We’ve covered Sheol, Hades, Hell, the Place of Torment, and we even talked about the place of comfort before the cross, Abraham’s Bosom (Read here: Sheol, Hell, Place of Torment? What & Where Are They?) The Bible also mentions other destinations for unregenerate souls — the Abyss, the Bottomless Pit, Tartarus, Gehenna, the Lake of Fire, and Outer Darkness.
The Abyss, the Bottomless Pit, the Deep
The Abyss, the Bottomless Pit, and the Deep are different words for the same place. It is a literal place of punishment for spiritual beings that are at enmity with God.
Abyss is an English translation of the New Testament Greek word abussos.
abussos, ab’-us-sos; = (as a neg. particle); depthless, i.e. (spec.) (infernal) “abyss”:–deep, (bottomless) pit.
The word clearly denotes a pit or hole that is unbounded, immeasurable and a part of the underworld. The KJV translates abbusos as “the deep” in Luke 8:31 and Romans 10:7. We find the word translated as “The Bottomless Pit” in Rev 9:1, 2, 11, Rev 11:7, 17:18, 20:1, 3, which gives a clue that this place is in the deepest depths of the earth, probably spherical in shape and therefore without any “bottom.”
The KJV uses the word “hell” to describe the place where the fallen angels were cast to await judgment (2 Pet 2:4). However, the Greek word is not “Hades,” which is translated as “hell.” It is a different Greek word, “tartaroo,” and it is differentiated from the place of torment referred to as Hades or Hell.
Tartarus is thought to be the deepest abyss of Hades/Hell. It is the place where God holds in chains those angels that left their first estate, the angels that chose to join Satan in his rebellion against God (Jude 6). The fallen angels are held there until the day of judgment. Tartarus is conceived to be a place of absolute darkness because of Peter’s reference to it in his second epistle: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [tartaroo], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment…” (2 Pet 2:4)
We know very little about Tartarus, but, what little the Bible does tell, can be summarized in:
- There are no humans in Tartarus, only fallen angels.
- Those in Tartarus are bound by chains of darkness, so there can’t be flames of fire. It’s dark there.
- Their restraint in chains is not forever. They are “reserved unto judgment” when they will be released and judged.
Gehenna is both a real geographical place on the earth and a reference to a place of torment. Geographically, Gehenna is the Valley of Hinnom, a valley on the south-west side of Jerusalem.
In biblical times, this valley was a place where detestable, pagan rituals were conducted. In 2 Chr 28:3 we are told that King Ahaz “burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.” Josiah put an end to the practices (2 Kings 23:10), but Gehenna continued to be an unclean place. During New Testament times, it was the place where trash was burned.
In the Greek manuscripts the word “gheh’-en-nah” appears 12 times: Mt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; Mt 18:9; Mt 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6. English Bibles use ”hell fire,” “fires of hell,” and “fires of Gehenna” to translate the word, so it’s clear that these references are speaking of a place of burning, but not the Valley of Hinnom, which in our day is a pleasant tourist attraction and park that boasts a sign saying,“Welcome to Hell.” While that might be thought of as funny by some, those who read the Bible know that Gehenna is more than this pleasant valley southwest of Jerusalem. Gehenna in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and James speaks of a place of eternal punishment.
The Lake of Fire
The Lake of Fire is mentioned in reference to end-times judgment. It is found in Rev 19:20, Rev 20:10 and 20:14-15. The Lake of Fire is the place of final and eternal punishment for all unregenerate human souls (Rev 20:14) and all the rebellious angels (Matt 25:41). This eternal punishment is described in terms that we can understand, but it is likely different than what we think and probably much worse than we can comprehend. Rev 20:10 tells us that it burns with brimstone (sulfur) and that the torment will be unrelenting “day and night forever and ever.”
Very little is known about “outer darkness.” The Bible does not clearly define it. However, Jesus referred to it three times and He described outer darkness as a place of punishment. He told that in this place there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Weeping and gnashing of teeth describes a condition of great sorrow and painfully felt loss, distress, and anger.
Mat 8:12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mat 22:13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mat 25:30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Outer darkness” is said to be the “blackest of darkness” (Jude 1:13) reserved for condemned, ungodly men of the worst kind (Jude 1:4). And yet, some Bible scholars consider the term “outer darkness” to refer to the Lake of Fire, which seems inconsistent because fire produces light.
So, how might the two both be part of final judgment? How could the blackest of darkness exist with the light of fire? Some have suggested that perhaps outer darkness refers to a black hole, and perhaps the Lake of Fire is cast into this black hole. If that be the case, then darkness would surround the Lake of Fire. No one in the Lake of Fire could see beyond the outer darkness that surrounds it, and, likewise, no one outside the outer darkness could see through it into the Lake of Fire. That means the redeemed in eternal glory would have no ability to see those who experience eternal torment. Remember, this is only a thought because the Bible does not tell us what the outer darkness is.
Perhaps outer darkness is more of a condition than a place. We know that spiritual darkness exists because of the absence of the true Light (1 John 1:5). In the Bible, light symbolizes God’s purity, holiness, righteousness, and glory. The depravity of man and his sinful acts are spoken of as living and walking in darkness (Ps 82:5, Prov 4:19, Job 18:5-6).
The “outer darkness” Jesus spoke of is accompanied by “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Weeping describes a sorrowful soul, and gnashing of teeth describes a physical torment and an unrelenting anger. Together, they might be intended to tell us that the experience of “outer darkness” will be unspeakable, unfathomable, and unbearable suffering — the ultimate fate of all who reject Jesus (John 3:18, 36).
John 3:19 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
John 3:20 “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”
Tell Others About the Light Before It’s Too Late
We don’t want anyone to go to Hell. More accurately, our desire is not that they avoid Hell, but that they repent, trust in Jesus, and receive salvation and everlasting life. We want them to turn from the darkness that they now walk in and turn to the True Light, Jesus, who will save them.
John 1:4-5 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
John 12:46 “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Tell Others About the Place of Rest for the Redeemed
Heaven is the resting place for all who die in the Lord. Tell others of Jesus’ promise to welcome them with open arms into His Father’s “house.” Share the gospel of saving grace. Tell people that if they turn to Jesus and place their faith and trust in Him and His finished work of atonement for their sins, they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given the righteousness of Christ and eternal life. That includes Heaven, the place of comfort and rest.
What If You Die Today?
If you have not trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, visit our Salvation page and consider your eternal destiny. If you die with unforgiven sins, your destiny will be the places you just read about. If you turn to Jesus in repentance and faith, He will forgive you and give you eternal life with Him. He promises Heaven to all who trust in His finished work on the cross to pay for their sins. Please take a minute and READ: What If You Die Today?
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