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

postmortem evangelismPostmortem Evangelism: Billions died without Christ. Has death separated them from the love of God?

“No”, says Paul the apostle:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life… shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39 NKJ)

The Gospel must be preached to the dead because God “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). What is that truth? Jesus is the only way to God (Jn. 14:6), the “only name” under heaven whereby men can be saved (Ac. 4:12). Therefore, the divine invitation to choose God’s love (Josh. 24:15) must be preached to the billions who died without Christ, lest God’s desire all men be saved have no opportunity. Postmortem Evangelism must exist lest Death separate the billions who died without Christ from God’s love in Him.

Indeed, God cannot judge the world for rejecting Christ (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) if they never heard about Christ. Then they must go free, for God is Just. Therefore, it logically follows all must hear the Gospel of Christ, if not in this life then in the next.

Therefore, it is written:

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)

Christ and His apostles taught Postmortem Evangelism:

24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
25 “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear (ἀκούσαντες) will live.

28 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice
29 “and come forth– those who have done good (ποιήσαντες), to the resurrection of life, and those who have done (πράξαντες) evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (Jn. 5:24-29 NKJ)

He who hears and believes—lives (John 5:24). In John 5:25 “hearing” occurs twice, audible hearing then “the second implies audible hearing and responding.”- Trail, R. (2013). An Exegetical Summary of John 1–9 (p. 235). Dallas, TX: SIL International.

“Now is” the “future time” when the “dead will hear”, therefore these “dead” were the “spiritually dead” in Christ’s audience listening to His voice. Those who “believed will live.” The “heeding/obeying” action (aorist participle) took place when they heard.

So also the parallel in John 5:28-29. All in the “graves will hear” and those who “done good” when they hear will rise to resurrection of life, those who practiced evil when they heard, the resurrection of condemnation. The “doing good, practicing evil” action (aorist participles) took place when they heard (John 3:14-21).

Therefore, as some rise to a resurrection of life it follows postmortem evangelism occurred. They “done good” while “in the graves” when they heard Jesus voice, choosing to believe, or practiced evil by not believing. The parallel to John 5:24-25 is believing in Jesus’ claims, when they heard His voice.

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)

Choosing to shrink away from the light results in condemnation for practicing evil:

19 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (Jn. 3:19-20 NKJ)

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).

The Undetermined are in the graves. [1].
Those sealed unto life had believed Jesus therefore did “not come into judgment” having “passed from death into life (John 5:24-25). These Elect were 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 Saved Church are not in the graves (Hades) when Christ calls them out having already passed from death into life. Only the “undetermined” are in the graves, and their fate is determined when they hear the voice of Jesus while in the grave (Jn. 5:28-29. Rev. 20:13-15).

Appointed unto men to die once

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)

“Judgment” looks to a time after death to the Day of Christ (Acts 17:31. 2Tim. 1:12; 4:8. 1Jn. 4:17. 1Cor. 5:5. Rev. 20:11-15), because those who will be saved at the resurrection “eagerly wait” (553 ἀπεκδέχομαι apekdechomai) for His coming “unto salvation” (1 Cor. 5:5. Jn. 5:28-29. 1Pet. 4:6. Rev. 20:13-15). Therefore, this implies postmortem evangelism as these “eagerly wait” for Christ in “death”. They weren’t saved in this life for then they wouldn’t be judged (John 5:25); these are saved on Judgment Day, that is why they eagerly wait. [7].

Preaching to the Dead

When evildoers mocked the Gospel Peter and his church preached, Peter says they will pay when the God who judges the living and dead judges all. But evidently their rejection of the gospel didn’t condemn them eternally because Peter hastens to add:

“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.” (1Pet. 4:6)

Let’s read the context, it begins with the mockers who rejected the gospel being preached:

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)

So it was not in vain Peter and the church preached to these spiritually dead. In fact, it was for this reason they endured their mocking and preached to them anyway, so that when they are dead they could be “judged according to men in the flesh” (pay for their sins), but then “live according to God in the spirit” (in repentance).

The juxtaposition “judged according to men in the flesh” with ” “live according to God in the spirit” implies something ended and something new began. It follows whatever “torment in Hades” they were experiencing for their sins, ended when they repented of them all and became “a new person” “living according to God in the spirit.” Likely they are moved to a “non-tormenting region of Hades”.

Although their torment would end, the unpassable gulf between them and the redeemed remains (Lk. 16:26). Therefore, their “spirit is saved in the Day of the LORD Jesus”, not while they are in Hades. Salvation is simultaneous with their rising to life from the grave, not before. That happens on Judgment Day (1Cor. 5:5. Jn. 5:28-29; Rev. 20:13-15).

Lazarus and the Rich Man

In Jesus’ story Lazarus and the Rich Man (Lk. 16:19-31) the torments in hell must be temporary because that is required by the logic of reversal governing the context (Lk. 16:25). In other words, torments end for Lazarus when he dies, therefore torments must end for the Rich Man when he dies. Figuratively speaking, repentance is the death of the old man (1Pet. 1:3-5, 14, 23). It follows, after being punished “according to men in the flesh” the torment ends when the decision is made to “live according to God in the spirit” (1Pet. 2:6).

Click for more on Lazarus and the Rich Man.

24 “Then he cried and said,`Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented (3600 ὀδυνάω odunao) in this flame (5395 φλόξ phlox).’
25 “But Abraham said,`Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented (3600 ὀδυνάω odunao).

It is eisegetical the Rich Man is suffering eternal “torment”, rather we see a man chastened who recognizes he deserves it, and knows its temporary. He’s rational, conversational, asking only for minor relief to cool his tongue. That would not be the case if he were suffering eternal torment.

[3600 ὀδυνάω odunao] Tormented (ὀδυνῶμαι). Used by Luke only. Tormented is too strong. The word is used of the sorrow of Joseph and Mary when the child Jesus was missing (ch. 2:48); and of the grief of the Ephesian elders on parting with Paul (Acts 20:38) Rev., I am in anguish.-Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 1, p. 399). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

28 `for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ (931 βάσανος basanos). (Lk. 16:24-25, 28 NKJ)

[931 βάσανος basanos] “A touchstone, a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold, silver and other metals, hence any test or criterion by which the qualities of a thing are tried. Metaphorically meaning instrument of torture by which one is forced to divulge the truth, examination, trial by torture.”-Zodhiates, S. (2000). The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

The Rich man is conversational, rational, not hysterical and screaming as if being tortured. Therefore, it is eisegetical we interpret “”this place of torment” as a torture chamber causing uncontrollable screaming.

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 upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'” (Zech. 13:9 ESV)

According to the sterner doctrine of the Shammaites, these souls must undergo a process of purgation by fire; “they enter Gehenna, swing themselves up again, and are healed.” This view, based upon Zech. 13:9, seems to be something like the Christian purgatory.-Singer, I. (Ed.). (1901–1906). The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, 12 Volumes (Vol. 5, p. 217). New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls. [2]

The Rich Man is in anguish in this flame (5395 φλόξ phlox) being purged by the flame of God’s inspection (Rev. 2:24; 2:18; 19:12). Thirsting for God’s presence (Ps. 42:2; 63:1; 143:6) is behind the imagery of wanting water to quench thirst.

There is an eschatological reversal being worked out (Mt. 6:20-24. Lk. 16:25), the “Rich Man” in death is being purged as Lazarus was while living. The trials are in the category of God’s purifying servants (1 Chron. 28:9. Ps. 7:9; 11:5; 26:2. Jer. 11:20; 32:19. Jas. 1:12; 5:11; Rev. 2:23), not punishment of the wicked.

This explains why Lazarus is named, and the Rich Man not. Lazarus means “God helped”. Evidently, the trials he went through when alive, made him ready to enter paradise. The Rich man had no help from God, he ends up in Hades.

But as a child of Abraham, the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. Even if he died an enemy of the Gospel of Christ, yet out of Zion his deliverer would come and “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26-33).

The preaching and torment in Hades is a function of God’s perseverance, His Love:

For God is resolute, never giving up on getting the Word out. In this world God will give us the power to spread the gospel far and wide. But the Word will also be declared to those we can’t reach, even if it takes an eternity. I am convinced the poet Francis Thompson had it right-Christ is the “Hound of Heaven,” pursuing us to the end.-Gabriel Fackre in What About Those Who Have Never Heard?: Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized (p. 73), Kindle Edition.

God goes the extra mile, because He truly desires all to come to repentance and be saved. So he tests the wicked, to see if they will cling to their evil even during the purifying fire of His inspection. If their evil inclination is not “dross the refining fire can burn away”, they will be lost eternally. In other words, there are evil people, children of the devil who cannot repent and live in righteousness with a Holy God. These by their own choice, are lost forever despite God’s best efforts to save them.

This is not universal salvation, free will is not an illusion. Those who cannot abide with God in righteousness 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)

This maintains the distinction between Gehenna and Hades. Hades is where the dead go to await the resurrection, both good and bad. It will be emptied out and cast into the “lake of fire” (aka Gehenna) on Judgment day (Rev. 20:14. 1 Cor. 15:55). Unlike souls in Hades waiting for their resurrection, Gehenna is eternal the “home” (Mt. 10:28; Rev. 20:13-15) of resurrected souls who physically experience God’s wrath imprisoned in abominable resurrection bodies (Isa. 66:24; Dan. 12:2; Mk. 9:42-48).

Hence its with greater severity Christ warns about Gehenna (Mt. 10:28; Mk. 9:42-48) much more than Hades (Lk. 16:23-31).

His spirit many be saved

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).

Preached to the spirits in prison

Christ reached to the spirits in prison[3]. 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), that corresponds to the spirits in prison having believed the preaching giving 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 evangelism perfectly.

They are a “special case” which is why they are in a special place and Christ makes a special trip just to them. These are the hybrid human-angel “men of renown” who refused to believe God would forgive their “Frankenstein hybrid nature” when Noah preached, and the died in the flood. Their being an antitype does imply Christ took these with him when he ascended (1Pet. 3:22).

Other relevant scriptures

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)

The following texts either imply or poetically use the idea of salvation from hell, albeit in this life from the grave

Deut. 32:39. 1Sam. 2:4-10; 22:5-7. 2Kgs. 5:7. Job 14:13-22; 19:25-27. Ps. 9:13; 16:10-11; 24:7-10; 30:3; 49:15; 56:14; 71:19-24; 73:23-28; 86:13; 88:1-18; 107:10-15; 116:3-9; 118:17-18; 142:1-7. Pr. 5:22. Isa. 4:4; 14:9-10; 24:22; 26:19-21; 38:17. Lam. 3:25. Ez. 31:16-18. Dan. 12:2. Hos. 13:14; Jon. 2:2-9; Mic. 7:7-9; Zec. 9:11; Rom. 4:17. 2Cor. 1:9.

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 “not predestined” (“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].

All Israel will be saved

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. (Rom. 11:26-29 NKJ)

Note that Paul cites as a warrant for all this biblical passages in which God promises to “banish ungodliness from Jacob” and “take away their sins” (Isa. 59:20 and Isa. 27:9, cited in Rom. 11:26-27). What is Jacob’s sin at the present moment, according to Paul? Disobedience and lack of belief in Jesus. Since Paul obviously knows of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles who have died, he can only have in mind here some type of posthumous change of heart and salvation for the “fullness of the Gentiles” and all Israel.” It is possible that the “fullness of the Gentiles” means only the “full number” of the Gentiles, and not all of them. But a posthumous salvation is still clearly in view with regard to unbelieving Jews. and Paul does assert that God will show mercy to “all” (Rom. 11:32).-Jeffrey A. Trumbower. Rescue for the Dead: The Posthumous Salvation of Non-Christians in Early Christianity (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology) (Kindle Locations 684-689). Kindle Edition.

“Not written” implies some “were written”

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)

Only those not found in the book of life implies some were found.

James L Boyer classifies “if anyone” (ei tis) a “first class conditional”:

(“if this”, then that is true) which may imply nothing beyond the logical connection.-“First Class Conditions: What Do They Mean,” Grace Theological Journal, Spring 1981.

However, the context is John’s observation of what is occurring, a factual statement that explains the dichotomy he was seeing. Some were not cast into the lake, others were and the reason is they weren’t found written in the book of life. So there is real connection to reality, the conditional explains what John saw.

Therefore, “if any not written” implies some were written.

See note on the “undetermined”, those who are added to or blotted out of the book of life. [5]

“Led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” -Eph 3:8 KJV

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (Eph. 4:8-10 KJV)

18 You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, Even from the rebellious, That the LORD God might dwell there. (Ps. 68:18 NKJ)

You ascended to the firmament, O prophet Moses; you captured captives, you taught the words of Torah, you gave gifts to the sons of men, and even the stubborn who are converted turn in repentance, and the glorious presence of the LORD God abides upon them. (Ps. 68:19 PST) The Psalms Targum

As a Pharisee expert in the Law (Ac. 22:3; 26:5) Paul was familiar with this Aramaic Targum interpretation of Psalms 68:18. The singular Bä´ädäm (Ps. 68:19; Eccl. 2:24) in the Masoretic, ἀνθρώπῳ (Ps. 67:19; Eccl. 2:24) in the Septuagint, “man” meaning “humans, mankind” permit this interpretation.

It is eisegetical to apply this to any postmortem relocation from hell to heaven. Its not about that at all. Paul is speaking about the “gifts Christ gave to men” “apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” who correct the formerly rebellious “that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10). The parallels to Psalm 68:18 are obvious. Compare the Targum applies this to Moses and the truth of God converts the rebellious so God “God abides upon them”.

The gifts spring from the “grace given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:7). They are given “for the equipping of the saints…for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12) “till we all come to the unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God” so God may dwell in us. As former rebels, Christ led captivity captive [once captives to sin], and He “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heaven places” (Eph. 2:6) “that He might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10).

A similar event happened on the Day of Pentecost when gifts of the Holy Spirit were given to men:

32 “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.
33 “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. (Acts 2:32-33 NKJ)

Prayers 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:

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. 5:9-10 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.

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 those 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.) [1]

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)

END NOTES

[1] It is supposed God made an eternal decision rendering certain all things that come to pass. Then Predestination would divide mankind into two groups “elect” and “reprobate”. However, I believe the two groups are “the elect” and “the not predestinated” or “the undetermined” as is the case in the Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats (Mt. 25:31-46). The Saved while alive are Christ’s Brethren (Mt. 25:40, 45). The Undetermined are the sheep and the goats (Mt. 25:32).

Christ’s Brethren are not judged in this context, they have already passed from death into life “saved by grace through faith” (John 5:24-25; Eph. 2:5-9). Jesus brought them “with Him” with His angels (1Th. 4:13) and during this judgment they are present waiting to reign as kings and priests of Christ (1Th. 4:15-17. 1Cor. 15:51-54; Rev. 1:6; 20:6). Standing before King Jesus are those who survived Armageddon to see Christ return in glory (Mt. 25:31-32) and these survivors are judged according to how they treated the Church during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 7:9-17).

Those who vicariously received Christ by aiding His Brethren are saved by grace (Mt. 25:34-40), those who vicariously rejected Christ by refusing to aid His Brethren are condemned according to their works (Mt. 25:41-46). Their works determined their fate, not predestination.

Perhaps this illustrates how all are judged by works, saved by grace:

Drowning people frantically wave for others to save (works), but that does not save them. The lifeboat crew lifting them out of the water and carrying them to shore is what saved them, grace of the rescue crew, and not the work of the drowning. Frantically waving did not “pay” for the ride, it indicated their free will choice to be saved, it indicated their faith the rescuers could save them. It was the good pleasure and will of the rescue crew that saved them, not their will or desire to be saved.

Those who refused to wave indicated they didn’t want to be saved. So their drowning was because of their works.

God is not obligated to save anyone, its His undeserved kindness (grace) when He chooses to do so. His grace is open to all (Col. 1:19-20. 1Jn. 2:2) who believe (John 3:16-19).

Nothing humans say, do, or give can possibly pay for eternity in paradise, therefore all are saved by God’s grace. Only the blood of the Lamb redeems from hell. Therefore, not our choice. It remains God’s good pleasure and will He save through faith in Jesus (Eph. 1:9-10). By grace we are saved through faith not by works (Eph. 2:8-10; John 3:14-21)

Back to Predestination. In Romans 8:28-29 Paul speaks only of the predestined unto salvation. The concept of Reprobation is absent. That implies Paul did not consider reprobation the logical corollary of Election as Calvin etc. suppose.

The phenomena of the blotted out and written in names in the book of life (See #5 below) fit this view of “Predestined” and “Not Predestined” at the White Throne Judgment of those alive and the dead fetched from “Death and Hades”. All are judged according to their works, but salvation is only by grace from being written into the book of life (Rev. 20:11-15).

Abductively one could conclude Christ and His apostles (Mt. 13:52; Ac. 5:34; 22:3; 23:6) generally agree with the Hillel school about “the middling people”, “the undetermined”:

[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] 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.-Abraham Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud, (Schocken Books, NY 1995), p. 377-378.

[3]“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.

[4]It is supposed the “Plan of God” (“Decrees of God”) implies everything results from God’s will. That doesn’t fit anthropomorphical revelation not all events are caused by God (Gen. 11:5; 18:21; Isa. 54:15). So how can events be certain if “left to chance”? God is already there, “the future” is already “past” to God if He chooses to view it from that perspective.

The multi-verse exists within the infinite Mind of God like a thought (1 Kings 8:27. Acts 17:28. Col. 1:17), past present and future are simultaneous to God (2 Pet. 3:8; Ps. 90:4):

“A common term for the Deity in Rabbinic literature is ‘the Place,’ which originates in the doctrine: ‘The Holy One, blessed be He, is the place of His Universe, but His Universe is not His place’ (Gen. R. LXVIII. 9). He encompasses space but space does not encompass Him.”-Everyman’s Talmud, Schocken Books, 1995, p. 8

Therefore, anthropomorphical language depicting God watching to see what happens etc., are perspective changes indicating God can choose to enjoy watching events unfold whenever He desires. That does not change the reality when God created, all things past present future came into existence in Him (Rev. 13:8). The conclusion God must will what comes to pass or it may upset His Plan, springs from the mistaken concept God is finite. God already knows “the end” perfectly, He is there experiencing it.

[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)

Therefore, it is a false dilemma Reprobation is a corollary to predestination of the Elect to salvation. It takes no account of creation before it was subjected to futility (Rom. 8:20) where the “sons of God” (Rom. 8:19) existed in God’s Omniscience. These above all others “loved God” (Rom. 8:28) and via His “foreknowing” God experienced their potential existence apart everyone else. So that all things work together for the good of these foreknown by God, He predestines them to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29). These were elected before God permitted the version of creation that would experience the fall, come into existence (Eph. 1:4-10).

In other words, before God created He knew both versions of creation, the version where the fall never happened, and the version subjected to futility. God foreknew those who loved Him in the unfallen creation, the “sons of God”. He also knew some of these would be lost when He permits the Fall.

Therefore, lest any of these be lost in the creation that was subjected to futility, He predestined them unto salvation without thereby reprobating everyone else (Rom. 8:19-31). All who come into existence apart from this special group “the sons of God” have equal chance with them to be saved according to their works. Works cannot possibly pay for salvation, but works indicate a choice. So all are equal, all have a level playing field, God has not shown any partiality. Works cannot possibly “pay” for salvation. It is God’s good pleasure and will He saves anyone, and everyone is saved by grace, not by works (Eph. 2:8-10). Therefore, there is no partiality with God, all who choose good will be saved (Rom. 2:11-16)

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).

Those predestined unto salvation, who died blind enemies of the gospel of Christ, in Hades realize their error and will repent. Who they really are is revealed. What they would have been if the fall never happened, rises to the surface after the dross is burned away (Zech. 13:9). The torments of Hades causes them to confess their real identity as lovers of God. If the fall never happened, they would never rebel. They repent in Hades. Their names are written into the book of life. They will rise to a resurrection of life. The “children of the devil,” those whose free will refuses to live in righteousness with a Holy God, are also revealed by the torments of God’s testing fire. They cannot maintain any hypocritical profession, they will divulge the truth of their being. Their names are not in the book of life.

Therefore, both are judged according to their works (Rev. 20:13-15), but only those who indicate they want it, are saved by grace. All who do not, are condemned for their works. They had equal opportunity to be saved by grace, all they had to do was choose it.

Those who choose bad, their free will determines their fate, not “reprobation”. Their blood is upon their heads alone. God went the extra mile trying to save these sinners, but refuses to void the gift of free will He gave them. The flame of God’s inspection in Hades ensures none who would choose good, choose life are lost. God was completely fair and just, impartial. He showed no one any favor above the other. Both had the same “bar to hurdle”, simply show they wanted to be saved.

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]

30 “And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.

34 “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. (Matt. 18:30, 34 NKJ)

In both instances its possible the debtor “pay the debt.” Just as its possible the debtor can pay all due in Mt. 18:30, so also the debtor in Mt. 18:34 can pay all due. If it were not possible, then Jesus wouldn’t have explicitly said it is possible.

Confirming “torment” has “monetary value” for paying off debt, those who receive the Mark of the Beast receive “eternal torment” (Rev. 14:9-11). Therefore, lesser sin receives “less than eternal torment” or the warning is vacuous. If all are tormented eternally regardless the sin, then the warning against accepting the Mark of the Beast is meaningless. Scripture is never meaningless. Therefore, the debt of sin corresponds to payment in torture.

Paying all due implies debtors cease to exist. This is consistent with the imagery of the abominable resurrection body of the wicked becoming ashes (Mal. 4:3). Suffering the “second death” from which there is no return, the “lake of fire” symbolizes eventual destruction because Hades and Death are cast into it (Rev. 20:14):

“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]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 they died as all believing in this life “pass from death into life” and “do not come into Judgment” (John 5:24-25).

[8]The torments (931 βάσανος basanos) in Luke 16:23 reference a noun meaning:

“A touchstone, a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold, silver and other metals, hence any test or criterion by which the qualities of a thing are tried. Metaphorically meaning instrument of torture by which one is forced to divulge the truth, examination, trial by torture.”-Zodhiates, S. (2000). The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.