There is a difference between hades and hell. Though knowing the difference may be of little significance in the grand scheme of things, still it’s in the scriptures and may be of interest to some. We’ll look at a few scriptures and find the difference.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).
Right out of the gate it’s important that you don’t get caught up in cutting off body parts. Jesus isn’t saying that you should do that. What He’s stressing is the importance of not going to hell. Cutting off a body part won’t keep a person from going to hell.
The next thing to note is the word “hell.” The New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek word here is “Gehenna.” Jesus said that “your whole body” will be cast into Hell/Gehenna.
Another scripture says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill he soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10: 28).
Here, also, Hell is Gehenna. You’ll also note that both the soul and body are cast into Hell.
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched – where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched- where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire- where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’” (Mark 9:43-48).
Mark says the same thing as Matthew but adds a quote from the prophet Isaiah, “Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” Here’s the full quote in its context:
“For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me,” says the LORD, “So shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before me,” says the LORD. “And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:22-24).
Putting Jesus’ quote in context we can see that those in Gehenna are there after the new heavens and earth are created. This happens after the great white throne judgement we read about in Revelation chapters twenty and twenty-one. The “lake of fire,” Gehenna, and hell are the same place.
Other scriptures you can read concerning Gehenna are Luke 12:5; James 3:6; Revelation 14:9-11.
Hades, on the other hand, differs from hell in that it is a holding prison until the great white throne judgement. “Sheol” is the Hebrew word that is equivalent to the Greek “Hades.”
I say it’s a holding prison, and we can see this from what Jesus said in Luke about the rich man and Lazarus. I won’t write it all out here, but you can read it in Luke 16:19-31. You will find if you’ll study this passage that both the rich man and Lazarus died “and was buried.” Their bodies were buried but their spirits were taken to Hades. I emphasize: their bodies were not in Hades with them. Hades at that time was divided between the unrighteous dead and the righteous dead. The righteous were in an area named “Abraham’s Bosom.” Those in Hades had full use of their senses, speech, thoughts, and were recognizable. Abraham and Lazarus were free to walk about their area and had water available to drink. Also, both sides were confined to the area they were in. The rich man was in torment and Lazarus was in a place of safety and peace. There’s much that can be said about this passage, but what I want to get across is those in Hades didn’t have their bodies. Lazarus’ body was in a grave on the earth, and his spirit was in Abraham’s Bosom.
In Hell/Gehenna everyone is reunited with their bodies: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill he soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10: 28). In Hades the dead don’t have their bodies; therefore, Hades and Hell are two different places.
In summary, we can see that Hades is where the unrighteous dead go until the final judgement. Hell is where the unrighteous dead go after the great judgement.
Stay strong and prepared!