What Does The Old Testament Say About Hell
If you read the Old Testament, you may get the impression that hell is more like a place of death than a place of eternal punishment. If the Old Testament is unclear about what happens to the wicked after death, how much more so are we unfamiliar with how hell might be experienced today?
Verses on Heaven (and Hell)
- The Old Testament
In this section, we will look at some of the verses in the Old Testament that talk about heaven (and hell).
- Psalm 16:11-13 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. 12 Those who trust in you will be glad and always shout for joy.”
- Psalm 23:6-8 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” 7 This verse describes what it might be like to live eternally in heaven with God. There is no sadness or suffering here because God is our provider and protector!
The concept of hell as an afterlife destination for the wicked begins in the Hebrew Bible.
In the Hebrew Bible, Hell is the place where the wicked are punished in the afterlife. Hell is described as a fiery furnace with a devouring fire, and it is also referred to as Sheol. Sheol or Hades, depending on which translation you use, was thought to be underneath Jerusalem. It’s also where all souls go after they die and before they enter heaven or hell proper. The concept of hell as an afterlife destination for the wicked begins in this version of Jewish theology though it wasn’t until much later that Christians began using “Hell” as a name for their own version of this underworld location.
Sheol is the Hebrew word for Hell. It’s used in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, so we have to look at its usage in both religious texts. In the Old Testament, it’s a place where people go when they die (Psalm 16:10) and it is described as being dark (Job 10:21-22). It is also described as silent (Psalms 94:17). In other words, you can’t see anything there or hear anything either. This fits with our understanding of hell as a place of fire where you’re burned alive for eternity.
Hades is the Greek version of the Hebrew term Sheol, which refers to an underworld for the dead. It is a place of darkness, suffering and great torment. The wicked are separated from God here, but it is not a permanent punishment.
The Valley of Hinnom
The Valley of Hinnom is a valley in Jerusalem that was once known as the “Valley of Slaughter.” It was there that children were sacrificed to the god Molech by fire. The valley’s name was later changed to Gehenna, from which comes our English word “hell.”
The Old Testament says that God will punish sinners with death and destruction, but it does not say anything about hellfire or eternal torment.
The name Gehenna comes from the Hebrew word Gehinnom (which means “valley of Hinnom”), and was a place near Jerusalem where children were sacrificed to false gods. It’s also the valley where Jesus cursed a fig tree in Mark 11:12-14, and it’s referenced as the place of judgment in Matthew 23:33 and Luke 12:5. In these instances, Gehenna is used metaphorically to describe hell – but this isn’t always the case.
Gehenna is defined as “a place or state of everlasting punishment,” but there are two important things to keep in mind about this definition: 1) Gehenna was a physical place that existed on Earth; 2) eternal punishment wasn’t accurate until later when Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross. The Old Testament never mentions anything about eternal punishment; instead, it prophesies an end to all evil once God destroys everything at Armageddon (Revelation 19).
God is still a good God, even though we are sinful creatures.
God is still a good God, even though we are sinful creatures. We may not be able to understand why He allows certain things to happen, but we must never forget that He loves us and has plans for our lives.
We can’t know the reasons for everything that happens in this life, but we do know that God uses all things for His glory (Romans 8:28). When something bad happens to you or someone you love, remember that it is part of His plan for your life and will lead you closer to Him in the end if you allow it!
From just these passages of Scripture, I hope it is clear that Hell is a place of eternal punishment for those who reject God. It was created for the devil and his angels and will ultimately be completely filled with people who reject God.