A Glimpse of Sheol

Luke 16:19 "Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day.20 "And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores,21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.22 "Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.23 "And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.24 "And he cried out and said, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.'25 "But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.26 `And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'27 "And he said, `Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father's house—28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'29 "But Abraham *said, `They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'30 "But he said, `No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!'31 "But he said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.'"

To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Sheol or Hades is beneath the earth

Ezekiel 31:15 `Thus says the Lord God, "On the day when it went down to Sheol I caused lamentations; I closed the deep over it and held back its rivers. And its many waters were stopped up, and I made Lebanon mourn for it, and all the trees of the field wilted away on account of it.16 "I made the nations quake at the sound of its fall when I made it go down to Sheol with those who go down to the pit; and all the well-watered trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, were comforted in the earth beneath.17 "They also went down with it to Sheol to those who were slain by the sword; and those who were its strength lived under its shade among the nations."

Three distinct words are rendered "hell" in KJV. The R.V. is more exact. The Hebrew word Sheol, for example, in Deuteronomy 32:22 (R.V. "the lowest pit"), is probably derived from a root "to make hollow," and was seen as the common receptacle of the dead, below the earth. Sheol signifies depth in Job 11:8 (R.V.) and insatiability in Isaiah 5:14. "If I make my bed in hell [R.V. Sheol], behold, thou art there" (Psalms 139:8) shows it as a place to which the power of God extends. It is rendered "the grave" in Song of Solomon 8:6, signifying cruelty.

The meaning of Sheol moves between the ideas of the grave, the underworld and the state of death. Throughout the ancient Near East, as elsewhere, the dead were pictured as existing in a subterranean realm known in Bab. as aralu and in Ugaritic as eres\, `earth'. But whereas these were ruled by their own gods, God was the ruler of Sheol. Sheol was below the surface of the earth (Ezk. 31:15, 17; Ps. 86:13), a place of dust (Jb. 17:16), darkness (Jb. 10:21), silence (Ps. 94:17) and forgetfulness (Ps. 88:12). Sometimes the distinctions of earthly life are pictured as continuing in Sheol (Is. 14:9; Ezk. 32:27), but always it is a place of weakness and joylessness.

In some passages Sheol has a punitive aspect (e.g. Ps. 49:13-14) and premature committal to Sheol is a form of judgment. The OT sees earthly life as the arena for the service of God; it is there that his word can be received, his sacrifices offered, his interventions experienced. Therefore in a real sense to be in Sheol is to be cut off from his hand (Ps. 88:3-5). However, God is both present in Sheol (Ps. 139:8) and able to deliver from it (Ps. 16:10). Some have seen in words such as ab_addon, `destruction' (Jb. 31:12; 26:6; 28:22; Ps.88:11; Pr. 15:11; 27:20), sah\at_, `pit' and perhaps sometimes also `corruption' (E. F. Sutcliffe, The Old Testament and the Future Life, 1946, pp. 39f.; Jb. 33:24; Ps. 16:10; Ezk. 28:8, etc.) and bor, `pit' (Ps. 30:3; Ezk. 31:14), a place of punishment within Sheol.

But no passage where they occur necessitates this interpretation, and the idea is not explicitly formulated in the OT. These words are better regarded as synonyms of Sheol, with which they all sometimes occur in parallelism. In the later Jewish literature we meet with divisions within Sheol for the wicked and the righteous, in which each experiences a foretaste of his final destiny (Enoch 22:1-14). This idea appears to underlie the imagery of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Lk. 16:19-31. The Gk. hades used in this passage represents the underworld, or realm of the dead, in the classics. In the lxx it almost always translates seol, and in the NT the Pesh. renders it by seyul. It is therefore the NT equivalent of Sheol. It is used in connection with the death of Christ in Acts 2:27, 31, which quotes Ps. 16:10. In Mt. 16:18 Christ says that the gates of Hades (cf. Is. 38:10; Pss. 9:13; 107:18) shall not prevail against his church. As the gates of a city are essential to its power, the meaning here is probably the power of death. The phrase `brought down to Hades' in Mt. 11:23 is best understood metaphorically of the depths of shame. In Rev., Christ holds the keys of Death and Hades (1:18). Their power (6:8) is broken and they are banished to the lake of fire (20:13-14).

The word paradise (Gk. paradeisos) occurs in only three instances in the NT (Lk. 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:3; Rev. 2:7). The context shows that the predominating sense is that of the later development of the word. In Lk. 23:43 the word `paradise' is used by Jesus for the place where souls go immediately after death, cf. the concealed paradise in later Jewish thought. The same idea is also present in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31).

HELL. `Hell' in the NT renders the Gk. word transliterated as `Gehenna' (Mt. 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk. 9:43, 45, 47; Lk. 12:5; Jas. 3:6). The name is derived from the Heb. ge(ben)(bene) hinnom, the Valley of (the son[s] of Hinnom, a valley near Jerusalem (Jos. 15:8; 18:16), where children were sacrificed by fire in connection with pagan rites (2 Ki. 23:10; 2 Ch. 28:3; 33:6; Je. 7:31; 32:35). Its original derivation is obscure, but Hinnom is almost certainly the name of a person. In later Jewish writings Gehenna came to mean the place of punishment for sinners (Assumption of Moses 10:10; 2 Esdras 7:36). It was depicted as a place of unquenchable fire—the general idea of fire to express the divine judgment is found in the OT (Dt. 32:22; Dn. 7:10). The rabbinic literature contains various opinions as to who would suffer eternal punishment. The ideas were widespread that the sufferings of some would be terminated by annihilation, or that the fires of Gehenna were in some cases purgatorial (Rosh Hashanah 16b-17a; Baba Mezia 58b; Mishnah Eduyoth 2. 10). But those who held these doctrines also taught the reality of eternal punishment for certain classes of sinners. Both this literature and the Apocryphal books affirm belief in an eternal retribution (cf. Judith 16:17; Psalms of Solomon 3:13).

The teaching of the NT endorses this past belief. The fire of hell is unquenchable (Mk. 9:43), eternal (Mt. 18:8), its punishment is the converse of eternal life (Mt. 25:46). There is no suggestion that those who enter hell ever emerge from it. However, the NT leaves the door open for the belief that while hell as a manifestation of God's implacable wrath against sin is unending, the existence of those who suffer in it may not be. It is difficult to reconcile the ultimate fulfilment of the whole universe in Christ (Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20) with the continued existence of those who reject him. Some scholars have contended that an eternal punishment is one which is eternal in its effects; in any case eternal does not necessarily mean never-ending, but implies `long duration extending to the writer's mental horizon' (J. A. Beet). On the other hand Rev. 20:10 does indicate conscious, never-ending torment for the devil and his agents, albeit in a highly symbolic passage, and some would affirm that a similar end awaits human beings who ultimately refuse to repent. In any case, nothing should be allowed to detract from the seriousness of our Lord's warnings about the terrible reality of God's judgment in the world to come. In Jas. 3:6 Gehenna, like the bottomless pit in Rev. 9:1ff.; 11:7, appears to be the source of evil on the earth. NT imagery concerning eternal punishment is not uniform. As well as fire it is described as darkness (Mt. 25:30; 2 Pet. 2:17), death (Rev. 2:11), destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord (2 Thes. 1:9; Mt. 7:21-23), and a debt to pay (Mt. 5:25-26). In 2 Pet. 2:4 only, we find the Verb tartaroo, translated in rsv `cast into hell', and rendered by the Pesh. `cast down to the lower regions'. Tartaros is the classical word for the place of eternal punishment but is here applied to the intermediate sphere of punishment for fallen angels.

Hades (a{dh", (86)), the region of departed spirits of the lost (but including the blessed dead in periods preceding the Ascension of Christ). It has been thought by some that the word etymologically meant the unseen (from a, negative, and eido, to see), but this derivation is questionable; a more probable derivation is from hado, signifying all–receiving. It corresponds to "Sheol" in the O.T. In the A.V. of the O.T. and N.T., it has been unhappily rendered "Hell," e.g., Psa. 16:10; or "the grave," e.g., Gen. 37:35; or "the pit," Num. 16:30, 33; in the N.T. the Revisers have always used the rendering "Hades;" in the O.T.they have not been uniform in the translation, e.g., in Isa. 14:15, "hell" (marg., "Sheol"); usually they have "Sheol" in the text and "the grave" in the margin. It never denotes the grave, nor is it the permanent region of the lost; in point of time it is, for such, intermediate between decease and the doom of Gehenna. For the condition, see Luke 16:23-31.

The word is used four times in the Gospels, and always by the Lord, Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; it is used with reference to the soul of Christ, Acts 2:27, 31; Christ declares that He has the keys of it, Rev. 1:18; in Rev. 6:8 it is personified, with the signification of the temporary destiny of the doomed; it is to give up those who are therein, 20:13, and is to be cast into the lake of fire, ver. 14.


Believers will be judged, but not for their sins, because their sins were judged on the cross. We are judged for our works done in the body. See The Seven Significant Judgments for details about the judgments of God. Our works will be judged at the Bema. The Bema is the term for the Judgment Seat. In the synagogue the Bema is the raised platform in the center of the synagogue where the Torah is read. Messiah will be at the Bema to judge our works.

  1. An accounting of our works will be given Romans 14:10-12
  2. Basis of this judgment 2 Corinthians 5:10
  3. Bad works are burned 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
  4. Five types of crowns will be given to those who are faithful: