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Four Different Words Translated Hell

None of the words translated "hell" in English Bibles refers to a conscious afterlife of endless torment. In fact, Scripture states that there is no conscious awareness in death, but that we must be raised to conscious existence in a future resurrection (see Ecclesiastes 9:5,10; Daniel 12:2; 1 Corinthians 15:6, 18, 20,51; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). So what do these words translated "hell" mean?

First is the Old Testament Hebrew sheol, which is equivalent to the New Testament Greek term hades. Both these words are used in Scripture in reference to the grave-to burial in the earth.

Next is the Greek term tartaroo, which occurs in only one verse (2 Peter 2:4). It refers here to the present condition of demons, rebellious angels, being restrained or imprisoned on the earth.

Last is the word gehenna, the New Testament Greek form of the Hebrew Gai Hinnom, the Valley of Hinnom than ran along the west and south sides of Jerusalem. During biblical times of terrible apostasy people were burned here in pagan sacrifice–and it became a place to burn garbage. This term was used by Jesus in reference to future judgment in the lake of fire that will ultimately burn up the wicked. There is no sense here of a fire burning and torturing forever.

To learn more about these words and how they are used in Scripture, and more about what the Bible has to say on this subject overall, be sure to send for or download our free study guide Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach?

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