What is hell?
What is hell? The definition given in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary says: the place or state of punishment of the wicked after death; the abode of evil and condemned spirits; Gehenna or Tartarus. Any place or state of torment or misery. The abode of the dead; Sheol or Hades.
What is hell? The New Unger's Bible Dictionary says: A term that in common usage designates the place of future punishment for the wicked. Other meanings in many instances are expressed by this term, which must be recognized to prevent mistakes and confusion, In some cases it refers to the grave, in others to the place of disembodied spirits without any necessary implication as to their happiness or unhappiness. This fact, however, does not affect the correctness of the belief indicated by the common use of the term, a belief supported by many passages of Scripture.
Scriptures rendered "Hell" in English, are three in number. The three words commonly used are Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna. Each will be explained in the following paragraphs.
Sheol means "the place of the dead" and is used to reference both the righteous and the wicked. Psalm 16:9-11 says, "Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Daniel 12:2 speaks of the wicked: "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt."
Hades is used in the New Testament and is a term much like the Old Testament word Sheol. Hades refers to the underworld - the state between death and the resurrection. Matthew 16:18 says, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
Gehenna is a place where Jewish apostasy was celebrated. Dead bodies were thrown into this valley and burned. The name of this valley became a term used for a place for lost souls. Most often, Gehenna is translated as hell or eternal hell.
Other references to hell in the New Testament are linked to the following phrases: "unquenchable fire," "black darkness," "furnace of fire," "fire and brimstone," "the smoke of their torment," "the lake of fire which burns with brimstone," "where their worm does not die," "the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels."
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