Introduction and Main Index
PART I... SHEOL AND HADES. Why Are We ‘Translating’ Proper Names? Sheol and Hades Are Exactly The Same Place. Roots of The Word "Hell". Inconsistencies In Translation. Additional Reasons Sheol/Hades Is Not "Hell".... Jacob Expected to Go To "Hell"?, People went Down Alive Into "Hell", No One Can Be Rescued From, Or Be Returned to "Hell". Location of Sheol/Hades, Duration of Sheol/Hades, Affliction in Sheol/Hades? Tartarus.
PART II... GEHENNA. Gehenna, Mentioned in The Old Testament and The New, Was An Actual Physical Location. Jesus and Gehenna. That Deafening Silence. People Who Have Already Received A "Just Recompense".
PART III... ETERNAL LIFE IN HELL. Eternal Life vs. Eternal Death. Clarifying the Phrase “Eternal Punishment”. John 3:16. Eternal Life Vs. Death. Eternal Life Vs. 'Decay. Immortality of The Soul?. Eternal Life... a Result of Redemption. I Corinthians 15. Jesus "Died" In Our Place. The Second Death. Symbolism of Revelation. Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth.
PART IV... Difficulties with the Traditional Interpretation of The Parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus. A Biblical Interpretation of This Parable. Where The Idea Of The Torments of Hell Originated. "Choosing" Hell and The 'Joys' of Heaven. Infinite Punishment and The Character Of God. Not “Choosing” Eternal Life. Summary and Conclusion.
PART I... Sheol and Hades
Why Are We ‘Translating’ Proper Names?
Sheol and Hades Are Exactly The Same Place
Roots of The Word "Hell"
Inconsistencies In Translation
Additional Reasons Sheol/Hades Is Not "Hell"
Jacob Expected to Go To "Hell"?
People went Down Alive Into "Hell"
No One Can Be Rescued From "Hell", yet...
No One Can Be Returned to "Hell", yet...
Location of Sheol/Hades
Duration of Sheol/Hades
Affliction in Sheol/Hades?
Translating Proper Names:
Much of the confusion about hell has arisen from the fact that several separate and distinctive words (Sheol in Hebrew, and Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus in Greek), were usually translated into the single English word 'hell'. However, what is particularly disturbing is that the four original words are proper names and should have been left untranslated.
Additionally, the English word "hell", now commonly used to signify the place of the damned, does not give the reader any clue as to where the word came from, and what it used to mean.
Let me repeat that.
We have taken several different proper names from two different languages, decided that, in many instances, they have to mean hell, which we associate with the place of the damned, and then translated them as such, without a single care as to what the original words meant, how they were used, and what the differences between them were.
An English speaking person who reads only the King James Bible has absolutely no idea which of these words was used in the original manuscripts, nor what they mean. And, if I may remind the reader, it is ONLY the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts that were inspired and inerrant. Copies and translations made through the ages do not have the same authority. It is imperative that we know what impression the Biblical authors intended to convey when they used the specific word they wrote, not the word the translators substituted. Therefore, if the King James, or any other translation, says "hell", but the original Hebrew says Sheol, it is Sheol that the original authors wrote, and it is Sheol, not hell, that we have to carefully examine.
Bearing that in mind, let us look at these different words used in the original manuscripts, starting with the Greek and Hebrew words Sheol and Hades...
Sheol and Hades Are Exactly The Same Place
Sheol: The word Sheol occurs sixty-five times in the Old Testament. The verb from which it is derived means, to ask, to demand, to require, to seek (See Proverbs 30:15,16). This name may have been given to the grave/regions of departed spirits, due to the insatiable demand it constantly makes of the living.
Hades: In the New Testament, "hell" has been translated from two separate words... Hades (used eleven times), and Gehenna (which we will get to later). Hades is the New Testament counterpart to the Old Testament Sheol. Evidence for this is found in Acts 2:27, in which Peter quoted Psalm 16:10, and used Hades in place of the Hebrew Sheol.
Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (Heb. Sheol)" [Psalm 16:10]
Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (Gr. Hades) [Acts 2:27]
Also to be noted is that 1 Corinthians 15:55 is a loose quotation from Hosea 13:14. In it, Paul used Hades in place of the original Sheol.
I will ransom them from the power of the grave (Sheol); I will redeem them from death: O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction? ..." [Hosea 13:14]
O death, where is thy victory? O death (Gr. Hades), where is thy sting? [1 Corinthians 15:55]
Both Sheol and Hades are proper names and should have been left in their original form. Yet, not only were they translated, but they were translated into different English words according to how the translators interpreted the text. The inconsistencies in translation are mind boggling... particularly in the KJV which translates Sheol into ‘hell’, ‘pit’ or ‘grave’, and Hades into the English ‘hell’. The American Standard version (ASV) and The New American Bible Standard Bible (NASB) do a little better, leaving both Sheol and Hades untranslated. However, all three versions uniformly substituted the word hell for Gehenna, which we will come to later.
Note: In Greek mythology Hades was the brother of Zeus and Poseidon. While Zeus ruled the sky, and Poseidon the sea, Hades ruled the underworld. According to Greek and Latin literary sources, Charon ferried the souls of the dead across the rivers Styx, or Acheron, into Hades' abode, which was guarded by the watchdog Cerberus. A coin to pay Charon for passage, was sometimes placed in, or on, the mouth of a dead person.
Although the New Testament writers chose to use the word Hades in place of the Hebrew Sheol, the concept behind Sheol differed very vastly from pagan Greek mythology. Therefore, we need to make sure that our ideas concerning Hades come from the Bible, not Greek mythology.
Roots of The Word "Hell":
But, what I find particularly interesting is that the English word hell, which is commonly believed to be a place inhabited by demons and the souls of dead people, in actuality, does not have it's roots in any notion of eternal torment, or even heat, but was derived from the Old English hel, helle (Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, page 348), which possibly stretches back to the Anglo-Saxon helan, to cover, or hide. The word "helmet," which is a covering for the head, and the word "heal" which is also a form of being covered over, are also derivatives of the same word.
I also understand that people in England spoke of storing their potatoes "in hell" for the winter, which simply meant storing them in a covered hole in the ground. Also, as Bible commentator, Adam Clarke noted, the tiling or slating of a house was called heling in some parts of England (particularly Cornwall), as were the corers of books in Lancashire.
So, to be fair, when the translators of the KJV used the English word ‘hell’ in place of four different Hebrew and Greek words, it may be possible that they did not intend to convey the impression of fire and brimstone, but were referring to the grave as (perhaps) a place of covering. We simply do not know. However, the fact remains that they picked and chose the English word that best fit their interpretation of the text, rather than simply using the Hebrew and Greek proper nouns, which has given us a completely biased translation.
As Bible commentator Albert Barnes wrote about Acts 2:27 ("Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell") in the mid nineteenth century. (All Emphasis added)
eis Hadou. The word "hell," in English, now commonly denotes "the place of the future eternal punishment of the wicked." This sense it has acquired by long usage. It is a Saxon word, derived from helan, "to cover," and denotes literally "a covered or deep place" (Webster); then "the dark and dismal abode of departed spirits"; and then "the place of torment." As the word is used now by us, it by no means expresses the force of the original; and if with this idea we read a passage like the one before us, it would convey an erroneous meaning altogether, although formerly the English word perhaps expressed no more than the original. The Greek word "Hades" means literally "a place devoid of light; a dark, obscure abode"; and in Greek writers was applied to the dark and obscure regions where disembodied spirits were supposed to dwell. It occurs only eleven times in the New Testament. In this place it is the translation of the Hebrew Sheol.
Inconsistencies In Translation
The KJV does not uniformly translate the Hebrew Sheol into hell, but does so only thirty one times. If Sheol means hell, it should never ever been translated into anything else, but it was. Sheol was also translated into the English grave another 31 times, and into pit three times. As any English speaking person knows, while grave and pit can be loosely used interchangeably, there is a huge difference between the idea of a hole in the ground, and the traditional concept of hell.
On three occasions the KJV translates Sheol into the English pit. Two of the three occurrences are in Numbers
But if the Lord make a new thing, and the ground open its mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down alive into the pit (Sheol); then ye shall understand that these men have despised Jehovah. So they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit (Sheol): and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the assembly. [Numbers 16:30, 33]
The third is in the book of Job, where, in the space of four short verses, Sheol is translated first as grave, then as pit.
If I wait, the grave (Sheol) is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister. And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the pit (Sheol), when our rest together is in the dust. [Job 17:13-16]
Additionally, one has to wonder why Sheol was ever translated into pit, when the Hebrew word bôr in the Old Testament actually means pit, cistern, dungeon, fountain, or well, and has been translated as such a total of 69 times.
Also note the subtle distinction David made between Sheol and pit.
O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol; Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit (bôr) . [Psalms 30:3]
Also, what has to give a serious student of the Bible pause for thought, is the fact that, in the KJV, Sheol is translated into grave a total of 31 times, especially in places where the hell/torment idea would be ludicrous, as in Job 14:13 below...
O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave [sheol], that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! [Job 14:13]
In consecutive verses in Ezekiel, the KJV translates Sheol into two different words, even though both of them are used in the same context.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when he went down to the grave (Sheol) I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, and I restrained the floods thereof, and the great waters were stayed: and I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, and all the trees of the field fainted for him. I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell (Sheol) with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth. [Ezekiel 31:15-16. All Emphasis Added ]
Similarly, the KJV uses the word hell in Psalm 139:8, yet a parallel passage in the book of Job is translated as grave. [All Emphasis Added]
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in hell (Sheol), behold, thou art there. [Psalm 139:8]
If I wait, the grave (Sheol) is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister. And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust. [Job 17:13-16]
And, as a final example, two other parallel verses which have been translated differently are found in the Psalms. [All Emphasis Added]
O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave (Sheol): thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. [Psalms 30:3]
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (Sheol); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. [Psalms 16:10]
Besides which, if the Hebrew authors of the Old Testament wished to convey the idea of an literal grave, or sepulcher, in a specific physical location, then it is likely that they would have used the common Hebrew qeber qibrah, which along with the related word qâbar (to bury or inter), and qebûrâh qebûrâh (a burying place, grave), occur a total of about 214 times in The Old Testament.
I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a burying place (qeber qibrâh) with you, that I may bury (qâbar) my dead out of my sight. [Genesis 23:4]
And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave (qeber qibrâh), shall be unclean seven days. [Numbers 19:16]
And they took up Asahel, and buried (qâbar) him in the sepulcher (qeber qibrâh) of his father, which was in Bethlehem. And Joab and his men went all night, and they came to Hebron at break of day. [2 Samuel 2:32]
And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulcher (qeber qibrâh) of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet. [Kings 13:21]
And Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave (qebûrâh qebûrâh): the same is the Pillar of Rachel's grave (qebûrâh qebûrâh) unto this day. [Genesis 35:20]
And he buried (qâbar) him in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre (qebûrâh qebûrâh) unto this day. [Deuteronomy 34:6]
The fact that the Old Testament authors deliberately chose to use Sheol, rather than any of these other words, indicates that they were speaking of something other than a literal grave, or burying place.
So what's the difference?
A grave is a particularly shaped hole dug for the specific purpose of burying a dead person, whereas Sheol seems to address the conditions surrounding the person(s) entombed, not the location, or type of burying place. Any person buried in a grave is in Sheol, but a person that is in Sheol may not be in a grave, but may be lying on the sea bed, in a ditch or forest somewhere, or may even have been cremated.
Additional Reasons Sheol/Hades Is Not "Hell".
Jacob Expected to Go To "Hell"?
There are only seven references to Sheol in the Pentateuch, or first five books of the Bible, a couple of which are very interesting. The first four occurrences of the word are attributed to the patriarch Jacob, and, unless we believe that Jacob was going to hell, we have to accept that Sheol/Hades is not the same place as the popular concept of hell.
And Jacob rent his garments, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down to Sheol to my son mourning. And his father wept for him. [Genesis 37:34-35]
And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he only is left: if harm befall him by the way in which ye go, then will ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol. [Genesis 42:38]
and if ye take this one also from me, and harm befall him, ye will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol. [Genesis 44:29]
it will come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants will bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. [Genesis 44:31]
People went Down Alive Into "Hell"?
The fifth and sixth reference to Sheol in the Pentateuch is in the context of three men, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who were said to have gone down alive into Sheol, which could not have happened if it was a future place of punishment.
But if Jehovah make a new thing, and the ground open its mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down alive into Sheol; then ye shall understand that these men have despised Jehovah. And it came to pass, as he made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them; and the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. So they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into Sheol: and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the assembly. [Numbers 16:30-33. All Emphasis Added]
The final reference to Sheol is found in Deuteronomy, and was made in the context of the Israelites sacrificing to strange gods (Vs 15-17). The Lord warns the faithless Jews that, for their idolatry, all of them, young and old, will suffer tremendously at the hands of pagan nations in their lifetime... not in some future, after death punishment. The extent and severity of His anger is illustrated by the metaphoric language of burning to the "lowest Sheol", devouring the earth, and setting the foundations of the mountains on fire.
They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; They have provoked me to anger with their vanities: And I will move them to jealousy with those that are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in mine anger, And burneth unto the lowest Sheol, And devoureth the earth with its increase, And setteth on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap evils upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them: They shall be wasted with hunger, and devoured with burning heat And bitter destruction; And the teeth of beasts will I send upon them, With the poison of crawling things of the dust. Without shall the sword bereave, And in the chambers terror; It shall destroy both young man and virgin, The suckling with the man of gray hairs. [Deuteronomy 32:21-25. All Emphasis Added]
No One Can Be Rescued From 'Hell'
Yet, if we read a few of the psalms very carefully, we realize that the psalmist was very convinced that he would be rescued from Sheol. And, in the book of Hosea, God spoke of ransoming Israel from the power of Sheol. However, there is no rescue from the traditional idea of an eternal hell. Although the first quote below is a prophecy concerning our Lord's three days in the tomb, it is nonetheless, the words of David concerning himself, and his own salvation from Sheol).
For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption. [Psalm 16:10]
But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol; For he will receive me. [Psalm 49:15]
For great is thy lovingkindness toward me; And thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest Sheol. [Psalm 86:13].
“I will ransom them (Israel) from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from death: O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction? repentance shall be hid from mine eyes”. [Hosea 13:14]
Similarly the prophet Jonah likens his ordeal in the belly of a large fish (whale?) to being in Sheol, but also says that he called out to the Lord from "the belly of Sheol". Not only did the Lord hear the prophet, but caused the whale to spit Jonah out on dry land.
And he said, I called by reason of mine affliction unto Jehovah, and he answered me; Out of the belly of Sheol cried I, And thou heardest my voice. [Jonah 2:2]
Besides which, as far as I know, there are no literal fires in the stomach of gigantic sea mammals.
No One Can Be 'Returned' to "Hell"
There is an interesting verse in Psalm 9:17, that says...
the wicked shall be turned (Heb. shûb) into hell (Heb. Sheol), and all the nations that forget god"
The Hebrew word shûb was originally translated 'turned' in the KJV, but has since been corrected in other versions. It actually means 'turned again', or 'returned'... this amply demonstrated by it's use in other verses.
in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return (Heb. shûb). [Genesis 3:19]
and the waters returned (Heb. shûb) from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated. [Genesis 8:3]
but the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned (Heb. shûb) unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. [Genesis 8:9]
but I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned (Heb. shûb) : for they laid the pleasant land desolate. [Zechariah 7:14]
Therefore, in Psalm 9:17, Sheol cannot possibly mean unending torment, since no one has come from an eternity of suffering in fire, therefore cannot return there.
Location of Sheol
In the Old Testament, Sheol is always spoken of as being below where we are. For example
And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down to Sheol to my son mourning. And his father wept for him. [Genesis 37:35]
But if Jehovah make a new thing, and the ground open its mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down alive into Sheol; then ye shall understand that these men have despised Jehovah. [Numbers 16:30]
For a fire is kindled in mine anger, And burneth unto the lowest Sheol, And devoureth the earth with its increase, And setteth on fire the foundations of the mountains. [Deuteronomy 32:22]
Jehovah killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to Sheol, and bringeth up. [1 Samuel 2:6]
They spend their days in prosperity, And in a moment they go down to Sheol. [Job 21:13]
Particularly relevant is the story of Saul and the spirit of Samuel.
When Saul saw the host of the Philistines gathered for war, he was very afraid, and enquired of the Lord. However, since Saul had already fallen out of favour, the Lord did not answer him. Saul then turned to the witch of Endor and told her that he wished to consult with a spirit. Not just any spirit, but the spirit of Samuel the prophet. Note how often the words "bring up", or "come up" are used in the account.
And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.  And when Saul inquired of Jehovah, Jehovah answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.  Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at En-dor.  And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, Divine unto me, I pray thee, by the familiar spirit, and bring me up whomsoever I shall name unto thee.  And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?  And Saul sware to her by Jehovah, saying, As Jehovah liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.  Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.  And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice; and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.  And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what seest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I see a god coming up out of the earth.  And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a robe. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.  And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.  And Samuel said, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing Jehovah is departed from thee, and is become thine adversary?  And Jehovah hath done unto thee, as he spake by me: and Jehovah hath rent the kingdom out of thy hand, and given it to thy neighbor, even to David.  Because thou obeyedst not the voice of Jehovah, and didst not execute his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath Jehovah done this thing unto thee this day.  Moreover Jehovah will deliver Israel also with thee into the hand of the Philistines; and to-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: Jehovah will deliver the host of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.  Then Saul fell straightway his full length upon the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night. [1 Samuel 28:5-20]
Duration of Sheol/Hades
However perhaps the most telling of all the passages in the Bible that refer to the duration of Sheol/Hades is found in the New Testament, in 2 Peter 2:9, where the apostle very clearly says that the unrighteous are being held until the day of judgment. [Emphasis Added]
then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment [2 Peter 2:9]
After which, Sheol/Hades is destined to be destroyed. This makes perfect sense since, as no one will die in the world to come, Sheol/Hades will be redundant.
And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire. [Revelation 20:13-14]
In summary, Sheol denotes the abode of the dead prior to the judgment. Which bring us to yet another important question regarding the mental and physical condition of the people in Sheol
Affliction in Sheol/Hades?
In light of the fact that 1) Sheol is presented in the Old Testament, not as a place of fire, brimstone, and torment but as place of darkness, silence, and forgetfulness, where there is no work, knowledge nor wisdom. 2) King Hezekiah obviously believed in a future state, which was a land of silence. And 3) a similar sentiment echoed in several of the Psalms, as well as in Ecclesiastes, we can safely conclude that the images of fiery torments owe more to Dante's Inferno than to the Bible. But more about that later.
For Sheol cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: They that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. [Isaiah 38:18]
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: In Sheol who shall give thee thanks? [Psalms 6:5]
Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? And thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? [Psalms 88:11-12]
The dead praise not Jehovah, Neither any that go down into silence; [Psalms 115:17]
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish. [Psalms 146:4]
Before I go whence I shall not return, Even to the land of darkness and of the shadow of death; The land dark as midnight, The land of the shadow of death, without any order, And where the light is as midnight. [Job 10:21-22]
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. As well their love, as their hatred and their envy, is perished long ago; neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun...Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol, whither thou goest. [Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, 10]
When he was in the belly of the whale, Jonah
"... cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell [Hebrew: Sheol] cried I, and thou heardest my voice. [Jonah 2:2]
Which makes it possible that some of those confined in Sheol suffer conscious affliction just as Jonah did. I use the word "possible" simply because, although Jonah's experience was a type (See Typology) of the death and resurrection of Christ, the fact remains that the prophet was alive in the belly of a whale, not dead in Sheol.
In any case, the word translated affliction is the Hebrew tsârâh, which means adversary, adversity, affliction, anguish, distress, tribulation, trouble. Tsârâh is used over 70 times in the Old Testament, and never once implies everlasting torment. [See FootNote I for examples]. Jonah's words may simply have been the extreme distress of a man who was not only in dire straits physically, but in mental anguish as well considering he had tried to run away from the task given him by the Lord.
Besides which, it is hardly likely that the righteous dead suffer any kind of affliction. 2 Peter 2:9 (referred to earlier) very clearly states that the unrighteous are being held under punishment until the day of judgment [Emphasis Added].
Also note Samuel's words and tone when he was summoned by king Saul, through the woman at Endor. He did not seem too happy at being summoned, and asked Saul why Saul had "disquieted" him? [1 Samuel 28:15].
Christians will commonly say that Saul was not communicating with Samuel himself, but a demon disguised as Samuel. However, this is unlikely. How would any demon have been able to so accurately prophesy what Saul's fate would be the very next day, and give Saul the exact reason this would happen.. because he failed to obey the Lord and destroy Amalek.
The Bible tells us that God takes a very dim view of anyone attempting to communicate with the spirits of the dead. In Saul's day, all wizards and all those who had familiar spirits had been "cut off" [1 Samuel 28:9]. In fact, one of the reason given for Saul's death was that he "asked counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire thereby" [1 Chronicles 10:13]
However, as far as I am aware, the Bible never says that it is impossible to communicate with the spirits of the dead.
This word only occurs once (in 2 Peter 2:4) where it too is translated "hell"
for if god spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Gr. Tartarosas), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment ...."
Of this verse, John MacArthur says
Cast them into hell is actually the translation of a single word, tartarosas. The verb, used only here is the New Testament, is derived from Tartarus, which is Greek mythology is identified as a subterranean abyss that was even lower that Hades (hell)... Much like Jesus used the term gehenna (the name for Jerusalem's garbage dump, where fires burned continuously) to illustrate the inextinguishable torments of eternal anguish....
Peter used a familiar word from popular Greek thought to designate hell and must have been confident that his readers understood exactly what he meant, since he offered them no additional explanation of this term. [1 & 2 Peter and Jude MacArthur New Testament Commentary Set (Macarthur New Testament Commentary Series) https://goo.gl/jh2u1V]
Was Peter using a popular word to designate 'hell'?
In Greek mythology, Tartarus is both a deity and a place in the underworld — the sunless abyss below Hades where the Titans were confined. While there seems to be no consensus of opinion on the etymology of the word, one school of thought holds that it is related to the ancient Greek verb "tartarizo," which means to shiver with cold. Doesn't sound to at all like the popular version of "the inextinguishable torments" of hell.
Additionally, there are no Biblical references to people going to Tartarus which points to the fact that it is a different place from Sheol/Hades and possibly reserved for the fallen angels, kept there only until the judgment.
So, even if convinced that Sheol and Hades do not denote a place of torment in the future world, most traditionalists claim that Gehenna does convey that meaning. So ...
Continue On To PART II... Gehenna Click HERE
Footnote 1... Tsârâh
Example of the Hebrew word tsârâh, which means adversary, adversity, affliction, anguish, distress, tribulation, trouble
When Joseph's brothers were speaking amongst themselves concerning what they had done to Joseph.
And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. [Genesis 42:21]
When God told Moses that the people would forsake Him and break the covenant He had made with them, chasing after strange gods.
Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall come upon them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us? [Deuteronomy 31:17]
The next three verses show both God saving people out of their troubles and causing it. None show everlasting torment.
but ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saveth you out of all your calamities and your distresses; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before Jehovah by your tribes, and by your thousands. [1Samuel 10:19]
Jehovah is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that take refuge in him. [Nahum 1:7]
And they were broken in pieces, nation against nation, and city against city; for God did vex them with all adversity [2 Chronicles 15:6] [PLACE IN TEXT]