February 2, 2022

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left (Matthew 25:31-33).

There is some confusion in the minds of people as to the eternal destinies of the human soul after death. Various terms are used in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, that refer to the eternal state of those who die. We will briefly explore the subject of hell today.

Scripture does not speak of purgatory. There is no such place. It is an idea manufactured by religions to circumvent the doctrine of hell. In fact, the Bible speaks of only 2 destinies for the human soul: heaven and hell. The confusion comes in understanding the time and place of hell.

Sheol/Hades. Sheol is an Old Testament Hebrew word that refers to the underworld or ‘the realm of the dead’. It is translated in the Bible as grave, hell, pit, and depths. Hades is the Greek New Testament word that means the same thing as sheol. Before Jesus’ resurrection, all souls (except Enoch and Elijah) went to sheol/hades or the grave when they died.

Hell. This is a New Testament Greek word that refers to the Valley of Hinnom (gehenna) which was the garbage dump outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Hell also refers to that part of sheol where unrighteous dead reside in torment until the final judgment.

Tartarus. This is a Greek word found only in 2 Peter 2:4 and refers to the lowest realm of the abyss or the deepest part of hell reserved for the worst angels who have sinned against God.

The Lake of Fire. This is a Greek word found only in Revelation 19:20; 20:10,14,15. Whereas sheol, hell, and tartarus are temporary pre-cursors to eternal damnation, the Lake of Fire will be the permanent residence of Satan and all who have followed him, who have disobeyed and rejected God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When a non-believing person dies his/her body returns to the grave (Genesis 3:19) from which it is made; it either decays or is consumed by fire (cremation) or by animals. Immediately upon death, the soul enters hell or hades which is that part of sheol that is the place of torment (Luke 16:23). No purgatory. No soul sleep. There he/she will stay (Luke 16:26) until the Great White Throne judgment at the end of time. God will resurrect and reconstruct the person’s physical body, transform it into an eternal body, summon his/her soul from hell to inhabit that body, judge and condemn the person according to their works in this life, and cast them into the Lake of Fire forever (Revelation 20:11-15).

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power. Thank You, Lord Jesus! Amen.


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