Like all otherwise unknown truths, the doctrine of a future state depends wholly on what is declared in the Sacred Text. It is usually asserted that the word Sheol of the Old Testament finds its equivalent in Hades, but Dr. E. W. Bullinger objects to such a conclusion in the following note: "This [Gen. 37:35] being the first occurrence of the word Sheol, the R.V. gives a note in the margin, 'Heb. Sheol, the name of the abode of the dead, answering to the Greek Hades, Acts 2:27.' This note is altogether wrong. (1) It is interpretation and not translation. (2) It prejudges the word from the outset, fixing upon it the word 'abode,' which has a technical meaning applicable only to the living: thus anticipating the conclusion, which cannot be arrived at until we have obtained all the evidence, and have it before us. (3) Sheol has nothing in it 'answering to the Greek Hades.' Hades must have the same meaning as Sheol; and must answer to that. It must have the meaning which the Holy Spirit puts upon it, and not the meaning which the heathen put on it" (A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, 6th ed., revised, p. 368). A study of these words is at once required.
1. Old Testament Teaching. Having cited the use of Sheol in sixty-five passages and pointed out that it is usually translated grave, sometimes pit, and sometimes hell, Dr. Bullinger declares:
On a careful examination of the above list, a few facts stand out very clearly. (i.) It will be observed that in a majority of cases Sheol is rendered "the grave." To be exact, 54 per cent.: while "hell" is 41^ per cent.; and "pit" only 4^ per cent. The grave, therefore, stands out on the face of the above list as the best and commonest rendering. (ii.) With regard to the word "pit," it will be observed that in each of the three cases where it occurs (Num. 16:30, 33; and Job 17:16), the grave is so evidently meant, that we may at once substitute that word, and banish "pit" from our consideration as a rendering of Sheol. (iii.) As to the rendering "hell," it does not represent Sheol, because both by Dictionary definition and by colloquial usage "hell" means the place of future punishment. Sheol has no such meaning, but denotes the present state of death. "The grave" is, therefore, a far more suitable translation, because it visibly suggests to us what is invisible to the mind, viz., the state of death. It must, necessarily, be misleading to the English reader to see the former put to represent the latter. (iv.) The student will find that "the grave," taken literally as well as figuratively, will meet all the requirements of the Hebrew Sheol: not that Sheol means so much specifically A grave, as generically the grave. Holy Scripture is all-sufficient to explain the word Sheol to us. (v.) If we enquire of it in the above list of the occurrences of the word Sheol, it will teach (a) That as to direction it is down. (b) That as to place it is in the earth. (c) That as to nature it is put for the state of death. Not the act of dying, for which we have no English word, but the state or duration of death. The Germans are more fortunate, having the word sterbend for the act of dying. Sheol therefore means the state of death; or the state of the dead, of which the grave is a tangible evidence. It has to do only with the dead. It may sometimes be personified and represented as speaking, as other inanimate things are. It may be represented by a coined word, Gravedom, as meaning the dominion or power of the grave. (d) As to relation it stands in contrast with the state of the living, see Deut. 30:15, 19, and 1 Sam. 2:6-8. It is never once connected with the living, except by contrast. (e) As to association, it is used in connection with mourning (Gen. 37:34-35), sorrow (Gen. 42:38; 2 Sam. 22:6; Ps. 18:5; 116:3), fright and terror (Num. 16:27, 34), weeping (Isa. 38:3, 10, 15, 20), silence (Ps. 31:17; 6:5; Eccles. 9:10), no knowledge (Eccles. 9:5-6, 10), punishment (Num. 16:27, 34; 1 Kings 2:6, 9; Job 24:19; Ps. 9:17, R.V., RE-turned, as before their resurrection). (f) And, finally, as to duration, the dominion of Sheol or the grave will continue until, and end only with, resurrection, which is the only exit from it (see Hos. 13:14, etc.; and compare Ps. 16:10 with Acts 2:27, 31; 13:35).—Ibid., pp. 368-69
2. New Testament Teaching. Here three words are present: Gehenna used eight times, Hades eleven times, Tartaros once. (a) Gehenna is a place of future punishment. (b) To quote Bullinger again, this time on Hades:
"If now the eleven occurrences of Hades in the New Testament be carefully examined, the following conclusions will be reached: (a) Hades is invariably connected with death; but never with life: always with dead people; but never with the living. All in Hades will 'NOT LIVE AGAIN,' until they are raised from the dead (Rev. 20:5). If they do not 'live again' until after they are raised, it is perfectly clear that they cannot be alive now. Otherwise we do away with the doctrine of resurrection altogether. (b) That the English word 'hell' by no means represents the Greek Hades; as we have seen that it does not give a correct idea of its Hebrew equivalent, Sheol. (c) That Hades can mean only and exactly what Sheol means, viz., the place where 'corruption' is seen (Acts 2:31; compare 13:34-37); and from which, resurrection is the only exit" (Ibid., p. 369).
So also on (c) Tartaros: "Taptapoq is not Sheol or Hades, ... where all men go in death. Nor is it where the wicked are to be consumed and destroyed, which is Gehenna ... Not the abode of men in any condition. It is used only here, and here only of 'the angels that sinned,' (seeJude 6). It denotes the bounds or verge of this material world. The extremity of this lower air—of which Satan is 'the prince' (Eph. 2:2) and of which Scripture speaks as having 'the rulers of the darkness of this world' and 'wicked spirits in aerial regions.' Taptapoq is not only the bounds of this material creation, but is so called from its coldness" (Ibid., p. 370).
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