Sheol and the Resurrection of the Dead

Posted: 26th October 2007 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

Steve at Undeception has an interesting article today about Sheol and the Resurrection of the Dead:

The Hebrew word sheol, ubiquitous in the Old Testament, is translated in various Bible passages and translations as “the grave” or “the pit”, and in others left as is. The Alexandrian Jews who translated the Old Testament into Greek around 200 BC (the Septuagint), seeing what they considered an equivalent concept in Greek thought, used the Greek word Hades to translate the Hebrew word.

[…] the existence of a holding place for the souls of the departed was bolstered in Scriptures such as Daniel 12:2, which promised to surrender its sleeping prisoners at the time of the Promised One. This is the most clear indication that anyone living in Old Testament times was expecting what is known in later Jewish thought and in the New Testament as “The Resurrection of the Dead”.

[…] If, as preterists contend, the coming of the Son of Man in clouds of glory was apocalyptic imagery for the judgment of the Old Covenant system and apostate Israel, then the Resurrection of the Dead has already occurred (or rather, been occurring). It is all tied in together.

A hyper-preterist view is fully comfortable with this last statement since “the millennium” meant the time between Christ’s death/Pentecost and 70AD, and anything after that time is truly postmillennial.

As a partial preterist and an amillennialist, I’m a little uncomfortable with the last statement, since Revelation 20:4-5 can be read that the first resurrection applies to the first-century martyrs rather than the rest of the dead. I do think that Revelation was primarily a message of hope to first-century Christians. John’s vision in Revelation 20:4-6 (HCSB) —

[4] Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of God’s word, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with the Messiah for 1,000 years. [5] […] This is the first resurrection. [6] Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! The second death has no power over these, but they will be priests of God and the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years.

— seems to apply to his original (pre-70AD) audience, giving them hope that their current trials and troubles under Nero would result in righteous reward.

  1. Steve says:

    Good question, ElShaddai. I was already planning a follow-up precisely to expound on my rationale for that last bit. In short, full preterists believe that God has already fulfilled all Israel’s promises, yet Paul seemed to believe that the Resurrection was the capstone of the fulfillment of all God’s promises to Israel.

    When I’ve completed my follow-up, I’ll link it here.

  2. Josh H. says:

    @ElShaddai: I’m not sure if I’m a partial preterist, a full-preterist or some mixture of one of these and an amillennialist. I am completely baffled by Revelation 20 and the 1,000 years. I’m pretty sure I would not take it literally. But I definitely do not have a problem with applying the “emptying of Sheol” theory to this passage you have quoted .

    Now I guess my question would be is your being uncomfortable due to Steve’s parenthetical statement “or rather, been occuring”? Because I also raised my eyebrows at that point. This is because (even though I don’t have it all hammered out) I have heretofore held the opinion that all dead souls from the beginning of time “slept” until AD70 in which the arose from their graves, were judged (a la sheep and goats) and are now in heaven or hell, respectively. Then from there on out souls immediately go to Heaven or Hell. But this “rather, been occuring” statement has me wondering…

    @Steve: Do believe that resurrections are taking place throughout history? Is this simply a way of saying what I just said in my next to last sentence to ElShaddai above? I am anxiously awaiting for more info.

    This is good stuff, guys!

  3. Steve says:

    I do not claim full understanding of this particular aspect myself. I can only say this: I believe that the Resurrection referred to in Scripture has occurred in its fullness (see my forthcoming blog).

    If the Resurrection of the Dead is the emptying of Sheol, then think of it this way: once Sheol is emptied, it can’t be re-emptied. People who die today do not go to a holding ground (Sheol), so resurrection per se cannot recur indefinitely. My current understanding is that souls today are judged upon whether they accept Christ’s lordship; if this is done, judgment is rendered and the spirit is made incorruptible, and the believer enters the New Jerusalem, wherein the suffering under the Law and the fear of our soul’s mortality is alleviated once and for all. The unbeliever is judged immediately upon the point of no return, namely, death.

    There are a few different preterist takes on all this that I haven’t finished parsing. I readily admit that I don’t have all the answers, but then again, what realistic system subscribed to by honest people does not admit a few loose ends not entirely understood? I did not take up full preterism because it answered every mystery of eschatology, but because it simultaneously reduced the mystery drastically and then redistributed the remaining mysteries in a much more satisfactory fashion than any other viewpoint I have ever encountered.

    I hope this, and my blog, helps you understand my view a little.

  4. If the Resurrection of the Dead (Rev 20:4-6) includes the emptying of Sheol, then how do you account for the Rev 20:13, in which “the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works.” It seems that those dead should have been included in the Resurrection of the Dead. I’ve not seen any account that claims that those who die at sea are held in different death state than other deaths.

    But, if the v.4-6 Resurrection of the Dead is constrained to the first-century martyrs, then Rev 20:13 applies to everyone else, including all those who have died since 70AD up to present time. Even if you back up a couple of verses to the great white throne judgment, note that those being judged are described as being “dead”. If they’d been previously resurrected before the 1000 years, they would be alive.

    See also the part of verse 5 that I deliberately elided: “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were completed.” In the end, it really does depend on your view of the timing of the millennium. Amillennialism makes sense to me – we are in the millennium now, waiting and working while Christ conquers all enemies.

  5. Steve says:

    “The sea” is not the ocean! We’re dealing with apocalyptic imagery here. “The sea” is an Old Testament prophetic term, associated in many places with the Gentiles (for instance, the four beasts of Daniel 7 come up “out of the sea”). So not only would Old Covenant Israel be judged, but so would all who had died outside the covenant. However, “the depths” of the sea are also closely associated with “the grave” (refer to Jonah’s lamentations in the fish). I think the key to this verse in Revelation is the phrase “the sea also”: nothing will be left out of the Resurrection and subsequent judgment.

    I will address most, if not all, of the other issues presently. Just trying to finish it all up.

  6. Steve says:

    Here it is! Let me know what you think.

  7. “The sea” is not the ocean! We’re dealing with apocalyptic imagery here.

    I can’t believe I wrote that… I knew that, really I did.

  8. Steve says:

    😀 That was a graceful dismount, my friend!

  9. Your grace is appreciated. I could say that I was writing quickly with two toddlers tugging on me, but that would be an excuse… I am looking forward to reading your new article later tonight or tomorrow morning (before they wake up!).

  10. […] Tags: law, millennium, new covenant, old covenant, preterism, resurrection If you missed the link in the comments on “Sheol and the Resurrection of the Dead“, be sure to check out Steve’s new […]

  11. preteristheresy says:

    My site is strictly devoted to sharing heretical or absurd quotes made by Full Preterists to demonstrate the many errors and consequences of this system of interpreting bible prophecy.

    http://preteristheresy.blogspot.com/