Coloring Death With Hope: Jesus & His Kingdom, IV

Posted in Bible, Jesus & His Kingdom, Religion on  | 5 minutes | 4 Comments →

In this installment, we’re going to briefly cover three chapters, because 4 and 5 are mostly background information Mike wants readers to absorb so they can be aware of biblical context. If you’re interested, you should read or at least gloss them over them yourself, instead of relying on my interpretation of what Mike wants to say. Chapter 6 is titled, Coloring Death With Hope.

Mike begins chapter 4 by noting the importance of oral tradition in history, a point often overlooked or underplayed by those fond of the “but all we have are a bunch of stories” when it comes to evaluating the integrity of historic documents. It’s an off-the-cuff type statement, but he makes a humorous point related to hyper-skeptics and their demands:

If I want to know who brought the first airplane into existence, I am satisfied when I hear the names Wilbur and Orville Wright. I do not need to know the kinds of wrenches they used or where they bought the raw material before I can accept the answer. Even if I was interested in such detailed information and could discover it, this still would not change the answer to my original question – no matter how much detail I did or didn’t uncover.

Recall from our recent discussion on materialism that reality is composed primarily of intangible constituents, with a negligible bit of tangible stuff. About halfway through chapter 4, Mike summarizes the Hebrew division of reality, and the entire chapter seems aimed at supporting a simple point: Sheol–the ultimate destination of all who died in the Old Testament–exists in the spiritual, unseen realm:

[the Bible] presents a view of creation as existing in two dimensions: visible and invisible. We could also say “seen and unseen” or “flesh and spirit.”

Extending his conversation to the New Testament, chapter 5 can be summarized in the line, “all you have to remember is that Hades means Sheol. Everything you’ve learned about Sheol applies to Hades.” Back in the second installment, I cited Gregory L. Little’s book Grand Illusions, where he offers an electromagnetic conception of reality, including Heaven and Sheol:

Heaven lies on the far end of the electromagnetic energy spectrum extending above cosmic rays. It represents the essence of creation, light, and vibration. It is invisible, is the source of all other energy and matter in the universe, and has intelligence as well as intelligent life forms populating its various levels. Sheol, or hell, represents the opposite end of the EM spectrum where movement and energy vibration cease. There is no light there, no sound, no movement, and no apparent escape. It is enfolded into itself, densely packed like a black hole. UFO’s, “angelic beings,” and other paranormal manifestations can enter the visible light range of the EM spectrum from either end depending on their source. Sheol, in a symbolic vision, takes the appearance of a bottomless pit. [Little 1994, p. 226]

I finally got around to scanning the visual depiction out of the book:

Personally, Little’s hypothesis strikes me as plausible and intuitive, and it relates to the discussion on Sheol.

As an aside, there was one other thing in chapter 5 I’d like to comment on, in particular, the final sentence:

So, you may now revise your challenge to me to say, “All you have proven so far is that everyone is going to Hades.” Even as you hear yourself say that, however, you are shaking off the man-made traditions you have been taught. The Bible’s true message is contrasting itself with traditional, though erroneous theories. ”What of hell?” you ask. We’ll get to that in a later chapter. For now, recognize that in all the Bible verses I have paraded before you, the word hell has not appeared. Neither has there been in any of these verses a notion that there was more than one place to go when one died. The notion of some going down at death while others went up is simply not biblical!

I agree there. The Bible is commonly misconstrued as promoting “good people go to Heaven, bad people go to Hell,” but even a quick fact check reveals that this isn’t the case. It’s more accurately described as “all of us are bad people in one way or another, but God has graciously provided a means of reconciliation for those willing to take it.”

I really don’t have much to say about Chapter 6. Towards the end, Mike makes an excellent point:

Like any important truth, multiple analogies are often needed to fully bring it to light. Any single metaphor could be misunderstood, but repeated, varied, and multiple depictions turn implications and hints into substantiated hope. An object perceived from various angles is more clearly perceived than one viewed from a single point of view.

By the end, I got the feeling that Mike’s laid sufficient groundwork, and I expect the arguments to unfold a bit more exponentially as we go along. He writes,

…what I have described to you in the first six chapters of this book comprises the worldview inherited by Jesus and His apostles. They believed in God and in His two-dimensional, three-tiered universe just as the prophets had presented it. Everything spoken by the Lord and written by the apostles in the New Testament uses this framework. To read the New Testament without this Old Testament context is to invite misunderstanding. However, having listened to and embraced the view espoused by Moses and the Prophets, you are ready to better understand just what the Lord and His apostles have declared to us about resurrection.

Seems to me we’re right about at the half-way point.


  1. cl,

    I admire both your patience and courage in covering the first six chapters of the book. As you rightly suggest, my pace in the writing was painstaking, if not plodding. I felt duty-bound to spend half the book laying this foundation, because there is so much biblical illiteracy today – especially on this subject. You were wise to lump chapters four through six into one post because your audience would be biblically astute enough to handle that acceleration. And you are right: the pace of the book speeds up from here.

    I want to pause to emphasize one of the points you made above. If this is all of the book that anyone ever read, it would of course not be enough by itself to convince them everyone is going to heaven, but it would be enough to alert most people that they’ve never been taught the Old Testament’s doctrine of Sheol and how everyone who dies goes there. It’s such a plain and clear doctrine. Once you see it, you realize that it must be the starting point of any biblical doctrine about the afterlife. If someone wants to teach that some go to heaven while others go to hell, they have to show how and when people stopped going to Sheol.

    Most “biblical” expositions of the heaven-or-hell scenario camp on New Testament verses and ignore the Old Testament teaching about Sheol. This is self-defeating because we know Jesus regarded the Old Testament as the word of God and all His teaching was based upon its veracity and trustworthiness. The NT was not written in a vacuum; it is dependent on the OT as the context for what it says.

    Regardless of what your readers believe about human afterlife, I hope they will appreciate from this day forward that no teaching about afterlife purporting to be biblical can do so justifiably without addressing the way Jesus’ Bible (i.e. the Old Testament) said things were…before He came to change them.

  2. cl


    Thanks. I actually feel like a loser for taking FOR EVER on my book reviews. I mean, I’ve been reviewing the same 3 or 4 books for like, what… a year now? Then again, it’s a tough call. On the one hand, I like to do things when I feel them, and it can be good to tackle a book slowly and non-exclusively. On the other hand, I’m sure people just want to get to it already! The digital age, the whole “instant gratification” thing.

    I think your last three paragraphs were well-said.

    I’m curious: what did you think of Little’s EM depiction of Sheol? What verses does it seem to concur with? What verses does it seem to conflict with?

    As an aside, are there any issues / arguments you’d like to see me tackle, outside of these reviews? I’m getting that feeling to ask the audience for requests today… I take it as a sign that my interest in posting is picking up again. I got a job two weeks ago, so I’ve been busy, not too mention recovering from the all-persistent “blogger burnout” syndrome.

  3. cl,

    As for Little’s depiction, I can’t comment intelligently. My knowledge of science is too limited. I’ll leave those blanks for you and others to fill in.

    I will say that when the Bible divides existence into visible and invisible (Col 1:16), seen and unseen (Heb 11:27), flesh and spirit (Rom 8:4-8), it makes clear that science can pursue the former but can never find the latter. Thus, whether a scientist is a believer or an unbeliever has nothing to do with science. I do think that believers can often make better sense and use of science, and that’s why I leave it to Little and others to do so.

    As for subjects to address, I cannot think of any more important to more people than the one you are tackling here. What person is there who will not die? What happens at that time rudely shoves into insignificance any other event in life. Death is the single biggest problem of the human race, and fear of it (Heb 2:14-15) drives all sorts of counterproductive (the Bible would call it “unfruitful”) behavior. Even if an individual believes that he himself is going to heaven, shouldn’t he be concerned about what is happening to all his fellow human beings? [Of course, I have gone far beyond answering your question and am simply using the occasion to blow a trumpet for the subject matter – so please forgive me. God loves people, and, oh, how I wish more of them knew it! Because of your series, maybe more will.]

  4. cl, I am pleased that you have kept your blog online even though you ceased posting to it over a decade ago. I hope you are doing well. Did you ever finish “The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven”? In any case, I hope you are fulfilling the duty of a man. Best wishes for you and yours now and always. Mike

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