Key To The Understanding Of The Scriptures
by H.P. MANSFIELD
(5) The Need of Redemption from Death
The Reality Of Death.
Death is a reality that none can avoid. Sooner or later its grim shadow darkens every household, its chill hand stretches out to claim every person. The tears and sorrow that attend such occasions testify to death's reality, and constitute a repudiation of the alleged immortality of the soul, so confidently, universally, but also falsely taught by Christendom. A person's feelings around the graveside confirm the teaching of the Bible: "The living know that they must die, but the dead know not anything" (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
We wish to impress the fact that though belief in the theory of an immortal soul is so widespread, it is not found in the Bible. Instead, the Bible sets forth death as the cessation of all life, thought and action (Psalm 6: 5; 30:9; 88:10-12; Isaiah 38:18-19); a state of silence (1 Samuel 2:9; Psalm 115:17); a condition of corruption and destruction (Acts 13:36; Job 28:22; Psalm 49:9,12,14,19,20). It teaches that Christ brought "life and immortality to light through the Gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10), which would not be true if man possessed an immortal soul from the beginning. It sets forth hope in a resurrection of the body from the grave unto life eternal, rather than in some immortal, intangible entity called the soul, ascending into heaven.
In no instance does the Bible set forth hope of immortal souls ascending into heaven on the death of the body; on the contrary, it dogmatically asserts that apart from a resurrection, those who have "fallen asleep in Christ are perished" (1 Corinthians 15:18).
Think on that statement! How could it be claimed that those who have "fallen asleep in Christ are perished" apart from a resurrection, if mankind possessed immortal souls? Their souls would have ascended into heaven, and it could not be claimed that they are perished, even though they may not be raised from the dead.
And notice, that it is those "in Christ," who are said to have "perished" if there be no resurrection!
The statement shows conclusively that death is a reality, not the gateway to glory, and that the need of redemption from death is urgent.
Furthermore, a testimony to death's reality is proclaimed in the fact that people don't want to die anyway -- even though they may profess belief in an immortal soul! It is of the greatest significance, that despite the glowing picture of heaven frequently portrayed upon the canvas of a preacher's imagination, be evinces no eager desire to wend his way thither! He continues to look upon death as a calamity, and prefers to remain alive on earth, even though his existence there might be attended with circumstances of frustration and difficulty.
Why is that so?
Because man subconsciously repudiates the false theory of life in death.
The theory of the immortality of the soul is a fallacy designed to minimise the reality of death. It is claimed that death is really the gateway to greater experience in heaven, but if that were true, it would transform the great Enemy into our best friend, and suicide, instead of being a crime, would be an act of wisdom! If mankind possess immortal souls, then death is no punishment as taught in the Bible (Roman 6:23), and the sacrifice of Christ to provide life was quite unnecessary, for long before his death, countless millions must have already ascended into heaven.
In contrast to this teaching, the Bible clearly teaches that the soul is mortal (Psalm 78:50; 89:48). Consider the following reasoning:
The Bible teaches: "The soul that sinneth shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). Obviously this refers to all mankind, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23), and therefore all are mortal.
The Bible teaches: "He poured out his soul unto death" (Isaiah 53:12). The reference applies to the Lord Jesus Christ, a sinless man. So that even despite his perfect obedience, his Soul died! If his soul died, we most certainly can conclude with the Bible that "no man can keep alive his soul" (Ps. 22:29).
The Bible teaches; "Those who have fallen asleep in Christ are perished" if resurrection is not a fact (1 Corinthians 15:18), but this would be incorrect under any circumstances if man possessed an immortal soul. Therefore, to believe the Bible, we must believe that man is mortal -- both body and soul.
The word "soul" frequently appears in the Bible, and is used in many different ways, but never as an Immortal, divine spark in man that lives on after the death of the body. In Genesis 12:5 it is used for persons. In Numbers 31:28 it is used for both men and beasts. It is sometimes used in the sense of mind, disposition, life, etc. It is spoken of as being capable of hunger (Proverbs 19:15), of being satisfied with food (Lamentations 1:11,19); of going into the grave (Job 33:22, 28); of coming out of it (Psalm 49:15).
In Genesis 1:20, 30, the word is used in connection with birds, fish and animals, as well as mankind, and all are said to have "souls" in common one with the other. Thus:
"God said, let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that bath life (margin, soul)" (Gen. 1:20).
"God created great whales, and every living creature (or living souI)" (Gen. 1:21).
"Every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there Is life (margin -- soul)" (Gen. 1:30).
"God breathed into his (man's) nostrils the breath of fife; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7 -- these words are the same in the Hebrew Scriptures as those rendered "living creature" in Genesis 1:21 quoted above).
Never once, in the 800 times that the word "soul" occurs in the Bible is it referred to as being immortal, or as living on after the death of the body . Never once do the words "immortal soul" occur in conjunction in the Bible.
Hell Signifies The Grave.
Perhaps the gravest indictment against the theory of an immortal soul living on after the death of the body, is the related doctrine of hell. If the soul is immortal, a place must be found for the souls of the disobedient as well as for those of the worthy; and as the Bible reveals that most men are in the former category, and "have no hope" (Ephesians 2:12), so hell must be the destiny of the majority.
This is true, but now we must establish what hell signifies.
Many churches interpret the term as describing a place of sulphuric flame and everlasting torture. Certain symbolic passages of the Bible are taken out of their context and given a meaning never intended, and upon this distorted foundation of Scripture, there has been built up the terrible doctrine that God consigns to everlasting misery, the souls of both the wicked and the ignorant.
Such a "hell" is a figment of the imagination, and an insult to the God of love revealed in the Bible, The Christian world condemns a Hitler for the agony and torture that he instituted in the concentration camps of Germany, and yet teaches that God permits something even much worse and permanent in hell.
A consideration of the evidence, however, will show that the doctrine is false. False it must be, of course, if the soul of man is mortal as we have indicated above; for the two doctrines stand or fall together.
The word "hell" comes from an Anglo-Saxon root signifying "to cover." It finds its place in such words as "helmet" which signifies a covering for the head. The "place of covering" referred to as "hell" in most places where it is used in the Bible, is the grave.
The word "hell" has been used as a translation for the Hebrew word, Sheol in the Old Testament, and the Greek word, Hades in the New Testament. But these words have also been rendered "grave" as In Genesis 42:38; Psalms 30:3, and the following places:
"O grave (sheol) I will be thy destruction" (Hosea 13:14).
"O death, where is thy sting? 0 grave (hades -- see margin) where is thy victory" (1 Corinthians 15:55).
To be consistent, Sheol and Hades should be uniformly translated "grave" throughout the Bible.
The hell of the Bible, therefore, is the grave. The Psalmist declared:
"Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol)" (Psalm 16:10).
"God shall redeem my soul from the power of the grave (sheol)" (Psalm 49:14-15).
Of Jonah it is recorded that he cried "Out of the belly of hell (sheol)." This "hell" was the belly of the fish (Jonah 2:1-2), a place of covering which was to him a grave, but certainly not the "hell" of popular theology.
Peter used the term to teach the doctrine of the resurrection declaring concerning Christ: "His soul was not left in hell (hades)" (Acts 2:31). It is obvious that Jesus never went to the place of torture, to which many churches refer "hell," but that he did go to a place of covering, into the tomb of Joseph of Arimatbea. This was the "hell" of Peter's discourse, from whence Christ rose after three days' burial.
BIBLE ANALYSIS OF THE WORD "HELL"
The Hebrew and Greek words, "sheol" and "hades" have been both rendered by "hell" and "grave", but should uniformly be translated "grave". The following references list where these words appear:
"SHEOL" is rendered "grave" in the following verses: Gen. 37:15; 42:38; 44:29,31; 1 Sam. 2:6; 1 Kngs 2:6, 9; Job 7:9; 14 :13; 21:13; 24:19; Psa. 6:5; 30:3; 31:17; 49:14-15; 88:3; 89:48; 141:7; Prov. 1:12; 30:16; Eccl. 9:10; Song 8:6; Isa. 14:11; 38:10,18; Ezek. 31:15; Hos. 13:14.
"SHEOL" is rendered "hell" in the following verses: Dent. 32:22; 2 Sam. 22:6; Job. 11:8; 26:6; Psa. 9:17; 16:10; 18:5; 55:15; 86:13; 116:3; 139:8; Prov. 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:11,24; 23:14; 27:20; Isa. 5:14; 14:9,15; 28:15,18; 57:9; Ezek. 31:16,17; 32:21, 27; Amos 9:2; Jonah 2:2; Hab. 2:5.
"HADES" is rendered "bell" in the following verses: Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27,31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,14.
"HADES" is rendered "grave" in the following verse: 1 Cor 15:55 Two other Greek words have been translated "hell" in the New Testament:
"GEHENNA" is rendered "hell" in the following verses: Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6.
"TARTAROS" is rendered "hell" in the following verse: 2 Pet. 2:4.
It will be seen from the above quotations that the terms "hell" and "grave" are interchangable words, and relate to the "covered place", the grave. The word "gehenna" comes from the phrase "valley of Hinnom", a place of destruction, just outside of Jerusalem, where the refuse of the city was destroyed in flame. Thus, this word relates to a state of utter destruction, from which no salvation is possible. "Tartaros" signifies a deep pit from which one would eventually be drawn out for judgment. It thus describes the death-state pending judgment.
Another word rendered "hell" in the New Testament is Gehenna. Gehenna was a valley outside the walls of Jerusalem (still called by this name) in which burned a fire that was fed by the refuse of the city. Anything worthless, and to be completely destroyed was consigned into Gehenna. The term thus became synonymous with the ideas of rejection, dishonour, judgment and utter destruction.
The Lord used the term in that way to describe the fate of the wicked.
Annihilation is a far more merciful end than the terrible fate of suffering eternal torment in a hell of sulphuric flame, presided over by a diabolic genius of torture, such as some have conjured up! The idea is completely foreign to the teaching of the Bible, and to the character of the God of love and mercy revealed therein.
The Bible sets forth death as the punishment for sin (Romans 5:12), and such passages as Mark 9:43 (where the word Gehenna appears) are properly interpreted as highly descriptive and figurative expressions representing the disgrace and total extinction that awaits the sinner at Christ's return (Psalm 37:10,20,36; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Proverbs 24:20; Job 21:30).
Perhaps this is best illustrated by considering one use of this word, Gehenna.
It occurs, as we have stated, in Mark 9:43, and is there rendered as "into hell (Gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched."
This continuously burning fire in Gehenna was the Jerusalem rubbish destructor that was always kept burning to consume the rubbish of the city, including the bodies of criminals.
That was clearly obvious to the people of Christ's day, though it may not be so to us today. However, a little research into Scripture will prove our point.
The Lord continued on from his reference to Gehenna, or hell, by stating:
"Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (v. 46).
In doing so, he was quoting from Isaiah 66:24, which speaks of a form of instruction that will be set up in the Promised Land, in the future age, when Christ will reign on earth. The prophet declares:
"They (worshippers -- see v.23) shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."
If these worshippers are able to go forth and view the results of judgment and punishment, the place where the "worm shall not die," is certainly not the "hell" of current theology, but merely the grave or sepulchre of wicked men. Ezekiel 39:11,15,16 speaks of a great mauseleum being set up in the Holy Land, to commemorate the overthrow of those who will come up against Jerusalem to battle at the time of the end, This could well be the place referred to literally in Isaiah 66:46 and figuratively in Mark 9:43.
One fact emerges, that the "hell" of the Bible is the grave.
Redemption Is A Dire Need.
We suggest that the reader therefore open his eyes to the great difference that exists between prevailing theology and the teaching of the Bible. The former is visionary, impractical, and fails to provide for the real needs of man; the latter is tangible, logical, and well adapted to his requirements. We all know what man has at the moment: a life of toil and frustration, ending in death. This, however, does not have to be his inevitable fate. The Bible proclaims a time when this need no longer be so; when immortality will be granted those who have faithfully kept the precepts of Christ, and when Christ will reign on earth with his resurrected and immortalised followers as his associates (Revelation 5:9- 10).
Meanwhile, redemption is a dire need. Death, with a terrible finality, awaits all, unless we take the necessary steps to conquer the grave (Revelation 1:18). Accident or sickness can cut us down in the prime of life. The worthy and the waster find a common resting place together in mother earth (Job 3:14-22). The careers of all, whether useful or otherwise, end in the grave, so that of ten all the experiences of life seem futile and vain.
The philosopher then steps in, and with a hopeless view of life and death proclaims his teaching: "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." The athiest proclaims his viewpoint, and questioning the existence of God, finds refuge in the fallacies of evolution. So the sceptic would get rid of God, and all responsibility towards Him.
Others, however, are not so foolish. Acknowledging the incontestible evidence that God exists, and yet oppressed with the prevalence of evil and the inevitability of death, they find fault with God. They ask, "Why did God create man thus?" In their ignorance, they question the love and wisdom of God, and failing to understand His purpose, turn completely from religion.
Why God Permitted The Exercise of Freewill.
It is often suggested that God would have done better if He had created man perfect from the beginning. Certainly, that would have prevented the record of trouble and evil that man has manifested since creation.
But it would also have interfered with the development of such virtues as faith, love, voluntary obedience, mercy, forgiveness, and so forth.
It is these that God desires to see manifested above all else (Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:7).
This is understandable. What do we desire and treasure most in our relationships one with the other? It is the spontaneous affection and loving obedience of a child; the faithful loyalty of a friend in time of adversity; the free offer of pardon or forgiveness when we have sinned.
Is there any real pleasure in the mere forced obedience of a child, or loyalty from an acquaintance that we must buy to receive?
There is none.
So it is with God. If He had created man as a mere automatum who had to obey Him like some animated machine, it would mean that the greatest pleasure derived from the attributes of a loving character would be denied Him, so that He would find little pleasure in creation. God delights in voluntary acts of love and obedience extended towards Him (Deuteronomy 11:26-28; Psalm 71:13-15), and He will suitably reward them.
To that end, God gave man the attribute of freewill. Unfortunately, man has used this liberty as licence, and in general has turned his back upon his Creator, whilst, at the same time, blaspheming Him because he suffers the consequence of his own folly. Men violate natural laws, and yet blame God because they suffer the result of such laws. They gratify their lust without limit, and yet deplore the immorality that comes as a result. They manifest a ruthless indifference to the rights of others, and yet stand aghast at the conditions of violence and war that overshadow modern civilisation.
God does not force men to sin, neither does He compel them to be obedient; but, as His just prerogative, He punishes the guilty and will reward the obedient.
How Man Exercised His Freewill.
At this stage, we suggest that you read Genesis chapters 1, 2, 3. These chapters record the beginnings of Creation, the establishment of Law, the manifestation of sin, the punishment of death, and the promise of redemption.
Notice that when God looked upon His handiwork at creation, he pronounced it all as "very good" (Genesis 1:31).
At that stage, man was "at one" with God. He had the mental capacity to comprehend Divine principles, and the ability to manifest them. He was provided with all things necessary for life, and placed in a Garden of Delight (Eden), with but one simple law: to avoid the tree concerning which God declared: "thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17).
Adam and Eve were thus placed on probation, and though they were not immortal, neither were they at that time mortal as their descendants are today, for they had not then been brought under the power of the "law of sin and death" which afterwards worked "in their members" to inexorably bring them to the grave (Romans 7:20-25).
This change was brought about by sin, or man's thought less and God-defying exercise of freewill.
Thus the very One who pronounced man "very good" at the epoch of creation (Gen. 1:31), later pronounced that he is "evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21).
Meanwhile, Adam and Eve, the first human pair, were instructed concerning matters of worship and the Divine will. They were given a simple law, and granted a freewill, that enabled them to manifest obedience and respect for their Creator.
Unfortunately, they used the freewill granted them, the ability to obey or disobey, to sin against God, and so they earned the penalty of death.
The circumstances are outlined in the third chapter.
Tempted by the serpent, Eve succumbed to his suggestion and ate of the forbidden fruit, and then persuaded her husband to do likewise.
This record of the introduction of sin and death is very important, for it is basic to a correct understanding of the Bible as a whole. Many go astray at this point. They view Adam and Eve as possessing an immortal soul, and thus interpret death in a special way, or they consider the serpent as a figure of speech defining an immortal devil, the ruler of hell.
The serpent, however, is clearly defined as one of the "beasts of the field," though possessing unusual characteristics, and a shrewdness uncommon among the brute beasts (see Genesis 3:1).
It was included among those designated "very good" by its Creator (Gen. 1:31). It was placed under the domination of Adam, but, wiser than other beasts, it sought to dominate him. It had beard of the prohibition that God had placed upon Adam and Eve in regard to eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, and, being "more subtle" than any other animal, it began, in its own clever way (Gen. 3:1), to reason upon the Law of God from a purely animal or fleshly standpoint. Why should not Adam and Eve eat of the tree? Why should not they please themselves? Would such eating necessarily result in death?
Thus it began to question both the need of such a law and the certainty of the penalty that God had threatened would be experienced.
With such philosophising, developed from observing and reasoning upon divine law from a merely animal or fleshly standpoint, the serpent urged Eve to please herself and eat of the forbidden fruit.
And Eve, instead of rejecting the temptation of the serpent, meditated upon his suggestion. That was her undoing. The idea of partaking of that which was forbidden found a lodgment in her mind. Desire to satisfy her curiosity for the forbidden fruit had been excited by the serpent's reasoning. She began to look at things from a new perspective, created by the doctrine of the serpent. Previously she had viewed them only in the light of God's prohibition with which she had been in full accord. Why should she abstain? Would God really bring her under the power of death? What was death anyway? Had not the serpent said. "Thou shalt not surely die?" As she gazed at the tree she saw that it "was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and one to be desired" (Genesis 3:6). Thus lust conceived in her, and it ultimately brought forth sin; and sin, having been committed, earned the sentence of death (Genesis 3:19; James 1:15).
Eve partook of the tree, and induced Adam to do likewise. Thus sin was first committed, and through it came death: "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin" (Romans 5:12). Mortality became a physical principle of the flesh, which was transmitted to Adam's posterity (Romans 5:17-19). Man was no longer in his original "very good" state. Rebellion had been generated in his heart, death was now his destiny, and the fellowship that had previously existed between him and God had been broken by disobedience (Gen. 8:21).
God alone could institute the means of reconciliation and redemption; and this He proceeded to do in His mercy and His love.
Was God revealed as unjust in all these transactions? By no means. Was He unjust in creating Adam and Eve "very good"? No, He was not. Was He unjust by placing them under a law? No, discipline is good for such as them. Was He unjust by fixing a penalty for disobedience? No, for without such, law would lose its power. Was He unjust by punishing them? No, for otherwise man would learn to defy God with impunity, and would hold His laws in contempt. Was He unjust by providing the means of reconciliation and hope of life? By no means, on the contrary the righteousness of God is upheld, and His mercy and love revealed, in those very principles.
What Resulted From Sin.
The introduction of sin produced a new set of circumstances, and resulted in drastic changes.
Man was no longer "very good" (Gen. 1:31), but was now subject to death, and possessed of a heart which "is evil from youth" (Gen. 8:21; see also Psalm 58:3; Jeremiah 10: 23; Romans 7:18).
All creation came under curse.
The ground brought forth thorns and thistles, so that man could only reap its fruits by hard toil (Gen. 3:17-19).
The animal creation became subject to change, many becoming carniverous (cp. Gen. 2:19 with Isa. 65:25), the serpent being cursed "above all cattle" (Gen. 3:14).
The woman, because of her presumption in leading the way to sin, was now appointed to be subject to her husband. Death would prevail over her posterity, so that her sorrow and conceptions would be multiplied: the former, because death would overtake her children; the latter, to compensate for the wastage brought about by death.
The sentence of death was pronounced against the man because he had followed the woman into sin. From henceforth his posterity was subject to mortality. As Adam and Eve had been defiled mentally when they heeded the teaching of the serpent, morally when they applied it, and physically when mortality took hold of them, so there now existed a need for their redemption from this state into which they had fallen.
For the moment, sin was triumphant. However, God did not create the earth and man upon it that sin and death might reign thereon, but that it might reflect to His glory (Numbers 14:21). But with sin temporarily triumphant, what was He to do? He could destroy man, and commence again with, perhaps, the same result; or by the exercise of love and mercy in forgiveness, He could redeem man from the conditions of evil that he had brought upon himself and the earth by his folly.
God decided upon the second of these two alternatives. In doing so, He even made Sin His helper. For man was humbled by sin, and forced to recognise his dependence upon the mercy and forgiveness of God. It emphasised those virtues, so that by experiencing them from the Creator, man learned the need of exercising them towards his fellow-man.
Out of the chaos caused by sin, God again commenced His purpose. His plan is to restore paradise again upon the earth, and, in Christ, man obtains even more blessings than were lost in Adam. The time will ultimately come when there will "be no more curse" (Revelation 22:3); when the earth will bring forth its full increase (Ps. 72:16) -- when those called by God will be elevated to glorious unity in Christ (Galatians 3:28; John 17:21), and when death itself will be eradicated (1 Corinthians 15:25-26, 54-58).
The Plan Of Redemption Typified To Adam.
Before they sinned, Adam and Eve's conscience was good. They were naked, but not at all ashamed, or afraid, in the presence of the angels, who conversed with them in the name of God. But their conscience having been defiled through sin, they became conscious of their nakedness, and filled with shame and fear (Genesis 3:10). They tried to cover their nakedness by sewing fig-leaves together and making themselves aprons, but God stripped them of their figleaf device, and slaying an animal clothed them with its skin.
This was designed to teach an important spiritual lesson. Nakedness is used in Scripture as a symbol of sin (Revelation 16:15), and as man, since the Fall, is born into a constitution of sin (Romans 5:19), so he is represented as being figuratively naked, and in need of a covering. It is a divine principle that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission" of sin (Hebrews 9:22), and this was graphically illustrated to Adam when his fig-leaf device was stripped from him, and he was clothed with the skin of a slain animal.
That sacrifice pointed forward to that of the Lord Jesus Christ who is figuratively represented as "the lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). In Christ, therefore, God has provided the covering adequate to hide our spiritual nakedness, and we must avail ourselves of it if we would be saved.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 5
Death is a state of unconsciousness, the cessation of all life, thought and action.
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is false.
The hell of the Bible is the grave, with the exception of those figurative passages which use the term to denote total rejection and destruction.
Sin came through man's exercise of freewill in defiance of the law of God.
Death, or mortality, came as a punishment of sin.
God's mercy is revealed in the provision He has made for the forgiveness and redemption of sin-stricken man.
This redemption provides for a cover which is found in Christ Jesus.
God is revealed as being both just and merciful. He was just in punishing man because of sin; He was merciful in providing for his redemption from the effects of sin.