Sheol, Hades, Hell, Lake of Fire, …

A gathering place for souls awaiting the Last Judgment.

The Hebrew word Sheol əʾōl), which is also called Hades (Háidēs) in Greek, is mentioned about seventy times in the Bible. It is actually the first place of gathering of the dead, that is, essentially the realm of the dead. Both terms are related to death. In some Bible renditions, these words are translated as “grave”, “hell” or “pit”.

So, this is the place where people go after death. Their spirit will be transferred to this sphere with a final breath, but we must not take this realm as the final place of some court, as in the case of hell, which is a place of eternal damnation. It is just a gathering place for souls awaiting the Last Judgment.

However, identifying that term “Sheol” is especially important. As already said, it is a place of contemplation of dead spirits, who, however, can no longer do anything to change their destiny in any way. This contemplation is appalling for some souls because they realize that they are going to meet a holy, most holy God, around whom there is no shadow, no umbra, and this is something truly dreadful for some souls, because they are not worthy of that holiness. Those souls who have done intentionally a big evil will experience much suffering, the Scriptures say they will be “beaten,” but those who have done their deeds in ignorance will experience less suffering, they will be less beaten. What it means to be “beaten” is not further explained by Scripture, but it indicates to us that it is a certain pain of the soul from that ignorance of God and the pain of doing deeds against God, against the One who loved them so much, etc. In Sheol as such, there are worse and better souls. And here we come to another important biblical concept, “Bosom of Abraham.”

Bosom of Abraham

A gathering place for the righteous, those saved by faith in the word of the Lord.

Speaking of Paradise, Jesus mentioned Abraham’s Lord: “… (Lazarus) died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” (Lk, 16:22). The Bosom of Abraham was the place where the orthodox Jews came, who in all sincerity and faith kept the Law and lived a honorable life. Many people are concerned with the question of whether they will become holy or saved only if I keep all the Commandments on one hundred percent. Did it not happen to the holy people to break the rules? Certainly, people who have transgressed some commandments also found their way to get into the Bosom of Abraham. Because their faith in the word of the Lord saved them. That is why Abraham is given to us as an example. As for Abraham, he was considered righteous just because he has believed. Thus, orthodox Jews refer to those who believe. This does not mean that they were perfect, but that they have believed as Abraham did. It will count for them as a certain righteousness, but only until the coming of the Lord Jesus.

Thus, we can say that also Bosom of Abraham is a gathering place for the dead, but for the righteous ones. It is like an opposing part to Sheol, but it is actually a part of it. There is a border between them, the soul cannot pass from the Sheol to the Bosom of Abraham, but at the same time together they form the Realm of the Dead awaiting judgment. Before Jesus’ salvation, those who were not virtuous and those who had died in trespassing against the law and against Moses went to the Sheol. The moral ones went to the Bosom of Abraham.

Sheol and Bosom of Abraham as a temporary place only

The Bible says that when Jesus died, some rose from the dead and appeared to the living. Here we see exactly the distinction between Sheol and Bosom of Abraham. Bosom of Abraham contained the righteous ones. These dead people, who certainly appeared among the people of Jerusalem after Jesus’ death, were definitely not coming from Sheol, they arrived from the Bosom of Abraham, just because it already ceased to exist. Sheol disappeared and Bosom of Abraham also vanished, and only two places remained for souls – Paradise and Hell.

Sheol had not been Hell before. Revelation 20:11-15 concerning the Last Judgment points to the difference between Sheol and the lake of fire, Hell. Lake of Fire is a permanent and final courthouse for the damned. Sheol is only a temporary place. However, since both terms are often referred to as hell in translations, this can cause some confusion. Nevertheless, the truth is that after death, Jesus did not descend to Hell as a place of never-ending torment. He descended to Sheol, meaning the Realm of the Dead. The scriptures do not give us a deeper insight into it, so we are reluctant to speculate more about it.