Q167 : Is Hades Synonymous with Hell?

Home  •  Questions  •  Subscribe  •  Previous  •  Next

Q167 : Is Hades Synonymous with Hell?

Tony, I have been using your work A Testimony of Jesus Christa as a study guide for Revelation for about 6 months.. It has been very helpful.

I am struggling with something this morning from the section on Revelation 20:13.

The righteous dead, whose soul and spirit were at one time in Hades have already been resurrected. Their soul and spirit has been reunited with their body at their participation in the category of the first resurrection . . .1

Are you saying that men of faith like Abraham and David were tormented in Hades until the resurrection of Jesus?

Please let me know your thoughts.


1.Ref-1266, 130


Ref-1266Anthony C. Garland, A Testimony of Jesus Christ: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation - Volume 2, (Camano Island, WA: SpiritAndTruth.org, 2004) [http://www.SpiritAndTruth.org/id/revci.htm]. ISBN:0-9788864-2-9b.

A167 : by Tony Garland

I'm blessed to know the Revelation Commentarya has been helpful.

First, let me state that it was not my intention to imply that the righteous dead undergo any sort of torment (such as the unbiblical notion of purgatory).

The confusion comes about because the Greek term α῝δης [hadēs] has several different nuances within the New Testament (and the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint).

In some passages, it denotes a place of judgment where torment is experienced by the unrighteous dead (Mat. 11:23; Luke 10:15; 16:23). When used in this way, the idea conveyed is essentially that of 'hell' (and it is rendered thus by the KJV).

In other passages, it refers to the grave in general (Mat 16:18; Acts 2:27,31; 1Cor. 15:55; Rev. 6:8; 20:13-14). Notice that Luke 10:15 cites Isa 14:11-15 and Acts 2:27,31 cites Ps 16:10. In both Old Testament passages the Septuagint uses Hades as the Greek word corresponding to the Hebrew שְׁאוֹל [šeʾôl], the realm of the dead. In these contexts, the idea conveyed is not necessarily that of hell, but of the grave or the grasp of death in general (without distinction between believers or unbelievers).

The Greek word Hades is sometimes, but misleadingly, translated “hell” in English versions of the NT. It refers to the place of the dead but not necessarily to a place of torment for the wicked dead.1

The gates of Hades keep the dead imprisoned in its realm. Only God can open them (cf. Wis 16:13; Ap. Pet. 4:3, which probably reflects a Jewish description of resurrection; Ps 107:16 may have been interpreted in this way). Whatever the precise meaning of Matt 16:18, its reference must be not to the powers of evil, but to the power of Hades to hold the dead in death. A related image is that of the keys of Hades (Rev 1:18), which open its gates (cf. 2En. 42:1): the risen Christ, victorious over death, has acquired the divine power to release from the realm of death (cf. also b. Sanh. 113a).2

In contrast to Hades, the word Gehenna is used more frequently to denote the final place of torment for the unrighteous which we would more typically refer to as 'hell.' Gehenna refers literally to the valley of Hinnon, a ravine south of Jerusalem where children were burned by idolaters in child sacrifice to pagan gods (Jer. 7:31-32).

The distinction between Gehenna, also referred to as the lake of fire, and Hades becomes clear in passages such as Rev. 20:4: Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.. Here we see that the final abode of the unrighteous dead corresponds to the lake of fire, a destiny different from the mere grave (death). Adding to this confusion is the practice within the KJV of rendering both Gehenna and Hades as 'hell' — in the former verse casting 'hell' into the 'lake of fire' as if perhaps 'hell' itself were to come to an end.

There is also the difficult passage concerning the Rich Man and Lazaras (Luke 16:19-31). Lazaras is said to be in "Abraham's Bosom" (and not in torment) whereas the rich man is said to be in "Hades" (and in torment). Both men can see one another, but there is a gulf fixed between. Some have seen this as indicating that Hades possibly included two compartments, one of which was occupied by the righteous dead prior to the work of Christ on the cross after which the righteous dead were taken to heaven.

The Heb. Sheol (which see) is the equivalent for Hades and is likewise the subterranean abode of all the dead until the judgment. It was divided into two departments, paradise or Abraham’s bosom for the good, and Gehenna or hell for the bad.3


1.Ref-0379, 3:15
2.Ref-0379, 3:15
3.Ref-0185, s.v. Hades


Ref-0185Merrill F. Unger, R. K. Harrison and Howard Frederic Vos, New Unger's Bible Dictionary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1988).
Ref-0379Freedman, D. N., The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996, c1992).

Links Mentioned Above
a - See https://www.spiritandtruth.org/id/revci.htm.
Search Website
Related Topics

Home  •  Questions  •  Subscribe  •  Previous  •  Next

Copyright © 2023 by www.SpiritAndTruth.org
(Content generated on Sat Dec 2 20:49:13 2023)