Hades, Sheol, and the State of the Dead

Insight into Acts 2:27

“…because you will not abandon my soul to the grave…”

The Greek word translated “grave” is hadēs. Hades was the Greek word used to represent the Hebrew word sheol, which was the state of being dead. When the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek around 250 BC, the Hebrew word sheol was translated by the Greek word hades. Sheol was not the physical grave itself, but the state of being dead (the actual physical grave was referred to as the qeber). In the Hebrew Old Testament, dead people are said to be in sheol.

Sheol vs. Hades

It was actually a bad choice to translate sheol as hadēs, because in sheol people are dead, whereas in the Greek mythology, hadēs was a place where the souls of dead people are alive. So when the Greeks translated sheol as hadēs, it introduced great confusion about the state of the dead into Judaism and then into Christianity, and that confusion still exists today. The Bible, properly translated, makes it clear that dead people are dead until the Rapture or a resurrection.

What Happens to the Soul?

This verse shows how mistranslation can skew theology. If this verse were being read by a first-century Greek who did not know that hadēs was the Greek translation of sheol, he would be led to think that people, including Jesus, had gone to the hadēs of Greek mythology, ruled by the god Hadēs, which is not even close to what the text is saying. However, something similar has happened today, because many Christians think that hadēs is another name for the place in Christian mythology called “Hell,” which is ruled by the Devil and his demons, and is where evil people go when they die. Jesus certainly did not go to a place where there are dead people being tormented by demons. He died and was dead. That is why the prophecy was that God would not abandon people to sheol (hadēs). If God did not raise people up from being dead, they would stay dead forever. The soul does not live on after the body dies. When the body dies, the soul is dead.

(The commentary above is from our free 1,000+ page Revised English Version® Commentary.)

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  1. The article was very interesting as well as knowledgeable

  2. OK, so souls are not spirits, but when you die, you go to Hades/Sheol with no thought or memory? So everyone goes there?

    1. When you die you cease to exist. You are in the “earth” in the sense that your body has decided and returned to the soil. YOUr soul is the spiritual face that animates your body. It came from the life of Adam and has been passed down to all his progeny. When you die it ceases to exist. This is why Ezekiel and Isaiah talk about in the resurrection the Earth will give birth to her dead. Sheol merely means the place of the dead, the earth, and Hades is a Greek term that referred to a place where the dead lived according to their mythology.

      1. Hi Dan! Can you please give your interpretation of Matthew10:8 as it relates to the soul?

      2. What about 2 Corinthians 5:8: to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord?

  3. Matthew 10:28 ESV

    And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

    1. The word translated “hell” is the Greek word “gehenna,” which is a reference to the city dump where the fires never ceased. Jesus was speaking about the Lake of Fire, a future place where the wicked will be tossed and annihilated, not a place of everlasting torment.

  4. What about when Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would see him in Paradise on that day? That’s got to mean that at least our spirits go somewhere when we die until Christ returns . . .

    1. He didn’t say he would be in Paradise “that day.” He said, “I truly say to you TODAY,” as a way of adding emphasis for the truthfulness of the words that the man had a promise of being in paradise, a future place when the earth will be restored in Christ’s millennial kingdom. You cant be somewhere the doesnt yet exist. Paradise is a reference to a future police.

      1. So your saying ther’s no hell like the Jehovah witness doctrine.

  5. This brings to mind the scripture of Ecclesiastes 9:5,6. The Bible is so true about the condition of the dead. YHWH is a merciful God who would not condemn humans to eternal torment, neither would have his son been there if it was what Christians today this k hell represents Acts 2:31,32

  6. Could you please help me understand 1 Samuel 28 where king Saul goes to a woman from Endor to speak with Samuel who is dead? Especially when you consider verse 19. Thank you.

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