Jehovah's Witnesses use certain verses in order to debunk the Doctrine of Eternal Retribution [i.e. Hellfire]. Out of these verses, i'd be addressing one of the main verses which, if refuted, refutes all the others [i.e. their favourite verses]. I mean Job 14:13. It says:
"O that in Sheol you would conceal me,
That you would keep me secret until your anger turns back,
That you would set a time limit for me and remember me!" [New World Translation]
After quoting this verse to a non J.W., the J.W. would ask "was Job really wishing to get tormented in hellfire?"... This technique has been the one of the main tactics which they use to "stump" a believer in divine retribution perhaps to make the believer think that such notion makes more sense if the word "She'ol" were a "Grave" and not a "place of torment"... I have even heard such questions asked in other websites like "Yahoo Answers", Facebook posts, e.t.c. but the fact is that this conclusion is illogical.
This conclusion-- "did Job wish for torment"-- is due to lack of understanding of the concept of the word "Hell" in many English translations. Many of the J.W's might even know this but try to hide the actual concept to whom they are preaching to. The word "Hell' in many English translations is rendered when translating two words; "Hades" (Greek) [which is equivalent to the Hebrew word "She'ol"-- used in Job 14:13] and "Ge'henna" (Greek) [which is equivalent to the Hebrew word "Ge'hinnom"]. These two words are different from each other and they describe two different abodes. Some English translations, like the Good news Bible (T.E.V) renders the word "She'ol" as "the world of the dead" which is also correct [even though J.Ws do not agree with that translation] but even though many translations render it as "grave", it still doesn't prove that he was solely referring to "the grave" as we all know that the grave is the entrance to She'ol therefore we cannot conclude that She'ol solely refers to the "grave only" kind of notion.This picture should help you understand better
. Here are the differences between "Hades" and "Ge'henna" and their explanation:
(Click on picture to see high resolution) originally from http://www.bible.ca/su-hades.htm
1. Hades/She'ol: Hades/She'ol is the name given to the abode of the souls of the dead where they await resurrection. Hades, like I said, can also be translated as "the world of the dead" as some translations have it even though it is rendered as "hell' in many other english translations. Jehovah's Witnesses make two mistakes regarding Hades/She'ol:
- Believing that Hades is "man's common grave" , and
- Believing that Christian Doctrine [which they call "Christendom"] teaches that Hades/She'ol is "Hellfire"
- Jesus is reported [in the Bible] to have gone to "Hades" [in Acts 2:31] after his death but he was neither non-existent nor in a state of "soul-sleep" as JWs believe but he was in a full, conscious existence in Hades [the abode of the souls of the dead] because while he was in Hades, he proclaimed his victory on the cross to "spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient when the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days..." [1 Peter 3:19-20 NWT]. This definitely does not refer toan unconscious, non-existent state and it also proves that Hades is neither "Man's common grave" nor hellfire but proves that the souls of the dead are in a conscious state in Hades; awaiting resurrection.
- The Sadducees who do not believe in resurrection, came to meet Jesus and asked Him a certain question and Jesus replied "...did YOU not read what was spoken to YOU by God, saying,‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’? He is the God, not of the dead, but of the living." [Matthew 22:31-32]... Can you see that the Souls of the dead are not non existent? By this time [of Jesus], we are fully aware that neither Abraham, Isaac nor Jacob were physically alive therefore, the only way they could be alive is if their souls were alive in She'ol. From all indictions and studies of the scriptures, we see that the souls of the dead are either in Paradistic rest[the saints] or in prisons (which can be a torment but not Ge'henna) [the wicked- Tartarus] awaiting resurrection!
At some point, I came across a Watchtower publication that tried to explain away Rev. 14:9-11 by saying:
"At Revelations 14:9-11 (KJ), worshipers of the symbolic 'beast and his image' are said to be 'tormented with fire and brimestone'. This cannot refer to a conscious torment after death... The smoke associated with their fiery destruction, ascends forever because the destruction will be eternal and will never be forgotten." -- Reasoning from the scriptures p. 172-173.
This is nothing but absolute nonsense! I have never seen an explanation as stupid as this!! Have you ever heard of an "unconscious torment"? The writer of this nonsense was most probably too desperate for an explanation to give to this verse [hoping that the poor JWs would accept it that way-- as they've always done], but it could not just fit in. If "Rev. 14:9-11 cannot refer to a conscious torment", then how is it that "day and night they have no rest" [Rev. 14:9-11 NWT]? If "the smoke... ascends forever" means "the destruction will be eternal and will never be forgotten", then how is God "wiping away all tears, worries, sadness, e.t.c away from the saints" [analyzing Rev. 21:4] if they will spend all their existence remembering that their non JW friend has been given a "fiery destruction"? of course not! The Watchtower is talking pure nonsense in here. The Bible says that "the wicked will be forgotten" [Proverbs 10:7] therefore, the saints will be given a new memory and the wicked will be given an eternal torment [Rev. 14:9-11] in everlasting fire [Matt. 25:41] and will never be remembered [Prov. 10:7]. Another absurdity that is found in this watchtower quotation [and also in the NWT] is "The destruction will be eternal"-- Reasoning p. 172-173 and "everlasting cutting-off" [Matt. 25:46 NWT]. When I came across this two words, i could not help but give out a loud laugh. Come to think of it, how can "destruction", "annihilation" and "cutting-off" be everlasting or eternal? Longman dictionary defines the word "everlasting" as: "Continuing for ever". How can "cutting-off" continue for ever? this is utterly absurd! I do not even need to show how wrong they are in the Greek; this point alone proves that there rendering of the Greek word "kolasis" as "cutting-off" is absolute nonsense!!!
Brimestone and Sulfur or burning Sulfur [whichever] is said to have been what was used to literally annihilate Sodom and Gomorrah [in Genesis 19:24] and THAT SAME Brimestone and Sulfur or burning sulfur is also said to be what the wicked will be tormented with [Rev. 14:9-11] how do we know which one is a symbolic "Brimestone and Sulfur" since it was the same "Brimestone and Sulfur" that was used to LITERALLY annihilate Sodom and Gomorrah? Could that kind of annihilation that happened to Sodom and Gomorrah continue forever? God promised Sodom and Gomorrah A LITERAL annihilation and it was done LITERALLY [in Gen. 19:24] JUST AS God promised the Wicked EVERLASTING TORMENT [rev. 14:9-11] in Everlasting fire [Matt. 25:41] with brimestome and Sulfur-- Like sodom and Gomorrah-- [Rev. 14:9-11]. Why should this NOT be literal like that of Sodom and Gomorrah?! Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the wicked will be annihilated [just like Sodom and Gomorrah] but the Bible makes it clear that the some will be punished more than Sodom and Gomorrah [Matt.10:15]. Can there be DEGREES OF ANNIHILATION? No! Annihilation is annihilation and annihilation can only be once and for all not everlasting!
What would you call God if He annihilated a man who stole "one penny" and unfortunately died [and could not repent of his deeds] SAME AS a man who committed a "Saddam Hussein" kind of sin without given degrees according to the weight of crime? Wouldn't that make God unjust?
Luke 12:47-48 [NWT] says "Then that slave that understood the will of his master but did not get ready or do in line with his will will be beaten with many strokes. But the one that did not understand and so did things deserving of strokes will be beaten with few"
Can this be possible with annihilation: that one annihilation is more than another annihilation? There are NO DEGREES in annihilation? Did the Early Church Fathers believe that the wicked will be tormented forever? to find out, click HERE
From http://www.bible.ca/su-hades.htm this is really a helpful article. It reads:
- Hades is a Greek word used in the New Testament to denote the realm of conscious departed spirits and never refers to the grave. Sheol is a Hebrew word in the Old Testament that is generally equivalent to Hades.
- Even Samuele Bacchiocchi (an Neo-Sadduceeian who denies conscious life after death) admits the word HADES means punishment [i.e. referring to Tartarus] and not the grave in Luke 16: "The word hades also occurs in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, but with a different meaning. While in the 10 references we have just examined hades refers to the grave or the realm of the dead, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus it denotes the place of punishment for the ungodly (Luke 16:23). The reason for this exceptional use will be explained shortly. Obviously, dualists make great use of this parable to support the notion of the conscious existence of disembodied souls during the intermediate state." (Immortality or Resurrection?, Samuele Bacchiocchi, Seventh-day Adventist, Ch 5: State of the Dead) When a man like Bacchiocchi (whom many Arians look to for help with their false doctrines) admits that the word hades INDEED means a place of torture and punishment, we feel progress is being made! Thanks Sam! You made our point!
- The first step in understanding any ancient or foreign word is to check the lexicons, dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc., which deal with that language. Brown, Driver and Briggs based their A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (p. 982) on the work of Genesius, one of the greatest Hebrew scholars who ever lived. They define Sheol as: "The underworld... whither man descends at death" They trace the origin of Sheol to either sha-al, which means the spirit world to which mediums directed their questions to the departed, or Sha-al, which refers to the hollow place in the earth where the souls of men went at death. Langenscheidt's Hebrew/English Dictionary to the Old Testament (p.337) defines Sheol as: "netherworld, realm of the dead, Hades." The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia in volume IV, p.2761, defines Sheol as: "the unseen world, the state or abode of the dead, and is the equivalent of the Greek: Hades." Keil and Delitzsch state that "Sheol denotes the place where departed souls are gathered after death; it is an infinitive form from sha-al, to demand, the demanding, applied to the place where inexorably summons all men into its shade." [Commentaries On the Old Testament, Vol. l, p. 338] The lexicographical evidence is so clear that the great Princeton scholar, B.B. Warfield, stated that with modern Hebrew scholars, there is no "hesitation to allow with all heartiness that Israel from the beginning of its recorded history cherished the most settled conviction of the persistence of the soul in life after death....The body is laid in the grave and the soul departs to Sheol. [Selected Shorter Writings of Beniamin B. Warfield, pp. 339,345] (Death and The Afterlife, Robert Morey, Dualist, p.72,73)
- Sheol is a shadowy place or a place of darkness (Job 10:21,22; Ps. 143:3). Evidently it is another dimension which is not exposed to the rays of the sun. It is viewed as being "down," "beneath the earth," or in "the lower parts of the earth" (Job 11:8; Isa. 44:23; 57:9; Ezek. 26:20; Amos 9:2). These figures of speech should not be literalized into an absurd cosmology. They merely indicate that Sheol is not a part of this world but has an existence of its own in another dimension. (Death and The Afterlife, Robert Morey, p. 78-80)
- The KJV and the NIV mistranslate Hades as Hell. Hades and hell are two different places at two different times. Hades is the temporary realm of both good and evil departed spirits before the second coming. Hell is the final eternal abode of the wicked after judgement. No one is in Hell (gehenna) now.
- Hades/Sheol is pictured as having two compartments in both the Old and New Testaments. These compartments are best illustrated in Lk 16 where the rich man went to the "torment" compartment and the poor man went to the "comfort" compartment. Between these two compartments is an "impassable gulf".
- It seems that Sheol has different sections. There is the contrast between the "lowest part" and the "highest part" of Sheol (Deut. 32:22). This figurative language implies that there are divisions or distinctions within Sheol. Perhaps the Old Testament's emphatic distinction between the righteous and the wicked in this life indicates that this distinction continues on in the afterlife. Thus the wicked are said to be in the "lowest part," while the righteous are in the "higher part" of Sheol. While this is not clearly (repeated from the previous section): stated in the Old Testament, there seems to be some kind of distinction within Sheol. Later rabbinic writers clearly taught that Sheol had two sections. The righteous were in bliss in one section while the wicked were in torment in the other. (Death and The Afterlife, Robert Morey, p. 78-80)
- In the Old Testament, the two expressions "lowest Sheol" and "pit" [Heb: bowr] always denotes the compartment where the wicked go and are punished, like the rich man in Lk 16. Therefore "lowest Sheol" and "pit" are exclusively used to denote where the wicked go after death awaiting resurrection and judgement.
- The righteous are never thrown into the pit. [Heb: bowr] If the pit is merely another word for the grave, then both the wicked and righteous should go there.
- While Hades never refers the grave, on very rare occasions Sheol seems refer to the grave. There are separate Greek and Hebrew words for grave. (GRAVE: Greek: mneema; Hebrew: kever) Although the body is pictured as returning from the grave (mneema or kever) the body is never pictured as returning from Sheol/Hades. Conversely, although the soul is pictured as returning from Sheol/Hades, the soul is never pictured as returning from the grave (mneema or kever). Finally, there is no passage where a "body" is specifically said to go to Sheol! This is an important dichotomy that refutes the Neo-Sadduceeian concept of the dead being extinct and unconscious because if Sheol and Hades are nothing more than the literal grave, then physical bodies should be seen coming out of the grave.
- This distinction is between "Sheol" and "Kever" is maintained in the Septuagint as well. (The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.) This proves that the distinction was well understood 2000 years ago.
- Just as the word "spirit" sometimes denotes breath or wind, the vast majority of the places where "spirit" is used cannot refer merely to breath or wind. God is a Spirit! Likewise Hebrew word "Sheol" sometimes refers merely to a literal physical grave "6 feet under". However the vast majority of usages of Sheol, it cannot refer merely the grave but the conscious realm of the dead. When an Neo-Sadduceeian attempts to prove that man has no spirit or soul by refering to a passage where spirit means "breath" or soul refers to a dead body of a man, we quickly agree replying, "Yes "spirit" in Gen 2:7, but God is a Spirit! Is he just breath? Likewise when Arians point to the few rare places where Sheol refers to the literal grave, we quickly agree, then point them to the vast majority of usages where a physical grave cannot fit the context.
- There are many passages that directly teach that there is consciousness, emotion and communication in Hades/Sheol.
- One of the clearest proofs of consciousness in Sheol or Hades, is the fact that Jonah was pictured as being conscious in the belly of the sea monster for 3 days. The text, Jonah 2:2, says that Jonah was in Sheol. Jesus said "just as Jonah was in the belly of the sea monster for three days, so also the son of man will be." Of course Arians make a double mistake of arguing that Jesus (God the Son) ceased to exist and became extinct for the three days He was in Hades.
- "Sheol Fire", "Hades fire" is found in these verses: Lk 16:24 "I am in agony in this flame."; Deut 32:22 "For a fire is kindled in My anger, And burns to the lowest part of Sheol, And consumes the earth with its yield, And sets on fire the foundations of the mountains."; Rev 9:1-2 "And he opened the bottomless pit; and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit."
- What is important about comparative studies is that they place biblical words in their historical context. The word Sheol should thus be understood in terms of what it meant in the Hebrew language and by its parallel in the other languages of that time. Why? When God wanted Israel to believe something which was unique and contrary to what the surrounding cultures believed, He always clearly condemned and forbade the pagan beliefs and then stressed the uniqueness of the new concept. For example, in order to establish monotheism, God repeatedly and clearly condemned the pagan concept of polytheism and stressed monotheism. While God clearly condemned polytheism in the Old Testament, at no time did He ever condemn belief in a conscious afterlife. At no time did God ever put forth the concept of annihilation or nonexistence as the fate of man's soul at death. Also, when Israel had a unique and contrary belief, the pagan societies around Israel would use this belief as the grounds to persecute the Jews. Thus the Jews were persecuted for rejecting polytheism and believing in monotheism. Daniel's three friends who were thrown into a fiery furnace are an excellent example of such persecution. Yet, where in recorded history did pagan religions or societies persecute the Jews because they denied a conscious afterlife? To think that the Jews could go against the universally held concept of a conscious afterlife and that the pagans would not seize upon this as a pretense for persecution is absurd. Since the universality of belief in a conscious afterlife is irrefutable, and there is no evidence that Israel deviated from this belief, we must assume that the Old Testament taught a conscious afterlife in Sheol as the fate of man's soul or spirit. It is universally recognized by modern Talmudic scholars that Sheol never meant the grave or unconsciousness in rabbinic literature. Ginzburg states that in rabbinic writings one finds a consistent conviction that "there exists after this world a condition of happiness or unhappiness for an individual." Guttman adds, "The Talmud, like the Apocryphal literature, knows of a kind of intermediate state of the soul between death and resurrection; true retribution will be dispensed only after the resurrection of the body. But along with this, we also find the fate in a retribution coming immediately after death and in a life of blessedness for the soul in the beyond." The rabbinic tradition before, during and after the time of Christ describes the soul departing the body and descending into Sheol at death. The rabbis consistently pictured both the righteous and the wicked as conscious after death. The evidence is so overwhelming that the classic Princeton theologian, Charles Hodge, stated, "That the Jews believed in a conscious life after death is beyond dispute." The annihilationists have never discovered any evidence that the majority of Jews believed that the soul was extinguished at death. There is no conflict in the rabbinic literature over this issue. (Death and The Afterlife, Robert Morey, Dualist, p. 74)
- Not once is Hades the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word for grave (kever). Not once does it mean nonexistence or unconsciousness. The times it is used for words other than Sheol, it clearly means the world of spirits. There is, therefore, no way to escape the conclusion that the translators of the Septuagint clearly understood that Hades referred to the realm of disembodied souls or spirits; and, we must also emphasize, that the translators of the Septuagint did not obtain this concept from Platonic Greek thought but from the Hebrew concept of Sheol itself. (Death and The Afterlife, Robert Morey, Dualist, p. 82)
- While bodies are unconscious in the grave, those in Sheol are viewed as being conscious (Isa 14:4-7; 44:23; Ezek. 31:16; 32:21). (Death and The Afterlife, Robert Morey, p. 78-80)
- Those in Sheol are pictured as conversing with each other and even making moral judgements on the lifestyle of new arrivals (Isa. 14:9-20; 44:23; Ezek. 32:21). They are thus conscious entities while in Sheol. (Death and The Afterlife, Robert Morey, p. 78-80)
- Once in Sheol, all experiences related exclusively to physical life are no longer possible. Those in Sheol do no marry and procreate children because they do not have bodies. Neither do they plan and execute business transactions. Once in Sheol, they cannot attend public worship in the temple and give sacrifices and praise. There are no bodily pleasures such as eating or drinking. Those in Sheol do not have any wisdom or knowledge about what is happening in the land of the living. They are cut off from the living. They have entered a new dimension of reality with its own kind of existence (Ps. 6:5; Eccl. 9:10, etc.). (Death and The Afterlife, Robert Morey, p. 78-80)
20 reasons why sheol is not the grave:Even if the word sheol did refer to a literal grave so what! The word "spirit" sometimes refers to literal wind or breath, but most time the word is used, it cannot refer to wind or breath. So too, the vast majority of uses of Sheol/Hades cannot refer to the grave.
(Death and The Afterlife, Robert Morey, p. 76,77)
- While the kabar (to bury) is used in connection with kever it is never used in connection with Sheol. We can bury someone in a grave but we cannot bury anyone in Sheol (Gen. 23:4, 6, 9,19, 20; 49:30, 31, etc.).
- While kever is found in its plural form "graves" (Ex. 14:11), the word Sheol is never pluralized.
- While a grave is located at a specific site (Ex. 14:11), Sheol is never localized, because it is everywhere accessible at death no matter where the death takes place. No grave is necessary in order to go to Sheol.
- While we can purchase or sell a grave (Gen. 23:4-20), Scripture never speaks of Sheol being purchased or sold.
- While we can own a grave as personal property (Gen. 23:4-20), nowhere in scripture is Sheol owned by man.
- While we can discriminate between graves and pick the "choicest site" (Gen. 23:6), nowhere in Scripture is a "choice" Sheol pitted against a "poor" Sheol.
- While we can drop a dead body into a grave (Gen. 50:13), no one can drop anyone into Sheol.
- While we can erect a monument over a grave (Gen. 35:20), Sheol is never spoken of as having monuments.
- While we can, with ease, open or close a grave (2 Kings 23:16), Sheol is never opened or closed by man.
- While we can touch a grave (Num. 19:18), no one is ever said in Scripture to touch Sheol.
- While touching a grave brings ceremonial defilement (Num. 19:16), the Scriptures never speak of anyone being defiled by Sheol.
- While we can enter and leave a tomb or grave [without dying] (2 Kings 23:16), no one is ever said to enter and then leave Sheol [i.e. without dying].
- While we can choose the site of our own grave (Gen. 23:4-9), Sheol is never spoken of as something we can pick and choose.
- While we can remove or uncover the bodies or bones in a grave (2 Kings 23:16), the Scriptures never speak of man removing or uncovering anything in Sheol.
- While we can beautify a grave with ornate carvings or pictures (Gen. 35:20), Sheol is never beautified by man.
- While graves can be robbed or defiled (Jer. 8:1,2), Sheol is never spoken of as being robbed or defiled by man.
- While a grave can be destroyed by man (Jer. 8:1,2), nowhere in Scripture is man said to be able to destroy Sheol.
- While a grave can be full, Sheol is never full (Prov. 27:20).
- While we can see a grave, Sheol is always invisible.
- While we can visit the graves of loved ones, nowhere in Scripture is man said to visit Sheol.