Why does Numbers 16.33 describe people going down to hell alive? How could a living person enter hell if it's in another dimension?.
Numbers 16.33 says, "So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly" (Numbers 16.33 NASB bible). Does this support the idea of a literal cave-like hell that exists underground?
The Hebrew doesn't explicitly say that they entered Sheol (the word translated as hell). Rather it can be understood to say that they went down to Sheol or "Sheol-ward". Why is this important? Because the ground and sky can act as literal spiritual gateways to heaven and hell. So Numbers 16.33 can be understood to be saying that beneath their feet a gateway to Sheol was open, and that they went down towards Sheol alive, but they didn't necessarily enter it alive. They would have first died, and then their souls would have crossed the threshold.
This passage is analogous to another scriptural account, in which Elijah is physically taken up to heaven, "behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2nd Kings 2.11 KJV bible). Elijah was taken up into the sky, because the sky can act as a spiritual gateway to heaven, but he would not have entered into heaven in the flesh. Though it isn't written, I believe that his body most likely disintegrated as he was taken up, so that only his soul entered heaven. Therefore, by being taken up, his flesh body never saw physical death or decay, which has important spiritual implications.
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