The Grave – Hell – Hades

The Grave

Cal Poulsen

Scripture Insights


When we study the Bible we will find that the word hell is translated four different ways. This is not a mistake. It was done this way to express the types or areas that hell occupies and how they will affect sinners and sinning angels.

The words used are “Sheol,” “Hades,” “Gehenna,” and “Tartarus.” All of these words have been translated “hell” or “hell fire” in the Bible. Let’s look at all four.


  • In the King James Bible, the Old Testament term Sheol is translated as "hell" 31 times, and as "the grave" 31 times. Sheol is also translated as "the pit" three times. Modern translations typically render Sheol as "the grave", "the pit", or "death." Both Sheol and Hades are related to death, or the temporary abode of the dead. Some Bible translations render them as “grave,” or “pit.” In all of these cases it is where the body goes at the time of death. It is generally agreed that both Sheol and Hades do not typically refer to the place of eternal punishment.


  • Hades is the Greek word traditionally used for the Hebrew word Sheol, The Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible. Like other first-century Jews literate in Greek, Christian writers of the New Testament employed this usage. While earlier translations most often translated Hades as "hell", as does the King James Version, modern translations use the transliteration "Hades", or render the word as "to the grave", "among the dead", "place of the dead" or similar statements. In Latin, Hades could be translated as Purgatory after about 1200 AD, but no modern English translations render Hades as Purgatory. The New Testament use of Hades builds on its Hebrew parallel, Sheol which was the preferred translation in the Septuagint.


  • In the New Testament, both early (King James Version) and modern translations often translate Gehenna as "hell". Young's Literal Translation and New World Translation are notable exceptions, simply using the word "Gehenna". All the references to Gehenna, except James 3:6, are from the lips of Christ himself, and there is an obvious emphasis on the punishment for the wicked after death as being everlasting. The term Gehenna is derived from the Valley of Hinnom, traditionally considered by the Jews as the place of the final punishment of the ungodly.

Another word that is translated hell is used in 2 Peter 2:4.

2 Peter 2:4 

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarus), and delivered them into chains (pits) of (dense) darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

Used only in this verse, “hell” is Strong’s number 5020, which means “Tartaros (the deepest abyss of Hades); to incarcerate in eternal torment.” This word is never used in reference to humans, only for demons, and it does not mention fire. Tartarus is a Greek name for a subterranean place of divine punishment that is lower than Hades.


  • In the New Testament, both early and modern translations usually translate Tartarus as "hell", though a few render it as "Tartaro". The word Tartarus is only found once in the Bible.

Jude 1:6 

And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

This second example in Jude of God’s punishment for disobedience describes certain angels, not those who live in heaven and glorify God, but those who did not stay within the limits of authority that God gave them but left the place where they belonged.

Once pure, holy, and living in God’s presence, they (some angels) gave in to pride and joined Satan to rebel against God. They left their positions of authority and their dwelling with God, resulting in eventual doom. Peter explained that God “did not spare even the angels when they sinned” (2 Peter 2:4). Scholars differ as to which rebellion Jude referred. This could refer to the angels who rebelled with Satan (Ezekiel 28:15).

Ezekiel 28:15 

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.

Ezekiel 28:16 

Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you (Satan), guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.

Ezekiel 28:17 

Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.

More likely this verse pertains to the sin of the “sons of God” as described in (Genesis 6:1-4).

Genesis 6:1 

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them,

Genesis 6:2 

.  .  .  the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.

Genesis 6:3  

Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years."

Genesis 6:4 

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them .  .  .  .

Demons, in this case are the Sons of God who are evil, twisted beings, so nothing they do should surprise us. As to a distinct motivation, one speculation is that the demons were attempting to pollute the human bloodline in order to prevent the coming of the Messiah. God had promised that the Messiah would one day crush the head of the serpent, Satan (Genesis 3:15). The demons in (Genesis 6) were possibly attempting to prevent the crushing of the serpent (Satan) and make it impossible for a sinless “seed of the woman” to be born. This is not a specific biblical answer, but it is biblically plausible.

Nephilim were offspring of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" before the Deluge (flood) according to Genesis 6:4; the name is also used in reference to giants who inhabited Canaan at the time of the Israelite conquest of Canaan according to Numbers 13:33.

An interpretation given in the book of Enoch in the Apocrypha, states that angels came to earth and took women as sexual partners. Though not in the Bible, Jewish theology at this time held that some fallen angels (demons) were held in chains and some were free to roam this world to oppress people. Jude’s readers apparently understood his meaning, as well as the implication that if God did not spare his angels, neither would he spare the false teachers. Pride and lust had led to civil war and to the angels’ fall. The false teachers’ pride and lust would lead to judgment and destruction.

As for these disobedient angels, God has kept them chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the Day of Judgment. These angels were imprisoned in Tartarus (1 Peter 3:19-20; 2 Peter 2:4).

1 Peter 3:19 

After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits,

1 Peter 3:20 

.  .  .  to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

Some scholars describe the “chains” as metaphors for the confinement of “darkness”; others take them to be literal chains in a dark pit somewhere in the lowest abode in hades. These sinful angels will be kept in this place of punishment until the great Day of Judgment, when they will face their final doom.


Your questions and comments are always appreciated.

Scripture Insights

2015 – 2016





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