Sheol, Hades, Hell, Gehenna– whatever name you give the jail for unsaved souls before the White Throne Judgment, it is a place of torment, not annihilation.
This post (Part III) addresses the “holding cell” in which unsaved souls wait before their sentencing in what is popularly called the “White Throne Judgment” of Revelation 20:11-15. In the White Throne Judgment, the dead are resurrected, sentenced, and transferred to the place they will serve out their eternal sentences– the Lake of Fire.
- The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me… ~ 2 Samuel 22:6
If bodily death means lights out for the unsaved soul, why does Sheol exist? And why is it a place of sorrows? How can a soul that is annihilated feel sorrows?
- Will they go down to the gates of Sheol? ~ Job 17:16
Why does Sheol have gates if unsaved souls are simply annihilated, rather than tormented? Are the gates to keep in annihilated souls that are now annihilated and no longer exist?
- “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven… I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit. “Those who see you will gaze at you, And consider you, saying: ‘Is this the man [“man” = Antichrist, a human man possessed by Satan] who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms, Who made the world as a wilderness And destroyed its cities, Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’ ~ Isaiah 14:12-17
After Satan is thrown into Sheol, people already there will be amazed at his newly appointed humble state among them. The man who shook kingdoms will be just another prisoner in hell. History gives us a remarkable example of such a humbling– that of Al Capone in Alcatraz. Although Capone was powerful on the street, killing at will, in Alcatraz he was just another inmate.
In 1934, Attorney General Homer Cummings along with Sanford Bates, the head of the Federal Prisons, made arrangements to send Capone to a facility where he would be unable to leverage the system… In August of 1934, without any formal notice, Capone was placed on a secure prison railroad car, on a journey along with 52 other inmates to America’s Devil Island [“Devil” Island, interesting nickname when considering the Antichrist context of this analogy…].
From the first moment of his arrival, Capone worked to manipulate the system. Warden Johnston had a custom of meeting the new “fish” when they first arrived at Alcatraz, and usually participated in their brief orientation. Johnston wrote in a later memoir that he had little trouble recognizing Capone while he stood in the lineup. Capone was grinning, and making quiet smug comments from the side of his mouth to other inmates. When it became his turn to approach Warden Johnston, it appeared that he wanted to show off to the other inmates by asking questions on their behalf in a leader-type role. Johnston quickly provided him his prison AZ number, and made him get back in line with the other convicts.
During Capone’s time on Alcatraz, he made several attempts to con Johnston into allowing him special privileges, but all were denied. Johnston maintained that Capone would not be given any special rights and would have to follow the rules as would any other inmate. Capone eventually conceded and one day made the comment to Johnston, “It looks like Alcatraz has got me licked.” ~ Alcatrazhistory.com
Like Capone, the Antichrist will not be annihilated. He will be sent to Sheol where other unannihilated prisoners will be unimpressed by him.
- “Hell from beneath is excited about you, To meet you at your coming; It stirs up the dead for you, All the chief ones of the earth; It has raised up from their thrones All the kings of the nations. They all shall speak and say to you: ‘Have you also become as weak as we? Have you become like us?'” ~ Isaiah 14:9-10
When the Antichrist gets to hell, rulers who went to hell before him will be surprised at his lowly status. He will be just like them, weak and powerless– just like Capone in Alcatraz.
- For You will not leave my soul in Sheol… ~ Psalm 16:10
How can an annihilated soul (which no longer exists) be left in Sheol (a place that should not exist if souls are simply annihilated)? How can you leave something somewhere if neither the something you left nor the place you left it in exists?
- For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the LORD always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ ~ Acts 2:25-28
This verse specifically references, of course, the Messianic prophecy in Psalms that Messiah’s body would not decompose and his soul would not be left in Hades– which brings up a great question. How can an annihilated soul be “left” anywhere? How can you leave a non-existent something somewhere?
- And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me… ~ Psalm 116:3
What pangs? If unsaved souls are simply annihilated, how in the world can Sheol have any “pangs”?
- Therefore Sheol has enlarged itself And opened its mouth beyond measure; Their glory and their multitude and their pomp, And he who is jubilant, shall descend into it. People shall be brought down, Each man shall be humbled… ~ Isaiah 5:14-15
Each man shall be humbled, not annihilated. This fits exactly the experience of the rich man in the account of Lazarus and the rich man. It also perfectly fits the Antichrist’s experience of going from extreme power in the world, to extreme powerlessness (humility) in Hell. The rich man and the Antichrist were humbled, not annihilated.
In my next post, I will continue annihilating Annihilationism by showing that the 2nd death (the Lake of Fire) does not annihilate any more than the first death (Sheol, Hades, Hell, Gehenna).