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The word “hell” is derived from the Saxon helan, to cover; hence the covered or the invisible place.

In Scripture, there are three words translated as “hell”:

  1. Sheol, occurring in the Old Testament sixty-five times. This word “sheol” is derived from a root-word meaning “to ask,” “demand;” hence insatiableness (Proverbs 30:15,16). It is translated “grave” thirty-one times (Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 44:29,31; 1 Samuel 2:6, etc.). The Revisers have retained this rendering in the historical books with the original word in the margin, while in the poetical books they have reversed this rule.

    In thirty-one cases in the Authorized Version [King James Version] this word is translated “hell,” the place of disembodied spirits. The inhabitants of sheol are “the congregation of the dead” (Proverbs 21:16). It is…

    1. the abode of the wicked (Numbers 16:33; Job 24:19; Psalms 9:17; 31:17, etc.)

    2. of the good (Psalms 16:10; 30:3; 49:15; 86:13, etc.).

    Sheol is described as deep (Job 11:8), dark (10:21,22), with bars (17:16). The dead “go down” to it (Numbers 16:30, 33; Ezek. 31:15,16,17).

  2. The Greek word Hades of the New Testament has the same scope of signification as sheol of the Old Testament. It is a prison (1 Peter 3:19), with gates and bars and locks (Matthew 16:18; Rev. 1:18), and it is downward (Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15).

    The righteous and the wicked are separated. The blessed dead are in that part of hades called paradise (Luke 23:43). They are also said to be in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).

  3. Gehenna, in most of its occurrences in the Greek New Testament, designates the place of the lost (Matthew 23:33). The fearful nature of their condition there is described in various figurative expressions (Matthew 8:12; 13:42; 22:13; 25:30; Luke 16:24, etc.). (See HINNOM.)