The Biblical term “hell” is greatly misunderstood by the vast majority of Christians. Theologians have argued and debated for centuries as to whether hell is a definite place, or simply a state of existence. Evangelists and preachers have often described in great detail literal flames of fire leaping up from the pit of hell, as if they had personally observed the pyrotechnic display. The ones arguing for hell being a state of existence are just as adamant for this position as the ones arguing for hell being a definite place with real flames.
The details about hell can only be found in the Scriptures, where heaven and hell are both addressed with 100% accuracy. Unfortunately, it requires a substantial amount of research and study to understand the details of hell from the Scriptures, and not to be misled by folklore and false paradigms from imaginative preachers.
It must first be understood that “hell” is an old English term used to translate one Hebrew word in the Old Testament, and three Greek words in the New Testament. Consequently, it is necessary that we understand four different words in the Bible instead of just one. It may not be a surprise to some to learn that “hell” is both a definite place and a state of existence—or more accurately a state of destruction.
The Old Testament Hebrew word translated as “Hell” is sheol. Sheol is the abode of the dead in the Old Testament, and it is the same place as Hades in the New Testament.
We learn from the Scriptures that Sheol or Hades consists of three compartments. These three compartments are described in the Bible as Tartaros, The Place of Torment and Abraham’s Bosom. Tartaros is the abyss or the bottomless pit in Hades. It is almost certainly located in the center of the earth, since this is the only place inside the earth that would not have a bottom. In the center of the earth, all directions are up. Tartaros is the place where the vilest of angels that fell with Lucifer are imprisoned. It is also the place where Satan will be imprisoned for the millennium.
Abraham’s Bosom is the place in Hades (i.e., Sheol) where the elect of God went at death before the resurrection of Jesus. David and Jonah went down into Sheol (i.e., Abraham’s Bosom) when they died. Jesus also went there when He died, but He referred to it as Paradise in his promise to the thief on the cross next to him
The Place of Torment is where the spiritually dead go when they die. They will remain there until the resurrection for the White Throne Judgment. Their resurrected bodies will then be destroyed in the Lake of Fire, and they will be returned to The Place of Torment for all eternity, in accordance with the following Scripture:
(Psa 9:17 NASB) The wicked will return to Sheol, Even all the nations who forget God.
The transliterated Greek word gehenna is used twelve times in the New Testament, and each one refers to THE DESTROYING FIRE OF GOD, which results in the STATE of perdition or destruction, but it does not refer to a place. A Christian can be cast into Gehenna, and this is the opposite of entering into life. The Christian who is cast into Gehenna fails to realize the salvation of his soul at the Judgment Seat of Christ. His life has been a waste, and it is destroyed in Gehenna.
Note: Gehenna fire applies to Christians and the unsaved dead. Gehenna is the destroying fire of God that destroys the souls of unfaithful Christians and the resurrected bodies of unsaved reprobates. THE FIRE THAT TRIES THE LIVES OF CHRISTIANS IS THE SAME FIRE THAT WILL CONSUME THE RESURRECTED BODIES OF THE UNSAVED DEAD. This truth is virtually unknown by the majority of the Church, but it is Biblical fact. Fortunately, the Christian will receive a new soul at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and be like Christ. Unfortunately, he will lose his reward of reigning and ruling in the kingdom of God.
The unsaved dead will spend eternity in Hades without a body and with the old soul that has not been redeemed. Thus, the Christian is completely redeemed in spirit, soul and body, but the unsaved reprobate is left with a dead spirit, a depraved soul and no body to fulfill the fleshly desires of the depraved soul. Therefore, the unsaved reprobate cannot quench his thirst or satisfy any of the lusts of the flesh. Undoubtedly, this is the torment that the unsaved dead will experience in Hades in The Place of Torment.
The following verse is addressed to the disciples of Jesus. The warning about Gehenna Fire is for believers:
(Mat 18:9 KJV) And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell (i.e., gehenna) fire.
In the above verse, Jesus employs the figure of speech called hyperbole to make a strong point about the importance of soul salvation.
NOTE: The alternatives are to enter into life or to be cast into gehenna fire. LIFE IS NOT A PLACE AND NEITHER IS GEHENNA FIRE. To enter into life is to realize soul salvation at the Judgment Seat of Christ. To be cast into gehenna fire is to have one’s soul (i.e., life) destroyed by the fire that tries our works.
(Mat 10:28 KJV) And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (i.e., gehenna).
This Scripture is addressed to believers, and it states very clearly that believers are not to fear men who are able to kill their bodies, but they are to fear God (i.e., him) who is able to destroy their soul in Gehenna.
The misunderstanding about Gehenna is the reason that so many Christians erroneously believe that a Christian can lose his spirit salvation and go to “Hell”. A Christian can lose his soul in the Judgment Fire of God, but he still goes to heaven and he is still redeemed in spirit, soul and body. It is his reward that he loses. THE OLD MAN MUST DIE, EITHER NOW IN THIS LIFE OR AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST.
Heaven is a place! Hades and Sheol are a place. Tartaros is a place. Earth is a place. The kingdom of heaven is NOT A PLACE, but a position of authority. Outer Darkness is NOT A PLACE, but the loss of a position of authority. Gehenna is the fire that will try men’s works. It refers to the destruction of either the body or the soul. This destruction is forever. This is the meaning of “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Gehenna fire and the Lake of Fire are the same. Both refer to the Judgment fire of God to destroy the bodies and souls of men. Many Christian’s will be hurt by Gehenna fire, which is called the Second Death in the following Scripture:
(Rev 2:11 KJV) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.