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Literal Hell in Numbers 16?

"In the section of your book about literal heaven and hell, you say that the bible does not say that hell is literally underground. Then why does Numbers 16.33 describe people going down to hell alive? How could a living person have entered hell if it's in another dimension like you're saying?", (Question from Jason Planck).



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). I don't believe that Numbers 16 supports the idea of a literal cave-like hell that exists underground. If anything Numbers 16 could be used to support the view that the word "Sheol" itself, simply refers to the grave or literally the "pit". However, as discussed in ch.1, Sheol in the Old Testament, there are many OT passages that refute this as the root meaning of the word Sheol.

From what I can gather by looking at the passage in the manuscripts, the Hebrew doesn't explicitly say that they entered Sheol. Rather it can be understood to say that they went down to Sheol or "Sheol-ward". Why is this important? In the following chapter, I document how 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 in the flesh, 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.



Comments

jackie      29 Aug 2010, 11:21

i don't believe that elijah went into heaven, because the Bible clearly says that no man has ascended into heaven, only Jesus, and it also speaks of davids and moses bodies still being in the grave, so it is obvious that only spirits can enter into heaven, the Bible is clear on that flesh and blood cannot enter into heaven, so our bodies are definately transformed into a spirit, like angels, but different than angels, i believe that in numbers the author was just trying to describe an earthquake that swallowed them up whilst stil alive, but after being under the ground, of course they would smother and decease, the ground or grave being sheol, just a name of the common grave, people need to research the real meaning of the word sheol, instead of listening to pastors who have the wrong definition, and say it means hell, a fiery place.

Doug Buckley      31 Aug 2010, 14:01

Hi Jackie,
Elijah didn't literally "ascend" into heaven, but he was taken there by God, so some people did go to heaven in the Old Testament. I believe that only souls, not bodies, can enter either heaven or hell (Sheol). However, Jesus did enter heaven in his flesh body after his crucifixion, and this has to do with him presenting his body as a living sacrifice in the temple of God (Hebrews 9).

The idea that Sheol simply means "grave" is false. There are many times that it is used to refer to a spiritual underworld in the Old Testament (see ch.1 about Sheol). It is also equivalent to "Hades" in the New Testament which is definiately a spiritual underworld (see ch.2).

jackie      14 Sep 2010, 00:00

I do believe that there are demons, false prophets etc.. in tartarus, where He said they would be held til the judgement, but as for the lake of fire, and all that, I do believe that there is one, but, how do you explain that at the end of it all every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, it says everything under the ground and all that would confess that ,so that He could be all in all? what's the use of everlasting punishment in a fiery lake going to do? most sinners don't realize it and it would be mean to do that, cause basically, it's follow Christ or you're doomed. that would be forced and cause many to live fake Christianity. I believe some are fore ordained He knows who they are, and they have a job to do, witnessing to others, so they can come to know Jesus as a friend, and learn to love Him, making a relationship, but the thought of anyone burning in hell is the scariest thought I could think of and uncomfortable, like a horror show. if God said in the Bible that it hadn't even come up into His heart, what the Isrealites did, by eating their own children, then why would something far worse come up into His heart? cause eating their chidren made God cringe at the thoughts mankind had, and hell is even worse than that, cause we'd be stewed forever, or in pain forever, it doesn't seem right, even God who is all forgiving says He would forgive all our sins. it's by His righteousness that we are saved, not our righteousness, but His, living in us. I believe that the hell you're describing is where fallen angels are and the nephilim, their offspring with human women and false prophets that know they are decieving people to their hurt. jackie

Doug Buckley      14 Sep 2010, 13:17

There's two hells, Sheol (aka Hades) and the Lake of Fire (see ch.2 Hades and Gehenna). The dead will be released from Sheol at the second resurrection, judged, and then the wicked will go into eternal hell (Revelation 20.11-15). I don't believe that people will suffer eternally in the Lake of Fire, but are killed by it (see ch.29 and 30).

jackie      16 Sep 2010, 23:49

hmm very interesting food for thought.

ignacio P      24 Oct 2012, 13:49

I would like for christians to comment more on literal hell
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