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The real existence of hell is irrefutably taught in Scripture as both a place of the wicked dead and a condition of retribution for unredeemed man. It is plain that 'to die in sin' is a dreadful thing. [e.g. Ez.3:18; NIV footnote].
The nature of hell is indicated by the repeated reference to eternal punishment [Mt.25:46], eternal fire [Mt.18:8, Jude 7], everlasting chains [Jude 6], the pit of the Abyss [Rev.9:2, 11], outer darkness [Mt.8:12], the wrath of God [Rom.2:5, second death [Rev.21:8], eternal destruction from the face of God [2 Thes.1:9], and eternal sin [Mk.3:29]. While some of these terms are symbolic and descriptive, they connote real entities, about whose existence there can be no doubt."
To start from the beginning, both the English term Hell, as well as the Greek term Hades come from the transliteration of the OT Hebrew term, Sheol - which has several meanings. Therein comes the problem.
First of all, the direction for Sheol is always downward, into the earth below. The first meaning for Sheol, is simply reference to the grave for the dead body. All in all, Sheol was believed to be temporary, in connection with the wicked, but not the righteous, which will be covered a little later on.
Secondly, both the wicked as well as the righteous spirit/souls went to Sheol when the body died, in the OT [See Jesus narrative in Lk.16:19-31 about Lazarus and the rich man, which is a perfect profile of Sheol]. The righteous went there because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins, according to Heb.10:4. Therefore, the righteous ones in Sheol, had to await Jesus death and resurrection before their sins were forgiven them, as Paul explains in Rom.3:25-26, as well as in Ps.49:14-15.
Thirdly, documentation Sheol was the place where the wicked went, separated from God and awaiting judgement, in Ps.6:5; 30:3, 9; 88:3-6; Job 17:13-16 and Isa.38:18.
The next important element in the development of Hell, comes from the Hebrew term, 'Topheth,' which means, 'Place of fire,' that was located in the Valley of [ben] Hinnom,' or the Valley of the son of Hinnom,' or just plain, 'the Valley of Hinnom' [It is now nothing but a rubbish dump, with the fire going continually as a reminder of its origins, as follows:
It received its name from the wicked kings of Judah, Ahaz and Manasseh, who sacrificed their own children to the god, Molech, through the fire at that location, which formed part of the border between Judah and Benjamin. [2 Kgs.16:3 and 2 Chr.28:3 re Ahaz, and 2 Kgs.21:6 and 2 Chr.33:6 re Manasseh].
The Greeks used the term, Gehenna [Also geenna], to describe the Valley of the son of Hinnom, meaning, the 'place of fire,' or, in English, 'The Lake of Fire," the place of permanent punisment for the wicked. Jesus used this very term in the following passages of Scripture that were rendered 'Hell' in the KJV. [Mt.5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk.9:43, 45, 47; Lk.12:5. James also used it in Jas.3:6]. In each case, Jesus clearly meant, permanent punishment.
The Greek term Hades is used to describe the 'state of the dead,' and was considered temporal, in contrast to the permanent punishment of the wicked, described by their term, "Gehenna." Hades was the Greek god of the lower regions. The KJV rendered it 'Hell' ten times.
Therefore, there are two parts to Hell: those in [temporal] Sheol, Hades and Hell, awaiting the second resurrection and great white throne judgement, and those whose names are not found written in the book of life, will be thrown into the Lake of Fire - along with death, and [temporal] Hades [Sheol and Hell]. Rev.20:11-15.
See also: http://carm.org/hell