‘Hell’ is the English word used to translate the Hebrew ‘sheol’ and the Greek ‘hades’.
Hell originally came from an old English verb meaning ‘to cover’. It is retained in the word Helmet; being a covering for the head.
Sheol and hades in scripture are not the mythological place of eternal torment but simply the grave. The words are correctly translated ‘grave’ in places.
Hosea 13:14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave (sheol); I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave (sheol), I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
1 Corinthians 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave (hades), where is thy victory?
When we die we really are dead; we do not have an ‘immortal’ soul that continues a conscious existence after death.
Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die.
Psalms 146:4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing...
From Adam onwards all that have died have returned to dust and lie in their graves.
Genesis 3:19 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.
Death is likened to the unconsciousness of sleep.
1 Kings 2:10 So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.
Acts 7:60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
The gospel preached by Christ depends on resurrection from the dead, without which all who have died have perished.
1 Corinthians 15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
From Adam onwards God promised that a descendent would provide a way of escape from sin and death brought about by the serpent’s deception of Eve. The promise is contained in a metaphor in what God says to the serpent.
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
This was the hope preached to all generations; that if they believed that God would provide a redeemer and served God in their lives; then they would be raised from the dead at an appointed time in the future.
Job understood the hope of the resurrection from the dead.
Job 19:25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
The gospel was preached to Abraham in several promises one of which was that in his seed all nations would be blessed.
Genesis 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
That seed was Jesus Christ
Galatians 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
Abraham understood what was promised.
John 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
This was the gospel preached to Israel in the wilderness.
Hebrews 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
Israel for the most part had no faith in the redeemer promised and without faith it is impossible to please God.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
It is faith (belief in the promised Messiah) that saves both those that lived before Christ and those that come after.
Galatians 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
Romans 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
In Hebrews 11 we are given a list of some of those who were saved by their faith.
They all sleep in the dust awaiting the resurrection at the last day.
They will not receive the reward without us:
Hebrews 11: 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
Grace is not a supernatural gift given to believers which ensures their salvation (as some teach). Grace is simply the willingness of God to bestow an unmerited gift upon those who have faith in his promise.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Romans 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
God’s grace will be extended to all those from creation who have served him by faith. It will take the form of resurrection from the dead to eternal life in the kingdom of God when Christ returns. Until then they remain in ‘hell’ (the grave) ‘sleeping’ in the dust of the earth.
The prophecy through Daniel speaks of this time:
Daniel 12:1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Jesus speaks of the same:
John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
At the end of the millennial reign of Christ there will be a final resurrection and judgment. All that live on will have immortality. This is described in a figure as death and hell (hades – the grave) being destroyed by being cast into a ‘lake of fire’ signifying the final end of mortality.
Revelation 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Paul explains what is going to happen:
1 Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
This will be the fulfilment of God’s purpose:
Numbers 14:21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.
I hope you have found this helpful.
God bless you,