Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
Two Escape From Hell—No Torment There!
By C. T. Russell
Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"In Hell he lifted up his eyes."
THOSE who wrote the Bible did their duty well. The Old Testament, covering the history of over four thousand years, tells us that all mankind at death go to Sheol—the tomb. The New Testament—written in Greek—tells the same story, using the word Hades as the translation of the Hebrew Sheol. It is in modern translations of the Bible that difficulty is encountered, particularly in the English. Nearly all these translations have been made within the last five hundred years. For 1300 years before the Bible had been little known, because not translated into the languages of the people, and because few could have read it if it had been translated.
In the Second Century the theory prevailed that the bishops were as much inspired as the Apostles and Jesus; for they were called Apostolic bishops. Bible study was considered unnecessary, because these Apostolic bishops were on the spot to give up-to- date information and communications from God. Then followed thirteen centuries of no Bible study, during which time, as the Apostles had forewarned, grievous wolves had come into the flock, making merchandise of the sheep for their own profit. (
.) Gradually the doctrines became so mingled with errors that the false teachers enslaved the people with fear, and then extorted money for the relief of the fears.
When Bible study revived in the Fifteenth Century, the errors were so entrenched in men’s minds that their thoughts were colored respecting every feature of faith. Those who translated the Bible doubtless did their best to set forth its meaning, but unconsciously gave little twists, in their endeavor to have the Bible say what they thought it meant. As an illustration, note
. There the translators have given us the expression, "resurrection of damnation," when nothing in the Greek justified the word damnation. The Revised Version renders it properly, "resurrection of judgment"—trial.
When the Hebrew word Sheol was being translated, Hell was the nearest word to fit their ideas. Hence they translated it Hell as many times as possible; and only when this was impossible did they give something approaching the proper translation—the grave.
There is another word for grave—qeber, a sepulchre, a mound, a monument. But doing their best to make Hell out of Sheol, they could only so translate it less than one-half of the whole number of occurrences. The Revised translation retains the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades, saying, Let the reader find out what it means; doubtless he will think that Sheol is the "hot place," and so the
OV362 common people will not know what an egregious blunder was made by the theologians.
Good men who know better permit their congregations to think that they believe in a burning Hell of torture, when privately they confess to the contrary. But they say, Let us not do good, lest evil follow—let us not tell the people, lest fewer would then come to church, and the power of superstition, which holds so many, be broken. Poor men!
They seem blind to the fact that these devilish doctrines are driving intelligent people away from God, from the Bible, and from the churches.
Two Escape from Hell.
The Bible tells of several who were released from Sheol, but of two the very word is used. The Prophet Jonah, swallowed by the great fish, was in its belly parts of three days. He calls it his tomb-belly—a sheol-belly. While there entombed, he cried unto the Lord in prayer, and the Lord delivered him. Jesus tells us that Jonah’s experiences typified His own—that as Jonah was buried in the sheol-belly of the fish, He would be buried in the Sheol of earth. As Jonah came forth on the third day, so Jesus came forth.
St. Peter points out that this was prophesied of Jesus, saying, "Thou wilt not leave My soul in (Sheol or) Hades"—the tomb. He says that God fulfilled this by raising Jesus from the dead.—
Whoever gets the proper focus will see that all, good and bad, go down to the tomb—to Sheol, Hades, called in our Bibles Hell. The Scriptures very distinctly tell us that "the dead know not anything;" that "their sons come to honor, and they know it not; and to dishonor, and they perceive it not of them." Why? Because, as again the Scriptures say, "There is neither wisdom nor knowledge, nor device, in Sheol, whither thou goest"—whither all go. This exactly accords with the divine statements, "The wages of sin is death;" "The soul that sinneth it shall die." There is not a word in the Bible for the commonly accepted thought that those who die go to Heaven or Purgatory or eternal torment. All these teachings are found in the various creeds; the Bible alone tells the simple story, reasonable, harmonious.
Gehenna Fire—Second Death.
It is true that Jesus used the words Gehenna fire, and that our translators mixed up the English reader by translating this word Hell, the same as Hades. But as all scholars will admit, Jesus used the word fire here symbolically, just as we use it, to represent destruction. Thus our newspapers tell about the great conflagration in Europe—not literally fire, but war, causing great destruction. So Jesus pointed out that, although He had come to save men from death, and eventually by a resurrection to lift up all who had gone down to Hades, nevertheless the relief would be only temporary, except to those who would conform to Divine Law. All others under the Second Trial would be condemned as unworthy of everlasting life and would die again. This Second Death would be everlasting, because Christ would not die again for those who would sin wilfully after being released from the first sentence.
Pointing to the valley outside of Jerusalem, used as a garbage furnace and called in the Greek Gehenna, and in Hebrew Valley of Hinnom, and also Tophet, Jesus declared that it illustrated the fate of all wilful sinners. Dead cats and dogs, etc., were thrown into the Valley of Hinnom, Gehenna, where fires were kept burning, and where brimstone was burned to kill the germs.
It is said that criminals of the worst type, after execution, were thrown into that valley, as intimating that they would not share in the resurrection. This thought Jesus emphasized—the utter destruction, in the Second Death, of any found incorrigible after having received full opportunity of return
OV363 to God through the merit of Christ’s sacrifice. The Bible everywhere holds out the thought that the Church now, and the world in its trial Day future, will be in danger of Gehenna destruction—the Second Death. Speaking of wilful sinners against full light, St. Paul says: "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction." (
.) St. Peter says, they shall perish "like natural brute beasts."—
Release from Sheol, Hades, the Tomb
Bible students know that Sheol and Hades could not be places of eternal torture; for the Scriptures say that they shall be destroyed. If Sheol and Hades are to be destroyed, how could anybody be tortured there everlastingly? The clergy know these things very well, but hide them from the people.
reads, "O grave (Sheol), I will be thy destruction!"
, "O grave (Hades), where is thy victory?"
, "Death and Hell (Hades), shall be cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the Second Death."
These Scriptures mean that the grave shall not always triumph over the human family, that mankind will be delivered by Messiah’s Kingdom from the power of the tomb, that we can rely upon God’s promise that ultimately Hades, the tomb, will be destroyed in the Second Death, symbolically represented by the Lake of Fire. Note that the symbol is explained—"the Lake of Fire, which is the Second Death."
In other words, all that are in their graves, in the tomb, the prison-house of death, shall ultimately be set free by the great Deliverer, the glorified Christ, who already has laid down His life as the Ransom-price, that sinners might not perish, but have the opportunity of everlasting life.
This opportunity has yet come only to the church, and to her by promise. Her covenant is to follow in her Master’s footsteps unto death, and the promise is that she shall have a superior resurrection, because of greater trials of faith and obedience to sacrifice.
"The gates of Hell shall not prevail against her." (
.) That is, as the Heavenly Father raised up Jesus Christ from the dead, so the gates of death shall not prevail against the Church.—
..With the world it will be different. Everything under the New Dispensation will prove that the reign of sin and Satan has terminated, that the Reign of Righteousness has begun. They will find themselves, not only coming back from the tomb, "every man in his own order," but gradually raised out of imperfection and weakness back to all that was lost in Adam and redeemed at Calvary if they will follow instructions. The great prison house will give up the prisoners; for He who died on Calvary obtained the key of Hades, as He tells us.—
The Rich Man in Hell
The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus would seem very simple if our minds had not been perverted with error; but, filled with the perversion, many find this parable difficult to understand and are inclined to throw away the entire Bible because of it. We hope to make the matter very plain. To be thorough, we must note the fact that lovers of the eternal torment doctrine insist that this is not a parable, but a literal description.
Let us see. Does it seem reasonable to say that with nothing said about his character as being either mortal or immortal, but simply on account of his fine clothes, his sumptuous food and his riches, a man should be eternally roasted? Is that a logical interpretation?
Similarly, it is not said that Lazarus was moral or immoral, but merely that he was poor, ate crumbs at the rich man’s gate, and was full of sores, which dogs licked. Is it reasonable to suppose that sores and destitution, without character, would be qualifications for Heaven? Surely not! If all
OV364 rich people go to eternal torment, if all people who wear fine linen and purple clothing and have plenty to eat must suffer to all eternity, what an aristocratic place Hell would be, and how full it would be! On the other hand, if only those who have sores and dogs to lick them, who lie at a rich man’s gate and eat crumbs from his table, go to Heaven, how few of us will get there! Moreover, if it is a literal statement, then Abraham here is a literal person, as well as Lazarus; and when Lazarus would get into his bosom, how many more could Abraham hold without letting some drop?
Surely this is not a literal statement, but a parable. Let us treat it from this viewpoint, remembering that a parable never means what it says. For instance, in the parable of the Wheat and Tares, the wheat does not mean wheat, but "children of the Kingdom;" the tares, "children of the Wicked One." Accordingly, the Rich Man does not mean a rich man, but stands for some class; and Lazarus does not mean a poor man, but stands for some class. Let us thus apply the matter.
Interpretation of the Parable
We suggest that the Rich Man of the parable represented the Jewish nation, rich in God’s favor. They "fared sumptuously" as no other people did. To them belonged the promise of the Kingdom, represented by the purple raiment of royalty. As a people they had the purging of their sins, typical justification, accomplished on their annual Atonement Day. This was their "fine linen," representing that righteousness was thus imputed to them as a people.
In A.D. 70, the Rich Man, the Jewish nation, died, when the last vestige of their government was destroyed by Titus, the Roman General. The nation has been asleep in Hades ever since, though the Jews have been very much alive and have suffered many things, especially amongst professed Christians of the tare class. Zionism, which has sprung up within the past thirty years, is the revival of hope that the Rich Man will be resurrected from Hades; and present indications point to this as a matter of speedy accomplishment—as soon as the fullness of the Gentiles shall have come into Spiritual Israel.—
Lazarus represented outcasts who desired favor with God, but were "aliens and strangers from the commonwealth of Israel"—Gentiles. They had no table with Divine promises from which to "fare sumptuously every day," no share in the promises of royalty represented by the purple robes, no "fine linen," representing justification from sin. Those things belonged to the Jew exclusively, until his national rejection and the subsequent opening of the door to the Gentiles, that they might become fellow-heirs with the saintly Jews, and followers of Jesus in the glorious things of God’s arrangement.
As the Jew died to his favors, so the Gentile died to his disfavor. As angels carried Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom, so the early Jewish Church, messengers of God and Christ, received believing Gentiles into full fellowship as brethren of the Seed of Abraham. This figuratively is described as Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom—treated as his child.
The Rich Man represented especially two tribes—Judah and Benjamin. Proportionately, the five brethren would represent the ten tribes. The parable represents the Rich Man as saying, I have five brethren. May not something be done for them? The answer shows that only Israelites could be meant—"They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them." Only the twelve tribes of Israel had Moses and the Prophets. The Gentiles had them not.
In Hell He Lifted Up His Eyes.
The dogs licking the sores in the parable represent that the Lazarus class were companions of dogs—indeed, "dogs" was a name which Jews commonly gave Gentiles.
OV365 used it, and gives an illustration of how believing Gentiles occasionally ate crumbs from the Rich Man’s table. The Syrophenician woman requested healing for her daughter, but Jesus declined, saying, "It would not be proper to take the food from the children’s table (the Jews) and give it to dogs (Gentiles.) She answered, "Yes, Lord; yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs." Then Jesus said: "O woman, great is thy faith!" and He gave her the crumb of relief which was not hers by right; for He testified, "I am not sent save unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel." The time had not yet come for giving Gentiles a place in God’s family as children of Abraham.
Who cannot see in this beautiful parable a teaching in full harmony with God’s Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power as it has applied during this Gospel Age? The parable does not show how God’s favor will return to the Jew in due time; other Scriptures, however, clearly teach this, as we have pointed out. May our eyes of understanding open to a true knowledge of God’s Word, and to a true appreciation of his glorious character! Then we shall love him better, and serve Him, not from fear, but as dear children.
I offer free of charge a booklet written with a view to making these figurative statements clear. Whoever will address me—Pastor Russell, Brooklyn, N.Y.—requesting a copy of a pamphlet about Hell, will be promptly served free of charge.
That pamphlet will clearly and concisely settle all your questions.
COMMUNION WITH OUR FATHER
OFT when alone in prayer I kneel Before my Father’s throne; I cannot tell Him all I feel, Nor make my wishes known.
With heart subdued, and head bowed low, I lean upon His breast, And while the tears unbidden flow, My love for Him confess.
I have no boon to ask of Him, Save that His will be done, To make me holy, pure within—An image of His Son.
But as He smiles and draws me near—His Spirit from above Floods all my soul with peace so dear, And fills my heart with love.
Though from my gaze He hides His face, My soul, from self apart, Hath found its happy resting place Close to His loving heart