The Hadean Realm
Question: Where Does The Soul Go And Stay After Death?
Answer: One cause of confusion over this subject comes from the fact the KJV uses the English word "hell" to translate the Hebrew word Sheol, and three different Greek words: Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna. The difficulty is removed in the ASV and the NKJV.
A proper understanding of this subject begins with a proper definition of "death." James shows that the body dies when the soul (or spirit) departs (Jas. 2:26). There is no indication that the spirit (soul) of man "dies" along with the physical body. In the book of Ecclesiastes we learn that the body returns to the dust from which it came and the spirit returns to God who gave it (12:7). Paul said he was "hard pressed" between two desires, a desire to depart and be with the Lord (which would be far better for him), or to remain in the flesh where he could be of benefit to the saints (see Phil. 1:21-24). On the basis of these statements, some people think that the spirit immediately into heaven at death. However, this concept does not take into consideration all that the Bible says on the question before us.
The spirit of man does not go directly to heaven, or to hell, as some suppose, but unto a place the Greeks called Hades, "the abode of disembodied spirits."
The Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades represent the same concept. In the Old Testament it often represents the grave, without further concern for the departed spirit. But the reference in Eccl. 12:7 indicates the concept of the spirit returning to God in distinction to what happened to the body. David expressed a similar idea when he said he could not bring his child back, but he could join him (2 Sam. 12:15-23). David did not mean that he could the dead child in the literal grave, but he could join his spirit in the unseen, but spiritual, realm.
The concept of Hades as the abode of disembodied spirits is found in the accounts of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. While hanging on the cross, He "yielded up His spirit" (Matt. 27:50) saying, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" (Lk. 23:46). He had said to the thief, "Today, you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Vs. 43). Yet, on Pentecost Peter proclaimed of Jesus that "His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:31). Thus, David's prophesy in Psa. 16:8-11; (see Acts 2:25-28) was fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ. His body was raised from the tomb and His spirit returned from Hades. Indeed, He has the "keys of death and of Hades" (Rev. 1:18). Hence, after death, the spirit of Jesus went into Paradise in Hades.
The story of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk. 16:19-31) presents a picture of two men in the Hadean world. Both men had died (vs. 22), and the rich man was being "tormented" in Hades (vs. 23), while Lazarus was being "comforted" in "Abraham's bosom" (vs. 22).
Looking at both the story of Lazarus and the rich man and the account of the death and resurrection of Christ, we must conclude that Hades has within it both a place of comfort and a place of torment, and there is a "great gulf" that prevents passing from one to the other (vs. 26). If we should want a name for the place of torment, it may be found in 2 Pet. 2:4, where the "angels that sinned" were "cast down to hell" (Greek: Tartarus), being committed to "chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment."
The Bible teaches that man faces judgment after death (Heb. 9:27), at the end of the world (see Matt. 13:40,49), following the resurrection of the dead (Jno. 5:28,29). All men will appear before Christ (2 Cor. 5:19; Rom. 14:10-12; Acts 17:30,31), to be judged by His words (Jno. 12:48), according to their deeds (1 Pet. 1:17; Matt.16:27). At that time even sinners will be "convinced" that the sentence is just (see Matt. 7:21-23; Jude 13,14). The judgment will not be to determine guilt or innocence, but to consign souls to heaven for a reward, or to hell (Gehenna) for eternal punishment.
James E. Cooper