What does the Bible say about hell?
The Various Compartments of Hell
In 1611 A.D. when the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible was written, the English word “hell” was used in the broad term of the "unseen world of the dead." Its intricacies, however, are far more complex than that of one simple place called hell. The Bible speaks of four different places that either have been, is presently, or will be as a place of “hell.” If Gehenna, or the Eternal Lake of Fire, is located in the core of the earth, which there are varrying opinions, there would be five compartments.
- Paradise (Abraham's Bosom)
- Abyss (Bottomless Pit)
- Gehenna (Eternal Lake of Fire)
There are well over 100 references in the New Testament alone giving information regarding the various places (or divisions) of hell, with 70 references having been uttered by Christ alone. We know more about hell from the mouth of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, than any other New Testament book. In addition:
- The Apostle Paul never spoke of hell because his letters were written entirely to Christians. He saw no necessity to speak of the place that was destined for unbelievers. Instead, he spoke on their identity in Christ, how they left their former life, and their responsibilities as Christians. He spoke of many references regarding heaven as their reward.
- The author of Hebrews, however, made reference to hell only twice, with another warning to Christians that if any believer kept sinning willfully long enough, he or she would risk judgment that would be no different than that of an unbeliever. He concluded by stating in Heb 9:27 that it is appointed unto men once to die – then the judgment.
- The Apostles Peter and Jude spoke of hell in reference to fallen angels, having one scripture (II Pet 3:9) stating that God is not willing for anyone to perish and how He desires all men to come to repentance.
- The Apostle James gave reference to hell – but only in reference to the tongue.
- Finally, the Apostle John spoke of hell many times over in his book of Revelation, and then pointed out the final judgment of unregenerate men and fallen angels will be cast into the eternal Lake of Fire.
To get a clearer understanding of “hell,” a study of Abraham’s bosom must also be examined first. According to ancient Jewish tradition, the Old Testament reveals that when a Jew died, under the covenant of God, he or she went to “lie with their fathers.” The patriarch Abraham was regarded as the "father" of the Jews; therefore, at death the Jews went to their forefathers, or more specifically, to join "father Abraham." [i] Abraham’s bosom, therefore, became synonymous for the afterlife for those Jews who followed the Law of Moses. The Talmud used the expression of Abraham’s bosom for the state of bliss after death. The thought behind it was that Abraham stood at the gate of paradise to receive and embrace his children as they entered, and the family of his “faithful descendants” were gathered to his arms. [ii] Jesus spoke of this place referred to as Abraham's bosom as synonymous for the afterlife in the grave for Jews under the covenant of the Law of Moses.
Luke 16:19-31 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20) And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21) And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22) And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23) And in hell (hades) he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24) And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25) But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26) And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27) Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28) For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29) Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30) And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31) And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. KJV
Faussett’s Bible Dictionary tells us that in Roman times, the custom of reclining on couches at meals was prevalent among the Jews. “Each one leaned on his left side, and so lay, as it were, in the bosom of the next below him. This position in the bosom of the master of the house was the place of honor. To lie in Abraham’s bosom became a phrase for blessed reposed in closest nearness to the father of the faithful in the feast of paradise.” Biblical support in Matt 8:11 and John 21:20 demonstrate that it was a Jewish custom of that time.
Whether the story of Lazarus and the rich man is figurative (as some may suggest) or fact is not the issue. Jesus was speaking to the Jews of something the Jews were well aware of from ancient tradition. Abraham’s bosom, resting and feasting with their forefathers was a place of blessedness in the afterlife for Jews who loved God and followed the Law of Moses. Jesus was pointing out that while this blessed place resided in the bowels of the earth (hades) there was a chasm or gulf that divided Abraham’s bosom from a place of torment where unbelievers resided. [iii] Across a great divide lie those in torment who could look over and see those resting and feasting in Abraham’s bosom. Luke 16:23 And in hell (hades) he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Most biblical scholars claim that Abraham’s bosom is the equivalent of “paradise.” That will be further revealed below:
The compartments of hell
When Jesus hung on the cross to die, there were two thieves that hung on each side of Him. The thief on the right believed that Jesus was the Son of God, and said to Him: “Remember me.” Jesus then promised him that he would go to "paradise" with Him that very day. Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise ( KJV). The word "paradise" is an old oriental word denoting a garden or park. To gain more knowledge on paradise, however, a study on its origin and the various places it is mentioned in Scripture needs to be discussed.
There appears to be four places that are listed as “paradise” or “garden” in the Scriptures. Whether they are four separate places or the original “paradise” that was transported from place to place is unknown. Either way, “paradise” is denoted as a park or garden.
Paradise upon the earth ruled by Lucifer: “Paradise ” was originally referred to as the garden headquarters for Lucifer upon the earth long before the creation of Adam and Eve . Ez 28:13 You (Lucifer) were in Eden, the garden of God. From the 28th chapter of Ezekiel, we discover that Lucifer was an important angel to God, able to come into God’s presence, which is reserved for just a few. According to Eph 6:12, there are ranks of angels, with Lucifer probably as an archangel, meaning the highest rank. The book of Ezekiel also tells us that Lucifer had sanctuaries and angels under his authority, with him being their ruler. He was full of wisdom and beauty, musical and perfect in all of his ways until he wanted to take over the position of God as ruler over the earth and all of the heavens. Lucifer and his host of angels came against God; however, in one sweep God judged Lucifer (renamed Satan) and his angels, casting them out of heaven (Luke 10:18) and destroyed his domain (Is 14:12-14).
Paradise upon the earth under Adam: The Greek Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) translators used paradise to describe various beautiful gardens in Scripture, particularly the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis. Paradise was referred to as the Garden of Adam and Eve, given to them by God. Gen 2:8-15 The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there he put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, along with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. Man was the steward under God, given to rule over the garden and upon the earth, taking dominion and authority over everything. This paradise of God was a garden filled with fruit trees and trees of all kinds. A river flowed out of the garden, watering it, and continued on into four rivers into the earth to give it life as well.
When Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating of the forbidden tree in the center of the garden (tree of the knowledge of good and evil), God judged them, Satan, and the earth. The earth became cursed and God placed angelic guards at the garden gate of Eden to prevent Adam and Eve from entering back in. It's important to note that if they were free to eat of the garden, they could then continue to partake of the tree of life to live forever. To prevent that from happening, they were forced out by God's angels to roam the cursed earth.
Paradise under the earth: Scripture prophecies from Isaiah and David in the Old Testament foretold of the Messiah having to go down to the grave (hell) to be made an offering for sin, but that he would not be left there.
Isa 53:9-11 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth…when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied …he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. KJV
Ps 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. KJV
Eph 4:9 .. what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth.
Jesus Himself foretold of Him going down in the heart of the earth for three days. Matt 12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. KJV
In Luke 23:43, the scriptures tell us that Jesus went to “paradise” upon His death on the cross. Since we know that He went into the bowels of the earth, it is therefore evident that “paradise” was in the bowels of the earth. When Jesus hung on the cross to die, the one thief said to Him: “Remember me.” Jesus then promised him that he would to go “paradise” with Him that day Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. KJV
There have been some skeptics who have pointed out that there were no punctuation marks in the original Greek text. While that is correct, they argue that Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross actually said – “Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.” As shown, by changing the place of the comma and the wording around, it can completely change the meaning of the text. There is no evidence, however, that the sentence should be turned around to read such a thing. In 78 times throughout the Gospel, Jesus used the phrase “I tell you the truth ” to explain something. There is no place, however, where He stated “I tell you the truth today.” Based on Jesus' consistent use of that expression, the weight of evidence supports the view that Jesus told the repentant thief in Acts 2:31, " I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise ." This indicates that both Jesus and the repentant thief went to "paradise" on the day that they died.
The Apostle’s Creed, established in the 2nd century, also proclaimed what the Old and New Testament have stated – Jesus went down to hell (the place of the dead) before He arose from the dead.
The Apostles Creed
"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty…"
Did Jesus go down to paradise to be with his forefathers like those practicing Jews before Him? It appears that He did. He did not, however, stay to rest in Abraham’s bosom to be release at a much later date. Questions did arise, however. What about the thief? Nothing was said whether or not he was even a Jew. Chances are he was a Gentle nonbeliever, who while dying on the cross came to believe in the deity of Jesus. Because of his faith, however, crying out to Jesus, he was able to go to paradise with Him in the bowels of the earth.
What did Jesus do while in Paradise under the earth?
There are those who want to portray an erroneous doctrine of Christ suffering in hell for our sins, claiming He died spiritually and had to suffer in hell for the sins of the world. His death on the cross, however, was His suffering for our sins. The Bible says Jesus bore the whipping strips for our healing, and His death on the cross became the eternal sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of humanity. 1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. When He said it was finished, it was finished!
When Christ died, He descended into the earth on the day before Passover and became the eternal sacrifice for sin, as is supported by the above scriptures. The Bible, however, is not exact as to everything Jesus did between his death and resurrection. The paraphrase below, supported by scripture, gives us as much as we need to know what He did while in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights:
- Jesus told the thief on the cross that He would be going to paradise upon His death. He, Himself, prophesied that He would be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. Upon His death, taking the one thief with Him, He descended down into hell. While there, He preached to the disobedient spirits from the days of Noah. These disobedient spirits are listed not in sheol/hades, but tartarus – the deepest abyss of sheol/hades (see section on tartarus). There He preached to the fallen angels as listed in Jude 6.
- The Apostle Peter did not tell us what He proclaimed to these imprisoned spirits, but He disarmed them, making a public spectacle of them, and proclaimed His victory. He then took the keys of death and hell and destroyed the works of the devil (who had the power over death) by delivering those who were held in bondage out of sheol/hades.
- The book of Ephesians tells us that Christ descended and then when God raised Him from the dead, He also raised up those who were held captive in paradise.
- From the parable of Abraham’s bosom, we can conclude that those who were held captive were those resting who loved God and were following the Law of Moses.
- In Matthew 27, the Scriptures tell us that the graves were opened up and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised and went to the holy city and appeared to many.
The following scripture verses support the above paraphrase:
- Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
- Acts 2:27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption
- Mat 12:40 “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days an three nights in the heart of the earth.
- Eph 4:8-10 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
- 1 Pet 3:18-20 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who formerly were disobedient of God waited in the days of Noah…
- 2 Peter 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment
- Jude 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.
- Col 2:15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
- Heb 2:14-15 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
- Luke 16:19-31 There was a certain rich man…and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus…And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom…And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence…
- Matt 27:52-53 and the graves were opened and many bodies of the saint who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
We know that Christ walked the earth for 40 days with His disciples after His resurrection. Most scholars agree that the resurrected bodies of the Old Testament saints walked the earth with Him and then rose with Him when He went back to His Father in heaven. There, however, is no scriptural evidence beyond they were risen from the dead.
This is supported by the writings of King David, who had died 1000 prior, who stated he knew when he died he would go into the earth, but he also knew that God would one day raise him from the grave and bring him to His presence in heaven. Psm 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me. Selah. From all indications, the compartment of the righteous in God (paradise) was emptied out, never to be filled again or simply transferred into heaven. The other compartment of hell (sheol/hades), containing the unrighteous, however, remains in the core of the earth and continues to fill up, even until today. Those who enter in remain captive awaiting their judgment from God.
Taking all this into account, it becomes clear that Abraham's bosom, as listed in Luke 16, was denoted as the resting place of the Old Testament saints until Jesus came to set them free. Paradise now seems to be located in heaven. All believers - those righteous in Christ - now joined those that were in Abraham's bosom, now referred to as "paradise," in heaven. There is no place in Scripture telling of paradise in the earth again.
Paradise in heaven: From all indications, it appears that after Jesus released those in paradise in the core of the earth, that place was either left empty or transferred into heaven. Rev 2:7…To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God. The Apostle Paul writes that when we, as Christians, following the resurrection of Christ, leave this body on earth, we shall immediately be at home with the Lord. We do not go to sheol/hades as the Old Testament saints of old, but immediately to be with Christ in heaven. 2 Cor 5:6-8 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (we walk by faith, not by sight) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. The Apostle Paul also told of an experience of his when he was transferred to paradise. He didn’t know if it was a vision or revelation, or even if it was a bodily or spiritual experience; however, he claimed paradise was in the third heaven and filled with the glory of God (II Cor 12:2-4). Paradise in heaven then is the resting place for all saints of God who have died and is awaiting Christ's coming at the Rapture of the Church to receive their glorified bodies.
We now have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within us to raise us from the dead to immediately be with Christ. We do not go to Abraham’s bosom, because Christ already raised them up. We go immediately to be with the Lord. Rom 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
The Hebrew meaning of the word “hell” is "sheol" and the Greek meaning is "hades." The NIV version translates "sheol" as "the grave," or the collective name for all the graves. Because of the variety of translations of the Bible out on the market today, this word "hell" has been intermingled with all three words and carries a broader meaning than just "sheol" and "hades." To get a better understanding of the underworld commonly referred to as “hell,” it needs to be examined in its full context. As pointed out, once Christ came to deliver those who were captive, resting in Abraham’s bosom, paradise is not spoken of again in the core of the earth. On the other side of Abraham’s bosom, however, having a chasm in between, lies the other half of sheol/hades. This place is spoken of many times in Scripture. Luke 16:23 And in hell (hades) he (the rich man) lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
This section in hell (sheol/hades) is spoken as the holding place for the unbelieving dead. After Christ’s resurrection, it also became a holding place for those who have rejected Christ. It continues, even today, to be a holding place until judgment day. The following describes hell (sheol/hades) in the Scriptures.
- In the heart of the earth (Matt 12:40, Eph 4:9)
- A place of torment and flames (Luke 16, Is 33:14)
- A place of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth (Matt 8:12, 13:42, 50)
- A place of damnation (Matt 23:14, Mk 12:40, Luke 20:47)
- A place of darkness (Matt 25:30)
On the “Day of Judgment” all those in sheol/hades will be delivered up to stand before God at “the Great White Throne Judgment.” The books will be opened to show whose names are written in the Book of Life. These unbeliever’s names are not written there; therefore, they will then be sentenced into the Eternal Lake of Fire” for all eternity as their punishment for their unbelief in rejecting Christ. Rev 20:12-15 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works…and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. KJV
The Bible speaks of a place, in the deepest abyss of hell (sheol/hades) where demonic angels have been cast into to await the eternal judgment of God. It is a dungeon and a place of torment that houses the fallen angels of Satan who had sexual intercourse with the daughters of men, as listed in Genesis 6. The Apostles Peter and Jude refer to these fallen angels during the time of Abraham and Lot and their place of punishment in their New Testament writings using the Greek word “Tartarus” because it was a word that was understandable to the people at that time. The KJV and other modern translations simply translated it in a broader sense as the English word "hell."
2 Peter 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment. (KJV)
Jude 1:6-7 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire (KJV).
Tartarus is a Greek word coming from an ancient mythological belief for the Greek god Tartaros who fell into Tartarus (named after him) - a place so deep - far below Hades to join other evil gods in a prison of punishment. The meaning grew into a general place of punishment for sinners during the time of Plato and the beginning of Roman mythology. It was an understanding place that people of that time could relate to for a horrible place for wicked fallen angels.
4. Abyss or bottomless pit:
According to Scripture, there is another abode of the abyss of hell referred to as the bottomless pit that houses demons and fallen angelic beings. It is not a place for the unbelieving dead. In the Gospel of Luke (Lk 8:26-31), Jesus met a demon-possessed man who was being tortured by evil spirits. Jesus commanded the evil spirits to leave the man and ordered them into the abyss. This abyss (referred to in the Book of Revelations) will be opened during the Tribulation Period. Many demons will be loosened upon the earth. Rev 9:1-3 …I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
Following that horrible time of tribulation, which the Bible says will last around seven years, Satan will be bound and then cast into this bottomless pit for 1000 years. He will be sealed there until the end of that 1000-year period and then released for a short time to come back to deceive many people. Rev 20:1-3 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
5. Gehenna (Eternal Lake of Fire):
Gehenna was originally a deep narrow valley located in Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where King Ahaz' (Old Testament king of Israel) and the Israel nation worshipped the fire-god and sacrificed their children to the pagan god of Molech and Baal. Later, Israel's new King Josiah formally desecrated it. After that, it became the common refuse place of the city where the garbage and carcusses of criminals and dead animals were cast into and burned. It was said that "Gehenna" burns continuously. Its representation eventually became a symbol of the place of the wicked dead and their final punishment, and ultimately, used to symbolized the “Eternal Lake of Fire." During the time of Christ, "Gehenna" was strictly referred as a symbol of "Eternal Lake of Fire" and future punishment for those who refused to obey God. There are eleven scriptures in the Gospels used by Jesus, using the name "Gehenna" to describe "the Eternal Lake of Fire." Three scriptures to show as examples are:
Matt 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell (Gehenna)? KJV
Mark 9:43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell (Gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched KJV
Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell Gehenna); yea, I say unto you, Fear him. KJV
Eternal Lake of Fire: As spoken about in the book of Revelation, during the 1000-year milllennial reign of Christ, all peoples upon the earth will be ruled under the theocracy of Christ. There will be those, however, as the generations continue, who may follow Christ with their action, but their hearts will be rebellious toward Him. Because of that, God will allow them a last chance to choose their leader. At the end of the 1000 years, Satan will be released from the bottomless pit for a brief period of time to gather those on the earth who do not want to follow Christ. Like the sands of the sea, people will gather to follow him in what would appear to be a final battle for power against God. Instead, fire will come swooping down from heaven and poured upon them (Rev 20:7-9). Satan and all of his followers will be cast into the Eternal Lake of Fire and Brimstone where the beast and the false prophet were cast earlier after the Battle of Armegaddon (Rev 19:19-20)
The unbelieving dead residing in sheol/hades: That leaves the question regarding all those who have gone before them - those who reside in hell (sheol/hades). They have yet to face their final judgment of God. It is clear that those who do not have their name written in the Book of Life will face the final judgment of God. All of hell, literally, will break lose and its inhabitants will come out to stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment. Each one will then receive his or her final judgment sentence. That judgment will be the Eternal Lake of Fire.
Rev 20:10-15 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that 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, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. "
John 5:27-29 And he (God) has given him (Jesus) authority to judge because he is the Son of Man . Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
The following describes the Eternal Lake of Fire in the Scriptures.
- Gehenna (Luke 12:5)
- Fire (Matt 7:19, 13:40, 25:41)
- Everlasting fire (Matt 18:8)
- Unquenchable fire/everlasting fire (Matt 25:41)
- Eternal judgment (Heb 6:2)
- Eternal damnation (Matt 23:33; Mk 3:29)
- Everlasting fire (Matt 18:8, 25:41; Jude 1:7)
- Furnace of fire/unquenchable/wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt 3:12; 13:42, 50; Mk 9:43-46 & 48; Luke 3:17)
- Everlasting punishment (Matt 25:46)
- Everlasting chains (Jude 1:6)
- Black darkness forever (2 Pet 2:17; Jude 1:13)
- Outer darkness (Matt 8:12, 22:13)
- Place of torment day and night forever
- Furnace of fire
- Fire and brimstone
- A place where their worm does not die (Mk 9: 46)
- A place that was originally prepared for the devil and his angels
- Lake of Fire (Rev 20:15)
The variety of Bible versions also bring on additional wording for the Eternal Lake of Fire. Whatever terminology is used, the place of the Eternal Lake of Fire will be the final judgment for the unrighteous. The people who did not follow God under the Old Testament and those who did not follow Christ of the New Testament will be judged according to their works. They will then be cast into the Eternal Lake of Fire.
The Eternal Lake of Fire is a fire that is nonconsumable. How it differs from sheol/hades is uncertain, other that it will burn forever. It burns day and night - forever and is meant to be a final place of punishment for the wicked (wicked meaning those outside of God).
Where will the Eternal Lake of Fire be located? Some scholars claim the Eternal Lake of Fire is in the center of the earth, which has temperatures scaling almost 12,000 degrees fahrenheit at its center core. [iv] If all unbelievers are going to be judged according to their works as Revelation 20 states, the question then arises whether there are varying degrees of punishment in the Lake of Fire. Is there a lesser heat or torment for those who have never heard of Christ and more for those who completely rejected Christ or lived in abomination? We do not know! The Bible tells us that the Eternal Lake of Fire will be consumed and burned eternally with its inhabitants living in and aware of its torturous burning.
Other scholars claim that the Eternal Lake of Fire will be in the dark outer space somewhere. There are three scriptures in the book of Matthew that leads one to believe this could be the case. Matt 22:13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Scripture is inconclusive on its actual location.
The book of Hebrews states the earth and its heavenly atmosphere will be shaken to rid itself of evil. Heb 12:26-27 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven…signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. II Peter tells us the earth will be burned on the Day of Judgment and its elements will melt with fervent heat and burnt up. II Pet 3:7-13 But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men… the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; but the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up... What does that mean?
A new heaven and new earth: Following the burning of the old earth and heaven, a new heaven and a new earth will come in its place. A new heaven means "heavenlies," referring to the atmosphere where Satan and his host roamed. This area where Satan and his angels roamed needs to be cleansed from all evil. 2 Peter 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. KJV Rev 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. As far back as the prophet Isaiah of the Old Testament, a new heaven and earth was prophesied (Is 5:17 & Is 66:22). The atmosphere of the new heavens and the new earth will be one that will be free of Satan, evil and wickedness. It will literally become a heaven upon earth.
The Word of God states that the Eternal Lake of Fire was not created for mankind, but for Satan and his wicked angels. Matt 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels KJV . Isn't it sad that the sinner who refuses the Lordship of Jesus Christ will die and descend into hell, only to later spend an eternity in the Eternal Lake of Fire. It doesn't have to be that way. All it takes is a paradigm shift to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Not only will one's life be changed here on earth, but the final destination will be changed to heaven, enjoying the presence of the Lord forever and ever.
If you are not sure that heaven is your eternal home, and you believe in the Lordship of Jesus – who He is, and what He had done for you, your eternity can be changed right now. Repeat this prayer, meaning it from your heart.
Dear God: I believe that Jesus is your Son and that He died on the cross for my sins. I want to spend eternity with You, so I choose to accept Your love and forgiveness right now. Thank you for giving me Your Holy Spirit and bringing me into the family of God. I accept all that You have for me and I purpose to get to know You through Your written Word and fellowshipping with You in prayer. My life is now changed – I belong to Christ. Amen.
Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. RSV
[i] (from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)
[ii] (from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)
[iii] (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)