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Bible verses about Death and Hades
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:4

Satan's heresy that "You shall not surely die," when expanded, claims that we are already immortal, so death has no real hold over us. This idea, proposed at the very beginning, has thrived throughout history. Mainstream Christianity calls it the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, while various Eastern religions contain it in beliefs such as reincarnation. Whatever its moniker, the belief that human beings possess a spiritual, eternally conscious, imperishable component is a major tenet of nearly every religion throughout man's history. In our modern culture, books and movies abound with examples of the spirits of the dead hovering around the living characters, giving them comfort, aid, and encouragement. It is taken as given that death is not the end; somehow, one's conscious spirit will live on when the physical body perishes.

The Gnostic belief in the dualism of flesh and spirit—with the flesh being evil and something to be freed from, while the eternal spirit was good—also originated in the lie Satan told Eve. Gnostics, in general, believed that the purpose of human existence was to return to the spiritual realm from whence all originated. Death, then, was seen as liberation of the spirit.

First, consider how this belief affects a person's attitude and way of life. When Satan undermined the death penalty for disobedience, in addition to sowing further distrust in what God says, he also blunted one of the keenest elements of human motivation, continued self-preservation. If life beyond the grave is assured, how this life is lived makes little difference. It is like guaranteeing a college freshman that he will receive a doctorate degree, regardless of whether anything is learned, any work is done, any classes are attended, or any tuition is paid. While the student may indeed expend some effort, the motivation to apply himself wholeheartedly to his education will be substantially weakened. It would be so easy to slack off and postpone catching up to some time next week. After all, if the goal is certain, why worry about the details in the meantime?

Spiritually, the result is the same. If one already has immortality, and is eternally saved, there is no pressing reason to resist the pulls of carnality. Resisting Satan matters little. Devoting one's life to growing and overcoming has no urgency. Sin is no big deal. Why should one study to come to know God and His truth? Believing that one already possesses eternal life removes the urgency to live according to the desires and requirements of the Creator. At best, all that remains is the vague guidance of "just be a good person."

The Bible teaches that there can be life after death through the resurrection from the dead. Eternal life is ours only if God supplies it, and not because we possess an immortal soul:

» God tells us, "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die." (Ezekiel 18:4; emphasis ours throughout). God repeats this in Ezekiel 18:20. Clearly, it is possible for a "soul" to die.

» Paul instructs in Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death," not eternal life—not even eternal life in ever-burning hell. As with Ezekiel 18, sin incurs the death penalty. Satan, though, would have us believe that since death is not a real threat, sin is no big deal. It is only because of God's grace that we are not struck down immediately—not because of any inherent immortality within us—as the rest of Romans 6:23 explains: "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Eternal life is a gift, not an inborn quality.

» I Timothy 6:16 says that God "alone has immortality"—not any member of the human race, Christians included!

» Romans 2:7 promises "eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality," again proving that eternal life is a gift, not a right, and that immortality must be sought (by "doing good") rather than assumed to have it already.

» Finally, in the "Resurrection Chapter," I Corinthians 15, Paul explains when Christians receive immortality:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (I Corinthians 15:50-54)

It is not until "the last trumpet," when Jesus Christ returns, that the dead will be resurrected and given immortality (I Thessalonians 4:16). At this time, the saints will be changed and given new spiritual bodies (I Corinthians 15:49; I John 3:2). Clearly, immortality is not given until the resurrection from the dead, which does not take place until Jesus Christ returns.

That God must resurrect a person for him to continue living means that He retains sovereignty. He is not obliged to grant eternal life to anyone who demonstrates, once he has the opportunity to know God, that he is not willing to be subject to His way of life. However, by belittling the truth about the resurrection from the dead, and telling people that they already have immortality, Satan can distract them from a basic reason why they need to listen to God—so that they may be resurrected and continue living!

David C. Grabbe
Whatever Happened to Gnosticism? Part Three: Satan's Three Heresies


 

Luke 16:19-31

In the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, the latter, a heartless person, speaks to Lazarus while being "tormented in this flame." This alludes to the wicked being cremated when God burns up the earth, turning it into the final Gehenna, called elsewhere "the Lake of Fire." The rich man is raised out of his grave at the end of God's plan for humanity on earth. Because the dead know nothing, he does not realize the passage of time, but he certainly realizes that he has failed to receive salvation. He sees "a great gulf fixed" between him and those who are with Abraham in the Kingdom of God. At this point, it is impossible for anyone to change his fate.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Third Resurrection


 

Romans 6:23

God says that the "wages" of sin—that is, what you "earn" for transgressing God's law—is death. He does not say that the unrepentant sinner will live eternally in some sort of torment but that he will die.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Fate of the Wicked


 

Romans 6:23

A wage is payment for work. Death, then, is what we "earn" as a result of committing sin. This is not eternal life in hell fire but death, the complete annihilation of one's life.

God offers eternal life to those who are willing to meet His conditions. Therefore, salvation—being delivered from the consequences of sin—is receiving the gift of eternal life. Though some think that we already have an immortal soul, the Bible makes it plain that the only way we can receive eternal life is to receive it as God's gift.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

1 Peter 3:19

Jesus could not have preached to anyone, dead or alive, while His dead body lay in the tomb. Why? Because He was dead! If He was not dead during those "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40), then His sacrifice for the sins of humanity was in vain!

Scripture says that, when Jesus died on the cross, like all men His "spirit [returned] to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7; see Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30). The spirit of a human is not conscious in death, for Solomon tells us plainly that "the dead know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Thus, the spirit of a dead person cannot do anything: "for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (verse 10). As the psalmist writes, when a man dies, "His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans [thoughts, KJV] perish" (Psalm 146:4; see also Job 14:20-21; Psalm 104:29).

Jesus, in order to taste death like every man (Hebrews 2:9), had to die just as every man does. He was completely dead for three days and three nights; He was without life and consciousness both in body and in spirit. He could do no preaching to anyone, much less "to the spirits in prison," whoever they are.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jesus and 'the Spirits in Prison'


 

Revelation 6:8

Characteristically, the apostle John describes the fourth horse and rider using a paucity of verbiage: The horse is "pale," the rider's name is "Death," and "Hades" follows him. This is the extent of the biblical description, yet even so, these provide us with sufficient clues to deduce a cogent interpretation.

First, the horse's coat is a unique and otherworldly pale. The Greek word is chlooros, which we recognize as the origin of such English words as "chlorine," "chloroform," and "chlorophyll." It technically refers to a greenish-yellow color found in nature in the pale green of just-sprouted grass or new leaves (see Mark 6:39; Revelation 8:7; 9:4; these are chlooros' only other occurrences in the New Testament).

Secular Greek writers, however, did not confine chlooros just to sprouting plants. In The Iliad, Homer describes fearful men's faces with this term, suggesting a pallid, ashen color, and in other instances, it is the pale golden color of honey or the gray bark of an olive tree. Sophocles writes that it is the color of sand, while Thucydides applies it to the skin color of those suffering from plague.

It is this last description that is probably John's intended meaning; the color of the horse reminded him of the pale, greenish-gray color of a corpse or decaying flesh. The Phillips translation renders chlooros as "sickly green in color"; the New English and the Revised English Bibles, as "sickly pale"; the New Jerusalem Bible, as "deathly pale"; and the New Living Translation, as "pale green like a corpse." The fourth horse sports a coat only producers of horror movies would love!

Upon the back of this gruesome beast sits one whose name is "Death." This is another unique feature of this horseman, as none of the others receives a name. The Greek word is the normal word for "death," thánatos, suggesting on the surface a generic application of the term. However, this would be jumping to a conclusion, for the term is probably meant to be understood more specifically as "pestilence" or "disease."

The evidence for this meaning here derives primarily from the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. In several places, the Septuagint translators rendered the Hebrew word deber, meaning "pestilence" or "disease," as thánatos. For instance, in Exodus 5:3, Moses and Aaron tell Pharaoh, "Please let us go three days' journey into the desert and sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence [Hebrew deber; Greek thánatos] or with the sword." This combination of translations also occurs in the fifth plague, that of the murrain or cattle disease: God tells Moses to inform Pharaoh, "There will be a very severe pestilence" (Exodus 9:3; see also verse 15). In a later instance, God warns Judah through Jeremiah, "I will send . . . pestilence among them, till they are consumed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers" (Jeremiah 24:10).

The most convincing piece of evidence for thánatos meaning "pestilence" in this passage comes from the mouth of our Savior in the Olivet Prophecy, as He describes the events leading up to His return. He prophesies to His disciples, "And there will be famines [third seal or horseman], pestilences [fourth seal or horseman], and earthquakes in various places" (Matthew 24:7). He does not use thánatos but loimós, which literally means "pestilence" or "disease." Once Jesus Himself weighs in, there is no argument. The pale rider brings death by disease.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Four Horsemen (Part Five): The Pale Horse


 

Revelation 6:8

A minor controversy exists concerning the last half of verse 8: "And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth." The argument deals with whether this sentence applies to the fourth horseman alone or summarizes the depredations of all four. The latter seems preferable.

Jesus appears to treat the first four seals as a subgroup in His Olivet prophecy, saying of them, "All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:8). His intent is clear: These four judgments are a distinct set of calamities that acts as a kind of warm-up for the exceedingly more terrible judgments of the time of the end. As He warns, "See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet" (verse 6). It is entirely logical to believe that the same Revelator would likewise separate the Four Horsemen from the last three seals with a short summary of their work as well as the limits of their authority.

Another proof involves the fact that the sentence restates the missions of the red ("to kill with sword"), black ("with hunger"), and pale ("with death [thánatos, meaning disease]") horsemen. Applying these means of destruction to the fourth horseman alone would make the other two redundant and significantly diminish their roles. In addition, lumping pestilence in with hunger, war, and beasts as activities of the fourth horseman would obscure the role of disease as a judgment of God.

Commentators argue that the plural pronoun "them" in Revelation 6:8 has "Death" and "Hades" as its antecedents. They are certainly the closest antecedents, but the Greek does not demand them to be the pronoun's true antecedents. Besides, the real subject of the previous sentence is not really "Death" and "Hades" but the singular "name" of the fourth horseman. If God intended it to be a summary statement of the whole passage, we can easily recognize "them" to refer to the entire passage's active characters—the Four Horsemen—the ones to whom the Lamb gave authority to execute His judgment.

A final, curious factor is the inclusion of "by the beasts of the earth" in the powers of the horsemen; it seems to come out of the blue. However, it follows naturally in the progression of catastrophes. In times of severe war, famine, and disease, depopulation occurs, which upsets the precarious balance between human civilization and wildlife. Suddenly, with hunting and developing of wilderness areas reduced or eliminated, the population of predatory creatures expands, increasing the chances of animal attacks on humans.

The Bible provides an example of this in Genesis 10:8-9. It is thought that Nimrod's rise to power over the post-Flood world began with his skills in hunting and killing predators, which had the upper hand over the miniscule human population at the time. Another example appears in Exodus 23:29, in which God promises Israel, "I will not drive [the Canaanites] out from before you in one year, lest the land become too desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you" (see also Deuteronomy 7:22; Ezekiel 34:25, 28). Incursions of lions actually killed some Samaritans after Assyria took the bulk of the Israelites into captivity (II Kings 17:25).

Wild beasts are included in the curses for disobedience of Leviticus 26: "I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and make you few in number; and your highways shall be desolate" (verse 22; see Deuteronomy 32:24; Jeremiah 15:3; Ezekiel 14:15). Through Ezekiel, God prophesies that disasters such as the Four Horsemen bring happen together with the scourge of wild beasts: "So I will send against you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you. Pestilence and blood shall pass through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I, the LORD, have spoken" (Ezekiel 5:17; see 14:21; 33:27). Though death by wild beasts is included in the text of Revelation 6:8 without warning, it fits nonetheless.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Four Horsemen (Part Five): The Pale Horse


 

Revelation 21:8

The Bible describes the "hellfire" into which the wicked will be cast as a lake of burning fire and brimstone. Some have pictured this Lake of Fire to be like an active volcano spewing out molten rock. Into such a fiery liquid the incorrigible will be thrown. After having died once and been resurrected to judgment (Hebrews 9:27), they will die the "second death" by being burned up in the Lake of Fire.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Fate of the Wicked


 

 




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