Risen from the Dust
Hell is an absolute reality, but probably the biggest mistake that God-fearing Christians make on the subject, is that they don't recognize there's more than one. In fact, there are two clearly distinguishable hell-like places described in the bible. This false tradition of blending these two different hells together is further perpetuated by the reluctance of translators to use different words for them, even when the difference is clear in the original languages. Therefore, in order to correctly understand biblical hell, we need to look at the different words that are used for it in the bible.
In order to understand the true biblical nature of hell, we have to look at the various terms and hell-like places described in the New Testament. In the New Testament, the words that are translated as hell are the Greek words "Hades" and "Tartarus", and the Hebrew word "Gehenna". Additionally, we are informed about a place known as the "Abyss", and the existence of something called the "Lake of Fire". It is these five terms, and their corresponding descriptions, that have influenced and defined the modern Christian conceptions of hell.
The most commonly used word for hell in the New Testament is the Greek word "Hades". While the writers of the New Testament often used Hades to represent hell, their use of the word should not be perceived as an appeal to Greek mythology. Hades was borrowed from the Greek language for the purpose of being a close approximation to the Hebrew word "Sheol". What the two words have in common is that they both describe a shadowy realm of departed spirits, and because Hades was the Greek word for the underworld, it was adopted as a way of conveying the meaning of Sheol to a Greek speaking audience.
The tradition of translating Sheol as Hades predates the New Testament. Sheol was originally translated as Hades in the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament. Later, the practice was continued by the writers of the New Testament.
The Greek Hades is used throughout the New Testament as a substitute for Sheol. This is confirmed in a number of places, including Peter's sermon in the book of Acts. When Peter quotes and translates Psalm 16.8-11 into Greek, he says, "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 [Hades], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Acts 2.25-27 KJV bible). Peter translates the word "Sheol" from Psalm 16.8-11 as "Hades", locking in that the two words refer to the same place, (see also 1st Corinthians 15.55). By continuing the Septuagint tradition of translating Sheol as Hades, it's clear that the writers of the New Testament intended for the word "Hades" to be understood as a Greek equivalent to Sheol.
The context and usage of Hades in the New Testament is the same as with Sheol in the Old Testament. Hades has a similar negative connotation, being a place of death and destruction that is associated with the depths of the earth, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell [Hades] shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16.18 KJV bible), "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell [Hades] (Luke 10.15 KJV bible)". As with Sheol, Hades has a purgatorial quality to it, where individuals bear a burden according to their trangressions in life, "And in hell [Hades] he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom" (Luke 16.23 KJV bible). The Greek Hades has the same meaning as Sheol, being a place of departed spirits, where the wicked are afflicted for their sins.
Besides Hades, there are a number of other New Testament words that have been jumbled together to form the traditional Christian view of hell. This is unfortunate because they aren't all the same place, though they are often all translated as hell. This assumption that these different terms all refer to the same place is responsible for much of the confusion about hell.
For example, we have the word "Gehenna", which refers to something entirely different and much worse than Hades. The term Gehenna is likely derived from the Hebrew "ghay Hinnom" or gorge of Hinnom. "Ghay Hinnom" or Gehenna, is a literal site outside of Jerusalem that was of historical significance in the Old Testament. It was first used as a place where the horrid practice of child sacrifice was carried out. It was later defiled under king Josiah (2nd Kings 23.10), and eventually became a festering garbage dump where all kinds of refuse, including dead bodies, were thrown.
In the New Testament, Gehenna is used by Jesus himself to represent a place of final damnation, "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 [Gehenna]" (Matthew 10.28 KJV bible), "...it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell [Gehenna]" (Matthew 5.29 KJV bible). But even if the word Gehenna is used in addition to Hades in the New Testament, how do we identify it as being something separate or distinct from Hades? Maybe Hades itself is intended as place of final damnation, and Gehenna is simply another incarnation or description of it?
To answer that question we need to look at another hellish place in the New Testament called the Lake of Fire. We learn from Revelation that the Lake of Fire is a smoldering and putrid lake of sulfur that burns continually forever and ever. It is the destination of Satan, his angels, and those individuals who on Judgment Day are found unworthy of eternal life, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21.8 KJV bible). After the second resurrection, even Hades will be cast into this Lake of Fire, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [Hades] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell [Hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death" (Revelation 20.13-14 KJV bible). At the time of the end, the Lake of Fire will destroy everything that does not belong in the eternity, including Hades and death.
From these verses we can conclude that Hades is a separate and distinct location from the Lake of Fire. Otherwise, how could it be emptied of its contents and cast into the Lake of Fire? We can also identify Hades as being the first or current hell, and the Lake of Fire as the second hell. This is because the souls are raised out of Hades to be judged, and then the ones found unworthy of eternal life are cast into the Lake of Fire. So Hades precedes the Lake of Fire both chronologically and in severity. Hades must be the first hell, where many departed souls go when they die, and the Lake of Fire must be the second hell, a place of final judgment and damnation.
But then what about Gehenna? How can we identify Gehenna as being a different place from Hades?, "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell [Gehenna], into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9.43-44 KJV bible). Notice how Jesus says the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched. This implies that Gehenna is an eternal place, and therefore must be a reference to the Lake of Fire, and not the temporary abode of Hades.
Gehenna is also prophetically connected to the Lake of Fire in the book of Isaiah. The Hebrew word "topheth" is sometimes used as a synomym for historical Gehenna in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 7.31, 19.6). Isaiah depicts this Topheth as a place of fire and brimstone, where the future judgment of God is carried out, "For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it" (Isaiah 30.33 KJV bible), (see also Isaiah 66.24). Topheth is another word for Gehenna, and here it is described as a future place of fire and brimstone, similar to the Lake of Fire. So we can conclude that just as Hades is equivalent to Sheol, Gehenna is equivalent to the Lake of Fire. So Hades (aka Sheol) is the first or current hell, where many departed souls go when they die, and Gehenna (aka the Lake of Fire) is the second hell, a place of eternal damnation, (see also ch.30 Eternal Torment).
Tartarus is another incarnation of hell in the New Testament, and it only appears once in the scripture, "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" (2nd Peter 2.4 KJV bible), (see Jude 6 as a parallel verse). The Greeks believed Tartarus to be the deepest and most awful level of Hades, often a place of imprisonment. Peter's usage of the word conveys to us a sense of banishment, imprisonment, and complete separation from God's mercy. Thus, Peter most likely employs the Greek word "Tartarus" to refer to the deepest levels, or dungeons, of biblical Hades.
Lastly, from the book of Revelation we learn about the existence of a bottomless pit, or abyss. Specifically we are told that this abyss is restraining a demonic army that in the future will be unleashed to prey upon mankind. We are also told that during the millennium Satan himself will be locked away within it, "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit (Abyss), and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled" (Revelation 20.2-3 KJV bible). The Abyss' association with containment and imprisonment is similar to Tartarus, and so the two locations could be one and the same. At the very least we know that the Abyss is another deep sub-level of Hades, destined for destruction in Gehenna.
Kim 04 Feb 2010, 11:10Hell or the Lake of Fire - both are horrible places prepared for the devil and his angels. Hades, however is a mythological place. Mythological places have NO place in the Word of God! That's why my Bible does not contain the word Hades. Hell is a REAL place as is the lake of fire and while there is a difference, both places are places of torment. The new "bible" translations soften or make hell less believable by calling it a mythological place - Hades. If a non believer were to look up the word hades on wiki, they would indeed find that it is a mythological place. The New Age Hades is actually a good place. HELL is NEVER a good place.
Doug Buckley 04 Feb 2010, 13:04Hi Kim,
darrian mcneil 02 Apr 2010, 10:36hello this is darrian so you saying hades and tartarus are different holding places the fallen angels and the unsaved souls of men and women are not together in the same place? can you please give me some scriptures on that please thank you
Doug Buckley 02 Apr 2010, 16:31Hi Darrian,
ryan 16 Nov 2010, 05:57A careful reading of the Old Testament will show that Sheol is a place where ALL people go when they die, good and bad. Making the connection today between Sheol and Hades requires a tacit belief that the authors of the autographs of ancient Hebrew texts in the Old Testament held a belief concerning the afterlife that evolved either out of, or along side the Aegean concept of Hades as early as 1200 bce. The possible connection between the Danoi of Homer and the Israelite tribe of Dan, and the hypothesis among several scholars that the Philistines were an Aegean people who fled as a result of the Santorini eruption makes it remotely possible that ancient peoples living in what became Judah and Israel may have come in contact with some proto-Hellenistic peoples. Regardless of whether or not the writers of the earliest texts of the Old testament were influenced by a Greek afterlife concept, it does not change the fact that the concept of Hell as we understand it was far far far from an ancient Greek or Semitic people's understanding of how people are punished in the afterlife, including Jesus Christ.
Doug Buckley 16 Nov 2010, 16:57Hi Ryan, Making a connection between Sheol and Hades doesn't require any leap at all, because both the writers of the Septuagint and the New Testament chose to use the word Hades as the Greek equivalent of Sheol. That doesn't prove that they agreed with the Greek concept of an afterlife, but it's interesting that they chose to translate Sheol as Hades (the Greek term for a spiritual underworld) as opposed to the Greek word for grave. Sheol is used in alot of contexts, but a strong case can be made that it does literally refer to an underworld like Hades. Also, see ch.4 about people going to heaven in the Old Testament. I agree that the modern Christian concept of hell is off from what the original writers intended.
Marshall 25 Dec 2010, 00:25We are taught that if you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, that you are saved from the depths of hell. This is my question, why then does it also say that there is a judgement day?
Doug Buckley 25 Dec 2010, 00:34Hi Marshall, I moved your question over here.
Warwick Sheffield 10 Jul 2011, 13:36Thoroughly appreciated your article. Can you show me texts to say that " true christians go to heaven" on death. Thanks
Doug Buckley 10 Jul 2011, 16:04Thanks buddy, chapter 4 on the right will answer your question.
KEN C. 06 Apr 2012, 11:47MAN, that was good. I mean your whole study and the questions and answers. I've never really know the differences. But it's just awesome that the word of God is so relevant, and if you've ever seen any videos on after death experiences, and dead spot on. Thank the Lord Jesus Christ every day that we are believers. And our job is to get more soles to Jesus. Thanks for all the great info!!
roshell 09 Apr 2012, 23:24Hi doug. I'm just wondering do people actually burn with fire in hades or is it just a place of darkness and seperation from God, but no burning?
Doug Buckley 10 Apr 2012, 19:01Hi Roshell, good question. We know that Hades is an intermediate state where people's souls go, so they can't be literally burned in Hades. However, in Luke 16, the rich man in Hades is described as being in torment and wanting a drink of water. It's interesting that this is like a reversal of his cruelty to Lazarus, where he wouldn't give him a scrap of bread. It might also be understood that in Hades the rich man thirsts for the water of life, which Lazarus was given.
Doug Buckley 10 Apr 2012, 19:05Thnks Ken, I'm glad when the book helps other Christians.
Lawanda Middleton 11 Jul 2012, 12:44Mr. Buckley, All I can say is I glorify and appreciate God, for the revelation He has given to you concerning His word. "Thank you for sharing it with the world." Heaps of Blessing...Lawanda Middleton
Doug Buckley 12 Jul 2012, 04:44Thank you Lawanda, I appreciate it. God bless
Robert Flores 30 Sep 2012, 14:38You'd think, with so many Christian conferences and seminars and interdenominational councils around, part of an agenda would be to decide to designate the two hells by distinct names. For example, I've read of one minister refer to the first hell as Torments. In this modern age, can't we decide on something so elementary as clearing-up the "hell" confusion with two terms?
Doug Buckley 02 Oct 2012, 12:16Hi Robert, I feel the same way about the two hells. Part of the problem is that two hells isn't a mainstream teaching. The bible is clear, and it can be easily proven that, there is more than one hell, namely Hades and the Lake of Fire. Nonbelievers don't face eternal hell until Jesus returns on judgment day. Yet this seems lost on most Christians and even pastors. They dismiss it as some crazy theory, and many don't seem to care what the truth is. I've come across alot of websites and bible scholars who understand this, but we need to get it to sink in better. Having agreed upon names, like Hades and the Lake of Fire, would help.
DJ 07 Nov 2012, 15:32Hi up until a few days ago this didn't really have anything to with my life since then I put it on face book asking if anyone had told someone about Jesus today aAs we want the. To know gods goodness through Jesus it also not Togo to Hell. That has sparked some discussion I can tell you
Doug Buckley 09 Nov 2012, 18:18Ok thanks, and I'm glad this explanation of the two hells in the bible (Hades and Gehenna) has helped you.
Derrick 18 Dec 2012, 19:26Not true at all, for one the only reason anyone goes to hell is not because of their works, it is because they did not accept the blood that was shed by the eternal sacrifice in Jesus Christ. As there is only one eternal heaven, there is only one eternal hell, maybe different phases, but definitely only one.
Krishma 17 Jan 2013, 13:48Hi
Doug Buckley 17 Jan 2013, 13:52hi Krishma, the unsaved souls are not judged when they die. They do to a place called Hades which is like a spiritual underworld. Then in the future when Jesus returns they will be judged by their works and go to eternal heaven or eternal hell.
Lemuel Togonon 17 Jan 2013, 18:54Good Morning,
krishma 18 Jan 2013, 12:31Hi again
Doug Buckley 18 Jan 2013, 12:54hi Krishma, Luke 16.23, it says in the Greek the rich man is in Hades. Also see the article above for more on the difference between Hades and Gehenna.
Michelle 06 May 2013, 19:51ALL liars will go to hell. Which hell (Gehenna, hades or sheol). What kind of lies does it refer to? For example the everyday small lie such as the phone rings and I say to the person answering 'I'm not here', or excuse-type lies such as I open the door late morning still in my dressing gown and I say 'I am not well' rather than telling the truth 'I am embarrassed being in my dressing gown at this time of the day, I hope you don't mind'. Will those who lie these lies go to hell , hades or which one, or do we have a chance despite lying, to go to the new heaven or the new earth, despite continually lying.
Doug Buckley 08 May 2013, 14:36hi Michelle, the verse your thinking of is Revelation 21.8, it says that liars will have their place in the Lake of Fire. The devil is a liar and lying is a sign of wickedness. So one should repent and try not to be a deceptive person.
Eric 21 Jun 2013, 23:17Satan deceived you, that you will not surely die, :) yes you will die after death, sorry dead is dead, hades is not the
Doug Buckley 25 Jun 2013, 12:55Well I certainly do believe that in the resurrection (much of this book is about that), but there is a temporary state until then. Hades is an underworld and a place for nonbelievers before the white throne judgment. I can't say all souls are tormented in Hades, but it is a place of spiritual death and the rich man in Luke 16 has a very "unpleasant" experience in Hades.
Eric 26 Jun 2013, 09:41you know what is this interpretations? universalism, annihilationism, eternal torment, i think first two is more near to Loving God, how ever i asked Muslims, they say after death you will going to be judged and punished temporary,
Doug Buckley 27 Jun 2013, 22:04There are two "hells" in the bible, and Hades is the first. We know that in Luke 16.23 it says in the Greek that the rich man is in Hades, and I believe this is where all the unsaved go until the final judgment. They aren't judged but go there because they are dead to God. In Revelation 20.13 Hades is mentioned again as the place that the dead are raised up from in the resurrection. The last section of this book is about the second hell, which is the Lake of Fire.
Eric 29 Jun 2013, 10:50and be careful of testimonies about hell, because some say they saw Jesus, but he said you won't see me until my coming, maybe Jesus didn't have a long hair, people seeing Jesus just like pictures in dreams,
Ron 16 Jul 2013, 14:07Doug, I have read most of the comments on this topic but didn't get through all of them. Your description of Hades sounds similar to the Catholic view of Purgatory. Any thoughts on this doctrine. I believe Catholics have some scriptural verses to advance this belief.
Doug Buckley 16 Jul 2013, 14:19Hi Ron, I moved this question over here. Hades is sort of like a purgatory, but I usually avoid using that word. From what I've read on it they are different, and purgatory is much more based on tradition, whereas Hades as the place of the dead can be directly shown in scripture. Its possible that some of their ideas come from Luke 16.27, where the rich man is tormented in Hades.
Cliff 17 Sep 2013, 16:25Hi Doug, thanks for your article, it has helped clear up a few issues for me – but I was then confused by your response to Krishna, 17 Jan ‘when Jesus returns they (unsaved souls) will be judged by their works and go to eternal heaven or eternal hell’ – sounds like non- believers may still enter eternal heaven which would be contrary to John 3:36. Can you explain?
Doug Buckley 19 Sep 2013, 12:23Hi Cliff, yes, I believe that nonbelievers can enter eternal heaven in the end. I know this goes against the mainstream view that nonbelievers go to hell forever, but one has to take into account that there are two different hells, and a resurrection of the dead. I believe that the mainstream view of automatic eternal hell for all nonbelievers is a terrible misconception.
Cliff 01 Oct 2013, 08:23Ciao Doug - thankyou for your reply. I think we'll have to agree to disagreeRegarding 2nd Corinthians 5.10, I believe the ‘all’, in context, who will appear at the judgement seat of Christ, are Christians, believers, saints, who will be judged according to their service for Christ, or lack of it, obedience to God’s Word and the use, or not, of the gifts given. Romans 14 presents a similar thought about the judgement seat of Christ.
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