I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
You will recall last time we discussed Jesus’ words to the dying thief on the cross where we read, And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” [Luke 23:43] Where exactly were Jesus and the thief on the cross going? They were not going to heaven that day. They were going to Paradise. This is one of five regions of the underworld of departed spirits. By way of review from last time, we said these five regions were: 1) Tartarus, 2) Paradise (Abraham’s bosom), 3) Hell (Hades), 4) the bottomless pit (abyss), and 5) the Lake of Fire (gehenna). This time I want to take a look at these five regions of the underworld, and see what the Bible says about them.
Tartarus, is a Greek word translated, “Hell” in only one place in the New Testament, although references to this place are found other places in the scriptures. This particular word is very prominent in Greek mythology, interestingly enough. In ancient mythology it was understood to be the deep abyss that was used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked and as a prison for the Titans. By the time the Apostle Peter used this word in writing his second epistle, it had come to be used as a prison for an especially wicked group of fallen angels. Peter wrote,
“For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.” [2 Peter 2:4 emphasis added]
The word translated, “hell” in this verse is the Greek word, tartarus. Again, this is the only place in the New Testament this particular word is used, although, as we stated above, it is referred to in other places in the New Testament. This prison of Hell is a special place of punishment for, again, a special class of fallen angels. Who were these angels who sinned so grievously that they would be consigned to this deepest, darkest region of the underworld? We read about them in Genesis 6:2,
“ that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.” [Gen. 6:2]
The “sons of God” (Heb. Benae ha elohim) were angels. These angels conspired together to “marry” human women, and produce offspring with them. The result of these unnatural, unholy unions were the giant races we read of in many places in the Old Testament. For example, as a result of these unions Genesis 6:4 says,
“There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” [Gen. 6:4]
The Hebrew word translated, “giants” here is nephilim. This Hebrew word literally means, “a tyrant, or a bully.” It is from a root meaning, “fallen one.” These were the, if you will, hybrid offspring of fallen angels and human women. I don’t really want to take the space here to do a detailed treatment of this subject. Suffice it to say these fallen angels wreaked havoc on the earth for a period of probably over four-hundred years. It would seem the ultimate motivation in this incursion of fallen angels was to corrupt the human blood-line to stop the, “Seed of the woman” from coming into the earth-realm. This incursion is what led God to destroy the entire earth and all life on it, with the exception of Noah and his family and the animals taken on the Ark.
These angels were consigned to Tartarus. Jude wrote of this place, “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” [Jude 6] It seems Jude was familiar with the book of 1 Enoch. Even though it is not a part of the Canon, it does provide a good deal of background information on the incursion of these angels. Jude even quotes the book of 1 Enoch in his little epistle. The non-canonical book of Jasher also supplies a good deal of background on this event, as does Jubilees, and a few others.
Tartarus is understood to be the deepest part of Hell. The Lord Jesus descended into this place, and preached to the fallen angels after His death on the Cross:
“ For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.” [1 Peter 3:18 – 20]
So, it is revealed that tartarus is a prison for the bound fallen angels (1 Pet. 3:19), located under the earth (2 Peter 2:4), a place of bondage for fallen angels until their judgment (Jude 6), a place visited by Christ when He descended into Hell (Ps. 16:10; 2 Peter 3:19), a place of darkness (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), a place of eternal fire (Jude 7), and a place of vengeance (Jude 7).
- PARADISE (ABRAHAM’S BOSOM)
Paradise is vividly described in Luke 16:19 – 31, and is also called “Abraham’s Bosom.” It was a place of comfort and bliss, located near the torment side of Hell, but it was separated by a “great gulf” according to Luke 16:26. The wicked who were tormented in Hell could see those in Paradise, and vice versa apparently.
Before Calvary, Paradise was the abode of the Old Testament saints after their death. All of the righteous went into this prison and were held captive by the Devil (Heb. 2:14,15; Eph. 4:7 – 11). Satan had the power of death and hell before Christ conquered him (Col. 2:14, 15; Rev. 1:18). After His death on the Cross, the Lord also descended into Paradise and released the righteous souls held captive by Satan and took them to Heaven when He ascended:
“Therefore He says: “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE, AND GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” (Now this, “HE ASCENDED”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)” [Eph. 4:8 – 10]
This explains, then, the reason Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” [Luke 23:43] That was the place Jesus and the repentant thief went the day they died. Paradise at that time was located in the lower parts of the earth (Eph. 4:9), next to Hell (Luke 16:26). Christ was victorious over Satan, death, Hell, and the grave during His Crucifixion and during the three days He was in tartarus and Paradise. He now holds the keys (authority) to Hell and death:
“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” [Rev. 1:18]
After the resurrection of Christ, Paradise was moved from the lower parts of the earth up to Heaven. Now when believers depart this life they don’t go down, they go up. Christians now go immediately to Heaven when they die:
“For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” [Phil. 1:23]
Paradise that was located in the lower parts of the earth is empty today. I believe it continues, though empty, as a constant reminder to those in Hell of the salvation and peace they forfeited by rejecting Christ (Luke 16:23 – 31). It may also be that Hell, “spilled over” into that area, because we are told in Isaiah 5:14 that Hell “enlarged itself”, ready to receive the millions of lost souls.
- HELL (HADES)
Hell, or Hades, is the place of torment where all of the wicked spirits of men (and women) go at the moment of death. It will continue as the abode of of all of the wicked from every Dispensation until the end of the Millennium (Luke 16:23 – 31). After the 1,000-year Millennium, the wicked will be resurrected from this place, to receive their immortal body and to be judged before the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11 – 13; John 5:29). After their judgment the wicked will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15).
I know this is not a popular topic. In fact, a growing number of people in the modern Church deny the existence of Hell and eternal punishment. That does not change what the scripture says however. If we are going to be faithful to declare the whole counsel of God, we must proclaim the parts people don’t like to here as well as the parts they do.
- BOTTOMLESS PIT (ABYSS):
The bottomless pit, or the abyss, is reserved for Satan, where he will be bound and cast during the Millennium (Rev. 20:1 – 3). No human will ever go to this place, for it is the abode of certain demons (Luke 8:31) and fallen angels (Rev. 9:1 – 3; 20:1 – 3). When Christ cast out the demons from the man of Gadara (Luke 8:26 – 36), the demons begged Jesus not to cast them into the “deep” (Luke 8:31), which is translated from the Greek abussos or “bottomless pit.” The bottomless pit is described as a horrible place:
“He opened the bottomless pit, and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit.” [Rev. 9:2]
- LAKE OF FIRE (GEHENNA):
The Lake of Fire or Gehenna, is the eternal Hell and final abode of every demon spirit, fallen angel, and person who ever has rebelled against God by rejecting Christ. The Lake of Fire originally was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). The Beast and the False Prophet will be the first ones cast into this place prior to the Millennium (Rev. 20:10 – 15). The Lake of Fire is referred to as “the second death” (Rev. 20:14), and will be a place of everlasting:
- FIRE (Matt. 5:22; Mk. 9:43);
- THIRST (Luke 16:24);
- CONSCIOUSNESS (Luke 16:24);
- PAIN (Rev. 20:10);
- DARKNESS (Matt. 22:13);
- SORROWS AND WEEPING (Matt. 23:13);
- MEMORY (Luke 16:25); and,
- HOPELESSNESS (Luke 16:27 – 31).
The scriptures teach that there will be varying degrees of punishment for the wicked, even as there will be varying degrees of reward for the righteous (Matt. 11:22; 12:38 – 42). Jesus said that the Pharisees who devoured widow’s houses and lived a hypocritical life would receive a “greater damnation” (Mark 12:40).
“And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.” [Luke 12:47, 48a]
I pray that you have benefited from this study within our current teaching on the Dispensation of Grace. I will have more to share, Lord willing, next time.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson