Death and Hades to Give Up the Dead
“As regards the resurrection of the dead, did you not read what was spoken to you by God?”—Matt. 22:31
1. What ancient religious book alone teaches resurrection?
THE resurrection of the human dead during the reign of God’s kingdom—no ancient sacred book of religion teaches this but the Holy Bible. The Bible is the sacred book that was written, the first part of it mostly in Hebrew and the second part of it in the common Greek of nineteen hundred years ago. However, the first part of it was translated from Hebrew into Greek before ever the second part of the Holy Bible was written in common Greek. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures has been called the Greek Septuagint and is symbolized by the sign LXX, meaning “Seventy.” Nineteen centuries ago Greek was an international language, and thus back there a person who knew Greek could read the whole Bible. In our day the Holy Bible has been translated, as a whole or in part, into upward of 1,202 languages, most likely into your own native language. This sacred Book has the greatest circulation of all books and in the most languages. It stands out alone in its teaching of the raising of dead mankind to life in a righteous order of things during the reign of the kingdom of Almighty God.
2. Why may some scoff at the idea of a resurrection?
2 You, the reader, may see no need for the human dead to be resurrected, because your religion has taught you such a thing as the “immortality of the soul.” So, because the departed ones are dead only as to the human body but are alive in some invisible realm as souls or have transmigrated to another earthly body, you see no need for a resurrection. Some readers may therefore scoff at the idea of a resurrection from the dead. That is quite natural. But the Bible teaching of the resurrection of the dead has such a solid basis on which to rest that the better thing to do is to investigate honestly rather than scoff. We do not want to be like those Grecian philosophers who believed in the immortality of the human soul and to whom the Christian apostle Paul preached the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.—Acts 2:31, 32; Matt. 26:38; Isa. 53:12; Ezek. 18:4, 20.
3. Why do we not want to be like those Greek philosophers?
3 Of those Greeks the historical record says: “Some would say: ‘What is it this chatterer would like to tell?’ Others: ‘He seems to be a publisher of foreign deities.’ This was because he was declaring the good news of Jesus and the resurrection.” And after the apostle Paul told the Supreme Court of judges in Athens, Greece, that God had raised up his Son Jesus Christ from the dead in order to act as judge of all the inhabited earth the record says, “well, when they heard of a resurrection of the dead, some began to mock.” (Acts 17:18, 31, 32) Those Greeks believed in the immortality of the human soul and that there were therefore no dead. Hence they could not accept the teaching that human souls are dead and need to be resurrected in order to live again.
4. How were ancient Greeks like Babylonians in their belief regarding the human dead?
4 The ancient Greeks believed that the human dead were living as shades in an underground, unseen place, over which the god named Haʹdes ruled as king. Afterward this underground place of departed souls over which he ruled was also called by his name, Haʹdes. The name also came to be applied to the grave.* Those ancient Greeks were like the Babylonians of Asia who called the god of their underground realm of departed souls Nergal and who spoke of this invisible realm of the dead as “the land of no return.” Those ancient Babylonians therefore did not believe in a resurrection of the human dead.*
5. How did action by the Reform Jews point up the fact that belief in human immortality and the resurrection teaching run contrary to each other?
5 This Babylonian belief in the immortality of the human soul runs contrary to the Bible’s teaching of the resurrection of the human dead. This fact can be seen in the action taken by the Reform Jews of our twentieth century. On this The Jewish Encyclopedia, under the subject “Resurrection,” says: “In modern times the belief in resurrection has been greatly shaken by natural philosophy, and the question has been raised by the Reform rabbis and in rabbinical conferences . . . whether the old liturgical formulas expressing the belief in resurrection should not be so changed as to give clear expression to the hope of immortality of the soul instead. This was done in all the American Reform prayer books. At the rabbinical conference held in Philadelphia it was expressly declared that the belief in resurrection of the body has no foundation in Judaism, and that the belief in the immortality of the soul should take its place in the liturgy [the collection of formularies for public worship].”—Vol. 10, page 385, ¶2 (1905).
6. In what plain Bible statement do such Reform Jews not believe?
7. What did Paul, a one-time Pharisee, say to Felix about resurrection?
7 The Christian apostle Paul, who lived in the earthly days of Jesus Christ, miraculously saw him after his resurrection from the dead. By birth Paul was a Jew. He had been one of the Jewish Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection of the dead. When he stood before the Roman judge Felix, who likely believed in Pluto the Roman god of the underworld of dead souls, Paul said, with reference to the Jewish Pharisees: “I believe all the things set forth in the Law [of Moses] and written in the Prophets; and I have hope toward God, which hope these men themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. . . . this one utterance which I cried out while standing among them, ‘Over the resurrection of the dead I am today being judged before you!’”—Acts 24:14-21.
8. (a) How many witnesses were there of Christ’s resurrection?’ (b) What does his resurrection mean for dead mankind?
8 In his writings about the resurrection the apostle Paul told of more than five hundred eyewitnesses, including himself, who saw the resurrected Jesus Christ after he had been put to death publicly on a torture stake and had been buried in a sealed tomb, under guard by soldiers to prevent any theft of the dead body inside. (1 Cor. 15:3-9; Matt. 27:57 to 28:4) In proving that he and his fellow believers were not false witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Paul pointed out what Christ’s resurrection meant for dead mankind by saying: “Now Christ has been raised up from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep in death. For since death is through a man [Adam, the first man], resurrection of the dead is also through a man.” (1 Cor. 15:20, 21) The resurrection of Jesus Christ opened up the way for others, namely, dead mankind, to be resurrected.
9, 10. (a) Why could Jesus face a martyr’s death courageously? (b) How do Jesus’ words make sure there will be a resurrection?
9 In the year 33 of our Common Era Jesus Christ courageously faced a martyr’s death, because he had confidence that Almighty God his heavenly Father would raise him from the dead on the third day. Thereby God would permit him to return to heaven and present the value of his human sacrifice to God personally. On earth Jesus Christ had much to say about resurrection. Once, when he talked about bringing dead humans to final judgment by means of a resurrection, he said: “Just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to do judging, because Son of man he is. Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment. I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative; just as I hear, I judge; and the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.”—John 5:26-30.*
10 We can be sure, then, that there will be a resurrection.
A PERSONAL QUESTION
11. What very personal question, therefore, suggests itself?
11 A very personal question, therefore, suggests itself to us. It is this: If, sometime in the future, you and I die and get buried in a tomb or grave, will a resurrection, a return to life from the sleep of death, be granted to us according to God’s will? If so, how may we know? Who will be resurrected with us? Will any not be resurrected from the dead? This very question has caught the interest of many Jews, even though they hold to only the Hebrew Scriptures, the first part of what we call the Holy Bible.
12. What kind of picture of resurrection day does the Bible give?
12 Some religious clergymen of Christendom have attempted to picture what the resurrection day will be like to a person who is still alive on earth at that time. They have imagined some wild and really gruesome things about it, such as widely scattered parts of human corpses whizzing through the air to join the other members to which they belonged in one body at death. The Bible presents no such frightful picture of the resurrection time, not even in the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones that Almighty God’s power brought together and clothed with living flesh again. (Ezek. 37:1-10) Far differently, by means of suitable symbols, the last book of the Bible gives us a picture of the earthly resurrection after the wicked powers in heaven and on earth have been chased away. This hope-inspiring vision enables us to determine who will take part in the earthly resurrection.
13. In Revelation 20:11-15, what vision was given to John?
13 The vision, as seen by the Christian apostle John, is described in Revelation 20:11-15 in these words: “And I saw a great white throne and the one seated on it. From before him the earth and the heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. But another scroll was opened; it is the scroll of life. And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds. And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Haʹdes gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds. And death and Haʹdes were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire. Furthermore, whoever was not found written in the book of life was hurled into the lake of fire.”—See also Revelation 21:8.
14 Not all persons dying have died on the dry land and been buried in a grave in the bosom of the earth. (Gen. 1:9, 10) Countless numbers have died at sea in shipwreck and storm and battle and have been buried at sea or their bodies have never been recovered to be given a burial on dry land. (1 Ki. 22:48, 49; 2 Chron. 20:36, 37; Ps. 48:7; Dan. 11:40) Therefore, in describing the day of the resurrection of mankind, Revelation 20:13 says that not only “death and Haʹdes gave up those dead in them” but also “the sea gave up those dead in it.” We can appreciate that this verse, Revelation 20:13, is a more inclusive statement of the resurrection than that of Jesus when he said: “All those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, . . . to a resurrection.”—John 5:28, 29.
15. Why is the “sea” not hurled into the “lake of fire” also?
15 One other point to notice is this: Whatever Haʹdes is here understood to be, those who are dead in it are not in the same place as those who are dead in the sea, for the dead in the sea are in a watery place. The sea will never cease, in a literal sense, to exist on the earth. That is why Revelation 20:14 says: “Death and Haʹdes were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire.” If the literal sea were hurled into the “lake of fire” it would put out the lake of fire, and the lake of fire would cease to exist, rather than the sea cease to exist. However, the Bible is definite that the “second death” that is symbolized by the “lake of fire” will never cease to exist. Symbolically, that “lake of fire” will burn forever.
16. Is the Bible Haʹdes like that imagined by the Greeks? Why?
16 What, then, is this Haʹdes that is cast into the symbolic “lake of fire”? What is the condition of those in such Haʹdes? One thing is sure, the Haʹdes described in the Holy Bible is not the Haʹdes imagined by the ancient non-Christian Greeks and described in their mythologies. There was no general resurrection from the mythological Haʹdes of the pagan Greeks.
17. In what twofold sense did ancient Greeks speak of resurrection?
17 Under the subheading “B. Resurrection in the Greek World,” the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume 1, page 369, says: “Apart from transmigration of souls, . . . the Greek speaks of resurrection in a twofold sense. a. Resurrection is impossible. . . . b. Resurrection may take place as an isolated miracle. . . . The raising of an apparently dead girl in Rome by Apollonius of Tyana is recounted. . . , 150,000 denarii being contributed as additional endowment. . . . The idea of a general resurrection at the end of the age is alien to the Greeks. Indeed, it is perhaps attacked on a Phrygian inscription: [Indeed are the wretched ones all looking to a resurrection?]. In Acts 17:18 anástasis [resurrection] seems to be misunderstood by the hearers as a proper name (compare Ac 17:31 and following).”* Of course, the “apparently dead girl” whom Apollonius raised died again.
18. Unlike the heathen, what hope did God’s people have?
18 In its article on “Haʹdes” the Cyclopædia by M’Clintock and Strong, Volume 4, 1891 edition, makes this admission, on page 9, last paragraph: “To the believing Hebrew alone the sojourn in sheol appeared that only of a temporary and intermediate existence. The heathen had no prospect beyond its shadowy realms; its bars for him were eternal: and the idea of a resurrection was utterly strange alike to his religion and his philosophy. But it was in connection with the prospect of a resurrection from the dead that all hope formed itself in the breasts of the true people of God. As this alone could effect the reversion of the evil brought in by sin and really destroy the destroyer, so nothing less was announced in that first promise which gave assurance of the crushing of the tempter.”—See Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20
19. So how does the Bible Haʹdes differ from that of the Greeks?
19 Thus in the Bible Haʹdes is different from that of the pagan Greeks, in that the Bible repeatedly states that there will be a resurrection from Haʹdes of those who are there. It is not such a place as the ancient Babylonians talked of, that is to say, “the land of no return.” But where, then, is this Biblical Haʹdes, and what is the condition of those in it? Is it a place of “intermediate existence” for the dead? Only if we get the Bible’s own answers shall we get the correct answers, the true answers on which our faith may rest unshakably. What does the Bible say?
20. What must the condition of those in Haʹdes be?
20 In the oldest known handwritten copies of the Christian Greek Scriptures the word Haʹdes occurs ten times.* Are people alive in the Biblical Haʹdes? Honest Bible readers will say that they are lifeless inasmuch as Revelation 20:13 says that those whom “death and Haʹdes gave up” were “those dead in them.” Certainly the dead in death are not alive. Likewise those dead in Haʹdes could not be alive either. However, the religionists of Christendom are infected with pagan Greek mythology and they will say: “Not so. The dead in Haʹdes are not really dead. Only their body is dead, but their soul is alive because it is immortal. For them death means only that they are separated from God. In other respects, those immortal souls in Haʹdes are really alive.” But is this argument of the religionists of Christendom right? Is it what the Bible teaches regarding the condition of those who are dead in Haʹdes and who will have a resurrection from Haʹdes? Search the Bible.
21. (a) Is Haʹdes in heaven? (b) Does the Christian congregation go to Haʹdes?
21 In the Christian Greek Scriptures the first use of the word Haʹdes is in Matthew 11:23. There the Lord Jesus Christ says: “And you, Capernaum, will you perhaps be exalted to heaven? Down to Haʹdes you will come.” (Also in Luke 10:15) For this reason Haʹdes cannot be in heaven. The next use of the word Haʹdes is in Matthew 16:18, in which Jesus says to his apostle Peter: “Also, I say to you, You are Peter, and on this rock-mass I will build my congregation, and the gates of Haʹdes will not overpower it.” This saying of Jesus means that the congregation of his followers would die and enter in through the gates into Haʹdes. They would thus get to be among those who are dead in Haʹdes.
22. Why would Haʹdes’ gates not overpower Jesus’ congregation?
22 However, why would the “gates of Haʹdes” not overpower Jesus’ congregation? Why would those “gates” not remain forever closed upon Jesus’ followers and thus make Haʹdes a “land of no return”? It was because of what Jesus later said to the aged apostle John in the last book of the Holy Bible, in Revelation 1:17, 18. In those verses the resurrected Jesus Christ in heaven said to John: “Do not be fearful. I am the First and the Last, and the living one; and I became dead, but, look! I am living forever and ever, and I have the keys of death and of Haʹdes.” Since he has the keys of death and of Haʹdes, the heavenly Jesus Christ can unlock those “gates of Haʹdes” and let his dead congregation out, in this way restoring them to life.
23. Jesus promised to overpower Haʹdes thus at what time?
23 Because of having this in mind, Jesus said that those gates of Haʹdes would not overpower his congregation. Rather, Jesus would overpower Haʹdes and free his congregation from Haʹdes. Jesus made a direct promise of this when he said, in John 6:39, 40: “This is the will of him that sent me, that I should lose nothing out of all that he has given me but that I should resurrect it at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I will resurrect him at the last day.”
24. (a) In the Bible what word is associated with Haʹdes? (b) At death where did Jesus go, according to Psalm 16:10, 11?
24 It is interesting to note that in the ten cases where Haʹdes occurs in the Christian Greek Scriptures the word “death” occurs with it. (Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14) So death, not life, is associated with Haʹdes. In this connection, then, we ask the question, When Jesus Christ himself died and was buried in the memorial tomb of his friend, Joseph of Arimathea, that same day, where did Jesus himself go? (Matt. 27:57-61) A person upon whom we can rely to tell us the truth about this is Jesus’ own close apostle, Simon Peter. On the festival day of Pentecost at Jerusalem, fifty-one days after the death and burial of Jesus, God’s holy spirit was poured down upon Peter and other disciples of Jesus. So under inspiration of God’s spirit Peter spoke and quoted Psalm 16:10, 11, saying: “Because you will not leave my soul in Haʹdes, neither will you allow your loyal one to see corruption. You have made life’s ways known to me, you will fill me with good cheer with your face.” Those words quoted by Peter were written by King David, who wrote as an inspired prophet of God.
25, 26. On Pentecost what did Peter say regarding David and Jesus?
25 Then the apostle Peter, filled with God’s spirit, went on to say to the thousands of Jews observing the festival of Pentecost:
26 “Brothers, it is allowable to speak with freeness of speech to you concerning the family head David, that he both deceased and was buried and his tomb is among us to this day. Therefore, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath that he would seat one from the fruitage of his loins upon his throne, he saw beforehand and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in Haʹdes nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses. Therefore because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you see and hear. Actually David did not ascend to the heavens, but he himself says, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.”—Acts 2:27-36.
27. How did Jesus Christ become able to resurrect his congregation from Haʹdes?
27 In that speech the inspired Peter plainly says concerning the Lord Jesus Christ that he was not “forsaken in Haʹdes,” and that in fulfillment of Psalm 16:10 his soul was not left in Haʹdes. Thus when the dead Jesus was buried in the memorial tomb his soul went to Haʹdes. On the third day Almighty God resurrected him from Haʹdes, and then God committed to the resurrected Jesus the “keys of death and of Haʹdes,” so that Jesus could say, in Revelation 1:18: “I became dead, but, look! I am living forever and ever, and I have the keys of death and of Haʹdes.” Because of his possessing those keys, he is able to resurrect all those who are dead in Haʹdes, including his own congregation.*
28. (a) In what language did Peter on Pentecost quote Psalm 16:10? (b) How, then, shall we find out what and where the Bible Haʹdes is?
28 The apostle Peter, being a Hebrew or Jew, evidently spoke in the Hebrew of that day when he gave his speech on the day of Pentecost. So, when he made his quotation from Psalm sixteen, he quoted directly from the Hebrew text, not from the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew text. That being so, Peter did not use the Greek word Haʹdes but used the original word in the Hebrew text, namely, Sheol. The fact of the matter is that the word Haʹdes is the Greek word used in the Septuagint Version in translating the Hebrew word Sheol.* In the inspired Hebrew Scriptures the word Sheol occurs sixty-five times in sixty-three different verses, including Psalm 16:10, which Peter quoted. In the Hebrew this verse reads: “For you will not leave my soul in Sheol. You will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.”* Consequently, if we find out what and where Sheol is and what the condition is of those in Sheol we shall at the same time find out what and where the Bible Haʹdes is and what the condition is of those in Haʹdes.
Haʹdes corresponded with the Romans’ god of the underworld named Pluto. As applied to this god of the dead, the name Haʹdes meant “The Invisible-making Deity,” from his power to render human mortals invisible after their death.—See M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume 4, page 9, under “Haʹdes”; also, Liddell and Scott’s A Greek-English Lexicon, reprint of 1948, Volume 1, page 21, column 2, under Ἅιδης or ᾅδης.
See the book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules!, page 43, paragraphs 2, 3
For a thorough discussion of these words of Jesus Christ, please see the Watchtower issue of December 1, 1964, under the titles “Out of the Tombs to a ‘Resurrection of Life’” and “Out of the Tombs to a ‘Resurrection of Judgment.’”
Edited in German by Gerhard Kittel, and translated into English by Geoffrey W. Bromley, edition of 1964. Printed in the Netherlands.
In the most ancient Greek manuscripts the word Haʹdes is not found in 1 Corinthians 15:55. Instead, the word thánatos, meaning “death,” is found there.
For an explanation of Haʹdes in Luke 16:23 see the issue of The Watchtower under date of February 1, 1965, page 75, paragraph 11 ff.
In the Greek Septuagint Version the word Haʹdes occurs seventy-three times.
NW; AS; Yg; RS; AT; but Ro reads “haʹdes” instead of “Sheol.”
[Picture on page 39]
RESURRECTED JESUS APPEARS TO PAUL