A Place Hidden In The Twilight Zone

This is a rather uncomfortable topic but it's relevant to our next study in Founding Word. Last time, I wrote to you about the parallel reality that exists on the earth, but beyond the 1st three visible dimensions. It's basically what you and I might call the Twilight Zone. While the word "Hell" has become more synonymous with Hades, it originally had more to do with the domain of the supernatural sphere, also known as the 2nd Heaven. If you haven't read that post, please read it now because it lays the foundation for what I want to talk about in today's post.

The use of the word “Hell” has unfortunately become synonymous with Hades and a few other words that mean something quite different. There are four different words from the original Greek and Hebrew language that are translated “Hell” in our English Bibles: Sheol, Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna. In today's post, we're going to look at Sheol and Hades.

Sheol is the Hebrew word that is used throughout the Old Testament for the domain of the dead. It’s most often used as a noun for physical death and the grave beneath the soil. Sheol is also used as a noun for the lower regions where souls of the departed continue to live on after physical death. It’s existence is dimensionally hidden in the 2nd Heaven, but it’s geographic location is beneath the earth. This is why departed souls of the condemned can’t haunt the surface of the earth because they’ve been buried underground.

Sheol is described as being BENEATH (Isaiah 5:14, 14:9, 14:15), DOWN (Psalm 55:15, Ezekiel 31:16-17, 32:27), LOW (Deuteronomy 32:22, Psalm 86:13) and DEEP (Job 11:8).

There’s also a spooky scene in Numbers 16:28-33 where it’s recorded that God caused the ground to split apart and open up beneath the feet of Dathan and Abiram so that they both went down “alive” into Sheol.

It’s described as a place for the wicked (Psalm 9:17), having prison bars (Job 17:16), a place of sorrow (2nd Samuel 22:6 & Psalm 18:5), a place of burning fire (Deuteronomy 32:22), and a place of pain (Psalm 116:3).

The Old Testament Saints were saved from this place of torment by the grace of God through faith in a future atonement that Jesus would ultimately provide on the cross. Their faith in this future atonement was symbolized by the blood sacrifice of a lamb and then evidenced by their walk. When God saw their faith, it was accredited to them as righteousness.

When Old Testament Saints physically died, their souls were not yet taken into the 3rd Heaven because Jesus had not yet made an atonement for their sins. So instead, they were taken to a separate compartment within Sheol that was a restful place of spiritual bliss. The Jews often referred to this place as Paradise. Scholars think it was also called Abraham’s Bosom but there’s very little evidence for this view. (We'll discuss this later.)

While Sheol was (and still is) a spiritual prison of pain and sorrow for the departed souls of the condemned, it was a much different environment for the departed souls of the righteous. In Job 14:13, as Job continued to endure the pain of his life’s circumstances, he said that he longed for God to hide him in Sheol. During a prayer of worship in Psalm 139, David said, “If I ascend up into the heavens, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there!” Even in Sheol, David knew God would continue to love, guide and protect him. So the Old Testament Saints knew that their souls would be protected in Sheol upon their physical deaths.

The Old Testament Saints also knew that their coming Messiah, once having atoned for their sins, would then escort their souls from out of Sheol and into the 3rd Heaven to be with the Father. Let me explain.

In Isaiah 42:7, God said that Israel’s coming Messiah would open the eyes of the blind and bring out the prisoners who sat in darkness from out of the prison house. In another prophecy, the future words of Jesus were recorded in Isaiah 61:1 saying, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to proclaim the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” If you’ll remember from our study of Luke 4:16-21, Jesus quoted this verse from Isaiah in a synagogue of Nazareth and told them, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

When have we seen Jesus literally open the prison to them that are bound? I can see how the prison of Isaiah’s prophecy might be viewed as a symbol for the captivity of blindness, demonic possession or various forms of spiritual brokenness. I can also see how the religious legalism of the Pharisees might be viewed as a prison in darkness. But everything else in Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled literally. Jesus literally gave physical eyesight to people who were born blind. He literally proclaimed life-giving good news to everyone meek enough to receive it. He physically picked up men and women who were burdened with broken bodies, broken hearts and broken lives. These events were prophesied literally and Jesus fulfilled them literally. So what is this literal prison that the prophet Isaiah wrote about? How and when is Jesus supposed to literally open its doors and literally lead out its prisoners?

In John 5:28, during a heated discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees over his authority, Jesus told them that a time was soon coming when all those in the graves would hear the voice of the Son of God and they would come out. That’s Jesus himself claiming to be the one who would proclaim liberty to the captives and open the prison to them that are bound.

I know we’re jumping way ahead of ourselves, but have you ever wondered where Jesus was or what he was doing between his death on the cross and his resurrection three days later? As soon as Jesus shed his last drop of blood to atone for the sins of the world, he went into Sheol as fast as he could get there to announce to the departed souls of the Old Testament Saints that it was done! “It is finished!” The soul of Jesus would be the last righteous soul that would ever enter Sheol again. Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy when he personally descended into Sheol, opened its doors and set the captives free. At that time, all Old Testament Saints were then taken into the 3rd Heaven. Paul summarized this in Ephesians 4:8-10 as he explained how Jesus first descended into the lower parts of the earth (Sheol) and then ascended on high leading captivity captive.

Now that the Lamb of God, Jesus, has shed his blood to atone for the sins of the world, New Testament Saints can look forward to being taken into the 3rd Heaven directly when they physically die because they lean upon the finished work of the Cross rather than lamb’s blood as a symbol.

Sadly, the deeper side of Sheol with it’s pain and sorrow was not evacuated. It remained occupied. Even unto this day, it still receives and houses the departed souls of the wicked and the condemned and will continue to do so until the day of judgment.

The Greek word for Sheol is Hades and it’s used throughout the New Testament. Like it’s Hebrew equivalent, the word Hades is also used as a noun for physical death and the grave as well as the lower regions where souls of the departed continue to live on after physical death.

Both Hebrew and Greek conceptions of this region implied that it had two compartments that were separated by a huge impassable gulf, one side for the righteous and one side for the wicked. This concept of two compartments is clearly visible in Luke 16.

The Greeks understood Hades to be geographically located deep in the bowels of the earth with an additional boundary of spiritual dimensions. In other words, if you had the advanced technology to somehow dig and tunnel down to where ever Hades is located, you wouldn’t be able to see it when you got there because it’s hidden in the 2nd Heaven.