Hell is an English word that is translated from four words in the scriptures. In the Old Testament, it is from the Hebrew word sheol. Sheol is translated 31 times grave, 31times hell and 3 times pit. In all occurrences, it references something or someone being hidden, buried or put out of sight. None refer to a place of torment. Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10, “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing…there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave (sheol) where you are going.”
In the New Testament, hell is translated from the Greek word hades. Hades (Greek) and sheol (Hebrew) have the same meaning (compare the Hebrew text Psalms 16:10 with the Greek text Acts 2:31). Both are referring to Christ who was not left in sheol or hades (the grave) but was resurrected.
Hell in the New Testament is also translated from the word gehenna which is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew, "Valley of Hinnom." The valley was a dump just outside Jerusalem. Fires were kept constantly to burn up the garbage that was thrown into it. However, nothing alive was allowed to be thrown in, for it was forbidden for a Jew to torture any animals.
Christ used this valley as an illustration of the destination of a class of people with unrepentant hard-hearted character. The Jews believed in a resurrection from the grave (hades). Christ was making the point that if their disbelief and denial of the work of the Holy Spirit which they saw working through Him continued, the raising from the grave (hades) would do them no good and that they were in danger of being thrown into gehenna. Jews knew that anything that went into gehenna never came out. Things thrown in were either destroyed by the fire or where eaten by worms (maggots). This destruction is also mentioned in scripture as “second death.”
The fourth Greek word that is translated hell is “tartaroo.” It is found one time in the scriptures. 2 Peter 2:4, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” The translator used the italicized phrase to translate the one word tartaroo. This is the condition that the disobedient angels that kept not their first (spiritual) estate were put in until the day of judgement. To this day these angels (also known as demons) are restricted to earth and manifest themselves through mediums often time impersonating the dead.
Heaven in scripture has several meanings. It can mean the stars and planets we see. Psalms 19:1 "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handywork." It can also symbolically represent that which is in spiritual control (heaven) as compared with civil control (earth). Thus 2 Peter 3:12,13 speaks of the heavens being on fire and the earth melting … nevertheless we look for a new heaven and a new earth.
The scriptures also mention another heaven. This is the dwelling place of God (Isaiah 66:1). It is the place to which Christ ascended after His resurrection. This heaven is a place for spiritual beings; for the scriptures declare “flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” (I Corinthians 15:50) The apostles say that for anyone to be able to abide in this heaven they must experience a change of nature. (I Corinthians 15:51-53, I John 3:2)
Thus we can conclude that hell is real, but is only a place for the dead such as a grave, tomb, sepulcher, etc. And heaven is real; it is the dwelling place of God and his spiritual host.
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