The UK Bible Students Website

Question Box









We refer to the Anglicised text of the New International Version (NIV-UK) unless noted otherwise. If the text is not quoted, click on it to see it displayed.


Question: What is hell?


Answer: The traditional view is that of a region of unending punishment (usually torture) for the wicked and unbelievers after death.


There are actually two types of hell.


Hell No. 1

The first is identified in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament by the word, sheol, and the corresponding Greek word in the New Testament, hades. Each is translated ‘hell’ in the King James Version (KJV). For example, Psalms 16: 10 (sheol) and Acts 2: 31 (hades). The NIV-UK renders the words, ‘grave’.


The fallen human race, descended from Adam, are on the road to the first hell, the ‘grave’ state, because they are under condemnation on account of Adam’s sin of disobedience.

Recovery from this hell is possible only because of the resurrection in the coming Millennium, guaranteed by Jesus’ death and resurrection.


Hell No. 2

The second hell is denoted by the Greek word, gehenna.

For example, Matthew 10: 28 (KJV): ‘And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell’ (emphasis ours). The NIV-UK also uses the translation, ‘hell’.


However, the real gehenna was the Hinnom Valley, an area south of Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day this was like the municipal tip, where the carcasses of beasts, and the bodies of executed criminals were dumped. Fires were kept burning in order to consume everything. Sulphur (the Biblical ‘brimstone’) was added to the flames to intensify them. The graphic picture is one of obliteration, and Jesus so employs it.


We may reasonably conclude that gehenna stands for the destiny of all (fully) wilful sinners. Those liable to this severe penalty, however, are those only who have first been resurrected, released from Adamic condemnation, and put under a test for eternal life. They fail because they are incorrigibly committed to sin. They die on their own account — hence, a second (not an Adamic, first) death. From this death there is no resurrection. (For additional context, see the article on the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, covered elsewhere on this site.)


Copyright June 2009

You may reproduce all or part of this article, but please let us know if you.


 ↑ Return top of page