Forgotten Word Ministries
The Heart of the Earth
Dr. Jay Worth Allen
For Thou wilt not leave My soul in sheol,
Neither wilt Thou permit Thine Holy One to see corruption."
The Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was in danger of being broken. Then the mariners were afraid . . . and cast forth the wares that were in the ship to lighten it . . . . Then they said to Jonah, what shall we do for you, that the sea may be calm unto us? . . . And he said unto them, take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm for you. . . Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring her to the land . . . the sea raged . . . Therefore, they cried unto the Lord, and said, we beseech You, O Lord, we beseech You, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood; for You, O Lord, has done as it pleased You. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging (Jonah 1).
We have a vision of righteousness, perceived as something we do and not something we are. In order to obtain the pleasure of the Lord, or in order to be delivered from some difficulty, or in order to recover what we may feel to be lost time because of an expressed sin or affliction, or some other like circumstance, it is the propensity of every man to feel the need to pay God or rather, to repay God. So we engage in dignified righteous acts - activities which we consider pleasing to the Lord. We cast forth our goods - ridding ourselves of all the extraneous stuff in our lives we imagine displeasing to the Lord; we row harder to bring our ship to land. We may begin committing random acts of kindness, which compassionate, merciful, altruistic people should do - struggling to force our sinful behavior onto a sure righteous footing by our honorable parody; but we will not cast Jonah out of the boat - we will not cast all our cares, deceitful ways, shady desires, unprincipled traditions, sins and offenses on the Lord Jesus - which will stop our turbulent sea from its raging. Jonah chapter one.
Our desire is to shape-up before the Lord. So we throw wrong doings out of our life. We quit smoking, playing cards, running around on our mate, drinking, telling off-colored jokes, etc. We then have the appearance - or at least the feeling - of being righteous; but we are only unloading our ship. That's not God's goal. God is not looking for a righteousness - active or passive - which we actuate by our own elbow grease. God is looking for a righteousness which has its origin in the person of the Lord Jesus - O therefore count all those things as lost that I might stand in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law Obviously there was no greater righteousness than that which might be obtained, which was pointed to in the Law of Moses, but rather Paul said, not having my own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith which is an imputed righteousness, not an achieved righteousness. Christ Jesus died for our sins - He cast Himself out of the boat to save us, if we believe.
We have two aspects here. In one we have a passive righteousness - which we want to obtain personally - self-righteousness - cleaning up our own lives. In the other we have an active righteousness - which points us out to be the spiritual giants we would all like to be seen as or at least we would all like to be known as - by our own self consecrated activities. But we remain fruitless in our effort to row ourselves to our required haven. For He has made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). The righteousness God demands from us is the righteousness we obtain from His righteousness, which we receive from Him by faith in Him - not a righteousness we solicit by our own resourcefulness.
The Belly of Sheol
We see in the book of Jonah a breathtaking Old Testament picture of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights (Jonah 1:17). The Lord Jesus cited this simple statement in Matthew 12; As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, even so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth What then was Jonah experiencing in the belly of the great fish?
Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord, his God, out of the fishes belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine afflictions unto the Lord, and He heard me; out of the belly of sheol cried I, and You heard my voice (Jonah 2:1,2). Much of the terminology which is used in this peculiar prayer of Jonah is terminology which relates uniquely to the cross of Christ. For You have cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas, and the floods compassed me about; all Your billows and Your waves passed over me (Jonah 2:3). Which is effectively a direct quote from Psalm 42 - which is one of the great Messianic Psalms.
It is my personal opinion - and I do not have verse and chapter for this - that all of the Psalms are Messianic Psalms. When the full truth of the Word is known, fully in that day, we will then fully understand the depths of the prayer life of the Lord Jesus and how He entered into the cries of the Psalms - each one being prophetic of His own experience. In many of the Psalms this is evident, in others it isn't. O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore will I remember You from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermons, from the hill at Mizar (or little mountain). Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterspouts; all Your waves and Your billows are gone over me (Psalms 42:6,7). This is exactly the terminology we hear in Jonah's cry. The reason Jonah's cry in chapter 2 and the cry of the Psalmist in Psalm 42 are analogous? Because both are looking forward to the cry of the Lord Jesus - as He was in the pangs or the throws of death - at the time when the sun became black, as sackcloth of hair - Jesus cried out, My God, My God why hast Thou forsakened Me
There is an important distinction between the agony of Christ on the cross - as He was the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world - and as He was the serpent on the pole (Numbers 21). I don't want to wade too deep into this torrent, but allow me to clarify.
As the Lamb of God, Jesus was shedding righteous blood before the Father - what Acts 20 refers to as the blood of God Himself - He was that righteous substitute for our sin. When He became the serpent on the pole, He who knew no sin became sin for us. It goes without saying but, may I stir up your pure minds by way of remembering," the blood of the serpent is of no value in the atonement for sin. It must be the blood of the righteous Lamb. Peter said, it is a Lamb without spot and without blemish who became our substitution on the cross. What then is the import of the serpent? The serpent depicts Satan. Jesus Christ came into the place where we were, in order that He might deliver us into the place He is.
The Heavens Became Black
Well might the sun and darkness hide and shut its glories in; when Christ the mighty maker died, for man, the creatures sin. The author of this wonderful old hymn alludes me, but its theme is etched on my soul. The heavens became black. Those three hours of darkness - when Jesus was on the cross - when Jesus entered into where we are, in bondage to Satan, in darkness - in order that He might deliver us to where He is. The cries of Christ during His time on the cross, may very well have encompassed a great deal of the Psalms. Psalm 22 is quoted at least in part. My God, My God why . . .C. H. Spurgeon pointed out it was his belief that Jesus probably quoted the whole of Psalm 22 as He hung on the cross; since the whole of the Psalm is indicative, not only of what was happening to Him, but what was going to happen to Him - when God the Father raised Him from the dead.
For the most part, the Psalms are songs of prevailing. Psalm 88, in contrast is the only Psalm which presents no note of victory. Which is rare and unusual for any of the Psalmists to leave no cry of triumph. O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night, before You. Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear unto my cry; for my soul is full of troubles, and my life draweth near unto sheol. Some translations read, the grave, death, hell, etc., which is very often misleading. The word is sheol, simply meaning, the abode of the dead. I am counted with them that go down into the pit; I am as a man that has no strength. . . Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? But unto You have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer come before You. Here is the Psalmist's cry. They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together. Lover and friend have You put far from me, and mine acquaintances into darkness. This is in reference to, His disciples forsook Him and fled. Lover and friend have You put far from me.
Paul's words in Hebrews 5 indicate this identical agony - which is the same agony which Jonah is experiencing in the belly of the great fish, in a figure, on behalf of Christ. As He said also in another place, You art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek; who, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death and was heard in that he feared. Strong crying and tears.
I went down to the bottom of the mountains; the earth, with its bars, was about me forever; yet hast You brought up my life from corruption, O Lord, my God (Jonah 2:6). This is a very significant verse. You brought up my life from corruption. You will not suffer Your Holy One to see corruption (Psalms 16:10).
What Jonah is declaring, what the Psalmist is anticipating (as Jesus has already pointed to the analogy) is the strong crying which He, the Lord Jesus cried out as He faced that substitutenary death on our behalf - as He was approaching the grave.
The Levical meal offerings, in the Old Testament, manifest three different categories - as far as their preparations were concerned. Some were baked in an oven, some were fried in a pan (grill) and others were cooked on a griddle. Each of these meal offerings were in varying degrees of visibility. The offering on the grill could be seen totally; the offering on the griddle could be seen partially; the offering in the oven could not be seen at all. These three differing preparations of the meal offerings, point to the sufferings of Christ as they relate to the Lord Jesus - His body, soul and Spirit.
His suffering in His body could be seen in totality. The physical agony which He endured was evident. All of what He physically endured on the cross was witnessed, physically. What He was going through soulishly could be seen partially. When His friends forsook Him. When He cried out saying, I thirst; Father forgive them for they know not what they do - could be witnessed to a degree. But we saw none of what He experienced Spiritually. Which is what the Psalmist is expressing: Shall Your wonders be known in the dark?
The meal offerings, presented in the Old Covenant provide us a point of reference in understanding Christ's sacrifice; there are elements which we may comprehend regarding the substitutenary death of Christ on the cross and there are elements which we can not comprehend - we couldn't enter into them, even if we could understand them. If we could somehow enter into them we would be as He is and do what He did - which we cannot. It is totally out of the question that we should even consider such a ramification. The prophetic cries given to us are intended to furnish us a view into -we see through a glass darkly - what He was going through on our behalf - His body: What the darkness of this age wants done to Him, it now wants done to us - prophetically for our example. But it was not possible that death could hold Him - we are going to come out with Him on the winning side. No matter what the world, the flesh and the devil wants.
You brought up my life from corruption. The Jews believed - the classic example is Lazarus - after an individual had been in the grave three days the spirit left the body - during the first three days, the spirit stayed in the body. I don't know where the Jews got this idea or how they came to such a conclusion, but they believed the spirit stayed in the body for three days after death. On the forth day the spirit left and the body began to decay.
You will recall, in the case of Lazarus Jesus received the message of his death a day after he died; He tarried yet two days later. The Lord took another day to come back down to Bethany. Lazarus, by this time had been dead four days. What was his friend's conclusion? By this time he stinketh (John 11:39 KJV). I like the King James there. The spirit had left the body and decay had set in. Jesus was not in the grave, sheol, four days.
What was the promise God gave in Psalm 16? Peter quotes it in Acts chapter 2 - As He says also in David, You will not suffer Your Holy One to see corruption . . . You will not leave my soul in sheol, nor suffer Your Holy One to see corruption. The Lord's soul did not stay in the abode of the dead (sheol), neither did His body begin to decay. How do we know this? How did Peter know this? Because David, being a prophet, the scripture states, prophesied it. Jesus was in the grave, sheol, for three days and three nights. No decay. No corruption.
There's a number of Messianic Psalms, which, if you read them alone, you begin to realize the vision of each individual Psalmist - each Psalm revealing what each Psalmist is seeing and feeling. But, when you back away from the written words you begin to understand that Jesus Christ is identified in every experience of the Psalmist.
It becomes very important - I'm not certain I can convey what I want to exemplify here; I will make an assault with an intent. It is tremendously essential that we begin to understand that every experience the Psalmist experienced, Jesus Christ experienced as well. Every experience we - as believers - experience, Jesus Christ is experiencing as well. We are thoroughly, perfectly and absolutely joined to Him. That truth becomes vitally important to us - to our living in and through Him, to our realization that when He died on the cross, when He died to all that is wrong with us, we are separated in and by His death from all of our old man's activities. Separated from all - aggregately - with that which is associated with sin. And with that separation, because of His death on the cross, we are raised together in newness of life with Him - by His resurrection, which has justified us before the Father (Romans 4:25) - so that God no longer assigns to us those things which are inconsistent with His nature. We are separated from sin, our old man, because Jesus Christ accepted our sin - and the sin of the whole world - taking onto Himself the judgment of sin which is death, death on the cross - for us - we bear our sins no more. Our life is hidden in Christ Jesus. What He is experiencing, we are experiencing. What we are experiencing, He is experiencing. We are one body with one Head. One body, yet many. What He feels, we feel. What we feel, He feels. May I encourage you to meditate on that truth. As you read through the Psalms consider what the Psalmist is crying out. What he's going through. What he's feeling. Then move David out of the picture, move Asaph out of the picture and bring the Lord Jesus into the picture and understand that He has in every aspect become our substitute. So, He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities and because of that He can be a faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God because He is able to deliver them also who are tempted. But, the experiences we find in the Psalms may not be circumstances which we are experiencing - or the Lord is experiencing - but experiences which are being done to us.
In Psalm 109, for example, the Psalmist is relentless in the Lord punching out the enemy. What we see in Psalms 109, one of those great implicatory Psalms, is the experience which is ensuing the Psalmist. It is another individual - without - who is in pursuit of the writer. Psalms 109 is prophesying of Judas. Peter quotes this Psalm in Acts chapter 1, his bishopric let another take. Judas died that he might go to his own place. Which is a significant statement in itself. So, Psalm 109 is prophesying of Christ once again, but prophesying of Him as He was betrayed by His own familiar friend. Which each of us can relate to in our own life experiences. Of that I am sure. Psalm 109 is a prophecy against Judas. As the Lord Jesus said, have not I chosen you twelve and one of you is Devil. Not a devil, but Devil. There is no indefinite article in the Greek. He is addressing the nature of the individual. Those imprecations which are called for, are legitimate as though they were called for by the Lord Himself and they fall upon the man Judas.
It is my personal conviction that the spirit which will inhabit the false prophet that arises out of the sea, Revelation 13, is the spirit of Judas. I find certain indications of that fact in the Scripture. For example, Judas is the only man Jesus ever referred to as Devil. Other passages of scripture use the word, demon; in this singular case, addressing Judas the word devil is applied to a man. Not daimin or daimonion - demon - but diabolos - devil. Secondly, Peter's statement is very significant, he died that he might go to his own place. What was his own place? The place of the devil. According to the title given him by the Lord. Judas is that one referred to as the son of perdition - his title. The son of destruction: apoeia. Metaphorically - a person persistent in evil - which perdition signifies the proper destiny of the person: destruction. Which is the term applied to the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians. So my conviction has a justifiable implication. It prophetically addresses Jesus attitude towards Judas: the Beast, the final head of the revived Roman Empire (Revelation 17:8,11).
The man of sin, the Beast is raised from the dead when he appears on the scene; yet he goes alive into the lake of fire. We know that no man goes into the lake of fire without first experiencing death and resurrection. No man goes into glory without first experiencing death and resurrection - transformation in the instance of some of the saints (1 Thessalonians 4:17). A change. No man, righteous or unrighteous goes into glory or into the lake of fire without first experiencing death and resurrection. When the antichrist appears on the scene, he is slain and resurrected. But when the false prophet - a man - appears he just comes out of the sea. Yet, when the time comes for them both to be cast into the lake of fire the scripture says that they are cast alive into the lake of fire. Both of them. Without the benefit of death and resurrection? No. Both, the False Prophet and the Beast have experienced death and resurrection. The man of sin was alive before he rises up out of the sea. He has died, or committed suicide, in the case of Judas, before he is then resurrected from out of the sea. Hence, both of them have already experienced death and resurrection. Which is why I believe Judas, or the spirit of Judas, is that "Beast," "the man of sin," given in the Revelation. Psalm 109 follows that same theme.
Since I'm here, I know you may be thinking, of all that Thou hast given me I have lost none. But the verse goes on to say, but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled (John 17:12). Judas was not given in redemption. The scriptures had already prophesied that Judas was coming on the scene to play a particular role which he did play. Judas was raised up to play the role he played. He was not raised up to be saved. He was raised up to destroy. Thus he is called the son of perdition. He was not given as a believer is given to the Son. Seven times in John chapter 17 the believer is sighted as a gift from God the Father to the Son. The only verse in John 17, which makes reference to Judas, states that he was given for a particular purpose, which was not redemption. He was given as the son of destruction, the betrayer, the son of perdition. That's why Judas was accepted. That is why the statement is made to accept him - But the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. Judas is given reference to in more than a few Psalms . Thou my own familiar friend we've walked to the house of God in communion together. . . you have lifted up your heel against me.
Did Judas have a choice in the matter? The choice Judas had, he made. And the choice was the choice he wanted to make. Remember, Judas was not repentant. Judas was remorseful. There is a great difference between being sorry because you did something and being sorry because you were caught doing it. Remember, it was Judas idea that Jesus was going to make him the treasurer of His new kingdom. He was already the treasurer of the twelve, He had the bag and he kept what was put therein. Judas was looking forward to being in charge of the whole of the new kingdom's money. Avarice ruled Judas. One of the Rothschild's said, The man who owns the gold, rules the world. Judas knew that. And Judas, being the kind of man he was, was really looking forward to all the ramifications which would come with that position. But, as the circumstances materialized it became evident that Jesus wasn't going to set up His new kingdom the way Judas envisioned. So Judas decided to make the most of what he saw as a bad situation, redeeming out as much from the situation as he could.
It's my personal opinion, but I don't think Judas ever considered that Jesus would allow Himself to be captured. Judas watched Jesus escape many times. One group tried to push the Lord off a cliff, and He disappeared out of their midst. They tried to arrest the Lord and He just disappears out of their midst. He just walked out of their sight. The Jews tried to make Him king - by force - and He just disappeared out of their midst. Judas had precedence. Judas most likely thought, I am going to recover from this all that I can. But his plan back-fired. That's is why he cast the money back into the treasurer. Saying, I have betrayed innocent blood. Which hearkens back to the Law of the man-slayer.
In the Old Covenant, a man-slayer could be protected in a city of refuge, if he accidentally killed someone. But if the man-slayer hated the person before he killed him, if he knew what he was doing, there was no deliverance. "That slayer who kills any person unintentionally and without premeditation may flee there; and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood" (Joshua 20:3). City of refuge or not, the man who killed someone because of hatred or premeditation was delivered up to death. Which was exactly what Judas was referring to when he said, I have betrayed innocent blood. He was seeking refuge. But he found "no place of repentance" because there was no place. No hope. Judas was not repentant. Judas was remorseful, not repentant. Because he, like Esau would find no place of repentance though he would seek it carefully with tears. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians, Godly sorrow works repentance not to be repented of. But the sorrow of the world works death - the sorrow we see in the children of this world - which does not reflect on what they have done to the Lord or because of the Lord, but rather reflects on how their situation came out - is not Godly sorrow. It is only remorse. They're sorry because they were caught in the act.
We are looking at someone, in Judas who is reflecting on how his situation came out - because he got caught - not because he was repentant. And he could see no way out. Judas believed the Law and saw no escape. Remorse overwhelmed him. He had no hope. So he hung himself. This is why people commit suicide - they have no hope. Remorse overwhelms them. That's what happened in 1929 in the Stock Market crash - hope crashed. So they killed themselves. Avarice, hanging, self destruction.
Dante Alighieri gives a wonderful illustration of this in his Inferno. Pier Dell Vigna (1190-1249) was a lawyer, poet, and chief minister and secretary to the Emperor Frederick II, king of Sicily. Having fallen from favor, he committed suicide. Because of his avarice and his betrayal of the Emperor's trust, Pier Dell Vigna was disgraced, blinded and imprisoned. Dante's pilgrim finds Pier Dell Vigna on the seventh level of the inferno and like Judas Iscariot, he died by suicide. So Judas and Pier Dell Vigna are linked in Dante by the avarice he saw in them. In fact, avarice and hanging are linked in the medieval mind.
The earliest known depiction of the crucifixion was carved on an Ivory box in Gaul about A.D. 400. It includes the death by hanging by Judas, his face upturned to the branch that suspends him. Judas is pictured again on the door of the Benevenio Cathedral, this time with his bowels falling out (Acts 1:8). There is a plate from the 15th, century edition of the Inferno which depicts Pier Dell Vigna's body hanging from a bleeding tree. I will not belabor the obvious parallel with Judas Iscariot - Dante Alighieri needed no drawn illustration. It was his genius to make Pier Dell Vigna - now in hell - speak in strained hisses and coughing sibilants as though he is hanging still. In Dante, Pier Dell Vigna, like Judas was an unquestionable portrayal of one's fate from a life of avarice. Pier Dell Vigna, like Judas saw no escape, Now come, death, quickly come! (Canto XIII). Avarice which led to hanging: self destruction. I have betrayed innocent blood (Matthew). OIL make - my own house - my gallows place. (Dante)
Avarice, hanging, self destruction - no hope.
The Lord made all things for Himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. So as God prepared individuals for His various purposes (both wicked and righteous), Satan grabs those individuals - the wicked - to accomplish his deeds: i.e., Judas. But as Norman Grubb says, Satan is like a glove on the right hand of God. Nothing comes to God as news. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, said the Lord, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8). The Lord is never surprised.
It all comes down to this: we are not going through anything the Lord is not aware of, and we are not going to be overwhelmed by anything we are going through. Jesus has never been overwhelmed by His circumstances - even His betrayal - and we, being found in Him, cannot be overwhelmed by our circumstances. So we don't lose hope. The things that have fallen out to us, Paul said, have fallen out for the furtherance of the Gospel And, there is no trial which has taken us but such as is common to man. God is faithful who will not suffer us to be tried above what we're able. But with the trial He will make a way of escape - I would that it ended with escape (I like the idea of escaping) - but the verse goes on to say, that we might be able to bear it. So then, in the midst of our situation - unlike Judas or Pier Dell Vigna - we begin to understand the wonderful work God is doing in each one of us and the hope that is before us. As Peter said, he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. That's marvelous! After we have suffered for a while the Lord shall establish and strengthen and settle us. It is ever the purpose of God to cause us to experience sufficiently of what this world has to offer to make us long for that which is to come. It is Godly sorrow which works repentance in the children of God. Which is a marked difference from the remorse we see in the children of this world.
The Heart of the Earth
When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came in unto You, unto Your Holy Temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy (Jonah 2:7,8). I hope you grasp the essence of what Jonah is saying here. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. They forsake what is theirs to receive. What was the lying vanity Jonah pursued? That he could run from the Lord. Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in sheol, behold, You art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Your hand lead me." Jonah knew that. Jonah also knew he couldn't run from God. As the prophet of the Lord, Jonah knew that he couldn't hide from the Lord. But he tried. As do we. Nevertheless, when we embrace a lying vanity, deception falls upon us; what Paul refers to as the deceitfulness of sin. One brother said it this way, Either sin will keep you from the word of God or the word of God will keep you from sin. Which is why we hide His word in our heart. To keep us from sinning. To keep us from trying to hide from God.
When we are kept from the word of God deception begins to fall upon us and we fall into greater deception. When Jonah decided that he didn't want to go to Nineveh - disobeying the Lord - deception fell upon him and he found himself asleep on the deck of a ship heading in the opposite direction. So he says - concerning his own deed here - they that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy." A vanity in the Hebrew tongue is a soap bubble. The word, vanity can be translated, soap bubble. When you touch it, it pops. So, they that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. There is mercy to be found in obedience to the Lord. Although, with most of us, it isn't doing the will of God which is grievous to us, it's thinking about doing the will of God. Most of us want to know the will of God so we can consider it. Then, after we have considered it, then we will decide whether or not we want to do it. A lying vanity. A soap bubble. This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts (Ephesians 4:17).
When we are kept from the word of God deception falls upon us - narcissism of mind sets in - we fall into greater deception - our understanding of the ways of God leave - we become alienated from God - we become ignorant of His activity - we become blind - sin overtakes us - we begin to observe lying vanities - thus, we forsake our own mercy. Remember, the mercy of the Lord is God not doing to us what we deserve. Each of us merit death. But God is ever merciful. We all have the same disobedient, self-willed motivation within us that Jonah had. We would do well, not to chastise Jonah.
We really do need to take heed, at times, concerning how we deal with some of the disobedient saints in the Old Testament scriptures. They were friends of God. We see their affliction and work them over because of their failure. We work Abraham over from time to time because he lied about Sarah. But remember, Abraham was and is, a friend of God Even when Abraham sinned, God counted him as righteous We are moving into very serious territory there - working Abraham over - God just might say to us, Why are you talking about My friend? We need to remember that these men are given to us for our examples. Why? Because we are what they are. God wants us to understand that the manner in which these men reacted is precisely the manner in which we would react given the same situation. Given the same or comparable episode we will be found acting exactly the same way. But the ultimate end is this: there is mercy with the Lord. For His mercy endures forever. But when we observe lying vanities we forsake that mercy. We go our own way - the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways. The transgressor is held with the cords of his sin. I know something about being held with the cords of my own sin. I'm sure you know something about your cords as well. We all know. In Your wrath, O Lord, remember mercy.
But I will sacrifice unto You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that which I have vowed. Which in Jonah's case addressed his commitment as a prophet of God. Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9), abounds in the Old Testament scripture and points to the fact - always points to the fact - that God is doing for us what we could not, yea would not do for ourselves. We did not recognize our need for salvation until salvation was presented to us.
The questions are asked, How could Jonah pay what he vowed to the Lord if he was in the abode of the dead? How can a dead man pay his vow to the Lord?
Jonah didn't write his book in the belly of the great fish. I will sacrifice unto You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that which I have vowed is what Jonah was crying out - in agony while he was in the belly of the great fish - which he recorded, On dry land, after he had been vomited out of the belly of the great fish. He is reflecting on the experience he went through in the belly of the great fish - in the abode of the dead. After his death experience Jonah decided to be obedient to what God had called him to do. As would I. The whole experience in Sheol was given to Jonah to bring him to the place of repentance, the place of response to the Lord. It is ever the purpose of God to cause us to experience sufficiently of what this world has to offer to make us long for that which is to come.
Jonahs thought process is recorded in chapter 2 - in poetic phrase. The book of Jonah is written as a poem. Not a poem as in, key, we and see - Jonah is written in Hebrew poetic verse. So Jonah comes out of the belly of the great fish and writes down in poetic verse the whole emotional upheaval he has just gone through - in the course of the great fish's belly, the course of death.
Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord, his God, out of the fishes belly. The word translated belly, is the word intestines. Jonah, when he was swallowed by the fish, right away, begins to cry out to the Lord. But Jonah is going to experience a depth of agony which he had not considered.
Death has a certain mercy, in that it is a termination of timely, earthly suffering. But not so, in Jonah's case. I cried by reason of mine affliction onto the Lord, and He heard me; out of the belly - or abdomen or hollow or bosom - of sheol cried, I, and You heard my voice. Between verse 1 and verse 2 of chapter 2 Jonah has gone from the intestines of the great fish into sheol - into the heart of the earth, the abode of the dead. It is based on this verse that many men are convinced, as am I, that Jonah died in the belly of the great fish. He didn't just fall asleep, he died.
People have tried, throughout the ages, to make the miracle of the book of Jonah the size of the great fish. Many men have put out to sea to locate a great fish which would contain a man and hold him alive for three days and three nights. Which is absolutely ridiculous, yes indeed, it is totally unnecessary. That's not the miracle of the book. The miracle here, is that Jonah came out of the great fish alive. Not the size of the great fish, but the life that was brought forth - after three days! A situation which should have masticated Jonah completely, saw him come out in resurrection life. And by that resurrection, Jonah becomes a more perfect type of the person of the Lord Jesus. Jonah, having gone into the place of death physically, having gone into sheol spiritually and having come out again in that body in resurrection life is a perfect type of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. That's the miracle! Jonah knew he was dead. Everything he wrote indicated that he understood he was in the abode of the dead, sheol. Jonah is writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - there was no question in his mind as to what he had just gone through. Yet, all that Jonah remembers about his experience is the agony which he had gone through. Nothing more. Which is very interesting to me.
Lazarus, after being dead for four days, also, had nothing to say about what it was like in sheol. How come? Because his soul did not have the ability to transfer what his spirit experiences there. Eye has not seen nor ear heard. You can't analyze an experience out of the spirit world, through your soul, into the natural world and expect to give a clear expression of what you have encountered - the two (spirit and natural) are on two different wave links. They are on different frequencies. So, neither Jonah or Lazarus give us any explanation which describes what it's like in "the abode of the dead. We find it difficult to describe what salvation's like - it's very hard for any of us to explain something spiritual to the natural.
There are people who have experienced, what is called, near-death experiences. I would not say that they are invalid. But there is a limitation to what they describe. They are limited in their explanations - their communications. I read one story concerning a gentleman who, while on tour in Jerusalem, passed out dead in the street. The people on tour with him, being Christian, began to pray for him. The story goes on to say that the man raised up and began to speak to them, No! Let me alone! and laid back down and died. Why did he say that? Presuming the story can be believed. Maybe, wherever he had been, he liked much better than where his praying friends wanted him to be. All near death reports are very narrow sketches. And I have here, ventured way outside my area of expertise and experience. Forgive me.
Out of the belly of sheol have I cried. Out of the hollow of Hades (New Testament word) have I cried and You heard my voice. Which settles the issue of Jonah's deliverance. He was brought from death to life. A perfect picture, don't you think?
There are various words - Old and New Testament - we have translated as the word "hell." Which is very unfortunate. Hades," translated hell, is the Greek term for the Old testament Hebrew expression “sheol,” which is simply the abode of the dead. Hades and “sheol” are the same place. sheol is the Hebrew word, Hades is the Greek word, but they refer to the same place. Both would be better translated, simply, the abode of the dead." There are five different words, which we have translated, in reference to the abode of the dead." The implication in the location is not whether its residences are redeemed dead or unredeemed dead, they are just dead. The Gospel records elaborate more specifically concerning the nature of sheol. In the Old Testament record we do not have an elaboration, but we do understand, from the Old Testament, that both - those who were the Lords and those who were Satan's - went into the heart of the earth, translated sheol.
The classic example of "sheol" is the occasion of King Saul seeking out the witch of En-dor, to conjure up for him the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 28).
Saul, if you will recall, was no longer hearing from the Lord. the Lord had withdrawn from him and became his enemy. The Lord removed Saul's crown, He did not blot out his name from the book; "Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being King" (1 Samuel 15). By chapter 28, we find the rejected Saul in a real fix. The Philistines are ready to attack, Saul had no idea what to do, the prophet Samuel had died, no other prophet was in the land and the Lord wasn't talking to Saul. So Saul - as was his fashion to go with his own itinerary, and not the Lord's - ordered his men to go out and find him a witch, so he could bring up the man of God, Samuel. Which was risky, because Saul had formally thrown all the witches and wizards out of the land - if a witch was still in the land it was on the pain of death. But Saul sent his men out anyway, to find a witch - who wasn't supposed to be there. And, as it so often happens, his men did find a witch, the witch of En-dor. So Saul, in disguise, goes to the witch of En-dor and inquires of her concerning Samuel. The witch, assured of her fate, eventually asks, Who do you want me to bring up from the dead?" Saul says, I want you to bring up for me Samuel. So the witch goes through her incantations and up pops Samuel. Boom! And she jumps back in horror. Saul said, What'd you see? And she says, I see gods ascending out of the earth, an old man cometh up, and he is covered with a mantel. And Saul says, It's Samuel Which is why she was so terrified. It was customary for her to deal with demons, now all of a sudden she is confronted with something holy. And she doesn't know how to deal with a holy thing, so she lets Saul do the talking. There is no indication that this witch brought up Samuel from the dead, only that Samuel appeared. Mediums do not have access to the dead, but rather communicate with spirits posing as persons who have died; which is why they're called lying spirits (1 Kings 22:22).
Where did Samuel come from? From out of the earth. Which is "sheol" - In the heart of the earth - Paradise, in Luke 23. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish even so must the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. After Jesus died on the cross where did He go? To the heart of the earth. To Paradise For what purpose? To preach deliverance to the captives. He went to the place Samuel was - Abraham's bosom," Sheol, "Paradise." Jesus did not go to hell, tartaros.
I have heard preachers assign Saul, after his death (Saul killed himself - he fell on his own sword, 1 Samuel 31) to the camp of the unredeemed. Saul disobeyed the Lord and committed suicide. they say, so he lost his place in glory. He's in torments, not in paradise. But Samuel, speaking to Saul from the house of the witch of En-dor, said, tomorrow shall you (Saul) and your sons be with me. Where was Samuel? In sheol. In "Paradise, "the bosom of Abraham." Was Samuel in the camp of the unredeemed? Was Samuel in the place of torment, in tartaros? No. Samuel, the man of God, was in Paradise. So according to the man of God, Saul went to “sheol,” the place of the redeemed - to Paradise- to be with Samuel. Remember, God removed Saul's crown, not his birthright.
There was a certain rich man . . . and there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus. And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom; the rich man also died, and was buried; and in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeing Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. . . And Abraham said. . . between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they who would pass from here to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from here (Luke 16:19-31). There is an Abyss or Bottomless pit, which is called here a great gulf, which is fixed between what we know from other passages, to be paradise, called here Abraham's bosom, as opposed to Hades in torments the place of the unredeemed. One is the redeemed side - the justified - and one is the unredeemed side - the condemned. Lazarus, being redeemed, is on one side of the great gulf - in Abraham's bosoms - and the rich man is in torments, is on the other side of the great gulf, the place of the unredeemed. A great gulf which separates the two.
When Jesus went into the heart of the earth, He went into paradise Or the redeemed side of sheol. He did not go into “sheol” so that He might finish His work of redemption, but rather to deliver those - the redeemed dead, those Old Testament saints waiting there, in the bosom of Abraham, in paradise- to take them with Him into the third heaven - I knew such a man (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth) - how he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter (2 Corinthians 12:3,4). The Lord Jesus did not go to the unredeemed dead in “sheol” and preach to them the five spiritual laws or the Roman road or whatever method of evangelism was popular in that day, hoping that the unredeemed dead would accept Him and be saved. That's a ridiculous thought. If He had given them a chance don't you think all would have taken it? The Lord Jesus, when He was raised from the dead, took paradise - the redeemed side of “sheol” - into the third heaven. He did not go to seek and to save that which was eternally lost in hell. This is also why the Lord said to the thief, " today you will be with Me in paradise;" because that's where they both went. The Lord Jesus and the thief didn't go to hell, tartaros.
When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men - He gave some apostles; prophets; evangelists; pasturing teachers; for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ - Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same that ascended up far above all heavens - the third heaven - that He might fill all things. (The third heaven is the abode of God, the first heaven being that of the clouds, and the second heaven that of the stars. Again, the Bible should not be criticized for speaking of heaven as being up any more than a man of science should be charged with ignorance for describing the sun as rising in the east.) Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive. Thou hast received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also - gathered both bad and good; and the wedding was furnished - that the Lord God might dwell among them. (Psalm 68:18; Luke 22:10; Ephesians 4:8-12; 2 Corinthians 12:2).
So where do we, the redeemed, go when we die? We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). When the child of God dies, the child of God is instantaneously in the presence of the Lord. Instantly. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:52). We are taken up to the third heaven. Into the presence of the Lord. To ever to be with the Lord. Although we will be "in the presence of the Lord," we will not go through the "Judgment seat of Christ" as soon as we get there. That judgment will take place after all the saints are in glory. Not before. I know this because this is a judgment seat of rewards; the rewards are given to us for the work we performed on the earth - then and now - during our life and after our death. Some great men of the faith, who are now with the Lord are still performing work for the Lord; still blessing the saints of God. I, myself, am still being blessed by the work Peter did, by the work Paul did, by the work Luther did, by the work many of the saints who are now in the presence of the Lord did; their works are still bringing blessings to the people of God; their works are still being added to their rewards ledger, in preparation for this judgment seat. We will all be rewarded for all our work "done in the body," not just the work we did before we went to be in the presence of the Lord," all of our work done for the Lord will be rewarded. Wonderful! (This is amplified in Dr. Jay Worth Allen's, ch.13: "The Judgment Seat of Christ", a brief history of Redemption, copyright 1999-2008.)
The people who die today, outside of Jesus Christ, do not go to hell, in the sense that we think of hell. Hell is the ultimate end of the unredeemed dead - the lake of fire, Gehenna. But the unredeemed enter first into “sheol,” in the heart of the earth. - some translations read - in the place of torments Thus the rich man lifted up his eyes being in torment. And torment is all that remains of “sheol” today: the bottomless pit, the place of torment. The place of the redeemed - paradise Abraham's bosom - has been translated to the third heaven. Only the place of torment remains in "the heart of the earth" today.
Why was paradise translated to the third heaven in the New Covenant and not in the Old? Because sin was taken away in the New Covenant and not in the Old. Because of the blood of Jesus Christ, sin is now, not just covered over as it was in the Old Covenant economy, sin now has been removed, by His sacrifice and therefore paradise and the people in paradise could be taken or translated into the third heaven. This is also why we no longer need Abraham's bosom, or a place of sleep (as some say) between earth and heaven. When the redeemed die, we go to the presence of the Lord. But “sheol” is where Jonah went, the abode of the dead - he cried out from the belly of sheol. Or the heart of the earth.
If you will remember the demons at Gerasa, when they besought the Lord, they begged Him that He would not send them to the pit. Art Thou come here to torment us, they said, to send us into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels - before the time (Matthew 8:29; 25:41)? The word is translated torment, but it refers to the pit. The abyss or the Bottomless pit, is a prison house for the spirit world and they didn't want to go there before it was time. Have you ever wondered why those demons didn't want to go to "the pit?" Maybe they didn't want to be with their own kind, with other demons and unclean spirits; which, even to them wasn't very pleasant company, so they said, Let us go into the hogs. So He let them go into the hogs. A friend of mine said that she now has more respect for some hogs, after hearing this story, than for some people. Because the hogs wouldn't allow the demons to live in them - they ran down and drowned themselves in the lake immediately. The men had lived with those demons in them for years.
The terms, sheol, hell, the heart of the earth, abyss or the bottomless pit, the pit or the deep are at times translated interchangeably. Which can be very misleading. The word tartaros (hell) is used only once in the scripture - For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartaros), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment (2 Peter 2:4). Tartaros, translated here into the word hell, creates a vague picture of what hell really is. In all probability - I cannot prove this by chapter and verse - tartaros is a special locale in the bottomless pit, which is reserved, uniquely for those angels who kept not their first estate (Jude 6,7); those angels who cohabitated with the daughters of men (Genesis 6:2). Tartaros is in reference to the prison house created for disobedient angels. Tartaros is a unique location, a distinctive estate within that prison house, within hell.
The Valley of Slaughter
The terms, Geenna" and the lake of fire are the same place. The word Geenna, or Ghenna, was Jesus' term for the lake of fire - which He refers to as the final judgment. Geenna was in fact, the trash heap outside the city of Jerusalem - referred to as the place of fire. Geenna was located at the southwest corner of the city of Jerusalem, in the valley of Geenna, or the valley of the son of Hinnom. The valley of Hinnom - the valley of slaughter (Jeremiah 7:32). This was the valley, in the Old Testament where human sacrifices were offered to Molech, Topheth, as well as other pagan gods. Josiah defiled the valley - that no man would do those things - their sons and daughters were “passed through the fire to Molech (2 Kings 23:10).
Because of the extensive use of sacrificial fires during idolatrous rites, and its pollution, the valley of Hinnom became a symbol of preeminent burning in connection with sin. So Jesus makes references to the trash heap, the place where the worm did not die and the fire was not quenched. The place where the Israelites had by that time positioned into the unclean realm, by casting their trash there. The trash fires burned perpetually, in the valley of Hinnom. Which was why Jesus used the term, Geenna to apply to the lake of fire. He went from the known to the unknown. They didn't understand the lake of fire, but they certainly understood the valley of Hinnom. The word Geenna is used twelve times in the New Testament as a description for the place of eternal punishment.
The fires of Geenna, which began around the sixth century B.C. as human sacrifices to pagan gods, I have been told, burn to this day - with the trash from the city of Jerusalem.
God deals with us using a language of appearance. For example, when we see terms such as bottomless pit we need to see it as a place which has no end - no floor. The deeper you go into it, the worse it becomes. It's bottomless - as far as blackness and torments are concerned. The Lord utilizes language we can distinguish. In this chapter we are peeking into the spirit world, which cannot be fully synthesized into physical terms. Spirit is a very different estate than that which we experience physically. It's not over-crowded. It's not elbow to elbow in heaven or hell. The Reformers realized this and argued over how many angles could fit on the head of a pin. One man in Gerasa had five, maybe seven thousand demons, and it wasn't crowded in there. When we look at the spirit world we're not looking at a crowded assembly hall. God simply refers to a certain portion of the spirit world as being imprisoned in the heart of the earth, to give us understanding with a language of appearance. They're imprisoned, but not crowded. I'm struggling with a lot of ignorance here, because eye has not seen," so I am at somewhat of a disadvantage.
When I was young in the Lord I tried to imagine hell as being in the heart of the earth" - I read, hell hath enlarged itself. So I tried to visualize what it must be like in the core of the earth where all this was going on - hell must be getting bigger and bigger, I thought. But I was focusing on a totally different plane. I was trying to bring the physical axis into the plane of the spiritual.
A couple of years ago I read about a group of believing academicians who bored into the molten core of the earth, hoping to unearth hell. But when they got to the center they couldn't see a thing down there except a bunch of hot rocks. What they found was more of the physical and none of the spiritual. After reading this I didn't feel so simple-minded, or alone in the way I was thinking.
The Lord utilizes words and phrases we can distinguish. Which is why He used the term, the lake of fire, in many verses throughout the Gospels. The Lord uses descriptive language we can understand. The Jews saw "the lake of fire" as a fiery trash heap, we may see it as a massive sea of flames. But we understand what the Lord means by the depiction. The lake of fire is ultimately sighted in Revelation 20 when the Beast and the False Prophet are cast alive in the lake of fire. The Beast and the False Prophet have already experienced death and resurrection so God sends them into that lake of fire, alive for a thousand year period - the Beast and the False Prophet are the only ones in the lake of fire during those thousand years. The lake of fire is totally empty now. Once the Lord cast the Beast and the False Prophet into the lake of fire, then it will be occupied - not before. At the close of the thousand years, finally, The devil, death and hell (or Hades) are cast into the lake of fire. Which is the second death, the final judgment. Death is the prison house of the body. Hades is the prison house of the soul. The lake of fire then becomes the ultimate end of the unredeemed dead. Spiritual death.
The scriptures state that in the end time, the world will be as it was in the days of Noah," when the angels left their first estate and came into the daughters of men. So what can we draw from this?
First: Revelation tells us, the mouth of the bottomless pit opened up and a great
horde of demons came out - like locus on the earth. Second: Fallen angels are not demons. Third: Yes, all of what we see in the Revelation will happen. Just "as in the days of Noah." It may have already begun. Dr. William R. Nool of the Moody Bible Institute, from the 1920’s, in his book on Revelation said, I am convinced that in the last day this same thing would be repeated. Fallen angels will be cohabitating with the daughters of men.
A friend of mine told me a story concerning this subject. A group of women decided to meet for prayer over a six week period. (This was about ten years ago and I am only quoting my friend. So don't shoot me.) During one of their many nights of prayer the women began praying that Jesus would appear to them physically in their midst. As they prayed, Jesus did appear to them - or what they said was Jesus - and began to have sexual relations with the women of the group. I was not there, thanks be to God, so I don't really know what actually happened. But other people have confirmed the story, and it shows me ever more clearly where we are in this world today. There is a bizarre mindset in this age. The movie, Rosemary's Baby gave evidence to the sons of God coming into the daughters of men. Which expresses to me, the time is near. Even so, come Lord Jesus.
But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them who are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also who sleep in Jesus will God bring to Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not proceed them who are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words (2 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Amen.