Sheol (שְׁאֹ֖ול) – Hades (ᾅδης)

Luther Walker

Where the worm does not die

Sheol is the Hebrew word that describes the place in the center of the earth where humans who have died reside. Within its compartments are unbelievers and some of the fallen angels who are bound, waiting for final judgment. Prior to the resurrection of Christ, all those who were saved resided in Paradise, which was in the upper chamber of Sheol. Hades is the Greek word for the same place, which comes across into English as hell. However, the English concept only refers to the lowest part of Sheol, where the unsaved humans reside.

Sheol has three chambers. The lowest part is where the fire burns (Deuteronomy 32:22) and the unsaved reside. This is the place where the worm does not die. Worm refers to the sin nature of a human, not a physical worm (Isaiah 66:24). The abyss is the holding area for fallen angels, and within the abyss is a pit for malignantly evil angels. Paradise is the residence of those who were saved before the resurrection of Christ.

During Christ’s earthly ministry to the Jews, the unbelieving ones kept pressing for a sign even though He had given substantial evidence to them that He was the Messiah. In response, Jesus states that no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights, Matthew 12:39-40. In Peter’s first address to Israel after the resurrection of Christ, he quotes the prophecies concerning Christ and Hades. King David, who was a prophet of God, knowing that God had sworn to him an oath concerning his throne, wrote about the resurrection of the Messiah, stating that His soul would not be left in Hades, nor would His flesh see corruption. This is a quote from Psalm 16:10 in which Sheol is used. “Because You will not leave my soul to Sheol, nor give your pious one to see corruption.” Jonah cried out from Sheol after three days, Jonah 2:2.

In Luke 16, Jesus addresses the Pharisees, who were fond of money, by recounting the events that happened to a rich and a poor man. The rich man enjoyed life and fared well every day. The poor man sat at his gate, seeking the crumbs from the rich man’s table. At the end of the beggar’s life, he was taken to Paradise; however, when the rich man’s time on earth was through, he was taken to the lower part of Hades. From there, the rich man could see Lazarus, the poor man, resting with Abraham. Crying out, he requested for Abraham to send Lazarus to him with a bit of water to cool his tongue, for he was in torment, Luke 16:24, because this is the place where the worm of the unbelievers, their sin nature, does not die, Isaiah 66:24. Abraham points out there is a chasm between them making it impossible to pass over, Luke 16:26. This is not a parable, which are intended to hide the truth from those who do not believe, Matthew 13:10-11. Christ is speaking of actual events and a real place.

The pit of the abyss, or chasm, is where the demons are released from by Satan during the last few months of the Great Tribulation Period, Revelation 9:1-3. It is from the abyss that a demon is permitted to bring back the man of lawlessness’ soul and spirit to resuscitate him when he is assassinated at the midpoint of the tribulation, Revelation 11:7. Within the pit of the abyss, Satan will be bound for a thousand years during the Millennial Kingdom, Revelation 20:3.

After the resurrection of Christ, He led captivity captive, freeing those in Paradise from Hades and moving it to the edge of the third heaven, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4.

Hades will not prevail against the Church because the saints in Christ will never enter Sheol, Matthew 16:18. When we die, we reside in the presence of the Lord in the third heaven, where He is seated at the right hand of God on the throne. 2 Corinthians 5:8; Colossians 3:1.

Sheol and Hades describe the place in the center of the earth where unsaved humans and fallen angels await judgment at the Great White throne when the dispensations of men are finished, and God brings all things into subjection to Christ, creating a new heavens and new earth in which righteousness will settle down and feel at ease, Revelation 20:11; 21:2; 2 Peter 3:13.