Scripture passages in which Gehenna is used should be distinguished from those using Hades, which refers to a place of temporary torment that we might refer to as the immediate, or present, Hell. What we mean by this is that, at the time of death, the souls of the lost go directly to Hades, where they suffer in torment until the time of the Great White Throne Judgment when they will be resurrected and cast into the Lake of Fire. The souls of all the lost who have already died are presently there and those who die in their sins immediately go there to join them.
Hades is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament word Sheol. The Greek and Hebrew words speak of the same place, the present Hell. However, this is problematic because Sheol has been translated "grave" as often as it has "hell" and some have mistakenly taught that Sheol and Hades are only references to the grave rather than Hell. This erroneous teaching leads to the denial of the existence of an immediate or present Hell. The false doctrine of soul-sleep, and other ideas that teach the unconscious state of the dead between death and resurrection, spring from this error.
The common word for "grave" in the Old Testament is queber. Of the sixty-four times it is used, it is translated "grave" thirty-four times, "sepulcher" twenty-six times, and "burying place" four times. Queber is used five additional times as part of a place name, Kibroth-hattaavah, which means "graves of lust." As we said earlier, Sheol is found sixty-four times, being rendered "grave" thirty-one times, "hell" thirty-one times, and "pit" three times.
A comparison of how Sheol and queber are used reveals eight points of contrast that tell us that they are not the same thing.
1. Sheol is never used in plural form. Queber is used in the plural 29 times.
2. It is never said that the body goes to Sheol. Queber speaks of the body going there 37 times.
3. Sheol is never said to be located on the face of the earth. Queber is mentioned 32 times as being located on the earth.
4. An individual's Sheol is never mentioned. An individual's queber is mentioned 5 times.
5. Man is never said to put anyone into Sheol. Individuals are put into a queber by man (33 times).
6. Man is never said to have dug or fashioned a Sheol. Man is said to have dug, or fashioned, a queber (6 times).
7. Man is never said to have touched Sheol. Man touches, or can touch, a queber (5 times).
8. It is never said that man is able to possess a Sheol. Man is spoken of as being able to possess a queber (7 times). (These eight points of comparison are adapted from "Life and Death" by Caleb J. Baker, Bible Institute Colportage Ass'n, 1941).
From the differences between how Sheol and queber are used in Scripture, it is obvious that they are not the same thing. The Greek word Hades in the New Testament would fit into the Sheol column of our chart, strongly indicating that it is the same thing as Sheol. Hades is used eleven times, being rendered Hell ten times and grave once.
Words associated with queber are quabar and qeburah. Quabar is a verb meaning to bury or to be buried and qeburah is a noun meaning a grave or place of burial. The use of these related words helps to reinforce the difference between queber and Sheol, as they clearly have to do with the grave as a burial place, while Sheol does not.
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