Firpo Files 11-29-2012
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The Brimstone Zone?

Proof of Jesus Series: Article 10

The Firpo Files Newsmagazine

(November 29, 2012)

Our imaginations were set aflame with the discovery of Sodom and Gomorrah as discussed in the Proof of Jesus Series: Article 9 (Part 1 of 3), published November 15, 2012.

These cities were real, and celebrated scholar W. F. Albright conjectured that cities destroyed by fire sent from God "lay submerged beneath the shallow waters of the Dead Sea's southern basin." But is this God-sent fire and brimstone the same as "eternal hellfire"?

What is Hell?: Jesus of Nazareth went to "hell," but emerged unscathed. (Acts 2:31, King James Version) In fact, no one burns in "hell" (Greek, hai′des; Hebrew, sheʼohl; together they occur more than 70 times in the Bible).

Instead of being a specific place, "hell" is the state of unconscious nonexistence for those who once lived. (Ecclesiastes 5:9, 10) Therefore, wherever we cease to exist (lose consciousness and die) is our "hell." The dead everywhere are connected to the same "hell" because they all ceased to exist.

The Bible juxtaposes conscious living with unconscious death. They are opposites, as are light and dark; left and right; and up and down. None of these pairs can be experienced simultaneously. It follows, then, that we can't be unconsciously dead and consciously alive concurrently.

Conversely, resurrection means to exist again, irrespective of the fact that historically the universal custom among mankind has been to bury dead remains.--John 5:28, 29; compare Genesis 3:17-19.

Dividing "Death" & "Hell": While "Death" and "hell" are a closely-related tandem, there's a subtle yet distinct line of demarcation. (Hosea 13:14; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; see also Job 38:8) "Hell" (hai'des or sheʼohl′) invariably involves fleshly remains, whereas "death" involves unconscious nonexistence.   

It may be likened to a person who is genuinely dead clinically, but whose body--being sustained on life-support--is yet alive, and can even be harvested for organs.

The person has experienced "death" (unconscious nonexistence), but has not experienced "hell" (no remains), as it were. Because of this, "hell" always incorporates "death," but "death" may not include "hell." The Bible establishes a loose dichotomy between "hell" (Ecclesiastes 3:18-20; 9:10), and "death."--Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6.   

Blazing "Inferno"?: The faithful prophet Jonah was as good as dead while in the belly of the "whale" for three days. Significantly, he called that cavity, which he thought was to contain his corpse, an 'inferno,' Latin for hai′des and sheʼohl. (Jonah 2:2, Biblia Sacra Vulgata) Obviously, the "whale's" wet belly was no blazing inferno, just as "the heart of the [cold, moist] earth"--where Jesus (who Jonah typified) was for three days--was no roaring fire.--Matthew 12:39-41.

What about the "everlasting punishment" Jesus spoke of at Matthew 25:46? (KJV) The root Greek word for "punishment" (kolazoo) means "cutting off." Hence, one source says that the guilty are "cut off [or ‘restrained'] ... from life, or society," as if in a jail or prison. No wonder the "tormenters" (as some translations call them) Jesus spoke of at Matthew 18:34 (KJV) are more accurately called "jailers." (Matthew 18:34, King James 2000 Bible) These "jailers" "cut off" the culpable, immobilizing them away from society.

Did Jesus' discussion of the rich man and Lazarus at Luke 16:19-31 teach that the wicked are tormented? No. It was an illustration. Even the Catholic Jerusalem Bible in a footnote confesses that it is a "parable in story form without reference to any historical personage."

What about the ‘lake of fire and brimstone,' or, "Gehenna"? (Matthew 5:30, Aramaic Bible in Plain English) Jehovah spoke of "the garbage dump in the valley of Ben-Hinnom [or "Gehenna]," where the unfaithful "burn their sons and daughters in the fire." They committed this "horrible deed" that "never even crossed my mind!" (Jeremiah 7:31, New Living Translation) Jehovah never sponsors torment, whether fleeting or forever. Also, a real Jesus of Nazareth referenced Jerusalem's very real "garbage dump." Incorrigibly wicked people are ‘destroyed'--not tormented--in "gehenna." (Matthew 10:28, Young's Literal Translation) You don't moan in the brimstone zone.  

When Death "Dies":  A resurrected Christ gave John a vision where the apostle saw "death and hell ... cast into the lake of fire [or Gehenna]." (Revelation 1:1; 20:13, 14, KJV; see also Matthew 25:41) Therefore, "death" dies and "hell" drowns in "the lake of fire," clearing the way for endless life. (Revelation 21:3-5) Prior to that, the Devil and demons are incarcerated for a thousand years, released, then ‘jailed' "forever" in Gehenna, "cut off" from a peaceful earthly society.--Revelation 20:1, 2, 13, 14; Matthew 25:41. Next, Part 3.