Saturday, June 17, 2023

Abode of Sheol / Hades


The terms "Sheol" and "Hades" are two translations referring to the same place, Sheol being the Old Testament Hebrew word and Hades being the New Testament Greek word. Sheol and Hades simply mean "place of the dead" or "place of departed souls".

Two Compartments

Sheol consisted of two compartments, with a good side called Paradise and Abraham's Bosom, and the bad side called Hell, Tartarus or the Abyss. Believers went to the good side and unbelievers and demons into separate sub-compartments in the bad side.

Luk 16:20-22 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores (21) and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. (22) "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.

Old Testament Details

The reason that believing souls went to Sheol in the Old Testament is because they could not yet directly enter God's presence due to sin. The sacrificial system only allowed for sin to be forgiven, but it did not take away the sin.

Heb 10:1-4 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. (2) Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. (3) But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. (4) It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

So Paradise was a temporary holding place until Jesus's death would permanently take away sin, after which we could all enter God's presence.

The bad side of Sheol was reserved for the souls of demons and unrighteous humans. Although people present in either side of Sheol could see and talk to each other, they were not able to cross over to the other side.

Luk 16:26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

The bad side of Sheol consists of three subdivisions.

  1. Gehenna (Hell)- For unbelieving humans, their bodies are buried in the ground, but their souls go to hell.

    Mat 5:22 (YLT) but I--I say to you, that every one who is angry at his brother without cause, shall be in danger of the judgment, and whoever may say to his brother, Empty fellow! shall be in danger of the sanhedrim, and whoever may say, Rebel! shall be in danger of the gehenna of the fire.

  1. Tartarus - a permanent place of confinement for demons.

    2Pe 2:4 (YLT) For if God messengers who sinned did not spare, but with chains of thick gloom, having cast them down to Tartarus, did deliver them to judgment, having been reserved,

    Jud 1:6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling--these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

  2. Abyss - a temporary place of confinement for demons.

    Rev 9:1-2 And the fifth messenger did sound, and I saw a star out of the heaven having fallen to the earth, and there was given to it the key of the pit of the abyss, (2) and he did open the pit of the abyss, and there came up a smoke out of the pit as smoke of a great furnace, and darkened was the sun and the air, from the smoke of the pit.

    Rev 20:1-3 And I saw a messenger coming down out of the heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a great chain over his hand, (2) and he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, who is Devil and Adversary, and did bind him a thousand years, (3) and he cast him to the abyss, and did shut him up, and put a seal upon him, that he may not lead astray the nations any more, till the thousand years may be finished; and after these it behoveth him to be loosed a little time.

The demons that were affecting the two men in Luk 8:30-31 were asking not to be sent to the "abyss", the temporary holding place for demons.

Luk 8:30-31 Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him. (31) And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

New Testament Details

When Jesus died, His body was buried in the ground, and His soul when to Paradise. He did not go to "hell". His death was all that was required for atonement for sin, both past and present.

Rom 3:25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood--to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--

Heb 9:15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Now that the sins of the Old Testament saints were taken away, Jesus announced to the righteous that were in Sheol that atonement had been made. To those in the bad side, His presence guaranteed their final judgment.

Jesus closed Paradise, and moved all of the believers to Heaven.

Eph 4:8-10 This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people." (9) (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? (10) He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

It should be noted that Jesus did not descend to hell, He descended to Paradise, where those on the bad side of Sheol could see and hear Him.

Luk 16:23-25 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. (24) So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' (25) "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.

Today when believers die, they go into the presence of God.

Php 1:21-24 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (22) If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! (23) I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; (24) but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

2Co 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Heb 12:22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, (23) to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, (24) to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Some think that the souls of believers who have died remain in Abraham's Bosom until the Rapture occurs, but if 2Co 5:8 and Act 7:55-56 are true, then the Father and Jesus would have to be present in Sheol. They are not in Sheol, they are in Heaven, so if we go into the presence of Jesus, we go to Heaven, not Sheol. Paul said that we are "at home with the Lord" when we die, and Stephen sees the Lord "standing at the right hand of God" in "Heaven".

Act 7:55-56 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (56) "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

2Co 5:8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

The Unbeliever

Nothing has changed for the unbeliever. As in the Old Testament, when the New Testament unbeliever dies, their body goes into the ground, and their soul goes to hell (Gehenna). It will remain this way until the end of the Messianic Kingdom. At the conclusion of the Messianic Kingdom all unbelievers from all ages will be removed from hell to stand before Jesus at the Great White Throne Judgment to be judged, at which time they will be cast into the lake of fire.

Rev 20:13-15 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. (14) Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. (15) Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.


Old Testament believers who died resided in a compartment of Sheol called Paradise while unbelievers reside in a compartment called Hell. When Jesus atoned for sin, He descended to Paradise and led those there to Heaven to reside in God's presence. All unbelievers from Old and New Testament times go to Hell to await judgment at the conclusion of the Messianic Kingdom.

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