"The sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire." (KJV)
Some have asked, "How is it possible for Death and Hell to be thrown into a lake of fire and what does this mean?
What Really is "Hell"?
First, it would be beneficial to understand what "Hell" (Hades; Sheol) in the Bible really means.
Many mistakenly believe that "hell" is a fiery place of punishment for sins. But the word "hell" in the same verses in other translations read "the grave," "the world of the dead," etc.
Collier’s Encyclopedia (1986, Vol. 12, p. 28) says this concerning “Hell”:
“First it stands for the Hebrew Sheol of the Old Testament and the Greek Hades of the Septuagint and New Testament. Sheol in Old Testament times referred SIMPLY TO THE ABODE OF THE DEAD.”
So the Hebrew word she'ohl´ and its Greek equivalent hai´des refer, not to an individual burial place, but to the COMMON GRAVE OF DEAD MANKIND. (For more, see: "Why is the word "Hell" an unsatisfactory translation of the original Hebrew and Greek Bible words "She´ohl" and "Hai´des"?"; Search For Bible Truths)
Revelation Chapter 20 Written in Figurative or Symbolic Terms
The book of Revelation is a book full of symbols and Revelation Chap. 20 itself is full of figurative (not literal) language. So when the rest of the Bible clearly shows how when someone dies, they are not conscious of anything (Ps. 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5) and that the condition of the dead is one of inactivity - likened to a deep sleep (Ps. 13:3; John 11:11-14; Acts 7:60; 1 Cor. 7:39; 15:51; 1 Thess. 4:13), it would seem reasonable to conclude that what was written at Revelation chap. 20 is indeed phrased in figurative or symbolic terms.
Rev. 20:14 shows that Hell is not the same as the lake of fire. So when Hell (Hades) is finally CAST INTO the lake of fire (which symbolizes eternal destruction), this means that Hades, the common grave of mankind, is totally destroyed. It goes out of existence, being completely emptied of its dead. In addition to resurrecting all faithful worshipers of God, the Bible says that He will also mercifully bring back even unrighteous ones:
“There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15)
Recommended Related Article:
How Does Learning the Truth About Hell Affect You? (w08 11/1 pp. 8-9; Watchtower Online Library)
Also see: Hell - Links to Information (Defend Jehovah's Witnesses)
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