When Peter spoke these words he was quoting Psalm 16:10 in the Old Testament. It reads ďFor thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol) neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.Ē So, in the OT sheol is used and in the NT hades is used, undeniable proof that both mean the grave and can be used interchangeably. How do we know? Because Christ did not go to a place of burning torment when He died but was in the heart of the earth 3 days and 3 nights (Matthew 12:40). His soul (meaning Christ Himself) was not left in the grave but was resurrected, opening the way for all of mankind to one day also be raised.
Since there are different words translated hell and since translators have not consistently translated the Hebrew word sheol or the Greek word hades as hell or the grave, we must take into account the Bible's teaching on other subjects dealing with what happens at death in order to get the true meaning of what is being said in Scriptures containing those words. If we truly believe the Bible, we know that it is impossible for the dead to be literally tormented. Read Ecclesiastes 9:5 and 10. In this scripture, sheol, the Hebrew word for hell, is translated grave. The Bible teaches there is neither suffering nor knowledge there.
Another point to consider is that both good and bad people go to the Biblical hell. It might be good to note here that the English people used to "hell" potatoes. That involved putting them in a hole beneath the ground to preserve them for use during the winter. This was the meaning of hell when the KJV translation was authorized by King James of England. Hell meant a hole in the ground. Now letís compare 3 scriptures where sheol is used, (Psalm 9:17; Genesis 37:34-35; Job 14:13). In the first scripture the Hebrew word sheol is translated as hell. In the second and third scriptures it is translated as the grave. Again, had the translators consistently translated sheol as grave it would have been easy to see that mankind, whether he was wicked or righteous, would go to sheol (the grave) at death. The first says the wicked and all nations that forget God will be turned into sheol or the grave. Also Jacob and Job, righteous men, recognized that sheol was the grave. Neither Jacob nor Job was requesting to go to a place of fiery torment. They knew that sheol, to which both the good and the bad go at death, is the grave. Jacob was so grieved by the death of his son that he said he would be weeping until he joined him in the grave. Job was asking to be hid in the grave until the resurrection. Only when the Hebrew word sheol is consistently translated the grave is the true meaning made clear. Please study all the scriptures listed under further study dealing with sheol and hades Read them using a Bible concordance and where you find the Hebrew word sheol or the Greek word hades substitute the word grave and the meaning will begin to become clear. All of them will be associated with death and the grave and none of them will be associated with fire or the living. The OT sheol and the NT hades mean the grave and should have been translated so. Hell and the grave are one and the same.
Now letís go to another Greek word translated hell. It is Gehenna. It is associated with fire (Mark 9:43-44). So, clearly this word translated hell is different from hades or sheol. What is the meaning of the word Gehenna? The New Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia (New York: 1950, volume 15, page 5576) says of Gehenna: "The Valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem where Solomon built an high place for Moloch. Because some of the Israelites sacrificed their children to Moloch there, the valley came to be regarded as a place of abomination. In a later period it was made a place for the dumping of refuse, and perpetual fires were maintained to prevent pestilence."
Also, Smith's Dictionary of the Bible (Boston: 1889, volume 1, page 879) says regarding Gehenna: "It became the common laystall of the city, where the dead bodies of criminals, and the carcasses of animals, and every other kind of filth was cast." Are we beginning to get the picture? There was, near Jerusalem at the very time Jesus was speaking, in the Valley of Hinnom, which is what Gehenna literally means, a place where garbage and filth were discarded. Dead criminals, thought too vile for a resurrection, were cast there. It was a garbage dump, where fires were kept burning to get rid of the filth. Only garbage and dead bodies were placed there. People of that day clearly understood what Jesus was saying. He did not expect them to literally cut off an arm or a leg but they knew they must get rid of anything in their life that was filthy. They must rid their lives of anything that would cause them to be permanently destroyed. Anything thrown into Gehenna would be permanently destroyed. If the fire didn't take care of it then the worms (maggots) would. So, Gehenna refers to the final destruction of the wicked by fire.
This place became a type of what the Bible refers to in Revelation as the "lake of fire." What does the lake of fire symbolize (Revelation 20:13-15). This Scripture is connected with the final judgment of mankind. Could it be any clearer? Hell (hades, meaning the grave) is to give up the dead in it. Notice that only dead people are there. Then there is going to be a resurrection from that "hell" (the common grave where the dead are located) and a casting into a different hell, the lake of fire, which means "second death." But before being transferred from one to the other, people will be given the opportunity to reform and then judged. Only those who did not change and do good works will be permanently destroyed in the lake of fire.
There is another word translated hell in the Bible. It is the word tartarus which is used only of spirit beings and their judgment.
What then about the Parable of the Rich man and Lazarus? Many have used this to say hades is a place where people go and burn after death. But a proper understanding of the above disproves this. In a future lesson you will learn that the dead are unconscious and have no memory, so it is impossible for them to be tormented in a fire until after they are raised from the dead. So the rich man could only have been tormented in the flame after being raised from the dead if the parable is literally interpreted. It should be noted that Jesus gave parables to hide the meaning from those whose heart condition was bad and to reveal the meaning to others who had the right condition of the heart. Most are not to be taken literally. This parable is discussed more fully in another study but the above points will help in understanding it.
In brief then, when men die (whether good or bad) they go to the common grave (the Greek sheol, the Hebrew hades). There they rest until the resurrection. Those in the first resurrection will be judged according to how they lived their lives in this present age since they responded to Godís call. Those in the second resurrection will be judged according to their works after being raised since they were not called of God in this present age. Christ will be the final judge and one will receive either everlasting life in God's Kingdom, or everlasting (second) death in Gehenna, or the lake of fire. Death will be permanently destroyed along with hades (or the grave) at that time. It will be as if death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. No more will people die or be buried in graves. What an awesome God we have!!! Surely His teaching, when seen in the proper light, will give comfort to those who have lost loved ones in death, and bring judgment upon those who misrepresent Him as a cruel God waiting to burn forever those who have not been called in this present time.
FOR FURTHER STUDY:
THE WORDS TRANSLATED HELL OR GRAVE AND WHERE THEY ARE FOUND IN THE BIBLE:
The common grave as opposed to individual graves:
Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31
Numbers 16:30, 33
1 Samuel 2:6
1 Kings 2:6, 9
Job 7:9; 11:8; 14:13; 17:13, 16; 21:13; 24:19; 26:6
Psalms 6:5; 9:17; 16:10; 18:5; 30:3; 31:17; 49:14, 15;
55:15; 86:13; 88:3; 89:48; 116:3; 139:8; 141:7
Proverbs 1:12; 5:5; 7:27; 9:18; 15:11, 24; 23:14; 27:20; 30:16
Song of Solomon 8:6
Isaiah 5:14; 14:9, 11, 15; 28:15, 18; 38:10, 18; 39:18; 57:9
Ezekiel 31:15, 16, 17; 32:21, 27
Matthew 11:23; 16:18
Luke 10:15; 16:23
Acts 2:27, 31
Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14
A literal place in the Middle East:
Joshua 15:8; 18:6
2 Kings 23:10
2 Chronicles 18:3; 33:6
Jeremiah 7:31, 32; 19:2, 6; 32:35
Symbolic of the Lake of Fire or second death:
Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14, 20:15; 21:8
A place of darkness and restraint for spirits:
2 Peter 2:4
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