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The Bible Shows The Continuity Of Life, Communication
Between Departed Life And Life Still On Earth,
And Different Localities For All That Life To Live In

Meanings Of The Afterlife In Biblical Times

What happened to the people of Biblical times when they died? It is interesting to take a brief glance at the ideas that the people of that era had.

The word: "hell" appears throughout the New Testament, but the word "hell" has been used in some translations for two different Greek words with two very different meanings. The two words in question are "Gehenna" and "Hades". However, Gehenna does not mean Hades and, likewise, Hades does not mean Gehenna.

"Gehenna" is often thought to refer to: "The valley of Hinnon" (2 Chron.33:6), which was a place outside of the walls of Jerusalem where fires were kept burning continually into which the refuse of the city was thrown (and possibly used at one time for the sacrifice of children to the god Molech).


"Hades" is used to denote the Unseen World. Etymologically, "Hades" signifies "Something Unseen".

Greek Beliefs

The word "Hades" is Greek in origin, and the belief that many Greeks had of Hades was that it was into this condition or state that the Manes (Spirits) of those who had met with physical death went after burial.

In this Greek conception of Hades, there exists two main conditions, namely: "Elysium", where the virtuous souls live happily in wonderful "plains" or "fields". "Tartarus" was considered to be that place into which wicked and unrighteous souls went and were subjected to anguish and sorrow.

The Greeks believed in an immediate conscious existence after physical death, and this conscious awareness involved living in a particular condition designated by the behaviour of the soul while on earth.

Jewish Beliefs

The Jewish conception of Hades was similar to that of the Greek belief, with the main exception that they had a belief in a "Final Resurrection". Many Jews believed that there were punishments and rewards for souls in Hades depending upon whether they had been virtuous and just, or wicked and unjust.

The common notion of many Jews was that the "Unseen World" was underground. In the Hebrew, this place was called "Sheol" which became "Hades" when Greek became the common tongue. The souls of the dead went "below the earth" into either one of two conditions. One of these conditions was "Gehenna" into which the unrighteous and unjust went. The other condition was described by a variety of names such as "Paradise", "The Garden of Eden", "Beneath the throne of glory", and "Abraham's Bosom". Into this locality of Hades went the righteous and just at physical death. Here they would be until the "Day of Judgement".

Taking Away The Rewards Of The Righteous

There was a difference in belief between the Sadducees and the Pharisees with regard to an Afterlife: the Sadducees did not believe in an Afterlife while the Pharisees did. In the Rabbinical writings, Josephus (a historian born in Jerusalem AD37/38) writes: "The Sadducees rob the rewards of the righteous and the just in Hades" because they did not believe in an Afterlife, whilst the Pharisees most definitely believed in an immediate conscious existence with the death of the physical body because Josephus (a Jewish son of a father of priestly descent) tells us that the Pharisees believed that “There is an undying power in souls and that, under the ground, there is an accounting to reward and punish those who were righteous or unrighteous in (this) life(Antiquities 18.12-15).

Please take note that Josephus wrote this because the Jews believed, in the main*, that there were rewards for the righteous in the Afterlife as well as misery for the wicked and evil. The Rabbinical writings show that most Jews entertained a belief in a conscious existence after physical death for the good and righteous, and that this conscious existence occurred in that part of Hades which was considered to be pleasant, and which was on an equal footing with the Greek idea of Elysium (except that the Jewish belief included a final judgement taught by the Pharisees).

*The Pharisees emerged as a significant force in Jewish affairs because of their influence with the common people.

This dual-locality concept was therefore a common trend of thought among the people of Biblical times. Jesus did not alter this idea dramatically, but did point out to the Sadducees that they erred in their beliefs (or lack of them) concerning the Afterlife, using the present tense to state that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which, to a Christian Spiritualist, is a clear indication that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were alive in the present, as opposed to being in some long, deep "sleep" - a word used often in the Bible, but which is a colloquial euphemism, to describe the departed, as some today would say: "passed away".

During this confrontation with the Sadducees, Jesus also made a point of stating that at a time after death, people were to be as the "angels of God", indicating the process of spiritual evolution which the soul undergoes (the process of being "fashioned unto the likeness of Christ"). Incidentally, the report given of the passing of the three mentioned Patriarchs is also very much in tune with the Spiritualist's experience of the spiritual transition at the change called death; they, having centuries before "gathered up their feet" into their beds and having given "up the ghost", they were "gathered unto their people" before the burial of their physical bodies.

Hades, then, as expressed in the New Testament, is that place into which all pass at death; and, in that world, each soul is consciously aware of its environment, which is designated according to the actions, motives, desires and behaviour of the soul during the earth life.

But The Representatives Of God Brought Little Comfort

If someone entered Hades in those days, they were entering a type of Spiritual World. That was the general theme which ran through the minds of those people. And yet, the many priests of that time tried their hardest to withhold any comfort and mercy which the people should have received concerning the subject of an Afterlife, instead seeking to fill the people with fear of a rather unstable Almighty Being who had no concern for people once the earthly body was finished, and "death" caused an utter separation as a result. The selfishness of those who named themselves the instruments of the Most High had a depressing effect upon the hope of the continuity of life which is the right of every man, woman and child. This should be borne in mind when trying to assess the attitude of mind of those who listened to the sweetness and compassion of God which Jesus was desperate to portray to the children of the earth as they wandered about in their grief and their spiritual loneliness.

Some Of The Bible's Indications Of The Continuity Of Life

The case for the non-cessation of consciousness with the demise of the physical casket is overwhelming to the sincere investigator. Some may differ in opinion with this and so the following are examples of Biblical references to the continuity of life after the death of the material vehicle given for spiritual progress, the human body (and a little of what this implies). Such examples have always been twisted dogma to mean something else entirely, and people have become used to the erroneous teachings:

** Samuel the prophet, after death, speaks to Saul

** Moses, used to mediating laws, talks with Jesus about His forthcoming decease (Luke 9:31), very much in vogue with his usual character. Many of the acclaimed contemporary Christian writers have tried to explain this Spirit-Union away by inventing the idea that Jesus was having a vision, but this is blind ignorance of Spirit-Agency because Peter finds Moses so real that he wishes to make him a tabernacle, therefore clearly being a witness to the return of Moses; but of course spirits do not need material shelter, although they often have to use material images to convey things to physical minds. Unfortunately, such purblind writers have little clue as to the mechanics of Spirit-Life.

** An angel (aggelos) from another World addresses John, who is told not to bow to him as he is one of his own "brethren", a "fellow" servant (not God or Jesus, a mistake sometimes made by humans when seeing spiritual beings). This is a clear indication that this spiritual being was at one time alive in the flesh on the earth and declared he was a prophet (Rev. 19:9-11 & 22:9) and he was still a messenger through whom God passed on truths.

** Christ, under the solemn circumstances of His physical death, tells a robber dying at His side (Luke 23:43) that he need not have to wait until a future time to be remembered by Him, but, the robber is told clearly, that he, the person to whom Christ was speaking, would be on that very day in "Paradise" (one of the Jewish names commonly used then to designate that part of Hades which was for righteous souls, along with "underneath the altar", "beneath the throne of glory" and others). There would be no sleeping or void or Judgement Day, but "Today" he would be in Paradise. The position of the adverb "today" in the sentence of Christ's words, strongly indicates that the word itself is meant to be emphatic, and there is no substantial reason to twist the meaning of the word "today" used in this context to mean anything else, for instance, some quaint idiomatic phraseology.

** Peter (a witness at the Transfiguration), tells us that Christ preached to the "spirits" of people who were killed in the flood of Noah's time. This preaching was so that they might hear the Gospel of Love which Christ preached, so that they could live in accord with the laws of the Spirit (1Pet.3:18-20 & 4:6).

The spirits in "prison" or "keeping" had lived wicked and depraved lives of ignorance and had to undergo an age-long period of cleansing of the darkness of their souls in the dark regions of the hells. They were now ready to listen to God's teaching and follow it. The Translators, due to traditional thought, have always translated that Jesus was quickened (caused to live) "by the Spirit", when the proper translation should be that Jesus was quickened "in the spirit (pneu'ma)". There is no other reason for changing a small letter "s" and the word "in", to a capital letter "S" and the word "by" respectively, except to twist these words into preconceived and erroneous ideas of what happened on the Cross and its meaning.

Hence, Jesus was put to death in the flesh, was raised in the spirit (His spiritual-body), went to preach to the disembodied spirits of men who were once wicked in the time of Noah and who died in the flood, in order that they could receive Christ's Gospel that they might now live according to God in the spirit (now they were purified in their spiritual-bodies they could live as God intended them to live in the Spirit).

** Christ, in order to fulfil the prophecy that He would "rise" from the "dead" "three days" after His passing, appears at that time and at other times, being very much the Master, the same Master who once sojourned the earth in the flesh. Traditionalists restrict Christ's power, and for some reason some find it difficult to comprehend that it was a simple thing for Christ to be able to both preach to the "spirits in keeping" and also to have the power to be elsewhere within the "three days" He took to reappear after "death", for instance, in the brighter spheres when He was to be with the robber.

Christ seems to have gone to great lengths to prove himself alive to those who cannot accept the continuity of life with the death of the flesh covering. It is not generally recognized that a number of Christ's appearances after death were as an awesome shining being. Mary Magdelene had observed such a great manifestation of power although few understood her observation; and "...after that He appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked (Mark 16:12)', clearly indicating His ability to alter His form at will.

At another time He was able to withhold recognition even by those who knew Him personally while He sat and ate with them until "their eyes were opened, and they knew Him; and He vanished out of their sight (Luke 24:31)". Here, it is absolutely clear that He, the Risen Christ, was demonstrating His ability to change form and even appear and disappear at will.

Also, He had to lower the spiritual vibrations of His Soul-body to the gross level of vibrations found in the physical universe, in order that He could be touched. It was so much like the Saviour to comfort His children who were in the half-light in this way, and He is even seen to be partaking in the ingestion of food to show He was still very much with those who loved Him so much.

** Paul, not wishing to boast (having said in the preceding verse that it was not "expedient" for him to do so), speaks in the third person about one of his experiences (2.Cor.12:2-4), and he, being a Jew, and therefore knowing the full import of the word "Paradise" and its relationship to Hades in the minds of the Jews, claims to have visited Paradise where he was consciously aware and able to see, hear and comprehend certain events that occurred there. Paul was "caught up" to the "third heaven" (commonly denoting the place Paradise) in his spiritual body, an experience not uncommon to those with strong mediumistic tendencies such as Paul possessed, and indeed many of the disciples and all of the prophets had.

** Christ's story shows Lazarus and the rich man dying: "The beggar died...the rich man also died", and then with absolutely no sleeping or being unconscious for any length of time, shows them very much alive in Hades (Luke 16:19-31), an instant transition ("we shall all be changed in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye" is the "mystery" which Paul unfolds for us).

The rich man assumes that he can visit his relatives who are clearly depicted as living on the earth at the same time that the rich man was in a hell; Christ does not relate Abraham ("Abraham's Bosom" is another name used by the Jews for "Paradise") as saying that the rich man's relatives are long dead, but the opposite; He confirms the assumption of the rich man that his relatives are living on the earth at that very moment; but (Abraham points out) it would be a pointless exercise attempting to prove the existence of life after death with the inevitable reaping of consequences, to those who did not attempt to follow any type of spiritual law, and in the case of the rich man's relatives this was the Law of Moses.

Christ quotes Abraham as saying: "There exists a great gulf" between Lazarus and the rich man, this "gulf" is a gulf of moral and spiritual attainment or lack of it, created by the selfishness of the rich man.

The rich man, however, finds himself in a very different part of Hades which is a different locality of Hades-life to that of "Abraham's Bosom". Hades, according to the Rabbinical writings, is the place to where both the "just and righteous" and the "unjust and wicked" go after physical death. The rich man gives a clear indication as to the nature of the environment of that particular aspect of Hades into which he passed, and indeed, which he had built up for himself, as he went to his "own place", in the same manner that Acts reports Judas as having done (Acts 1:25).

Incidentally, in the Greek text of the parable, Lazarus is taken to "Abraham's Bosom" by angels, who are beings that have progressed spiritually far beyond the human stage and the Bible shows that angels themselves are not uniform in spiritual attainment, which is consistent with the truth of spiritual advancement and progression. There are "angels that sinned" in contrast to those that did not sin; angels that "kept not their first estate (proper habitation, allotted locality, principality, tarrying or abiding place)" in contrast to those that kept their proper habitation; angels who are "in the presence of God" and who "always behold the face of the Father" in contrast to those that do not possess this privilege; angels who "excel in strength" in comparison to those who do not excel in spiritual strength; there are archangels and there are angels who are not; there are angels who are "elect" angels in contrast to those who are not "elect" angels. There are also angels who are "captain of the Host" in contrast to those who are not captain of the Host. It has been common for many to think angels are uniform in character, power, areas of existence, and skills, but this is clearly not the case.

** Again, Christ clarifies the coexistence of Hades with the earth, when, explaining to the rationalizing Sadducees that they were "all wrong" about their concept of the Afterlife. The Sadducees held that there was no Afterlife, and Josephus explains that the Sadducees "took away the rewards and the punishments of the souls in Hades", in contrast to the Pharisees who held that: "the souls of men were punished or rewarded under the earth according to their practice of virtue or wickedness in life" ("underneath the earth" is a term also used by the Jews to describe Hades with its different localities, and is a natural choice for a people who generally think that the world is flat). The Jewish opinion of Hades had a difference to the Greek idea concerning "Hades" - which is a Greek word - in that there was also to be a final resurrection.

Attempting to grapple with the collective mind of the disbelieving Sadducees, Christ tells them that their own Scriptures spoke of those whose physical bodies had lost life but who had obtained worthiness (v. 35) while alive, were really alive, indeed the same as angels (v. 36), because Moses named the Lord as being the God of the living fathers in contradistinction to the dead fathers: "...that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (v. 37)". And to leave no doubt about this issue, Christ carries on to say: "For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living (v. 38)".

NB: The word: "anastasis" means: 1) a raising up, rising; 2) a rising from the dead; and is rendered "resurrection" by the Translators in this passage.

The primary Greek definition of the phrase which the Translators have rendered: "the resurrection from the dead (v. 35)" is "anastasis - ek - nekros", which literally means: "a raising up - out of - one that has breathed his last". The transition, no less.

The fact that the soul continues to live with the demise of the earthly body is explained and confirmed by Christ's words: "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul"; Jesus then gives a firm warning to those who continually transgress Divine Law about the painful restructuring of the soul-body in that part of Hades where the wicked and unjust pass for an "age-long pruning" - the correct translation of Matt. 25:46, which is mistranslated as "everlasting punishment" where the blackness of the soul is destroyed over time with much pain and anguish.

Souls do not become perfect with their transition into the Better Land, and this is indicated by the Bible's reporting of the unChristlike attitude of the souls "under the altar" (Rev.6:9,10) who cried out for revenge, a characteristic in blatant opposition to the teachings and example of Christ Jesus, who even forgave His executioners because He knew their spiritual ignorance and what they must suffer for their actions in the hells of their own making when they too were to go to their "own place". Jesus taught that we were to forgive as many times as necessary (the pedants being the only ones who could possibly claim that Jesus meant to forgive four hundred and ninety times only and no more), when He said we should forgive "seventy times seven" (presumably, the pedants would teach that we are not meant to forgive the four hundred and ninety first time).

Conclusion: The Bible shows that there is continuity of life, that there is spiritual progression and involution, and that there is communication between the inhabitants of different localities or dimensions which are in existence.

Tony Bisson

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