According to the Bible, are there two different kinds of hell?
To find the answer to this question, we need to understand what the Bible has to say concerning what happens when someone dies. We will first look into the Old Testament and then to the New Testament and compare the results with the world hell.
A. In the Old Testament
The most notorious word talking about after-life in Hebrew is the word “sheol”. What confuses many people is that this word is sometimes translated by the word “hell”, other times by the word “grave” and other times by the word “pit” and other variances.
What does sheol then really mean in the Old Testament?
1. We will find out later on that sheol is distinguished from hell in the Scriptures.
2. As it is sometimes translated by the word “grave”, one should not assume that sheol refers only to the grave. When sheol is translated by the word “grave” it’s because in it’s context the word includes the concept of grave.
3. What seems clear is that the word sheol not only referred to the grave in the Old Testament, but also to conscious after life. In Hebrew the word that can be translated solely by grave is “kever”. Whenever sheol was used it encompassed the region of the departed loved ones who were conscious, either in bliss or in torment.
There is thus a clear distinction between the grave “kever” where the body sleeps and “sheol” where the spirits of the dead are gathered. Sheol is often referred to as being below or down under. See for example Isa 14:9-10 “Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; It arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; It raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones. They will all respond and say to you, ‘Even you have been made weak as we,You have become like us.’ NASU As you can see here sheol is filled with activity!
4. Sheol is also often referred to as a shadowy place.
Ezek 26:20 “Then I will bring you down with those who go down to the pit, to the people of long ago. I will make you dwell in the earth below, as in ancient ruins, with those who go down to the pit, and you will not return or take your place in the land of the living.” NIV
Job even brings out that the dead are in deep anguish.
Job 26:5 “The dead are in deep anguish, those beneath the waters and all that live in them.” NIV
5. In sheol you can be reunited with your ancestors.
Gen 49:33 “When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.” NIV
Gen 15:15 “You (talking to Abraham), however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age.” NIV
6. Not all who go to sheol experience anguish and gloom. Many experience happiness and dwell with the Lord.
Ps 73:23-25 Yet I (Asaph is speaking here) am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” NIV Asaph was looking forward to see God’s glory at death.
7. Sheol has two different regions.
Deut 32:22 “For a fire has been kindled by my wrath, one that burns to the realm of death below.” NIV
Ps 49:13-15 “This is the way of those who are foolish, And of those after them who approve their words. Selah. As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; Death shall be their shepherd; And the upright shall rule over them in the morning, And their form shall be for Sheol to consume So that they have no habitation. But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me.” NASU
Sheol refers to the realm of the dead. The wicked clearly have a different destiny than the righteous in afterlife. Which destiny would you like to head towards?
B. In the New Testament
The New Testament being written in Greek (not in Hebrew as the Old Testament) uses the word “hades” to refer to the Old Testament word “sheol”. When the Old Testament was translated in Greek in the Septuagint, the Hebrew scholars translated “sheol” with the Greek word “hades”. “Sheol” and “hades” are one and the same concept. However, the New Testament opens the curtains of afterlife even wider than the Old testament and we can see even more clearly the destiny of those who have died.
Just like the word sheol, hades refers to the world of departed spirits. Here we will find out specific details about those who die as unbelievers compared to those who die as believers of the Lord. To refrain of making this study any longer than it is, I will refrain myself to only one New Testament text, which is more than enough to make us aware the New Testament position about this subject matter.
But first notice the following texts:
Matt 11:23 “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades.” NASU
Luke 10:15 “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!” NASU
Hades also referred to as being below or down under in the New Testament.
Jesus never argued against the concept of afterlife that the rabbis held. Jesus Himself told us a story that takes us behind the veil of death, a story that shows that our actions will have eternal consequences in afterlife.
P. S. This is no parable as personal names are given here. Even if it was a parable, Jesus always used parables based on reality not on mere human fabrication!
Luke 16:19-27 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.
“Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.
“And he cried out and said, ‘ Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ NASU
Here are some facts that we can derive from this story given by Jesus Himself.
A. There are only two possible and different destinies in afterlife. One is referred to as “Abraham’s bosom” or “paradise (see Luke 23:43) and is for those who are followers of the Almighty. The other is filled with “torment” and are for the unbelievers.
B. Both Lazarus and the rich man were fully conscious after death. They both were able to talk. They both had emotions. They both had memories of their past (see Luke 16: 27-28).
C. Both Lazarus and the rich man had their eternal destiny perpetually fixed. (see Like 16:26)
d. The rich man knew fully well that he fully deserved his eternal destiny. No complaints were uttered that he was unfairly treated. In fact he begged Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his five brothers, as he was fully aware of their final destiny as well. The wicked rich man was all of a sudden interested in missions! A bit late, don’t you think?
P. S. It is interesting to notice that there was a man named Lazarus who came back to life (see John 11). It is also interesting that the wicked Pharisees instead of repenting planned to kill Lazarus (see John 12:10). Again this confirms this story told by Jesus Himself: Luke 16:31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'” NASU
e. The rich man was not in hell, but in hades. The Scriptures are clear that no one is in hell as of today. It is unfortunate that some translations translate the word sheol and hades into hell, leading to mass confusion.
Here is the proof that no one is in hell as of today:
Rev 20:14-15 “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” NASU
Hades (not being hell, but being the dwelling place here of the unbelievers) is thrown into hell or “the lake of fire”.
2 Peter 2:9-10 “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.” NASU
Notice here that the tense of the verbs indicates that the punishment is ongoing, but the final judgment is yet in the future. There is but one hell and it’s final destiny to the unbelievers will happen after judgment day!
(for more texts referring to the lot of believers after they die, please go to When a person dies where does his soul go? Http://www.answers2prayer.org/bible_questions/Answers/death/go.html
When you die are you present with the Lord, or at the second coming, when the graves are opened? Http://www.answers2prayer.org/bible_questions/Answers/death/present.html )
P. S. After Jesus’ ascension to heaven “Abraham’s bosom” was transferred to heaven and the two regions of hades do not coexist with one another any longer. But this is another topic that we would gladly investigate.
My friend which destiny are you heading towards? It is still not too late to change directions and head towards the destiny of eternal bliss. All you need to do is come to Jesus and accept Him into you life. Not only will you be guaranteed a spot in heaven, but also you will start experiencing true inner peace. Jesus wants to have a personal relationship with you. Will you let Him? Please answer His call at http://www.answers2prayer.org/saviours_call.html. It is still not too late.
This is straight out of Easton’s dictionary. Some other believe that the eternal torture suffered by the lost is only symbolistic. As the suffering in Revelation because the whole book was written in symbolism. Yet the gospels mention the torment that they will suffer and they are not written symbolically.
Text: derived from the Saxon helan, to cover; hence the covered or the invisible place. In Scripture there are three words so rendered:-
(1. ) Sheol, occurring in the Old Testament sixty-five times. This word sheol is derived from a root-word meaning “to ask,” “demand;” hence insatiableness (Prov. 30:15, 16). It is rendered “grave” thirty-one times (Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 44:29, 31; 1 Sam. 2:6, etc.). The Revisers have retained this rendering in the historical books with the original word in the margin, while in the poetical books they have reversed this rule.
In thirty-one cases in the Authorized Version this word is rendered “hell,” the place of disembodied spirits. The inhabitants of sheol are “the congregation of the dead” (Prov. 21:16). It is (a) the abode of the wicked (Num. 16:33; Job 24:19; Ps. 9:17; 31:17, etc.); (b) of the good (Ps. 16:10; 30:3; 49:15; 86:13, etc.). Sheol is described as deep (Job 11:8), dark (10:21, 22), with bars (17:16). The dead “go down” to it (Num. 16:30, 33; Ezek. 31:15, 16, 17).
(2. ) The Greek word hades of the New Testament has the same scope of signification as sheol of the Old Testament. It is a prison (1 Pet. 3:19), with gates and bars and locks (Matt. 16:18; Rev. 1:18), and it is downward (Matt. 11:23; Luke 10:15). The righteous and the wicked are separated. The blessed dead are in that part of hades called paradise (Luke 23:43). They are also said to be in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).
(3. ) Gehenna, in most of its occurrences in the Greek New Testament, designates the place of the lost (Matt. 23:33). The fearful nature of their condition there is described in various figurative expressions (Matt. 8:12; 13:42; 22:13; 25:30; Luke 16:24, etc.)”
Hell. The abode of condemned souls. The place of eternal punishment for the wicked after death, presided over by Satan. It is a state of separation from God. The abode of the dead, identified with the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades; the underworld. A place of evil, misery, discord, or destruction, torment and anguish.
Jesus continually warned men and women of the danger of going to hell. Jesus Christ, who foretold that He would come again to judge the entire human race, spoke more about hell and its terrors than the prophets and apostles combined. To ignore and disregard the clear teaching of Jesus is to deny Christ. He spoke about HELL, not many hells or more than one hell. Just Hell!
Before the day of judgment, which will happen at the end of human history, those who die who do not believe in Jesus Christ as their savior will immediately go to hell (One Hell, The Only Hell). The soul is separated from the body at death and cast into hell. This fact is clearly illustrated in the account of the rich man and Lazarus: “The rich man…died, and was buried; and in hell he [lifted] up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Lk. 16:22-23 KJV).
On the final day of human history, everyone who ever lived and died will be resurrected and judged by Jesus Christ. “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:11-15).
Before the last judgment, the souls of those who died without Christ suffer in hell without their physical bodies. Their physical bodies are rotting in the earth. “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19). Immediately before the final judgment both soul and body are reunited during the resurrection of the dead. “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (Jn. 5:28-29). Then both body and soul “shall be cast out from the favorable presence of God, and the glorious fellowship with Christ, His saints, and all His holy angels, into hell, to be punished with unspeakable torments, both of body and soul, with the devil and his angels forever.”
The wicked will be in the same place before and after the resurrection, that place being hell. THE ONE AND ONLY HELL! Before the resurrection the damned suffer without the physical body and after the resurrection both body and soul suffer torment together. Hell is a literal place created by God for the devil and his angels.
Yes, there are two kinds of hell mentioned in Scripture.
1. There is the grave, Psalm 16:10. “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”
2. There is the Lake of Fire. Luke 16:19-31. All go to #1 because it is appointed for all to die. Hebrews 9:27. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” The unsaved will go to the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:14,15. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Delmer G. Lawson