Hell is a place of eternal punishment and separation from God. The English word hell comes from a Teutonic root meaning “to hide” or “to cover” and is derived from the biblical Greek word and location Gehenna. Hell was created to accommodate Satan and the angels who rebelled with him against God (Mathew 14:41). The Bible refers to hell using several different words throughout the Old and New Testaments. Two of the clearest passages on hell in the New testament are 2 Thessalonians 1:9 and Mathew 25:41,46. In 2 Thessalonians 1:9 Paul writes of those who reject God: “And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. “Jesus speaks of future judgment and hell in Mathew’s gospel stating, ” Then He will also say to those on his left, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fires which has been prepared for the devil and his angels,” ” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”(1).
There are three words in the Bible commonly translated “hell”.
- Sheol (Old testament). The place of the dead. Sometimes translated “grave”. This was the abiding place of the souls (spirits) of all who had died before Christ was offered on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for sins. According to Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), Sheol was divided into two compartments, one, the paradise section, also called “Abraham’s bosom”, where the righteous dead were comforted, and the “hell” section where the wicked dead were in torment. According to Jesus, these sections were separated by a wide gulf which no one could cross from either side to the other (Luke 16:26). Some believe that during the three days between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection He entered into the Paradise section of Sheol, liberated the spirits of the righteous dead and transported them into the very presence of God in heaven, based on Ephesians 4:8-9.
- Hades (new testament). A temporary holding place for the spirits of the unsaved dead, until the time of the great white throne judgment when they will all be judged according to their works at the conclusion of the Millennium (Revelation 20:11-15) and cast into the lake of fire. Also a place of unending torment and separation from God.
- Gehenna, commonly translated as “the lake of fire”. The final abode of all the unsaved, the ultimate place of eternal punishment, torment and separation from God . Also it will be the place of eternal punishment for the beast (the Antichrist) and the false prophet, who will be cast into lake of fire at the conclusion of the great tribulation and immediately before the start of the Millennium (Revelation 19:20, 20:10) Gehenna gets its name from the Valley of Hinnom, a garbage dump on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where fires burned continually.
(1) Ice, Thomas., and Demy, Timothy. “Fast Facts on Bible Prophecy”. Harvest House Publishers. 1997.