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Preaching to the Dead (Postmortem Evangelism): The good and the bad news

postmortem evangelismAs conscious and deliberate unbelief is the only ground of condemnation (John 3:18, 36. Matthew 10:32-33. Mark 16:15,16. Romans 10:9-12. Ephesians 4:18. 2 Peter 2:3, 4. 1 John 4:3) postmortem evangelism must occur for God to justly determine who to condemn for conscious and deliberate unbelief.


As God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4 NKJ) it follows logically the gospel is preached to the dead so all have opportunity to be saved and know the truth:

For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1Pe 4:6 NKJ)

However, I take the logic further and include even those who heard about Christ but because they didn’t see all things clearly rejected His claims and died unbelieving. I deduce this because God is not partial (Rom. 2:11) and He grants Israelis who die blind and unbelieving mercy to be saved (Rom. 11:25-33).

They died unsaved enemies of the gospel, yet they are saved at Christ’s coming [1] Therefore, even blasphemy against the Son of Man can be forgiven (Mt. 12:32), if they repent and live according to God in the spirit (1Pet. 4:6). As that is true of Israelis, the God who is not partial (Rom. 2:11) will make it true for non-Israelis (Gal. 3:28-29. Rom. 11:25-33).

However, Salvation is restricted (“Christian Exclusivism”) to those who confess Jesus is LORD.

That is the explicit teaching of God’s Holy Word. No one goes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation (John 3:16-18). Jesus is the only Name whereby salvation can be attained (Ac. 4:12).

Therefore, only a conscious and deliberate acceptance of Jesus as LORD saves (Rom. 10:9-13):

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (Rom. 1:14 KJV)

How then shall “all Israel be saved”, how will they recognize their Deliverer when He comes from Zion to deliver them (Rom. 11:26-33) unless someone preach the Gospel of Christ to them in Hades? (comp. 1Pet. 3:19)

For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1Pe 4:6 NKJ)

Christ and His apostles taught postmortem evangelization:

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good (οἱ τὰ ἀγαθὰ ποιήσαντες), unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil (οἱ δὲ τὰ φαῦλα πράξαντες), unto the resurrection of damnation. (Jn. 5:28-29 KJV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10 NKJ) See also Mt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6-8; 14:10.

Men will be rewarded or punished according to the deeds they do while living. That isn’t disputed.

However, Jesus’ words in John 5:28-29 raise another question: Do deeds done “while in the graves”—up until they “hear his voice”, count? At first read the Greek suggests that. The two clauses “they that have done good…they that have done evil” are aorist participles. “An aorist participle usually refers to antecedent time with respect to the main verb.”- Heiser, M. S., Setterholm, V. M. (2013; 2013). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Lexham Press.

So its possible included in the “done good…or evil” are deeds they were doing right up until they heard Jesus’ voice, while still in the graves.

Impossible you say? Let us review the John 5:24-29 context.

There are two different time frames. “Now is” (John 5:25) Jesus’ Day. The “resurrection of life…condemnation” happen in the End Time on Judgment Day (John 5:29; Rev. 20:13-15).

There are three different groups of humanity. The “First Group” heard and believed Jesus therefore “shall not come into judgment” having “passed from death into life (John 5:24-25). The “First Group” was saved by grace through faith” (John 5:24-25; Eph. 2:5-9) “IN THIS LIFE” and Christ brings them “with Him” (1Th. 4:13) at His second coming (1Th. 4:15-17. 1Cor. 15:51-54). They will reign with Christ as His Kings and Priests (Rev. 1:6; 20:6).

Therefore, the First Group are not in the graves (Hades) when Christ calls them out. They are not among the other Two Groups who rise to a “resurrection of life” or “condemnation” when Christ’s voice orders them out of the graves to be judged (John 5:28-29). These Two Groups missed believing in Jesus in this life, they are dead in Hell until they hear Christ’s voice, then they are resurrected (Jn. 5:28-29. Rev. 20:13-15).

If they were being judged only for deeds done while in the body, then none of them could rise to a resurrection of life. Therefore, the fact some WILL rise to a resurrection of life proves postmortem evangelization, they must have added to their deeds done while in the body that justify them being raised into life. Those deeds must have been done while “in the graves” between their dying unsaved and hearing Christ’s voice.

Not being saved by grace while the opportunity was open makes their judgment acccording to works (Rev. 20:13-15) similar to the Sheep and Goat Judgment who survived Armageddon and saw Christ and His angels return (Mt. 25:31-46).

How are they similar? Like John 5:24-29 there are “Three Groups” of people in Matthew 25:31-46. The “sheep and the goats” (Mt. 24:33) and “Christ’s brethren” (Mt. 25:40, 45), those saved by grace through faith” (John 5:24-25; Eph. 2:5-9) “IN THIS LIFE”. Jesus brings them “with Him” (1Th. 4:13) at His second coming (1Th. 4:15-17. 1Cor. 15:51-54) and they are now seated with Him as Kings and Priests (Rev. 1:6; 20:6). So they are neither the sheep or the goats. The Sheep and the Goats failed to be saved before Christ arrived, which is just like failing to be saved in this life by those who came out of the graves. Both missed their chance to be saved by grace while “salvation through faith” was still possible:

Faith is possible only while the object of faith is unseen. Once its seen, its longer “faith” if one believes in it:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1 NKJ) See also (Rom. 8:24. 2Co. 4:18; 5:7)

That is why the sheep and the goats couldn’t save themselves by saying “Now we have faith in you.” The time for salvation by faith had ended, now they would be judged according to their works.

So they are just like those coming out of the graves. Those that “done good” helping Christ’s brethren (Mt. 25:34-40) are saved by grace, those who “practiced evil” not helping Christ’s brethren during the tribulation (Mt. 25:41-45) are condemned for “doing evil” and cast into the everlasting fire (Mt. 25:46. Jn. 5:28-29. Rev. 20:13-15).

Therefore, what they did right up until the time of hearing Christ’s voice or seeing Him visibly, counts.

The survivors of Armageddon failed to be saved in this life by grace through faith, so also did the the dead in the graves. Both are judged according to what they did up until encountering Christ.

Therefore, Jesus Himself taught postmortem evangelization and salvation on Judgment Day of Christ. Added to what was done while in the body, is what they did in hell.

Just as the apostle Peter wrote, when evildoers mocked the Gospel Peter and his church preached, Peter hastens to say “it was not in vain we preached to these spiritually dead. In fact, it was for this reason we preached to them. When they are in hell suffering for living according to men in the flesh, then they will recall what we preached and can choose to live according to God in the spirit (2PET. 4:6). They would do that so their spirit could be saved in the “Day of the Lord Jesus” (1Cor. 5:5. Jn. 5:28-29; Rev. 20:13-15).

4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.
5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
(1 Pet. 4:4-6 NKJ)

Doesn’t the Bible teach there are no works in hell?

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. (Eccl. 9:10 NKJ)

Notice it says there is no wisdom or knowledge in hell either. But its a fact Abraham and the rich man in Hell displayed both in Christ’s parable (Lk. 16:22-31). Therefore, its best we interpret: ‘get the maximum enjoyment from your labors in this life, because once you are dead all that ends.’

Is it possible to “do good” in Hell?

Jesus “did good” while dead in Hades preaching the Gospel to the spirits in prison (1Pet. 3:18). Peter says the dead can “do good” living according to God in the spirit (1Pet. 4:6). The “rich man” expressed concern for his family that they not end up in Hades with him (Lk. 16:27-28), that certainly was “doing good.” If not for the “great gulf” stopping the redeemed from crossing over into Hades its implied they could have done good for those suffering in Hades (Lk. 16:24-26). Jesus did good when He ascended from hell leading captivity captive (Ps. 68:18. Eph. 4:8-9).

Choosing to forsake evil and seek peace with God, and pursue it is “doing (4160 ποιέω poieo) good (18 ἀγαθός agathos)” (Jn. 5:29):

Let him turn away from evil and do (4160 ποιέω poieo) good (18 ἀγαθός agathos); Let him seek peace and pursue it. (1 Pet. 3:11 NKJ)

Lets review other pertinent scriptures:

Christ appears to the dead looking for Him unto salvation:

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look (553 ἀπεκδέχομαι apekdechomai) for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Heb. 9:27-28 KJV)

The Judgment after men die once occurs on Judgment Day, the Day of Christ (Acts 17:31. 2Tim. 1:12; 4:8. 1Jn. 4:17. 1Cor. 5:5. Rev. 20:11-15), not day of death. Therefore, “them that look for Him” seems to focus on all “living according to God in the spirit” who “eagerly wait” (553 ἀπεκδέχομαι apekdechomai) Christ’s coming “unto salvation” (1 Cor. 5:5. Jn. 5:28-29. 1Pet. 4:6. Rev. 20:13-15). Both those who eagerly waited for the “gathering” “rapture- resurrection” of the church (1Th. 4:13-16) and those who died later missing that event but now eagerly waited for Judgment Day fit the description in this text. [7].

The dead respond to the gospel and are saved in the Day of Christ:

For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1 Pet. 4:6 NKJ)

“Those who are dead” are the physically dead, compare “the living and the dead” (1Pet. 4:5. 2Tim. 4:1. Ac. 10:42). While alive these rejected the preaching of the church, thought godly living “strange” and spoke evil of believers who preached to them. For that sin they will answer to God (1Pet. 4:4-5).

[But the preaching was not in vain even though the mockers died unbelieving]. For this reason the gospel was preached, so when in hell suffering God’s judgment for living according to men in the flesh, they will recall the preaching and “live according to God in the spirit.”

Repenting in hell brings salvation on Judgment Day (Jn. 5:28-29; Rev. 20:13-15) “Day of the Lord Jesus”:

deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Cor. 5:5 NKJ)

Paul judged the sexual sins of an unsaved church member so horrible he be turned over to the Devil who has the power of death (1 Cor. 5:1-4. Heb. 2:14) to destroy his flesh, which would kill him. This is done so “his spirit may be saved” once freed of bodily lusts. Paul is uncertain if will repent and live according to God in the spirit, but he’s willing to give it a try. Hopefully, in the Day of the Lord Jesus he will rise to the “resurrection of life” (Jn. 5:28-29).

Christ preached to spirits in prison[2]. Most take this to mean Christ proclaimed doom. Why these spirits imprisoned in hell didn’t already know they were doomed is never explained.

Commentators miss the antitype Peter saw (1Pet. 3:21). Peter insisted the antitype had nothing to do with the Flood or waters of Baptism washing away filth (of earth or believer):

There is also an antitype which now saves us– baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 3:21 NKJ)

The parallel correspondence (antitype) is “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1Pet. 3:21) that Jesus’ preaching (1Pet. 3:19) now received from the spirits in prison. It was the same He received from the church. Now that the spirits in prison believed the preaching, Peter saw the antitype of baptism.

Just as we are buried with Him in baptism and then raised to newness of life seated in heavenly places (Rom. 6:4. Col. 2:12. Eph. 2:6), so corresponds these spirits in prison now that they believed the preaching and gave the answer of a good conscience. Through the resurrection of Christ they also have newness of life seated with Him in heavenly places at the right hand of God, with all the other angels and authorities and powers subject to Him (1 Pet. 3:22).

Therefore, it is possible to repent in Hades and live according to God in the spirit. These spirits in prison illustrate postmortem evangelization perfectly.

Jonah could not liken his experience to being saved from Hades if he didn’t believe it happens:

2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. (Jon. 2:2-6 KJV)

Other relevant scriptures:

1Sam. 2:4-10; 22:5-7. Ps. 16:10-11; 30:3; 49:15; 56:14; 71:19-24; 88:1-18; 107:10-15; 116:3-9; 118:17-18; 142:1-7. Pr. 5:22. Is. 4:4; 14:9-10; 24:22; 26:19-21; Lam. 3:25. Ez. 31:16-18; Hos. 13:14; Jon. 2:2-6; Mic. 7:7-9; Zec. 9:11;

For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. (Psa 86:13 KJV)

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. (Hosea 13:14 KJV)

As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. (Zec. 9:11 KJV)

Christ’s appearance in the “Galilee of the nations” (=unsaved pagans) is like preaching in the abode of the dead the “Shadow of Death” (Job 10:21-22; 38:17) alluding to deliverance from death (cf. “gates of hell” Job 38:7, 17. Isa. 38:10 = “gates of bronze”, bars of iron Ps. 107:10-16) by the preaching of Christ:

15 Land of Zebulun, and land of Naphtali, the lake-way across the Jordan,–Galilee of the nations,
16 The people that was sitting in darkness, a great light, beheld,–and, on them who were sitting in land and shade of death, Light rose on them.
17 From that time, began Jesus to be making proclamation, and saying,–Repent ye, for the kingdom of the heavens hath drawn near. (Matt. 4:15-17 ROT)

The non-elect (“the undetermined”)[1] of Israel die enemies of the Gospel (Rom. 11:28) and go to hell for their unforgiven sins (Ac. 4:12. Mk. 16:16. Jn. 3:18; 14:6). They remain in Hades until their Deliverer comes forth from Zion, at His Second coming (Rom. 11:26-32).

Those who lived according to God in the Spirit confessing Christ as LORD in Hades are now eagerly looking for His coming so they can rise at the gathering/rapture of the church (1Th. 4:13-17. 2Th. 2:1. 1Jn. 3:2. Rev. 14:14-16; 20:4-6) [7].

26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience,
31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.
32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”
36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:26-36 NKJ)

Clearly some raised from hell WERE written in the book of life after all. Only those who rise from hell not in the book of life are cast into the fire:

13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:13-15 KJV)

“The rich man” represents unbelieving Jewish Elect of God:

When the Pharisees deride Jesus (Lk. 16:14) for saying they “cannot serve God and mammon”, Jesus rejects their authority (Lk. 16:15) and their traditions. It is vain they honor God because their hearts are far removed from Him. They esteeming money above charity and that God hates. Their carefully crafted justifications to excuse their disobedience to Moses doesn’t fool God (Mk. 7:6-13). Then Jesus asserts His authority (Lk. 16:16), the law was only until John, now all must listen to Him. God requires it (Deut. 18:15-19). All heeding the King of the Kingdom are pressing into it before you (Mt. 8:11-12). Prostitution for mammon is adultery, and God’s law will be fulfilled. Contrary to their traditions, Abraham will not stop their descent into hell[3]. He is with the poor they despised (Lk. 16:22-23).

However, these Pharisees are followers of Jesus, their claim to being children of Abraham is not rejected as He did to those opposed to Him (Jn. 8:3-40).

Hades is an “intermediate” place, a temporary hold that is emptied of souls (Rev. 20:13) and cast into the fire of destruction in the Day of Christ (Rev. 20:14). At that time the great gulf barrier (Lk. 16:26) is destroyed also and therefore does not prevent postmortem salvation which occurs when rising to life from Hades (Jn. 5:28-29. 1Cor. 5:5; Rev. 20:13-15).

The “rich man” addresses Abraham as Father and Abraham acknowledges the relationship calling him tenderly “son” (Lk. 16:24-25). So the “rich man in Hades” is one of God’s Elect who died unredeemed. He is not forever dammed, the torments temporary until Judgment Day when, if he rises with the name of Jesus on his lips (Ac. 4:10-12) he will rise to a resurrection of life (Jn. 5:28-29. 1Pet. 4:6. 1Cor. 5:5. Rev. 20:13-15).

Confirming the “rich man” is one of God’s elect, the redeemed in paradise desire they lessen the torment or rescue them altogether. But its not permitted, an impassible barrier prevents it (Lk. 16:26). The “rich man” cannot symbolize the eternally lost wicked, Abraham and the redeemed would not display tender affection and concern for God’s enemies receiving their just punishment (cp. Rev. 11:17-18), nor would Abraham tenderly call him his “child” (5043 τέκνον teknon).

Jesus’ purpose was to impart wisdom to the Pharisees following Him, they were in sore need of correction. While they are the focus of the parable it is legitimate we extrapolate to all of the dead (Col. 1:20), not just the elect (1Jn. 2:2). All in Hades have opportunity to repent (1 Cor. 5:5. 1Pet. 4:6) when Hades is emptied out (Jn. 5:28-29; Rv. 20:13-15), provided they have not committed eternal sins in this life (Mt. 12:31-32; Mk. 9:42-48; Rev. 14:9-11).

Jesus’ parables are true to the reality being revealed via symbol. Jesus would not use lies to illustrate truth. The parable’s purpose was to educate his Pharisee followers to repent before its too late, not reveal everything about the dead. The Pharisees already believed their stay in Hades was temporary.[4]

Its the custom of some to dismiss the Pharisees entirely, however Jesus our LORD never did. In fact, they receive a great compliment for knowing much that is true:

50 “and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
51 Jesus said to them, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”
52 Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matt. 13:50-52 NKJ)

The apostle Paul called himself “a Pharisee even the son of a Pharisee” and he claims to hold the same doctrines as the Pharisees (Ac. 23:6). Its impossible the Paul revealed in the NT lied about this.

Christendom’s eschatology isn’t “apostolic”, its “Catholic” consensus built from the contradictions of the fathers superimposed upon the Bible. For example, the hasty generalization fallacy Hades (Mt. 11:23; 16:18; Lk. 10:15; 16:23; Ac. 2:27, 31. 1Co. 15:55. Rev. 1:18; 6:8) and Gehenna (Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk. 9:43, 45, 47; Lk. 12:5; Jas. 3:6) are the same place. Confirmation bias is so strong most versions translate both as “hell”. “Souls suffer in Hades” (Lk. 16:23), a place of spiritual torment. “Body and soul” suffer in Gehenna (Mt. 10:28), a place of physical and spiritual torment. Therefore, they cannot be the same place.

God is victorious over Death and Hades and they are destroyed in the “lake of fire” aka “Gehenna” (Rev. 20:14. 1 Cor. 15:55). In contrast, Gehenna is eternal the “home” (Mt. 10:28; Rev. 20:13-15) of resurrected souls experiencing God’s wrath communicated via abominable resurrection bodies (Isa. 66:24; Dan. 12:2; Mk. 9:42-48).

With greater severity Christ warned about Gehenna (Mt. 10:28; Mk. 9:42-48) than Hades (Lk. 16:23-31).

Prayer for the Dead

16 The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain;
17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me.
18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy (1656 ἔλεος eleos) from the Lord in that Day– and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus. (2 Tim. 1:16-18 NKJ)

Paul is so grateful for Onesiphorus’ ministry in Ephesus and while a prisoner in Rome, his “pious wish” is the mercy shown to him be reciprocated by the LORD on Judgment Day.

It wasn’t long before this text coupled with the apocryphal 2 Maccabees 12:44, 45 gave rise to Catholic belief in purgatory. While Protestants correctly reject the eisegesis for sound reasons, they missed the most elegant explanation of Paul’s “pious wish”. It had nothing to do with purgatory or the realm of the dead at all:

7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.
8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:7-10 NKJ)

We all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive rewards for what was done in the body. As believers are already saved by grace through faith they do not come into judgment (Jn. 5:24-25) over their salvation.

Rather they are judged for deeds done in the body as Christians, to receive rewards.

Paul’s “pious wish” was for Onesiphorus to receive the “kindness” (1656 ἔλεος eleos) he so generously showered upon others and Paul, when believers receive their special rewards done for deeds while in the body.

Its impossible prayer for the dead accomplish anything.

Just as it was impossible for the redeemed with Abraham crossover and help those suffering in Hades (Lk. 16:26), so also it is impossible prayers of the living or anything they do will improve the lot of those in Hades.
God who desires all men be saved (1Tim. 2:4) is perfectly motivating them to repent and be saved in the Day of the LORD Jesus, and not be cast into the Lake of Fire (Jn. 5:28-29. 1Pet. 2:6. 1Cor. 5:5. Rev. 20:13-15). The torments of Hades perfectly illustrate God going to the “perfect extreme” hoping to save all from being cast into the Lake of Fire. Of course, as the gift of free will is actual and not an illusion, there are those who simply cannot abide in righteousness with a Holy God so in spite of everything, they will be lost. Also those who commit eternal sins, such as accepting the mark of the Beast (Rev. 14:7-9), blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:21-32) or stumbling one of Jesus’ children (Mk. 9:42-48)

Believers go immediately into third heaven paradise upon physical death to be present with the LORD (Jn. 5:24-25. 2Cor. 5:8. Lk. 16:22; 23:43). Nothing remotely purgatorial is in their future. Hades which is similar to the concept of “Purgatory” is what exists for the unsaved dead to lead them to repentance.

Baptized for the dead

11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Cor. 15:11-12 NKJ)

29 Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? (1 Cor. 15:29 NKJ)

Some in Corinth rejected apostolic preaching of a future resurrection of the body (1Cor. 15:11-12). Evidently, they still believed in baptism “for the remission of sins” (Ac. 2:38) for they suppose proxy baptism for the dead by the living would effect their salvation.

Paul is neither endorsing the practice, nor citing it without rebuke for the sake of his greater argument for the resurrection. Note the parallel “what will they achieve” (1Cor. 15:29) with “what profit to me” (1Cor. 15:32).

In Talmudic style (Ac. 22:3) Paul rejects the illogic. As the body that was baptized remains dead, it gained nothing. There was no value to the act of baptism:

“What do they achieve who are baptized for the dead, as what was baptized does not rise at all? Why then are they (proxies) baptized for the dead?.

Much can be inferred about the beliefs of these “some” who found the resurrection too hard to believe. It suffices 1 Corinthians 15:29 is irrelevant to our discussion of the intermediate state as a place of possible redemption. Paul’s only goal is to defend the doctrine of the resurrection against heresy, not discuss the intermediate state. Confirming that, everything he says thereafter concerns the resurrection and the sort of body that rises, likely addressing their concerns about it. Therefore, nothing in Paul’s argument supports vicarious baptism for the dead, rather Paul rejected everything the heretics believed about it.

Back to the point.

Hades is the “intermediate state” that will be emptied of its dead on Judgment Day (Rev. 20:13-15) and who rise confessing Jesus is LORD will be saved. Where is that revealed in Scripture? Apart from the versus already cited, it follows logically from the principle of “equal treatment under the law” which God Himself established as the principle all Judgment must follow. God shows no partiality, therefore neither can His people. Whether its a direct statement of God’s impartiality or His demand judgment be impartial, its scriptural proof the Final Judgment of God will show no partiality (Exod. 23:3.Lev. 19:15.Deut. 1:17.Deut. 10:17.Deut. 16:19.2 Chr. 19:7.Job 32:21.Job 34:19.Job 37:24.Ps. 82:2.Prov. 18:5.Prov. 24:23.Prov. 28:21.Mal. 2:9.Acts 10:34.Rom. 2:11.Eph. 6:9.Col. 3:25.1 Tim. 5:21.Jas. 2:1, 4, 9.Jas. 3:17.1 Pet. 1:17.)

For example, Paul applies the principle of impartiality when saying “For if God did not spare the natural branches (Israel), He may not spare you either (Rom. 11:21). Notice he continues to apply it the next few verses (Rom. 11:22-24).

The principle of equal treatment under God’s law is scripturally established. (Election-predestination is no contradiction of this.) [5]

Its deducible among “all Israel” that will be saved (Rom. 11:26) were those who died enemies of the gospel in Hades as Paul wrote, because Paul speaks of the Deliverer Christ coming in the future to take away their sins (Rm. 11:26-27; Ps. 14:7. Is. 45:17). Moreover, the question “are the gifts and calling of God irrevocable” (Rm. 11:29) arose because Israelites died enemies of the gospel, raising the issue if “gifts and calling of God” were revoked.

So the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable, death doesn’t revoke them. The gift of His Son to the world remains despite their unbelief (John 3:16-17). When they believe, they will be saved. God’s non-Elect are not exempted from being saved through faith in the Christ (Ac. 4:12; Eph. 2:8; Ac. 16:31; Jude 1:5).

Just as Israel’s sins are turned away on Judgment Day because in Hades they received Jesus Christ their “Deliverer” (Rom. 11:25-36), so also Gentile sins are turned away on Judgment Day because in Hades they received Jesus Christ their Deliverer. Otherwise, God is showing partiality (Ac. 10:34-35; 15:9. Rom. 2:11; 10:12. Eph. 6:9. 1Pet. 1:17. Deut. 10:17).

Its possible after the “first resurrection” rapture of the Church (1Th. 4:13-17. Rev. 14:14-16; 20:3-6) more in Hades repent and turn to God. That is deducible by the existence of a “resurrection of life” on Judgment Day (Jn. 5:28-29; Rev. 20:13-15). This parallels the conversion of the Elect after the Rapture. Before God’s wrath is poured out Christ’s angels gather the repentant Elect from the entire earth (Mt. 24:31. Dan. 12:1).

So “what is the bad news?

The torment in the “lake of fire” (gehenna, gehinnom) is far worse than torment in Hades, the fire is unquenchable but in Hades a little water could lessen the pain (Lk. 16:24). Also the torment not so great one cannot think, talk. Far less that what causes uncontrollable gnashing of teeth (Matt. 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30. Lk. 13:28):

43 ‘And if thy hand may cause thee to stumble, cut it off; it is better for thee maimed to enter into the life, than having the two hands, to go away to the gehenna, to the fire — the unquenchable —
44 where their worm is not dying, and the fire is not being quenched.
45 ‘And if thy foot may cause thee to stumble, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into the life lame, than having the two feet to be cast to the gehenna, to the fire — the unquenchable —
46 where their worm is not dying, and the fire is not being quenched.
47 And if thine eye may cause thee to stumble, cast it out; it is better for thee one-eyed to enter into the reign of God, than having two eyes, to be cast to the gehenna of the fire —
48 where their worm is not dying, and the fire is not being quenched; (Mk. 9:43-48 YLT)

PS: The biblical data is not contradictory. Gehenna is a place of physical torment (Mt. 10:28; Gal. 6:8). Its literally “dark” to those in it because the abominable resurrected carcases (“zombies”) cannot see (Is. 66:24). The fire likely as real as such fire can be. The pain from burning is what the fires represent. Weeping indicates the tormented will feel remorse, gnashing of teeth they suffer great physical pain. The corrupting worm is a torment similar to the experience of being eaten by corruption.

This is truly bad news for the wicked.

But lest anyone think the punishment unjust, the duration of punishment is according to deeds (Rev. 20:12-13). Punishment is proportional to sin: “Eternal Torment” for eternal sins (Mt. 12:31-32; Mk. 9:42; Rev. 14:9-11), which requires “less than eternal torment” for “less than eternal sins.”[6]

“Second Death” Punishment is everlasting because no return is possible, the way back to God removed forever (2Th. 1:9). Its the “second death” from which no resurrection (return) is revealed in scripture. It does not follow “torment” is eternal, that endless existence in torment is true for all “everlastingly punished. For example, accepting the Mark of the Beast merits “eternal torment” (Rev. 14:9-11), therefore “less than eternal torment” must exist for lesser sins. Otherwise the text has no meaning.

Some object “Gehenna was a garbage dump where refuse was burned continually outside the city”. Yes, we should all consider that carefully. If the Eternal Son of God applied that image to the unsaved outside the city, it truly must be horrible to endure it:

14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.
15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. (Rev. 22:14-15 NKJ)

[1] The classic view of Election proposes Reprobation is its corollary, dividing mankind into two groups “saved” or “lost”. However, that is not the apostolic view. In Scripture there are two groups: (1) The Elect (2) The Undetermined.

Paul splits Israel into the two groups “Elect” and “Undetermined” in Romans. The elect remnant of Israel obtained salvation in Christ by grace in this life, but the rest of Israel have not, they were blinded (Rom. 11:5-7). God blinded them (Rom. 11:8-10) not so they fall eternally but so the fullness of the Gentiles can come in (Rom. 11:11-12, 15, 25). Their unbelief will end (Rom. 11:23) and then “all Israel” (Elect & Non-Elect*) “will be saved” (Rom. 11:26. Gal. 6:16) at the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:4-6. 1Th. 4:13-18) when “the Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26). Even though these “non-Elect” have died “enemies of the gospel” (Rom. 11:28). The “gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29) and He will have mercy on all (Rom. 11:32). Then Paul bursts out in praise for the riches God has showered upon His people (Rom. 11:33).

*”All Israel” doesn’t mean every non-elect + elect Israeli as is clear from Paul’s statements elsewhere (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 6:16). The impenitent wicked aren’t included (Rom. 2:1-16).

Analysis of the above, the blotted out and written names in the book of life (See #5 below), and White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) leads to the conclusion the apostles generally agree with the Hillel school and his son Gamaliel of the Pharisees (Mt. 13:52; Ac. 5:34; 22:3; 23:6) regarding Election:

[I.15 A] Said R. Kruspedai said R. Yohanan, “Three books are opened [by God] on the New Year: one for the thoroughly wicked, one for the thoroughly righteous, and one for middling [people].
[B] “The thoroughly righteous immediately are inscribed and sealed for [continued] life.
[C] “The thoroughly wicked immediately are inscribed and sealed for death.
[D] “Middling [people] are left hanging from New Year until the Day of Atonement.
[E] “If they [are found to have] merit, they are inscribed for life.
[F] “If they [are found] not [to have] merit, they are inscribed for death.”

[I.16 A] It has been taught on Tannaite authority:
[B] The House of Shammai say, “[There will be] three groups on the Day of Judgment [when the dead will rise]: one comprised of the thoroughly righteous, one comprised of the thoroughly wicked, and one of middling [people].
[C] “The thoroughly righteous immediately are inscribed and sealed for eternal life.
[D] “The thoroughly wicked immediately are inscribed and sealed for Gehenna,
[E] “as it is written [Dan. 12:2]: ‘And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to eternal life and some to shame and everlasting contemPet.’
[F] “Middling [people] go down to Gehenna [17a], scream [in prayer], and rise [again],
[G] “as it is written [Zech. 13:9]: ‘And I will put this third into the fire and refine them as one refines silver and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them.’
[H] “And, concerning this group, Hannah said [1 Sam. 2:6]: ‘The Lord kills and brings to life. He brings down to Sheol and raises up.’ ”
[I] [The Hillelites reject the notion that the middling group initially is sent to Gehenna.] The House of Hillel say, “But [contrary to what the Shammaites hold, God] who abounds in mercy leans towards [a judgment of] mercy.
[J] “And concerning them [that is, the middling group] David said [Ps. 116:1]: ‘I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice [and my supplications].’
[K] “And [further] concerning them David stated the whole passage [which begins, Ps. 116:6]: ‘The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.’ ”
-Neusner, J. (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Vol. 6b, p. 83-84). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

[2]“Which sometime were disobedient (544 apeitheo)”, “disbelieving”.

544. ἀπειθέω apeithéō; contracted apeithṓ, fut. apeithḗsō, from apeithḗs (545), disobedient. Not to allow oneself to be persuaded or believe, to disbelieve, be disobedient.-Zodhiates, S. (2000). The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

These hybrid human-angel “spirits” “men of renown” (Genesis 6:4) offspring of the “sons of ELOHIYM”, being neither human or angel are segregated from the rest of the dead.

They are a special case and therefore receive special treatment.

They didn’t believe God would forgive their hybrid “Frankenstein” nature, the defilement of God’s image in man with the image of angels. Therefore, they were “disobedient” to Noah’s preaching of salvation. Christ makes a special trip to convince them God would forgive, and then He rescued those who reconsidered their rejection of the preaching.

[3]‘In the Hereafter Abraham will sit at the entrance of Gehinnom and will not allow any circumcised Israelite to descend into it. As for those who sinned unduly, what does he do to them? He removes the foreskin from children who had died before circumcision, places it upon them and sends them down to Gehinnom’ (GenR. Xlviii. 8.”)-A. Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud, (Schocken Books, NY 1995), p. 381.

[4]The locus classicus on the subject reads: ‘ The School of Shammai declared, There are three classes with respect to the Day of Judgment: the perfectly righteous, the completely wicked, and the average people. Those in the first class are forthwith inscribed and sealed for eternal life. Those in the second class are forthwith inscribed and sealed for Gehinnom; as it is said, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. xii. 2). The third class will descend to Gehinnom and cry out (from the pains endured there) and then ascend; as it is said, “I will bring the third part through fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; they shall call on My name and I will hear them” (Zech. xiii. 9). Concerning them Hannah said, “The Lord killeth and maketh alive, He bringeth down to Sheol and bringeth up” (1 Sam. ii. 6). The School of Hillel quoted, “He is plenteous in mercy” (Exod. xxxiv. 6); He inclines towards mercy; and con¬cerning them said David, “I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications” (Ps. cxvi. 1). The whole of that Psalm was composed by David about them: “I was brought low and He saved me” (ibid. 6). The sinners of Israel with their bodies and the sinners of the Gentiles with their bodies descend to Gehinnom and are judged there for twelve months. After twelve months their bodies are destroyed, and their souls burnt and scattered by a wind under the soles of the feet of the righteous; as it is said, “Ye shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet” (Mal. iv. 3). But the sectaries, informers, epicureans who denied the Torah 1 and denied the Resurrection, they who separated themselves from the ways of the community, they who set their dread in the land of the living,2 and they who, like Jeroboam the son of Nebat and his associates, sinned and caused the multitude to sin (cf. 1 Kings xiv. 16), will descend to Gehinnom and be judged there generations on generations; as it is said, “They shall go forth and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against Me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched” (Is. lxvi. 24). Gehinnom will cease but they will not cease (to suffer); as it is said, “Their form shall be for Sheol to consume that there be no habitation for it” (Ps. xlix. 14). Concerning them said Hannah, “They that strive with the Lord shall be broken to pieces” (I Sam. ii. 10). R. Isaac b. Abin said, Their faces will be black like the bottom of a pot’ (R.H. 16b et seq.).

We gather from this extract that in the first century one of the principal Schools, influenced by a verse from Daniel, assigned the utterly wicked to eternal punishment; but the other School found such a doctrine incompatible with Divine mercy. Sinners must be penalized. They undergo twelve months of pain and then suffer annihilation because they are unworthy of entrance into Gan Eden. They who have been exceptionally wicked stay in Gehinnom for `generations on generations.’ That this expression does not signify eternity is clear from the statement that Gehinnom will cease.’ They will not, after their sufferings there, undergo extinction, but will continue in existence as conscious entities—how and where is not explained—in a perpetual state of remorse.-A. Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud, (Schocken Books, NY 1995), p. 377-378.

[5]Individual election is controversial because it is presumed Election and Reprobation are corollary doctrines.

That binary construct is contradicted by names in the Book of life, they can be added to or blotted out AFTER the foundation of the world:

Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous. (Ps. 69:28 KJV)

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, And the LORD listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the LORD And who meditate on His name. (Mal 3:16 NKJ)

“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Rev 3:5 NKJ)

And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. (Exo 32:33 NKJ)

Before God created He knew all things. In other words, He knew all “unfallen” and “fallen”. In His Omniscience He chose to “foreknow” those in the “unfallen creation” who loved Him, putting them “in front of” or “before” knowing everyone else. That added a dimension of knowing them different than everyone else, and He loved them. Realizing some would be lost in “fallen creation” He would permit come into being, God predestined those He foreknew be conformed to the image of His Son so none of them are lost. What they potentially were in “unfallen creation” is predestined to become actual during the “revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:18-39) at Christ’s coming (1 Jn. 3:2. Jn.17:21-22. 2Cor. 4:17).

Therefore, Predestination doesn’t affect the Judgment of works (Rev. 20:11-15). All who indicate by works their will to receive Christ and His Light are saved by grace through God given faith in the LORD Jesus (Eph. 2:8-10). All whose works indicate a rejection of Christ and His light are condemned because of their works. They did not come to the light, Jesus Christ (John 3:15-21).

During “the penalty phase” a filter permits only those not found in the book of life be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15). That “filter” is Creator God’s prerogative. He can show Mercy to whomever He desires (Rom. 9:15-27). Therefore, after the fair impartial judgment determines who are lost, God mercifully limits the destruction only to those not found written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest. (Rev. 15:4 KJV)

[6] 34 “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matt. 18:34-19:1 NKJ) It follows from paying all due it follows debtors cease to exist. Then the imagery of the resurrection body becoming ashes (Mal. 4:3) is clear, it symbolizes nonexistence. Having died the “second death” from which there is no return, they are destroyed forever: “They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise; to that end you have visited them with destruction and wiped out all remembrance of them. (Isa. 26:14 ESV).”

[7]Does the “great gulf” (Lk. 16:26) and association with “the judgment” (Heb. 9:27) preclude the possibility of early release during the “day of Christ” gathering/rapture (1Th. 4:13-17. 2Th. 2:1)? The ascension of the “spirits in prison” when Christ led captives in His train (1Pet. 3:18-22. Eph. 4:8) would set a precedent for early release. Christ has the “keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:8) which symbolize He can release captives at will.

When Abraham says (Luke 16:26) “they which would pass…cannot”, that’s not referring to God who can do anything He wills. Therefore, I’ve changed my mind on this and believe those “eagerly waiting” for Christ’s return “living according to God in the spirit” (1Pet. 4:6) “may have their spirit saved” in the “day of the Lord Jesus” (1Cor. 5:5) at His coming, with the rest of the church (1Th. 4:13-17. 2Th. 2:1). The idea of “deliverance” in “there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer” (Rom. 11:26) suggests this.

When Death and Hades are emptied out (Jn. 5:28-29; Rev. 20:13-15) only those not in the book of life are cast into the Lake of fire. It follows these converted after the rapture/gathering out of Hades at the beginning of our LORD’s second coming. Perhaps they were slain after the rapture which would make their situation parallel to those alive who, having missed the Rapture (Rev. 14:13-16) are gathered by Christ’s angels just before the wrath of God is poured out on the earth (Mt. 24:29-31) while the “sign of His coming” “the opening” (Mt. 24:30. Rev. 19:11) flashing like lightning in the heavens (Mt. 24:27), is fully visible to all.