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The Bible says in Luke 21:34-35: “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and [so] that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
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The 39 books of the Old Testament refer to the world of the dead 65 times as Sheol. The word may be translated as “the grave,” “hell,” or “death.” Sheol must not be confused with “the pit” or the lake of fire: for Sheol is the place of all those who have departed this life, both believers and unbelievers. The New Testament word for this world of the dead is Hades (which appears 42 times). It is important to note that Sheol and Hades are not really hell, as the King James Version translates it. The Hebrew word Sheol and the Greek word Hades both refer to the same temporary place, whereas hell is a permanent place that lasts forever.
Tartarus, a word that occurs only once in the entire Bible (in 2 Peter 2:4), is defined by Bible scholars as “the deepest abyss of Hades.” Admittedly we don’t know much about that deep abyss, except that, as part of Hades, it too is probably temporary.
Gehenna is the New Testament word for the permanent place of the dead, used by Jesus Christ Himself 11 times. James also used it. Of Hebrew origin, the word refers to the Valley of Hinnom, just outside Jerusalem, where the refuse of the city was dumped. It was characteristic of this valley that a fire was continually burning there. Many Bible scholars see this as a perfect characterization of hell — a place “where the fire is not quenched”, or the “lake of fire”, referring to the final destination of those who have rejected God.
The King James Version of the Bible translates all of these words — Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus — the same: “hell.” This leads to the confusing idea that they all refer to the same place, when in fact they do not. Several modern versions of the Bible have clearly distinguished among these words. The New American Standard Version, for example, calls the temporary places “Sheol” or “Hades,” and the final place of the dead “hell.”
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