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Defining Hell

Defining Hell


In today’s English translation(s) of the Bible there is very little clarity on the three terms which actually define “hell”. Because of Platonic thought over many years, hell has been classified as one reality in Biblical translations when there really is two. This teaching helps to define those two realities.

We apologize for the abrupt ending to this teaching which feels like it leaves you hanging. This teaching was the ending to a larger teaching and the recorder was set to record for only a certain amount of time, thus cutting off the tail end of John’s teaching on this subject. We still felt that the audio that we have was worth posting.

This teaching was taught in context to the course Biblical Theology of Mission during the The Heavens And The Earth teaching.



The content of this teaching’s notes are below with partial formatting. If you would like to see the notes with complete formatting, click Download “Defining Hell” Notes.

Defining Hell – Sheol, Hades and Gehenna



  1. <7585> lAav. she’owl {sheh-ole’} or laov. sheol {sheh-ole’}

Meaning:  1) sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit 1a) the underworld 1b) Sheol – the OT designation for the abode of the dead 1b1) place of no return 1b2) without praise of God 1b3) wicked sent there for punishment 1b4) righteous not abandoned to it 1b5) of the place of exile (fig) 1b6) of extreme degradation in sin

Origin:  from 07592; TWOT – 2303c; n f

Usage:  AV – grave 31, hell 31, pit 3; 65[1]

  • “The Hebrew word Sheol is probably derived from a root ‘to make hollow,’ and was seen as the common receptacle of the dead and in the great many places the word appears in the OT, it is referring to the grave.”[2]
  1. <86> a[|dhj hades {hah’-dace}

Meaning:  1) name Hades or Pluto, the god of the lower regions 2) Orcus, the nether world, the realm of the dead 3) later use of this word: the grave, death, hell

Origin:  from 1 (as negative particle) and 1492; TDNT – 1:146,22; n pr loc

Usage:  AV – hell 10, grave 1; 11[3]

  • Greek word corresponding to Hb. Sheol, used exclusively for Sheol in the Septuagint (LXX).
  • Equivalent to Tartaros, occurring only once in the NT (2 Pe. 2:4), and even then only in participial form (tartaroō).  Tartaros was seen within Greek mythology as the deepest abyss of Hades.
  • · <5020> tartaro,w tartaroo {tar-tar-o’-o}

Meaning:  1) the name of the subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffer punishment for their evil deeds 2) to thrust down to Tartarus, to hold captive in Tartarus

Origin:  from Tartaros (the deepest abyss of Hades);; v

Usage:  AV – cast down to hell 1; 1

  • Equivalent to the “Abyss” (Gk. abussos)—“the deep” KJV (Lk. 8:31; Rom. 10:7), “the bottomless pit” KJV (Rev. 9:1f, 11, 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3).  Also used in the LXX to reference Sheol (e.g. Job 28:14; 41:23; Ps. 71:20; 106:26; 135:6; Jon. 2:5).
  1. <1067> ge,enna geenna {gheh’-en-nah}

Meaning:  1) Hell is the place of the future punishment call “Gehenna” or “Gehenna of fire”. This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.

Origin:  of Hebrew origin 01516 and 02011; TDNT – 1:657,113; n f

Usage:  AV – hell 9, hell fire + 3588 + 4442 3; 12[4]

  • The Greek form of the Hebrew words Gee and Hinnom, meaning “valley of Hinnom,” a place to the southwest of Jerusalem once “called ‘Topheth’ and derived from an Aramaic word meaning ‘fireplace.’ It was here that some pagan kings practiced human sacrifice by fire (2 Chr. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31; 32:25).”[5]

[1] Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; Num. 16:30, 33; Deut. 32:22; 1 Sam. 2:6; 2 Sam. 22:6; 1 Kgs 2:6, 9; Job 7:9; 11:8; 14:13; 17:13, 16; 21:13; 24:19; 26:6; Psa. 6:5; 9:17; 16:10; 18:5; 30:3; 31:17; 49:14f; 55:15; 86:13; 88:3; 89:48; 116:3; 139:8; 141:7; Prov. 1:12; 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:11, 24; 23:14; 27:20; 30:16; Eccl. 9:10; Isa. 5:14; 7:11; 14:9, 11, 15; 28:15, 18; 38:10, 18; 57:9; Ezek. 31:15ff; 32:21, 27; Hos. 13:14; Amos 9:2; Jonah 2:2; Hab. 2:5 [Job 33:18; Song 8:6].

[2] W. E. Vine, “Sheol,” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1981).

[3] Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13f [1 Cor. 15:55].

[4] Matt. 5:22, 29f; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; Jam. 3:6.

[5] Paul J. Achtemeier, “Gehenna,” Harper’s Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper and Row Publishers, 1985).



  1. General Occurrences in the Historical Books

Then (after identifying Joseph’s bloody robe) Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days.  35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. (ESV Genesis 37:34-35)

But he (Jacob) said (to Reuben), “My son (Benjamin) shall not go down (to Egypt) with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.” (ESV Genesis 42:38; cf. 44:29, 31)

And Moses said, “Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord.  29 If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind (ending in Sheol), then the LORD has not sent me.  30 But if the LORD creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the LORD.”  31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart.  32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods.  33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. (ESV Numbers 16:28-33)

They have made me jealous with what is no god… 22 For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. (ESV Deuteronomy 32:21-22)

The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.  7 The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. (ESV 1 Samuel 2:6-7)

Then the woman (medium at Endor) said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he (Saul) said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”… 12 And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth (from Sheol).”  14 So he said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.  15 Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up? … 19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me (in Sheol).” (NKJV 1 Samuel 28:11-19)

I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.  5 For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me;  6 the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. (ESV 2 Samuel 22:4-6; cf. Psalm 18:3-5)

When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying,  2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth (to Sheol)… 5 you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me… 6 Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace8 And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera… 9 You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.”  10 Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. (ESV 1 Kings 2:1-10)

  1. The Abode of the Dead

Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? … 13 They spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to Sheol. (ESV Job 21:7-13)

The wicked shall depart to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.  18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever. (NRSV Psalm 9:17-18)

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken… 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol (as He does the wicked), or let your holy one see corruption. (ESV Psalm 16:8-10)

O LORD, let me not be put to shame, for I call upon you; let the wicked be put to shame; let them go silently to Sheol. (ESV Psalm 31:17)

No man can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him–  8 for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever–  9 that he should live on eternally (on the earth); that he should not undergo decay (in Sheol/Hades).  10 For he sees that even wise men die; the stupid and the senseless alike perish, and leave their wealth to others… 14 As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd… 15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; for He will receive me. 16 Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased;  17 for when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not descend (to Sheol/Hades) after him.  18 Though while he lives he congratulates himself– and though men praise you when you do well for yourself–  19 He shall go to the generation of his fathers (to Sheol/Hades); they shall never see the light.  20 Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, is like the beasts that perish. (NASB Psalm 49:7-20)

Remember how short my time is– for what vanity you have created all mortals!  48 Who can live and never see death? Who can escape the power of Sheol? (NRSV Psalm 89:47-48)

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun… 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. (ESV Ecclesiastes 9:9-10)

  1. Sheol/Hades Within the Earth

The eye of him who sees me will behold me no more; while your eyes are on me, I shall be gone.  9 As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up. (ESV Job 7:8-9)

Can you discover the depths (“mysteries” NIV/NLT) of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?  8 They are high as (“higher than” ESV/NKJV/NRSV/NIV/NLT) the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know?  9 “Its measure is longer than the earth, And broader than the sea. (NASB Job 11:7-9)

O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.  5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? (ESV Psalm 6:4-5)

O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.  3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. (ESV Psalm 30:2-3)

Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.  16 But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. (ESV Psalm 55:15-16)

I will glorify your name forever.  13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. (ESV Psalm 86:12-13)

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  8 If I ascend to heaven (Hb. shamayim nMPA; “the heavens” NIV), you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! (ESV Psalm 139:7-8)

But he (the simple man) does not know that the dead are there (house of the auduteress), that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. (ESV Proverbs 9:18)

The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from Sheol beneath. (ESV Proverbs 15:24)

They have lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts, but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD… 14 Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude will go down, her revelers and he who exults in her. (ESV Isaiah 5:12-14)

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz,  11 “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” (ESV Isaiah 7:10-11)

When the LORD has given you (“house of Israel”–v.2) rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve,  4 you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon (cf. Antimessiah)… 5 “The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers,  6 that struck the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution.  7 The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing… 9 Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades (Hb. rapha; “spirits” NASB/NIV/NLT) to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth… 10 All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’  11 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers… 15 you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.” (ESV Isaiah 14:3-15)

Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his multitude: “Whom are you like in your greatness?  3 Behold, Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon… 5 it towered high above all the trees (nations) of the field (earth)… 12 Foreigners, the most ruthless of nations, have cut it down and left it… 14 For they are all given over to death, to the world below, among the children of man, with those who go down to the pit15 Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day the cedar went down to Sheol I caused mourning… 16 I made the nations quake at the sound of its fall, when I cast it down to Sheol with those who go down to the pit. And all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, were comforted in the world below17 They also went down to Sheol with it, to those who are slain by the sword; yes, those who were its arm, who lived under its shadow among the nations.  18 Whom are you (Pharaoh et al.) thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? You shall be brought down with the trees of Eden to the world below.” (ESV Ezekiel 31:2-18; cf. 32:21-27)

If they (survivors of the judgments upon Israel) dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; if they climb up to heaven (Hb. shamayim nMPA; “the heavens” NIV/NLT), from there I will bring them down. (ESV Amos 9:1-2)

  1. Sheol/Hades Resembling a Prison

If I hope for Sheol as my house, if I make my bed in darkness14 if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’  15 where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?  16 Will it go down to the bars (“gates” NKJV/NIV) of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust? (ESV Job 17:13-16)

My soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength,  5 like one set loose among the dead… 6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves… I am shut in so that I cannot escape9 my eye grows dim through sorrow. (ESV Psalm 88:3-9)

Her (adultery personified) house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. (ESV Proverbs 7:27)

A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:  10 I said, “In the middle of my days I must depart; I am consigned to the gates of Sheol for the rest of my years.”  11 I said, “I shall not see the LORD, the LORD in the land of the living (vs. Sheol, the land of the dead); I shall look on man no more among the inhabitants of the world… 17 Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.  18 For Sheol does not thank you; death does not praise you; those who go down to the pit do not hope for your faithfulness. (ESV Isaiah 38:9-18)



And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades (as was Sodom). For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (ESV Matthew 11:23-24; cf. Lk. 10:15)

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.  18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (NIV Matthew 16:17-18)

The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried,  23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. (ESV Luke 16:22-23)

For David says concerning him, “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;  26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.  27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.”… 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.  32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (ESV Acts 2:25-32)

When I saw him (“one like a son of man”–v.13), I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last,  18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (ESV Revelation 1:17-18)

When he opened the fourth seal… 8 I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. (ESV Revelation 6:7-8)

  1. Continued Assumption of Sheol/Hades Being “Under the Earth”

…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven (Gk. epouranios aMPG) and on earth and under the earth11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV Philippians 2:9-11)

And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. (ESV Revelation 5:3)

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying… (ESV Revelation 5:13)

  1. Sheol/Hades the Holding Place for Human Judgment

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell (Gk. tartaroō, participial form of Tartaros;  “deepest abyss of Hades”) and committed them to pits of darkness (“gloomy dungeons” NIV), reserved for judgment;  5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;  6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter;  7 and if He rescued righteous Lot… 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment (Sheol/Hades) for the day of judgment (Gehenna/Lake of Fire). (NASB 2 Peter 2:4-9)

And the angels who did not keep (Gk. tereo, “stay within” ESV/NLT) their positions of authority but abandoned their own home– these he has kept in darkness (i.e. Hades), bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire (i.e. Lake of Fire). (NIV Jude 1:6-7)

  1. Sheol/Hades Equivalent to the “Abyss” in the New Testament

And they (Gerasene demons named “Legion”) begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss (Gk. abussos; “the deep” KJV, “the bottomless pit” NLT).  32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. (NIV Luke 8:31-32)

  • “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”… 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” (NIV Matthew 8:29-31)
  • <12> a;bussoj abussos {ab’-us-sos}

Meaning:  1) bottomless 2) unbounded 3) the abyss 3a) the pit 3b) the immeasurable depth 3c) of Orcus, a very deep gulf or chasm in the lowest parts of the earth used as the common receptacle of the dead and especially as the abode of demons

Origin:  from 1 (as a negative particle) and a variation of 1037; TDNT – 1:9,2; n f

Usage:  AV – bottomless pit 5, deep 2, bottomless 2; 9

But the righteousness (unto messianic inclusion) that is by faith (in Jesus as Messiah) says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down)  7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep (Gk. abussos; “abyss” NASB/ESV/NKJV/NRSV)?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:  9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (NIV Romans 10:6-9)

The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss (“the bottomless pit” KJV/NKJV/ESV/NRSV/NLT) and go to his destruction (i.e. Gehenna/Lake of Fire). (NIV Revelation 17:8; cf. 9:1f, 11; 11:7)

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss (“bottomless pit” KJV/NKJV/ESV/NRSV/NLT, cf. v.3) and holding in his hand a great chain.  2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years (to be held for judgment).  3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore… 7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison (i.e. Sheol/Hades/Abyss) 8 and will go out to deceive the nations… 9 But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.  10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur (i.e. Gehenna), where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever (the judgment). (NIV Revelation 20:1-10)

  1. Sheol/Hades Likewise Referred to as a “Prison” in the New Testament

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,  19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison  20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built… 4:5 But they will have to give account to him (Messiah) who is ready to judge the living and the dead (cf. Acts 10:42; 17:31).  6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead (in Sheol/Hades), so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.  7 The end of all things is near (when Messsiah will judge the living and the dead, throwing them into Gehenna/Lake of Fire). Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.  (NIV 1 Peter 3:18-4:7)

  • For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Gk. tartaroo), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;  5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah… 9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment. (KJV 2 Peter 2:4-9)
  • But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high (cf. Acts 1:9) he led a host of captives (from the “depths of the earth,” i.e. Sheol/Hades), and he gave gifts to men (to testify to the coming messianic judgment, cf. Heb. 2:4).”  9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth (cf. Num. 16:30; Job 40:13; Ps. 63:9; 86:13; Is. 14:9)?  10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) (ESV Ephesians 4:7-10)
  • For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart (Gk. kardia) of the earth (i.e. Sheol/Hades). (ESV Matthew 12:40)
  • And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook; and the rocks were split,  52 and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;  53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection (cf. “ascended on high”–Eph. 4:8) they entered the holy city and appeared to many (before being led on high). (NASB Matthew 27:51-53)
  1. That Which Abides in Sheol/Hades Will Ultimately Be Thrown into the Lake of Fire

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison (i.e. Sheol/Hades/Abyss) 8 and will come out to deceive the nations… 9 but fire came down from heaven and consumed them,  10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were (cf. 19:20), and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened… And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.  14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. (ESV Revelation 20:7-14)

He said to me: “It is done (punishment and reward)… 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.  8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars– their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (NIV Revelation 21:6-8)

  1. Gehenna Equated with the Lake of Fire in the New Testament

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.”  22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell (Gk. gehenna) of fire29 If your right eye causes you to sin (cf. lust/adultery), tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell (Gk. gehenna).  30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell (Gk. gehenna). (ESV Matthew 5:21-30)

What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.  28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Gk. gehenna). (ESV Matthew 10:27-28; cf. Lk. 12:5)

Woe to the world for temptations (of “little ones”–v.6) to sin! … 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life (i.e. resurrection of the dead) crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal (Gk. aionios) fire9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell (Gk. gehenna) of fire. (ESV Matthew 18:7-9)

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces (i.e. exclusion from Messianic Kingdom). For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.  14 (Textus Receptus insertion)  15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell (Gk. gehenna) as yourselves… 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell (Gk. gehenna)?  (ESV Matthew 23:13-33)

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life (i.e. resurrection of the dead) crippled than with two hands to go to hell (Gk. gehenna), to the unquenchable (Gk. asbestos; cf. Gk. aionios, “eternal”–Mt. 18:8) fire.  44 (Textus Receptus insertion, cf. v.48)  45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell (Gk. gehenna).  46 (Textus Receptus insertion, cf. v.48)  47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God (i.e. Messianic Kingdom) with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell (Gk. gehenna),  48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ (cf. Is. 66:24) (ESV Mark 9:42-48)

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell (Gk. gehenna).  7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,  8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (ESV James 3:6-8)

  1. Gehenna/Lake of Fire is an Eschatological Reality, Not Present

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field… 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one,  39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  40 As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire (i.e. Gehenna/Lake of Fire), so it will be at the end of the age. (NIV Matthew 13:24-40; cf. Lk. 8:31-32;Mt. 8:29-31)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory (cf. 24:30; 16:27; 19:28), and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  32 All the nations will be gathered before him… 41 Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire (i.e. Gehenna/Lake of Fire) prepared for the devil and his angels.”… 46 Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (NIV Matthew 25:31-46)

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you…  7 This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction (i.e. Gehenna/Lake of Fire) and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power… (NIV 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9)

By these waters (of the Flood) also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.  7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (i.e. Gehenna/Lake of Fire). (ESV 2 Peter 3:6-7)

If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand,  10 he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  11 And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever (i.e. Gehenna/Lake of Fire). (NIV Revelation 14:9-11)

  1. Summary of Different Terms
    1. Sheol = Hades = Abussos = Tartaros

(Present reality under the earth—holding place for final judgment)

  1. Gehenna = Lake of Fire

(Eschatological reality on the earth—final judgment, justice established)



There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people– everyone whose name is found written in the book– will be delivered.  2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. (NIV Daniel 12:1-2)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  32 All the nations will be gathered before him (i.e. general resurrection), and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  34 Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world…” 41 Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…” 46 Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (NIV Matthew 25:31-46)

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live (i.e. general resurrection).  26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.  28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice  29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (ESV John 5:25-29)

I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets,  15 and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. (NIV Acts 24:14-15)

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne (i.e. general resurrection), and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done… 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life (cf. resurrection of life), he was thrown into the lake of fire (cf. resurrection of judgment). (ESV Revelation 20:12-15)

John (117 Posts)

John lives in Columbia, SC with his wife, Lydia, and four children. He travels and teaches on the Cross, the return of Jesus, and the Great Commission.

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