Sheol: Does the OT Have a Concept of Eternal Bliss or Heaven?

Posted By on September 3, 2009

Good to be back blogging on the NB. I lost my laptop for a week and posting was spotty. But thanks the Geek Squad at BestBuy, I’m back in business.

By now you’ve had plenty of time to read through the file I posted with all the occurrences of Sheol.  You should have noticed that, for the most part, it has a negative feel, either because certain occurrences speak of the grave and people don’t like to die (!) or it’s the place the wicked are headed to. But you should also have noticed that, on occasion, the righteous are said to be headed to Sheol (e.g., Jacob: Gen 37:35; 42:38; 44:31). This in fact is what steers many scholars (probably most) to see Sheol as either the grave or some sort of reference to a place “in the earth” that everyone goes to. This latter element is, of course, part of the three-tiered cosmology of ancient Israel and other ANE peoples. Sheol is “bad” because the wicked are there; Sheol isn’t “bad” because the righteous are there, too.

While it’s clear that the dead go to the grave/Sheol and therefore reside in Sheol (whatever that is), it seems that the questions of eternal paradise or eternal punishment are not addressed in the OT text. After all, there’s no real clear passage that speaks of Sheol being anything like heaven, and it’s never really described like we’d think of hell.

Well, not so fast on both counts.

Let’s take the “heaven” idea first. The notion that the cumulative occurrences of Sheol prove that the OT has no idea of an eternal heaven is misguided. The reason is the assumption that studying the occurrences of Sheol is the right strategy or trajectory for delving into the issue of whether the OT teaches there is a blissful afterlife. It isn’t.

There are definite hints that there is something beyond Sheol for the righteous. Normally, according to Job 7:9, no one comes up out of Sheol (“As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up”). But the Lord can accomplish this per 1 Samuel 2:6 (“The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up”). “Raises up” is a literal translation and the verb here is NOT the one typically used for physical deliverance, and so the idea of coming “up” out of Sheol (which was conceived of as under the earth) appears to be in view.  This “upward” language is interesting in light of Prov 15:24, where we read: “The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.” The “upward” idea is clearly contrasted with Sheol, which is “below” in Israelite cosmology. The text could be read in two ways: that the righteous never go to Sheol, which doesn’t seem correct in view of other passages, or that the righteous wind up “up there” (opposite Sheol) after death at some point (and death = Sheol). The second option is consistent with the idea that everyone goes to Sheol but the righteous don’t stay there.

This is important since many try to argue that all that is in view is deliverance from physical harm that would bring death (and hence a trip to Sheol). Psalm 30:3 also seems to clearly suggest that the Lord can remove someone from Sheol and raise them out of the place of the dead: “O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.” Psalm 49:15 echoes the same thought: “But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.” What’s interesting about this verse is the idea of being “received” by God — which would make little sense if the point was merely protection from harm in this life. The Hebrew word here for “receive” can also mean “taken,” and so the idea may also be removal from Sheol.

So, the references to Sheol itself can include the notion of being removed from Sheol, at least for the righteous.  But there is more. Some scholars fail to look outside the passages that have the word Sheol in them, and that omission leads to poor conclusions.

Building on the idea of the righteous escaping from Sheol at the pleasure of the Lord, we read in Psalm 73:

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.

24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

The language of being “received to glory” is noteworthy (it is the same word as in Psalm 49:15). Some would argue that the meaning is that God will honor the person in question, and that “glory” does not refer to the presence of God. That position is made more difficult by what follows:  ”Whom have I in the heavens but you?” Yes, this could be an appeal like “what other god do I have but you?” but it’s obvious that God was thought to dwell in the heavens — and so that may be where the person in question will be “received.” The “holding of the hand” deserves some attention, since “upholding” is elsewhere associated with the presence of God: “But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.”  The notion of the Lord being the “portion” of the psalmist “forever” is important as well. “Portion” is a very important and familiar word to any who have read my work on the divine council. It is the word for “allotted inheritance.” That God is perceived to be the inheritance of the righteous psalmist is the flip side of the idea that Yahweh has his own portion (inheritance) which is Israel, his people. The idea is that there is a personal eschatology (being with the Lord forever) with the national eschatology that springs out of the OT worldview of Israel as a divine inheritance.  The “portion” language is echoed in Psalm 16:5 (“The Lord is my chosen portion and cup; you hold my lot”). Elsewhere in the same psalm (vv. 10-11) the psalmist says: “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Clearly the psalmist expected that the righteous to be with the Lord and not remain in Sheol (cf. “the holy” — and the word is not qadesh, the normal word for holy — it is chasid — a synonym for the righteous).

In my judgment, and without belaboring the data, a good case can be presented that the OT does indeed teach that the righteous do not remain in Sheol but are with the Lord. Since God was thought to have no end in Israelite theology, any existence with him for the righteous would be eternal.

Next up: Sheol for the unrighteous.

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23 Responses to “Sheol: Does the OT Have a Concept of Eternal Bliss or Heaven?”

  1. rode says:

    thank God we are his portion and that he will rescue us from Sheol…
    blessings and as always, thanks for your work.

    ps…reading the facade right now…waiting for the sequel :)

  2. MSH says:

    @rode: thanks!

  3. Jason says:

    Hey Mike,

    I was wondering about eternal punishment in the Hebrew OT and the LXX. Does/Can Olam mean eternal. If so how does this fit with Is.61:4 – ‘the old wastse?’ In the LXX it was translated aionios. I ask in regards to the idea against eternal punishment. What’s up with these words and is there any good articles available on the web or elsewhere?


  4. MSH says:


    The best thing to do is get a good lexicon, look up the term, then look through all the examples. As with any word, meaning is determined by context. Olam can mean “a long time [but not eternal]; a definite span of time” (e.g., Deut 15:17 – then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your slave forever (olam)”). But can also mean “eternal”, especially when used of God (Isa 40:28; Isa 26:4 – is the Lord only a “real long time” God or “everlasting”?). And I know some will say “everlasting” doesn’t mean eternal – and it doesn’t, in our parlance – but the issue is whether Israelites (and us) did *not* conceive of God as eternal. Frankly, it is a theological necessity driven by the scriptural idea of God being before all creation – and even before “all things visible and invisible” a la Colossians 1 — and Psalm 90:2 – Before the ?mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, ?from everlasting (olam) to everlasting (olam) you are God.” I doubt the psalmist could have been more forceful for the pre-existence (and hence eternality) of God than this.

    And this points to something important. “Meaning” and “theology” are not driven by isolated word studies. Those are but one factor. It is fashionable in evangelicalism lately (like the emergent movement, whatever that is) to try and base an evangelical universalism in part on olam — it is a fatal flaw to depend on cherry-picking a lexicon for your theology, and to “do theology” by mere word studies.

  5. […] understanding of Sheol. As you all know, I think it is quite overstated to say that the OT has no heaven or hell concept. That view only works if you restrict the discussion to the word “Sheol” […]

  6. Eleutheros says:


    You pointed out the truthful conclusion that in OT thinking: “…everyone goes to Sheol but the righteous don’t stay there.” And that it is Jehovah Who has both the power and the desire to raise a human from Sheol for their maintaining righteousness during their allotted time of life. So the question I asked myself was, “When does this ‘raising up’ of the righteous happen? Are there any hints in the OT that this raising up occurs ‘soon’ after death or ‘later’?

    I recalled these words of Hezekiah’s describing the state of these unseen ones (both righteous and not so righteous?) in Sheol: “For the unseen is not acclaiming You, nor is death praising You, and those descending into a crypt are not looking forward to (the fulfillment of) Your truth.” Isa 38:18

    Which seemed to me to indicate an un-consciousness state, (perhaps only for the righteous??)

    And of course you are acquainted with the sorceress of Endor’s encounter with the elohim of Samuel and his words to Saul: “Why have you disquieted me, to bring me up?”

    And then there is this in Daniel 12:2: “From (among) those sleeping in the soil of the ground many shall awake, these to eonian life and these to reproach for eonian repulsion.” (The LXX uses ‘aionios’, here, for olam, not, ‘aidios’) Referring to a future time when Michael, Israel’s protecting Angel ‘stands by’ (aw-mad’s) and Israel is plunged into a time of distress like it’s never known before.

    The two things I noted were ‘many’ not ‘all’ awoke and that both the righteous and the unrighteous were ‘sleeping to awake’- after the resolution of a future “situation of situations” for Israel.

    So, from this and from reading your ‘Sheol list’ I conclude that, at the least, it is the human dead in the realm of the unseen, both righteous and unrighteous, who will ‘sleep’ (are unconscious) till they ‘awake’ (are resurrected) and that this time for these ‘many’ to ‘awake’ is in the future (at the ‘era of the end’ Dan 12:4) and that these ‘many’ in Sheol who awake are both the righteous and unrighteous, because they receive, upon thier waking, either age-lasting life or age-lasting repulsion or ‘shame’; which wording here seems to be reflected in Jesus wording in Matt: 25:32-46 (CLV), “…and these shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian.”

    Of course, for anyone ‘asleep’ time will pass, unnoticed, till they ‘awake’.

    So, from this I think it’s safe to conclude that, according to OT understanding, there is, in reality, no ‘fiery torment’ for these human dead and likely not anywhere in the place where the dead are- the place called Sheol- and that even those who maintained righteousness while living must ‘wait’, as unconscious of time as the unrighteous, to awake before receiving their allotment of eonian life.

    I think you can tell, by my word choices and scripture quotes from A.E. Knoch’s Concordant Literal Version, that I have become a ‘Reconciliationist’ (or ‘Universalist’… as you wish… because of the truthful things I read in the Original Text not because I necessarily wanted to be)…

    Who was fascinated with The Façade (read yesterday in less than a day, it was so engrossing… I loved how you illustrated the power of forgiveness to change a person and I can’t wait for the sequel and your finished dissertation on the Divine Council)…

    And who would like to hear your ‘take’ on these conclusions of mine.

    I suspect that you won’t concur; given what I’ve read in the others posts on this thread; for this conclusion of mine smacks of what is called ‘soul sleep’, does it not? Still, though I would like to hear your logic out.

    I thank Jehovah for you and your work, Michael. Your research and boldness is a genuine challenge to much of what is considered truth in popular medieval Christian thinking. Know that your work on the Divine Council provided the missing knowledge I needed to coalesce my own thoughts into a cohesive understanding of the scriptures that I could live with. No small thing for me.

    Be good, Michael, just as you were created to be!

    • MSH says:

      Pretty idiosyncratic translation. I think the Concordant translation is based on an incoherent premise (the idea of rendering a Hebrew lemma with a particular English word all the time — I don’t see either the logic or the merit of this — and I think it’s actually misleading in places — we don’t even do this for English — i.e., one word can have multiple meanings and nuances).

      I’ve actually covered this before on the site (it has to do with rephaim) so I won’t cover it here. Check the Sheol archives.

    • MSH says:

      I should clarify — I’ve commented on the rephaim material, not your other question. I don’t want to rabbit-trail on eschatology at this point. Post something in a while to remind me of it.

    • MSH says:

      I’m not offended by universalism; I think it is based on logic more than Scripture, though. I think annihilation is more coherent than that alternative, but I haven’t spent what I think is adequate time on the issue.

  7. Eleutheros says:


    Wow. Thanx for your quick replies!

    Mine took a while because I was debating whether to reply at all. But what you said about not devoting ‘adequate time’ to ‘the issue’ pushed my decision toward a reply.

    A few returns then.

    The thingy you talked about with the CLV was something I wondered about, too, when I first looked into this translation. Interestingly enough, as I read this translation, I discovered that the English language has a larger number of synonyms than I never knew existed! As well as lot of largely unused, but thought-specific words that I did not know the meaning of! I found it very helpful to keep a dictionary handy when I first began reading this translation.

    To a point, I agree that the CLV is an ‘idiosyncratic’ translation method, in the sense of that word meaning, ‘peculiar’. When I first began using Strong’s Concordance, searching for meaning in some of the more difficult ‘theological’ passages, I perceived that the ‘normal’ method of translation, employed by the medieval scholars who gave us our English Bibles, was to take two, three, sometimes even four different, often non-synonymous Greek/Hebrew words and translate these words, as consistently as possible- except when the context got in the way- with one and only one carefully chosen English word. And in those cases where context prevented the use of this one carefully chosen word, another, usually non-related word was chosen to keep some sense in the passage.
    When I discovered this peculiar method of translation, I was puzzled for quite some time because I recognized this for the trickery it is (how can two, or more, different words, in the same language, mean exactly the same thing?) and could not believe that Jehovah would allow His Words to be tampered with.
    Later, after studying the history of how we got our English Bibles, I perceived that this translational ‘slight- of-hand’ was mostly practiced on certain ‘key’ words. And for understanding the original meaning in those ‘key’ words, comparing them with the English words chosen to translate them, it seemed clear to me that these medieval translators had some kind of theological bias they wanted to preserve in their translations, that, in truth, was peculiar to the Original Text.

    So, yes, I agree- compared with this ‘normal’ medieval method of translation, the Concordant Method of trying to match, as close as is linguistically possible, one English word to one Greek or Hebrew word would seem idiosyncratic. However, it was A.E. Knoch’s credentials as a Greek Hebrew Scholar that prevented me from dismissing his translation out-of hand. The same consideration I give to you because of your credentials. ‘Cause we non-scholars gotta be able to trust somebody, you know?

    Michael, I gotta say that this reply here was the most honest reply I’ve ever read:

    “I’m not offended by universalism; I think it is based on logic more than Scripture, though. I think annihilation is more coherent than that alternative, but I haven’t spent what I think is adequate time on the issue.”

    My reply to this is two fold:

    The first is to say that I have personally spent a considerable amount of time on ‘the issue’. I had to so I could find a way to survive the ‘theological’ part of my good, Christian upbringing. Not that this studiousness uniquely qualifies me for any honors but said only to encourage you to look deeper into ‘the issue’… But be careful! ‘Cause, from what I perceive in your writings, your mind is not closed to possibilities…

    The second part is to again agree with you- to a point. Logic is indeed employed in Universalism; as is scripture. But I would say that it is in exactly the same ‘ratio’ as it is in Catholicism, Calvinism, Arminianism. Lutheranism, Zwingliism, Mormonism,
    And for that, I perceive that Logic is the reason why there are so many schisms among the -ism’s!

    Indeed, without Logic, I think it would be impossible to have all these -ism’s!

    It’s been said, facetiously of Logic that it is a way of arriving at an incorrect conclusion with certainty! A humorous observation, to be sure, but, like anything that is humorous, there has to be some truth there that all can identify with.

    Did you know that Logic has a ‘dirty little secret’? It is this ‘dirty little secret’ that is the truth behind this facetious observation of Logic.

    The dirty little secret is:

    Logic works independently of the truth.

    That is to say it works equally well with falsity as it does with truth because its operation is independent of both.

    The reason this is a truth about logic is because logic utilizes two kinds of ‘truth’: Facts and axioms. Facts are usually easily verifiable things we observe or learn. But axioms are improvable statements about reality that should be intended to accurately reflect reality.
    That is to say, axioms are ‘made up’.
    It is useful if these axioms actually do reflect reality but they don’t have to for logic to work. And generally speaking most axioms can find an audience that will accept them as truth, as long as they ‘sound right’.

    For it is also a truth that among us human’s perception is ‘reality’.

    So when we as humans combine these axioms and facts together in our thoughts, we are utilizing logic. Logic then compels us to a unique and unavoidable conclusion, given any set of facts and axioms.
    Let me say that again, Logic will compel you to a unique and unavoidable conclusion.
    So, if the facts are genuine and the axioms, ‘the made up part that sounds right’, actually reflects reality then the logical conclusion will be a truthful conclusion.
    But if the facts are ‘wrong’ or if ‘the made up part that sounds right’ doesn’t reflect reality then the logical conclusion will not be according to truth.
    But note that logic will still compel one’s thoughts to a unique and unavoidable conclusion.

    For example, the mixing of the axiom we call ‘Evolution’ as an explanation for our origins, combined with the facts of our solar system and the vast multitude of stars ‘out there’ compel one, through logic, to conclude that there should be corporeal, sentient life on other planets. And so, combining this logically correct conclusion with the fact of our own observed desire to explore space, we arrive at another logically correct conclusion that these Unidentified Flying Objects we hear about could be piloted by these corporeal, sentient beings that should have evolved, like we did, but on other planets.

    It’s logically correct, but is it the truth?

    So, you see, it is these logical conclusions, derived from various facts and axioms that give us all these –ism’s. And because many of these logical conclusions contradict each other, we have schisms among the –ism’s!

    Therefore to know whether logic has brought us to a truthful conclusion, it is the conclusions themselves that must be examined for truth, not just the facts and axioms. For it is a truth of logic that if two conclusions contradict each other, then one is false and the other is truthful. Or they are both false and the truth lies elsewhere. But, logically speaking, contradictory conclusions cannot both be simultaneously correct.

    So, after realizing this dirty little secret about logic, and for my being re-sired by Jehovah (no small thing that, considering my good Christian upbringing), I began my quest for that understanding that Paul and the other apostles taught the first Believers who turned the world upside down. The very same understanding that all the apostles warned would be twisted, perverted and made ineffectual by those ‘teachers’ who came after them; ‘teachers’ searching for weak ones among them that they could dominate. And the history of the church has pretty much borne out the fact that this happened, for exactly the reasons Paul said it would.

    I began, then, by first believing, (putting faith in) the axiom that Truth is knowable. As well as believing that Truth is singular in nature and non-contradictory in all its logical conclusions.
    This means, logically speaking, that it is lies and deceptions that are plural.
    And so, for knowing how logic is abused, I came to perceive exactly how the medieval scholars who gave us our English Bibles worked thier theological bias into thier translations. Of course it was only logical, once I perceived this, that I should distrust these translations, including the many ‘corrected’ modern versions, exactly because of the fact of the tenacious popularity of medieval theology among the majority of modern Christians, theology taught them through these translations. After all how many Christian’s are gonna plunk down their money for a ‘new’ translation of the Bible that would inherently contradict many of the medieval axioms that were actually translated into our English Bibles, the same axioms that anchor the logic behind modern, medieval Christian thought?

    All this is said to point out that logic is no more overemphasized in Universalism than it is in any other –ism.
    Universalism, called nowadays, Ultimate Reconciliation, or UR, is the belief, arrived at through applying logic to axioms derived from the scriptures in their original language, that Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself was to eventually reconcile all of Mankind, and beyond, to the Father. The end.

    This puts it in stark contrast to many of the other -ism’s which believe, through applying logic to English scripture, that Jesus death and resurrection was to reconcile only some of Mankind to the Father, with the rest being lost either to annihilation or to a conscious torment in a never-ending hell of fire eternally separated from Jehovah, their Creator, because their ‘free will’, (which He supposedly created in them), to resist Him is stronger than Jehovah’s stated will is to save them. This is a logical conundrum.

    Of course one could conclude, through logic, also using axioms derived from our English Bibles, that Jehovah Himself created these humans pre-destined for this separation and torment- but that would mean, logically speaking, that Jehovah is mean… and capricious… among other things.

    Have I employed logic to make a point? You bet! Just like anyone else will employ logic in defense of the medieval beliefs that gave us either that peculiar hell or annihilation to choose from, as the finale for all the countless souls Jehovah is going to lose to Sin and Death.

    And why’ a choice’ at all? I mean, how did we get to thinking a decision has to be made between whether the scriptures teach annihilation or an eternal, fiery hell for those who are predestined/choose to go there? If the scriptures teach truth, then why is there ambiguity on this most important point? Logically speaking, wouldn’t Jehovah know which one of these two mutually exclusive futures is the Finale and be able to clearly communicate, through His words, exactly which one of these Ends awaits those chosen/choosing ones? After all, it is a fact that human fears are a great motivator.

    So, it is a fact that Universalism is no different than the other -ism’s in employing logic and scripture.

    The difference I have perceived is that the logical conclusions of Universalism tend toward harmony and resolution- where the meaning in the wording of the Original Text is believed- rather than the contradiction and confusion I have encountered in the logical conclusions of the other Christian -ism’s derived from the late-coming medieval theologies that gave us our English Bibles and thus modern Christian thought.

    Therefore I understand how anyone, acquainted with the faith through the logic of the medieval theology that was put into our English translations and unacquainted with how Universalism’s axioms were derived from the Original Text, could perceive Universalism as relying on logic more than ‘scripture’. Been there and done that.

    Again, thank you, Michael, for who you are and for what you have accomplished. May blessings continue to be the outcome of your most excellent work on the Divine Council. Know that, for those with ‘ears to hear and eyes to see’, you are answering a lot of hard questions with the truths you are presenting. Know also that you are trusted and appreciated.
    I do hope that, one day, you will become inspired to devote what you consider ‘adequate time’ to weighing the logical conclusions of all the -ism’s, comparing them to the Original Text and resolving ‘the issue’ to your own satisfaction. After all you are the only person you will ever need to convince of the truth.

    Be good! Just as you were created to be!

    • MSH says:

      this is far too long for anything like a detailed answer. I sincerely doubt anything you’ll put forth in defense of a concordant approach to translation will gain any headway with me. Language just doesn’t work that way in real life, and it’s hard to separate this method from the restrictive fallacy (I’d say impossible). The universalism issue is one we’ll eventually get to on the blog.

  8. Eleutheros says:

    OK. I look forward to it!

    Yea, it was kinda a long reply, wasn’t it? Well, know that it’s never my intention to try and convince anyone of anything, but rather to present my thoughts and listen to what is said back to me. And on occasion, I learn something new that is actually helpful- like your work on Second Temple theology and the Divine Council. However, what others choose to believe is ‘the truth’ is between them and their God.

    In this unfortunate age of multiple and contradictory Christian -ism’s (Was Paul an Augustinian? A Lutheran? A Wesleyan? What protestant denomination was he, exactly? Which denomination would he approve of? Or was he Catholic?) there is no other response a Believer can have that will not leave him/her tattered and worn and maybe even confused for engaging any of the Christian -ism’s adherents with a contrary point of view. As I implied, I’m the only one I ever need to convince of the truth.

    Shoot! I claim the label ‘Universalist’ yet most of what I read in Universalist literature is really crap, trusting as they still do, in a severed-off part of that peculiar, deterministic medieval theology that was translated into our English Bibles. Trust me, even they keep themselves immune to the very logic they themselves use to influence, when logic doesn’t go ‘their way’!

    I do, however, comprehend what you mean about the CLV and am very aware of its limitations, exactly for the reasons you said. My ‘defense’ of it was solely based on my experience with it. I use it mostly because I can find no other modern translation of The Words that hasn’t been (can’t afford not to be) influenced by the medieval theology that is so axiomatic to modern Christian ‘truth’.

    For I perceive that ‘Universalism’, as I defined it, simply enough, in my last post, is indeed the understanding, the ‘theology’, of the Original Text.

    Feel free to disagree!

    So, I’m sure I’m not the first to ask this, Michael, but, have you considered putting forth your own translation of The Words?

    I’m sure you’d learn a lot from such an effort, about yourself and your beliefs (you are in a unique and enviable position for your learning)? You’d likely make a lot of Christians your enemies along the way, should they believe you ‘messed with’ the scriptures!

    As well as not a few new friends who would find themselves pleased that someone else was drawing the same conclusions you were.

    Well, it’s still all about love anyway…. and forgiveness, isn’t it? And being changed from the inside out to become a consistently good human, just as we were originally created to be?

    “Verily, verily, I am saying to you, If anyone should not be begotten anew, he can not perceive the kingdom of God… I am saying to you, If anyone should not be begotten of water and of spirit, he can not be entering into the kingdom of God. That which is begotten by the flesh is flesh, and that which is begotten by the spirit is spirit. You should not be marveling that I said to you, ‘You must be begotten anew.”

    “…for the kingdom of God is… righteousness and peace and joy in holy spirit.”

    Exactly as I’ve found it to be.

    (All quotes from the CLV 😉 )

  9. Sheila says:

    What do you make of the “kingdom truth” as explained by the Lord in Luke 16, concerning the story of Lazarus and Abraham? Is not the Lord qualifying the division between the righteous dead and the unrighteous dead awaiting resurrection, those who are waiting for the “hope of Israel”, Messiah, who in this parable, if it qualifies as such, has not yet gone to the cross, died and been resurrected? This story in Luke is also related in the book of Enoch. Enoch makes a distinction as to where the righeous are waiting in one place and the unrighteous in another. Since the writers of the NT were guided by the Spirit into all truth and they mention Enoch, would not this qualify as “truth”?



    p.s. The link to your “Devine Council” page seems to shut down IE everytime I try to access any particular heading. Is it no longer available?

    • MSH says:

      I don’t see how anything I’ve posted on this denies there is a distinction of “places” in Luke 16 – ?

      The link that is giving you trouble – which page of mine (and which site) is it on so I can check it?

  10. Sheila says:

    I’ll just point those who argue for “soul sleep” to this article.

    I’m just a babe in the body, for now. Thanks for bearing with me….

    The link that shuts down Internet Explorer is

  11. Sheila says:

    While I did spell it wrong in this forum, the website I was on was the “correct” one. I bypassed it by using AOL, imagine that! AOL finally got something right.!

    The problem with IE is still the same.

    No worries though. Thanks.

  12. james says:

    Michael –
    you stated that the OT saint would not remain in sheol but would be with the Lord. I was just wondering when you believed the OT saint would be transferred from sheol to heaven? I have heard some people argue OT saints were moved from sheol to heaven at the time Jesus rose from the dead. Is that the same view you are outlining here?

    • MSH says:

      I don’t believe in Baptist purgatory (!). All this language reflects the hope of the righteous that after death they would be with God. There’s no checklist, timetable, or chronology. We’ve just complicated things based upon a misreading of “captivity captive” (Eph 4) and other verses.

      • james says:

        Ok, thanks. A couple of questions that spring to mind: the NT seems to pretty clearly teach that believers go straight to heaven and bypass sheol completely. Why the change from what occurs in the OT? Or is the answer to that Q something we can only speculate about? If OT saints went to heaven anyway after a stay in sheol, what was the purpose of them even going to sheol at all? Or is that again something we can only speculate about?

        • MSH says:

          sheol is “the afterlife”; the afterlife place has its own “geography” (without literal latitude and longitude of course!) where the righteous and unrighteous spend the afterlife.

        • David E. G. says:

          The NT is far from clear on the issue, especially when the scriptures about leading captivity captive and Jesus preaching to spirits are taken in their appropriate context. Paul and Jesus both address death as sleep, as does the OT in certain places. The OT is crystal clear that Sheol is the destination of all people (humans at least). Given the idea of death as sleep which crosses the testaments, I think some of the ambiguous scriptures in the NT which cause us trouble (“to live is Christ, to die is gain”, “to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ”, etc.) can possibly be rectified by the recognition that when we sleep, the next thing we remember is waking up (barring some dreaming) even though time has passed. Where the true ambiguity comes in is taking scriptures like Jesus’ promise to the robber on the cross that he would be with Jesus that day in paradise. Taken in conjunction with Jesus admonition to Mary a few days later that he had not yet gone to the Father, I think He does not mean “heaven” when He says “paradise”. Additionally, Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man show strong parallels between Sheol and the Greek conception of Hades and the Elisian (sp.) fields (paradise?). How this fits in with sleeping in the grave I could only speculate, but all this to say that while the OT is crystal clear, the NT is…confusing. :-)

          • MSH says:

            The captivity captive is not about the emptying of Sheol, though that is commonly thought (I used to refer to the idea as part of the “Baptist purgatory” view – that wasn’t appreciated back in seminary).

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