Sheol: the GRAVE? Gehenna? Hades? HELL?

SHEOL, GRAVE, HELL: Sheol. Feminine Noun. (Strong’s 7585).

Root: שְׁאוֹל

Sounds like: sh’ohl

After a week of researching Sheol, which often gets translated as “Hell”, I thought I’d be feeling rather grim at the end of it all, but the word has actually given me a great amount of hope and positivity. That may sound strange, but by the time you’re finished reading this posting I hope you end up feeling the same way. Sheol is not hell… at least not in the sense of our present cultural interpretation of the place, (a place of eternal suffering  and damnation, with fire and brimstone and torment). Some suggest that sheol simply means the grave, which seems to make sense, apart from the fact that there is another Hebrew word for “grave”: qehver (6913).  However, having more than one word for grave shouldn’t be of concern; English is notorious for multiple words meaning the same thing: grave, tomb, sepulchre, cemetery plot, burial chamber… and it’s not the only language to do this.

What the Tanakh does make it clear, is that Sheol is not the place where evil people go. It’s just the place where everyone goes. Everyone dies and goes down to Sheol… even the patriarch Jacob knew he would go there, eventually. Here was his response after he heard that his son Joseph had died (although really, he had not):

Genesis 37:34-35

So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, “Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.” So his father wept for him.

For Jacob this was not a heaven or hell debate… it was merely saying that the loss of his son would kill him; it would put him in his grave, (not send him to hell). 

Sheol: dark, dusty and forgotten

Although Sheol is not the hell that our culture imagines, it is not a happy place either. Sheol was a place of darkness; it was a pit with worms, where we all eventually would go, down into the dust. 

Job 17:11-16

“My days are past, my plans are torn apart, even the wishes of my heart. They make night into day, saying, ‘The light is near,’ in the presence of darkness.

If I look for Sheol as my home, I make my bed in the darkness; if I call to the pit, ‘You are my father’; to the worm, ‘my mother and my sister’.

Where now is my hope? And who regards my hope? Will it go down with me to Sheol? Shall we together go down into the dust?”

Going down into the dust was a common metaphor for death, and it still is. The phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” comes directly from Solomon’s writings:

Ecclesiastes 3:19a, 20

For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same… All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.

But Sheol wasn’t just a place dusty dark place to lay your head when your days on earth came to an end, what made it worse was the fate of being forgotten:

Job 24:19-20

“Drought and heat consume the snow waters, so does Sheol those who have sinned. A mother will forget him; the worm feeds sweetly till he is no longer remembered. And wickedness will be broken like a tree.”

Is there anything worse than being forgotten? How far away from life would you have to be for even your Mom to forget you? How do you escape that fate?

Ingested by Sheol

Sheol was also described as a monstrous ingestion of souls:

Numbers 16:28-34

Moses said, “By this you shall know that YHWH has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. If these men die the death of all men or if they suffer the fate of all men, then YHWH has not sent me. But if YHWH brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol [Sh’ohlah], then you will understand that these men have spurned YHWH.”

As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, “The earth may swallow us up!

According to Isaiah, immoral behaviour and frivolous living meant that Jerusalem would be swallowed by Sheol:

Isaiah 5:14

Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure; and Jerusalem’s splendour, her multitude, her din of revelry and the jubilant within her, descend into it.

Habakkuk pointed out that Sheol was always hungry and death was always looking for more to eat:

Habakkuk 2:5

“Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, so that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations and collects to himself all peoples.”

But David had great hope in YHWH… death would encompass, overwhelm, surround and confront him, but YHWH promised salvation… and YHWH would deliver. He would hear David’s cry and save him from Sheol:

2 Samuel 22:2-7 (See also Psalm 18)

YHWH is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Saviour, You save me from violence.

I call upon YHWH, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. For the waves of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me; the cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon YHWH, yes, I cried to my God; and from His temple He heard my voice, and my cry for help came into His ears.”

How could God save David from the grave? Everyone dies. Everyone goes to the grave, and in Sheol everyone is separated from the God of Life.

Sheol: a separation from YHWH

In Psalm 88 Heman the Ezrahite wrote a bleak poem about his feeling that death was coming soon.

Psalm 88:1-7, 11-15

O YHWH, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before You. Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry!

For my soul has had enough troubles, and my life has drawn near to Sheol. I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength, forsaken among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You remember no more, and they are cut off from Your hand.

You have put me in the lowest pit, in dark places, in the depths. Your wrath has rested upon me, and You have afflicted me with all Your waves…

…Will Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave, Your faithfulness in Abaddon? Will Your wonders be made known in the darkness? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? But I, O YHWH, have cried out to You for help, and in the morning my prayer comes before You.

O YHWH, why do You reject my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me? I was afflicted and about to die from my youth on; I suffer Your terrors; I am overcome.

To Heman, Sheol was a grave of forgetfulness, a dark pit where souls were rejected and cut off from YHWH, unable to see His face, and remembered no more. No wonder he felt overwhelmed.

It should also be noted that Heman mentioned Abaddon. That word can be found six times in the Tanakh (often alongside Sheol). It comes from the root word abad, meaning to perish. In the Hebrew context Abaddon was a place of destruction where one goes to meet one’s death. In the New Testament, Abaddon (Apollyon in Greek) was the name of the king of the bottomless, smoky, pit, also known as the angel of the abyss, from John’s Revelation (9:11).

David had a similar prayer to Heman’s:

Psalm 6:2-5

Be gracious to me, O YHWH, for I am pining away; heal me, O YHWH, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; but You, O YHWH—how long? Return, O YHWH, rescue my soul; save me because of Your lovingkindness.

For there is no mention of You in death; in Sheol [bish’ohl] who will give You thanks?

In Sheol, God was gone… no one could mention Him and no one could praise Him. But is it really possible to be separated from YHWH? Couldn’t God go anywhere, if He pleased?

Psalm 139:7-8

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

Here’s the thing, WE can’t find God in Sheol but HE can find us anywhere. YHWH is everywhere, but those who go down to Sheol would be cut off, they would not see YHWH and there would be no hope. It was a pit of nothingness, and nothingness was what they would become.

King Hezekiah was at the brink of his own death, when God spared him. He thanked God for saving him from going to the pit of nothingness:

Isaiah 38:9-11, 17-19a (Hezekiah’s prayer)

A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah after his illness and recovery: 

I said, “In the middle of my life I am to enter the gates of Sheol; I am to be deprived of the rest of my years.” I said, “I will not see YHWH, YHWH in the land of the living; I will look on man no more among the inhabitants of the world…

…Lo, for my own welfare I had great bitterness; it is You who has kept my soul from the pit of nothingness, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back. For Sheol cannot thank You, death cannot praise You; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness. It is the living who give thanks to You, as I do today…”

Although being swallowed by a fish was equivalent to going to the grave… (who comes back from that?!)… there was still hope for Jonah. Unlike Sheol, the fish was alive… and from life there was hope. 

Jonah 2:1-4

Then Jonah prayed to YHWH his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, “I called out of my distress to YHWH, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me. So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’”

The finality of Sheol is the horrific thought of becoming nothingness, remembered no longer, without hope and without YHWH. Like Jonah, we must cry out to God before Sheol takes us and we lose out on the promise that one day, when our time on earth is done, we will meet YHWH face to face.

The Messiah and Sheol

But did YHWH really have a plan that would save us from the fate of Sheol? If we all go to the grave, what does Salvation do for us? YHWH, in the book of Isaiah, essentially hand-fed us a very big hint which points to the answers of this question:

Isaiah 7:10-14

Then YHWH spoke again to Ahaz, saying, “Ask a sign for yourself from YHWH your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test YHWH!” Then He said, “Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

In Hebrew Immanuel means “God with us” and He would be with us from the depths of Sheol to the heights of Heaven.

Yeshua never shied away from talking about hell, or heaven for that matter. In the New Testament the concept of Sheol gets translated into English as “Hell”, but Yeshua used two different Greek words (for the English “Hell”): Hades and Gehenna.

A Quick word on Hades

In most instances when Yeshua talked about Hell,  the Greek word Hades was used by the Gospel writers. Hades, to those living within Greek culture (as the early Messiah followers were), was the god of the dead and the underworld, and the place of the dead was named after him. Like Sheol, the underworld was in the great depths of the earth, but unlike Sheol it had many rivers all describing sentiments of destruction: hatred, pain, forgetfulness, fire and wailing.

One of the places that the Greek people believed was a gate to the underworld was found in Paneas, later named (under Roman rule) Cesarea Philippi, (and now named Banias). In this town was a large, deep, cave thought to be a gate to Hades, which you can still see today. In its heyday, it was a place of debauchery, where the Greeks celebrated the goat god Pan with acts of prostitution and bestiality. Yeshua, shockingly, took His disciples there. Standing at the place considered, by the Greeks, to be the gateway to Hades, He asked His disciples a pointed question:

Matthew 16:13-18, 21

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”… From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.

This is a fascinating passage. Yeshua stood in the village which held (many believed) the gate of Hades and he preached that the gate of Hades would never overcome his kingdom of followers. In a hotbed of human depravity, a place that all God-following Jews avoided at every cost, Peter stood up and declared the divinity of Yeshua. After that pivitol moment, Yeshua was ready to declare His mission… He would be killed, but He would not be bound by Sheol. He would rise up.

Huskyherz_pixabay
Photo by Huskyherz (pixabay.com)

After Yeshua’s death and resurrection, Peter delivered a poignant message. In the sermon he quoted a Psalm of David (Psalm 16:8-11) which included the word Sheol. Luke, the author of Acts, used the Greek word Hades, in its place.

Acts 2:22-32

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. For David says of Him,

‘I saw YHWH always in my presence; for He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh will also live in hope; because You will not abandon my soul to Hades [Sheol], nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your Presence.’

Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on His throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah that He was neither to abandon to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.

Yeshua, the Messiah, would go to Sheol but He would not be abandoned there to rot. God raised Him up, He conquered death and left Sheol behind.

A (not so) Quick word on Gehenna

The word Gehanna is an English rendition of the Greek word Geenna, also translated into English as Hell. This word shows up twelve times in the New Testament (B’rit Chadashah) in four books: Matthew, Mark, Luke and James. Eleven (of the twelve) are found in quoted passages of Yeshua (Jesus). 

With a careful study of the text, you come to realize that Yeshua used this word, instead of Hades, to make a specific point. Geenna gets its root from the Hebrew place name, Gei ben Hinnom (Valley of the son of Hinnom)  or sometimes just Gei Hinnom (Valley of Hinnom). Gei Hinnom eventually becomes, in English, Gehenna, and in Greek Geenna or Geennan. This place (Gei ben Hinnom) showed up a few times in the Tanakh. For example:

2 Chronicles 28:3

Moreover, he [Ahaz] burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom [b’gei Ben-hinnom)  and burned his sons in fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom YHWH had driven out before the sons of Israel.

Jeremiah 7:30-34 (see also Jeremiah 32:25)

For the sons of Judah have done that which is evil in My sight,” declares YHWH, “they have set their detestable things in the house which is called by My name, to defile it. They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom [b-gei ben-hinnom], to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.

Therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares YHWH, “when it will no longer be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom  [w-gei ben-hinnom], but the valley of the Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth because there is no other place. The dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the sky and for the beasts of the earth; and no one will frighten them away. Then I will make to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land will become a ruin.”

God hated child sacrifice. It was hell flourishing on earth. Death, chaos and destruction were what the Adversary loved and what YHWH despised. And so this perversion of creation, where death feeds life (dead bodies become food), meant that the land became polluted and turned to ruin and rot. This was as far from the Garden of Eden you could get.

Gei ben Hinnom was where children were sacrificed into a fire to appease the foreign god Molech. It was a place of death, fire and torment, but not of the guilty. It was fire, and torment, and death of the innocent. It was deplorable to God, and so he renamed the place the Valley of Slaughter

What becomes really interesting is that Yeshua used the word Geenna, strategically, in a few conversations:

Mark 9:35-37, 42-48

Sitting down, He [Jesus] called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me…

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell [ten geennan], into the unquenchable fire, (where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched). If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell [ten geennan], (where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched). If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell [ten geennan], where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

The valley of Ginnom was almost exclusively referred to (in the Tanakh) as the place where children were sacrificed to Molech. It’s fascinating that in the Gospel account of Mark, Yeshua started his diatribe about hell (or the Valley of Ginnom) with a child in his arms. He was not just speaking words, He was making the point visually.

Essentially Yeshua was saying: sacrifice yourself, before you sacrifice one of My childrenAnd if you are a child of YHWH, it’s better to do these drastic measures than be thrown to the place where the gods of evil sacrificed children; the place that YHWH called the Valley of Slaughter, where people become a meal to birds and beast, in a perverted and polluted land.

In the above passage, Yeshua also directly quoted from the very last words of the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 66:22-24

“For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me,” declares YHWH, “So your offspring and your name will endure. And it shall be from and from sabbath to sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says YHWH.

“Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

Isaiah looked forward to the new heaven and the new earth where life endured, and where the finality of death was unacceptable to humanity. They looked on the corpses (not bodies being tortured, just lifeless bodies) and it was unacceptable in their sight. Today our culture seems to accept the fate of the grave and the finality of death. Atheists believe that at the end of life there is nothing; the pit of nothingness is all there is. But if you believe in a Creator God who brought life out of nothing, then trust that He came to save and not to kill. YHWH always chooses life over death, and order over chaos.

There’s another very deliberate time when Yeshua used the word gehenna/geennes. Never one to hold back when addressing the Jewish leaders of the day, He condemned their behaviour with these words:

Matthew 23:15

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one convert; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell [geennes] as yourselves.”

Yeshua was making a startling claim… and the Pharisees would get it. They knew of the Valley of Gei Hinnom and its connection to child sacrifice by fire to malevolent foreign gods. They knew of all the references to it in the Tanakh, as a place of great human evil, a Valley of Slaughter which held the dead. Yeshua was pointing the finger directly at the Pharisees… they were taking sons, children of YHWH, and converting them to evil, no differently than sacrificing children directly to Ba’al or Molech.

Sacrifice was never the plan for humans. There would be only one human sacrifice to bring salvation to the people… one man to be raised up, onto a cross, to be the sacrificial lamb for the people… one man to rise out of Sheol and to ascend to the heavens. Would YHWH actually do this? Would He deliver our souls from the power of Sheol?

Rising up out of Sheol

Many passages indicated that when you went down to Sheol you didn’t get to come back. Job addressed this:

Job 7:7-10

“Remember that my life is but breath; my eye will not again see good. The eye of him who sees me will behold me no longer; your eyes will be on me, but I will not be.

When a cloud vanishes, it is gone, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up. He will not return again to his house, nor will his place know him anymore.”

But later Job questioned this:

Job 14:7-14a

“For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant.

But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he?

As water evaporates from the sea, and a river becomes parched and dried up, so man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, he will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep.

Oh that You would hide me in Sheol, that You would conceal me until Your wrath returns to You, that You would set a limit for me and remember meIf a man dies, will he live again?”

Job squarely places the biggest question in front of us: if a human dies, will they live again? Will God lift us up out of the depths of Sheol?

Ethan the Ezrahite, writer of Psalm 89, asked a similar question:

Psalm 89:46-48

How long, O YHWH? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire? Remember what my span of life is; for what vanity You have created all the sons of men! What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah. Where are Your former lovingkindnesses, O Lord, which You swore to David in Your faithfulness?

Ethan was direct: Who, living, does not face death? Who can escape the grave? But he also called God out… where is the promise that you swore to David. Where is the Anointed One, from David’s line, who would be our Salvation; the One who would deliver our soul from the power of Sheol?

Ethan prayed the prayer, and through Hosea, YHWH answered:

Hosea 13:4-6, 14a

YHWH: Yet I have been YHWH your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no Saviour besides Me. I cared for you in the wilderness, in the land of drought. As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting

Interesting that both Job and Ethan talked about being forgotten in Sheol. “Remember me!” said Job; “Remember what my life span is!” said Ethan. But YHWH was quick to point out that after all He had done, it was His own people who had forgotten Him. And so He answered their question with a question: “Shall I ransom them?… Shall I redeem them?”

It wasn’t a question of “if He could”, it was a question of “if He would”. But YHWH kept every promise He made, and He promised Salvation. Ransom and redemption was exactly what YHWH planned and it was exactly what He would deliver! 

Isaiah wrote that YHWH cancelled our covenant with death & the grave:

Isaiah 28:14-18a

Therefore, hear the word of YHWH, O scoffers, who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have made a pact. The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by, for we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception.”

Therefore thus says the Lord YHWH, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level; then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters will overflow the secret place. Your covenant with death will be canceled, and your pact with Sheol will not stand.”

Out of the very DEEP place, YHWH would raise up and redeem us! We would no longer be chained to death or the grave.

The prayer of Hannah really drives the point home. YHWH had granted Hannah her deepest desire… to become a mother. In her joy, she gave a prophetic prayer:

1 Samuel 2:6-9 

YHWH kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. YHWH makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honour; for the pillars of the earth are YHWH’s, and He set the world on them. He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail.

YHWH had the ability to take the lowly and raise them up… in every aspect of life, and in every aspect of death. 

The treasured child that Hannah had was Samuel, the priest who would later anoint David as king. David, perhaps under the guidance of Samuel, knew God had the ability to raise up life and death. He proclaimed, out-loud, that YHWH would not abandon his soul to Sheol; he would rise up and be delivered out of the depths of darkness and the pit of nothingness:

Psalm 86:11-13

Teach me Your way, O YHWH; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever. For Your lovingkindness toward me is great, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

It was the Messiah who would deliver us from the grave. After Yeshua was raised up onto the cross, He came down and was buried in the grave… but Sheol could not hold Him down. He paid the price to set us free:

Luke 23:50-56 , 24:1-10

And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man(he had not consented to their plan and action [to crucify Jesus]), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.

Just like Isaiah announced seven hundred years prior, Yeshua would not decay. The spices were prepared to mask the scent of rot, but they were not needed. The Anointed One became the Living One, and He was found nowhere amongst the dead.

But let’s consider for a moment one who does NOT rise. Who wanted to ascend to the heights, but instead was thrust down to Sheol?

Isaiah 14:9-20

Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; it arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; it raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones.

They will all respond and say to you, ‘Even you have been made weak as we, you have become like us. Your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to Sheol; maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you and worms are your covering.’

“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning [shining one], son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations!

But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’

Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, they will ponder over you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities, who did not allow his prisoners to go home?’

All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb. But you have been cast out of your tomb like a rejected branch, clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword, who go down to the stones of the pit like a trampled corpse.

You will not be united with them in burial, because you have ruined your country, you have slain your people. May the offspring of evildoers not be mentioned forever.

This would be the fate of the Shining one, the Chief Evildoer, the Adversary, ha-Satan… he would not raise himself to the heights of heaven, instead he would be thrust down to Sheol to the recesses of the pit.

Yeshua preached that the lowest would rise, the humble would be lifted up, the servant would become King. The Adversary had it backwards; from his desire to be at the top, he fell to the lowest depths.

Followers of the Adversary were like sheep appointed for Sheol, but followers of God’s sacrificial Lamb would be redeemed:

Psalm 49:14-15

As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd; and the upright shall rule over them in the morning, and their form shall be for Sheol to consume so that they have no habitation. But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Selah.

Yeshua had to defeat death before we could be redeemed. And that’s exactly what He did. YHWH, with His incredible plan of Salvation, has lifted us up. We are pulled out of the grave so we can truly live in the presence of our Creator. 

Psalm 30:1-4

I will extol You, O YHWH, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me. O YHWH my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me.

O YHWH, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit. Sing praise to the YHWH, you His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name.

Whatever your thoughts of hell may be, the hope that believers should hold onto is this:

We go to the grave, but it won’t hold us down. Lift your arms towards God, He will pull you out of Sheol and place you in His Presence.

Next week: the third day

3 thoughts on “Sheol: the GRAVE? Gehenna? Hades? HELL?”

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