Over the past few posts we’ve established that Christ’s soul went to a place called Hades when He died. The proof text is Acts 2:27, a Messianic passage that says of Christ:
For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
But what we’ve learned is that Hades is a fascinating place, one that actually has two sections. One section is a bliss section designed to hold the souls of the saved, and the other one is a torment section designed to hold the souls of the lost.
However, we’ve also learned that after Christ’s resurrection and ascension He emptied all the souls out of the bliss section and transported them on up to heaven. The text on this is Ephesians 4:8-10. So now when a saved person dies, his or her soul goes straight up to heaven. As 2 Corinthians 5:8 says of Christians:
We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
Okay, I realize that we are getting a bit off the specific question of where Christ’s soul went at death, but please bear with me for this post while I finish up the word about Hades. As things stand now, the torment section of Hades is still very much open for business and receiving lost souls every day. It is the place we have in mind when we talk about someone dying and going to “hell.” It’s where the souls of Osama Bin Laden, Adolph Hitler, and Joseph Stalin are right now. According to Luke 16:23-24 it’s a place of torment and literal flame. As bad as we might imagine it to be, it’s no doubt worse.
But will this torment section always remain open for business? No. Just as happened with the bliss section, there will come a time when the souls will all be emptied from the torment section and transported to another place. The time will be after Christ’s one-thousand-year reign upon this earth, and the place will be Gehenna, which is more commonly known as “the lake of fire.”
The word Gehenna literally refers to a burning “city dump.” The word occurs twelve times in the New Testament’s original Greek. In each instance the K.J.V. translates the word as “hell.” The passages are: Matthew 5:22; 5:29; 5:30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33; Mark 9:43; 9:45; 9:47; Luke 12:5; and James 3:6.
Gehenna is actually the Greek representative of the Hebrew Ge-hinnom. An English translation of Ge-hinnom would be “valley of Hinnom.” This was a deep, narrow valley to the south of Jerusalem. It was here that the Jews, in some of their most wicked Old Testament times, sacrificed their children to the god Molech. When the practice was stopped, the site became the “city dump” for Jerusalem. The bodies of criminals, the carcasses of animals, and all sorts of trash and filth were cast into the valley. The constant burning and smoldering of the refuse caused a continual smoke to rise up from the valley. Jesus, the master illustrator, chose the site as a symbolic representation of eternal judgment.
Jesus described Gehenna as a place where “their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48, in each instance “hell” translates Gehenna). The phrase “where their worm dies not” refers back to the “city dump” that was the valley of Hinnom. Those who took their trash out to the site could always see worms feasting on the waste, especially on the corpses and carcasses. These worms lived at the site without being annihilated by the flame and heat of the place. Other Bible passages that teach that the punishment of the wicked is eternal are Daniel 12:2, Matthew 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, and Revelation 14:10-11.
As I said, the New Testament’s other name for Gehenna is “the lake of fire.” This description is used in Revelation 19:20; 20:10; 20:14; 20:15; and 21:18. The Greek word that is translated as “lake” in these verses is the common Greek word for a lake. It is the same word that is used in reference to the famous “lake of Gennesaret” (the Sea of Galilee). This means that the best way to envision Gehenna is to think of a literal lake, but rather than being a lake of water it is a lake of everlasting fire.
In Matthew 25:41 Jesus speaks of an “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” The Greek language doesn’t use the word Gehenna in this verse, but the Bible makes it clear that Jesus was talking about Gehenna. For one thing, the Bible never depicts Satan as being in Hades (see Job 1:7, Job 2:2, and 1 Peter 5:8). For another, the Bible plainly says that the lake of fire will be Satan’s eternal dwelling place (Revelation 20:10). So, obviously, Jesus was referring to Gehenna when he talked about an everlasting fire prepared for the devil and the other fallen angels. Sadly, even though the place was specifically prepared for fallen angels, lost humans will spend eternity there as well.
But just when will Satan be cast into Gehenna? Well, there is a distinct order to how Gehenna goes from being unoccupied (which it is now) to being occupied. The order is as follows:
1. Jesus will return for His second coming to this earth during the battle of Armageddon. (Revelation 19:11-19)
2. As a part of Christ’s resounding victory at Armageddon, the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet from the seven-year tribulation period will be cast into Gehenna, the lake of fire. These two men will be Gehenna’s very first occupants and they will never get out of the place. (Revelation 19:20-21)
3. Immediately after this, Satan will be chained up in the bottomless pit, which is a place 2 Peter 2:4 refers to as Tartarus. And Satan will remain there in Tartarus for the thousand years of Christ’s reign upon this earth. (Revelation 20:1-6)
4. At the end of this thousand years, Satan will be loosed for a time to mount one final rebellion against God. God the Father will put down that rebellion and then Satan will be cast into Gehenna, the lake of fire. There he will join the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet who have already been in there for one thousand years. (Revelation 20:7-10).
5. Immediately following this will come the Great White Throne Judgment where all of history’s lost will stand before Christ. For this awesome judgment the torment section of Hades will at last be emptied so that all those lost souls can be formally moved into Gehenna. Revelation 20:12-15 says of this time:
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.
In closing, let me say one last word about the souls who will be called forth from the torment section of Hades to stand before the Great White Judgment. For that Judgment, those souls will be reunited with the bodies they once inhabited. This is why Revelation 20:13-14 speaks of not only Hades delivering up its dead but also Death delivering up its dead. You see, Hades will deliver up the lost soul and Death will deliver up the body. This will necessitate those bodies experiencing some type of resurrection. Obviously it won’t be the resurrection unto glorification that the bodies of the saved will experience, but it will be some type of resurrection so that the lost can be cast body and soul into Gehenna.
If you doubt this let me remind you that in John 5:29 Jesus names two distinct kinds of resurrections. They are “the resurrection of life” and “the resurrection of condemnation.” Let me also remind you that in Matthew 5:29-30 and 10:28 Jesus talks about the whole body being cast into “hell” (Greek word Gehenna). You see, by the time God’s program is completed for the human race there won’t be one soul (saved or lost) left in either section of Hades or one body left unaccounted for by either the “resurrection of life” or the “resurrection of condemnation.”