Our preacher, Mark Stinnett, publishes articles for the church bulletin each week. These articles are designed to teach, encourage and challenge the members of our congregation. His latest articles can be found below with the most recent at the beginning of the list. Mark has archived all of his articles on his personal blog 'MicroMarks' which can be accessed at: micromarks.blogspot.com.
Jesus in Hell?! Preposterous!
Yet, that is exactly what is said in Acts 2:27...in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.*
Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell….
Now, before going any further, the Greek text has the word for Hades (hadays), not hell. So, did the translators of the KJV err?
Two English words developed from a German ancestor that meant, a covered place:
- Hall: a covered (with a roof) place; and
- Hell: a covered (with earth) place.
Considering that people are buried in the ground after death, a covered with earth place describes the place of the dead. That is true in many cultures including that of the ancient Hebrews and Greeks. So, both the Hebrew word Sheol and the Greek word Hades referred to the place of the dead, or the underworld. Clearly, the original meaning of the English word hell fit both Sheol and Hades. So, at one time the word hell would have been a natural choice for translators.
Did the KJV translators think that the word hell meant place of the dead? It is impossible to read minds, but they did use the English word hell to translate the Hebrew word Sheol in 31 of its 65 occurrences. In the New Testament the English word hell was used to translate the Greek word Hades in all occurrences but one. So, it would appear that the KJV translators were using the original meaning of the English word hell.
Modern translations, however, now use the word hell fairly consistently for the eternal destruction of the ungodly after the final judgment. For that reason, the text of Acts 2:27 in modern translations reads as follows:
You will not abandon my soul to Hades….
With a better understanding why the KJV has the word hell in Acts 2:27, let’s reword the question for today using modern translations:
Did Jesus ever visit Hades?
To answer, first, remember that Hades is not for the righteous, but the unrighteous dead. Their final destination will be the lake of fire.
Next, consider the text of Acts 2:27. Peter was quoting Old Testament prophecy in reference to Jesus. The quotation was a plea that the soul of Jesus would not be abandoned in Hades. That suggests that Jesus was in Hades at some point.
Shortly after that prophetic statement Peter proclaimed that God had raised Jesus from the dead (v. 32). So, the resurrection of Jesus shows that He was not abandoned in Hades. Yet, it also suggests that Jesus was in Hades for the time between His death and His resurrection.
Does that make sense?
The prophet Isaiah looked forward to the coming Messiah saying that He would bear the sins of many. Validating its fulfillment Peter wrote:
He [Jesus] Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…. —1 Peter 2:24
Since Jesus “bore our sins,” He went to Hades upon His death. However, the sins He bore were not His own. So, He did not deserve death and He did not deserve to be in Hades. It is for that reason that God did not abandon Him in Hades. So, “Yes,” Jesus did go to Hades temporarily so that we would not have to suffer eternal death.
That is why, on the day Jesus was crucified, people heard that heart-wrenching cry...
My God! My God! Why have you forsaken Me?
He was forsaken by God...but not abandoned!
September 25, 2022
*The Douay-Rheims Bible (1609), an official English translation of the Roman Catholic Church, used the word hell in Acts 2:27.
In previous weeks I have explored a number of biblical terms referring to destinations in the afterlife, such as Sheol and Hades. These have accompanied the current sermon series on 'Judgment.' A less familiar judgement term is the pit. It it often used in the Bible as a parallel to Sheol, but also connects to other biblical terms that are relevant. Let’s see what the Bible says about the pit.
There are eleven different Hebrew words that are translated pit. In each case the meaning could simply refer to a hole in the ground. You can imagine how the word pit could be used to refer to an open grave. For that reason, pit is sometimes used in Hebrew poetry as a parallel to the grave, death or Sheol.
However, out of the 148 occurrences of Hebrew pit terms, 94 occurrences appear in the context of imprisonment or destruction, often in prophetic warnings of divine judgment. Examples:
- Judgment against Babylon: “You will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:15)
- Judgment against Moab, “The one who flees from the terror will fall into the pit, and the one who climbs up out of the pit will be caught in the snare.” (Jeremiah 48:44) i.e. There is no escape from divine judgment.
- Judgment against the king of the city of Tyre: “They [invading nations] will bring you down to the pit, and you will die the death of those who are slain.” (Ezekiel 28:8)
Outside of a few literal uses of the word pit in the New Testament, it is used in Revelation 9 in reference to a bottomless pit. In John’s vision an angel of God held the key to the bottomless pit and was told to release destructive locusts. The locusts were allowed to torment (but not kill) the ungodly people on earth for five months. The bottomless pit was also referred to as the abyss (v. 11). The king over the abyss is named Abaddon (Hebrew) and Apollyon (Greek) (v. 11), both names meaning destruction.
Much earlier a large number of demons begged Jesus not to command them to go into the abyss (Luke 8:31). In Matthew’s parallel account the demons ask Jesus if He was about to torment them before “the time” (8:29). This appears to be the same abyss seen in the book of Revelation.
There is one other similar use of the term pit* that is parallel in meaning to the abyss. In 2 Peter 2:4 we read: “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment….” The word hell is the Greek word Tartarus and is described as pits of darkness. A parallel statement written by Jude will add to our understanding: “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day….” (v. 6)
Connections and Conclusion:
- Tartarus (pits of darkness) is a place for sinful angels (not humans). There they are kept in eternal bonds until judgment.
- The abyss (bottomless pit) is a place of torment and is associated with Tartarus. Demons are destined for the abyss. Though its king is named destroyer, an angel of God holds the key to the abyss, therefore showing God’s ultimate authority over the abyss.
- When the pit is used in judgment prophecy it is applied to the ungodly as an inescapable place, death or destruction.
So, the pit is often used in judgment prophecy for destruction. There is a pit that is referred to as the bottomless pit, also called the abyss. That is descriptive of Tartarus, a kind of Hades for sinful angels and demons, before their final destruction in the lake of fire. For Christians, these things help to round our our understanding of the spiritual realm and how God deals with evil. However, we can rest easy knowing that these things are not a threat to those who belong to God.
September 18, 2022
*The abyss is found in Romans 10:7, but in reference to Hades. This is an exception to the other appearances of the abyss in the Bible.
The word Purgatory is not found in the Bible. So, some folks would prefer that the title question be answered by leaving this page blank. However, the word trinity is not in the Bible, yet most Christians believe in a three-person Godhead: God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So, perhaps, like the term trinity, the concept of Purgatory is somewhere in the Bible.
What is Purgatory?
The word Purgatory comes from the Latin word purgare, meaning, to cleanse, or purge. It is defined as a place where a person temporarily suffers after death in order to expiate (i.e. atone for) his sins. (Webster) In Roman Catholicism it is a place for those who have died in a state of grace. (Encyclopedia Britannica) Souls are sent to Purgatory because they have not been purged (purified) of unforgiven venial sins. Venial sins are pardonable less offensive sins to God. (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia)
Souls in Purgatory are believed to be cleansed of their sins by suffering and by the aid of the living who are faithful. Aid is given through prayers, fasting, almsgiving, sacrifices, indulgences and other pious works. Once atonement is made, the soul can be released from Purgatory.
Where Did the Teaching Originate?
The teaching of Purgatory appears to have originated from a passage found in an apocryphal book*, 2 Maccabees 12:45. Judas Maccabee “offered an atoning sacrifice to free the dead from their sin.” This was to benefit soldiers who had died in battle defending the Jews.
However, the doctrine of Purgatory was not officially accepted by the Roman Catholic Church until the Middle Ages at the Council of Lyon (1245). It was never a part of the teachings of Jesus and His apostles.
Is the Doctrine of Purgatory Biblical?
The doctrine of Purgatory states that a person must pay for unforgiven sins through suffering and/or pious works. However, consider...
My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
—1 John 2:1-2
So, according to the Apostle John, Jesus is our propitiation, that is, the sacrifice offered to atone for sins. In addition, the Hebrew writer emphasized that Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice “once for all.” In other words, His sacrifice was sufficient so that additional sacrifices for sin are simply not necessary. (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12)
So, atonement for sin is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, not man. Yet, the doctrine of Purgatory says that the debt of sin can be paid by man. This contradiction is insurmountable; only one teaching can be correct.
Since the writings of the Apostle John and the writer of Hebrews are not in question, then the origin of the doctrine of Purgatory must be questioned. Either the book of 2 Maccabees is not authoritative, or Judas Maccabee acted on his own without divine authority. In either case, the doctrine of Purgatory lacks authoritative biblical support.
Conclusion: Purgatory is not a biblical doctrine.
September 11, 2022
*The Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church accept 2 Maccabees as authoritative. However, most, if not all, Protestant and Jewish groups do not consider apocryphal writings to have the same authority as other books of the Bible.