The following is from my eBook, "Studies in Revelation - The Four Horsemen," which I recently published through Smashwords. It is Chapter 9.
2 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV)
9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.
The “ministry of death” is also the “ministry of condemnation” (2nd Cor. 3:7, 9). Having explained the "ministry of death," what is meant by the “ministry of condemnation”? Strong’s defines “condemnation” as, “Sentencing adversely (the act),” taken from the root which means, “To judge against, i.e. sentence.” Most everyone has experienced condemnation in its mildest form in the sense of feeling ashamed for something we’ve done, knowing fully well that we shouldn’t have done it (Gen. 3:8, 10). Case in point, little Johnny. He knew the moment he took a cookie that he was disobeying what his mother and father had told him. Would the condemnation he felt not be a form of reaping what he has sown? Yes, it would! And of course there are varying degrees of “reaping” which are dependent upon the severity of our disobedience.
I cannot help but believe that the ministry of “death” and “condemnation” could be stated as the ministry of “death” and “hell.” Why? Because Jesus said, “I have the KEYS of DEATH and of HADES (Hell) (Rev. 1:18; ESV). You’ll see what I mean as we continue.
Tradition succeeded long ago in convincing most that “hell” is a place of “eternal torment,” a place where “sinners” go after they physically pass from this earth. At one time in my life, I believed this too, but thankfully, I have come to understand that there is no such place nor no such punishment reserved for “sinners” or “unbelievers.”
So what is the “Hell” of the fourth seal? Well, first of all we read, “And I looked, and behold a pale (green) horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” Strong’s defines “followed” as, “From <G1> (a) (as a particle of union) and keleuthos (a road); properly to be in the same way with, i.e. to accompany (especially as a disciple).” Do you see by this definition that Hell is in union with Death, that where Death is, so is Hell? This being the case, HELL IS THE MANIFESTATION OF DEATH. Inasmuch as Death is a state of being (Eph. 2:1), Hell is the manifestation of this state of being. In the same way that sunlight is the manifestation of the sun but is not the sun, so too Hell is the manifestation of Death but is not Death. And since Death is a reality in this physical realm, so too Hell. And understand, dear friend, that neither Death nor Hell exist outside of this realm, for “God is light, and in him is NO DARKNESS at all” (1st John 1:5; KJV). This being true, Death and Hell do not exist within the parameters of the kingdom of God, for Jesus said of our Heavenly Father, “For he is not a GOD OF THE DEAD, but of THE LIVING: FOR ALL LIVE UNTO HIM” (Luke 20:38; KJV). Might this be what Paul was seeking to convey in 1st Thessalonians 4:13 concerning those who “are asleep”? Think about it! If the “dead” are simply described as “asleep,” then they are "alive," are they not?
So let me clear up some confusion. The King James renders Revelation 1:18 as “the keys of hell and of death,” while most other translations render it correctly as “the keys of Death and Hades.” Death first, Hades second, just as it is in the fourth seal.
“Hades” or “Hell” coincides with the Hebrew equivalent of Sheol in the Old Testament. In fact, Sheol is the only word rendered “hell” in the Old Testament. Strong’s defines this word as, “Hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), including its accessories and inmates.” Interestingly enough, this word is translated most often as “grave” or “pit,” used 66 times in the Old Testament. Two sixes? Hmm…
The fact that Sheol or Hades both apply to a “grave” or “pit” takes me to the fifth trumpet in Revelation and the opening of the “bottomless pit” (Rev. 9:1-12). All kinds of fantasies have been propagated concerning the idea of this bottomless pit, however, like many things in the book of Revelation, there is a sound understanding which logically connects to reality if we are but willing to challenge the status quo.
When we consider the definitions of “bottomless” and “pit,” we will discover that it’s synonymous with the “beast” that rises out of the sea in Revelation 13:1. Our word “bottomless” is defined as, “Depthless,” taken from the root which means, “Depth, i.e. (by implication) the sea.” Our word “pit” is defined as, “A hole in the ground (dug for obtaining or holding water or other purposes), i.e. a cistern or well.” There are three other passages in particular that help explain what is meant by the bottomless pit.
Proverbs 15:11 (KJV)
11 Hell (Sheol/Hades/Hell) and destruction (Abaddon) are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?
Proverbs 27:20 (KJV)
20 Hell (Sheol/Hades/Hell) and destruction (Abaddon) are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied (bottomless).
Genesis 6:5 (KJV)
5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (bottomless).
Friend, the bottomless pit of the fifth trumpet is simply a word picture of death and the manifestation of death, i.e. Hell or Hades. In confirmation, we read, “They have as king over them the angel (spirit and message) of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is ABADDON, and in Greek he is called Apollyon” (Rev. 9:11; ESV). Not for a moment do I believe this “angel” to be a literal winged being, rather, it speaks of the “spirit” and “message” of this “bottomless pit” described in our passages above! To be even more specific, consider the following.
Romans 8:6-8 (NKJV)
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Here we are! “To be carnally minded IS death,” so again, death is a state of being where we conduct ourselves by a mindset completely absorbed in the human form and all of its attachments, material or otherwise. So it is that the description of the bottomless pit in the fifth trumpet reflects the carnal mind and the ministry of “death” and “condemnation” which provokes and sustains it, for when we live wholly after the flesh or carnal mind, we come under the auspices of the law of God apart from its spiritual nature. Please consider.
Psalms 19:7 (KJV)
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
What do we read? “The LAW of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” If this is true, then is there a need for another law? Of course not! And again, what did Paul call the law? The ministry of death and condemnation! This is what we see in the fourth seal, and does it not correlate perfectly with the principle of sowing and reaping, where the consequences of our actions fall within the parameters of the moral essence of God’s law in this earth?
Finally, if what we have considered is correct, then the fourth Spirit of God, i.e. the “Spirit of might,” should coincide with our perspective. And it does, for the reality of the ministry of death and hell (God’s law) is all around us and is but the first stage of the process of sowing and reaping which leads to resurrection and life!
Galatians 2:19 (NKJV)
19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.