Salvation and The Place of the Dead
by Daniel E. Woodhead, Ph. D.
Salvation as revealed in the Bible can be defined in two ways. First, it is deliverance from physical danger, and second, it is deliverance by God from His eternal punishment for sin. This article will focus primarily on the second instance, the salvation God provides to mankind that saves them from His penalty of allowing the power and practice of sin to control the lives and destiny of human beings on this earth. It is quite clear that this salvation is only of God, and we receive it according to His grace:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (MEV)
God is completely holy, and He punishes sin (Romans 1:18). Furthermore, mankind is sinful and has broken God’s Laws (Romans 1:19-3:18). There is nothing that mankind can do to earn God’s favor (Romans 3:19-20). The way of salvation is a free gift from God through the atonement of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). It is offered to all who would believe on Christ (Romans 1:16-17; 3:22-30; 4:2-8:24). The only people who experience salvation are those who have actually accepted Jesus’ atonement by belief in the Gospel of Jesus.
10 be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (KJV)
Sin and Its Origin
Sin has plagued mankind since Satan introduced it into the world. As “the anointed cherub” who covered God’s throne, Satan was originally named Hallal that may mean “day-star” in Hebrew, before he fell from God’s Grace. Ezekiel states he was set over God’s throne until unrighteousness (sin) was found in him. This is the only verse in the Bible mentioning the origin of sin:
14Thou wast the anointed cherub that covereth: and I set thee, so that thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. 15Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till unrighteousness [sin] was found in thee. (ASV, 1901, brackets added)
Isaiah describes his “fall” from heaven:
12How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, that didst lay low the nations! 13And thou saidst in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven (ASV, 1901), I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit upon the mount of congregation, in the uttermost parts of the north; 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. (ASV, 1901)
Because of his sin, Hallal was thrown out of his exclusive Heavenly reign, and then was “cut down to the ground”, where he continued his sinful activities as the one who “didst lay low the nations!” We do not exactly when His name was changed from Hallal to Satan, which is a Hebrew word meaning “adversary”. He is God’s adversary. As a result of his Fall, He polluted the Heavenly Tabernacle of God when sin was found in him, and that needed cleansing that is only provided by the blood of Jesus Christ. Then he indwelt a serpent in the Garden of Eden, beguiling our first parents Adam and Eve, causing them to disobey God. This act then caused sin to enter the sphere of time and space, as it was already in Heaven.
The result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden was that death entered the pristine earth through Adam and Eve’s sin, and more specifically the Garden of Eden where Jehovah God has placed Adam and his wife. Even though the earth became corrupt as sin entered it and caused death to reign over the creation, the more serious result was spiritual death (Romans 5: 14, 17, 21). All physical matter became a prisoner to the Laws of Entropy. Decay began at the point of the Fall, immediately after eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the “eyes of both of them were opened.” This means that Adam and Eve’s awareness expanded, but not to what the Devil had led them to believe it would be. Acting on the prompting of the Devil did not lead to divine enlightenment as he promised it would, but instead it led to a sense of shame. Satan promised them wisdom, which he cannot provide. Only the fear of God can bring wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). The world seeks Satan’s promises, and they always fail to receive them. Disobedience of God’s Word will never bring any benefits, only grief and lack of spiritual blessings. God immediately set up a Redeemer, Himself.
Genesis 3: 14
“14And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:” (ASV, 1901)
The serpent, which allowed itself to be used by Satan and caused the downfall of mankind, is now held responsible for its actions. It is cursed “above all cattle and above every beast of the field”. Following this, the Lord said that the serpent would be destined to “crawl upon thy belly”. This means that it was at one point it stood upright, but there is no mention of any legs. Finally, the Lord states that the serpent would eat “dust” all the days of its life. Since the serpent does not have an actual diet of dust, we see a Hebrew idiomatic phrase “eat dust” used here as used by a conqueror over his enemies. In a contemporary setting we see this in automobile races where the winner states that the loser has “eaten his dust.” The Old Testament uses this term in much the same way (Micah 7: 17; Psalm 72: 9 and Isaiah 49: 23).
Genesis 3: 15
“15and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (ASV, 1901)
In theology this verse is called “the Proto-Evangelium” because it is the first appearance of the Gospel. Conversely, it is also the first prophecy the Lord gave us of the Antichrist.
The fifteenth verse, which is directed at Satan, has four provisions:
- Hostility between Satan and women.
- Hostility between Satan’s seed, the Antichrist, and woman’s seed, who is Christ the Savior.
- Christ bruising the head of Satan.
- Satan bruising the heel of Christ.
The first provision is that God will “put enmity between thee and the woman”. This state of hostility between Satan and women is persistent, and is brought about because of women’s special redemptive role of bringing the Messiah into the world. The first satanic attack on women is described in Genesis chapter six where demons intermarry with human women in an attempt to stop the coming of the Messiah by corrupting the quality of the human race. A worldwide flood stopped this attempt.
The second provision states that a hostile relationship will continue as the text states “between your seed and her seed.” The seed of the woman is the Messiah Himself, the Lord Jesus. In the Bible, genealogies are traced through the male’s lines, but it is not until we read in Isaiah 7: 14 does the Bible explain the Messiah coming from the womb of a virgin. The Lord Jesus had no human father, Mary’s husband Joseph was his stepfather. It is important to note women do not have the seed for procreation, men do. However, since Jesus was born of a virgin, the expression “her seed” represents a miraculous conception (Isaiah 7:14). The reference in this verse to Satan’s “seed” implies a supernatural, miraculous conception too. From this passage, and also in Daniel 9: 26-27, it can be deduced that Satan will someday impregnate a Roman woman who will give birth to Satan’s “seed” who is going to be the Antichrist. That woman might not be a virgin because Scripture does not affirm this, but he will be conceived through supernatural means. Consider II Thessalonians 2:8-9:
2 Thessalonians 2:8-9
“8And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; 9[even he], whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.” (ASV, 1901)
In verse 9 of II Thessalonians chapter 2 above, the word “working” is the Greek word energeo, which means, “to energize”. So then the coming of Antichrist will originate by the “energizing” that comes from Satan. This counterfeit Son of the unholy Trinity will be brought about by a counterfeit virgin conception. A time is coming when the events of Genesis chapter six will be repeated, namely that the fallen, anointed Cherub, Satan (in the Latin Hallal is called Lucifer) will impregnate a Roman woman to give birth to Satan’s son. The product of this conception will be a counterfeit “god-man”.
The third provision promises a curse, which is: “he shall bruise your head.” The woman’s “seed”, Jesus, gives the bruising to Satan by His death and resurrection (Hebrews 2: 14-18). The word “bruise” implies it is a harmful condition, but not fatal especially since its target is the “head”. Satan is still alive, but will eventually become placed in a terminal condition due to Christ’s finished work. Because of Romans 16: 20 and Revelation 20:10 we know that Satan’s final demise will be in the Lake of Fire. This will be a “crushing” of the head of the serpent, and his demise will be eternal.
The fourth provision in Genesis 3: 15 is: “You shall bruise his heel.” Satan will bruise the heel of the Woman’s Seed, and this represents the crucifixion. The bruising of the heel, while painful, is not terminal. The bruising and crushing can be best understood with imagery regarding the method of dispensing of poisonous snakes in Israel. They must crush its head in order to completely eliminate its threat. As the heel of Messiah comes down on the serpent (Satan), the serpent rises up to bite His heel causing pain but not pain leading to an eternal pain (death). As the heel of Messiah continues to descend on Satan even though it has been bitten (the crucifixion), He is not dead so the heel continues down to finally crush the serpent’s head ending in his demise.
The Messiah is Prophecied
The fact that the Messiah had to come is well attested to in Scripture which starts with this foundational verse, Genesis 3: 15. One unique aspect of the Scriptures of Christianity is the prophecies and validated fulfillment at later times in the long chronology of the Bible’s story. These alone attest to the Scripture’s validity. Christ, after He was risen, explained many of the prophecies in the Bible and the fact that He had to die in order to accomplish the task He was to sent to do (Luke 24: 25-27). Jesus accused the Pharisees of not knowing who He was. In fact, He said that Moses knew He was coming and wrote of Him.
43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust (Luke 24:27; Numbers 21. 9. & 24. 17. Deuteronomy18. 15, 18, 19). 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me [Luke 24:27)]. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? (KJV, brackets added)
Following His resurrection, He explained to some of His disciples the Old Testament text relating to Himself to certify that He was indeed the Messiah who was clearly prophecied:
25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (KJV).
Christ’s first advent is well prophesied in Scripture. Some of those are:
He would be born in Bethlehem in the region of Ephrathah.
Introduced in Micah 5: 2 and fulfilled in Matthew 2: 1-5.
He would be the Son of God
Introduced in Psalm 2: 7 and fulfilled in John 3: 16-17.
He would be born into the Hebrew tribe of Judah
Genesis 49: 10 and fulfilled in Hebrews 7: 14.
He would be born of a virgin
Introduced in Isaiah 7: 14 and fulfilled in Matthew 1: 18-22.
He would be a prophet like Moses
Introduced in Deuteronomy 18: 15 and fulfilled in John 7: 15-17.
He would be the king of Israel
Introduced in Zechariah 9: 9 and fulfilled in John 12: 12-15.
He would be rejected
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 3 and fulfilled in John 1: 11
He would be beaten
Introduced In Micah 5: 1 and fulfilled in Mark 15: 19.
He would be silent during his interrogation
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 7 and fulfilled in Matthew 27: 12-14.
He would be betrayed
Introduced in Psalm 41: 9 and fulfilled in Mark 14: 17-20.
He would be tried and condemned
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 8 and fulfilled Matthew 27: 1-2
He would be crucified
Introduced in Psalm 22: 16 and fulfilled in John 19: 17-18.
His garments would be divided
Introduced in Psalm 22: 18 and fulfilled in John 19: 23-24.
He would be given gall and vinegar
Introduced in Psalm 69: 21 and fulfilled in John 19: 28-29.
His bones would not be broken
Introduced in Exodus 12: 46 and fulfilled in John 19: 31-36.
He is our sacrifice
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 5-6 and fulfilled in I Peter 2: 24-25.
He was raised from the dead
Introduced in Psalm 16: 10 and fulfilled in Luke 24: 1-7 and 47.
The resurrection of Christ is the most significant event in all of world history. It provides a remedy for the Fall,cleansed the heavenly tabernacle as well as a remedy for the sin of our first family, Adam and his wife. If one truly believes in the historical facts of the Gospel and is regenerated, one is granted eternal life through the finished work of Jesus of Nazareth (Romans 6:23; Titus 3: 5). The gospel is clearly presented in several places in Scripture, and none are clearer than I Corinthians 15:
1 Corinthians 15: 1-4
“1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” (KJV)
The Faithful Jews Awaited Jesus Arrival
The Jews were given a lot of evidence for the coming one who would take away the sins of the world. We see Simeon and Anna waiting in anticipation at the Temple for the baby Messiah to be brought there for His circumcision on the eighth day of His life.
25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart In peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel. 33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. (KJV)
The observant Jews of the Old Testament knew that the Messiah was going to arrive to provide salvation as Simeon cried had out, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.“ It is also quite clear it is the sacrifice of Jesus that provides our salvation from sin. Even though many knew He was coming (and would in the future be sacrificed), how was salvation guaranteed to the faithful in the Old Testament before Jesus’ sacrifice? First it is important to consider what the Bible teaches on the place of the dead. The Hebrew name for the place of the dead is Sheol, and the Greek word is Hades. Frequently our English translations will simply states these words as “Hell”. This is not accurate. The Old Testament declares in many places that people, both the faithful and unfaithful, went to Sheol when they died.
Old Testament Place of the Dead
One phrase that refers to death in the Old Testament is being “gathered unto His people.” A dead person is seen as joining the company of people that preceded him in death. The physical death takes place, then after that the individual is described as entering the company of those who had passed on before him (“gathered unto his people”). We read this regarding the death of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob:
8Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full [of years]; and was gathered to his people (KJV).
17And these [are] the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people. (KJV)
29And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died and was gathered unto his people…. (KJV)
33And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people. (KJV)
So, we see in the first book of the Bible that after people die physically, they are “gathered unto their people.” They are joining the company of people who preceded them in death, and are consciously aware of them. Due to his righteousness, the destination of Abraham in the good side of Sheol is described in the Bible: “And he believed in Jehovah; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). The following examples discuss this.
15As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. (KJV)
Here David expressed a real faith that the soul will still be conscious in the fellowship with God even after death. This is also taught in the following verse:
23Nevertheless I [am] continually with thee: thou hast holden [me] by my right hand 24Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me [to] glory. 25Whom have I in heaven [but thee]? and [there is] none upon earth [that] I desire beside thee. (KJV)
In this Psalm, the author Asaph expressed a real faith in immortality. Even upon his death he saw himself as being conscious and with God.
7Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. (KJV)
Here Solomon expresses the truth that the body returns to the earth to decay, and finally become dust, but the spirit goes to be with God our creator.
The New Testament expresses this same concept in at least four verses. They are found in: II Corinthians 5:1-8; Luke 23:43; John 14:3; Philippians 1:22-23.
The Consciousness of the Souls in Sheol
Souls in “Sheol” are seen as having continuous consciousness. One good example of this is found in Isaiah:
9Sheol from beneath is moved for thee to meet [thee] at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, [even] all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. 10All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? 11Thy pomp is brought down to the Sheol, [and] the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. (KJV)
In this passage, the soul of the king of Babylon enters into “Sheol”, and into a particular section of Hell, where all the souls that preceded him in Hell suddenly rise in astonishment as they see this one also entering the domains of Hell. They are able to ask questions and carry on a conversation. It should not be missed that these dead ones are portrayed as being conscious. Here, in the “bad side” of Sheol, there is punishment for the king of Babylon.
The same concept is taught in the New Testament in Luke 16:19-31. This is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Here the distinction is made by Jesus of the two sides of Sheo,l or as it is called in the Greek, Hades since this is a New Testament story:
19Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day: 20and a certain beggar named Lazarus was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table; yea, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried. 23And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. 25But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things: but now here he is comforted, and thou art in anguish. 26And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us. 27And he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house; 28for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29But Abraham saith, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent. 31And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one rise from the dead. (ASV, 1901)
So, there is clearly a good side and a bad side to the place of the dead. At the time of Jesus telling this story, He was essentially referring to Old Testament people. Abraham is in a location within “Hades” Jesus calls “Abraham’s bosom”. He also made reference to it as “Paradise” to the thief on the cross that expressed belief in Jesus as his savior (Luke 23:43). The rich man is in a place of torment also in Hades. There are then multiple compartments to Sheol or Hades. The Old Testament saints had to wait until Jesus was sacrificed in order to go to Heaven. When He died, He went to the “good side” of Hades to release them, and took them to Heaven. Most of the Old Testament verses using the word “Heaven” refer to the atmospheric Heaven, not the place of the dead. The New Testament does refer to “Heaven” as a place where the dead go as well as “Hell”. “Heaven” in the New Testament is the equalivant of “Paradise” in the Old Testament place of the dead. The folks who die in the New Testament era either go to “Hell”, the place for the unsaved, or “Heaven”, the place for the saved. After Jesus was complete with His resurrection body, the implication was that He descended again to Hades to gather the Old Testament saints and transport them from Hades to Heaven.
Jesus Released the Dead Old Testament Saints Who Waited For Him
When Christ ascended to the Father, He took “captivity captive”, meaning He took the righteous Old testament saints from the “Bosom of Abraham” to Heaven. This apparently was done on the Resurrection Day:
18 Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captive Thy captives; Thou hast received gifts among men,… (NASB)
8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers…. (NASB)
The Old Testament saints were “captives” in the sense that they were not permitted to go to the presence of the Lord before He died on the Cross. Now, however, Christ led their souls in a great procession as a conquering general, to present them to the Father in Heaven as fully redeemed saints, awaiting their own resurrection from the dead.
When Christ went to Hades what did He say? Peter says He proclaimed a message to the spirits in prison who were disobedient before the Flood, but He probably also announced to the Old Testament saints that it was now time for them to go with Him to Heaven. The debt for sin had now been fully paid.
1 Peter 3:18-20
18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. (NASB)
Peter says that Christ died, and preached “to the spirits in prison”. The ones he mentions were certain ones who were disobedient at the time of the Flood of Noah. However, it also seems clear that He had a great message for the Old Testament saints about their coming elevation to Heaven. However, the unrighteous souls were destined to remain in the Place of Torment in Hades until they face the Judge at the Great White Throne, and the Lake of Fire.
Salvation before the death of the Messiah placed Old Testament saints in one of several places in Sheol, or the place of the dead. This place was also called “Abraham’s Bosom, or “Paradise” because of the loving care they received there while awaiting the opening of heaven to them by the death of Christ on the cross. The non-believers went to a place of torment in Sheol, and from there Christ will judge them before their final destination in “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15). The following chart depicts the all the destinations of the dead, and clearly delineates the different sections: