By Tom Kendall
One of the issues often avoided in teachings from the pulpit, bible studies and general conversation in the Christian community seems to be the issue of “hell”. For some reason, it seems to have a mystique about it that some may think invites evil spirits into their lives. However, if it was not to be studied, taught, discussed and understood, God would not have given us the information in the Bible. Because He did, and because it is there, I believe we should study and understand it just like any other aspect of scripture.
In this document, I will attempt to bring together many of the resources found is scripture that gives us a glimpse of the afterlife, and in particular, what we refer to as “hell”. In studying this topic, we must also consider other key issues that include what we refer to as “heaven”, as well as sin, punishment, reward, salvation and a host of issues that contribute to the complete understanding of this topic.
As we begin, it is important that we look at the original Greek and Hebrew words used in scripture and what they meant to those to which the original books were written. The first key word is the Greek word “Hades”. ᾅδης [hades /hah·dace/] In the Strong’s biblical word reference, this is word number 86. When translated into English, it translates into “hell” ten times and the word “grave” once. Here are applications and meanings as described in Strong’s:
- Name Hades or Pluto, the god of the lower regions.
- Orcus, the nether world, the realm of the dead.
- later use of this word: the grave, death, hell. Additional Information: In Biblical Greek it is associated with Orcus, the infernal regions, a dark and dismal place in the very depths of the earth, the common receptacle of disembodied spirits. Usually Hades is just the abode of the wicked, Lu. 16:23Lu. 16:23
English: World English Bible - WEB
23 In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom.
WP-Bible plugin, Rev. 20:13,14Rev. 20:13,14
English: World English Bible - WEB
13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works.
14 Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
WP-Bible plugin; a very uncomfortable place.
A very uncomfortable place, indeed. Certainly not a place most people long to be for eternity. It is also helpful to take a closer look at some of the descriptions of “Hades” and how they may be used today. Sometimes, these old, classical words find their way into secular use and minimize the meaning of them as we think of them in modern terminology. For example, the word “Pluto”. It is the name of one of our planets. But the name is that of the “god of the lower regions” as understood by the ancients. It is also the name of Mickey Mouse’s dog. Who could possibly think the happy, carefree dog of Disney would be symbolically named after the ancient god of the underworld. I am confident Walt Disney never intended to try and portray Pluto as something other than the cartoon character it is, in our modern society, we do not normally associate anything related to “hell” with that name.
It is a similar situation with the name “Orcus”, the nether world, the realm of the dead. It is from this word where the French word “ogre” likely originated. An “ogre” is defined as:
1: a hideous giant of fairy tales and folklore that feeds on human beings : monster
2: a dreaded person or object
Ogres for centuries were the scary, ugly monsters we grew up afraid of always fearing they hid under our beds at night or in the dark corners of our closets. Today, Ogre is the lovable green character in Shrek that kids love, and certainly don’t think of as being a scary monster that wants to devour them in their sleep.
How did we get from studying “hell” to Shrek? Simple. Many of the words and concepts we think of in modern day are complete changes of the original derivatives and the original meanings of the ancients. Therefore, it is no wonder we are easily confused when we hear some of the meanings and definitions of the original words used in the Bible. How often do we hear the word “hell” spoken in general conversation and on television? It has become a benign term that is no longer unacceptable in most conversational circles. Continue reading The Biblical Description of Hell