Hell versus Hades
Strong’s Concordance defines haides as “the place of departed souls.” When a person dies his physical body goes into the grave or earth (from dust to dust – “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” Genesis 3:19). The spirit and soul are separated from the body and go either to Hades (for unbelievers) or to be with the Lord (for believers). The purpose of the resurrection is to rejoin the spirit and soul with the physical body creating a new immortal being destined for eternal life or eternal damnation.
“I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15).
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28,29).
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
From these scriptures we can see that everybody will be resurrected from the grave, whether good or evil, for all must be judged and receive their due. Paul tells us that the resurrection has to do with the dead physical body. The spirit and soul of man do not die at physical death, only the body. As James tells us, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). The resurrection of the body and reunion with the spirit is in preparation for judgment: the just will be resurrected to eternal life in the kingdom of God and the unjust will be resurrected to eternal punishment. In John 5, Jesus calls these the “resurrection of life” and the “resurrection of condemnation.” Although in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is speaking specifically about the bodies of believers being resurrected in glory, we can see from the other scriptures that the wicked will also have their bodies resurrected to stand before the judgment seat of God. Other than being immortal, we are not told what kind of physical state they will be in. Believers who are alive at the time of Christ’s coming will also have their bodies supernaturally changed into new incorruptible bodies to spend eternity in the kingdom of God.
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
When we look into the concept of Hades, we discover that the King James Version of the Bible has done us a great disservice by translating three different Greek words as Hell. Those three words, haides, tartaroo, and geenna, when examined in context have very different meanings. This has brought much confusion to the body of Christ. Even though the New King James Version and most other modern versions correct this error, the result has been that many Christians still use the term ‘Hell’ erroneously. For example, it is a common misconception that when Christ died on the cross He went into Hell and preached the Gospel. Another good example is the misconception that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the church. As will be seen, neither of these beliefs is true.
In order to understand the difference between Hades and Hell we must understand the order of events outlined in scripture.
“And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” (Revelation 19:19-20:5).
“The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:10-15)
The Battle of Armageddon will result in the defeat of the beast and all of his rebellious followers. The beast and false prophet will be cast alive into the lake of fire while Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years. It is at this point that we find the first resurrection when the righteous saints are resurrected and judged and found worthy to reign with Christ for a thousand years. Notice what John tells us next: “the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” After a thousand years we have the final rebellion of Satan and his followers when the Lord will destroy the rebellious with fire and cast Satan into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet still are. At this point there are only three persons in the lake of fire: Satan, the beast, and the false prophet. The Great White Throne judgment then takes place when all will be resurrected and judgment passed. This is the second resurrection after the thousand years. All those who names were not found in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire with Satan and his cohorts. This is the final judgment of God’s creation before the new heavens and new earth are brought forth for eternity.
It is important to note that prior to the Battle of Armageddon all of the dead exist as separate spirits from their bodies. Only after this battle are the righteous resurrected and only after another thousand years are the rest of the dead resurrected. Judgment takes place in the resurrected body. At the Great White Throne judgment Death and Hades will be done away with. Hades will no longer exist and there will be no more death. All will now be joined with their bodies and have either eternal life or eternal condemnation. John tells us, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). So, Hades exists during the time of separation of body and spirit and then is done away with. In eternity body and spirit are united together.
On the Day of Pentecost, Peter made some very revealing statements about the death of Christ which give us a lot of insight into what happens when a person dies.
“For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27 NKJV).
“He, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:31 NKJV).
After Christ was crucified, His body was laid in a tomb while His soul went into Hades. Notice that it is made clear in both of these verses that He went to Hades not Hell. There would be no point in Him going to Hell because at that time there was no one there, not even the Devil! As we saw earlier, there will be no one in Hell until the coming of Christ to defeat the Antichrist. The soul of Christ spent three days in Hades where He proclaimed His victory over sin, death, the grave, Satan and his demons. His body spent three days in the tomb where it did not see corruption meaning it did not decay. After three days the resurrection took place rejoining His soul and body bringing forth Christ in a new glorified body.
Jesus gives us some further insight into Hades in His discourse in Luke 16:
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead’” (Luke 16:19-31).
Here again we see that the souls of the dead went into Hades while their bodies were buried in the grave. This scenario takes place before the death and resurrection of Christ so we find both the good and the wicked in Hades separated by a great gulf. Those with Abraham were the people of God who had repented and believed the promise of Moses and the prophets and were now awaiting the fulfillment of that promise. (It’s interesting that the wicked rich man was blessed with the luxuries of the world while the righteous Lazarus suffered terribly in his life. The real rewards did not come until after death when both received their due. This really flies in the face of a lot of Christian beliefs today but that is another message!) Although the rich man was in a place of torment, we must remember that he was only in a temporary holding place until the final judgment at the throne of God. No one received their final due until after they were officially judged at either the Judgment Seat of Christ or the Great White Throne judgment. Although Hades was a place of torment for the wicked, there had been no judgment yet so this was not a final destination.
As we saw earlier, final judgment takes place in the resurrected body after the resurrection. Here we see that the body was buried in a grave and the soul went to Hades. The fact that the rich man’s brothers were still on earth in natural bodies reinforces that this passage is not talking about the final judgment and Hell as the resurrection had not yet taken place. When the resurrection does take place for judgment, Hades will release the souls kept there. This is brought out in Revelation 20:
“The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works” (Revelation 20:13 NKJV).
On the Day of Judgment, a resurrection will take place whereby the wicked dead will be released from Hades and be rejoined to their physical bodies to stand before the judgment seat of God where sentence will be pronounced – “anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). The righteous ones in the bosom of Abraham were set free from Hades to be with the Lord:
“Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.’ (Now this, ‘He ascended’; what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)” (Ephesians 4:8-10).
As Paul declared, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Since the resurrection of Christ, the souls of believers go to be with the Lord rather than having to wait in Hades. But the body remains in the grave until the time of the resurrection.
A part of Hades is also the confinement place for the fallen angels who followed Satan in his rebellion against God.
“For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to Hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4 NKJV)
“And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).
The word ‘Hell’ in 2 Peter comes from the Greek word tartaroo. Strong’s Concordance defines this as “the deepest abyss of Hades.” And just like Hades is a temporary holding place for the wicked, it is also a temporary holding place for fallen angels being reserved for the judgment of the great day. Even demons must have a day of judgment before receiving their final due in the lake of fire. The lake of fire was created for the devil and his angels but sadly men and women who share in their rebellion against God will also share in their damnation.
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:41).
When Christ went into Hades after the crucifixion He proclaimed His victory to the prisoners there.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water” (1Peter 3:18-20).
The word preached is from the Greek kerusso which means ‘to make proclamation’ as in announcing a triumph. This is borne out by the following verses:
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15).
“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18).
The word ‘spirits’ in 1 Peter is usually used to denote spirits (pneuma) rather than human souls (psuche). Later in this verse we see Peter using psuche to denote ‘eight souls.’ This has resulted in a lot of debate about who these ‘spirits in prison’ are. Everyone in Hades was in essence a prisoner unable to leave. These ‘spirits’ could refer to the chained angels, the souls of the wicked, the souls of the righteous, or some or all of them. In the same passage Peter also speaks of, “Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:22). This verse lends support to those who believe the ‘spirits’ were fallen angels defeated at the cross by Christ. Regardless of your position, all in Hades were present to hear the proclamation of Christ’s victory over sin, death, Hades, Satan, and demons.
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55 NKJV).
Another important fact about Hades is that, unlike Hell, Hades is a temporary place which will be emptied out at the Day of Judgment and then be cast into the lake of fire. When God sets up His judgment seat, all of the dead will be resurrected to have spirit and body rejoined to stand before the judgment seat of God. Once the judgment of God takes place, there will no longer be any need for Hades as Death will no longer exist. All will have immortal spiritual bodies to exist forever either in Hell or the kingdom of God.
“Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14 NKJV).
In summation, Hades is a temporary holding place for fallen angels and the souls of the wicked who are awaiting the resurrection of the body and the great white throne judgment.
The word ‘Hell’ comes from the Greek geenna which Strong’s Concordance defines as “a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment.” As we will see, unlike Hades, Hell is an eternal place reserved for the everlasting punishment of the wicked, both human and demonic.
Jesus spoke about Hell a number of times including the following:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into Hell” (Matthew 5:29).
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matthew 10:28).
“If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire” (Matthew 18:8).
“And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into Hell fire” (Matthew 18:9).
“Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of Hell?” (Matthew 23:33).
“And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into Hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched” (Mark 9:45).
“And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into Hell fire” (Mark 9:47).
From these verses we can draw the following conclusions about Hell:
- Hell is a place of severe punishment for sin.
- A person is “cast into” Hell denoting he is being forsaken and separated from God.
- A person’s soul and body are cast into Hell.
- Hell is a place of fire.
- Hell is an eternal place of everlasting fire that cannot be quenched.
- Hell is a place of condemnation.
- Being cast into Hell is contrasted with entering into the kingdom of God. (Where scripture uses the term “enter into life,” the word ‘life’ is from the Greek zoe denoting eternal life.
As we looked at earlier in this article, Hades is a temporary holding place where only the soul of man is kept as he awaits the judgment of God. In contrast, we can see from these verses that hell is an eternal place of final damnation. Both the soul and body are cast into hell which tells us that man has been resurrected and is now receiving his due from the judgment of God. Notice what John said about the resurrection:
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28,29).
In Matthew 23:33, Jesus called the punishment of the wicked the “condemnation of hell”. Here in John we see “the resurrection of condemnation.” The King James Version translates both verses with the word ‘damnation’ which speaks more strongly of a final judgment. Taken together, these verses reiterate that Hell is a place of final damnation after the resurrection and judgment of God. Even as Jesus contrasts “the resurrection of life” and “the resurrection of condemnation” in John, we see in both Matthew and Mark a contrast being made between entering the kingdom of God and being cast into Hell. The importance of all this is seen when we examine the scriptures concerning the lake of fire. As will be seen, Hell and the lake of fire are the same place.
“Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:40-43).
“So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:49,50).
“Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name’” (Revelation 14:9-11).
“Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20).
“The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
“Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14,15). (Revelation 20:15 NKJV)
“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
Just as we saw about hell, we can make the following conclusions about the lake of fire:
- The lake of fire is a place of severe punishment for sin.
- A person is “cast into” the lake of fire.
- A person’s soul and body are cast into the lake of fire.
- It is a place of fire.
- The lake of fire is a place of everlasting and unquenchable fire.
- The lake of fire is the place of condemnation due to the judgment of God.
- Being cast into the lake of fire is contrasted with entering the kingdom of God.
These facts should be more than sufficient to conclude that Hell and the lake of fire are two names for the same place. At the Great White Throne judgment of God, all of the dead not raised up in the first resurrection of the righteous will be resurrected and rejoined to their bodies to stand before the judgment seat of God where sentence will be passed. All those whose names are not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into Hell or the lake of fire to be tormented with Satan, the Beast, the false prophet, and the fallen angels. In Matthew 25 Jesus gives a discourse on the Great White Throne judgment found in Revelation 20:
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:’ Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:3-46).
Here again we see the order of events: resurrection, judgment, the sentence of God. God prepared Hell for the devil and his rebellious cohorts, not for humanity. But when we willfully choose to reject the salvation of Christ and to follow in the rebellious path of the devil, we too will receive the same fate of everlasting punishment. And following Christ is not about following some formal religion. If you read the whole discourse in Matthew 25, you will see that as James put it, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). Christianity is not some dead ritual as so many have made it. True Christianity is Christ living in and through us to carry on the works of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
One other term used in scripture that we need to look at is ‘outer darkness.’ Here again, if we look carefully at the scriptures we will see that it too is just another name used to denote Hell.
“But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12).
“Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 22:13).
“The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:50,51).
“And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:28).
“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Revelation 22:14,15).
“Raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (Jude 1:13).
Here again we can see the similarities between ‘outer darkness,’ ‘Hell,’ and the ‘lake of fire.’
- It is a place of severe punishment for sin and rebellion.
- A person is ‘cast into’ outer darkness.
- As can be seen from Mathew 24 and 25 this casting out takes place at the end of the age as a final judgment denoting it is after the resurrection and thus in soul and body.
- It is a place of condemnation due to the punishment of God.
- Outer darkness is contrasted to the kingdom of God.
In addition to the above similarities, we find that both outer darkness and the lake of fire are places of ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ This is also the fate of hypocrites. In Matthew 23:33, we find that hypocrites are destined for Hell, again tying all three together. We can also see the similarities in the lists of sin found in both Revelation 22:14,15 and Revelation 21:8 tying together the lake of fire and outer darkness.
When we put all of these scriptures together in light of the last verses listed (Luke 13:28; Revelation 22:14,15; Jude 1:13) we can see that Hell is ultimately a place of separation from God and His kingdom. Even though it is a place of everlasting fire, it also a place of darkness as there is no more light in Hell. If you have ever been to a bonfire on a moonless night you will understand this picture. The fire gives a limited light in the immediate area but everywhere else has an eerie darkness to it. After the Lord passes final judgment on His creation at the Great White Throne judgment, He creates a new heaven and a new earth:
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).
“The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (Revelation 21:23).
The sun, moon and stars all pass away. The kingdom of God is lighted by the glory of the Lord in all of His brightness. But outside of His kingdom there is no more light. Hence the term ‘outer darkness.’ So although Hell is a place of everlasting fire it is also a place of eternal darkness where the wicked are forever separated from the Lord. This is why Christianity is all about relationship, family, and intimacy. Ultimately, salvation is being in the presence of the Lord. When we truly understand this we will understand why the Lord exhorts us to earnestly seek Him. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).