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What Is Hell? Part 1

Is it the grave or eternal fire?

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • December 17, In the year of our Lord, 2017


  1. Our friends in the Watchtower Society,
    1. commonly known as “Jehovah’s Witnesses,”
    2. teach many strange doctrines,
      1. including that hell is merely the grave.
      2. Therefore, when you die,
        1. you cease to exist.
        2. At the resurrection,
          1. you will be raised temporarily
          2. to hear their message again.
            1. If you reject it again,
            2. you die again with no hope of a future second resurrection.
  2. I love these people, but
    1. they have various doctrinal issues that you would not pick up on your own.
    2. You have to have someone teaching you their doctrines.
  3. The biggest problem with their teaching of hell
    1. is that they equate hell with Hades or Sheol.
    2. They believe Hades (NT) and Sheol (OT) simply refer to the grave and
      1. they believe hell also refers to the grave.
  4. They have two underlying positions that lead them to this conclusion:
    1. They appeal to your feelings saying that God would never cast anyone into hellfire and
    2. they believe the dead have no conscious awareness.
  5. I will be quoting from one of their books, “Make Sure of All Things Hold Fast to What Is Fine.”


  1. State of the Dead
    1. The JW position:“Impossible for the Dead to Be Tormented; They Are Unconscious”

      “The soul itself is dead”

      1. Ecc 9.5, 10For the living know that they will die;
        But the dead know nothing,
        And they have no more reward,
        For the memory of them is forgotten.
        (Ecclesiastes 9.5)

        Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going (Ecclesiastes 9.10).

      2. Psa 146.4
      3. Psa 31.17
      4. Eze 18.4, 20
      5. Matt 26.36, 38
      6. Acts 3.23
    2. Refutation:
      1. Ecc 9.5 also says the dead also have no more reward, but
        1. the JWs do believe that they do.
        2. They fail to understand that Solomon looks at life under the sun.
          1. 29x Solomon alerts us that he speaks of life under the sun.
          2. Consider just two of them.
            1. Ecclesiastes 1.3 introduces how he will speak,What profit has a man from all his labor
              In which he toils under the sun?
              (Ecclesiastes 1.3)

              1. Solomon was not attempting to teach
              2. the soul does not exist after death.
                1. He is going to show you the vanity of life under the sun
                2. without including God in your view of things.
            2. Then consider what immediately follows 9.5,Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished;
              Nevermore will they have a share
              In anything done under the sun.
              (Ecclesiastes 9.6)

              1. JWs believe they will live again under the sun, but
              2. this says they will never have a share in anything done under the sun.
        3. You cannot pull out verses here and there and ignore
          1. the immediate context,
          2. the context and literary style of that Bible Book, and
          3. the Bible as a whole.
      2. And Ecclesiastes 9.10 only makes a point that this life is your only chance.
        1. Once you die,
        2. your eternal destiny has been sealed.
  2. Translation Problems
    1. KJV of 1611 leads them in their misinterpretation.
      1. Hell in 1611 meant hole, or covered pit; grave
      2. Hades meant the place of departed spirits
      3. Gehenna (hell) meant the place of torment for the wicked.
        1. However, the KJV translated the Greek words and the Hebrew with one word, “Hell.”
        2. So what they do is take the ancient definition of hell, “the grave,” and
          1. apply it to the Greek words Hades and Gehenna and
          2. to the Hebrew word Sheol.
    2. However, you will read in your Bible
      1. the words “grave” and “tomb.”
      2. The Greeks had a different word for grave and tomb, mnhmei√on.
        1. It comes from a word that means memory or monument.
        2. When Greek writers in the New Testament said grave or tomb,
          1. they did not use the word hades or gehenna,
          2. nor the Hebrew Sheol.
          3. Thus, Hades and Gehenna refer to something else.
            1. Hades refers to the place of departed spirits.
            2. Gehenna has a background in the Valley of Hinnom.
              1. Jesus used that valley where they burned the trash
              2. to symbolize what hell is.
  3. The Upright Go to Hell?
    1. The JW position:“Upright as well as wicked people go to hell”
      1. Psa 16.10For You will not leave my soul in Sheol [Hell, KJV – NIV misses],
        Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
        (Psalms 16.10)
      2. Gen 37.34–35
      3. Job 14.13
      4. Psa 9.17
    2. Refutation:
      1. This stems from their confusion over the original language and their modern English equivalents.
  4. Deliverance from Hell?
    1. The JW position:“Hope held out for those in hell; deliverance possible”
      1. Acts 2.31–32
      2. Rev 1.18
      3. Hos 13.14
      4. Rev 20.13
  5. How the Bible Uses “Life”
    1. The JW position:“Scriptures contrast life and death, not life in happiness and life in torment”
      1. Deu 30.15, 19“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil…” (Deuteronomy 30.15).
      2. Pro 18.21
      3. 1Jo 3.14
      4. 2Co 4.12
    2. It does not ever speak of existence in hell as life. Have you wondered why?


  1. First Point