The Place of the Dead

What does the Bible teach us about the place of the dead, about Sheol or Hades and its compartments? Where is Paradise today and when was the ‘bosom of Abraham’ emptied? To gain insight into the unseen world we must use God’s inspired revelation.

. . .

Sheol or Hades

Where did the immaterial parts of people go who died during Old Testament times? The answer is that during Old Testament times, the immaterial part of all dead people went to Sheol (the Hebrew word) or Hades (the Greek word). There are four compartments within Sheol or Hades, two for human beings and two for fallen angels:

  • The first compartment is for the immaterial part of all unbelievers. They are still there today and await their final judgment at the Great White Throne judgment which will take place at the end of the millennium.
  • The second compartment in Sheol or Hades was for the immaterial part of all Old Testament believers. This compartment was described as ‘Abraham’s bosom’ (Luke 16:22-23). Until Christ’s ascension, this compartment was also described as Paradise.
  • The name of the third compartment is the pit or the abyss. The abyss contains fallen angels that are in temporary confinement. All fallen angels will eventually be thrown into the lake of fire.
  • The fourth compartment in Sheol/Hades is called Tartarus. This is a place of permanent confinement for those fallen angels who sinned in Genesis 6 (cf. 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6-7). These angels will remain there until they are thrown into the lake of fire.

The Current Situation

The above describes the situation during Old Testament times, but what is the scenario currently? At Christ’s ascension, He took the immaterial part of all Old Testament believers with Him into Heaven. On that glorious day, Abraham’s bosom was emptied or, stated differently, Paradise was moved from Sheol or Hades into Heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10). Since Christ’s ascension, when believers die their immaterial parts go to Paradise which is now in Heaven where the Lord is.

Currently Heaven is of course also not visible. The atmospheric heaven in which birds fly is the first heaven and the space where the sun, moon and planets are in, is called the second heaven. When we speak of Heaven, we actually mean the third Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-4) where God, who is indeed omnipresent, chooses to have His presence localised. This is also where the throne of God the Father is.

At the Time of the Rapture

What will change in the future? At the time of the rapture of the Church, believers who have since Pentecost (Acts 2) died in Christ will be resurrected and receive their glorified bodies. Immediately thereafter, all believers in Christ who have not yet died at the time of the rapture, will have their bodies translated into glorified bodies and be taken in Heaven. The Bride of Christ will then be with her Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

During the Tribulation Period

When the Church age is over God will resume His plans for Israel and the nations. During the seven year Tribulation Period, which precedes Christ’s return to the earth in glory, the abyss will be opened at a certain stage and millions of fallen angels will be released for a time to terrorise the inhabitants of the earth (Revelation 9:1-12). At the end of the Tribulation Period when Christ returns to the earth, Satan will be bound and be thrown into the abyss and remain there for the thousand years. At the time of Christ’s return to the earth, the Antichrist and the false prophets will be thrown into the lake of fire as ‘first fruits’ (Revelation 19:20).

The Lake of Fire (Gehenna)

What is the lake of fire, also known as Gehenna? When people refer to hell, they actually refer to the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the eternal abode of all unbelievers and of Satan and all his fallen angels. Stated differently, at the end of the millennium, all compartments of Sheol/Hades will be emptied and so Satan, all his fallen angels and all unbelieving human beings will be brought before the Lord Jesus Christ at the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). After they have received their judgment, they will all be thrown into the lake of fire.

The Future of Believers

The future of believers, however, looks radically different! Old Testament saints, whose immaterial parts went with the Lord Jesus Christ into Heaven at Christ’s ascension, will receive their glorified bodies at around the time of Christ’s return to the earth in glory. At that stage, Church age saints will have already received their glorified bodies (at the time of the rapture). What about saints who physically survived the Tribulation Period? They will enter the Messianic kingdom on earth in their physical bodies and will be able to procreate during the 1 000 years. Moreover, these believers will not physically die during those 1 000 years and will receive their glorified bodies at the end of the millennium. People who are born during the millennium and who become believers will also receive their glorified bodies at the end of the millennium. After the millennium the eternal order will commence and then the New Jerusalem, which is currently in Heaven, will be moved to the new earth. Then the unseen will become visible.


If you would like to find out more about the place of the dead, we suggest you read the original article by Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum, ‘The Place of the Dead’.

Follow us:

Share with others:

[apss_share networks='facebook, twitter, pinterest']