Sheol, Hades, Hell, Gehenna
Death is the same for both good and bad men.
The same word describes the condition of both, many times over:
“Then Abraham gave up the ghost [breath|, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.” (Gen. 25: 8.)
And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people.” (Gen. 35:20.)
“So David slept with his fathers.” (1 Kings 2:10.)
“So Ahab slept with his fathers.” (1 Kings 22:40.)
All of them — good kings, bad kings, good subjects, bad subjects — went to hell. This may seem a severe statement to make and in truth, if “hell” means eternal torment, it is too severe a penalty to prescribe for even the most hardened wretch that has ever polluted the earth. But “hell” does not mean eternal misery. In the Old Testament it is a translation of the Hebrew word “sheol”, which occurs 65 times. It, is rendered “hell” 31 times, “grave” 31 times, “pit” 3 times.
In no case is the thought of eternal misery associated with the word, but always death — in which there is no remembrance, no joy, no love, no hate, no envy, no sensation whatever. In the New Testament, “hell” is a translation of the Greek words “hades” and “gehenna.” The former is the equivalent of “sheol“. — Compare Psalm 10:10 with Acts 2:27. R.V.
“Sheol” and “Hades” both mean the covered, hidden or concealed place or state. The English word “hell” originally had this meaning, and four centuries ago it was in common use in England among the people. The farmer would “hell” his root crops; that is, he would bury them to protect them from the frost. The builder would “hell” a house; that is he would put a roof on it. The word was probably in a transition stage about the time the Authorised Version was being made, A.D. 1611. Other words used in this version, the meanings of which have materially altered in the last three centuries, are “prevent,” in 1 Thes. 4: 13. which then meant “precede.” but which is not now used with that meaning. The word “let” in 2 Thes. 2: 7 meant “‘hinder” four hundred years ago, but now it means nearly the opposite of that. So the word “hell” had originally none of the terrible meaning that it has now. The student, should verify the above statements, concerning the now obsolete meanings of “hell, “prevent,” and “let.” by consulting any unabridged dictionary of the English language.
“Gehenna” was the name given to a valley outside Jerusalem, into which everything fit for destruction was cast. Fires were kept burning there; but if something cast into the valley lodged on a rocky ledge and did not fall into the fire, worms would presently consume it; no one would interfere with the destructive work of either the flames or the worms. Just as Jerusalem in Palestine typified the “New Jerusalem,” so did the “Valley of Hinnom,” called “Gehenna,” typify the “lake which burneth with fire and brimstone,” “without” the New Jerusalem. (Isa. 66: 24.) This lake means “the second death” not everlasting torment, and it was to this that our Saviour referred. (Mark 9:43-48; Rev. 21:8; 22:15.) Sheol and Hades may be understood as generally referring to the death that has come upon all the race on account of the transgression in Eden. This has passed upon all. (Rom. 5: 2.) Gehenna may be understood as referring to the death which comes as a consequence of wilfulness upon those who have been brought to a knowledge of the truth.
To note a few instances of good men going to Sheol will be instructive, as showing that sheol means the death condition, not torment —
“O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave [sheol], that thou wouldest keep me secret until thy wrath be past.” (Job 14:13.)
Evidently Job did not think of sheol as meaning a place of torment, since he prayed to be hidden there until God’s wrath were overpast. Gen. 37:35; 42:38 ; 44:29,31 are similar instances, telling of Jacob’s trouble over the loss of Joseph and the anticipated loss of Benjamin.
“For I will go down into the grave [sheol] unto my son [Joseph, supposed dead] mourn ing.”
“If mischief befall him [Benjamin] by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave [sheol].”
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