Thinking Cap # 13 - The Question: Where Do Our Souls Go When We Die?

Ever been confused regarding the many terms used to describe where our souls go when we die? Is it hell, hades, lake of fire or sheol? Perhaps it's paradise, Abraham's bosom or heaven. Are these places the same or different? If hell is for the lost, then why did Jesus go there? While you're at it, just where might these places be? Take a crack at it. This isn't so much a question that deals with moral issues of the day, but it is one that we as Christians should be able to speak intelligently about in our witnessing opportunities. Should you care to venture in, I'd like your thots by midnight, Friday, May 19.

This is just my opinion, but here is how I would handle the questions.

  • First, let's look at the terminology. Several Hebrew and Greek words unfold for us the mysteries that lie beyond the tomb.
  • Sheol - shows up as "hell", "grave" and "pit" in the Bible. This is basically "the grave" as opposed to a burying place or a tomb.
  • Hades - this is the corresponding Greek word for *sheol* (as seen by Acts 2:27,31 quote of Ps. 16:10). It literally means "the unseen" world. It is rendered "hell" in the N.T. It houses the spirits of the wicked dead.
  • Gehenna - shows up as "hell" and is the equivalent of the Hebrew word *topheth,* but it refers to the final abode of the wicked dead. It refers to the valley of Hinnom, where terrible idolatries occurred. This word was then a descriptive word for the place where burns "the fire that never shall be quenched, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mk. 9:43-48). In Rev. 20:14-15 we see where the souls of the wicked dead (at present in the torment section of *sheol/hades*, will be reunited with their bodies for final judgement, after which they will spend eternity in what the Holy Spirit calls "the lake of fire." This is the real "Hell." It houses the spirits and the bodies of the wicked dead.
  • Ouranos - Greek for Heaven. In the O.T. the Hebrew words are *shameh* or *shamayin.* They come from a word meaning "lofty." We see it at use in 2 Chron. 6:21 and Dan. 2:28 in the O.T. and Mt. 6:9 and Rev. 4:1 in the N.T. It is a real place for real people. It is where believers now go when they physically die (2 Cor. 5:10), rather than "Abraham's bossom" or "paradise."
  • Tartarus - just to set the record straight, this is also translated as "hell" (2 Pet. 2:4, Jude 6), but it is only for the worst of the fallen angels. They will remain there until the final day of judgment.
  • Luke 16:19-31 tells us a great deal about *hades*. In the days when Jesus lived on earth it was divided into two sections. This "hell" had "Abraham's bosom", a place of rest, fellowship, happiness, comfort, love, and security. In his disembodied state, Lazarus was in that part of "hell." The rich man, was in what Jesus called "a place of torment."
  • When the Lord Jesus hung on the cross, one of the two thieves repented of his sinful life and appeals to Jesus in a statement of faith. Jesus said in Luke 23:43, "To day shalt thou be with me in [the] paradise." I have added the word "the" between "in" and "paradise" to represent the definitive article *too* which occurs in that portion of the Greek text. The thief would be going to the happy segment of the unseen world ("hell").
  • Looking at Eph. 4:8 (and Ps. 68:18), we learn that those in the paradise section of *hades* ("hell") are now in a different location. The Lord Jesus emptied the paradise segment of the Old Testament *sheol* (*hades* in N.T.) and took the souls of the believing dead with Him to heaven. After the Great White Throne Judgment Rev. 20:11-15), the torment segment of *hades* will be also be emptied. It will no longer be needed as a place of imprisonment for the wicked.
  • Where are Heaven and Hell? The abode of the dead is referred to as being downward in direction (1 Sam. 28; Eph. 4:9). After the resurrection of Jesus, when He lead "captivity" to heaven, when the N.T. has occasion to speak of believers in the unseen world, the location is "up" (2 Cor. 12:4; 1 Thes. 4:16-17; Rev. 12:5; Ro. 10:6).
  • I trust this has been as helpful for you as it was enjoyable for me to put it together.

    Pleasant Thinking,
    Kent Haralson


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