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APPENDIX FOUR: THE HEART OF GOD

Friday, April 16th, 2010

APPENDIX FOUR: THE HEART OF GOD

(EXCERPTS FROM HELL: BIBLICAL TRUTH OR PAGAN MYTH?)

Jesus made some puzzling remarks while pronouncing judgment upon the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida:

“But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.” (Luke 10:12-14)

Now I don’t know about you, but I have always been under the assumption that the city of Sodom, like its sister city of Gomorrah, were two of the most vile and morally depraved communities that have ever existed. If there were ever a group of people that deserved to be damned for all eternity, then surely these people filled the bill. But Jesus says that their judgment will be “more tolerable” than that of Chorazin and Bethsaida. How can this be? Only one way – that the time of judgment, contrary to the teaching of orthodox Christianity, does not last forever!

“For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight, says the LORD. They have set their abominations in the house which is called by My Name, to pollute it. And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart.” (Jeremiah 7:30,31)

The Valley of the Son of Hinnom, or Gehenna, is famous chiefly for the abominable religious practices of the Israelites who there “built the high place of Tophet” to burn their sons and daughters in honor of the pagan god Molech (II Chronicles 28:3, 33:6). Changed into a public refuse dump and permanent place for burning, this accursed place, “the hell of fire where their worm does not die nor their fire go out,” is used figuratively to represent the place of judgment. Smith’s Bible Dictionary tells us that

“An idol of bronze of great size was set up in the valley, facing Olivet, where children were sacrificed in the fire, which seems to have been kindled inside the idol. Josiah abolished the worship, and strewed human bones over the place, making it unclean, and thus prevented the renewal of worship there (see II Kings 23:10). These inhuman practices gave the place a horrible character, and caused its name to be detested and used as a figure for a place of torment.”

So the literal burning of the children of Israel was an abomination to the LORD, one “which He did not command, nor did it enter into His heart!” So if God condemned the actual practice of the burning of their children in a literal fire, then what do you think will happen to those who teach that He will do likewise? Are you now beginning to see what Jesus really meant when He said that the judgment of Sodom, Tyre and Sidon (used to represent worldly, self-seeking people) will be “more tolerable” than that of Chorazin and Bethsaida (representing those who have witnessed the mighty works of God, yet fail to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth)? Many good, church-going people are one day in for a rude awakening, for they will come face to face with the Lamb of God, see Him as He really is, and come to the realization that the Love of God does not seek to fry unrepentant sinners for all eternity. After a lifetime spent of either knowingly or unknowingly misrepresenting the Love of God, “their glory will be turned to shame” (Philippians 3:19), and they will be “tormented in the presence of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:10). I am convinced that this torment, in the presence of a gentle Lamb, will be the anguish they will suffer within their own hearts. Judgment by (a refining) fire will surely come upon the harlot church, and is described in vivid detail in Revelation 18.

“Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4)

Appendix Three – Sheol

Friday, April 16th, 2010

THE HEBREW WORD SHEOL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

[The following was compiled by a fellow brethren who wishes to remain anonymous]

PART I: SHEOL TRANSLATED “PIT”

The word “pit” is found 77 times in the King James Version of the Old Testament, but only 3 times is it translated from the Hebrew word sheol:

    1. “If these men DIED the common DEATH of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the PIT [Heb: sheol]; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord.” (Numbers 16:29-30)
    2. “And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the GROUND clave asunder that was under them: and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the PIT [Heb: sheol], and the EARTH closed upon them: and they PERISHED from among the congregation.” (Numbers 16:31-33)

Now then, what can we learn from this word “sheol” in these verses? We learn that sheol is in “the GROUND… under them.” Korah and his men all “died” an uncommon “death” in this sheol–pit. And it says that “they PERISHED.”

While the ground was “opened up,” it was a PIT. After the ground closed up the pit, it became a GRAVE. This whole episode was a supernatural “mass burial in a mass grave,” and nothing more. All these men are “dead and perished.”

What does the word “perished” signify? Are they lost for all eternity, because God caused them to “perish?” No, not at all. Even righteous people “perish.”

    “The righteous perish and no man lays it to heart…” (Isaiah 57:1)

Also consider, if sheol is a hell of torture in fire, did you notice that God consigned the “houses” of Korah and his men to this same fate. Do we reckon that the “houses” of Korah and his men will also be “tortured in the fire of hell for ever?” Good, so we are making progress – two down and 61 to go.

    3. “If I wait, the GRAVE [Heb: sheol] is mine HOUSE: I have made my BED in the DARKNESS. I have said to CORRUPTION, You are my father; to the worm, You are my mother, and my sister. And where is now my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the PIT [Heb: sheol], when our REST together is in the DUST.” (Job 17:13-16)

Wow. See anything wrong with this picture of “sheol” being an “eternal hell of torture in fire?” What I see here is: “grave, house, bed, darkness, corruption, worm, pit, rest, and dust.” There are all kinds of problems with these verses if we desire to pervert them into an “eternal hell of fire.”

A “grave” is in the ground. A “house” is an abode, not a place designed for torture in fire. A “bed” is where one sleeps, and God likens death in the grave [sheol] to “sleep” “…lest I sleep the sleep of death.” (Psalm 13:3)

“Darkness” is something that is found in a grave beneath the earth, not something you would find where there is a huge fire present. “Corruption” is what happens when a corpse decays in a relatively short period of time, not something that is accomplished in an eternity of burning in the fabled Christian hell.

“Worms” live in the ground in dead bodies, and in garbage where they continue to live and multiply as long as there is food present, but they don’t do very well in literal fire. A “pit” is “a hole in the ground” according to Webster’s Dictionary. We would hardly be at “rest” if we were being eternally tortured by literal fire. And “dust” is what bodies return to when they are dead. God formed man from the “dust of the ground,” not from “eternal hell fire.”

Besides all this proof, does anyone think that God would eternally torture Job (apparently the most righteous man on the face of the earth in his day) in literal fire when he died? Neither do I.

PART II: SHEOL – TRANSLATED “GRAVE”

    1. “And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave [Heb: sheol] unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.” (Genesis 37:35)

Here “grave” (sheol) is used figuratively. Jacob did not literally go into the grave of his son Joseph, seeing that Joseph was not even “literally” dead at this time.

    2. “And he [Jacob] said, My son [Benjamin] shall not go down with you; for his brother [Joseph] is dead [Jacob thought Joseph was dead], and he is left alone: If mischief befall him by the way in the which you go, then shall you bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave [Heb: sheol].” (Genesis 42:38)

Gray hairs can only figuratively “sorrow.” And “hair” does not do well in fire.

    3. “And if you take this also from me, and mischief befall him, you shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.” (Genesis 44:29)

Once again, Jacob uses the word “grave” (sheol) figuratively, and there is no mention of fire.

    4. “…and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave [Heb: sheol].” (Genesis 44:31)
    5. “The Lord kills, and makes alive: He brings down to the grave [Heb: sheol], and brings up.” (I Samuel 2:6)

And so, just as surely as God “brings down to the grave,” He likewise, “brings up [from the grave].” Therefore, the “grave” [sheol] is not an eternal place. Plus, no mention of “fire” in this place called sheol.

    6. “Do therefore according to your wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave [Heb: sheol] in PEACE.” (I Kings 2:6)

Obviously, this verse tells us that the “grave (sheol)” is a place of “peace,” and that is why David didn’t want his enemy’s death to be a peaceful one.

    7. “Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for you are a wise man, and know what you ought to do to him; but his hoar head bring you down to the grave [Heb: sheol] with BLOOD.” (I Kings 2:9)

Kind David is called a “bloody man” in the Scriptures. David liked blood and violence. His dying words are for His son Solomon to be a “hit man” for him, and to violently destroy David’s long-time enemies (for which David will have to bitterly repent in the Great White Throne Judgment). David wanted Solomon to make their deaths painful and “bloody,” as even David himself knew that his enemies would merely “sleep the sleep of death” once they were killed. But again, no “fire” in this “grave” – only “peace,” even for David’s worst enemies.

    8. “As a cloud is consumed and vanishes away; so he that goes down to the grave [Heb: sheol] shall come up no more.” (Job 7:9)

Job was inspired to write that a person “vanishes away” in sheol. No fire there.

    9. “O that You would hide me in the grave [Heb: sheol] …If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” (Job 14:13-14)

Job knew that he would not stay in sheol forever. No fire there.

    10. “If I wait, the grave [Heb: sheol] is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness.” (Job 17:13)

Same words Job used previously.

    11. “They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave [Heb: sheol].” (Job 21:13)

Job goes on to say in verses 23-26 that both those blessed and those cursed, “They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.”

    12. “Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so does the grave [Heb: sheol] those which have sinned.” (Job 24:19)

“ALL have sinned,” and so all “consume” away in the grave until they return to the dust from where they came.

    13. “For in death there is NO REMEMBRANCE of Thee: in the grave [Heb: sheol] who shall give You thanks?” (Psalm 6:5)

King David knew and was inspired to write that if he were to die, he knew that there would be no remembrance of God in the grave. No fire here either.

    14. “O Lord, You have brought up my soul from the grave [Heb: sheol]: You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit [this time pit is not translated from sheol].” (Psalm 30:3)

Here King David is likewise speaking figuratively, as he was not literally killed or put into a grave.

    15. “Let me not be ashamed, O Lord; for I have called upon you: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave [Heb: sheol].” (Psalm 31:17)

Well, so much for all the supposed cries of anguish by the wicked in sheol. David knew that sheol was a place of complete “silence.”

    16 & 17. “Like sheep they are laid in the grave [Heb: sheol]; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave [Heb: sheol] from their dwelling.” (Psalm 49:14)

There is “death” in the grave (sheol). There is not living torture in fire.

    18. “But God will REDEEM MY SOUL from the power of the grave [Heb: sheol]: for he shall receive me. Selah.” (Psalm 49:15)

Well there you have it! Souls can be “redeemed from the power of sheol!” No eternal torture in fire where souls can and will be “REDEEMED!” It should be self-explanatory as to why the translators didn’t translate this particular “sheol” into the English word “hell.” They sure didn’t want anyone to know that souls will be “redeemed from hell.”

    19. “For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draws nigh unto the grave [Heb: sheol].” (Psalm 88:3)

King David knew that when he died he was going to be placed in sheol.

    20. “What man is he that lives, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave [Heb: sheol]. Selah.” (Psalm 89:48)

And so according to this verse of Scripture, there is not a man who ever lives (that’s all humanity) that shall not go to sheol when he dies. Everyone goes to the grave; everyone goes to sheol. But it is silent there. No remembrance. No pain, suffering, or fire.

    21. “Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit.” (Proverbs 1:12)

This too is speaking of the grave in figurative language.

    22. “…There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say, not, it is enough. The grave [Heb: sheol]; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that says not, it is enough.” (Proverbs 30:15-16)

The earth is our “grave,” and it can hold billions of bodies.

    23. “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave [Heb: sheol], where you go.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

The word “device” means “contrivance, intelligence and reason.” And there are none of these in sheol. Neither is there any work, knowledge, or wisdom there. Since there are not any of these faculties of consciousness there, how can “sheol” be translated “hell” which is supposed to be a conscious place of eternal torture in fire?

    24. “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave [Heb: sheol]: the coats thereof are coats of fire, which have a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench LOVE, neither can the floods drown it…” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)

I included verse 7 here so that no one would be confused and think that the “flames of fire” are in “sheol,” but are rather the “coats of fire and flame” of jealousy.

    25. “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave [Heb: sheol], and the noise of your viols [harps]: the worm is spread under you, and the worms cover you.” (Isaiah 14:11)

This is figurative language once more. “Pomp” is a character flaw, and “harps,” or musical instruments, do not literally go anywhere, but they do cease to exist from the perspective of the person possessing them.

    26. “I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave [Heb: sheol]: I am deprived of the residue of my years.” (Isaiah 38:10)

If one were to continue living in a place called hell, he could hardly declare that his days and years would end. If hell is eternal, then he would continue to live forever.

    27. “For the grave [Heb: sheol] cannot praise Thee, death can not celebrate Thee: they that go down in to the pit cannot hope for Thy truth.” (Isaiah 38:18)

Of course “sheol cannot praise Thee,” seeing that there is no intelligence or reason in sheol, as we just learned a few Scriptures above.

    28. “Thus said the Lord God; In the day when he [Pharaoh] went down to the grave [Heb: sheol] I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, and I restrained the floods thereof, and the great waters were stayed: and I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, and all the trees of the field fainted for him.” (Ezekiel 31:15)

Ezekiel 31:16-17 again contains the word “sheol,” but there it is translated “hell” which we will cover when we cover all the verses with “hell” in them. But there is no eternal torture by fire in this verse.

    29 & 30. “I will RANSOM them from the power of the grave [Heb: sheol]; I will REDEEM them from death: O DEATH, I will be your plagues; O grave [Heb: sheol], I will be your destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” (Hosea 13:14)

This verse all by itself destroys the whole eternal torture in fire theory. If sheol is “hell,” then this verse plainly tells us that [1] God will “ransom” those who are in sheol. [2] God will be the plague of DEATH. [3] God tells us that sheol itself is to be “DESTROYED.” And isn’t this exactly what we are told in Revelation 20:14 – “And DEATH and hell [Gk: hades/Heb: sheol] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second DEATH.”

    31. “Our BONES are scattered at the grave‘s [Heb: sheol] mouth, as when one cuts and cleaves wood upon the earth. ” (Psalm 141:7)

Once more King David is speaking figuratively in a poetic style. The grave does not literally have a “mouth.”

That concludes the 31 places sheol is translated “grave.” Not one of these 34 verses cited (for both grave and pit) uses sheol to mean a place or condition of conscious torture in literal fire for all eternity. Why then would we suppose that the next 31 verses that use this exact same word, sheol, suddenly change the meaning into a place of conscious torture of wicked people in literal fire for all eternity? How can those who still possess a functioning mind accept such a travesty of scholarship?

CAN CONTRADICTING OPPOSITES DEFINE ONE WORD?

The Hebrew word laban means “white” – like milk, like teeth – WHITE. First, imagine we would translate this word laban in 31 verses of Scripture into the English word “white.” So far; so good. But next, imagine we translate this word laban in 31 different verses of Scripture into the English word “BLACK.” Does anyone see a problem with such scholarship?

It’s crazy, and yet this IS what has happened in the KJV with regards to the Hebrew word sheol – 31 times “grave,” and 31 times “hell.” And what does UNCONSCIOUS DEATH IN THE GRAVE have in common with A CONSCIOUS LIFE OF ETERNAL TORTURE IN FIRE? Nothing – absolutely NOTHING! It’s as different as “black” and “white.”

I do not even contend that this is bad scholarship. This is NO scholarship at all. This is nothing less than FRAUD – a Christian HOAX! Show me where else in historic academia we find such reckless abandonment of the facts? I am not contending for my personal preference in translating the Scriptures, but to merely translate accurately and consistently what we find in ALL THE HEBREW AND GREEK MANUSCRIPTS.

ONCE MORE: In the Hebrew manuscripts, we find the word sheol 65 times, therefore, in our English translations we should find ONE WORD for all 65 times sheol appears. But, no, we find ONE Hebrew word translated into THREE DIFFERENT ENGLISH WORDS – “pit, grave, and hell.”

And in the New Testament we have the opposite of this Hebrew fraud: We have the ONE English word “hell” translated from THREE DIFFERENT GREEK WORDS – “gehenna, hades, and Tartarus.”

Then we come to the greatest New Testament fraud of all regarding “hell.” One time and one time only we find the Greek word hades, translated not “hell,” but “grave.” Why? Why just one time, “grave?” Why? Because the translators did not want us “dumb sheep” to ever know what hades really means. [Be sure to read the article O Hell, Where is Thy Victory?]

If “grave” and “hell” had very similar meanings, then their use would not be so damning, but as they are opposites in every way, there is no justifiable reason for their use. And if the Greek words “hades” and “gehenna” were very similar in meaning it might be justifiable to translate them into the same one English word, but they are not; they are totally different.

At least half of the translations in the Old Testament are correct, in that sheol can be translated correctly as “grave.” But in the New Testament, not even once is the English word “hell” a justifiable translation for any Greek word found in the manuscripts.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED SO FAR ABOUT SHEOL / HADES?

We have now seen 34 verses of Scripture in which we find the ancient Hebrew word sheol, and how it is used in context. We have seen “sheol” used in poetic, figurative language as a place, condition, or realm of “sorrow and mourning,” as for a dead or presumed dead child. Only figuratively does someone still living go down to “sheol.” It is decidedly the realm of the dead, and therefore is figuratively used sometimes to represent something very ghastly or frightening (as we will later see was the case with Jonah).

When God kills someone, it is said that God brings them down to “sheol.”

When someone goes down to “sheol,” he is not able to come back up.

In Job we learned that when we die we are hid in “sheol” until an appointed time when we will be changed from whatever our condition in “sheol” is.

Also, Job likens “sheol” to a bed in a dark place (not unlike sleeping in our bedroom with the lights off). And Job also informs us that the blessed and cursed both go to “sheol.”

We consume away in this place called “sheol.”

In “sheol” there is no remembrance or communication with the world of the living.

The hand of “sheol” is called death, and every one who lives will be drawn to it.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 is probably the most telling Scripture of all with regards to what we do NOT find in “sheol.” No work, device [intelligence/reason], knowledge or wisdom.

Not even the righteous can celebrate or praise God in “sheol.”

Hosea informed us that God will be death’s PLAGUE. In other words, God will be a plague to “sheol” itself, not the dead people who reside in sheol. In fact God says He will RANSOM AND REDEEM those in “sheol.” Oh yes, God will ransom and redeem them ALL who go down to sheol, but not all at the same time. Remember there are TWO resurrections – One to life with Christ in His Kingdom, and another to the Great White Throne/Lake of Fire/Second Death, Judgment (where the individual will suffer loss, but be saved! – I Corinthians 3:15).

PART III: SHEOL TRANSLATED AS “HELL”

We will now go through all 31 references to “hell” in the Old Testament of the King James Bible. All 31 “hells” are translated from the one Hebrew word sheol. We will then see if there is a lick of difference between those verses where sheol is translated grave and where it is translated hell. I hope that you will be as shocked and outraged as I was when I discovered these truths. To save time, I will not comment on every single reference to “hell” translated from “sheol,” but I will quote them all and point out the fallacies on those that make mention to fire or anything vaguely related to the Christian hell.

In all the “Torah” – the Law, that is all the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, the word “hell” appears but once in the King James Bible. Here it is:

    1. “For a fire is kindled in mine anger and shall burn unto the lowest hell [Heb: sheol], and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” (Deuteronomy 32:22)

Well, at last. There it is, “fire” is found with the word sheol, so surely now we have found Scriptural proof that sheol sometimes does mean the Christian “hell of eternal torture in fire,” right? WRONG! This verse says nothing of burning people in sheol with fire. The whole chapter is a “Song of Moses” (See verse 1). God prophesies through Moses’ Song, His anger over Israel’s lack of faith and the fact that they will turn to other gods, and for this God will punish them. He will not, however, torture them in an eternal fire of a Christian hell. Here is what God will do to them:

    “For the Lord shall judge His people… I KILL, and I make ALIVE: I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:36a & 39)

Notice that according to God Himself, the only way that someone He “kills” can ever live again is if God also “makes alive” again. Do Christians believe that dead people must be made alive again? No, of course not. They don’t believe that dead people are even dead, so why would God ever have to “make [them] alive” again? It is not Scientifically, Physiologically, or Scripturally possible to physically DIE and yet be alive.

Let’s notice one most profound point in this Song of Moses which should remove any and all doubt as to whether Israel is being “tortured in literal fire” in this “lowest sheol. Verse 25:

    “The sword without, and the terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, THE SUCKLING [an infant; a BABY] also with the man of gray hairs.”

To be sure, God affirms that sucklings will be in this sheol. Are we to believe that God will TORTURE sucklings in sheol? Is sheol really a hell of torture in fire as orthodoxy demands? No, this is nothing more than the “grave” that we saw in the previous 34 Scriptures, translated from the same Hebrew word sheol.

    2. The sorrows of hell [Heb: sheol] compassed [surrounded] me about: the snares of death prevented [confronted] me.” (II Samuel 22:6)

Does anyone believe that David just narrowly escaped the tortures of an eternal hell of pain in literal fire? No? I don’t either. But I can clearly see how he felt death and the grave closing in on him when his enemies were out to kill him.

    3. It [the wisdom and secrets of God] is as high as heaven; what can you do? Deeper than hell [Heb: sheol]; what can you know?” (Job 11:8)

This is poetic language and has nothing to do with a place of torture in fire.

    4. Hell [Heb: sheol] is naked before him, and destruction has no covering.” (Job 26:6)
    5. The wicked shall be turned [Heb: shub] into hell [Heb: sheol], and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:17)

I heard this verse quoted on TV just this past Sunday. Boy oh boy this one seems pretty hard to side step, isn’t it? “The wicked shall be turned into hell.” Well, maybe not. The translators have tried to do their tricky little deceitfulness once more. You see, the word translated “turned” is the Hebrew word shub and it means “to RETURN,” (not, “turn” or “turned”), but REturn or REturned. In fact this word is translated “return” or “returned” almost 100% of the approximately 450 times it is used. Notice how other versions correct this same verse:

    “The lawless shall RETURN [Heb: shub] to hades, All nations forgetful of God.” (Psalm 9:17, Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible)
    “The nations shall be TURNED BACK unto sheol, All nations that are forgetful of God.” (Psalm 9:17, The New American Bible)
    “The wicked do TURN BACK to sheol, All nations forgetting God.” (Psalm 9:17, Young’s Literal Translation)
    “The wicked shall RETURN [Heb: shub] to the unseen, all nations forgetful of God.” (Psalm 9:17 Concordant Literal Old Testament)

Actually “return” is a better translation than “turn back,” but at least we can see that other translators see and use the proper meaning of shub, which of course, The King James did not.

The Bible likens death to a “Return.” The soul RETURNS to sheol/hades – the UNSEEN. The spirit RETURNS to God who gave it. And the body RETURNS to the dust of the ground from whence it came. And so likewise, the wicked nations will be RETURNED to sheol – the grave, sheol, the unseen, DEATH.

If “sheol” is a Christian hell of torture in fire, then they would also have to conclude that these nations also CAME FROM an eternity of suffering in fire, and they are not RETURNING to that same place. Anyone see a problem with such unscriptural nonsense?

    6. “For you will not leave my soul in hell [Heb: sheol]; neither will You suffer Your Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalm 16:10)

Although this is a prophecy concerning the Lord, it is nonetheless, the words of David concerning himself and his own salvation from sheol. Notice that David concedes that he (his soul, the conscious, sentient self) will die and go to sheol. But David’s prayer is that God, “will not LEAVE my soul in sheol.” Everyone’s soul goes to sheol at death – both the sinners and the saints.

    7. “The sorrows of hell [Heb: sheol] compassed me about: the snares of death prevented [confronted] me.” (Psalm 18:5)

David is not in sheol, but rather is sorrowful in just contemplating death.

    8. “Let DEATH seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell [Heb: sheol]: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.” (Psalm 55:15)

Notice that that one must be “dead” in order to go to sheol.

    9. “For great is Thy mercy toward me: and you have delivered my soul from the lowest [depth of] hell [Heb: sheol].” (Psalm 86:13)
    10. “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell [Heb: sheol] got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.” (Psalm 116:3)
    11. “If I ascend up into heaven, You are there: if I make my bed in hell [Heb: sheol], behold, You are there.” (Psalm 139:8)
    12. “Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell [Heb: sheol].” (Proverbs 5:5)

Seems pretty clear that feet and steps are one, and they go to one place – death and hell [sheol] are all one.

    13. “Her house is the way to hell [Heb: sheol], going down to the chambers of death.” (Proverbs 7:27)

Once more, her house with its chambers goes down to hell/sheol and death.

    14. “But he knows not that the DEAD are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell [Heb: sheol].” (Proverbs 9:18)

Hell/sheol contains DEAD PEOPLE, not living souls!

    15. “Hell [Heb: sheol] and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?” (Proverbs 15:11)
    16. “The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart [keep away] from hell [Heb: sheol] beneath.” (Proverbs 15:24)
    17. “You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell [Heb: sheol].” (Proverbs 23:14)
    18. Hell [Heb: sheol] and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” (Proverbs 27:20)
    19. “Therefore hell [Heb: sheol] has enlarged herself, and opened her mouth with out measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoices, shall descend into it.” (Isaiah 5:14)
    20. Hell [Heb: sheol] from beneath is moved for you to meet you at the coming; it stirs up the dead for you, even all the chief ones of the earth; it has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.” (Isaiah 14:9)
    21. “Yet you shall be brought down to hell [Heb: sheol] to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:15)
    22. “Because you have said, We have made a covenant with DEATH, and with hell [Heb: sheol] are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.” (Isaiah 28:15)
    23. “And your covenant with DEATH shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell [Heb: sheol] shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then you shall be trodden down by it.” (Isaiah 28:18)

Notice in both verses 15 and 18 of Isaiah 28 that “death and hell” keep company together. Another major proof that those in sheol are DEAD, not tortured in fire. Sheol is associated with DEATH, not life.

    24. “And you went to the king with ointment, and did increase your perfumes, and did send your messengers far off, and did debase yourself even unto hell [Heb: sheol].” (Isaiah 57:9)
    25. “I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall; when I cast him down to hell [Heb: sheol] with them that descend into the pit and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth.” (Ezekiel 31:16)
    26. “They also went down into hell [Heb: sheol] with him unto them that be slain with the sword: and they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen.” (Ezekiel 31:17)
    27. “The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell [Heb: sheol] with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword.” (Ezekiel 32:21)
    28. “And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell [Heb: sheol] with their weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, through they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.” (Ezekiel 32:27)
    29. “Though they dig into hell [Heb: sheol], thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down.” (Amos 9:2)
    30. “And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and He heard me; out of the BELLY of hell [Heb: sheol] cried I, and You heard my voice.” (Jonah 2:2)

Imagine that! The belly of a FISH is also the “belly of hell.” But for sure there was no literal fire inside that fish torturing Jonah.

    31. “Yea also, because he transgresses by wine, he is a proud man, neither keeps at home, who enlarges his desire as hell [Heb: sheol] , and is as DEATH, and cannot be satisfied, but gathers unto him all nations, and heaps unto him all people.” (Habakkuk 2:5)

Again we see death and hell keeping company. There is NO CONSCIOUSNESS in sheol / hades / grave / death. Jonah only figuratively (symbolically) cried out from “the belly of hell/sheol.” Jonah was figuratively in sheol, as he had not died, although he was very close to it. David in the same way, cried out in his agony as though he had already been consumed with death, although he had not.

We have now quoted every Scripture from the Hebrew Old Testament which contains the word sheol. 3 times as “pit,” 31 times “grave,” and 31 times “hell.” Not once did we read of “PUNISHMENT,” “TORTURE IN FIRE,” or a place of “EVERLASTING” anything. We have clearly seen that both the righteous and the unrighteous go to this same condition and place called sheol. It is spoken of literally, figuratively, symbolically, and poetically.

A CLOSING THOUGHT

Although everyone has a perception OF death, and many actually experience the process OF dying, absolutely no one will ever experience anything IN the death state itself. There is no experience or perception in death.

And although no one desires to go to sheol [the grave]; that is no one desires to DIE, but nonetheless, it is a safe place to be while we await resurrection. Nothing can harm us there. There is no fear of darkness there, because there is NO PERCEPTION THERE. Sheol is truly like a deep, sound SLEEP, from which our Father will awaken us in the morning. Let us be comforted by that thought.

APPENDIX TWO: TESTIMONIES

Friday, April 16th, 2010


APPENDIX TWO:
TESTIMONIES

Polybius, the historian, says: “Since the multitude is ever fickle, full of lawless desires, irrational passions and violence, there is no other way to keep them in order but by the fear and terror of the invisible world; on which account our ancestors seem to me to have acted judiciously, when they contrived to bring into the popular belief these notions of the gods, and of the infernal regions.” B. vi 56.

He later goes on to say that “…the quality in which the Roman commonwealth is most distinctly superior is in my opinion the nature of their religious convictions. I believe that it is the very thing which among other peoples is an object of reproach, I mean superstition, which maintains the cohesion of the Roman State. These matters are clothed in such pomp and introduced to such an extent into their public and private life that nothing could exceed it, a fact which will surprise many. My own opinion at least is that they have adopted this course for the sake of the common people.” F. vii 56.

Livy, the celebrated historian, speaks of it in the same spirit; and he praises the wisdom of Numa, because he invented the fear of the gods, as “a most efficacious means of governing an ignorant and barbarous populace.” Hist. I 19.

Dionysius Halicarnassus treats the whole matter as useful, but not true. Antiq. Rom., B. ii

Strabo, the geographer, says: “The multitude are restrained from vice by the punishments the gods are said to inflict upon offenders, and by those terrors and threatenings which certain dreadful words and monstrous forms imprint upon their minds…For it is impossible to govern the crowd of women, and all the common rabble, by philosophical reasoning, and lead them to piety, holiness and virtue – but this must be done by superstition, or the fear of the gods, by means of fables and wonders; for the thunder, the aegis, the trident, the torches (of the Furies), the dragons, &c., are all fables, as is also all the ancient theology. These things the legislators used as scarecrows to terrify the childish multitude.” Geog., B. I

Seneca says: “Those things which make the infernal regions terrible, the darkness, the prison, the river of flaming fire, the judgment seat, etc., are all a fable, with which the poets amuse themselves, and by them agitate us with vain terrors.”

Sextus Empiricus calls them “poetic fables of hell.”

Cicero speaks of them as “silly absurdities and fables” (ineptiis ac fabulis)

Aristotle says: “It has been handed down in mythical form from earliest times to posterity, that there are gods, and that the divine (Deity) compasses all nature. All beside this has been added, after the mythical style, for the purpose of persuading the multitude, and for the interests of the laws, and the advantage of the state.” Neander’s Church Hist., I, p. 7.

Timaeus Locrus, the Pythagorean, after stating that the doctrine of rewards and punishments after death is necessary to society, proceeds as follows: “For as we sometimes cure the body with unwholesome remedies, when such as are most wholesome produce no effect, so we restrain those minds with false relations, which will not be persuaded by the truth. There is a necessity, therefore, of instilling the dread of those foreign torments: as that the soul changes its habitation; that the coward is ignominiously thrust into the body of a woman; the murderer imprisoned within the form of a savage beast; the vain and inconstant changed into birds, and the slothful and ignorant into fishes.”

Before Christ walked upon this earth, pagan philosophies, such as the doctrine of metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls, gradually crept into the Jewish schools. And the Jews incorporated into their ancient faith the dogmas of both the philosophy and theology of Egypt, the very fountain-head from which the doctrine of future endless torments came. But not only did they borrow from the Egyptian, but also from the Oriental and Pythagorean philosophy, in both of which, as well as in the Egyptian, one of the distinguishing features was as a method of retribution after death. Hence, in the account of the blind man restored to sight by Jesus, we have the question: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2) This shows plainly that the people thought the man might have been sent into a blind body as a punishment for some sin in a preexistent state; which is an exact copy of the Egyptian and Oriental doctrine. In Matthew 16, we have another trace of the doctrine among the people. In answer to the question of Jesus, “Whom do men say that I, the son of man, am?” the disciples reply, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some say Elias; and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” They seemed to think the soul of some one of these ancient men of God had returned again to the earth in the body of Jesus, which to them was a satisfactory explanation of the miracles He wrought. Many of the Jewish doctors have believed that the souls of Adam, Abraham, and others, have at different times animated the bodies of the great men of their nation. Indeed, Pythagoras made so much of this dogma, that it was often called specially by his name; and it was almost universally believed by the Oriental nations, and is to this day, especially by the Hindus, the Burmans, the followers of the Grand Lama, and by the Buddhists generally.

Plato, in his commentary on Timaeus, fully endorses what he says respecting the fabulous invention of these foreign torments. And Strabo says that “Plato and the Brahmins of India invented fables concerning the future judgments of hell” (Hades). And Chrysippus blames Plato for attempting to deter men from wrong by frightful stories of future punishments.

Plato himself is exceedingly inconsistent, sometimes adopting, even in his serious discourses, the fables of the poets, and at other times rejecting them as utterly false, and giving too frightful views of the invisible world. Sometimes, he argues, on social grounds, that they are necessary to restrain bad men from wickedness and crime. But then again he protests against them on political grounds, as intimidating the citizens, and making cowards of the soldiers, who, believing these things, are afraid of death, and do not therefore fight well. But all this shows in what light he regarded them; not as truths, certainly, but as fictions, convenient in some cases, but difficult to manage in others.

Plutarch treats the subject in the same way; sometimes arguing for them with great solemnity and earnestness, and on other occasions calling them “fabulous stories, the tales of mothers and nurses.”

Saint Augustine also makes mention of these things in his celebrated book The City of God. Concerning the opinions of Marcus Terentius Varro (116 BC – 27 BC), who was a Roman scholar and writer, and was considered by some to be the greatest of all the Roman scholars, Augustine writes:

“I should be thought to conjecture these things, unless he himself, in another passage, had openly said, in speaking of religious rites, that many things are true which it is not only not useful for the common people to know, but that it is expedient that the people should think otherwise, even though falsely, and therefore the Greeks have shut up the religious ceremonies and mysteries in silence, and within walls. In this he no doubt expresses the policy of the so-called wise men by whom states and peoples are ruled. Yet by this crafty device the malign demons are wonderfully delighted, who possess alike the deceivers and the deceived, and from whose tyranny nothing sets free save the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” B. iv 31

“Varro says also, concerning the generations of the gods, that the people have inclined to the poets rather than to the natural philosophers; and that therefore their forefathers,–that is, the ancient Romans,–believed both in the sex and the generations of the gods, and settled their marriages; which certainly seems to have been done for no other cause except that it was the business of such men as were prudent and wise to deceive the people in matters of religion, and in that very thing not only to worship, but also to imitate the demons, whose greatest lust is to deceive. For just as the demons cannot possess any but those whom they have deceived with guile, so also men in princely office, not indeed being just, but like demons, have persuaded the people in the name of religion to receive as true those things which they themselves knew to be false; in this way, as it were, binding them up more firmly in civil society, so that they might in like manner possess them as subjects.”   B. iv 32

Montesquieu states that Romulus, Tatius and Numa enslaved the gods to politics, and made religion for the state.”

And Plumptre adds that “It has been, and is, the creed of the great poets whom we accept as the spokesmen of a nation’s thoughts.”

The question with which this section began, “Whence came the doctrine of future endless punishments?” is now, I trust, answered by a sufficient number of witnesses to settle the matter beyond dispute. The heathens themselves confess to the invention of the dogma, and of all the fabulous stories of the infernal regions. And the legislators and sages very frankly state that the whole thing was devised for its supposed utility in governing the gross and ignorant multitude of men and women, who cannot be restrained by the precepts of philosophy.

“How far it may be proper to use falsehood as a medicine, and for the benefit of those who require to be deceived.” — Eusebius, Ecclesiastical historian

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”  — H.L. Mencken, American journalist 1880-1956

“Historians and economists {subsidized by governments} are very good at creating and perpetuating myths that justify increasing the power placed in the hands of government.” — Reuven Brenner, Economist

They have not the slightest faith in these things themselves; they do not think them at all necessary to regulate their own lives, or keep them in order; but it is for the common people, the coarse rabble, who can only in this way be terrified into good behavior. One cannot help noting the resemblance between these wise men and some of our own day, who seem so anxious to maintain the doctrine in the ground that it is necessary to restrain men from sin. But, unfortunately for this theory, the revelations of history, both Pagan and Christian, are in opposition to it.

“Without doubt, the greatest injury of all was done by basing morals on myth. For, sooner or later, myth is recognized for what it is, and disappears. Then morality loses the foundation on which it has been built.” – Lord Herbert Louis Samuel

Has history shown the doctrine of eternal torment to be a successful deterrent to lawlessness? Well, for a nation in which a majority of its citizens claim to believe in both a heaven and a hell, why is it that the United States has the highest crime rate? And not just here in the US, but lawlessness is ever increasing worldwide, where this doctrine is believed by many in one form or another.

In vain does Cicero, speaking of the poets, exclaim against this state of things:

“When the plaudits and acclamation of the people, who sit as infallible judges, are won by the poets, what darkness benights the mind, what fears invade, what passions inflame it!” – The City of God B. ii 14

“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20)

I think the facts establish, beyond refutation, these results:

  • The belief of future endless torments does not restrain nor prevent men from the indulgence of their criminal passions. Those believing are no better in character or conduct because they believe it. The hell of the Burmans, for example, is as horrible as imagination or invention can make it; and yet they are notoriously corrupt, licentious, bloody-minded – the greatest thieves, liars and cheats in the world!
  • The disbelief of endless torments does not make man immoral or wicked; as the character of the Sadducees, whom their enemies even acknowledge to be strictly just and moral, abundantly demonstrates.

I can imagine but one reply to this simple statement of facts: It may be said the comparison is not just, since the Burmans, as well as the Greeks and Romans, are heathen, and the Sadducees had the benefit of revelation, and of the divine law of Moses. But this is yielding the point in debate; for the ground taken is, that a religion without the doctrine in question cannot exert a salutary moral influence; that the belief of this is indispensable as a check on the wicked heart. To say, therefore, that other elements of the law, or of revelation, might have made the Sadducees moral and virtuous, is surrendering the argument, and admitting that this doctrine is not necessary to virtue.

Still, there is no difficulty in meeting the objection on its own ground. The Greeks, Romans, and Burmans are heathen, but the Pharisees are not. They are believers in divine revelation, having all the benefits of the Law of Moses, living side by side with the Sadducees, and subject to the same social influences. The only difference between them is precisely the point in debate – the Pharisees believe the doctrine of future endless punishment, and the Sadducees deny it. Of course the Pharisees ought to be great saints, without spot or blemish; and the Sadducees ought to be great sinners, vile and wicked to the last degree. To the contrary, the Sadducees were not great sinners, but honest, just and moral, by confession of their worst enemies. One half the argument, therefore, falls to the ground at the outset. Now for the other half – were the Pharisees great saints? The Savior will answer to this: “Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites; robbing the widow and fatherless, neglecting justice, mercy and truth; generation of vipers; whited sepulchers, full of corruption and all manner of uncleanness!” This does not look much like being very saintly. So the second half of the argument fares no better than the first half; and both are perfect failures.

Thus, exactly the reverse of what is claimed for the doctrine proves to be the historical fact: those believing it are the great sinners, moral vipers, whited sepulchers; while those disbelieving are not saints perhaps, but vastly better than the sanctimonious hypocrites who charged their doctrine with immoral and dangerous tendencies.

One other thing is worthy of note in this connection, and with this I close the argument. In all his rebukes and denunciations of the wickedness of the men of His age and generation, the Savior never includes the Sadducees. It is always, “Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites;” never Scribes, Sadducees, hypocrites. This is strong presumptive proof of the unimpeachable morality of the Sadducees, and equally positive proof of the preeminent wickedness of the Pharisees.

We now return to the conclusion already stated: The belief of endless punishment does not tighten the bonds of morality, nor lead to a life of virtue; while, on the other hand, the disbelief of it does not loosen the bonds of morality, nor lead to a life of wickedness.

“Do you not know that God’s kindness (or goodness) is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4 – RSV)

It is God’s GOODNESS that leads us to repentance, not the fear of eternal torment!

APPENDIX ONE

Friday, April 16th, 2010

APPENDIX ONE

(A): Though Paul never used the word “hell” anywhere in his epistles, there are several places where warnings of “falling short” of the kingdom of God are given:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Corinthians 6:9)

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” ( Galatians 5:19-21)

First of all, it should be understood that Paul is not addressing the heathen in either of these two letters; rather, he is addressing those who claim to be believers:

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified (set apart) in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” (I Corinthians 1:2)

To the churches of Galatia…” (Galatians 1:2)

Anyone who takes an open-minded and honest look at I Corinthians 15:20-28 will come to see that the apostle Paul clearly understood that it has always been God’s intention to bring all fallen creatures into a right relationship with their Creator:

“…having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him.” (Ephesians 1:9,10)

So Paul cannot be speaking of massively large groups of sinners who will be entirely left out of God’s kingdom; rather, the issue here in which Paul is addressing involves one of inheritance. The word “inherit” which is used in these passages of Scripture comes from the Greek word kleronomeo (Strong’s #G2816) and strictly means “to receive by lot,” and then, in a more general sense, “to possess oneself of, to receive as one’s own, to obtain” [Vine’s Concise Dictionary of Bible Words]. In other words, Paul is speaking of the right, privilege, or possession to which a person is entitled by birth, or a “birthright.” Those who have been predestined (or chosen) to receive the age-enduring promises will inherit God’s kingdom as true sons and joint-heirs via the first resurrection. This is the difficult to find “narrow road” of which Jesus spoke. All others will travel the “wide road” into the kingdom via the second resurrection. [For a more detailed analysis of this, see the articles Hell: Biblical Truth or Pagan Myth? as well as the series of articles on the word Destruction.]

There are multitudes of individuals today who have been “set apart” in Christ, or called, to be saints. However, Christ Himself made it very clear that “many are called, but FEW are chosen.” According to Paul, God’s will for mankind (I Timothy 2:4) is a mystery (Ephesians 1:9) which has been “made known” to but a select few. The majority of the “called,” thanks largely to the misleading doctrines that are prevalent within orthodox Christianity, have had their eyes blinded to these truths by “the god of this age” (II Corinthians 4:4). God’s chosen few will come to recognize the errors within the church system and separate themselves from it. (See II Corinthians 6:14-20; Revelation 18:4,5)

(B): The phrase “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction (without remedy) from the presence of the Lord” (II Thessalonians 1:9 – NKJV) would be more accurately rendered as “age-abiding” (Greek: aionian) punishment, always for the purpose of correction.

Statement of Faith

Monday, April 5th, 2010

GOD

The sovereignty of God: We are convinced of the absolute sovereignty of God over all His creation, and of the fact that all events transpire according to His divine plan and will (Job 23:13; Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 45:7,21; 46:10,11; 48:3; Daniel 4:35; Acts 4:28, 15:18; Ephesians 1:11; etc.).

The nature of God: We believe in the one eternal God the Father, and in His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the express image of the invisible God and firstborn over all His creation (Colossians 1:15). We do not support the doctrine of the Trinity. We consider it vanity for finite man in his fallen condition to try and accurately explain the true nature of an infinite God. These types of vain disputes (II Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9) only lead to division, which we are to avoid (Romans 12:16; I Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:2; etc.).

*COMMENT: It should be noted that the apostle Paul never once in any of his epistles referred to God as a “trinity.” On the contrary, every one of his letters opened with a statement very similar to this: “To God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now if Paul did not feel it important to address God as a “trinity,” then why should we?

The love of God: For God so loved the world (John 3:16)! Jesus Christ came forth as the spotless Lamb of God (John 1:29). He was the perfect and final offering for our sins (Hebrews 9:22-26) according to the divine plan of God the Father (Revelation 13:8). He tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9), and will redeem all of creation from its fallen condition (Psalm 86:9; Isaiah 25:6-9; Hosea 13:14; Romans 8:21; I Corinthians 15:22-28; Colossians 1:19,20; Revelation 21:3,4; etc.).

MAN

God’s purpose for mankind: God has a plan and a purpose for the human race. In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” In the very next verse, the Concordant Version of the Old Testament more accurately renders this as a present and ongoing activity: “And creating (present tense) is [God] humanity in His image. In the image of [God] He creates it. Male and female He creates them.” It is God’s wonderful plan to create each and every one of us into His express image!

The fall of man: Like everything else, this event transpired in complete accordance with God’s will. Its purpose was to provide man with a thorough knowledge of both good and evil, a necessary quality for one being conformed into the image of God. Genesis 3:22: “Behold, the man has become [literally: is becoming!] like one of Us, to know good and evil.” The joys, the sorrows, the laughter, the heartaches, the blessings and the sufferings that we experience in this world are preparing us all for life in the next (See Proverbs 22:6; Ecclesiastes 3:1-15; Isaiah 45:7).

Death: We believe “death” to be an unconscious state of existence, which has been likened unto “sleep” by numerous passages of Scripture (Deuteronomy 31:16; II Samuel 7:12; I Kings 1:21; Daniel 12:2; Luke 8:52-55; John 11:11-14; Acts 13:36,37; I Corinthians 15:6,18; I Thessalonians 4:13-15; II Peter 3:4, etc.). It is here in this unconscious state where all are awaiting the resurrection unto life (see John 5:28,29).

Resurrection: We believe that every single person who has ever lived and died will be resurrected unto life, will meet their Maker, and will be judged according to their works (Psalm 28:4; Jeremiah 25:14; I Corinthians 3:10-15; Revelation 20:12,13).

a) Jesus Christ is the firstfruits of all those who have fallen asleep, or died (I Corinthians 15:20,23).

b) Those who obtain to the first resurrection (Philippians 3:10,11; Revelation 20:4-6) unto life (apart from the spiritually dead) are those who have been predestined (Ephesians 1:3-14; II Thessalonians 2:13), or chosen by Christ to walk the difficult to find “narrow road” (Matthew 7:14).

c) All others (the spiritually dead – see Revelation 20:11-15) will walk the wide road (Matthew 7:13) into the kingdom via the second resurrection.

Judgment: God’s purpose for judgment is to finish the process of creating man in His image, which will not be completed until this corrupt body of flesh dies and is replaced with a new spiritual body (I Corinthians 15:50-54). Those who are being judged now (God’s elect) while in this body of flesh (I Corinthians 11:31,32) will not be harmed by the second death (Daniel 3:25; Revelation 2:11). Their reward will be the crown of righteousness (II Timothy 4:8), and they will rule and reign with Christ for a “thousand years” (Revelation 20:6). At the end of the “thousand years” all others will be resurrected to have their works judged in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13-15), where they will suffer loss, but be saved (I Corinthians 3:13-15).

*COMMENT: The entire book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ is written in symbolic, or figurative language (see Revelation 1:1). Therefore, it is doubtful that the phrase “a thousand years” is referring to a “literal” one-thousand-year period of time, although this yet remains to be seen.

Salvation: Romans 10:9 tells us “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” And Philippians 2:10,11 triumphantly declares “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Isaiah 45:22,23 provides us with a second witness of this fact: “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is none other. I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.” Nowhere in Scripture does it teach that this “confession unto salvation” must be made before the point of physical death. [If I am wrong, then will you please show me?] Conclusion: ALL will be saved (Luke 3:6; I Timothy 2:3-6; II Peter 3:9; etc.)!

Baptism: In regard to baptism, we believe it the duty of every believer to follow the dictates of his or her conscience, leaving each to judge, both of the subject and mode of baptism, as shall seem most consistent with Scripture and reason.

*COMMENT: I was baptized twice: once as a young adolescent, and once as a young adult; but in neither case did one of these outwardly acts of obedience lead me to true repentance (see Romans 2:4). True baptism (or circumcision) is a miraculous change that takes place within the heart (Jeremiah 4:4; Mark 10:38,39; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; Romans 2:25-29; I Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:1-14; Ephesians 2:11-16; Philippians 3:2,3; Colossians 2:8-12; etc.).

THE BIBLE

Authority of Scripture: We believe in the divine authenticity of the Hebrew Scriptures, from which Jesus Christ Himself often quoted. The fact that God the Father raised Him from the dead lends an incredible amount of credence to His claim that they are indeed the very words of God. We also believe that Christ’s apostles, the ones who were closest to Him and learned from Him for over 3 years, were inspired of God when writing what would later become the New Testament (see John 14:26). And we firmly believe that both the Old and the New Testaments are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the servants of God may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim 3:16-17).

*COMMENT: Because the meanings of various words have changed over time, we believe the Scriptures in their original manuscripts to be better than the vast majority of our modern day translations, including the highly esteemed King James Version. Although its literary and poetic beauty is unparalleled by other versions, its technical accuracy leaves much to be desired. For those who are willing with an open mind to consider this possibility, please read on…