Bobby D. Gayton
Let us look at the New Testament word “hades”. This word is used eleven times in the New Testament. It is translated in the KJV as “hell” 10 times and one time “grave.” Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14. It is my suggestion that if you use the KJV that you place a note by each of these references that the original word is “Hades.” We will define both the Hebrew word, Sheol, and the Greek word, Hades.
If we understand the use of the Old Testament word, Sheol, it will help us to understand the New Testament word, Hades. The following informs us how the Israelites used the word. The belief about Sheol was approximately as follows: Sheol is situated in the depths of the earth (Psalms 63:9; 88:6). All the dead are gathered there (Isaiah 14:9–10) from every nation (Ezekiel 32:18–32). The wicked go there after an early death (Psalms 9:17; 31:17) but the righteous men of Israel are there too (Genesis 37:35; 49:33). Sheol is a place of gloom and darkness (Job 10:21–22). Those who are there survive in weakness (Isaiah 14:10). There is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (Ecclesiastes 9:10). In his worst moments of suffering Job looked forward to Sheol as an escape from the sorrows and troubles of life. He believed he would have rest there (Job 3:13, 17). However, in fact it is a place of hopelessness (Job 17:13–16; Isaiah 38:18).
Those who live in Sheol are cut off from God (Psalm 88:10–12). They completely forget God (Psalm 6:5), and exist without praising Him (Psalms 30:9; 115:17). Yet they are still under His rule, without escape (Psalm 139:8; Amos 9:2; Isaiah 7:11). Sheol is naked before God (Job 26:6). The worst thing about Sheol is that the dead are unable to escape, and exist without any hope of return to the world of the living (2 Samuel 12:23; Job 14:12). It should be noted that the word “Hades” is the word that the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) translates the Hebrew word “Sheol” that is used almost everywhere.
Strong’s Lexicon states, “1) name Hades or Pluto, the god of the lower regions. 2) Orcus, the nether world, the realm of the dead. 3) The 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.” (Logos).
Thayer states, “…the nether world, the realm of the dead…” p. 11.
BAGD states, “Hades (orig. proper noun, name of god of the underworld), the underworld as the place of the dead…” p. 16.
Bloomfield states, “Ἅιδης, ου, ὁ, (α, ἰδεῖν,) prop. what is in darkness, esp. ‘the invisible abode of the dead,’ the infernal regions. Hence also (particularly in the N. T.) the under world, or abode of the dead, orcus; a vast subterranean receptacle, where the souls of the dead are represented as existing in a separate state of happiness or misery, until the resurrection of their bodies…” p. 6. Liddell, Scott, Jones, McKenzie on page 21, “…place of departed spirits…”
Abbott-Smith stated, “in Hom., Hades (Pluto), the god of the underworld. 2. the abode of Hades, the underworld; in NT, the abode of departed spirits…” p. 9.
Hermann Cremer stated, “As Hades is for all a joyless place, but a place of torture especially for the godless, it is natural to perceive that the dwelling-place of the righteous departed, though they also are received into the one great abode of the dead is separated from that of the wicked. In this place they await the end hinted at in Ps. 49:15, 16, which is brought about by the accomplishment of redemption.” [Note all quotes take from Logos].
Therefore, Hades is the place of the departed spirit, whether the spirit is good or evil. Our physical bodies do not go to Hades. According to the ancient Greeks Hades was divided into two realms, Elysian Fields, a place of rest and comfort for the spirits of those who were good and Tartarus, the place of torment for those who were evil. The Greek word “Tartarus” is used in 2 Peter 2:4 and is translated “hell” in the KJV. It should be noted that Hades lasts as long as death is in this world. Jesus still has the keys to both death and Hades. Revelation 1:18; 20:14. If having the keys of death indicates authority over death, it means the same thing regarding Hades. Hades will not be emptied until the second coming of Christ when both death and Hades end.