What are the distinctions among sheol, hades, hell, the lake of fire, paradise, and Abraham's bosom?
Many terms are used in reference to heaven and hell in the Bible. These terms can often be confusing, yet each provides important information about these locations in the afterlife.
Sheol is a Hebrew term used in the Old Testament to describe the realm or location of the dead. It is sometimes used more specifically in a negative manner as a place of judgment.
Hades is a Greek term used in the New Testament as a rough equivalent to the Hebrew word sheol and also describes the grave or location of the dead.
Gehenna is a Greek word used in the New Testament that referred to the Valley of Hinnom, an actual valley outside of Jerusalem known as a burning rubbish pile. When used as a term for the dead, it was a way of noting a place of judgment in the afterlife.
The lake of fire is mentioned in Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14-15 as the final destination of Satan and unbelievers at the end of time. Though not the current dwelling place of Satan or unbelievers, it will be the ultimate resting place for all those who do not spend eternity with the Lord.
Paradise is mentioned in three accounts in the New Testament as the place where believers will be with the Lord after this life. It is first seen in Luke 23:43 where Jesus told the repentant man on the cross that he would be with Him that day in paradise. In 2 Corinthians 12:3 Paul referred to heaven as paradise as did John in Revelation 2:7.
Abraham's bosom is only referred to on one occasion in the New Testament in Luke 16:19-31. A poor man named Lazarus died and was take to Abraham's bosom, in contrast with the rich man who was in torment after his death. This contrast notes that the poor man was in heaven. Further, this reference to being at Abraham's side clearly indicates Lazarus was with God. Why? Abraham was known as a friend of God. Referring to Abraham was about the strongest evidence a Jewish teacher could give to claim a person was in the presence of the Lord.
Heaven is also developed at the end of Revelation in relationship to the final eternal state of believers. God will create a new heavens, new earth, and new heavenly city where all of His people will live with Him forever in an existence free from all sin and suffering (Revelation 21—22).
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