Authored By :
Published On :
May 30, 1997
Last Updated :
March 9, 2018
Will There Be Few Left in Hell?, God's Earnest Desire For Repentance And Healing, Broad Way To Destruction, Is There Any Hope After Death?, People Who Never Had Opportunity To Accept Jesus Christ, Jesus Preaches To Spirits In Prison, King David's Prophecy Regarding The Resurrection Of Christ, Apostle Peter Quotes David's Psalm, A Distinction Between Soul And Flesh, Earthen Vessels Buildings Houses Lively Stones Tabernacles And Temples, Breath Of Life And A Living Soul, "Soul" Can Mean People Bodies And One's Descendants, "Soul" Likewise Refers To Spirit Which Dwells In One's Body, At What Point Does The Breath Of Life Enter A Human Fetus?, Adam Became A Living Soul After God Breathed Breath Of Life Into Him, From Dust To Dust, Babies Made In Heaven: Designed Before We Were Born, Windows To The Soul, Three Words Were Translated As "Hell" In The KJV, Departed Spirits In Heaven, Flesh And Blood Cannot Inherit The Kingdom Of God, Ancient And Modern Burial Methods, Jesus' Resurrection Of Lazarus
A number of years ago I was involved in a Christian network in my local area. We enjoyed discussing quite a range of topics. One day, we engaged in a conversation regarding the topics of Salvation and God's Mercy. During our exchange, I made a statement which apparently surprised some of my more conservative Christian friends. The statement which raised a few eyebrows was the following:
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"The Bible indicates that, ultimately, there will be very few people left in Hell. God won't be happy until He has saved as many of them as He can. Yes, many of the other religions still deny the divinity of Christ, but give the Lord more time to work on them. He hasn't given up on them yet. Have you?"
----- End Of Quote -----
I based the above statement on verses such as the following where we clearly see that our Heavenly Father's earnest desire is that all men repent of their sins and be saved. He does not truly wish to destroy anyone, if their destruction can be avoided, which it indeed can be, if they make the right choice:
"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
Ezekiel 33:11, KJV
"For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men."
Lamentations 3:31-33, KJV
"Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."
Matthew 18:10-14, KJV
"And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village."
Luke 9:51-56, KJV
"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Luke 19:10, KJV
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."
John 3:16-17, KJV
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began."
Acts 3:19-21, KJV
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."
1 Timothy 2:3-4, KJV
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9, KJV
"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed."
Hebrews 12:5-13, KJV
Please notice some of the key phrases and sentences which are used in the previous set of verses. Do they not clearly demonstrate God's patience and mercy with fallen humanity?:
• I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked
• For he doth not afflict willingly
• It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish
• The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them
• For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved
• Until the times of restitution of all things
• Who will have all men to be saved
• Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance
• But let it rather be healed
Upon making my previous comment, one of the first responses came from a friend who quoted me the following verses that are found in the Gospel of Matthew. He then challenged me to present Scriptures which refute his position:
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
Matthew 7:13-14, KJV
The previous verses from the Gospel of Matthew were accompanied by the following remark from my friend:
----- Begin Quote -----
". . . This does not say, 'Don't bother to preach the Word, it's not worth it.' It does, however, seem to suggest that many won't enter heaven's gates."
----- End Quote -----
As I point out in such articles as "A Biblical Cafeteria, or the Whole Course?", "Is the KJV Bible the Inerrant Word of God?" and "In Defense of the KJV Bible", naturally, I accept the entire Bible as being the inspired Word of God. That, of course, includes the previous verses. However, as some of you may also know, for some time now -- years in fact -- I have pondered the remote possibility that even after people enter the broad way to destruction, even after our present physical life ends, there may still be a ray of hope for those people who have made the wrong choice by refusing to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Not only that, but if we truly believe in God's Righteousness and Mercy, then we must wonder about the fate of those people who were never even given an opportunity to know Jesus; such as stillborn babies, aborted babies, children who die at a young age, and other young people who die before they reach the age of accountability. I also discuss these and related issues in articles such as "Is the Message of Salvation Meant for All Men?", "All Are Given a Chance, But . . .", "Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen" and "Not Everyone is a Child of God".
In a number of other articles such as "Judgment of Azazel: Scapegoat of the High Priest", "Hell, the Lake of Fire and Universalism", "The Book of Enoch: Truth or Heresy?", "The Judgment of Angels, Demons and Men" and "Nephilim: The Giants of Genesis", I also mention that in his two Epistles, the Apostle Peter explains that during the time that His body lay in the sepulchre, Jesus descended in spirit form into what Peter describes as a prison. Jude likewise mentions this dark prison that appears to be located in the bowels of the Earth. Consider the following verses:
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water."
1 Peter 3:18-20, KJV
"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;"
2 Peter 2:4-5, KJV
"And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."
Jude 1:6, KJV
In Psalm Sixteen, King David also had some type of a vision regarding his future heir -- Jesus Christ -- and prophesied concerning Jesus' Death and Resurrection from the Dead, and His return to the Right Hand of His Father. This gave David great hope that someday he too would likewise be raised from the dead. In the Book of Acts, while preaching about Jesus' Resurrection, the Apostle Peter in fact quotes directly from King David's Psalm. Consider the following verses:
"I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."
Psalm 16:8-11, KJV
"For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses."
Acts 2:25-32, KJV
Please notice that in the previous verses, Peter appears to be making a clear distinction between the words "soul" and "flesh". By using the word "neither", I believe that Peter is stating that they are actually two separate things. Some people believe that the word "soul" is simply referring to our physical body which acts as a container for our spirit, which is the unique life force that we each receive from God which in fact makes us alive. The Apostles also refer to our flesh bodies as earthen vessels, buildings, houses, lively stones, tabernacles and temples; as we can determine by the following verses:
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, KJV
"But we have this treasure [the Holy Spirit] in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."
2 Corinthians 4:7, KJV
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life."
2 Corinthians 5:1-4, KJV
"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 2:5, KJV
At any rate, this belief regarding the body and soul being one and the same thing is partially based on the following verse that is found in the Book of Genesis:
"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
Genesis 2:7, KJV
At first glance, the previous verse seems to be referring to the body as the soul; that is, the container which received the Breath of Life from God. In other words, after God formed Adam from the dust of the ground, Adam was just a dead soul. However, once God breathed into his nostrils, Adam became a living soul; in other words, a living body. This does make sense and is partially correct. The problem is that once we conduct additional Biblical research, we discover something very interesting, and that is this: In many places the word "souls" is used loosely to refer to people, such as in how many souls -- or people -- constitute a certain family. In other places, it is indeed referring to the physical body. Let me give you a clear example that is found in the Book of Genesis:
"These be the sons of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob in Padanaram, with his daughter Dinah: all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three. And the sons of Gad; Ziphion, and Haggi, Shuni, and Ezbon, Eri, and Arodi, and Areli. And the sons of Asher; Jimnah, and Ishuah, and Isui, and Beriah, and Serah their sister: and the sons of Beriah; Heber, and Malchiel. These are the sons of Zilpah, whom Laban gave to Leah his daughter, and these she bare unto Jacob, even sixteen souls. The sons of Rachel Jacob's wife; Joseph, and Benjamin. And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him. And the sons of Benjamin were Belah, and Becher, and Ashbel, Gera, and Naaman, Ehi, and Rosh, Muppim, and Huppim, and Ard. These are the sons of Rachel, which were born to Jacob: all the souls were fourteen. And the sons of Dan; Hushim. And the sons of Naphtali; Jahzeel, and Guni, and Jezer, and Shillem. These are the sons of Bilhah, which Laban gave unto Rachel his daughter, and she bare these unto Jacob: all the souls were seven. All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob's sons' wives, all the souls were threescore and six; And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten."
Genesis 46:15-27, KJV
As the previous verses demonstrate, people only give birth to other people, and not to actual spirits. Thus, it is very clear that in those verses, the word "soul" is referring to people who became a part of, or who were born into, Jacob's family.
However, if we keep searching further, we soon discover that in the strictest sense of the word, "soul" appears to refer to the spirit which dwells within that person or body, which is the actual essence of who and what that person is. Thus, when a new person is conceived or born, I am not really sure at what point a new life force -- or spiritual presence -- moves into that physical body in order to give it its own state of consciousness and self-awareness. Does a fetus have its own Breath of Life; or is it possible that it is really kept alive by its mother's life force, and does not receive its own spirit -- or life force -- until the moment in which it is actually born? Is this when God performs His miracle and makes that tiny body its own unique and separate being?
Who knows. I honestly cannot say that I know the answer to such a profound question as this. All I know for certain is that according to the Book of Genesis, while Adam's body was complete, it was not conscious or aware until God breathed the Breath of Life -- or perhaps sent a spirit? -- to dwell within him. When this happened, Adam became a living soul; which I interpret to mean that he became a living spirit, because that spirit entered into his body of flesh in order to live within our physical world, and use Adam's body as its vehicle, so-to-speak. As we learned earlier, our body is in fact the temple of God's Spirit. Thus, when we die, in accordance with the Scriptures, our body of flesh will return to the dust of the ground from whence it came, and our spirit -- or Breath of Life -- will return to God who gave it. Consider these verses which confirm these points:
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
Genesis 3:19, KJV
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."
Psalm 103:13-14, KJV
"Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust."
Psalm 104:29, KJV
"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
Ecclesiastes 12:7, KJV
We have all heard the popular phrase which says that babies are made in Heaven. Looking at a newborn baby, we can only wonder if that spark of innocence shining through isn't the essence of their true spiritual being. It is indeed a shame how this issue of the moment of consciousness has been targeted by pro-choice groups who seek to justify their practice of sacrificing their babies on the moderns altars of their god Moloch, the abortion clinics. Perhaps they should consider the following verses which seem to indicate that, even before He formed us in the physical world, in our mother's womb, God knew exactly what we were to look like. Perhaps it is even saying that our spirits were with Him before our physical creation. You be the judge:
"For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them."
Psalm 139:13-16, KJV
There is a popular proverb which states that "the eyes are the windows to -- or of -- the soul." Could this be why making eye contact with someone is so interesting? When a person is lying or being dishonest about something, it is very difficult for them to look you straight in the eyes. Why? Because if they do, you may see the REAL them. You may sense what they are really thinking. You may see into their soul. Have you ever noticed how it has become a widespread habit to wear sunglasses, even when it isn't sunny? Odd indeed, isn't it? We all like to hide our real selves, our spiritual beings which peer out through the eyes of our physical bodies, the windows of our soul. How is that for a spooky story? Now watch some of you go start staring at yourselves in the mirror. Don't worry, the rest of us aren't watching. Maybe one of these days I will have time to do a study and write an article on light, darkness and the eyes. It would be quite interesting I am sure.
To further establish that the physical body is only a vehicle in which the real you, your spirit or soul resides, here are a few more verses. In this first verse Jesus shows us the separateness of soul and body, and that it is only God who can destroy both:
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
Matthew 10:28, KJV
As I mention in the series entitled "Hell, the Lake of Fire and Universalism", in the Bible there are three words which are all translated as "hell", even though they each mean something different in the Hebrew and Greek languages. These words are "hades", "sheol" and "g'henna". One refers to the underworld, the abode of the dead, the spirit world. One refers to the common grave where we are all buried. And one refers to an actual place of torment, which the Bible refers to as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.
In the previous verse, Jesus' use of the word "hell" seems to really be referring to the Lake of Fire that is mentioned in the Book of Revelation, being as this is where the Second Death occurs. In other words, both a person's body and spirit seem to be totally snuffed out of existence. The Lake of Fire is God's eternal scrap pile reserved for the very worst; that is, the incorrigibles. In fact, we are told that death and hell are cast into the Lake of Fire. Another example where Jesus appears to be referring to the Lake of Fire is in Luke 16:19-31, which discusses the story of the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus.
In the following verse we see another example where the word "soul" is really used to mean the spirits of the departed. Here we view John's vision of the souls or spirits of those who have been martyred, under the altar near the Throne of the Almighty:
"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:"
Revelation 6:9, KJV
It would seem that these are spiritual beings; unless you accept that there are flesh and blood people in Heaven, which would be contrary to what was taught by both Jesus and the Apostle Paul. I am referring to the following verses:
"Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."
Luke 24:39, KJV
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption."
1 Corinthians 15:50, KJV
Following is yet another verse which is found in the Book of Revelation where the word "souls" appears to be describing spiritual beings, and not bodies of flesh and blood:
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
Revelation 20:4, KJV
Thinking back now on the words which were spoken by both King David and Peter regarding Jesus' resurrection, this distinction between "soul" and "flesh" or "soul" and "body" also becomes more apparent. Consider again:
". . . He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption . . ."
In this context, the word "hell" is translated from the Greek word "hades" which, as I explained earlier, represents the underworld, the abode of the dead, a spiritual holding place which the Bible and many other ancient texts seem to indicate is located within the bowels of the Earth. Hades is not the place of fire and brimstone which I described before.
At any rate, when Jesus died, what happened to his physical body? It was anointed/embalmed and placed in a sepulchre, which in those days usually meant a carved out or natural cave. As far back as Abraham's day we see the same practice being followed. People used caves for burial, if you wish to call it burial. In our modern day, when we say "burial", we think of digging a hole in the ground, placing a casket in it, covering it up with earth and placing some sort of tombstone on top of it. Not so in ancient days. If this were the case, Lazarus would have had a bit of a problem walking out after Jesus had raised him from the dead.
From where did Jesus raise Lazarus? From the world of the dead, from hell, from Hades. He reunited his spirit with his physical body which still lay embalmed in the sepulchre. So, in similar fashion, just as both King David and Peter said, Jesus' physical body remained in the sepulchre while His spirit descended to the netherworld, to hell, where Peter tells us Jesus preached to the spirits in prison. But this is not where Jesus' soul or spirit remained, for as David and Peter both said, "Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell . . ." As Jesus had prophesied concerning His death, following the example of Jonah spending three days in the belly of the great fish, Jesus rose from the dead, and eventually returned to His Heavenly Abode at the right hand of His Father.
Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.
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