The doctrine of “the immortality of the soul” and the associated teaching of “heaven and hell going at death” is a fundamental pillar of the apostasy which was drawn from pagan philosophy. Brother Roberts, in this lecture in Christendom Astray, not only gives the sound scriptural basis for the doctrine of the mortality of man and the hope of resurrection, but he also deals with many of the wrested scriptures that are commonly used to uphold the false teaching. Brother Roberts shows the true meaning of these texts, mainly from their context. All young brethren should carefully note the way that Brother Roberts so logically reasons through these difficult verses. The following summary is designed to assist in reading through this lecture.

Lecture 3

The Overall Objective

 To prove that the dead lie unconscious until the resurrection, and to consequently expose the popular belief in Heaven and Hell as error.

Inconsistencies in the Popular Theory of Heaven and Hell

  • If death is merely a change of state (from mortal to immortal) and not a destruction of being, why does the church mourn for those who have gone?
  • If the departed are really gone to “glory”, we ought to feel thankful—but we do not. Why? Because the strength of natural instinct can never be overcome by theological fiction. Men will never practically believe the occurrence of death to be the commencement of life, when they see it to be the extinction of all they ever knew or felt in life.
  • If the dead are not dead, the word “death” has lost its meaning. It is no longer the antithesis of life, the cessation of living existence, but simply a change of state and habitation. A man cannot die? This is the belief of the religious world.

Scriptural Phraseology Regarding Death

  • When the Bible speaks about death, it never says of the righteous that they have “gone to their reward”, or “winged their flight to a better world”, or that the wicked have “gone to answer for their misdeeds”.
  • Scriptural language expresses a contradictory doctrine to this false theory, eg “Isaac gave up the ghost and died, and was gathered unto his people” (Gen 35:29; 25:8; 49:33).
  • The Scriptures never speak of the dead as having gone away anywhere, but as dying, giving up their life, and returning to the ground.

The Dead are Unconscious

  • Never, except by an allowable poetical figure (Isa 14:4) or for the purposes of parable (Luke 16:19–31), are the dead represented as conscious.
  • The dead are always pictured as in the land of darkness and silence. Death sees the cessation of work, knowledge, wisdom, praise, love, hatred, envy and thought. (Eccl 9:5–6,10; Job 10:18–19; Psa 6:5;115:17; Isa 38:18–19).

Proof From the Resurrection

  • Bible doctrine demands that future life is only attainable after the resurrection, whereas, in the popular view, future life is a natural growth from the present.
  • It is difficult to see any use for the resurrection if we accept the popular idea of an immortal soul going to heaven or hell, for if a man “goes to his reward at death” it seems incongruous that, after a certain time, he should be compelled to leave and rejoin his body on earth for judgment!
  • It would be natural to suppose that admission into heaven in the first instance is proof of the fitness and acceptance of those admitted. Why then the trial afterwards?

Scriptures Cited to Justify the Theory of Heaven and Hell

  • Any scriptural evidence cited to justify the popular theory is inferentialit is supposed to imply the doctrine sought to be proved, but does not proclaim the doctrine itself.
  • Supposed evidence in the Bible in favour of false doctrine is so ambiguous as to be open to disputation as to its meaning.
  • It is unwise to found a dogma on a passage, which, from its vagueness, is susceptible of two interpretations, especially if that dogma is contradictory to unmistakable declarations elsewhere in the Scriptures.
  • Often the evidence is a parable. But a parable does not teach of itself; it teaches something else than itself, otherwise it is not a parable. Parables are based on fact, but are not necessarily limited to things that are possible (cp Judg 9:8; 2 Kings 14:9).

Everlasting Joy in Heaven Not the Reward of the Righteous

  • If the dead are really dead, they cannot go to any state of reward (or punishment) because they are not alive to go.
  • The Bible is emphatic that no man has entered Heaven. God dwells “in the light which no man can approach unto” (1 Tim 6:16). “No man hath ascended up to heaven” (John 3:13).
  • The dead are in their graves, awaiting the resurrection call (1 Thess 4:13–18). Peter illustrates this with (righteous) David, who is dead, buried and not ascended into the heavens (Acts 2:29, 34).
  • The earth we inhabit is where God’s great salvation will be manifested (Prov 11:31; Matt 5:5; Psa 2:8; 37:9–11; Rev 5:9–10).

  Eternal Torment in Hell is not the Destiny of the Wicked

  • The Church depicts Hell as an unfathomable abyss of fire, in which is reserved eternal torment for those who have displeased God in their mortal lives.
  • But how can God, in His mercy and justice, permit the overwhelming majority of the human race to come into existence with no other destiny than to be tormented?
  • The Bible instead teaches that “the wicked shall perish” (Psa 37:20) because “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). See also Proverbs 2:22; 10:25.
  • Hell” in the Scriptures is synonymous with the grave. • The Old Testament (Hebrew) word is “sheol”, meaning “a concealed or covered place” which is an appropriate description of the grave. Every use of the word “hell” in the Old Testament is covered under this general explanation.
  • The New Testament (Greek) equivalent of “sheol” is “hades.
  • In the New Testament a further word is translated as “hell”—the Greek word “Gehenna. This word is a proper noun and should have been transliterated, not translated.
  • Gehenna” signifies “the Valley of the Son of Hinnom”, and became a deposit for rubbish. Fires were kept burning continually there to consume the rubbish and prevent pestilence. In Christ’s day, the highest mark of disgrace that the council of the Jews could inflict was to order a man’s body to be cast there.

Conclusion

  • The popular theory regarding the state of the dead and heaven and hell is at variance with the truths of the Bible.
  • The dead lie unconscious in the grave, awaiting the resurrection call and judgment.
  • The righteous will “inherit the earth” for ever, while the wicked will perish and be no more.