Is Death Final? 2

Is Death Final? 2 February 23, 2010

Harrowing.jpgThis Lent I’m reading the pious and and learned study of Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev (Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective), and I have wanted to read an Eastern Orthodox study of the descent into hades and the conquering, or harrowing, of hell because that tradition has emphasized it so much.

The New Testament evidence, when read in its context, almost certainly indicates that Jesus “did” something between the Cross and the Ascension. The texts cited in our last post, in particular 1 Peter 3:18-25 and Acts 2, as well as the baptism for the dead in 1 Cor 15 and that enigmatic text in 1 Peter 4, indicate to me that we should be open to Jesus either gospeling the dead or announcing the good news to the dead after his death and before his ascension.

Do these texts indicate that death is final? One of the comments elucidated what I mean by “is death final?” when it suggested that the first death is not final but the second death is final. The question the Church has asked, and some are surprised by this, is whether that second death is final?

Does it matter to your way of doing theology that the early theologians all believed in a descent into hades?

Here’s a basic historical conclusion, and it is sketched in readable detail in Alfeyev’s book: into the 4th Century, Christians in both the West and the East clearly affirmed the descent into hell, the victory of Jesus over death, and either the liberation of saints from the realm of the dead or the total liberation of all humans from the power of death and hell. 

Here are some details:

Irenaeus is typical in seeing both the descent and a release of the patriarchs, prophets and saints from the Old Testament period.

Hippolytus: John the Baptist also descended to preach to those in hades.

Clement of Alexandria: Christ descended and preached to the saints and to the Gentiles who lived outside the true faith. Hell for him was a place of reformation. Origen is like Clement, but emphasizes human choice.

Issue: how to define the various terms, but many saw places. That is, there’s Abraham’s bosom, and hell, and hades, and a prison.

Athanasius: leans, at times, toward the universal redemption or release from death. The famous text “Christus patiens,” attributed by some to Gregory Nazianzen, poetically sketches a universal release of the dead through the descent. Cyril of Alexandria follows this line of thinking; so does Maximus the Confessor.

Many are somewhat ambivalent or clearly believe Jesus’ release was only for the saints, and an example is St John Chrysostom. John Damascene emphasizes human choice by those in the realm of the dead and so not all are liberated. St Jerome is in this camp of saying at times that all are liberated but other times not all are liberated.

A decisive voice in this issue, especially in the West, was Augustine who believed in both a descent but not all in a “second chance”. For Augustine, death was final and the only ones in hades who were released were those who were predestined in God’s elective grace. What is interesting, though, is that Augustine was clearly battling many who did think Christ emptied hades and death and hell of all its inhabitants. Gregory the Great completed the Augustinian perspective.

Alfayev emphasizes that the Eastern fathers did not spell things out the way the Western fathers did.

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  • Darren King

    Okay, not to sound trite or dismissive, but… why should I care about what someone like Augustine thought on a matter such as this? Don’t get me wrong, clearly he has had a profound effect on theological thinking in the West. But why should I value what he “believed”, when it is only an interpretation; and even then, an interpretation of one man, embedded in a context (with plenty of limitations and biases) just like the rest of us?
    I guess I’m just surprised by the degree to which people seem to think we need to somehow square our beliefs with someone like Augustine. My question is: why?

  • Scot McKnight

    Let me come back to you with this: What do you think about your own questions?

  • dopderbeck

    Scot: here are the last lines of the Athanasian Creed:
    From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
    At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
    and shall give account of their own works.
    And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
    This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

    How would this square with any sort of universalism, or any possibility or redemption from Hell?
    The Patristics you’re citing all deal with the Harrowing as something that happened prior to the Last Judgment. All these citations seem to me irrelevant to the question of universalism. In the Tradition, the final judgment is final.

  • dopderbeck

    Oops, italics should end after the word “saved.”

  • Travis Fleming

    I am glad that you have brought up this issue. And it’s one that I have struggled with for some time. I must disagree with Darren, however. I do think that it is important for us to understand the earlier believers in Christ (especially one so important as Augustine), simply because what we believe today and know as our faith was in some way formulated by him and many others.
    But, back to my comment/question. I have seen a division of sorts in regards to sheol with the rich man and Lazarus. Of course, as you indicated, there is the righteous Lazarus at the bosom of Abraham. There is some time of communication between the two, but there is a chasm that each cannot cross. When Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison, is that not possibly a metaphor for Abraham’s bosom? Could it have been the place where the Old Testament saints were? And, during the time between His crucifixion and resurrection, He went and in essence, rescued them to take them to heaven to be with Him?
    Lastly, what about the conception of “Paradise”? Because that appears where Jesus went immediately after the crucifixion, might one infer that could also be Abraham’s bosom?
    I look forward to reading your reply.

  • Scot McKnight

    I’m not sure if you are suggesting this, but it does occur to me so I want to bring this to your attention. I’d appreciate it if you’d not even suggest the universalist label for what I think, because I’m not a universalist. I do think we need to discuss it and I want to raise it without it becoming a debate with me. People ask me questions all the time and assume, wrongly I know, that everything on this blog, even comments, comes from me. Yikes.
    The Athanasian Creed, as I understand it, probably post-dates the earliest Western and Eastern fathers’ articulation of what they thought about the harrowing of hades. There are Western quasi-universalist voices prior to Augustine.
    Some of those harrowing of hell comments by the fathers, more from the East than West, imply that death is not final and that hell is not final. That’s the point some of these are making. One thing that occurs to me in reading these descent into hell statements by the fathers is that death and hades and hell were not seen as final for those prior to the death of Christ, and some even include the harrowing for those outside Israel and outside the “patriarchs, prophets and saints.” That, so I think, became a category for later universalist thinking.

  • dopderbeck

    Scot (#6) — not intending to imply that you are a universalist, and as a writer myself obviously I know that not every comment and so-on is owned by the writer.
    Yet we’ve been discussing Parry’s book, which raises universalism as an evangelical option. And more broadly, we’ve been discussing some possibility of redemption after death, even if not universal redemption. We’ve had other such discussions in the past, e.g. with Terry Thiessen’s book. And we’ve regularly discussed that the exclusivity of Christianity is a major apologetic barrier for many people today, particularly the younger generation.
    So it seems pretty clear, and pretty fair to suggest, that all this discussion is about developing a theodicy of soteriology, and that one important angle for such a theodicy might involve the possibility of redemption after death, at least for some. Am I wrong about that?
    Now, you know me a bit, and I hope you know that I’m not asking this sort of question to “headhunt.” Personally, I very much like the idea of some possibility of redemption after death. In some ways, it seems consistent to me with some of the hints in scripture — such as the Harrowing but also some things in Rev. 20 — about the unfolding of the eschaton.
    However, I’m rather afraid of heresy. Some of this maybe is a healthy fear, some of it maybe isn’t. But if I’m going to float for myself or others as an option, even a possibility, that one response to the “those who haven’t heard” problem and other related problems is a chance at redemption after death, I want to be a sure as I can that the idea isn’t fundamentally heretical.
    So this is why I ask about the Athanasian Creed, and indeed why I pressed so hard in the thread specifically about the normative authority of the Creeds. I honestly want to know what you think, and I’m not bear baiting: how would a possibility of redemption after death be consistent with Creedal orthodoxy?

  • I appreciate these perspectives on death and hell that extend beyond the classic Augustinian account. My sense is that we lose very little in our Christian traditions or practice if we believe that God can redeem even those who have passed into death. There remains the calling to preach the Gospel today whether or not people will one day have a chance at redemption after death.
    I’m pretty sure that throughout scripture there has been a evolving understanding of Sheol or the grave in the OT and eventually hell in the NT–at least some would argue that’s the case. I don’t see how we can make one particular perspective on hell the gold standard when our traditions and our scriptures present a fairly complex picture. If I had to choose one, I’d still say that Augustine makes a lot of sense. However, the more I look at the views mentioned in this book, I’m compelled to reread some scripture and give this a fresh look.

  • Bob Porter

    As others have mentioned, I have felt that: the rich man and Lazarus account in Luke 16 provides some of the best insight into the pre-resurrection state of the dead (with a separation between the righteous and unrighteous). It seems unlikely that this is just another parable because of the specificity that Jesus uses.
    The numerous references to “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (mostly Matthew, but also Luke and Revelation) seem to carry thoughts like “outside” and “darkness” as well as “the lake of fire” and “fiery furnace”. Since the lake of fire was created for the devil and his angels, it seems unlikely that it is a temporary state, but since God is sovereign I am perfectly comfortable that he can do what ever he wants to do. As I mentioned in a previous post, Willard’s chapter on Christian Pluralism (Chapter 7, Knowing Christ Today) was helpful to me in this regard.
    In 2 Cor. 5, Paul seems confident that he will be present with the Lord when he is absent from the body.
    I believe that Jesus did descend into the “lower regions” to at least visit the righteous dead and possibly let them know that they would soon be with him, but for some of the other questions I am not sure that we have enough information. I also do care what the early theologians believed.

  • I’ve been studying 1 Peter lately, teaching it at Tuesday a.m. Bible study and also blogging on it, so I’ll answer in regard to the 1 Peter passages.
    In 1 Peter 4:6, the Greek word for “gospel was preached” is the word for evangelism. The “dead” Peter refers to were not dead when the gospel was preached, unless perhaps he had in mind “dead in sin” (like Paul’s statement about those who were at one time “dead in trespasses and sins” but were now made alive through faith in the gospel; Eph 2:1). More likely, though, I think he is speaking of those who were alive when the gospel was preached to them, who believed and subsequently died in faith, perhaps as martyrs.
    In 1 Peter 3:18-20, regarding Jesus “preaching” to the disobedient “spirits in prison,” the word for “preaching” is not the one for evangelism but for proclamation. The “spirits in prison,” I believe, are those “sons of God” that took wives from among the “daughters of men” in Genesis 6, which leads into the narrative of Noah and the judgment of flood (which Peter refers to in 1 Peter 3:21-22). It appears to have been a common understanding among Jews of the Second Temple ear that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were no spirits in prison. Josephus took this view, and the book of 1 Enoch appears to have this understanding, even portraying Enoch as proclaiming doom to those imprisoned spirits.
    So I accept the statement in the Apostle’s Creed, and the teaching of the early Church Fathers, that Jesus descended into hell, but I don’t think it was a mission to evangelize the dead.

  • dopderbeck

    Jeff (#10) — so 1 Peter 3 is interacting with the “watcher” tradition (as does much of 2 Peter and Jude)? That raises some really weird questions about Creedal formation.

  • Darren King

    To answer my own question: I honestly am perplexed why people would feel such a need to square their own views with someone like Augustine.
    Augustine was born into a time when his worldview was clearly shaped by the limitations of his era. I’m not saying that his time was limiting while ours is not. But I am saying that there’s much we understand about the universe, and even of reality itself, that he didn’t. And yet I don’t often hear/read people accounting for this in their sharing of Augustine’s views. I guess what I’m saying is: you can’t do an apples for apples comparison when you have this gaping expanse between worldviews.
    Of course, this is even more pronounced for the Eastern Orthodox. There, for instance, you have this real reliance on the teachings of the early fathers; without any kind of filtering of those views through the lessons of history, scientific and otherwise.
    One time, in a conversation with Frederica Mathewes-Green, she commented to me that the early church really did believe that what they were laying down (in terms of teaching) was for all time, for the entire church throughout history.
    My thought then (and now) was: fair enough. They no doubt did believe that. But what’s to say they weren’t wrong? Or, at least wrong in the sense that their worldview was based on some “less developed” understanding of the fabric of reality?

  • Kenton

    dopderbeck (#7)-
    Some thoughts on the Athanasian Creed:
    1. It’s about the trinity. Father = God, Son = God, Holy Spirit = God, Father > Son, Son > Holy Spirit, etc. 98% of the creed is that. That’s the point of the creed, not the next to last line.
    2. It’s not the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed. Those two are THE historic creeds. (IMO)
    3. Eastern Church never embraced it.
    4. That next-to-last line is clearly “works-based righteousness.” Are you a works-based righteousness guy?
    I could go on, but I’ll yield the floor.

  • Kenton

    That should be a not equal sign (less-than greater-than), not a greater than sign. I guess it tried to filter possible html tags. My bad.

  • dopderbeck

    Kenton (#13) — excellent points. I agree, especially about the next-to-last line of the Athanasian. So if we are going to say the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds are part of the “history of the Holy Spirit,” as paleo-orthodoxy says, why not the Athanasian? On what authority do we decide among Creeds?
    BTW, I realize I could be coming across wrong — I’m not anti-creedal and I really do think these early creeds helpfully summarize basics of the faith. I’m part of the Ancient Christian Commentary book club and I’ll probably end up buying the Ancient Christian Doctrine set too. It’s invaluable.
    I’m looking for some principles, however. I see the ecumenical Creeds often being discussed as regulative in some way rather than merely helpful as guides. But that all seems to me to break down almost immediately, because we have to decide which Creeds, which interpretations of the Creeds, why the Creeds and not the Canons, why the Creeds and not the ecclesiastical assumptions underlying them, and so on.
    In other words, the paleo-orthodox folks want to use the Creeds to avoid cafeteria Christianity, but the whole exercise ends up being exactly one of cherry-picking, as far as I can tell — unless there is some better reason for not including something like the Athanasian Creed other than “I don’t agree with some of its theology!”

  • Scot McKnight

    I’m not convinced a biblical case “for” universalism, or evangelical universalism, can be made that squares all the teachings. There is a cosmic and even universal scope at work at times, in words like “all,” but I take those in the context of the words of Jesus that “not many” will make it or that there is a weeping and gnashing and darkness and hell etc..
    The evangelical universalism of Robin Parry convinced me that by and large it can be squared with most of classical orthodoxy, and that some who were at work in framing such orthodoxy were probably universalistic. Athanasius is not entirely clear according to Alfayev, but it seems to me he was not a universalist. The Eastern side may be said to have left this stuff up to the mysteries and that we don’t know all we’d like. The Westerns defined it more and that tradition was inherited by Protestantism.
    I see no evidence for the non-finality of death after the death/resurrection of Jesus in the NT.

  • Richard

    I kind of agree with Kenton (except for #4, see Matthew 25:31-46 or Revelation 20:12-13 for starters). I wonder if the Creeds developed to address the Trinity and the full divinity/full humanity of Jesus are authoritative in this case…
    That last sentence was really hard for me to type. I guess what I’m trying to say is are we forcing a square creed into a round peg hole to bring it bear here?
    Doperdeck @15
    Thanks for clarifying. I wonder if we have to acknowledge that the creedal authors probably didn’t foresee the schisms that were to come and may have approached them as clarifying proclamations as much or more as any sort of exhaustive boundary re: orthodoxy. In other words, they set boundaries around the issues they address, not around everything.
    Jeff @ 10.
    I am having trouble understanding what you’re driving at. Can you help me understand the significance that Jesus is “proclaiming” as opposed to “evangelizing”? What exactly was he proclaiming if it wasn’t the good news that he was the Messiah that had conquered all comers, including death and any other powers?

  • Scot,
    Thanks for this refreshing blog and the discussion attached to it!
    Personally, I appreciate the reminder that the early church and especially the fathers did not all see things the same way. I think there are some who place too much on the fathers for determining correct belief and practice. Yet here is a case in point that shows even the greatest of them differed enough that some of them had to be flat-out wrong, if any of them were right! I believe strongly that we should value the insights of all the great thinkers produced by the church throughout the ages. But I resist the tendency that many Christians have to camp in one era or another, as though the fathers had all the answers, or the reformers of the 16th century, or the era of Jonathan Edwards, etc. What a blessing it can be to read even the most liberal Christian scholars and find insights there! As one of my Wheaton Grad School profs used to say, we should read them all, even the most avante garde, and “plunder the Egyptians.” In saying this, I am not necessarily casting the fathers as Egyptians–although at times some seem close to it! I am simply saying, we have only one authority in faith and practice by which we measure everyone from the fathers and martyrs to Luther, Calvin, Barth, and even (dare I say it?) McKnight (whom we all love)! And that exclusive authority is Scripture itself.
    Granted, agreeing on what Scripture teaches is not always a snap, even with the help of great books like The Blue Parakeet. But that is part of the great adventure we have in pursuing God together and striving for the oneness that Jesus desires for his bride, as he prayed for us in John 17.
    So thanks again, Scot, and to all of you commenters at this blog, for always doing such and excellent job of presenting scholarly, relevant, and current issues of content and importance with so much insight and discussion! I value you all–especially the Egyptians! 😉

  • dopderbeck

    So what do you think Scot? How do we develop a constructive theodicy of a salvation that isn’t universal?

  • keo

    dopderbeck @15 — Please let me know if you find those principles.
    Without any, it does seem as though we’re in the cafeteria, one in which well-meaning folks like Dave (@18) choose to attribute exclusive authority to Scripture; others submit to a church, tradition, or leader; and still others demand that God reveal everything to them personally, untainted by any mediation.
    Of course, if universalism is correct, then it won’t matter how many of us have been wrong or how badly we have missed it.

  • Jeff Doles

    Dave @17, the gospel is one kind proclamation of good news, but not every proclamation is good news. For example, a proclamation of judgment is probably not going to be good news to those who are disobedient.

  • Kenton

    Richard (#17)-
    Your reference to my point #4 is confusing. Those scriptures you cite actually support the notion of works-based righteousness – which is fine with me, but I was guessing dopderbeck is not a works-based righteousness guy, and was wondering if he might be “going cafeteria” with the Athanasian creed.
    dopderbeck (#15)-
    So, I may be a little more comfortable going cafeteria than you are. It’s part and parcel with the embrace of the post-modern. And to be perfectly frank, I probably reject that one line of the Athanasian creed on the whim that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of my theology.
    So when you say you need principles alerts go off and red-flags are raised. But to that end the you values some principles, here are some I would invoke:
    1. God loves us. No, really, He does and He wants us all to be reconciled to him.
    2. Scripture is the story of God’s love for us.
    3. Creeds are meant to clarify and expound #1 & #2.
    4. If #2 doesn’t seem like it jibes with #1, the problem is the hermeneutic, not an exception to #1.

  • Kenton

    keo (#20)
    Of course it matters! If people miss it to the point they fly planes into buildings, it matters. If people miss it to the point they exploit their religious authority it matters. If people miss it to the point they become self-destructive it matters.

  • dopderbeck

    Kenton (#22) — I like your principles. I have the mind of a postmodern with the training of a lawyer in the body of a middle-aged ex-fundamentalist. It’s interesting that some of the biggest proponents of paleo-orthodoxy are post-liberals. They come out of a milieu in which Jesus is no different than Ghandi or Buddha, so universal rules are comforting. For folks like me, the milieu is a highly detailed set of propositions on which the fate of one’s eternal soul depends, leading to a constant reassessment of the rightness of one’s belief. Creedal orthodoxy is better than fundamentalist orthodoxy, but it still seems to require a constant calibration of the rightness of one’s propositions. So as a post-conservative I’m less comfortable with it than most post-liberals.

  • keo

    Kenton @22 / dopderbeck @24 — I like those principles, too. A lot. But I am uncomfortable creating theology on the basis of sentences beginning with “I like.”
    Regarding my comment at #20, it would matter here on earth, in a “light and momentary” way, but not in terms of anyone’s eternal destiny / salvation. Not to sound gnostic.
    Part of the appeal of universalism is that all of our differences, all of our bickering, all of our mistakes would not “cost” the salvation of anyone else. If they do, then that matters a lot more than plane-wielding extremism, because then we are thwarting God’s desire that none should perish.

  • Richard

    @21, I’m not sure that the audience gets to determine whether it’s “the good news” or not. They might not like it, but I don’t think that changes that it’s an aspect of “the good news”. Especially if that judgment is intended to be restorative (as some would hold)
    @Kenton 22. That clears it up for me. I thought you were taking a stance against the “works-based righteousness” and was clarifying why I didn’t agree with your point. Didn’t realize you were intentionally probing out Dopderbeck’s stance

  • angusj

    Bob (#9):
    Regarding the rich man and Lazarus account in Luke 16, I disagree with your willingness to give it greater weight than a normal parable simply because Jesus injected a well known beggar called Lazarus into his account. I would argue that this was a literary device Jesus used to underline his point that repentance and faithfulness, not wealth, are what matters to God and that it’s too late for repentance after death. Like all parables it is unhelpful to read too much into its meaning beyond its central point. While I’ll agree that the parable implies suffering after death for sins committed in this life, there is nothing in it to support endless conscious torment.
    Also you said: “Since the lake of fire was created for the devil and his angels, it seems unlikely that it is a temporary state”. I would suggest that Jesus’ victory over sin and death is very hollow without its final destruction.

  • dopderbeck

    Scot and others — what do you think of this comment by John Franke in his book “The Character of Theology” (pp. 112-113)? It jibes with my views, I think:

    The creeds and confessions of the Christian church are second-order interpretive reflections on the primary stories, teachings, symbols, and practices of the Christian faith that, under the guidance of the Spirit, provide a hermeneutical trajectory in which the discipline of theology is pursued in conversation with the normative witness of Scripture and the contemporary cultural situation. From this perspective, we can summarize the second-order nature of church confessions as subordinate and provisional, open-ended, and eschatologically directed. . . . Speaking of the provisionality of confessions is not an expression of skepticism or an attempt to undermine genuine confession. It is simply a sober consequence of the fact that finite and sinful human beings cannot fully comprehend the revelation of God and an acknowledgment of the need for the ongoing reformation of the Church’s thought and speech. The provisional, subordinate nature of confessional statements stands as a challenge to those who ascribe binding authority to them. Such an approach runs the risk of transforming past creeds into de facto substitutes for scripture.”

  • dopderbeck

    And I have to share this because it’s fabulous: Stanley Hauerwas writing on the Creed in the Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics. :

    the Creed is bound up with issues of power that relate to setting boundaries to conversation. . . . in the case of the Nicene Creed, a statement formulated by a very ancient and very powerful committee, that history is troubled, above all because of the way a famous heretic, Arius, was treated. [Arius’ arguments] are problematic . . . but [h]is arguments were misrepresented, oversimplified, and distorted. . . . Arius should have been argued against, but instead he was brutally expelled. . . . [T]his dark history is recapitulated every time Christians seek to discredit and dislodge their opponents rather than argue skillfully and charitably against them. Saying the Creed is dangerous. Can it be said well?

    Amen, Stanley, I say. If you’ve ever experienced an inquisition from your spiritual leaders, you’ll probably agree with me.
    But Hauerwas isn’t saying Arius was right, nor does he give up on reciting the Creed. Rather, he frames recitation of the Creed as a prayer, in the context of worship:

    The Creed is a prayer that ends with ‘Amen.’ This is good news because it frees Christians from the prison of thinking it a mere bold declaration. . . . It is the poetry of lives, rather than the clarity of statements, that shows how tradition and reasoning are woven together in the Trinitarian, prayerful recitation of the Creed. Such lives, invited to a world we did not make, are made into signs. No philosophical system, and no brilliant theory of the relationship between tradition and reasoning, can replace the embodied poetry that living signs, saings, are caled to be in the world. The Creed, as an uttered part of this embodiment, simultaneously proclamation and prayer, is part of the Eucharist, and that means it is not only about speech and talk; it is an occasion in which we are shown how to share food, and, in the breaking of bread, are given a foretaste of things to come, and taught how to transform the world.
    Amen again.

  • Scot McKnight

    I like and agree with what Franke is saying; I do think he frames it as Scripture first and Creed second, as if it is exegesis that led to Creed. I think Scripture and Creed are intermingled and that the Regula Fidei shaped canon. And I’m big on an ecclesiology that can give rise to Creed.
    Hauerwas, well, quite the statement. Overcooked, which is not anabaptist in style. The Church has always cited Creed in the context of worship, and so the second part fits with ecclesial practice.

  • dopderbeck

    Oops — quote is from Nicholas Adams, book is edited by Hauerwas.

  • Trav

    Being rather uneducated in theology, I’m a little overwhelmed by all the views being put forward on the finality of death and it’s chronological order. I’ve been following this blog for a while, and I did notice the discussions on Parry’s universalist book but didnt follow the discussions in detail so forgive my ignorance but has the concept of annihiliationism been discussed on this blog, or the concept of conditional immortality?

  • Richard @26
    If Peter is referring to the common understanding that the “sons of God” were “spirits in prison,” then, following through with that, the proclamation to these disobedient spirits is not one of good news for them, but one of judgment and doom, as in 1 Enoch. My point about “proclamation” is that it does not necessarily refer to announcing good news to the hearers.

  • Jeff Cook

    It seems to me the NT writers describe Jesus descent into Sheol, not into Dante’s Inferno that we often associate with the word “hell”—and that seems a distinction worth making. As noted by others, “hell” and “Hades” may be referring to fundamentally different concepts. The word “hell” for example isn’t a Greek or Hebrew word. It comes from Old Norse. Down the line of history, we may be reading a variety of separate ideas into one word — “hell”.
    It seems to me, the idea that “hell” is not final is a mistake of this sort. Hell certainly is final. It is the place where the both body and soul are destroyed (Mt 10). “Hades” however is not — for many of the reason cited that suggest personal continuation. These two ideas then (hell and Hades) are distinct and different, and in my mind depict the first death and second death. Hades/Sheol—the destiny of all, even Christ—is the first death. Hell/post judgment fire is the second death.
    We may be resurrected from the former, but the later is final.
    Be well!!