The Saviour of the World series
by J. Preston Eby

HELL

Infinite Grace
A "Second Chance?"
Hell - The Hadean State
The Keys Of Death And Hell
When Christ Preached In Hell!
The Punishment Must Fit The Crime
The Good Shepherd
To Hell And Back
The Great Gulf
 

INFINITE GRACE

FROM the earliest years of my memory there stirred deep within my bosom an insatiable longing after Christ. Though only a child, I wanted to know Him who once was spat upon for me, who was crowned with thorns for me, who died and rose again and ascended into the highest heaven for me. I wanted to intimately know the Christ, the great and good Friend who was compassionate to all men, who forgave the thieves and harlots and drunkards, and healed the sick and gladdened the sorrowful, who brought the dead to life again, and loved and blessed the children. Oh! how I wanted to KNOW HIM! Sometime after my twelfth birthday, the Lord came to me in a remarkable visitation, flooding my life with billows of His presence, power and glory. From that moment Christ became a living Reality. He filled the skies. He filled the earth. He filled my life and flooded mv heart with unspeakable love for His creation. He whispered in mv ear and flooded within the depths of my spirit the precious knowledge that He is the Good Shepherd who will seek until the last lost sheep is in His fold. He proclaimed the omnipotence of His love in the sweetest of tones. The Good Shepherd who came from heaven, and gave His life, will seek, and seek, and seek, and save, and save, and save, until He has brought all men back to God. This is the work of the Redeemer and the redeemed. I remember sitting, some time after this experience, in the auditorium of the public school in the rural community where we lived in southern Alabama, looking at the several hundred students assembled there, as the Spirit mused in my heart, "Someday, someway, somewhere, CHRIST WILL SAVE THEM ALL!" The revelation was real to me, Christ was there bursting forth in my spirit, and I rose and departed with gladness that Christ is indeed Victor!

I do not hesitate to preach it. I do not hesitate to tell it. At the same time I have warned the sinner that if he sins, the face of God is against him; that if he will not submit to Christ, hell is in front of him; the way of the transgressor is hard, for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience. But let us not falsely say that such men will never be saved; let us not limit the Holy One of Israel!

Most Christians believe that once a person dies, his or her fate is sealed for ever. If anyone has been fortunate enough to have repeated the "sinner's prayer" one moment before death stole the spirit away, he is guaranteed, according to the "orthodox" teaching, that he will go straight to heaven. Matters not whether he was truly drawn to the Son by the Holy Spirit; as long as he muttered the correct words before the final beat of his heart yielded to the stillness and silence of death, his salvation is eternally secured.

The question is, does physical death end the availability of God's grace? The death that came to Adam was first and foremost a spiritual death, and all men enter this world "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1). Does physical death render our moral character changeless? Does it irrevocably fix our eternal destiny? Are the grace and mercy of God TIED TO OUR HEARTBEAT? Here is a young man driving along the road on his way to an evangelistic meeting where he will hear an anointed message of salvation. Conditions are such that he may be saved this very night. His heart is tender. His mother is praying. The Holy Spirit will be mightily dealing. But - enroute to the meeting there is a terrible accident. The brakes are slammed on, the car skids wildly, spins uncontrollably off the highway, rolls down the embankment, crashing violently into a tree. Death is instant. Abruptly the young man is gone "out into eternity." The question comes ... was the mercy and redemption of God tied to his heartbeat? Was there mercy for him IF HE WOULD HAVE MADE IT TO THE MEETING, but eternal damnation instead BECAUSE A DRUNKEN FOOL PULLED OUT IN FRONT OF HIM IN THE DARKNESS?

I do not hesitate to say that there is not one passage of Scripture in the whole Bible that indicates that the grace of God is limited to physical life, or that the mercy of God is tied to ones heartbeat. I am sure that my readers recognize that it is the spirit of man that is of the greatest importance to God. Why should there be salvation provided as long as the mortal body remains animate, but no salvation for the much more valuable spirit of the same man or woman as soon as the last mortal breath is drawn? Oh, I know the writer to the Hebrews states, "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27), but that proves nothing relative to the question under consideration. It merely establishes the fact of judgment - not the process following judgment. The passage is conspicuous for what it does not say. It does not say, "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this ETERNAL DAMNATION." The whole theory of eternal torment rests upon a faulty translation of a couple of Greek words, and actual distortions and perversions of what the Scriptures say.

So the Church system concludes that God has both the will and the power to save a breathing man, but no will and no power to save a non breathing man. It teaches that God has both the will and the power to regenerate a spirit which has a body of dust, but no will or power to save the same spirit without a body. God's mercy and power limited to the temporary function of certain animal organs! Good heartbeat, good mercy! No heartbeat, no mercy!

If, instead of bringing every sin into judgment - punishing that sin - we and correcting the sinner - we imagine the poor sinner suffering the eternal torments of hell with its unbearable anguish, the pangs of conscience, the taunts of fiendish demons, one hour of which is more than all his earthly sorrows rolled into one - lengthen this out to endlessness and season it with hopeless despair - and its horrors will be absolutely inconceivable. Though our lips may be afraid to frame the words, our hearts will whisper, "Can such be the final fruit of God's glorious plan?" Is this the response for which He hungered when He purposed that sin should estrange His creatures from Himself? But this is far from all! Multiply this single case by scores of billions of human beings, who age after age, have been hurdled into this hopeless hell - all tortured and tormented while the ages roll, and roll, and roll... without mercy and without remedy.

If the above scenario be true then something horrid must have happened to both God and His saints in heaven. Before the death of these people God loved them all, and in many instances they loved each other, saved and unsaved alike, and would have performed a great number of kindnesses for one another. Many of these had Christian friends and loved ones who were very concerned about them and prayed earnestly for them. But now that both saint and sinner are out in "eternity," God and all the saints in heaven have either lost their love and compassion for their lost loved ones, or else God has brainwashed all the saints so that they have erased from their memory the fact that their beloved mothers and fathers, their lovely sisters and brothers, their precious daughters and sons, and their good friends and neighbors are suffering the most terrible pain and hideous torture for all eternity. So we see this: there is MORE LOVE AND COMPASSION in the natural world in God and the saved ones, than there is in the spirit world. Furthermore, there is MORE LOVE for sinners while they have bodies than there is for sinners without bodies. What has happened to cause God and the saints to turn from love and pity for the lost, to a feeling that the lost are now getting what they deserve and should suffer the torments of the damned for all eternity? What, I ask, has happened to God and the saints to cause them to love and seek the lost as long as their frail, mortal bodies endure, but to turn from that love for the precious unclothed spirit of the very same man or woman? Can we believe that God, having created all things for His pleasure, having so loved His creation that He freely gave heaven's most precious gift, after a few paltry years, the brief span of a man's mortal existence, throws up His hands in futility and disgust, saying that He has done all He can and men would not respond, so He must cease all effort, seat Himself upon His golden throne, and consign His creation to everlasting hell? Yet this is exactly what we are told today. But how foolish! God is not that fickle, and God does not give up that easily. In fact, God does not give up! He started the whole program of creation and redemption and, blessed be His wonderful name! He will not cease His work until He is Victor - "All in All" throughout all the vastnesses of infinity for evermore!

How often we have heard preachers warn people that "the day of grace will soon be over for ever." Now nothing could be further from the truth, for as long as God exists the GRACE OF GOD will be with us. The end of the grace of God, were it possible, would mean the destruction of God Himself, for grace is one of His eternal, immutable attributes. Please notice that Paul shows that the grace of God is going to be displayed and made known in the AGES TO COME through those who have received it here and now in this dispensation. "And has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ, THAT IN THE AGES TO COME HE MIGHT SHOW (Greek: exhibit, put on display for all to see) THE EXCEEDING RICHES OF HIS GRACE in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7-8). Not only does this passage tell us of the great revelation of God's grace in the AGES TO COME, but it also shows us that it is for this very reason that God is saving a FIRSTFRUIT COMPANY now. The unveiling of the grace of God to the whole creation is the true reason for the MANIFESTATION OF THE SONS OF GOD. God has no intention of bringing all the world into the fold now. If that were His purpose He would surely bring it to pass, for He is the omnipotent God who works all things after the counsel of His own will. The whole purpose of this age is to GATHER OUT A PEOPLE TO DISPLAY HIS GRACE IN THE COMING AGES. James also declared this truth when at Jerusalem he said, "Simeon has declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles to TAKE OUT A PEOPLE FOR HIS NAME ... that the residue (rest, remainder) of men might seek after the Lord and ALL THE GENTILES upon whom My name is called...known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:14, 17, 18). This so-called "age of grace" is coming to an end, but grace will be more manifest in the future than in previous times. This age which is presently coming to a close should more properly be called THE CHURCH AGE, for grace will not end, but the present form and administration of the Church will end. In the age to come God will move from calling out a body from among the nations, to the saving of the nations themselves. In ages beyond that God shall deal with the residue of men and all the reaches of His vast creation.

Ray Prinzing writes, "GOD'S PURPOSE ANTEDATES TIME, for He purposed it in Himself before time began, and then arranged for the times in which He will fulfill it. Therefore His purpose is not in bondage to any man's time, be it a day, or a thousand years, but all time has to serve that purpose. Furthermore, God's grace, whereby this purpose shall be accomplished, also antedates time, for we read, 'Who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to HIS OWN PURPOSE AND GRACE, which was given us in Christ Jesus BEFORE THE WORLD (ages) BEGAN' (II Tim. 1:9). The sufficiency of grace was freely given before time began, hence God's grace is not bound to time either. Grace can take all the time it desires for its manifestation, for it is not subject to the confines and limitations of time. The religious traditions of some speak of an age of grace, as if all other ages would be devoid of grace. This is utter nonsense. You cannot possibly limit the grace of God to any one age, for it is manifest in all ages, and is not bound to any certain age alone.

"Since man is saved by grace, not of self-works, and grace is a gift of a sovereign God, then obviously He can administer that grace to man whenever He chooses. The length of time has no claims upon that grace, it is but a servant to His grace, to reveal by degrees the wonder and glory of God's bountiful grace and mercy. Should God so arrange that this be the hour when He gives grace in your life, then bow low before Him in worship and praise. Yet if you have loved ones who have not yet been given this inflow of grace, do not despair, 'In Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order' (I Cor. 15:22-23), and God has fitted the ages so that there is an appointed time for grace to work in every life. We do not know HIS times and seasons, therefore we warn every man to turn to God now, knowing that we reap what we sow, and to continue sowing to the flesh means more harvests of suffering and sorrow. And we thank God for each heart that is opened to receive of God's grace now" -end quote.

The limitation of God's mercy, if it were possible, would be the condemnation of God Himself. If there are limits to His mercy, the Word of God, which says that "His mercy endures for ever (all ages)," is a lie. The limitation of God's mercy is a trick of the devil, to discredit God and to defeat His Gospel. The limitation of God's mercy makes the disobedience of Adam more powerful and more enduring than the OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST. I am glad for a Gospel that is coextensive with, and GREATER THAN, the devil's work in spirit, soul and body. I am glad for a Gospel that is not limited to one age, or to the threescore-and-ten years of man's frail existence, but reaches out into the ages to come until GOD IS ALL IN ALL. I am so glad for a Gospel which tells me that God has made a way by which even His banished may return. How gloriously true, then the words of the chorus:

"His love has no limit, His grace has no measure, His power has no boundaries known unto man,

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He gives, and gives, and gives again!

A "SECOND CHANCE"?

The following words by George Hawtin are most challenging: "The established visible Church has preached its multiplied sermons seeking to prove its tradition that the vast majority of God's human creation will be LOST, finally, irrevocably, and eternally, and not only will they be lost to God forever and ever, but they will be given up to the most sadistic, inhuman, ungodly torments that could be devised by the vilest fiends. According to the tradition of the Church this hellish torment is to fall upon all who do not believe. It matters not a whit whether they had opportunity to believe or not. It matters not at all if they were born in the darkest jungles of Africa, the swamps of Borneo, or the deserts of India or China. The fact that they never heard there was a God will be no excuse whatever. The fact that they never heard that God had a Son will not impede their dreadful destruction. Heathen who never heard that God had a Son are, according to this teaching, faced with the same dreadful doom as men who heard the Gospel from their birth and yet rejected it. To add to the stupidity of their teaching they make pitiful attempts to prove that this is the justice of God and that God is manifesting His love in the punishment of sin. The doctrine of eternal punishment is based on a literal interpretation of some of the metaphors of Scripture, to the complete neglect of many other Scriptures. No doctrine has ever been propounded with more confidence and greater bitterness nor with a grossness and coarseness more hideous and repugnant, and, in the face of the love and kindness of God, more inconceivable and incredible" -end quote.

Some people say that the ultimate salvation of all men makes a "second chance" Gospel. NOT SO! We do not have a "first chance" Gospel, nor a "second chance" Gospel, nor yet a "third chance" or "fourth chance" Gospel. Salvation is not by "chance" at all - it is by grace! Had it been left to "chance" no one would have been saved, now or later. Salvation is of God! "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; BEING JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ" (Rom. 3:10-12, 23-24).

But if, for the sake of illustration, we choose to use the term "chance," before we speak of a "second chance," we must make sure that those whom we have consigned to eternal damnation have had a "first chance". "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, that bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10:13-15). Billions upon billions have lived and died; and billions live today in ignorance of even the existence of the true and living God; much more in ignorance of His blessed Son. Some say there is no excuse for them. They could know if they wanted to. What an abominable lie! With Christendom divided into six hundred and sixty-six different sects and beliefs, with strife and hypocrisy and apostasy on every hand, it is no wonder men are confused! We cannot expect men to believe until they hear the Word of God in power and see the living God in manifestation. Nothing short of that is "the Gospel".

There have been some people who accepted Christ as their Saviour at the "first chance" they ever had. Three thousand people did that on the day of Pentecost. But I have asked many men if they accepted Christ the "first chance" they had, and few have answered in the affirmative. Most of us should be filled with thanksgiving to the Lord that not only did He give us a "second chance," but a third and fourth and sometimes a multitude of chances! I doubt if there is any reader of these lines who can truthfully say that he has obeyed God every "first time" that God has spoken to him. If God had taken our first answer or refusal to submit to Him, and had not given us a second opportunity, it would have been too bad for us! We simply would not be walking in God today if He had not given us many "chances". Christians are very free to grant this privilege to themselves, but seldom to the sinner, and NEVER TO THE SINNER WHOSE HEART HAS STOPPED BEATING. But does not the grace of God teach us that since in this life there is on the whole, so little of the Gospel of Christ touching the masses of humanity, the vast majority of men dying as they lived, like natural brute beasts, there must be an opportunity for the goodness and kindness and salvation of our ever-faithful God to reach them in the world to come? Indeed, since man has so poor an opportunity here, and the majority no opportunity at all, they must by the justice of God have an opportunity in the age or the ages to come. JUSTICE demands it! And GRACE demands it I This is both reasonable and Scriptural.

As one has written, "Jesus gave a wonderful teaching in Matthew 11, one aspect of which is often overlooked. He said that if Tyre and Sidon had only witnessed the mighty works which were done in Chorazin and Bethsaida they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. That is, more knowledge and information, more light and revelation, would have brought them to repentance. Do you think, therefore, that God will torment the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon for ever because of their lack of knowledge? Again, He said that if Sodom could have witnessed the mighty works that were done in Capernaum 'it would have remained until this day.' Do you think that the inhabitants of Sodom will be tormented for ever just because they lacked the opportunities of Capernaum? Nay, indeed! God will not inflict ultimate punishment on men who have not had ultimate knowledge. 'For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to been be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth' (I Tim. 2:3-4). It is not just a matter of one 'chance' "-end quote.

HELL - THE HADEAN STATE

There is one Hebrew word and three Greek words which have been translated "hell" in our commonly used King James or Authorized Version of the Bible. In the Old Testament we find the word SHEOL which according to our Hebrew dictionaries means "the place of the dead." The word always appears in the singular, never in its plural form. It is not the "places" of the dead, not the individual graves where reside their respective bodies, but the realm of the dead, the abode of the dead, or the state of the dead. The word is derived from the root SHAEL, which means, by implication, "to request, to demand." And this reminds us forcibly of the common and inevitable end of all flesh. There is a realm and a state beyond this life which inexorably beckons men onward through the fleeting years of earthly ambition and toil till at last it lays its demand upon them, drawing them into its inescapable embrace.

In the New Testament there appears the word GEHENNA referring to the Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, which was the city dump outside the walls of Jerusalem, a place of constant burning of refuse. It is interesting to note that those who are pictured as going into Gehenna are, without exception, not the sinners of the world, but the SINNERS AMONG GOD'S PEOPLE. How precise the type! Gehenna was the city dump of Jerusalem, the Holy City, where every unclean and unnecessary thing was burned and consumed. The antitypical Gehenna to which our Lord alluded in His teaching is the process of PURIFICATION by which every unclean and unnecessary thing in the lives of His Holy People is purged and consumed by the fires of His judgment. "The Lord whom you seek, shall suddenly come to HIS TEMPLE ... but who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appears? for He is like a REFINER'S FIRE, and like fuller's soap: and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall PURIFY the sons of Levi (the Priesthood), and PURGE them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness" (Mal. 3:1-3). Gehenna stands as a type of the place or process of the PURIFICATION OF GOD'S PEOPLE. It is referred to in the Old Testament by the name of "Tophet," located in the Valley of Hinnom, a place where many sacrifices were made and dead bodies consumed.

Next we consider the Greek word TARTAROO - the English form is "Tartarus." The passage where this word is found is II Pet. 2:4. "God spared not the angels (messengers) that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment." Jude also presents the same truth without mentioning the name as he writes, "And those angels (messengers) who kept not their first position of power and authority, but left their habitation, He has kept in chains under thick darkness, for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6). The whole thought is of a restraint, a confinement, a prison, a condition in which apostates are held for a specific period of time, in the same manner as prisoners are often held in jail awaiting the day of trial. Tartarus is not the judgment itself, but a state or condition in which persons are inescapably held over unto a day of judgment. I see men today who are apostates, they have turned from the truth, they have usurped the gifts and anointing of God for their own advantage and to their own ends, making merchandise of God's people, they have perverted the ways of the Lord and turned the truth of God into a lie, and have sunk into the blinding darkness of delusion, captivated by the fleshly ways and methods of this world, chained in the snare of the devil, they continue going through the motions of their "ministry," unable to escape from the devilish trap into which they have fallen, and are held there in their personal "Tartarus" reserved unto a day of judgment.

This brings us to our fourth and final word, the one we wish to consider in this study - HADES. HADES is the Greek word most often translated "hell." Where do the dead go? They go into what has cornmonly been called "the unknown." Concerning the literal meaning of the word HADES there can be no doubt. It comes from the Greek A(I)DES. The "a" is a prefix which is equivalent to our "un-" and the stem "-id" means perceive. Thus we have UN-PERCEIVE or imperceptible; the unseen. That is Hades - the unseen world, the unknown realm. Our English word hell is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word "hillan" or "helan," meaning a cavern, anciently denoting a concealed or UNSEEN place. In parts of England men still say, "I plan to hell my potatoes," meaning to bury them in a hole or pit, that is, a covered place, out of sight. And in the old days a young couple seeking to be alone, sought a hell, a place where they could make love without being seen by prying eyes.

We know that the dead haven't passed out of existence altogether, for man is not only a body and soul, but also spirit. And when the spirit of man" passes from this present tabernacle of flesh it goes into a realm unseen by the eyes of mortal man. David, in speaking of it at the time his first son by Bathsheba died, said, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." He knew there was a place where he would be able to join that infant child. And likewise the phrase often used in the Old Testament of their being "gathered unto their fathers" meant far more than having their bodies buried in the same grave. It bespoke a gathering in the unseen world. And our Lord spoke of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, linking their names together as all being in the same place, and also added that their God is "not a God of the dead, but of the living," thus affirming that they were alive at that time, even though they were in the Hadean state. Indeed, they were all in Hades - the invisible world of departed spirits.

Some have contended that hell (Sheol and Hades) is never associated with the idea of suffering, pain or torment. That is far from the truth! A careful examination of the Hebrew and Greek words in context reveals that there is both the positive and negative aspects of hell, and there are those passages which connect hell, either literally or metaphorically, to darkness, restraint, distress, sorrow, suffering, pain, and torment.

Hell is certainly a place, a realm, a dimension of consciousness and existence, yet more than a place - it is a state or condition - in its negative application the inner state of depravity, perverted desire, burning lust and ambition, devilish emotions, mental anguish and despair - and because it is so twisted and warped it cannot obtain lasting fulfillment, being tormented by the fires of its own unsatisfied passions. Heaven and hell both are states of the soul rather than the body, whether it be the natural or the spiritual body. The spirit possesses the qualities of soul apart from the body, for the soul is so closely united to the spirit that only the sharp two-edged sword of the Word of God can separate between them (Heb. 4:12). These are realities transcending place and time. As the poet puts it:

"I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that after-life to spell,
And by-and-bye my Soul returned to me,
And whispered, 'I myself am Heaven and Hell;'
Heaven but the vision of fulfilled desire,
And Hell the shadow of a Soul on fire."