- Who is Jehovah?
- Who is Jesus Christ, and What is His Relationship to Jehovah?
- The Soul, the Spirit, and the Fate of the Dead
- What is a Soul?
- Animals are Souls
- A Living Person is a Soul
- The Soul is Mortal and Destructible
- A Soul Can Be Dead (Corpse)
- Soul is Separate from Spirit
- God Has a Soul
- What is a Spirit?
- Heaven, Hell, and the Hope of the Resurrection
- The Problem of Evil
Have you ever...
- ...wondered what the kingdom of God actually is?
- …pondered that ever present nagging question about why an all-powerful and loving God would allow evil to go on for so long (or even at all)?
- …wondered how the meek will inherit the earth after Armageddon if all Christians are to go to heaven and all the unrighteous are going to hell?
- …struggled with the notion of a supreme loving entity torturing billions of people for all eternity in hell?
The aim of this writing, in addition to providing answers to these questions and more plus scriptural evidence for those answers, is to promote the Kingdom of God. This was the primary goal of Jesus' three and a half year ministry (Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:2, 11; 10:8-11; 13:18-30). Truly, Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God more often in his speeches than on any other single topic; this should tell us something about its importance to God himself.
Who is Jehovah?
Many people recognize the name "Jehovah," as in "Jehovah's Witnesses," but few realize where this name comes from (although, with the popularization of the internet, more and more people are learning about the name Jehovah). Jehovah is an Anglicization of the Tetragrammaton, God's personal four-letter name that appears thousands of times in the original Hebrew manuscripts of the Hebrew-Aramic Scriptures (commonly referred to as the “Old Testament”). The four Hebrew letters that comprise this name are "yud," "heh," "vav," "heh," or, YHVH. (In Hebrew letters, the name looks like יהוה.) The Hebrew letter "yud," is often pronounced the same as our "y" in Hebrew, but is often translated as "j" in anglicized names. The names of Joseph, Jesus, and Jacob, for example, are names that begin with "yud" in Hebrew. "vav" can be translated as "v," or "w." Thus, sometimes, the name is also rendered in English as "Yahweh."
As for the vowels in the name, the fact is that ancient Hebrew had no system for writing vowels, thus words were copied only with consonants. For most words, this is not a problem, because words have been spoken throughout the centuries and there is an understanding of how to pronounce the word when someone comes upon it in writing. As for God's name, however, there was an ancient Hebrew superstition that one is not supposed to use God's name in everyday language. This comes from the seventh commandment not to use Jehovah's name in vain (in other words--not to misuse God's name). However, there is a big difference between misusing a name, and using it with respect.
The fact is, the Bible contains God's personal name, Jehovah, thousands of times, indicating that God did want us to know and to use his name. In fact, God wants us to know him as a person. That is why he provided us with the Bible. There is much information in the Bible, including information revealing the nature of God and identifying him as a personal being with distinct qualities or characteristics, not unlike each human with a distinct personality and qualities. One piece of personal information that God has chosen to share with us is his name.
One of the first things we get to know about a new friend is his or her personal name. We use our friends' names in everyday speech without any disrespect towards them or their names. Likewise, we should not be afraid to call upon God by name and share his name with others. Instead, however, ancient Hebrews decided to hide Jehovah's name, by pronouncing the word, "adonai," each time they came across the divine name in the written manuscripts. "Adonai" is translated into English as "lord," this is why you often see "LORD" (in all capital letters) in popular translations of the Bible. This makes God seem impersonal; whereas the Bible tells us to "draw close to God," so that he may draw close to us (James 4:8)1.
Each time the word LORD appears in all capitals in the Bible, it is covering over Jehovah's personal name. This does more to disrespect God's name and God's holy word, the Bible, than anything else another person might do, specifically for the reason that those who chose to disguise the name of God did so knowing full well that they were removing an important piece of information from God's holy word. Many religious leaders who recite the words, "hallowed by thy name" (meaning, let your name be sanctified or glorified) do everything but glorify God's name when they choose to hide it as if it were something evil that should not be repeated.
To see the reasoning and mentality of some who chose to replace God's personal name in the Bible, consider the preface of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, which states, "For two reasons the Committee has returned to the more familiar usage of the King James Version: (1) the word 'Jehovah' does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew; and (2) the use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom he had to be distinguished, was discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era and is entirely inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church." Thus, their own view of what is appropriate has been relied upon as the basis for removing from the Holy Bible the personal name of its Divine Author, whose name appears in the original Hebrew more often than any other name or any title. They admittedly follow the example of the adherents of Judaism, of whom Jesus said, "You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition" (Matthew 15:6, NIV).
Because of Hebrew superstition and the lack of vowels in ancient Hebrew, the original pronunciation of Jehovah's name has long been lost. While there is some debate about just how to pronounce the Tetragrammaton, there is evidence that the name is three syllables, and most likely "Yehowah" or "Yehowih" etc in Hebrew.2 For those who say we should not use the Divine name simply because we are unsure of its pronunciation, one thing is certain, "Jesus," was definitely NOT the original pronunciation of the name of Christ.
To those who would say that first century Christians did not use God's personal name, nor is it found in the Christian Greek Scriptures (commonly referred to as the “New Testament”), actually, passages from the Septuagint, an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures have been found containing the Tetragrammaton in Hebrew right in the Greek text itself. Also there are many places in the Greek Scriptures (11 places in Matthew alone) where Hebrew Scriptures containing God's name are being directly quoted. There is no reason to believe these passages were not quoted as they were written in Hebrew.
While there is some debate about the extent to which the Tetragrammaton was quoted or used by Jesus' disciples, they almost surely reflected Jesus' own thoughts on the matter, which are recorded at John 17:6, "I have made your name manifest to the men whom you gave me out of the world," and again at John 17:26, "I have made your name known to them and will make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.”
Who is Jesus Christ, and What is His Relationship to Jehovah?
This might seem like a silly question. Who, after all, has not heard of Jesus? But it's really not, considering there are so many different opinions of who Jesus really was. Was he the Messiah or Christ, was he the son of God, was he God himself? Was Jesus simply a prophet as many Muslims believe, or simply a decent human being? Did he even exist at all?
There are early historical references to Jesus, including The Jewish Antiquities by Jewish historian Josephus, which states in Book 20, Section 200, "James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ.” Also The Complete Works of Tacitus by Tacitus, a Roman historian who lived later in the first century, which states in "The Annals," Book 15, paragraph 44, "Christus, from whom the name [Christian] had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus."
Alluding to early non-Christian historical references to Jesus, The New Encyclopedia Britannica states, "These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds by several authors at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries." (1976, Macropædia, Vol. 10, p. 145)
The Bible tells us that Jesus was God's only-begotten son (John 3:16), he was the chosen Messiah, and his death has bought mankind from sin and death. Some Christians believe that in addition to this, Jesus was God himself. Is this possibly true?
Consider that the Hebrew word "ab" and the Greek work "pater," both translated as "father," connote the idea of a giver of life. Thus, a father is someone who gives his son life. Also consider the term "only begotten son" found at John 3:16. What exactly does "only begotten" mean? It means the Father "begat," or gave life to, the son. This means that Jehovah God gave life to Jesus, his son. In other words, Jehovah created Jesus. If this were not the case, then the whole idea of a father-son relationship between the Father and the Son would be nothing more than pretense. Ask yourself if it makes sense that Jehovah and Jesus would go to such lengths to pretend to be Father and Son. Not only is that notion absurd, since God is perfect, his nature would not even allow him to pretend to be something he is not.
To show Jesus is not God, consider John 17:3, "This means everlasting life, their coming to know you [the Father], the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” [Emphasis ours]. Notice that the Father (identified in verse 1) is recognized by Jesus himself (who is being quoted) as the only true God, and recognizes himself (Jesus Christ) as separate from the Father. If the Father is the only true God, then logic dictates that the Son cannot also be the true God.
Jesus also refers to the Father as his God (John 20:17), but not once does the Bible ever refer to the Son as the God of the Father. The Bible also tells us that the Father is Greater than the Son (John 14:28). In fact, 1 Corinthians 11:3 states that "the head of the Christ is God." If Jesus were God, this would mean that Jesus was his own head. This is not the structure that God laid out for families because this is not the type of structure that the Father has with the Son. One person is not head over himself, Jehovah God is head of Jesus Christ, his Son.
Also note that the letter of 1 Corinthians was written after the death of Jesus. What is the significance? Well, some say that the Father was greater than the Son while Jesus was on earth because Jesus was human; however, if this letter is being written after Jesus was raised up to heaven, that argument no longer applies. Paul didn’t write that the head of the Christ was God, but rather that the head of the Christ is God, even while he is in heaven.
If it were true that Jehovah is God and that Jesus were God, then both would presumably have the same body of knowledge, since they are both God. The Bible contradicts this when it says, "Concerning that day or hour nobody knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father." (Mark 13:32). God therefore knows the day and the hour, but Jesus does not, and hence Jesus cannot be God.
Consider Psalm 83:18, "May people know that you, whose name is Jehovah, You alone are the Most High over all the earth." Jehovah alone is the most high over all the earth, and therefore has no equal, not even his own only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
Proponents of the Trinity doctrine love to talk about John 1:1. Over and over and over again, the same line gets repeated as if it were the most original thought they ever had, when it is in fact neither that convincing nor original. Let's look at John 1:1 from various translations, and then look at the actual Greek
- "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (KJV, NKJV, NIV)--This is the translation many use to “prove” the Trinity.
- " [...] and the word was a god (The New testament, in An Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome's New Translation: With Corrected Text)
- "[...] and a god was the word." (The Emphatic Diaglott, Benjamin Wilson)
- "[...] and the Word was divine." (The Bible--An American Translation, J. M. P. Smith and E. J. Goodspeed)
- "[...] and the Word was a god." (The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, NWT)--This should be the correct translation. Let's see why.
In the Greek, the passage reads:
Εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος
En arche en ho logos kai ho logos en pros ton theon kai theos en ho logos.
A literal word for word translation of the Greek reads: "In beginning was the word (ho logos) and the word was with the God (ton theon) and god (kai theos) was the word (ho logos)."
Notice the first word for God has a definite article (the--ton in Greek), and "the word" has a definite article (the--ho in Greek). The second occurrence of the word "god" appears without a definite article (the--ho or ton). Because Greek lacks an indefinite article (a word corresponding to the English word, "a" or "an," as in "a god”) the lack of the definite article, "the," means that the term should be rendered in English with an indefinite article.
Also take note that Isaiah 9:6 refers to the Messiah as "Mighty God," and "Eternal Father." As for the term "Eternal Father," even most trinitarians can accept that the Father and Son are two distinct people, but many argue that the fact that the Son is called "Eternal Father" is evidence that Jesus always existed and was not created. This is not true. The universe is also eternal, in the sense that it will never die (Ecclesiastes 1:4). This does not mean that it always existed, it simply means it WILL always exist into the future.
As for the Son being called "Mighty God," (El Gibbor in Hebrew) truly Jesus is a "mighty god," but that does not mean that he is "God Almighty" (El Shaddai in Hebrew). Jehovah God is also a "Mighty God," in fact being a "Mighty God" is pretty much a pre-requisite to being "God Almighty," but the reverse is not true, one does not have to be "God Almighty" to be a "Mighty God." (Incidentally, the terms “Mighty God” and “Eternal Father” are capitalized because they are proper titles, like the title, “President of the United States”, not because they refer to God.)
So does this mean there are multiple gods up in heaven? It depends on what you mean by the term "god." If you are referring to the creator of all things or someone who is all-powerful, there is only one person who fits either of those descriptions--Jehovah. However, god is used in the Bible to describe people in positions of great power or authority or with the ability to exert such power or authority. For example Psalm 82:6 refers to the judges of Israel as gods, indicating that they have a certain measure of authority; this does not mean, however, that the judges of Israel are the Creator of the universe or even all-powerful. All it means, as stated, is that they have a certain measure of authority. If the term "god" can be applied to the judges of Israel, mere humans, how much more appropriate would the term be when applied to Jesus?
If this is not enough to convince you that Jesus is not God, consider Colossians 1:15, 16, which refers to Jesus as "the firstborn of every Creature" (KJV). The Bible itself explicitly states that Jesus was born, or created, before all other creations.
Who Is Michael the Archangel?
The term "archangel" in the Bible is never found in the plural, presumably because there can be only one archangel.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 describes Jesus descending from heaven "with the voice of an archangel." There is biblical evidence that reveals that it is not that big of a leap to associate Jesus with the archangel Michael. Indeed, Michael is identified as the heavenly persona of God's only-begotten Son.
Revelation 12:7-12 identifies Michael as the one to lead the army of angels in war against the Devil and to cast him out of heaven. Later, at Revelation 19:11-16, Jesus is identified as the one leading the army in a war against the nations of the world. The fact is, Jesus is the one with authority over the armies of heaven, and, as we shall see once we begin to learn more about the nature of the Kingdom of God, it is Jesus who has authority over the armies of angels. It is therefore, reasonable to conclude that Jesus is Michael, the archangel.
The Soul, the Spirit, and the Fate of the Dead
What is a Soul?
Genesis 2:7 states, "And [Jehovah] God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (KJV). The Hebrew word in Genesis 2:7 rendered as "soul" is "nephesh," the Greek word that corresponds to this is "psyche." Notice that Genesis 2:7 does not say that man was given a soul, but that he became a living soul. This is an accurate description. The Bible does not support the notion that a person possesses a soul, but rather that a person (or animal) is a soul. The soul is not something that is separate from us, nor is it something that can leave the body. 1 Corinthians 15:45 confirms this by saying, "And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit" (KJV). 1 Peter 3:20 also makes no distinction between the person and the soul, saying, "[...] in the days of Noah [...] eight souls were saved by water" (KJV).
The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Vol XIII states, "There is no dichotomy of body and soul in the OT [Old Testament]. The Israelite saw things concretely, in their totality, and thus he saw men as persons and not as composites. The term nepeš [nephesh], though translated by our word soul, never means soul as distinct from the body or the individual person [...] The term [psyche] is the NT word corresponding with nepeš. It can mean the principle of life, life itself, and the living being" (pp. 449-450).
The New Encyclopedia Britannica states, "The Hebrew term for 'soul' [...] was used by Moses [...], signifying an 'animated being' and applicable equally to nonhuman beings [...] New Testament usage of psyche was comparable to nephesh" (Vol. 15, p. 152). Indeed there are passages that refer to animals as souls: Genesis 1:20, 21, 24; Leviticus 24:17, 18; Revelation 16:3. In general, Biblical usage of the term "soul," suggests it to mean a person or animal or the life that a person or animal enjoys.
Joshua 11:11 states, "And they smote all the souls that where therein with the edge of the sword" (KJV). Here we see a soul being touched by a sword, so it cannot be intangible like a spirit, which will be the topic of the next subheading.
The following lists group usages of the words for soul (nephesh and psyche) that support the corresponding heading (Note each of the verses quoted below use the word "nephesh" or "psyche;" however the 2013 revision of the New World Translation does not blindly translate these words as "soul." Instead, it uses modern phrases to relay the meaning of what the word is conveying in the context it is being used. Verses in bold have the word rendered as "soul."):
Animals are Souls
A Living Person is a Soul
Gen 2:7; 12:5; 14:21; 36:6; 46:15, 18, 22, 25, 26, 27; Ex 1:5; 12:4, 16; 16:16; Lev 2:1; 4:2, 27; 5:1, 2, 4, 15, 17; 6:2; 7:18, 20, 21, 25, 27; 17:10, 12, 15; 18:29; 20:6; 22:6, 11; 23:29, 30; 27:2; Num 5:6; 15:27, 28, 30; 19:18, 22; 31:35, 40, 46; 35:30; Deu 10:22; 24:6, 7; 1 Sam 22:22; 2 Sam 14:14; 2 Ki 12:4; 1 Chron 5:21; Ps 19:7; Pro 11:25, 30; 16:24; 19:2, 15; 25:25; 27:7, 9; Jer 43:6; 52:29; Lam 3:25; Eze 27:13; Acts 2:41, 43; 7:14; 27:37; Rom 13:1; 1 Cor 15:45; 1 Pet 3:20
The Soul is Mortal and Destructible
Gen 12:13; 17:14; 19:19, 20; 37:21; Ex 12:15, 19; 31:14; Lev 7:20, 21, 27; 19:8; 22:3; 23:30; 24:17; Num 9:13; 15:30, 31; 19:13, 20; 23:10; 31:19; 35:11, 15, 30; Deu 19:6, 11; 22:26; 27:25; Jos 2:13, 14; 10:28, 30, 32, 35, 37, 39; 11:11; 20:3, 9; Judges 5:18; 16:16, 30; 1 Ki 19:4; 20:31; Job 7:15; 11:20; 18:4; 33:22; 36:14; Ps 7:2; 22:29; 66:9; 69:1; 78:50; 94:17; 106:15; 124:4; Pro 28:17; Isa 55:3; Jer 2:34; 4:10; 18:20; 38:17; 40:14; Eze 13:19; 17:17; 18:4; 22:25, 27; 33:6; Matt 2:20; 10:28; 26:38; Mark 3:4; 14:34; Luke 6:9; 17:33; John 12:25; Acts 3:23; Rom 11:3; Heb 10:39; James 5:20; Rev 8:9; 12:11; 16:3
A Soul Can Be Dead (Corpse)
Soul is Separate From Spirit
God Has a Soul
What is a Spirit?
The Hebrew and Greek words translated "spirit" in the bible are "ruach," and "pneuma," respectively. These terms can mean a number of things in Biblical usage; however, all Biblical usages refer to that which is invisible and gives evidence of force in motion. "Spirit," when it is used in the Bible, refers to wind, the active life-force in people and animals (the so-called "breath of life"), the impelling force that issues forth from a person's figurative heart and impels him to do or say certain things (such as when a person's spirit moves him or her to help a stranger in need or causes zeal in a person), inspired utterances originating from an invisible source, spirits (such as angels and demons), and the Holy Spirit (God's active force). Of these notions, the ones most commonly attributed to the word "spirit" are as in angles and demons, the spirit of a person (emotions that compel a certain behavior), the animating force of people and animals, and the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, or God's active force (called in Hebrew "Elohim Ruach," meaning "Spirit of God") is often referred to as the finger of God. It is the force God uses to cause his will to occur and things to happen. The Holy Spirit cannot be a person because the Bible speaks of people being filled with Holy Spirit and baptized and anointed with Holy Spirit. Would it make sense to say, for example, that a person was anointed with Jesus? No, a person cannot be anointed or baptized with another person.
Does the soul leave a person as a conscious entity when that person dies? Ezekiel 18:4 reads: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (KJV). Clearly, the soul is not immortal and does not survive the death of the body. When Jehovah told Adam that he was going to die, he stated they would be burdened "until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). Notice that this passage says that Adam himself was made of dust and shall return to dust, it does not make the distinction that Adam's body is made of dust. One more scripture to think about is Psalm 146:4, "His breath [or spirit, Heb. "ruach"] goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that day his thoughts do perish." Thus, when a person's spirit leaves the body, the person ceases to have consciousness ("his thoughts do perish"). The fact that the spirit leaves the body makes sense here when we consider in what sense the term "spirit" is being used. In this passage, "spirit" is referring to the person's animating force; thus, the force that animates the body departs after death. This is not surprising--we all know that when a person dies, apart from any residual energy in the body and any un-fired neurons, there is nothing that continues to animate the body.
In conclusion, there is no soul or spirit that leaves the body as a conscious entity after death. When you die, your soul and spirit die with you. There is no immortal human soul and there is no afterlife.
Heaven, Hell, and the Hope of the Resurrection
What is Hell?
Tartarus, Hades, and Sheol
The primary goal of this subheading is to dispel the God-dishonoring doctrine of hellfire and eternal torment as a punishment for sinners endorsed by God. Galatians 5:22-23 describes nine characteristics that are "fruitage of the Spirit:" love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. Of these fruitages of the Spirit, the Bible describes Jehovah as being the embodiment of only one, love: "Whoever does not love has not come to know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8). The common doctrine of hellfire in much of Christendom undermines this simple Bible truth, for such a place of eternal torment is not consistent with a loving God.
Besides this, the Bible clearly states that "the wages sin pays is death" (Romans 6:23). This means when one dies, they have paid for their sins, and there is no need for further suffering. In fact, Romans 6:7 states, "for the one who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” When someone dies, they are acquitted of their sins and no more punishment is necessary.
So what is hell? There are four words in the Bible which are rendered "hell" in many common Bible translations: Hades (Greek), Sheol (Hebrew), Tartarus (Greek), and Gehenna (Greek). Each word has a distinct meaning in the Bible, so to translate all of them simply as "hell" overshadows exactly what the Bible is saying when talking about each concept (the two exceptions are Hades and Sheol--Sheol is the Hebrew counterpart to the Greek Hades).
The first word I will address is Tartarus, simply because it is the easiest, and also to get it out of the way because it is the least relevant. The word "Tartarus" appears only once in the Bible. 2 Peter 2:4 states, "For as God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus] and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment [...]" (NKJV). Thus, the word Tartarus is used only in conjunction with the demons ("the angels who sinned") and hence has no bearing on the fate of humans.
Hades and Sheol are the Greek and Hebrew counterparts of one another and mean the same thing. Literally translated, they mean "grave," but they do not mean an individual's grave (they do not even refer to a literal place). The Greek and Hebrew words for an individual's grave or literal place of burial are "taphos," and "qever," respectively. The words "Hades" and "Sheol," on the other hand are somewhat more abstract--they mean "the common grave of mankind." To illustrate this concept, one might say today of someone who has died that he or she has "gone to the grave." This reference to "the grave" does not mean the individual's grave, because that phrase may be used for someone who was not buried yet or will not be buried (such as people who are cremated). By referring to the common grave a mankind, the phrase "he has gone to the grave," is simply another way of saying that the person died. In support of this interpretation, the Bible mentions righteous people who are in "hell" (Hades or Sheol): Job 14:13 describes Job being in hell. More distinctly, Acts 2:25-27 quotes David as saying of Jesus himself: "Because thou [God] will not leave my soul in hell [Hades]" (KJV). The important point here is that in order to be left in hell, one must first be in hell, and indeed, Jesus was in Hades, the common grave of mankind, for three days before his resurrection--which is just another way of saying that Jesus was dead for three days.
So if this interpretation of hell is accurate, then where did the notions of eternal torment and hellfire come from? The answer to this question is present when one understand what the final word for hell, "Gehenna," means But in order to understand what Gehenna means, one must first understand what future hope the dead have. This will be covered in the next subheading, which will discuss the resurrection.
I'm sure most, if not all, who read this will, from the outset, assume that the title of this subheading refers to the resurrection of Jesus. It does not. In fact the bible describes three resurrections. The first resurrection of course, is that of Jesus. The second two actually involve humans.
Acts 24:15 alludes to a mass resurrection of the dead by saying, "there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous." Most Christians maintain that there are people who have died and have gone to heaven and are indeed in heaven right now. They maintain that Acts 24:15 alludes to the notion that if you are good you are resurrected to heaven, and if you are bad, you are resurrected to hell when you die. However, take a look at the verse again. It says “There is going to be a resurrection.” The resurrection has not yet taken place.
As mentioned earlier, there is no afterlife, but some Christians will actually be resurrected into heaven--this is the first of the two resurrections involving humans mentioned above, resurrection into heaven. Note that not ALL of God's faithful humans will be resurrected into heaven. The Bible numbers those who will go to heaven at 144,000. These are the ones seen in Revelation standing on heavenly Mount Zion with Jesus. Revelation 20:4-6 says of these ones that they will reign with Christ for a thousand years (they are also the ones whom the Bible refers to as "saints," or "holy ones").
But if there is no hell, as was shown to be the case earlier, then that leaves us with the question of where "the unrighteous" of Acts 24:15 will be resurrected. It is unreasonable to believe that the unrighteous will also be resurrected into heaven. That leaves only one place: the physical Universe (or more specifically, Earth). Both the unrighteous and the faithful that did not get selected for heaven will be resurrected on the Earth. These are the subjects over which those who do go to heaven will reign. Incidentally, the thousand-year reign of Christ (along with his 144,000 co-rulers) is exactly what the Kingdom of God is. The Kingdom of God (mentioned in the Lord's prayer) is not some mystical abstract thing which resides only in one's "heart," as some believe, but it is a real and literal government designed to carry out God's purpose for the Earth (which will be discussed below).
John 5:28-29 states, "Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment." This passage is not referring to judging people based on their actions in this life. When the resurrection takes place, it will take place over a thousand years, corresponding to the reign of Christ--that is one of the purposes of God' Kingdom. Those that are resurrected will be given perfect bodies, like the ones that Adam and his wife had lost when they sinned. Those who have survived Judgment Day, however, will not need to be resurrected, they will already be alive. At some point during the thousand years, the price of Jesus’ sacrifice will be applied to them and their bodies will be restored to perfection (see the section below, entitled “Jesus’ Death,” for an explanation of why it is unnecessary for those surviving Armageddon to pay their debt to sin with their own death). The resurrection of life or judgment, in this new context, is based not on our actions in this system, but on our response to Christ's rulership and direction during his millennial reign.
The reason for the resurrection, along with Jehovah's purpose for the Earth will be discussed later in this writing once it is time to discuss why it is that God has allowed evil to exist for so long--all three topics are intimately tied with one another.
Why was Jesus’ “Temporary” Sacrifice Sufficient to Buy back all of Humanity?
To answer the question in the subtitle of this subheading, we need to go back to the Levitical laws, which state that, in God's perfect sense of justice, a requirement is made that "life will be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." (Deuteronomy 19:21). What this sense of perfect justice is saying is that if something is lost or destroyed, something of equal value must be given to get it back. For instance, if someone destroys your property, you are entitled to get your property back, or at least something of equal value. If the person does not have the means to repay the property, then he will be sentenced to an appropriate punishment by the authorities. In this case, the authority is Jehovah, and as described in his word, the Bible, there is only one punishment for sin--death. In other words, when Adam lost perfection, by sinning, he became liable to death because what he lost was a perfect human existence. Since the only way to buy back that perfect existence is with a perfect existence, and a sinner by definition does not have a perfect existence (and hence does not have the means to buy back what Adam lost), the only option for a sinner is to die. God, however, did have the means to buy back what Adam had lost; furthermore, according to his mercy towards mankind, he provided something of equal value--the perfect human life of his own Son. Jehovah did not have to do that, it was purely a matter of grace (or undeserved kindness) on the part of God, and love of humanity and loyalty to his Father on the part of Jesus that the Son was sent to earth to die for us.
The question, however, is, why was Jesus allowed to be resurrected? It would seem, on the outside of it, that if life is for life, once Jesus gave up his perfect life in order to buy back the perfect life Adam lost, he should no longer be entitled to live. In fact, if Jesus had not been resurrected, he would be giving up much more than what was necessary to buy back what Adam lost. This is where we also begin to see why Jesus single human life was sufficient to redeem all of humanity. What exactly was it that Adam had given up in the Garden of Eden when he sinned? What he gave up was exactly a single perfect human existence. This is exactly what Jesus offered up as a sacrifice. Although Jesus gave up his perfect human existence, this does not mean he was no longer entitled to his perfect heavenly existence (although he could never become human again, even if he wanted to--he gave up his right to his human existence when he offered it up as a sacrifice to buy back humanity).
The reason why Jesus' sacrifice of a single human life is sufficient to buy back all of humanity, though, is because rather than purchasing perfect human existence for each person, Jesus simply bought back the single perfect human existence that Adam had lost. Since Adam's perfect life has been repurchased by Jesus, we, as his descendants, will now be free to inherit that perfect life from Jesus rather than the sin and death we currently inherit from Adam. This does not mean that Adam will be resurrected--he had his chance at perfection already. When he died, he experienced the second death. What it does mean, though, is that the source of our inheritance will no longer be Adamic sin, but Jesus' life-giving sacrifice.3 Jesus has literally bought us back from Adam, and has essentially adopted us as his children by buying us back from sin and death.
What is Hell: Part II
Gehenna, the Lake of Fire, and the Second Death
Now that we have a clear understanding of the resurrection to come, we can understand the meaning of Gehenna and the concept of "hellfire" that derives from it. Gehenna, the lake of fire, and the second death are all symbols of the same thing. Christ told the Pharisees that they were condemned to Gehenna, and others in human history have also been condemned to Gehenna; although the vast majority of the human population die and go, not to Gehenna, but to Hades. So what is Gehenna?
The Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) was outside the walls of Jerusalem. In the first century, it was used as an incinerator for the filth of Jerusalem. Dead animals and the bodies of executed criminals considered undeserving of a proper burial were thrown into the valley and consumed with fire, and to which sulfur (brimstone) was added to assist with the burning. When bodies were thrown into the valley, those that did not fall all the way into the pit to be consumed by fire, instead landed on a ledge, and their putrefying flesh became infested with the ever-present worms and maggots. Living people were not thrown into the valley, so it was not a place of conscious torment.
Matthew 10:28 states, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna]" (KJV). There is no mention here of torment in Gehenna. Jesus, by referring to destroying the body and soul separately, is emphasizing to be in fear of that which not only kills the body (normal death in this life) but also destroys the soul, completely, meaning that which destroys also the prospect of resurrection back to life. Fire has been used throughout history as a symbol for absolute destruction. If you tear up a piece of paper, for example, you can always reassemble the pieces back together. If you burn up the paper, however, there is no way to reconstruct it, the information that was recorded on it is lost forever (provided it wasn't memorized or recorded elsewhere). This is the real reason for the imagery of hellfire.
Like the information on the piece of paper that was burnt up, the people who are sent to Gehenna are erased from Jehovah's memory, and Jehovah will not recall them during the time of the resurrection. A few select people throughout history have been sent to Gehenna, meaning they died without the prospect of a resurrection--this is what the second death is. The second death basically applies to anyone who dies as a direct result of God's judgment. Because of this, there are not many in human history to whom this applies. This is mainly because Jehovah has set a specific time for the judgment day during which he will judge those still living. (The purpose of Judgment Day and why people will receive the mark of the beast will be covered below.)
An example of those in history who have died prior to judgment day as a direction result of God's judgments is the Pharisees whom Jesus condemned to Gehenna. He did this because the Pharisees, as supposed leaders in God's temple, were supposed to know and understand God's laws; however, they were hypocritical in their application. Those to whom much is given, much is required--in other words, if you are in the truth, and you know the truth, than you have a responsibility to the truth.
Anyone who has committed the "unforgivable sin," namely, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be sent to Gehenna. This terminology isn't literal. As mentioned before, the Holy Spirit is also called the Finger of God; it's the force Jehovah uses to affect his will. The idea of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is to reject the working of God's Holy Spirit in one's life. This is not an ordinary thing; since the vast majority of humans do not get condemned to Gehenna upon death--it is not simply a case of human weakness or imperfection, it's a willful rejection of God's Holy Spirit.
With this understanding of hell, we can make sense of Revelation 20:14, which states, "And death and hell [hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." (KJV) This would not make sense if both Hades and the lake of fire referred to the same literal place. After humanity is restored to perfection, people will no longer be under the penalty of death, so death and Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire, which is to say, they will be completely annihilated "and death will be no more" (Revelation 21:4).
The Problem of Evil
How can God be Good if He Allows Evil?
"How can we say that Jehovah is good if he allows evil to exist but is able to stop it?" This is one of the most important questions in Christian theology, and the one to which most Christians do not have a decent answer. Most people try to skim over this question or write it off by claiming "free will." While the concept of free will does have an important role in the answer to this question, it is clearly not sufficient to answer the question on its own. It is an attempt to answer this question once and for all in a satisfying way that motivated this work. The ultimate purpose of this paper is to make that answer available to as many people as possible.
The answer to this question is intimately tied into God's purpose for humanity and the Earth. What is that purpose? To answer that, we have to think back to the beginning. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, but he did more than that. He created a small pocket of paradise on earth and called it the Garden of Eden. Then he created man and woman and placed them in the garden and told them to be fruitful and to cover the earth and subdue it (thus spreading the paradisaical garden until it covered the entire earth) and to have in subjection the animals of the earth. He also told them that in the day they ate from the tree in the middle of the garden, they would die. Does this mean that if they had not eaten from the tree that they would still be alive? Yes! God's original purpose for mankind was to live forever in paradise on earth.
It is not reasonable to believe that God's purpose for the earth has changed. To believe that would be to believe that a rebellious angel could force God to change his plans. While it is true that Satan has postponed God's purpose for the earth and mankind, that postponement will not be indefinite. So, why was God's purpose postponed at all? This is because when Satan convinced Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, he did much more than get humans to rebel against God; he called into question God's sovereignty, or right to rule over his own creation. Satan was basically saying that he had a way that was better than God's rule. He was also insinuating that God was withholding something good from his creation.
Notice the full name of the tree in the middle of the garden. It wasn't simply the Tree of Knowledge, it was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When Satan tempted Eve to eat from the tree, he told her that by disallowing her to eat from it that God was holding back the knowledge of right and wrong because he knew that when Eve ate from the tree she would become like God, knowing right from wrong. This did happen--in a symbolic way. The tree itself did not have magical powers that imbued special knowledge upon Eve. Instead, once Eve ate from it, the tree symbolized Eve's own determination to decide for herself what was right and wrong, rather than obeying God and being humble enough to allow him to show her what was best for her. Instead of respecting God's right to rule over her as her creator, she undermined his authority by making the willful decision to decide for herself what was right and wrong; the same applied to Adam. Therefore, the devil, Adam, and Eve all stepped into a position that rightly belonged to Jehovah when they decided to rule themselves.
Thus began sin and wickedness in the world. So why didn't God just destroy the rebels and start over? The problem is, that would not have actually solved anything. At the same time this was happening, there were still plenty of faithful angels in heaven, waiting to see what God's reaction would be. If he had simply wiped the rebels out of existence and started again, what message would that have sent to the other angels? Might not some begin to think that maybe Satan was right, and God was hiding something? Atheists are fond of saying "might does not make right," in other words, just because God has the power to do anything he pleases does not mean that any action he takes is necessarily good. The angels probably agree with that human sentiment.
God's solution, rather than wiping them out, was to allow Satan to make his case: that God's creation could rule itself without his interference; and what a horrible job mankind has done of ruling itself. Not a single government in human history has been able to eliminate even those elements which are at least theoretically controllable, such as poverty and crime, let alone sickness, natural disasters, death, and a myriad of other problems that plague mankind--all elements that Jehovah has the ability to eliminate if we choose to submit to him. But why has God allowed this to go on for so long? Jehovah, in his infinite wisdom, has allowed Satan enough time to fully complete this experiment, so that when it is over there will be no room for doubt. Over the millennia, nearly every form of government has been tried out (from limited totalitarianism, theocracies, and dictatorships to socialism, democracy, and republicanism), and all of them have failed miserably in eliminating mankind's problems. One form of government yet remains--one single, totalitarian government with global reach and unlimited authority and resources; such a government is currently being engineered. The pending total economic collapse and the resulting chaos that would breed fertile ground for what some have termed a "New World Order" is not a result of mankind's ineptness at ruling itself, but has been designed by the Devil himself, and there's a much more fear-inspiring reason for it than simply so that Satan can prove his point.
To give you an idea of that reason, the Devil knows his time is short--but I am jumping ahead of the story. Going back to Genesis, a prophecy was issued by God himself at the time of Adam and Eve's rebellion: "Then Jehovah God said to the serpent [...] I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head, and you will strike him in the heel" (Genesis 3:14, 15). This prophecy can be understood by looking at what Paul refers to as “God’s sacred secret” or “mystery” (1 Corinthians 4:1).
At 1 Corinthians 2:7, he speaks of "the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world, unto our glory" (KJV). This mystery, which was ordained before the world (or before "the ages" according to the NKJV) was the prophecy that was issued by God to the rebels before governments and human rulership began (depending on the translation, the world sometimes symbolizes the human population of the world or those that dominate the world, i.e., governments, such as when the Bible speaks of a time when the earth was all of one language). So the mystery of God is the prophecy about the serpent (which represents the Devil), a woman, and two offspring borne from each.
To unravel the mystery and identify the woman, we can turn to Mark 4:11, which states, "He said to them: ‘To you the sacred secret of the kingdom of God has been given.’” So the mystery has to do with the kingdom of God, and indeed, the offspring of the woman is identified as that kingdom (there is reasoning behind that, which is beyond the scope of this writing). The purpose of the millennial rule of the Kingdom of God is to reverse the millennia of destruction and degradation that corruption and sin has reaped on the Earth and on mankind, and to restore mankind to perfection and the Earth to a paradise, as was God's original purpose. Spear-heading this project would be the offspring of the woman, identified in two parts as Jesus Christ, and the 144,000 humans that are to be resurrected into heaven to rule with him in the Kingdom.
The mystery of the bruising of the heel and the bruising of the head becomes apparent with this understanding. God foreordained that Jesus would come to earth, become the baptized Christ, or promised-one, and die for humanity. But he would eventually be resurrected back into heaven. This was the heel wound that the serpent would cause to the offspring of the woman. Satan's head wound, however (a head wound being symbolic of something fatal, and not a surface wound such as the heel wound) will come once Jesus finally destroys Satan for good. It should be noted that this will not happen immediately. Revelation speaks of the Devil being thrown into the abyss for a thousand years, corresponding to Christ's thousand-year rule of peace, during which time mankind will be restored to perfection. After that time, Satan and the demons will once again be released for a short time to test people's resolve to stay faithful to Jehovah. At that time, there will be absolutely no excuse for doubting the existence of God or his sovereignty (which, again, is the purpose for why God has allowed evil to continue on for so long). People will be perfect and in the same position Adam and Eve were in when they were tempted by the Devil. After this short period of testing expires, then Satan will be sent to the lake of fire and experience the second death along with all those who rejected Jesus' rule (which he will have authority by God to carry out) during the thousand years.
After all this, everyone lives happily ever after, and the outcome of this whole experiment will be that such a test will never have to take place again (Isaiah 25:7, 8). The destruction and evil that abound as the result of the current rule of humans will stand as a testament forever to what happens when the creation tries to rule itself. This is symbolized in the Bible as smoke ascending as a warning signal (like the smoke of a wreckage) at Revelation 19:1-3 and at Revelation 14:11. Therefore, because of the ultimate outcome of this experiment, if anyone ever rejects God's rule again after the devil and all rebels have finally been done away with, there will be no room for doubt in anyone's mind that Jehovah has the absolute right and authority to eliminate that person without question, and that is the ultimate purpose for allowing this system, to vindicate Jehovah’s rightful Sovereignty.
So when is the kingdom going to be established? Well, the Bible says that no one knows the day or the hour of the return of the Son of Man (Jesus Christ), but when it is established, it will commence the beginning of a period of time referred to as the time of the end. From the moment the kingdom is established, there is a 1,335-day period before Armageddon, the final battle between Christ (in his heavenly form as Michael the Archangel), his 144,000 co-rulers and his angelic army, and Satan and the other demons. At the establishment of the kingdom, the Great Dragon (Satan) will be cast out of heaven and thrown to the earth (Revelation 12:9). The Bible says woe to the earth and the sea at that time because the Devil is cast down to the earth and knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12). That is when Satan will maneuver things into their final position to set up the totalitarian world-wide government spoken of before, and we see the pieces of this outcome falling into place already with increasing unrest in the world as regimes get toppled and governments are forced by the people to step down, and the ever-impending financial collapse (which will surely become a domino effect and devastate all governments of the world). Do not be fooled though--although we see the pieces falling into place for government collapse, the Bible does say that Christ's parousia (or "coming") will occur at a time when the leaders of the world are saying "peace and security" and it will occur at a time when "you" (referring to those who are saying "peace and security") do not think likely.
The final totalitarian government will be the vilest of all governments, not only because of its ultimately totalitarian nature fueled by Satan's wrath, but also because, since God's government will already have been established, Satan's new government (the eighth king of the book of Daniel) will be in direct opposition to Jehovah. It will be an illegal government formed by Satan after God has already established his government. For this reason, anyone giving allegiance to the eighth king will receive the so-called mark of the beast as a sign of their opposition to Jehovah's rule through their support of Satan's government.
You may argue that such a judgment is unfair because most people will be unaware of the government's symbolic position as opposing God's authority and therefore may be undeserving of receiving such a heavy judgment (the mark of the beast marks those who are to die in this system as a result of God's judgment and will therefore not receive a resurrection). To address this, first note that the Bible describes the governments of the world willingly giving up their sovereignty to this new government. In fact, after the devastation of the collapse of the world's governments (symbolized by the mortal wound of the wild beast in Revelation), the remnants of the governments and the people of the world will be so desperate for a savior, and that savior comes on the scene as what the Bible describes as essentially a resurrected wild beast. This new government, will come on the world scene as an answer to mankind’s problems in the aftermath of financial collapse. But the government will become tyrannical and totalitarian. It is at that point when it is obvious that the government is not benevolent that it will demand allegiance to be given it. Those that give allegiance will likely know that they are giving allegiance to an evil system, but one which has unlimited authority and resources and most people in the world will therefore not stand up against it, but rather give in to it. It is at this point that those loyal to God (even to their own death) will stand out from others because they will stand up in the face of death and tell the wild beast, "no" (not only because they know they will be resurrected, but also because they know it is the right thing to do). The fact of the matter is, while most people argue that God's judgments are evil and unfair, those people do not realize that if they are doing what is truly the right thing to do (which in this case includes standing up against a corrupt government), they will survive, even if they don't believe in God, because they will have avoided the mark of the beast by not giving in to a corrupt system. Let this stand as a warning to anyone who is faced with a tough choice between doing what is convenient and doing what is right.
That this new government will be in opposition to Jehovah is true in both spirit and action. The Bible tells us that the days will be cut short on account of the holy ones, and speaks of the blood of the holy ones being avenged in the Day of Judgment. In order to reach heaven, one must be born again in the spirit--this means that one must die in physical form. This is understood to be literal. The eighth king will murder the remaining holy ones, or anointed Christians, in an attempt to prove his point that no human would be faithful to God all the way to his own death (this is what the account of Job is all about).
With all this in mind, we arrive at the unmistakable conclusion that the purpose for allowing evil to go on for so long is solely to vindicate God's sovereignty. You might think this is selfish, but in reality, it's not all that different from how many parents raise their children. Parents will often allow their children to make mistakes so that they can learn from them, because we all know that experience is the best teacher. Of course, we would never allow our children to make such a grave mistake that it would risk their very lives, we allow them (usually) to make mistakes for which the benefits outweigh the risks. This is what Jehovah has done. Never for a second have things gotten to a point where they were beyond Jehovah's ability to fix. All the death and pain and suffering and tears that mankind has endured, Jehovah has the power and the will to fix it all. The book of Revelation tells us that God will wipe away mankind's tears and that death and pain will be no more. We will live in a perfect paradise forever, and it even says that the memory of this system will fade away (perhaps not literally, the effects of what happened as a result of mankind's self-rule will stand as a reminder to those who would disobey God, but the emotional scars will be fully healed), because, again, Jehovah has the power and desire to do that for us, which is far more than can be said of ANY government ever established by man.
1 Note: unless otherwise noted, all scriptures are taken from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT). For the sake of this writing, however, we will often use other, more popular, translations for a number of reasons. We will do this if we have decided that a certain translation illustrates a particular point better, or to highlight certain aspects of the original Greek or Hebrew word that are pertinent to a point being made. The following abbreviations are used for other translations: KJV (King James Version), NKJV (New King James Version), and NIV (New International Version).
3 The idea of inheriting sin from Adam is not the same sense as inheriting wealth from a parent. The inheritance of sin is more of a genetic inheritance. Since sin affects our genetic makeup (it causes the body to begin to break down), this genetic defect is passed on from parent to child.