What is the Difference between Shēōl, Hell, Hādēs, and the Lake of Fire?

According to the Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, in the Old Testament (OT), the words Shēōl and hell are interchangeable. When looking for interpretation of the word Shēōl the inquirer is directed to the word hell. The margins in the OT, in most cases, also translate the word hell to the word Shēōl.

The two words together in the completed Canon are found a total of fifty-four times.

The Bible refers to the label Lake of Fire only five times, and all these five are in the last Book: The Revelation of Jesus Christ. And these five times mentioned are only in the last three of the four last chapters of the Book: Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8. One of those—Revelation 20:14—confirms that the lake of fire is the ultimate destination for those who have been in Shēōl, Hādēs, or hell, awaiting their final judgment.

Revelation 20:14
Then Death and Hādēs were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Of the fifty-four times hell is referred to in the Bible, thirty-one are in the OT. Neither the word hell nor the lake of fire, are mentioned in the OT verses—but only in the margins. Like wise, the New Testament (NT) does not use the word Shēōl. Only the words hell and Hādēs—and the lake of fire—are to be found in the NT.

Eighteen of the thirty-one times hell is used in the OT the margin gives the word Shēōl. The other thirteen times, the word Shēōl is used first. In every case, both for hell and Shēōl the meaning is for punishment from God’s righteous judgment.

The reason for the Lake of Fire being last in God’s Word is because the Lake of Fire is the final destination for all the condemned, unbelieving, offenders of God. The word fire, besides its usual meaning we are all accustomed to, can also signify the righteous, holiness of God. And as used in the Lake of Fire, it is His righteous judgment. The Greek word, pur, is likened to our English word pure.

Psalm 12:6
The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Proverbs 30:5a
Every word of God is pure;

As sovereign God and Creator of the universe, only God has the right to make righteous judgment. He even judges and declares those who believe in Him and overcome the practicing of Satan’s temptations to be righteous—just as He is righteous:

Romans 3:21-26
21But now the righteousness of God apart from [obeying] the law [in one’s own effort to save himself] is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified [to have the righteousness of God] freely [without any cost to self] by His grace through the redemption [reconciliation back to being at one with God] that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God set forth as a propitiation [a means of satisfying God’s wrath] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The longest word in our English language is eternity. The choice of whether to seek the Lord Jesus or to reject Him is the most serious, vital decision a person can make. By God’s righteous judgment, all believers’ eternal destination is heaven. And by His righteous judgment, all unbelievers are doomed to the Lake of Fire—for eternal suffering.

The prophet Isaiah gives warning of the brimstone—a sulfur, inflammable substance which becomes negatively, electrically charged by heat and friction. It is that part in the earth that causes volcanoes to erupt. When we see the words the day of the Lord it is a day of judgment:

Isaiah 34:8-10
8For it is the day of the LORD’S vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion [Jerusalem]. 9Its streams shall be turned into pitch [fire starter], and its dust into brimstone; its land shall become burning pitch. 10It shall not be quenched night or day; its smoke shall ascend forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; no one shall pass through it forever and ever.

The Lord is quoted in the very last verse in the Book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 66:24
24“And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

God also gave His word to Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 7:20
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, My anger and My fury will be poured out on this place—on man and on beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground. And it will burn and not be quenched.”

The Lord Jesus is also quoted in the Gospel of Mark:

Mark 9:43-48
43“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 46where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 47And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire— 48where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’”

John the apostle writes the vision of the prophecy given to him:

Revelation 19:19-20
19And I saw the beast [Antichrist], the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him [Jesus] who sat on the horse and against His army. 20Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

Revelation 20:10
10The devil [Satan], who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. …
Revelation 20:14-15
14Then Death and Hādēs were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. [And it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. Hebrews 9:27] … 15And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:8
“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

The word purgatory is not in the Bible. The 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster gives the following definition:

“PURGATORY: Among catholics, a supposed place or state after death, in which the souls of persons are purified, or in which they expiate such offenses committed in this life, as do not merit eternal damnation. After this purgation from the impurities of sin, the souls are supposed to be received into heaven  Encyc. Stillingleet.”

Since man’s idea of purgatory is added to be Bible, it violates several verses which give strict command to not do so:

Revelation 22:18-19
18For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
(See also Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Joshua 1:7; Proverbs 30:6; Ecclesiastes 3:14; Matthew 5:18; Exodus 32:33)

To answer the question then, “What is the Difference between Shēōl, Hell, Hādēs, and the Lake of Fire?”:

There is no difference between Shēōl, Hādēs, and Hell; they are all the same place with varying degrees of punishment. It is likened to prison for those on death row with no opportunity for pardon. Following their temporary torment they will be raised to experience the second death upon the Lord Jesus judging them at the Great White Throne. (Revelation 20:11-15)

The Lake of Fire differs from the temporary judgment holding pit in that the Lake of Fire is the final, eternal dwelling place for all who have forsaken our Triune God.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Isaiah 1:18a
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD…

Please let us know what you think.
Also don’t hesitate to send us questions or topics for following blog posts.
We would love to hear from you.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Author: Mike and Elfriede

For the past 15 years Michael Copple has studiously devoted his life to the Lord by preaching the Gospel and moderating Bible studies. He is a 1958 Eagle Scout, holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering, and achieved the highest US Air Force enlisted rank of Chief Master Sergeant with over 26 years service, one year of which was with Forward Air Control duties in Vietnam. For three years he was the senior enlisted member of the US Air Force Academy Wings of Blue Parachute Team; he has performed over 2,000 parachute jumps and accumulated over 15 hours of freefall. During his parachuting years Mike experienced a mishap of being a “hung jumper” outside the aircraft, and serious parachute malfunctions like a deadly seesaw night jump entanglement with another jumper, and an 85 mph wind shear which almost took his life. This experience inspired and qualified him to author the novel Calling from the Sky. A former world-wide electronic service engineer for 16 years with a semiconductor equipment manufacturer, he and his wife Elfriede currently live in the Canadian Rockies surrounded by 6 National Parks. Besides studying God's Word, they both like to exercise, cross country ski, hike, garden, and walk their dog Kansas. Visit him at https://www.michaelcopple.com/

2 thoughts on “What is the Difference between Shēōl, Hell, Hādēs, and the Lake of Fire?”

  1. Well done! I am glad you have shared this as so many feel that he’ll and the lake of fire are one in the same. But as you know they are not.

    Thanks also for including the falsehood of purgatory that many including none Catholics believe is real!

    Great post Mike!


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