Five Old Testament Texts Claimed

Hell Really Exists

Hell Really Exists

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Professor Stuart (orthodox Congregational) only dares claim five out of the sixty-four passages as affording any proof that the word means a place of punishment after death. "These," he says, "may designate the future world of woe." "They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to Sheol." "The wicked shall be turned into Sheol, and all the nations that forget God." "Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold of Sheol." "But he knoweth that the ghosts are there, and that her guests are in the depths of Sheol." " Thou shalt beat him with a rod, and shall deliver his soul from Sheol". He observes: "The meaning will be a good one, if we suppose Sheol to designate future punishment." "I concede, to interpret all the texts which exhibit Sheol as having reference merely to the grave, is possible; and therefore it is possible to interpret" them "as designating a death violent and premature, inflicted by the hand of Heaven." An examination shows that these five passages agree with the rest in their meaning:

Ps. 9:17: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." The wicked here are "the heathen," "mine enemies," i.e.; they are not individuals, but "the nations that forget God," that is, neighboring nations, the heathen. They will be turned into Sheol, death, die as nations, for their wickedness. Individual sinners are not meant.

Professor Alexander, of the Theological Seminary, Princeton, thus presents the correct translation of Ps. 9:17, the only passage containing the word usually quoted from the Old Testament to convey the idea of postmortem punishment. "The wicked shall turn back, even to hell, to death or to the grave, all nations forgetful of God. The enemies of God and of his people shall not only be thwarted and repulsed, but driven to destruction, and that not merely individuals, but nations." Dr. Allen, of Bowdoin College says of this text: "The punishment expressed in this passage is cutting off from life, destroying from the earth by some special judgment, and removing to the invisible state of the dead. The Hebrew term translated hell in the text does not seem to mean, with any certainty, anything more than the state of the dead in their deep abode." Professor Stuart: "It means a violent and premature death inflicted by the hand of heaven." Job 21:13: "They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave."

It would seem that no one could claim this text as a threat of after-death punishment. It is a mere declaration of sudden death. This is evident when we remember that it was uttered to a people who, according to all authorities, believed in no punishment after death.

Proverbs 5: 5: "her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell." This language, making death and Sheol parallel, announces that the strange woman walks in paths of swift and inevitable sorrow and death. And so does Prov. 9:18: "But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell!' Sheol is here used as a figure of emblem of the horrible condition and fate of those who follow the ways of sin. They are dead while they live. They are already in Sheol or the kingdom of death.

Proverbs 23: 13-14: "Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." Sheol is here used as the grave, to denote the death that rebellious children experience early, or it may mean that moral condition of the soul which Sheol, the realm of death signifies. But in no case is it supposable that it means a place or condition of after-death punishment in which, as all scholars agree, Solomon was not a believer.

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