows those in death the truth of what they ignored in life.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: - 1 Peter 4:14
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. - 2 Timothy 3:12
That time spent in Hades is not the eternal punishment many expect for the unjust as described by Peter such as they are held (reserved) until their being judged and punished.
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: - 2 Peter 2:9
While we are not given much information about the realm of the unsaved dead or what their experiences are, we might speculate that their experiences will bring them to such an understanding of truth that when they are judged out of the books of their life at the Great White Throne judgment, they will have no objection to their sentence.
We do know that it is the soul that is in Hades. Even without a physical body, souls somehow can recognize each other as well as communicate. We know it is uncomfortable by indications of thirst.
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