Answer: Hell is the English word used in the Scriptures to describe the condition of the dead. In the Old Testament it is a translation of the Hebrew word “sheol”, Strong’s Concordance #7585, which means “hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranian retreat), including its accessories and inmates.” This Hebrew word occurs 65 times in the Old Testament, is translated “hell”, “grave” and “pit” and is even applied to our Lord Jesus “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” (Psa. 16:10).
Job prayed to God that God would hide him in “sheol” until Christ’s earthly kingdom came and then he would be resurrected back to life. “O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave [sheol], that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! (14) If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. (15) Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.” (Job 14:13-15 KJV)
Solomon describes “sheol” as follows: “For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. … (10) Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.” (Eccel. 9:5,10 NASB) “Sheol” is a state of non-existence and only the promise of a resurrection gives man hope for a future life.
In fact, Hosea writes that God will ransom the dead out of Sheol through the sacrifice of the man Christ Jesus and bring them back to life via the resurrection. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave [sheol]; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” (Hos. 13:14 KJV)
In the New Testament hell is a translation of three Greek words. The first is “hades”, Strong’s Concordance #86, which means “properly unseen, that is, “Hades” or the place (state) of departed souls. The risen Jesus has the “keys of hell [hades] and death” (Rev. 1:6) and in his earthly kingdom he will release its captives and bring them back to life via the resurrection. “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [hades] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (14) And death and hell [hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Rev 20:13-14)
Hell is also translated from the Greek word “gehenna”, Strong’s Concordance #1067 which means “valley of (the son of) Hinnom; gehenna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerusalem, used (figuratively) as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment.” The “valley of Hinnom” was a valley outside Jerusalem where garbage of the city was burned by continual fires. It pictured everlasting destruction of dead and hell (Rev. 20:14), the adversary (Rev. 20:10) and those who do not reach perfection and harmony with God via Christ’s earthly. (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:15)
Hell is also translated from the Greek word “tartaroo”, Strong’s Concordance #5020, which means “From Τάρταρος Tartaros̄ (the deepest abyss of Hades); to incarcerate in eternal torment.” This word is applied to the punishment God has meted out to the fallen angels prior to their final judgment. “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [tartoroo], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
For additional information please see our related booklets and videos below.
When a Man Dies
The Truth About Hell
The Power of Hell
Life After Death
Hope Beyond the Grave
The Hope and Resurrection of the Dead
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