In my previous post, I offered the first half of my answer to the question, “Are Hades and Hell the same place?” I won’t rehash every last sentence of that information, but here are the highlights:
- Hades (a Greek word from the New Testament) is the same place the Old Testament Hebrew calls Sheol.
- It was the afterlife realm of the dead, the place where all the souls (saved or lost) from the entire Old Testament era and the pre-crucifixion/resurrection New Testament era went at death.
- It was divided into two sections. The bliss section housed the souls of the saved. The torment section housed the souls of the lost.
- Hades (Sheol) is mentioned in scores of passages from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, but the passage that provides a vivid depiction of it is Luke 16:19-31, which is Christ’s story of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus. The Greek word that gets translated as “hell” in Luke 16:23 of the K.J.V. is “Hades.”
- For forty days following His resurrection, Jesus (in His resurrected, glorified body) made unannounced, random appearances to His followers (Acts 1:1-3). At the end of the forty days, He ascended to heaven (Acts 1:4-11). As part of His ascension, He gathered all the souls who were in the bliss section of Hades (Sheol) and formally entered into heaven with them (Ephesians 4:7-10). This emptied the bliss section of Hades (Sheol) and permanently closed it for business (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).
Okay, so at this point the question becomes, “Will the torment section of Hades ever be emptied and closed for business?” And the answer is, yes.Just as happened with the bliss section, there will come a time when the souls in the torment section will all be transported to another place. That time will be after Christ’s 1,000 year reign upon the earth, and the place into which all those souls will be transferred is known as Gehenna, or as it is more commonly called “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, and 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 the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Ge-hinnom. An English translation of Ge-hinnom would be “valley of Hinnom.” The valley of Hinnom 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 the afterlife Gehenna as a place where “their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48). In each instance of the K.J.V.’s use of the word “hell” in Mark 9:43-48, the Greek word is Gehenna. The phrase “where their worm dies not” hearkens 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. The worms lived at the site without being annihilated by the flame and heat of the place. Again, Jesus is using the earthly valley of Hinnom to illustrate the afterlife Gehenna (the lake of fire). Other Bible passages that teach that the punishment of the wicked is eternally unending, in contrast to annihilation, are: Daniel 12:2, Matthew 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, and Revelation 14:10-11.
As for the afterlife’s Gehenna also being referred to as the lake of fire, the passages are: 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 the afterlife 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 the lake of fire, not Hades, will be Satan’s eternal dwelling place (Revelation 20:10). So, obviously, Jesus was referring to Gehenna when he talked about an everlasting fire that has been prepared for the devil and the other fallen angels. Sadly, though, despite the fact that 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:
- Jesus will return for His second coming to this earth during the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-19).
- As a part of Christ’s resounding victory at Armageddon, the Antichrist 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).
- Immediately after this, Satan will be chained up in the bottomless pit, which is the place 2 Peter 2:4 refers to as Tartarus (see previous post). And Satan will remain there in Tartarus for the 1,000 years of Christ’s reign upon this earth (Revelation 20:1-6).
- At the end of this 1,000 years, Satan will be loosed for a time to mount one final rebellion against God (Revelation 20:7-8). God the Father will put down that rebellion, and Satan will then be cast into Gehenna, the lake of fire (Revelation 20:9-10). There he will join the Antichrist and the False Prophet, who will have already been in there for the 1,000 years of Christ’s earthly reign (Revelation 20:7-10).
- Immediately following this will come the Great White Throne Judgment where all of history’s lost people 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 transported 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. (N.K.J.V.)