Eternity, Judgment, Heaven and Hell


1. Etymology.

a. English: An Anglo-Saxon term meaning "concealed," and therefore unseen, and used broadly as the Hebrew sheol, including the grave – but not properly covered by the Greek word Hades, as it is improperly translated in the King James Version in 1 Corinthians 15:55 from the Textus Receptus, where other recensions of the Greek text have thanatos, "death." Elsewhere in the King James Version, "grave" is from the Greek mnema (Revelation 11:9) and mnemeion (Matthew 27:52-53; Luke 11:44; John 5:28; 11:17,31,38; 12:17) – rendered "tomb" in the American Standard Version.

The King James Version translates all four of the following Hebrew and Greek words as "hell," because representing a realm unseen by the eyes of mortals. The American Standard Version leaves Sheol and Hades untranslated, but translates Tartarus and Gehenna as "hell" – the words Tartarus and Gehenna always being associated with punishment, but Sheol and Hades not always so.

b. Hebrew: Sheol, the unseen state or realm – occurring 65 times in the Old Testament, in the King James Version translated "hell" 31 times, "grave" 31 times, and "pit" three times – but in American Standard Version always left untranslated but simply transliterated (that is, spelled with English letters) – and applying vaguely to either of the unseen states variously referred to by the Greek words of the New Testament mentioned below, plus mnemeion as mentioned above.

c. Greek:

(1) Hades, the unseen state or realm, and used of the place of the spirits of the dead between death and the resurrection (see Luke 16:22-23,27-31). The soul of both the righteous and the wicked go there at the death of the body (see Acts 2:27,31; Luke 16:23) – but are separated by a "great gulf " (Luke 16:26).

NOTE: The body without the spirit or soul, but not the spirit without the body, is said to be "dead" (James 2:26; cf. Genesis 35:18). "It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63). That is, the spirit gives life to the flesh, or body; the body does not give life to the spirit. The faculties of the spirit are not lost upon leaving the body (cf. Luke 16:19-31). So there is a sense in which the dead are still alive (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16; Matthew 22:31-32 – fundamental to the concept and fact of the resurrection).

The place in Hades where the righteous go is referred to by Christ as "Paradise" (Luke 23:43) – Paradeisos, a garden or park. Evidently that is where Abraham was when Lazarus borne by angels to Abraham’s bosom" at the death of the body of Lazarus on earth (Luke 16:22). For the place in Hades where the wicked go at death, see (2) below.

NOTE: (a) "Jehovah god planted a garden (GE. Paradeisos) eastward in Eden; and there he put man whom he had formed" (Genesis 2:8), which was forfeited when he sinned (3:22-24). (b) In Hades there is a Paradise for the righteous between death and the resurrection (Luke 23:43). And (c) in eternity, there will be a Paradise in heaven for the redeemed (Revelation 2:7; 22:2).

(2) Tartarus is a term found in 2 Peter 2:4 as being the place where sinful angels have been cast down, "to be reserved unto judgment" – "unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6) – evidently the judgment of Acts 17:31 and Matthew 25:31-46 at the second coming of Christ – likely when we "shall judge angels" (1 Corinthians 6:3). "The Greeks used the word Tartarus to refer to a lower realm of Hades where departed spirits were punished." (Raymond C. Kelcy, "The Letters of Peter and Jude," in the Living Word Commentary (1972). This would make it the part of Hades in which the rich man of Luke 16:19-31 was consigned at death, which seems probable.

(3) Gehenna in its literal sense was the Valley of Hinnom on the south and east of Jerusalem, which had been used during days of apostasy as a place of offering a child sacrifice by fire, and after the reform of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:10) was used as a city dump site for all kinds of refuse, including the dead bodies of animals and of criminals not buried. It is said that fire was kept burning continually, and that worms infested the edges where fire had not consumed. The term was used figuratively 11 times by our Lord of the place of eternal punishment of the wicked (Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 223:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 2:5), and once by James (in 3:6) – with some imagery furnished by characteristics of the eternal Gehenna, as the following: "Whole body … cast in hell" (Matthew 5:29); "unquenchable fire" (Mark 9:43), "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (v.48). THIS IS THE HELL REPRESENTED IN THE DIAGRAM.

Other descriptions include the following: "furnace of fire; [where] there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:42); "the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41); "perdition," that is, destruction (not of being, but of well-being. Philippians 3:19); "eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might" (2 Thessalonians 1:9); "the second death" (Revelation2:11); "cast alive into the lake of fire and brimstone, … tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Revelation 20:10); "lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).