August 4, 2016 at 3:55 am #7445
There appears to be more to life after death prior to A.D. 70 than what has been discussed regarding Sheol in the commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Though Sheol may be a place of darkness where the spirits of the departed sleep before the resurrection, it is also possible that Sheol is just physical death. If Sheol is just death itself, then Biblical descriptions of the sleepy existence after death may just be a description of the lack of consciousness experienced by the decaying body. This seems especially likely in light of Luke 23:43 and John 20:17.
It is generally accepted in preterist circles that the departed do not resurrect to heaven until A.D. 70. Prior to A.D. 70 the spirits of the righteous and wicked are confined to Hades or Sheol. What is Hades or Sheol and does Luke 23:43 and John 20:17 contradict this idea? In Luke 23:43, Jesus says to the man being crucified beside Him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” How could this man be with Jesus in heaven the day of his death if Jesus had not yet ascended to the Father until many days after His resurrection according to John 20:17? Where did Jesus and this man go immediately after death? 1 Peter 3:19 indicates that after His death on the cross but before resurrecting out of the tomb, Jesus preached to the spirits in Hades. What is Hades? Hades is a Greek word for the underworld or afterlife. The Greeks understood Hades to be partitioned into Tartarus, the deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment; the Asphodel Meadows, the abode of those who lived average lives; and the Elysian Fields, a realm of paradise. Based on Luke 23:43 and John 20:17 it would seem that this description of Hades as both a realm of punishment and bliss may be accurate.
Confirming the notion that Hades is also partitioned into a realm of Paradise, Her Pettersson had an interesting near-death experience that confirms the idea that there is a pleasant realm in Hades and that the Gospel is preached there:
To Herr Pettersson the world of spirits resembled the material world. There were many countries, or “Kingdoms.” There were cities and villages, temples and palaces, flowers and animals of great beauty and variety. The people were very busy. Some were preaching on street corners and in assembly halls, and all had great congregations.
“Who are they?” Herr Pettersson asked (referring to the preachers)?
“They,” his guide answered, “belong to the church of the First born, and they have been sent here to be ministering spirits to those who shall yet becoming heirs of salvation.”
“I am afraid,” stammered Herr Pettersson, “that I do not comprehend you. Are we not in heaven? How can the world of salvation be preached here?”
“No brother!” the guide replied, “We are not in what mortals call heaven! This is Hades.” (http://www.near-death.com/science/experts/widdison-and-lundahl.html (8/3/2016).)
The church of the firstborn is a name given to the Christian church according to Hebrews 12:23.
How could Her Pettersson experience Hades if Hades was destroyed in A.D. 70 according to Revelation 20:14? Revelation 20:14 reads, “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” But was Hades literally and completely destroyed in A.D. 70? It appears to me that it is unlikely that Hades was completely destroyed by fire in A.D. 70. Recall that heaven and earth were also destroyed by fire in A.D. 70 according to 2 Peter 3:7: “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” Heaven and earth were then renewed according to Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” Though the earth representing the land of Israel was, in fact, destroyed by fire at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70, the country, of course, was not completely obliterated. Instead, thousands of people were killed and exiled during the Jewish War but the land of Israel, the earth, ultimately remained. Something similar is presumably true in heaven when a vision of a great war between Michael and the Devil was seen by John in Revelation 12:7-10. Interestingly a vision of a war in heaven was also reported in A.D. 66 at the very start of the Jewish War. Tacitus writes, “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour (Tacitus The Histories 5.13).” Was heaven completely destroyed during this war? If the earth or land of Israel was not completely annihilated during the Jewish War, it stands to reason that heaven was also not completely annihilated at this time as well. Therefore, if heaven and earth were not completely annihilated in A.D. 70, why would we assume that Hades was completely demolished at that time?
If Hades was not demolished, then what changed in A.D. 70? I believe Hades has always existed and will always exist but that in order to enter into the presence of God who resides in heaven one has to be sinless or made sinless. Entry into heaven was not made possible prior to A.D. 70 because no effective means of forgiveness existed. I believe it was by and through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross that access into the presence of God in heaven was made available to mankind. It was this sacrifice that pardoned sin that made it possible to be perfect in the eyes of God thus permitting mankind entry into heaven and the literal presence of God after physical death.