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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
a Greek word (]σης, derived, according to the best established and most generally received etymology, from privative a and ἰδεῖν, hence often written ά ‹ δμς ), means strictly what is out of sight, or possibly, if applied to a person, what puts out of sight. In earlier Greek this last was, if not its only, at least its prevailing application; in Homer it occurs only as the personal designation of Pluto, the lord of the invisible world, and who was probably so designated-not from being himself invisible, for that belonged to him in common with the heathen gods generally-but from his power to render mortals invisible-the invisible-making deity (see Crusius, Homeric Lexicon, s.v.). The Greeks, however, in process of time abandoned this use of hades, and when the Greek Scriptures were written the word was scarcely ever applied except to the place of the departed. In the classical writers, therefore, it is used to denote Orcus, or the infernal regions. In the Greek version of the Old Testament it is the common rendering for the Heb. שְׁאוֹל, sheol, though in the form there often appears a remnant of the original personified application; for example, in Genesis 37:35, "I will go down to my son," εἰς ]δου, i.e. into the abodes or house of hades δύμους or οϊ v κον being understood). This elliptical form was common both in the classics and in Scripture, even after hades was never thought of but as a region or place of abode.
1. The appropriation of hades by the Greek interpreters as an equivalent for sheol may undoubtedly be taken as evidence that there was a close agreement in the ideas conveyed by the two terms as currently understood by the Greeks and Hebrews respectively-a substantial, but not an entire agreement; for in this, as well as in other terms which related to subjects bearing on things spiritual and divine, the different religions of Jew and Gentile necessarily exercised a modifying influence; so that even when the same term was employed, and with reference generally to the same thing, shades of difference could not but exist in respect to the ideas understood to be indicated by them. Two or three points stand prominently out in the views entertained by the ancients respecting hades: first, that it was the common receptacle of departed spirits, of good as well as bad; second, that it was divided into two compartments, the one containing an Elysium of bliss for the good, the other a Tartarus of sorrow and punishment for the wicked; and, thirdly, that in respect to its locality, it lay under ground, in the mid-regions of the earth. So far as these points are concerned, there is no material difference between the Greek hades and the Hebrew sheol. This, too, was viewed as the common receptacle of the departed: patriarchs and righteous men spoke of going into it at their decease, and the most ungodly and worthless characters are represented as finding in it their proper home (Genesis 42:38; Psalms 139:8; Hosea 13:14; Isaiah 14:9, etc.). A twofold division also in the state of the departed, corresponding to the different positions they occupied, and the courses they pursued on earth, is clearly implied in the revelations of Scripture on the subject, though with the Hebrews less prominently exhibited, and without any of the fantastic and puerile inventions of heathen mythology. Yet the fact of a real distinction in the state of the departed, corresponding to their spiritual conditions on earth, is in various passages not obscurely indicated.
Divide retribution is represented as pursuing the wicked after they have left this world-pursuing them even into the lowest realms of sheol (Deuteronomy 32:22; Amos 9:2); and the bitterest shame and humiliation are described as awaiting there the most prosperous of this world's inhabitants, if they have abused their prosperity to the dishonor of God and the injury of their fellow-men (Psalms 49:14, Isaiah 14). On the other hand, the righteous had hope in his death, he could rest assured that, in the viewless regions of sheol, as well as amid the changing vicissitudes of earth, the right hand of God would sustain him; even there he would enter into peace, walking still, as it were, in his uprightness (Proverbs 14:32; Psalms 139:8; Isaiah 57:2). That sheol, like hades, was conceived of as a lower region in comparison with the present world, is so manifest from the whole language of Scripture on the subject, that it is unnecessary to point to particular examples; in respect to the good as well as the bad, the passage into sheol was contemplated as a descent; and the name was sometimes used as a synonym for the very lowest depths (Deuteronomy 32:22; Job 11:7-9). This is not, however, to be understood as affirming anything of the actual locality of disembodied spirits; for there can be no doubt that the language here, as in other cases, was derived from the mere appearances of things; and as the body at death was committed to the lower parts of the earth, so the soul was conceived of as also going downwards. But that this was not designed to mark the local boundaries of the region of departed spirits may certainly be inferred from other expressions used regarding them-as that God took them to himself; or that he would give them to see the path of life; that he would make them dwell in his house forever; or, more generally still, that the spirit of a man goeth upwards (Genesis 5:24; Psalms 16:11; Psalms 23:6; Ecclesiastes 3:21; Ecclesiastes 12:7). During the old dispensations there was still no express revelation from heaven respecting the precise condition or external relationships of departed spirits; the time had not yet come for such specific intimations; and the language employed was consequently of a somewhat vague and vacillating nature, such as spontaneously arose from common feelings and impressions. For the same reason, the ideas entertained even by God's people upon the subject were predominantly somber and gloomy. Sheol wore no inviting aspect to their view, no more than hades to the superstitious heathen; the very men who believed that God would accompany them thither and keep them from evil, contemplated the state as one of darkness and silence, and shrunk from it with instinctive horror, or gave hearty thanks when they bound themselves for a time delivered from it (Psalms 6:5; Psalms 30:3; Psalms 30:9; Job 3:13 sq.; Isaiah 38:18). The reason was that they had only general assurances, but no specific light on the subject; and their comfort rather lay in overleaping the gulf of sheol, and fixing their thoughts on the better resurrection some time to come, than in anything they could definitely promise themselves between death and the resurrection-morn.
In this lay one important point of difference between the Jewish and the heathen hades, Originated by the diverse spirit of the two religions, that to the believing Hebrew alone the sojourn in sheol appeared that only of a temporary and intermediate existence. The heathen had no prospect beyond its shadowy realms; its bars for him were eternal; and the idea of a resurrection was utterly strange alike to his religion and his philosophy. But it was in connection with the prospect of a resurrection from the dead that all hope formed itself in the breasts of the true people of God. As this alone could effect the reversion of the evil brought in by sin, and really destroy the destroyer, so nothing less was announced in that first promise which gave assurance of the crushing of the tempter; and though as to its nature but dimly apprehended by the eve of faith, it still necessarily formed, as to the reality, the great object of desire and expectation. Hence it is said of the patriarchs that they looked for a better country, which is a heavenly one; and of those who in later times resisted unto blood for the truth of God, that they did it to obtain a better resurrection (Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 11:35). Hence, too, the spirit of prophecy confidently proclaimed the arrival of a time when the dead should arise and sing, when sheol itself should be destroyed, and many of its inmates be brought forth to the possession of everlasting life (Isaiah 26:19; Hosea 13:14; Daniel 12:2). Yet again, in apostolic times, Paul represents this as emphatically the promise made by God to the fathers, to the realization of which his countrymen as with one heart were hoping to come (Acts 26:7); and Josephus, in like manner, testifies of all but the small Sadduceean faction of them, that they believed in a resurrection to honor and blessing for those who had lived righteously in this life (Ant. 18, 1, 3). This hope necessarily cast a gleam of light across the darkness of hades for the Israelite, which was altogether unknown to the Greek. Closely connected with it was another difference also of considerable moment, viz., that the Hebrew sheol was not, like the Gentile hades, viewed as an altogether separate and independent region, withdrawn from the primal fountain of life, and subject to another dominion than the world of sense and time. Pluto was ever regarded by the heathen as the rival of the king of earth and heaven; the two domains were essentially antagonistic. But to the more enlightened Hebrew there was but one Lord of the living and the dead; the chambers of sheol were as much open to his eye and subject to his control as the bodies and habitations of men on earth; so that to go into the realms of the deceased was but to pass from one department to another of the same all-embracing sway of Jehovah. (See SHEOL).
2. Such was the general state of belief and expectation regarding hades or sheol in Old-Testament times. With the introduction of the Gospel a new light breaks in, which shoots its rays also through the realms of the departed, and relieves the gloom in which they had still appeared shrouded to the view of the faithful. The term hades, however, is of comparatively rare occurrence in New-Testament scripture; in our Lord's own discourses it is found only thrice, and on two of the occasions it. is used in a somewhat rhetorical manner, by way of contrast with the region of life and blessing. He said of Capernaum, that from being exalted unto heaven it should be brought down to hades (Matthew 11:23) — that is, plainly, from the highest point of fancied or of real elevation to the lowest abasement. Of that spiritual kingdom, also, or church, which he was going to establish on earth, he affirmed that "the gates of hades should not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18), which is all one with saying that it should be perpetual. Hades is contemplated as a kind of realm or kingdom, accustomed, like earthly kingdoms in the East, to hold its council chamber at the gates; and whatever measures might there be taken, whatever plots devised, they should never succeed in overturning the foundations of Christ's kingdom, or effectually marring its interests. In both these passages hades is placed by our Lord in an antagonistic relation to his cause among men, although, from the manner in which the word is employed, no very definite conclusions could be drawn from them as to the nature and position of hades itself. But in another passage — the only one in which any indication is given by our Lord of the state of its inhabitants-it is most distinctly and closely associated with the doom and misery of the lost: "In hades," it is said of the rich man in the parable, "he lifted up his eyes, being in torments" (Luke 16:23). The soul of Lazarus is, no doubt, also represented as being so far within the bounds of the same region that he could be descried and spoken with by the sufferer. Still, he was represented as sharing no common fate with the other, but as occupying a region shut off from all intercommunion with that assigned to the wicked, and, so far from being held in a sort of dungeon-confinement, as reposing in Abraham's bosom, in an abode where angels visit. With this also agrees what our Lord said of his own temporary sojourn among the dead, when on the eve of his departing thither — "Today," said he, in his reply to the prayer of the penitent malefactor, "shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43) But paradise was the proper region of life and blessing, not of gloom and forgetfulness; originally it was the home and heritage of man as created in the image of God; and when Christ now named the place whither he was going with a redeemed sinner paradise it bespoke that already there was an undoing-of the evil of sin, that for all who are Christ's there is an actual recovery immediately after death, and as regards the better part of their natures, of what was lost by the dis. obedience and ruin of the fall. (See PARADISE).
But was not Christ himself in hades? Did not the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost apply to him the words of David in Psalms 16, in which it was said, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hades, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption," and argue apparently that the soul of Christ must have indeed gone to hades, but only could not be allowed to continue there (Acts 2:27-31)? Even so, however, it would but concern the application of a name; for if the language of the apostle must be understood as implying that our Lord's soul was in hades between death and the resurrection, it still was hades as having a paradise within its bosom; so that, knowing from his on lips what sort of a receptacle it afforded to the disembodied spirit of Jesus, we need care little about the mere name by which, in a general way, it might be designated. But the apostle Peter, it must be remembered, does not call it hades; he merely quotes an Old-Testament passage, in which hades is mentioned, as a passage that had its verification in Christ; and the language of course in this, as in other prophetical passages, was spoken from an Old-Testament point of view, and must be read in the light which the revelations of the Gospel have cast over the state and prospects of the soul. ‘ We may even, however, go farther; for the Psalmist himself does not strictly affirm the soul of the Holy One to have gone to hades; his Words precisely-rendered are, "Thou wilt not leave (or abandon) my soul to hades -that is, give it up as a prey to the power or domain of the nether world. It is rather a negative than a positive assertion regarding our Lord's ‘ connection with hades that is contained in the passage, and nothing can fairly be argued from it as to the local habitation or actual state of his disembodied spirit. (See INTERMEDIATE STATE).
The only other passages in the New Testament in which mention is made of hades are in Revelation 1:18, where the glorified Redeemer declares that he has the keys of death and of hades; Revelation 6:8, where death is symbolized as a rider, smiting all around him — with weapons of destruction, and hades following to receive the souls of the slain; Revelation 20:13-14, where death and hades are both represented as giving up the dead that were in them, and afterwards as being themselves cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. In every one of these passages hades stands in a dark and-forbidding connection with death-very unlike that association with paradise and Abraham's bosom in which our Lord exhibited the receptacle of his own and his people's souls to the eye of faith; and not only so, but in one of them it is expressly as an ally of death in the execution of judgment that hades is represented, while in another it appears as an accursed thing, consigned to the lake of fire. In short, it seems as if in the progress of God's dispensations a separation had come to be made between elements that originally were mingled together — as if, from the time that Christ brought life and immortality to light, the distinction in the next world as well as this was broadened between the saved and the lost; so that hades was henceforth appropriated, both in the name and in the reality, to those who were to be reserved in darkness and misery to the judgment of the great day, and other names, with other and brighter ideas, were employed to designate the intermediate resting-place of the redeemed. It was meet that it should be so; for by the personal work and mediation of Christ the whole Church of God rose to a higher condition; old things passed away, all things became new; and it is but reasonable to suppose that the change in some degree extended to the occupants of the intermediate state the saved becoming more enlarged in the possession of bliss and glory, the lost more sunk in anguish and despair. (See DEATH).
3. Such being the nature of the scriptural representation on the subject, one must not only condemn the fables that sprung up amid the dark ages about the limbus or antechamber of hell, and the purgatorial fires, through which it was supposed even redeemed souls lad to complete their ripening for glory, but also reject the form in which the Church has embodied its belief respecting the personal history of Christ, when it said "descended into hell." This, it is well known, was a later addition to what has been called the Apostles Creed, made when the Church was far on its way to the gloom and superstition of the Dark Ages. Though the words are capable o; a rational and scriptural explanation, yet they do not present the place and character of our Lord's existence in the intermediate state as these are exhibited by himself; they suggest something painful, rather than, as it should be, blessed and triumphant; and, if taken in their natural sense, they would rob believers of that sure hope of an immediate transition into mansions of glory, which, as his followers and participants of his risen life, it is their privilege to entertain. (See HELL).
4. There are two other terms so often associated in Scripture with hades as to render their signification in some measure synonymous.
(1.) Abyss (ἄβυσσος == ἄβυθος, without bottom). The Sept. uses this word to represent three different Hebrew words: 1. מְצוֹלָה a depth or deep place (Job 41:23); or צוּלָה, the deep, the sea (Isaiah 44:27). 2. אֵּהִב breadth, a broad place (Job 36:16). 3. תַּהוֹם, a mass of waters, the sea (Genesis 8:2, etc.), the chaotic mass of waters (Genesis 1:2; Psalms 104:6), the subterraneous waters, "the deep that lieth under" (Genesis 49:25), "the deep that coucheth beneath" (Deuteronomy 33:13). In the N.T. it is used always with the article, to designate the abode of the dead, hades, especially that part of it which is also the abode of devils and the place of woe (Romans 10:7; Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1-2; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:1; Revelation 20:3). In the Revelation the word is always translated in the A.Vers. "bottomless pit," by Luther "Abgrund." In 9:1, mention is made of "the key of the bottomless pit" (ἡ κλεὶς το῏υ φρέατος τῆς ἀβ ., the key of the pit of the absss), where hades is represented as a boundless depth. which is entered by means of a shaft covered by a door, and secured by a lock (Alford, Stuart, Ewald, De Wette, Diisterdieck). In Revelation 20:11 mention is made of "the angel of the abyss," by whom some suppose is intended Satan or one of his angels. (See ABYSS).
(2.) Abaddon (ἀβαδδών, from the Heb. אֲבִדּוֹן, destruction, the place of the dead, Job 26:6; Proverbs 21:1), the name given in Revelation 9:11 to "the angel of the abyss," and explained by the writer as equivalent to the Greek (ἀπολλύων, destroyer. The term may be understood either as a personification of the idea of destruction, or as denoting the being supposed to preside over the regions of the dead, the angel of death. The Rabbins frequently use this term to denote the lowest regions of sheol or hades (Erubin, fol. 19:1; Sohar Num. fol. 4; Sohar Chudash, fol. 22; comp.Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Jud. 2, 324 sq.); and the addition, "angel of the abyss," seems to favor the supposition that the president or king of this place is alluded to here. But it may be doubted whether the angelologly of the Rabbins finds any sanction from the N.T., and it accords better with the general character of the passage to suppose a personification here of the idea of destruction, so that the symbol may find many realizations in the history of the Church: as there are many Antichrists, so doubtless are there many Apollyons. The identification of Abaddon with the Asmodseus of the Apocrypha and the Talmud rests upon no solid basis. (See ABADDON). 5. A full view of the extensive literature of this subject more appropriately belongs to other heads; we here notice only a few treatises specially bearing upon the opposite states of the dead: Jour. Sac. Lit. October, 1852, p. 35 sq., April, 1853, p. 56 sq.; July, 1853, p. 413 sq.; Bickersteth, Hades and Heaven (Lond. 1865). (See HEAVEN).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Hades'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​h/hades.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.