What are the four words for hell in the Bible?

Pastor Larry Siekawitch   4/12/2014

Pastor Larry Siekawitch is the Senior Pastor at Harvest Fellowship Church in Sauk Rapids, MN.

Ken asked, I recently saw a program that discussed the different names for hell and what they meant. The 1st one mentioned is the Hebrew “Sheol” which the program claimed meant “pit or grave”.

Next came “Hades” which in Greek also meant pit or grave. Followed by “Gehenna” meaning “fire that destroys the soul” also from Greek. Lastlylso from Greek- came “Tartarus” which applied only to fallen angels or confinement of fallen angels. Do you consider this to be accurate all or in part? Thanks.

The statement is fairly close. Here is what the four words refer to in the Bible:

1.      Sheol: Grave, death, realm of the dead, place of punishment. It depends on the context. The Old Testament did not give a lot of detail concerning the afterlife.

2.      Hades: Temporary place of punishment for the wicked (definitely more than pit or grave). Greek word used in the Roman world with all kinds of elaborate thoughts concerning the afterlife. In the Bible it refers to a temporary place of punishment until the inhabitants are cast into the lake of fire.

3.      Gehenna: Lake of fire, eternal place of punishment for the wicked. Originally this referred to a local garbage dump outside Jerusalem that continuously burned, but it became a symbol of the place where unrepentant sinners will go to experience eternal, conscious torment as punishment for their sins.

4.      Tartarus: Temporary place of punishment for wicked angels. It is only used once in the Bible and is fairly vague, but those angels put here will eventually end up in Gehenna. 

The program was close, but you never know the nuances of TV programs concerning religion. They usually try to downplay the seriousness of God’s holiness and judgment. Liberal Christianity emphasizes God’s love to the neglect of His holiness and legalistic Christianity emphasizes God’s holiness to the neglect of His love.

Either of these caricatures lead us to a half god rather than the true God. God is both holy and loving, which is especially seen in the cross where both God’s wrath and love meet.


Current Catalog
The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected

How far would you go? How far would you go to save other people? When you believe in the words of Jesus like, “if you lose your life, you will find it”, you look insane to the world because the world does not comprehend the light that has gone into the world. (John 1:5) This book tells stories of missionaries that have went into the darkest places in the world, willing giving up their lives in order to tell people about Jesus. What drives people to do that? What is more rewarding the living a good long life? This book talks about how great it is to devote yourself to the mission that God has given us to participate in his plan to save the world.

The Uniqueness of the Bible: How to Help Jews, Muslims, Mormons, and Catholics Discover God's Ultimate Source of Truth

In an age of scoffers (2 Peter 3:3), Dr. Larry tackles the hardest question with his new book. How do we know what is true about God and religion? Ultimately this question boils down to whether we consider our supreme authority to be tradition or revelation. This study deals with the Hebrew Scriptures and demonstrates how reliable and miraculous they are. Dr. Larry presents convincing evidence in order to help people see the superiority of the Bible to all other means of discovering spiritual truth.

The Magic Man in the Sky: Effectively Defending the Christian Faith

Are Christians just kidding themselves? Are believers wasting their lives serving an imaginary friend in the clouds? And do Christians even have the courage to confront the hard questions about God's existence? If you are challenged with this question, then this is the book for you. The author directly addresses the doubts and fears of young Christians in a hostile culture. In a time of doubt and darkness, this book brings a confident and joyful message that God loves us, life has a purpose, and best of all, he can prove it.

Will Our Generation Speak?

At 23 years old, Grace Mally is part of this generation. Her book, Will Our Generation Speak? A Call to be Bold with the Gospel, offers an invigorating challenge to share the gospel boldly. Filled with personal, real-life experiences, this book is practical and compelling. Mally makes a compelling case to young people, addressing the fears we face and excuses we make, and provides vision for being strong for the Lord in our youth. It contains practical ideas of how to begin conversations, how to ask the right questions, defend the gospel, and walk closely with the Lord ourselves.