CHAPTER VII - WHAT CHRIST TEACHES CONCERNING FUTURE RETRIBUTION
BY REV. WM. C. PROCTER, F. PH., CROYDON, ENGLAND
There are four reasons for confining our consideration of the subject of Future Retribution to the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ:
(1) It limits the range of our inquiry to what is possible in a brief essay. There will be no occasion to examine the 56 passages in the authorized version of our Bible which contain the word “Hell,” (most of which are the translations of the Hebrew “Sheol” and the Greek “Hades,” meaning “the grave” and “the unseen state,”) and we can concentrate our attention on the ten passages in which our Lord uses the word “Gehenna” (which was the usual appellation in His day for the abode of the lost) together with those other verses which evidently refer to the future state of the wicked.
Satan’s encounter with Eve in the Garden is fascinating and very important for us to understand. His temptation of Eve, recorded in Genesis 3, represents several firsts:
It is the first instance of an epistemological alternative to God’s design. Satan offers to Eve a different way to have God-like knowledge. Satan argues that God is actually deceiving Eve into ignorance by keeping her from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan’s plan was both clear and appealing: Be like God by the assertion of your own will, and be free from God’s restrictive design. Declare your independence from God by doing it your own way—the result will be the same.
Satan’s temptation of Eve is also the first instance of a hermeneutic alternative to God’s design. Satan’s temptation of Eve was the first recorded instance of a non-literal interpretation of God’s word. Satan asks Eve, “Has God said … ?” and then proceeds to distort what God had actually said (3:1). In contrast, Genesis 1-12 represents roughly 2,500 years of history, and during that time, of the roughly 31 references to God speaking, this is the only instance (besides Eve’s fumbling in response to Satan’s challenge) in which God’s word isn’t taken at face value.
"Two thirds (67 percent) of Americans believe heaven is a real place, according to the survey....Just under half of Americans (45 percent) say there are many ways to heaven... Catholics (67 percent) and Mainline Protestants (55 percent) are most likely to say heaven's gates are wide open, with many ways in. Evangelicals (19 percent) and Black Protestants (33 percent) are more skeptical." Survey: heaven, hell & a bit of heresy
Did Jesus “descend into Hell”? We discussed this one Wednesday night in our Doctrinal Disciples class. Here is a summary of the issue.
A commonly held view is that Jesus descended into Hades between His death and resurrection. Its popularity stems from the statement “he descended into hell” in one version of the Apostles Creed affirmed in many churches. It also appears to be supported by some NT texts such as Ephesians 4:9 and 1 Peter 3:19. This view usually argues that Jesus emptied the compartment of Sheol/Hades that contained the OT saints, whom He then transferred to heaven (“he led captivity captive” Eph. 4:8).
First, a little history. The earliest form of the Apostles Creed (2nd century AD) did not contain this statement. It appeared first in a Latin text of the Creed in the 6th century AD (descendit ad inferos, “he descended into the lower regions”). From there it began to appear in Greek versions of the Creed and finally morphed into “he descended into hell” in the Middle Ages. This statement was not included in the more detailed Nicene Creed which dates from 325 AD. Thus it appeared in no creed before the 6th century AD. It may have been mentioned by some of the fathers, but it definitely was not a distinctive doctrine confessed by the early church. The view developed quite fully in the Middle Ages. The expression “the harrowing of hell” describes his supposed action in emptying hell of its righteous OT inhabitants. They were supposedly the ones on the other side of that “great gulf” between the righteous and the wicked. But if it was such an important aspect of our Lord’s saving activity, why did it develop so late in church history?
If someone asks me what happened to Jesus after his death, I simply quote what Jesus stated and leave it at that: “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Why is that so difficult to understand?