Hades [N] [E] [S]

Greek term widely used to denote the deity of the underworld and the abode of the dead. The New Testament use of Hades (hades [a&/dh"]) builds on its Hebrew parallel, Sheol (se'ol), which was the preferred translation in the Septuagint.

The Old Testament. Sheol refers primarily to death and the abode of the dead, both godly and ungodly ( Gen 37:25 ; Psalm 16:10 ; 88:10-12 ; Isa 14:9 ). These conscious souls face a lethargic existence, apparently without reward or retribution ( Job 10:21 ; Eccl 9:10 ; Isa 14:10 ). Since death is not a natural occurrence but invaded creation through the fall and Satan's destructive work (Gen. 2-3), the Old Testament personifies Sheol as the power of Satan and his demonic hosts ( Job 18:14 ; Psalm 18:4-5 ; Isa 28:15 ; Jer 9:21 ). While an antagonist, Sheol ultimately exists at Yahweh's service ( 1 Sam 2:6 ; Psalm 55:23 ; 139:8 ). The Old Testament confidently awaits God's victory over Sheol ( Psalm 98 ; Isa 25:8 ; Hosea 13:14 ). But the precise expectation of a bodily resurrection for the wicked and the related conception of Sheol as an intermediate state is late ( Dan 12:2 ).

The New Testament. This indeterminate picture of Sheol and its Greek translation, Hades, allowed varying interpretations by intertestamental Jews. In the New Testament Christ's revelation and salvific work decisively shape this term. For Christ has established authority over all powers ( Eph 1:20-23 ), even the one who "holds the power of death" ( Heb 2:14 ; 2 Tim 1:10 ). He is the "Lord of both the dead and the living" ( Rom 14:9 ).

Hades is the state in which all the dead exist. In the New Testament a descent to Hades may simply refer to someone's death and disembodied existence. In this sense even Jesus enters Hades. Following David's prophecy in Psalm 16:10, Peter interprets the resurrection as God delivering Jesus from Hades ( Acts 2:27 Acts 2:31 ). Similarly, Jesus prophesies that the Son of Man will be delivered from the heart of the earth, just as God delivered Jonah from Hades ( Matt 12:40 ). In both instances, Hades refers to a disembodied existence.

The New Testament does not explore Jesus' precise residence or activity while in Hades, unlike the later church traditions of the "harrowing of hell" or a "Hades Gospel." It is widely accepted that the proclamation in 1 Peter 3:19 occurs after rather than before his resurrection (v. 18, "made alive by the Spirit"), and that the dead in 1 Peter 4:6 are deceased believers who heard the gospel while alive. However, Jesus' descent to Hades is theologically important. This is the path of the Old Testament righteous ( Isa 53 ). Furthermore, this descent confirms that God assumed human nature and even our sinful destiny, death ( 2 Corinthians 5:14 2 Corinthians 5:21 ; Heb 2:14 ). Finally, Jesus' deliverance from Hades establishes the new life for humanity ( 1 Cor 15 ).

Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus portrays additional features of this state ( Luke 16:19-31 ). An unbridgeable chasm separates the wicked and the righteous dead. Death has fixed the human's destiny without further opportunity for repentance. The rich man recalls his fate and that of his family, and cries out in distress for Abraham to send them a sign and relieve his punishment, but to no avail. Usually the details of parables should not be pressed to teach doctrine. In this case Jesus' vivid description of the basic conditions of the godly and ungodly dead is indispensable to the parable's point. Other Scriptures also portray the requests of the dead and the fixity of their future ( 2 Col 5:10 ; Heb 9:27 ; Rev 6:9-10 ).

Hades is the place where the wicked dead reside and are punished. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man experiences torment in Hades. This is the intermediate state, for the bodily resurrection and the final judgment are still future. Jesus' point is that Hades foreshadows the rich man's final judgment. Similarly, Lazarus rests at Abraham's side, connoting the joyous abode of the righteous dead ( Luke 16:23 ).

This differentiation between the wicked and the righteous dead continues throughout the New Testament. The righteous dead are "at home with the Lord" ( 2 Cor 5:8 ), "in paradise" ( Luke 23:43 ), or in the presence of God ( Rev 6:9 ; 7:9 ; 14:3 ). The unrighteous are held in punishment and wicked angels are imprisoned in Tartarus, a Greek term designating the lowest part of Hades ( 1 Peter 3:19 ; 2 Peter 2:4 2 Peter 2:9 ; Jude 6 ). Jesus' woe to unrepentant Capernaum that it will be brought down to Hades is not simply a prophecy of its earthly demise, but its judgment ( Luke 10:15 ).

For some commentations these references to Hades and the dead are problematic and contradict the Old Testament. G. Vos resolves these problems by distinguishing between Hades as a disembodied state for all the dead and the specific abode of the ungodly. As he astutely notes, only the ungodly reside in a punitive place called Hades. The godly dead are with Jesus in a disembodied state also called Hades. The New Testament does significantly modify the Old Testament concept of Hades as a shadowy abode of all the dead. This further development, however, concurs with Jesus' lordship over the living and the dead.

Hades' power is conquered. Like the Old Testament, the New Testament personifies Hades and associated terms, such as death, abyss, and Abaddon, as the demonic forces behind sin and ruin ( Acts 2:24 ; Romans 5:14 Romans 5:17 ; 1 Cor 15:25-26 ; Rev 6:8 ; 9:1-11 ; 20:14 ). When Jesus promises that the "gates of Hades" will never overcome the church ( Matt 16:18 ), this phrase parallels Old Testament expressions tied to evil's power and persecution ( Psalm 9:13 ; 107:17-20 ). Jesus' reference to the future in Matthew 16:18 concurs with Revelation's vision of Satan's final attack on God's people (19:19; 20:7-9). Jesus has promised that he will conquer Hades so that it will not defeat the church. Indeed, his resurrection establishes that this evil empire is already broken. Christ now holds the keys, the authority over death and Hades ( Rev 1:18 )!

The end of Hades. Jesus is the conqueror of all powers, the exalted One, and as such he has graced his church ( Eph 4:7-10 ). With Hades vanquished ( Rev 1:18 ) believers know that nothing, not even death, cannot separate them from Christ ( Rom 8:39 ). They still await the next act in the history of salvation, when Jesus consummates his kingdom. Then Hades will release its dead for the final resurrection and judgment ( Rev 20:13 ). Thereafter Hades, Satan, and the reprobate will be thrown into Gehenna, the place of God's final retributive punishment. (Hades has only a limited existence; Gehenna or hell is the final place of judgment for the wicked. Many English versions foster confusion by translating both terms as "hell.")

In summary, the New Testament affirms that Christ has conquered Hades. While dead believers exist in this state, they are also "with the Lord." Hades also denotes the vanquished stronghold of Satan's forces whose end is certain and the intermediate place of punishment for the wicked dead until the final judgment.

Timothy R. Phillips

See also Abraham's Bosom; Death; Grave; Hell; Sheol

Bibliography. J. W. Cooper, Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting; W. J. Dalton, Christ's Proclamation to the Spirits: A Study of I Peter 3:18-4:6; M. J. Harris, Themelios11 (1986): 47-52; R. L. Harris, TWOT, 2:892-93; A. A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future; J. Jeremias, TDNT, 1:146-49, 657-58; 6:924-28; T. J. Lewis, ABD, 2:101-5; G. Vos, ISBE, 2:1314-15.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[J] indicates this entry was also found in Jack Van Impe's Prophecy Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Hades'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.
Hades [N] [B] [S]

that which is out of sight, a Greek word used to denote the state or place of the dead. All the dead alike go into this place. To be buried, to go down to the grave, to descend into hades, are equivalent expressions. In the LXX. this word is the usual rendering of the Hebrew sheol, the common receptacle of the departed ( Genesis 42:38 ; Psalms 139:8 ; Hosea 13:14 ; Isaiah 14:9 ). This term is of comparatively rare occurrence in the Greek New Testament. Our Lord speaks of Capernaum as being "brought down to hell" (hades), i.e., simply to the lowest debasement, ( Matthew 11:23 ). It is contemplated as a kind of kingdom which could never overturn the foundation of Christ's kingdom ( 16:18 ), i.e., Christ's church can never die.

In Luke 16:23 it is most distinctly associated with the doom and misery of the lost.

In Acts 2:27-31Peter quotes the LXX. version of Psalms 16:8-11 , plainly for the purpose of proving our Lord's resurrection from the dead. David was left in the place of the dead, and his body saw corruption. Not so with Christ. According to ancient prophecy ( Psalms 30:3 ) he was recalled to life.

These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[J] indicates this entry was also found in Jack Van Impe's Prophecy Dictionary
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Hades". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .
Hades [N] [B] [E]

in Revised Version. [See HELL]

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[J] indicates this entry was also found in Jack Van Impe's Prophecy Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Hades'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.


ha'-dez (Haides, haides, "not to be seen"):

Hades, Greek originally Haidou, in genitive, "the house of Hades," then, as nominative, designation of the abode of the dead itself. The word occurs in the New Testament in Matthew 11:23 (parallel Luke 10:15); Matthew 16:18; Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27,31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13 f. It is also found in Textus Receptus of the New Testament 1 Corinthians 15:55, but here the correct reading (Tischendorf, Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek, the Revised Version (British and American)) is probably Thanate, "O Death," instead of Haide, "O Hades." the King James Version renders "Hades" by "hell" in all instances except 1 Corinthians 15:55, where it puts "grave" (margin "hell") in dependence on Hosea 13:14. the Revised Version (British and American) everywhere has "Hades."

1. In Old Testament:


In the Septuagint Hades is the standing equivalent for Sheol, but also translates other terms associated with death and the state after it. The Greek conception of Hades was that of a locality receiving into itself all the dead, but divided into two regions, one a place of torment, the other of blessedness. This conception should not be rashly transferred to the New Testament, for the latter stands not under the influence of Greek pagan belief, but gives a teaching and reflects a belief which model their idea of Hades upon the Old Testament through the Septuagint. The Old Testament Sheol, while formally resembling the Greek Hades in that it is the common receptacle of all the dead, differs from it, on the one hand, by the absence of a clearly defined division into two parts, and, on the other hand, by the emphasis placed on its association with death and the grave as abnormal facts following in the wake of sin. The Old Testament thus concentrates the partial light it throws on the state after death on the negative, undesirable side of the prospect apart from redemption. When in the progress of Old Testament revelation the state after death begins to assume more definite features, and becomes more sharply differentiated in dependence on the religious and moral issue of the present life this is not accomplished in the canonical writings (otherwise in the apocalyptic literature) by dividing Sheol into two compartments, but by holding forth to the righteous the promise of deliverance from Sheol, so that the latter becomes more definitely outlined as a place of evil and punishment.

2. In the New Testament:


The New Testament passages mark a distinct stage in this process, and there is, accordingly, a true basis in Scripture for the identification in a certain aspect of Sheol--Hades--with hell as reflected in the King James Version. The theory according to which Hades is still in the New Testament the undifferentiated provisional abode of all the dead until the day of judgment, with the possibility of ultimate salvation even for those of its inmates who have not been saved in this life, is neither in harmony with the above development nor borne out by the facts of New Testament usage. That dead believers abide in a local Hades cannot be proven from 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:23, for these passages refer to the grave and the body, not to a gathering-place of the dead. On the other hand Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23; Revelation 6:9; 7:9; 15:2 teach that the abode of believers immediately after death is with Christ and God.

3. Acts 2:27,31:

It is, of course, a different matter, when Hades, as not infrequently already the Old Testament Sheol, designates not the place of the dead but the state of death or disembodied existence. In this sense even the soul of Jesus was in Hades according' to Peter's statement (Acts 2:27,31--on the basis of Psalms 16:10). Here the abstract sense is determined by the parallel expression, "to see corruption" None the less from a comparatively early date this passage has been quoted in support of the doctrine of a local descent of Christ into Hades.

4. Revelation 20:13; 6:8; 1:18:

The same abstract meaning is indicated for Revelation 20:13. Death and Hades are here represented as delivering up the dead on the eve of the final judgment. If this is more than a poetic duplication of terms, Hades will stand for the personified state of death, Death for the personified cause of this state. The personification appears plainly from 20:14:

"Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire." In the number of these "dead" delivered up by Hades, believers are included, because, even on the chiliastic interpretation of 20:4-6, not all the saints share in the first resurrection, but only those "beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God," i.e. the martyrs. A similar personifying combination of Death and Hades occurs in Revelation 6:8 ("a pale horse: and he that sat upon him his name was Death; and Hades followed with him"). In Revelation 1:18, on the other hand, Death and Hades are represented as prisons from which Christ, in virtue of His own resurrection, has the power to deliver, a representation which again implies that in some, not necessarily local, sense believers also are kept in Hades.

5. Luke 16:23:

In distinction from these passages when the abstract meaning prevails and the local conception is in abeyance, the remaining references are more or less locally conceived. Of these Luke 16:23 is the only one which might seem to teach that recipients of salvation enter after death into Hades as a place of abode. It has been held that Hades is here the comprehensive designation of the locality where the dead reside, and is divided into two regions, "the bosom of Abraham" and the place of torment, a representation for which Jewish parallels can be quoted, aside from its resemblance to the Greek bisection of Hades. Against this view, however, it may be urged, that if "the bosom of Abraham" were conceived as one of the two divisions of Hades, the other division would have been named with equal concreteness in connection with Dives. In point of fact, the distinction is not between "the bosom of Abraham" and another place, as both included in Hades, but between "the bosom of Abraham" and Hades as antithetical and exclusive. The very form of the description of the experience of Dives:

"In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments," leads us to associate Hades as such with pain and punishment. The passage, therefore, does not prove that the saved are after death in Hades. In further estimating its bearing upon the problem of the local conditions of the disembodied life after death, the parabolic character of the representation must be taken into account. The parable is certainly not intended to give us topographical information about the realm of the dead, although it presupposes that there is a distinct place of abode for the righteous and wicked respectively.

6. Matthew 11:23:

The two other passages where Hades occurs in the teaching of our Lord (Matthew 11:23 parallel Luke 10:15; and Matthew 16:18) make a metaphorical use of the conception, which, however, is based on the local sense. In the former utterance it is predicted of Capernaum that it shall in punishment for its unbelief "go down unto Hades." As in the Old Testament Sheol is a figure for the greatest depths known (Deuteronomy 32:22; Isaiah 7:11; 57:9; Job 11:8; 26:6), this seems to be a figure for the extreme of humiliation to which that city was to be reduced in the course of history. It is true, 11:24, with its mention of the day of judgment, might seem to favor an eschatological reference to the ultimate doom of the unbelieving inhabitants, but the usual restriction of Hades to the punishment of the intermediate state (see below) is against this.

7. Matthew 16:18:

In the other passage, Matthew 16:18, Jesus declares that the gates of Hades shall not katischuein the church He intends to build. The verb katischuein may be rendered, "to overpower" or "to surpass." If the former be adopted, the figure implied is that of Hades as a stronghold of the power of evil or death from which warriors stream forth to assail the church as the realm of life. On the other rendering there is no reference to any conflict between Hades and the church, the point of comparison being merely the strength of the church, the gates of Hades, i.e. the realm of death, serving in common parlance as a figure of the greatest conceivable strength, because they never allow to escape what has once entered through them.

The above survey of the passages tends to show that Hades, where it is locally conceived, is not a provisional receptacle for all the dead, but plainly associated with the punishment of the wicked. Where it comes under consideration for the righteous there is nothing to indicate a local sense. On 1 Peter 3:19; 4:6 (where, however, the word "Hades" does not occur), see articles ESCHATOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT; SPIRITS IN PRISON.

8. Not a Final State:

The element of truth in theory of the provisional character of Hades lies in this, that the New Testament never employs it in connection with the final state of punishment, as subsequent to the last judgment. For this GEHENNA (which see) and other terms are used. Dives is represented as being in Hades immediately after his death and while his brethren are still in this present life. Whether the implied differentiation between stages of punishment, depending obviously on the difference between the disembodied and reembodied state of the lost, also carries with itself a distinction between two places of punishment, in other words whether Hades and Gehenna are locally distinct, the evidence is scarcely sufficient to determine. The New Testament places the emphasis on the eschatological developments at the end, and leaves many things connected with the intermediate state in darkness.

Geerhardus Vos

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'HADES'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.