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Question 69

Q: I hope you can help me, Pastor Lutzer. Are Sheol and Hades two separate compartments?

Do we stay in Sheol until after the saints reign with Christ 1000 years until the great white throne judgment? Is the compartment that holds the believers a temporary heaven, but not the real heaven?

Asked by: Nancy

A: Wow Nancy, after listening to your question I want to indeed say, wow.

I have a couple of comments for you. First of all, I believe that in the Old Testament, Sheol or Hades was the place where both the wicked and the righteous went. In fact, you know, the rabbis believed that it had two compartments. I think that is right based on Luke 16. You remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and they are really in the same place in one sense. But, of course, they can’t go from one side to the other, but they could communicate, as indicated in the story that Jesus told.

But Nancy, I have to tell you that since the resurrection of Jesus I don’t believe that’s the way in which the afterlife functions anymore. The entire emphasis in the New Testament is now in paradise, the presence of Jesus—heaven—and there’s really no evidence that it’s close to the place in the Old Testament that was called Sheol, and in New Testament was called Hades. So I believe that believers today go directly to heaven.

And though they’re in paradise, the fact is, however, that when we die and go to heaven we do not have our permanent bodies. The whole emphasis of the New Testament is on resurrection and those who are in heaven today are in a disembodied state. Now I believe they are fully conscious; I believe that their soul carries on the functions of the body so that they can talk and they can see, but they are awaiting the glories of heaven. And after the resurrection you find in the book of Revelation, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” So even then the people who are in heaven today are not in their final heaven, because that still lies in the future.

I hope that this helps, Nancy, and keep thinking about the future because we’re all going in that direction.

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