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Thursday, 27 September 2007

The Truth About Death and Hell

There are many misconceptions and fears surrounding the subjects of death and hell, many of which are perpetuated by the various religions of the world. One reason death is so frightening is due to the fact that people often have no certain answers about what happens once the spirit of life is gone out of them. Some believe they may encounter a place of eternal torment, while others think they will immediately float off into heaven and become like angels. These are two very common myths, which God's word easily disproves. His ministers in the Bible teach us the truth about death and hell, and can help alleviate many fears that people have.

Although most people do not look forward to dying if they are in reasonably good health and are doing things they enjoy, death in this present world is an inevitable occurrence. Disease, substance abuse, the effects of aging, accidents, or murder can all bring death. However, facing death does not have to be a totally fearful event if a person understands what God teaches us about it.

When the spirit of life goes out of a person, they are simply no longer conscious of anything. In Ecclesiastes 9:5,10, Solomon wrote, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing...Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." In Ecclesiastes 3:20 he wrote, "All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again." Psalm 146:4 says, "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." There is no mention of being conscious in either a place of fiery torment or of floating off to heaven with wings and a halo.

For many people, the word "hell" conjures up images of a place of burning torment, overseen by a character dressed in red with horns and a pitchfork. This is a common fable of many religions. The Hebrew word for hell is "sheol", which means the "grave" or "pit". The Greek word is "hades", which is defined as "unseen", or "the place or state of the dead". Proverbs 7:27 refers to hell as being "...the chambers of death". Many people are shocked to learn that even God's perfect Son, Jesus Christ, was in hell for 3 days and 3 nights, but reading Matthew 12:40 and Acts 2:29-31 proves that he was. In Acts 2:31 Peter explained, "He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption." This is simply saying that after Christ was crucified/killed, he was in the grave for a short while before his Father raised him back to life.

From the scriptures we also learn that up until this present day, Jesus Christ was--and still is--the only one who has been resurrected back to eternal life. While many people are familiar with the account of Lazarus being brought back to life (see John 11:1-45), it was only a temporary reprieve for him, as it was for a few others also mentioned in the Bible. (Refer to 1 Kings 17:17-24; Luke 8:41-42, 49-55; Acts 20:9-12) These individuals were raised back to life on earth for a time, but died again at the end of their lives. Christ himself said, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3:13). The apostle Paul wrote, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). In Acts 2:29, Peter said that David is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre (or grave) is with us unto this day.

There are many accounts given in the Bible proving that Jehovah God's followers knew that when they died they would not be raised again until the last day. When Jesus told Martha that her brother Lazarus would rise again, "Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day" (John 11:24). She was convinced of that. Another example is that of Job. He knew what his end would be when he wrote, "And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:" (Job 19:26). Isaiah wrote, "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah 26:19). Jehovah told the prophet Daniel, "But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" (Daniel 12:13). All of these individuals knew without a doubt that they would sleep in death until the time when Jehovah God would raise them back to life.

The information given to us in God's word is the key to not fearing death. There will be a resurrection of all, but not everyone will get to live forever. Daniel 12:2 says, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."

Acts 24:15 refers to the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. If you read Revelation 20:12-15, you will learn that death and hell will deliver up the dead and all will be judged according to their works. All those who are accounted righteous will be found written in the Book of Lifeand will get to live forever in Jehovah's and Christ's perfect new kingdom. Those who are not in the Book of Life will die forever. After that, death and hell (the grave) will be done away with permanently, as well. That is why it is so vital to learn what is required to have your name written in the Book of Life. Not everyone who thinks or hopes they are going to heaven to live forever will actually get to. Jehovah has certain requirements that He expects from each individual in order to be accounted worthy of taking part in His eternal kingdom to come.

To help further prove these subjects to yourself using the Bible, it might be helpful to refer to the studies on our website entitled, "Death and Resurrection" and "What is Hell?". God and His Son Christ Jesus have offered us the chance at a happy life in their perfect kingdom to come. That promise was made to everyone who wants something far better than this present world has to offer. Someday all of the pain, suffering, and death that people endure now will be done away with for good. It is a true comfort to have the assurance of knowing what we face at the end of this life, and having the opportunity to be raised to a perfect life without end by our Almighty Father Jehovah.


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