Historical Meanings of Sheol & Hades
For those of you interested in getting to the bottom of the Watchtower's teaching on Sheol, Hades, condition of the dead etc.; this information is about as good as it gets.
The idea of consciousness after death was widely accepted from Israel's earliest times, contrary to what the Watchtower would have its members believe.
The lexicographical evidence is so clear that the great Princeton scholar, B. B. Warfield; stated that with modern Hebrew scholars, there is no “hesitation to allow with all heartiness that Israel from the beginning of its recorded history cherished the most settled conviction of the persistence of the soul in life after death. The body is laid in the grave and the soul departs to Sheol.”2 George Eldon Ladd in The New Bible Dictionary (p. 380), comments: In the Old Testament, man does not cease to exist at death, but his soul descends to Sheol.
Maybe after a lifetime of being immersed in the Egyptian environment - god-like Pharaohs, the hundreds of Egyptian gods, and the absolute conviction of an afterlife by the natives, these things might have had a bit of an effect on the future Israelites' thinking & practices.
Hence the reason for Moses' question to God - Exodus 3:13, as well as the many Israelites' readiness to build a golden calf to worship. No doubt a lot of them had adopted many of the Egyptian's beliefs.Moses had a converting work ahead of him!
Awesome! When I die it's not the end! If Armageddon doesn't kill me first, I get to rot in hell forever! I love your god Perry! Or, maybe I hit the jackpot by first being slaughtered at Armagedon AND THEN rotting in hell forever! I better run along to the nearest church and kiss the cross. BETTER YET, I need to go and join Perry's church for salvation and escape from damnation.
I wish there was more information on this. All the surrounding cultures believed in an underworld so its obvious that the Jews did to but the bible and many of their other writings are to vague for proof it would seem.
In genesis there are many vague mentions of faithful ones being 'gathered to their fathers' after death. It could mean being buried with them, or rejoining them in an afterlife.
This is one area where the JWs actually made sense to me. I cannot reconcile a God of love torturing someone for eternity because they picked the wrong religion. I don't care what the bible says about it one way or the other, it doesn't make sense.
If a parent deliberately burns their child as punishment they considered criminals and are locked up, why is God given a pass for something a thousand times worse? It would be cruel and vindictive, especially when you consider that there are thousands of religions and your place of birth dictates which one you get to belong to. If God would do that he is not a loving heavenly father but a monster
Sheol, according to the ancient Hebrews, was a huge underground cavern where the spirits of the dead dwelt. Both the good and the evil went there and they were supposed to have been asleep or barely conscious. Sheol is more accurately translated as the underworld. Hades was the later Greek term used for Sheol.
It is later, in the imaginations of theologians, that the underworld became compartmentalized into Paradise and Gehenna with the righteous and the wicked in their separate suites. The condition of the spirits was also more vivid. There they awaited the resurrection were their immortal spirits would be united with immortal bodies.
Sometime after the New Testament was written the underworld was eliminated and replaced with the current heaven and hell divisions. The resurrection can be considered an anticlimactic event since both sides know that they're going to either roast or dwell in orgasmic bliss through eternity.
Oh I forgot! The evil will suffer even more after the resurrection because they'll have physical bodies to feel the pain even more!
If you want more info on this than you can possibly digest in one week, try this:
I compiled this when challenged by a DF'd eldeer in Canoga Park area in about 1983, based on the two best books done on the subject , without their permission to quote so much. :-))
Robert Morey liked it because it agreed more with the traditional view, and a year or so later Fudge saw it on my site and wrote me saying I could have permission to quote so extensively from HIS book that he gave me post-permission to print it and put it online!
Needless to say, the ex- anointed elder had no response! Took me a long time. Though I have NEVER believed in hell, it was intended to show theerrors of the WT's position on hell (which is technically called "annihilationist." (Nothing survives your death.)
It was fun to compile!
This is one area where the JWs actually made sense to me. I cannot reconcile a God of love torturing someone for eternity because they picked the wrong religion.
You have to consider that hades and sheol NEVER meant the "grave" or non existence. People, all people will never be able to cease being conscious ... whether they are in the body or not.
JW's go so far as to claim that when we die, we get a clean slate and will never face a personal judgment. Hebrews 9: 27 claims the opposite. God promises that he will judge righteously and correctly. JW's worship a false God, one that doesn't judge us personally. Being unconscious after death and never having to face a personal judgment are ideas that are certainly easier to accept to beings like ourselves who are guilty of violating many of our own standards, not to mention Gods'. The gift of morality carries great responsibility.
From the scriptures a person can certainly learn that hades is temporary and is not emptied until after the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus on earth is completed. That is when the "unrighteous" will be resurrected, their souls and bodies are reunited so that the whole person can stand before God and receive judgment.
The idea of a personal judgment is lacking in Watchtower theology. This is the reason that I was so totally bewildered at the doors when I would sometimes get asked if Jesus was my "personal" savior. I didn't understand the seeming obsession with Christians using that term.
Of course in makes perfect sense when a person understands that there will be a "personal" judgment.
Lots of things are incorrectly understood by our limited perception, until the correct standard is applied.
We perceive that squares A & B are different shades. However, when the correct standard is applied it is easy to see how unbeliveably IDENTICAL they really are.
Here is how scholars reconstruct ancient Hebrew cosmology. Sheol is labeled "Underworld".
Not shown in this image is how the sun travels from west to east during the night. There was supposed to be a tunnel with an opening on both sides at the left and right (west and east) extremes of the dome where the sun would drop in and travel back to the east. That tunnel would have passed underneath "Sheol".