Who Will Go to Hell?

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Who Will Go to Hell?

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It’s a word that few really understand, yet most people will go there. It is usually considered the location for the incorrigibly wicked. It might be used to express anger or frustration. It may be used as a destination to assign to those you do not like. However, the hell that is described in the pages of the Bible is a very real place. You may be surprised to learn who goes to that location!

Some Christians believe hell is the place for the souls of the wicked. Others think hell is a state of mind. Some don’t believe hell exists at all. As we’ll see, there are three hells described in the Bible. One of these is hot enough to consume the "soul." We’ll also see that there is a hell for the fallen angels or demons.

Have you ever attended a funeral and been unsure of where the deceased was headed? Most preachers, out of kindness, do not assign a deceased person to hell. However, many in the audience may wonder about the deceased’s future considering his or her lack of genuine spirituality while alive.

What is hell? In the Bible the word hell is mentioned 54 times. It is translated from four different words. The only one in the Old Testament—sheol in the Hebrew—and one in the New Testament—hades in Greek—have the meaning of the grave, a pit or the abode of the dead. Sheol is the only word in the Old Testament from which hell is translated in the King James Version of the Bible. It is translated "hell" 31 times. Hades is translated "hell" 10 times in the New Testament.

In Psalms 6:5 and 30:3 the psalmist speaks of sheol as the grave. Amos the prophet uses sheol to state that one may dig into "hell"—indicating the grave that was in the earth (Amos 9:2, King James Version throughout). When Jonah was in the belly of the great fish (or whale as wrongly translated), he was said to be in "hell" (Jonah 2:2). All of those words for hell are translated from the Hebrew word sheol.

We see in 1 Corinthians 15:55 the word grave translated from hades. In the book of Acts, King David is said to have been in "hell." Since David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) and will rule with God in His Kingdom (Jeremiah 30:9), he would not have gone to the hell that is traditionally pictured for the incorrigibly wicked. Notice Acts 2:27, 29 where David is in "hell" or the grave, but with the promise that he will not remain there forever. He will be resurrected from "hell" (hades) or the grave.

So, the first "hell" we’ve looked at is simply the grave—the place of the dead, both good and evil!

Another "hell" of the Bible is far hotter than the traditional view of hell. The second "hell" is translated from the Greek word gehenna and literally means the Valley of Hinnom, a place outside Jerusalem where trash was burned. Gehenna is also associated with fire and is called hell fire (Matthew 5:22) or the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

This second "hell" is a place where the incorrigible will be sent as a final punishment after the last judgment. If they have deliberately turned from God, they will be resurrected and cast into gehenna (hell) and burned completely (see Revelation 20:14 and Malachi 4:1-3, which describes the wicked as ashes under the feet of the righteous). God will destroy all those who deliberately refuse to submit to Him once they know Him.

The third "hell" refers to the restraint of the demons. Tartaroo is used in only one place in the Bible (2 Peter 2:4) and is used only in reference to the demons being chained or restrained until the time of their judgment by God.

The concept of heaven and hell in traditional Christianity heavily depends on the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Yet, in the Bible, the phrase immortal soul is nowhere to be found.

On the contrary, the word soul is translated from the Hebrew and Greek words nephesh and psuche, which mean "life." Animals are called nephesh, and nephesh (whether human or animal) can die (see Genesis 1:20, 24, where nephesh is translated "creature"; Ezekiel 18:4, 20; 22:27; Psalm 33:19). The psuche can also die as shown in Matthew 10:28 and Revelation 16:3.

So, we see that human beings will go to hell (the grave) when they die, but they will be resurrected from the grave. Some will be resurrected to eternal life and others to judgment. Those who have deliberately rejected God and His ways will be burned up in gehenna (hell) fire (Revelation 20:14). The demons await the time of final judgment in yet another "hell"—tartaroo —their condition of imprisonment here on earth, restrained from venting their full fury on mankind and reserved to judgment at the end (Jude 6).

Thank God the day is coming when there will be no more death or sorrow (Revelation 21:4-5). At that time, there will no longer be a hell—the grave—for human beings.


  • fflutedude@yahoo.com

    Ok, so I have been studying this topic for a while, trying to make sense of it, partly because of some struggles with sin in my own life and partly because of some reality checks I have taken, after stepping outside of the evangelical Christian box, and trying to see things objectively, and not just as I am told to see them, in the pulpit. I believe there will be some people who will spend eternity burning. It's sad, but they truly do put themselves into that situation. These are the people who defy God, knowing full well He is true and that Jesus is Lord, yet without remorse, they rebel against Him. These are the blasphemers like the Pharisees in Matthew 12 and people who take the beast's mark, because they would rather serve Satan and self, than God. Then, you have people who never heard the gospel, and who died knowing there was a God, but ignoring Him, or replacing Him with false gods. These people will be burned up in the second death, which is just death, not eternal torment. The rank and file sinner who hears the gospel but ignores it, may have some greater portion of the wrath of God, but will not burn for all eternity. Read Luke 12:48

  • Harv

    So I take it you do not agree with Paul's writing on this topic?
    "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes."
    2 Thes 1:8-10

  • aispears73

    In the account of Lazarus and the rich man (not parable), paradise, like torment, was beneath the earth. At Jesus' crucifixion, that changed and now saints ascend into heaven when they die.

    Man is a trichotomy--body, soul, and spirit. Upon salvation our dead spirits are made alive. Our own righteousness will never get us to heaven, so Christ's righteousness is IMPUTED to us. Death means separation, NOT annihilation or non-existence! Physical death is the soul separating from the body. Spiritual death is eternal separation from God--in hell. Those sins have to be paid for--you can pay for them forever in hell or you can accept Christ's substitutionary sacrifice.

  • Lena VanAusdle

    Hi Alexandra! I have just a few verses for you to consider in regards to what you believe.
    1. John 3:13 says, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven." Only Jesus Christ has come down from heaven; therefore, He is the only one who has ascended to heaven.
    2. Acts 2:29 states, "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day." Wouldn't you expect David, a man after God's heart, to be in heaven if that is where the righteous go?
    3. Ecclesiastes 9:5, "The dead know nothing..."
    4. Ecclesiastes 9:10, "here is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going."
    5. If the saints are already in heaven, why would they need to be resurrected?
    1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
    6. We are not changed to spirit until the 7th trumpet has sounded. It has not; therefore the saints are not changed.
    1 Corinthians 15:50-54

  • Don Holmberg
    As taught hell is the grave. the unrepentent go into the lake of fire. this is not a permanent burning and suffering. burned up. gone.
  • Sabrina Peabody
    hi bluestareagle5, I find it interesting that so many have not looked into the various words for hell in the Bible. It would actually be "true" for every one to say, "I'm going to hell." --That is, if they meant hades (grave or pit). When it comes to eternal torment, it is more eternal judgment. When the judgment is made that those stubborn and unrepentant individuals, it is exacted and then it is over and they are no more. For more information on this, there are lots of articles and study papers but here is a link I found helpful: http://www.ucg.org/booklet/what-happens-after-death/how-eternal-life-will-ultimately-be-offered-all/will-torment-wicked/
  • bluestareagle5
    Very nicely written. I was worried you were not going to mention the fact of eternal torment but was glad to see it at the bottom. God will judge the unrepentant and Hell will be far worse than humans can imagine. I am sure of that! Thanks for the article
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