Afterlife: Conscious Existence in Hades, Sheol, Tartarus, and Gehenna

It is a dangerous thing to impose modern notions on scriptural matters. The best way to understand scripture is to understand it within the lexical context, the immediate scriptural context, the greater scriptural context, and the historic-cultural context (ensuring that all such aspects are appropriately accounted for). Concerning the latter (i.e., “the historic-cultural context”), it’s a simple question…

How did the Greek speakers of the day understand the key terms?

There is a reason why the Greek spoken in the early NT era was called Koine Greek. Koine means common; it was the common Greek at the time, and the common language of the empire. We need to consider how they would have understood things when encountering the relevant passages (seeing/hearing the key Greek terms).

In Acts 2:31, we read “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in hell [HADES, G86], neither His flesh did see corruption.”

In 2 Peter 2:4 we read “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast [them] down to TARTARUS [G5020/Tartaroō, basically God in ‘Tartarusizing’ them (since it is a participle verb form), is speaking of thrusting/casting them into, and making them subject, to Tartarus], and delivered [them] into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment..”

As most every Roman and Greek in particular (during the time of Christ and also Acts) and every Koine Greek speaking-person in general would have understood:

(1) Hades is ‘the netherworld, the place of departed spirits.”


(2) Tartarus is “the “subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffer punishment for their evil deeds; it answers to the Gehenna of the Jews.”

Their entire culture, mythos, and overall understanding of death would have affirmed this. And yet many seriously think that the Romans, Greeks, and the many nationalities speaking koine Greek would have seen/heard terms like Hades and Tartarus, and thought “no intermediary state, no conscious existence, annihilationism, cessation of existence, etc.” It’s absurd. They absolutely would have thought no such thing. They would have had a very long, and very strong, cultural history of understanding who and what was in Hades and Tartarus.

Likewise, many think that in hearing the terms Sheol and/or Gehenna/Geena, the Second Temple Jews would have thought of a place wherein those bound therein had no conscious existence. This also could not be further from the truth. Second Temple Judaism [538 BC to AD 70] would have absolutely seen both places as the abode of the dead…. but the dead who are nonetheless consciously in existence (see

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