The Abyss, the Bottomless Pit, Tartarus, Hades, Torment, Hell, Gehenna, and the Lake of Fire

When one reads the Bible, he encounters the terms Abyss or Bottomless Pit, Tartarus, Hades, Hell, Gehenna, and the Lake of Fire. Just exactly what are these? None of these is visible on the face of the earth. The Bible has quite a bit to say about these, and there is additional detail available in the non-canonical works. Some of these terms are synonyms (e.g. the Abyss is the Bottomless Pit), and all of them share the feature of having to do with punishment, but some of them are for time, and some are for eternity. The Bible describes the entities named in the title of this article as literal places, but many or most of them are not understood and are relegated to the status of presumed symbols. I thought it would be instructive to give a brief description of each of them and their relationships to each other.

The Abyss (tartaroo) is translated “bottomless pit” in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible (Rev 9:1, 2, 11, 11:7, 17:8, 20:1, 3), but is translated “the deep” in Luke 8:31 and Romans 10:7. It is a deep crevice in the earth (1 Enoch 88:1-2, [Enoch is abbreviated En hereafter]) and is the place where the evil spirits go to be tormented when they are cast out of their fleshly hosts (Lk 8:31). It is a place where God imprisoned “the angels that sinned” (2 Pet 2:4,  1 En 21:7-10) that Enoch describes being shut up in “the valleys of the earth” (1 En 10:12). The KJV calls the place where the fallen angels were cast “hell” in 2 Pet 2:4, but the Greek word is “tartaroo”. The KJV’s translation of “tartaroo” as “hell” here in 2 Peter 2:4 is one of the three distinct Greek words (“tartaroo” 2 Pe 2:4, “gehenna” Mt 10:28, “Hades” Mt 11:23) the KJV translated as “hell”, and they are all three different places. “Tartaroo” is the deepest abyss of Hades (Strong, G5020), the place where the fallen angels are kept until the day of judgment (Ewing). Enoch describes the bottomless pit (Tartarus) as the place into which the souls of the giants, the sons of the angels, are to be cast on the day of Judgment (1 En 56:1), where they will be joined with their fathers (the fallen angels — 1 En 89:24) and the 70 last shepherds of Israel (1 En 89:25). The fallen angels are to be imprisoned there forever (1 En 21:10). The Beast, the False Prophet, the devil, his angels, Death and Hell, and wicked men will be cast into the Lake of Fire, Gehenna on the Day of Judgment (Rev 19:20, 20:10, The Abyss, the bottomless pit, and Tartarus are all the same thing. The Lexicographer James Strong says the Abyss is the deepest part of Hades, but it appears to this author to be a place apart from Hades as Tartarus is described as being bottomless while Hades has vast chambers with bottoms to contain the dead, and Hades is a temporary place (Mt 27:52-53), while Gehenna is eternal (Rev 14:11).  The Abyss is not Torment, (Gehenna) Hell, Gehenna, or the Lake of Fire.

Hades is the unseen place of the dead. It is a cavernous place underground that Enoch describes as having four compartments (1 En 22:9-11). Two of Enoch’s compartments (torment and Abraham’s bosom) are mentioned in Luke 16:19-31. Enoch says the four compartments house spirits depending on their status in relation to God (1 En 22:4-7):

  1. There is a division for the spirits of the righteous. Like Luke 16:24 mentions water, Enoch says it has a bright spring of water (1 Enoch 22:4). Some or all of the former inhabitants of this division participated in the first resurrection with Christ (Mt 27:52). It probably is empty now since the righteous spirits go to be with God in heaven at the death of the body (Php 1:23). The ones that rose with Jesus believed Jesus’ preaching when in Hades (1 Pet 3:19), and when Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9), He took these souls to heaven with him (Eph 4:8). This division is now empty, for when righteous men die now, their spirits go to heaven to await the Judgment (Php 1:23, 2 Cor 5:6, 8, Rev 6:9, 1 Th 4:14).
  2. There is a division for the spirits whose bodies received burial, but they were transgressors and deserve punishment. These will participate in the bodily resurrection (Rev 20:13). All those who have been buried will be raised from the dead, according to what Jesus promised in John 5:28. Those in this division are in great torment until the Day of Judgment. This division corresponds to the place of torment where the Rich Man is (Lk 16:24).
  3. There is a division for those that were slain in the days of the sinners. Genesis 6 describes a time when the earth was so corrupted that the thoughts of men’s hearts was evil continually (Gen 6:5). These were all slain by war and by the Flood (Gen 6:13), and this division seems reserved especially for them. This division may shed light on the strange statement in Revelation 20:13, “The sea gave up the dead which were in it.” The bodies of those slain in the Flood would presumably be buried under sediment from the Flood, and their bodies would have to rise from the depths of the sea.
  4. There is a division of those who have sinned, but they are distinguished from the transgressors, who seem to be a more hardened version of sinners. I believe these are the ones Enoch describes in Enoch 50:2 who witness the victory of the holy and elect people over the evil and come to believe that Jesus is indeed Lord, and will repent (1 En 50:2). These are the ones of whom Luke speaks in Luke 12:48 that are ignorant of God’s will and who will be punished with few stripes, that is, for a time in Hades and not for eternity in Gehenna with many stripes.

Hades is a prison house for the dead (1 Pet 3:19, Acts 2:27) and a place of temporal punishment for those that deserve punishment (Lk 12:48, 16:24). The place of Hades is named after the spirit person (principality/power-Rom 8:38), Hades. Hades is a spirit power (Eph 6:12), a person (Rev 6:8) who is over the fortress of Hades (Mt 16:18), the prison place (1 Pe 3:19, Ps 107:10, Micah 7:8-9) of the dead (Acts 2:31). He has substance and form (Rev 6:8) that can be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:14). He is always linked with the spirit power Death (Rev 6:8, 20:14), an enemy of God (1 Cor 15:26, 55), and Hades will be punished eternally along with the Devil and his angels. The place of Hades is not the same as The Abyss, Gehenna, and the Lake of Fire.

Haidees (Hades) is one of the three Greek words (haidees, tartaroo, geenna) that the King James Version of the Bible translates as “hell”. However, each of the three words the KJV translates “hell” refer to different places. We have already looked at tartaroo (Tartarus), and Hades (haidees) is the second of these three words that describe three distinct places. We now turn our attention to the third of these words, “geenna”.   translated “hell” (KJV) or Gehenna (YLT).

Literally, Gehenna is the Valley of Hinnom, a literal valley on the south side of ancient Jerusalem. Today it is a pleasant valley, a tourist attraction, and a park. One place in the valley has a sign, “Welcome to Hell”, which while humorous, will not be so funny at the judgment. The reason it will not be funny is that Gehenna is the place of eternal punishment. As you can see from the photo, it doesn’t look like a place of punishment today, but Enoch says that there are fires burning beneath the land (En 67:6-7) that will come up to the surface at the end of the world (En 67:13). The earth will be shaken so violently (Heb 12:26, Ezk 38:20) at the end that the surface of the earth will be altered (Isa 24:19, 30:25, Ps 97:5, Zech 14:4, 10, Ezk 38:20, Nahum 1:5), and the emergence of Gehenna is one of the major changes of the earth that will be effected by His coming. Gehenna is the place of eternal punishment (Mk 9:43) where the wicked are cast (Lk 12:5, Rev 20:15) at the Judgment (Mt 25:41).

Gehenna will be visible from the City of God, New Jerusalem (Isa 66:23-24). The smoke from it will rise up forever (Rev 14:11), and it will be a formidable place. In the New Earth it will extend from south of Jerusalem at the present Valley of Hinnom (Ge-Hinnom, Gehenna) all the way down to the southern border of Edom that is south of the Dead Sea (Isa 34:5-17, 66:24). The Lake of Fire will have an observation point from which the people can observe the damned (Isa 66:23), but most of the lake will be surrounded by a horrible mixture of briars, nettles, and every noxious plant (Isa 34:13) making it very difficult/impossible to access. The land will be inhabited by every kind of noxious bird and beast (Isa 34:11, 14-15). No one will ever pass through there for it will be like the Island of Dr. Moreau times ten. It will be an eternal feature of the New Earth. It is not the Abyss, the Bottomless Pit, Tartarus, Hades, or Torment, but it is Hell, Gehenna, and the Lake of Fire.

Characteristics Gehenna Hell Lake of Fire

The whole body can be cast there Mt 5:20 Mt 5:20 Rev 19:20

It is a place where God can torment the body even after you have died once and there is nothing more than men can do to you. Mt 10:28 Mt 10:28 Rev 19:20, 20:10, 14:11

A body with two hands or two eyes or two feet can be cast into this place Mt 18:9; Mk 9:43, 45, 47 Mt 18:9, Mk 9:43, 45, 47 Rev 20:15

An evil person is a child of this place Mt 23:15 Mg 23:15 Rev 20:15

A generation of vipers and serpents could not possibly escape this place in the future Mt 23:33 Mt 23:33 Rev 20:15

It is a place that men should fear into which God can cast you after you are dead Lk 12:5 Lk 12:5 Rev 19:20

The tongue is set on fire in this place James 3:6 Rev 19:20, 20:15

Everything that can be said of Gehenna is also true of the Lake of Fire and Gehenna is therefore the same as the Lake of Fire. “Hell” is a word that is used to translate “Gehenna” and is therefore the same as Gehenna.

All of the places discussed are places of punishment. Hades/Torment/Hell1 is a temporary place of punishment and incarceration used to keep the spirits of the dead until the Judgment. The place where the righteous were kept was emptied at the resurrection of Christ (1 Pet 3:19, Lk 14:18), and I presume is now empty, for the righteous dead now go to be with God (Php 1:23, 2 Co 5:8-9). The Abyss/Bottomless Pit/Tartarus/Hell2 is a place that serves for both temporal (Luke 8:31, Rev 17:8) and eternal punishment (Enoch 90:24-26). Gehenna/Lake of Fire/Hell3 is a place to be revealed near Jerusalem at the end of this present age and is a place of eternal punishment (Rev 20:10, 15, 14:11, Mt 25:41). James Johnson

About James Johnson

Bible student for 60 years. Preacher of the gospel for over 40 years. Author of commentary on Revelation, All Power to the Lamb. Married with children. Worked in aerospace and computer engineering for over 40 years.
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