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Hell


Hell. In the Old Testament this is the word generally and unfortunately used by our translators to render the Hebrew Sheol. It really means the place of the dead, the unseen world, without deciding whether it be the place of misery or of happiness. It is clear that in many passages of the Old Testament Sheol can only mean “the grave,” and is so rendered in the Authorized Version; see, for example, Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 1 Sam. 2:6; Job 14:13. In other passages, however, it seems to involve a notion of punishment, and is therefore rendered in the Authorized Version by the word “hell.” But in many cases this translation misleads the reader. In the New Testament “hell” is the translation of two words, Hades and Gehenna. The word Hades, like Sheol, sometimes means merely “the grave,” Acts 2:31; 1 Cor. 15:55; Rev. 20:13, or in general “the unseen world.” It is in this sense that the creeds say of our Lord, “He went down into hell,” meaning the state of the dead in general, without any restriction of happiness or misery. Elsewhere in the New Testament Hades is used of a place of torment, Matt. 11:23; Luke 16:23; 2 Pet. 2:4, etc.; consequently it has been the prevalent, almost the universal, notion that Hades is an intermediate state between death and resurrection, divided into two parts, one the abode of the blest and the other of the lost. It is used eleven times in the New Testament, and only once translated “grave.” 1 Cor. 15:55. The word most frequently used (occurring twelve times) in the New Testament for the place of future punishment is Gehenna or Gehenna of fire. This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their destruction. [See Hinnom.]