The common word for “hell” in the Old Testament is sheol, which means “the grave,” where people go when they die. In the King James Version, sheol is translated “hell” thirty-one times and “pit” three times. When both saved and unsaved died, they were said to go to sheol, the place of the departed dead. The Hebrew word sheol was translated into Greek as hadees (Hades). Hades, or sheol, is the place the Old Testament unsaved went. Jesus, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, said that Lazarus had gone to a place called “paradise” (Luke 23:43), and “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22). Two people died, the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31), but in their afterlives they were treated differently.
What does the Bible teach about hades?
The rich man went to hades at death and was tormented in flames (Luke 16:24). The punishment of hades is (1) burning, (2) separation/loneliness, (3) conviction by memory, (4) thirst, (5) falling, and (6) stench. The rich man could look across “a great gulf fixed” (Luke 16:26) and see where the saved were located. However, the Scripture is silent on whether the saved could see the torment of the unsaved. The one thing the rich man could not do was escape his torment. He could not even send a warning to his family.
What does the Bible teach about Gehenna?
This word appears only twelve times in the New Testament and is translated “hell and “lake of fire.” The Lord Jesus used this term eleven times. The name is probably related to the Valley of Hinnom, a dumping ground for the city of Jerusalem. During the time of Jesus, it was used to burn garbage. Hence, the Lord used the word Gehenna to describe the place of eternal punishment because it was a place of filth and stench, of smoke and pain, and of fire and death (Matt. 5:22; 18:8–9; 23:33; John 3:36).
What does the Bible teach about the “lake of fire”?
John refers to hell in terms of a “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15). Some have suggested this is nothing more than a metaphor to describe a place of suffering, but since the Bible uses flames to describe its torment, there is no reason to think the cause of suffering will be otherwise. Human language limits a perfect identification of the horrors of hell, as it also does when we seek to describe the glories of heaven. Only in this aspect can the “lake of fire” be considered a metaphor. It is as if John were saying, “Hell is so horrible I cannot completely describe it. Hell is like a vast sea covered in flames, and that is only the beginning of the pain and suffering I saw there.”
Does hell have literal fire?
The first torment a person encounters in reaching hell is the torment of burning. Jesus said His angels “will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:42). John the Baptist identified hell in terms of an “unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12). The rich man in hell acknowledged, “I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24). While it is wrong to say all the torture in hell comes from the flame, it would also be wrong to explain away the literal flames of hell.
What will hell be like?
Hell is a place of unquenchable fire: “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12). It is also a place of memory and remorse. In Luke 16:19–31 the unsaved rich man experienced memory and remorse over his lost condition. Hell is also a place of thirst: “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame’” (Luke 16:24). Those in hell suffer misery: “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes” (v. 23). “And these will go away into everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46). Hell is described as a place of “wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42) and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:51). Those in hell are not begging to get out, nor do they sorrow; rather, they express anger and hatred to God. Their rejection of God is greater in death than in life.
Often the unsaved man jokes about hell saying, “If I do go to hell, I won’t be lonely, for all my friends will be there too.” But the opposite is true! Hell is called the “second death” (Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8). Death in the Bible does not mean cessation of existence but refers to separation. Sinners will be forever separated from God, and from others. Finally, hell is a place of darkness, which will doubtless isolate the sinner from the companionship of unsaved friends as well.
Towns, Elmer. 2003. Bible Answers for Almost All Your Questions. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.