Sheol: The Intermediate State of the Unsaved Dead

by Dirk Waren

What happens to the soul & spirit of unsaved people when they die? By “unsaved” I’m referring to anyone who has not experienced spiritual regeneration through the gospel (see John 3:3,6 and Titus 3:5), which includes Old Testament saints—holy people who were in covenant with God throughout the Old Testament. The Bible shows that the souls of these people go to (or went to) Sheol at the point of physical decease, which corresponds to Hades in the New Testament. These souls will be resurrected from Sheol/Hades one day (Revelation 20:11-15), which is why Sheol/Hades is described as the “intermediate state” since it refers to the condition of souls between physical death and later resurrection. So what’s the condition of souls in Sheol/Hades? Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus, if taken literal, suggests a conscious state where people either hang out in bliss with father Abraham or suffer constant fiery torment begging for less than a drop of water for relief.

Many  believers take this story literally rather than figuratively and so they feel the issue is a done deal—Sheol is a place of fiery torment for some souls and a place of bliss with father Abraham for others. However, they’re disregarding the incredible amount of data that God’s Word devotes to the topic—vital information of which they are either ignorant or intentionally disregard.

The purpose of SHEOL KNOW is to do an honest, balanced examination of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation to determine the precise nature of Sheol/Hades. After all, the rightly-divided Word of God is the blueprint for Christian doctrine and practice, not fallible religious tradition.

Since SHEOL KNOW is a thorough study on the nature of the intermediate state we’ll address all linking topics, including the believer’s intermediate state, the resurrection of the dead, Jesus’ Second Coming, the Tribulation, the Millennium and, in the Epilogue, the nature of eternal life.

Why is this book important? Because there’s wholesale ignorance in the body of Christ on the nature of Sheol/Hades and, in some cases, intentional misleading. Despite this, the truth about the intermediate state is blatantly revealed in the Scriptures; it’s not hidden whatsover. Once you see what God’s Word says on the subject—completely and not just a single tale that Jesus told—you’ll know the truth and, as the Lord said, “the truth shall set you free.”

This is the CONTENTS PAGE to SHEOL KNOW. Below you will find introductions and links to all 12 chapters. God Bless You on this amazing journey of discovery!


What Is Sheol?

Sheol Is the Intermediate State To understand Sheol, let's start with the great white throne judgment. The great white throne judgment is when God will resurrect every un-regenerated soul from Hades (HAY-deez) to be judged as shown in this passage: REVELATION 20:13-15 The sea gave up the dead that were ...
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Sheol In the Old Testament

Jacob, Job, and Solomon's View of Sheol, the Intermediate State We’ll begin our scriptural study on  the intermediate state by observing how Jacob, Job and Solomon viewed Sheol in the Old Testament. All three were godly men of the Old Testament era. Jacob was the grandson of Abraham, the father of faith, and ...
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Sheol In the Bible: Psalms Part 1

Let's discuss Sheol in the the book of Psalms. This book consists of 150 songs called psalms. Half of the psalms were written by Solomon’s father, King David, and some anonymous ones were likely written by him as well. Other psalmists include Moses, Solomon, Asaph, Ethan and Heman. Regardless of ...
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Sheol in the Bible: Psalms Part 2

Continuing with our study of Sheol in the Bible, Psalms, let's consider this important question... Did David Pray for His Ex-Friend to Go to a Hellish Torture Chamber? Notice David’s statement in this passage: PSALM 55:15 (KJV) Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell (Sheol): for ...
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Sheol in Proverbs

Of the 31 chapters of the book of Proverbs, the first 29 were written by Solomon, the wisest person who’s ever lived outside of Jesus Christ (1 Kings 3:12). In Chapter Two of this study we saw how Solomon described the nature of Sheol in very clear language. He said that those who die ...
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The Meaning of Sheol According to the Prophets

Let's now observe what the Old Testament prophets had to say about the nature of Sheol. “Sheol Has Enlarged Its Appetite” We’ll start with Sheol as used in the book of Isaiah: ISAIAH 5:11-14 (NRSV) Ah, you who rise early in the morning in pursuit of strong drink, who linger in the evening ...
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Sheol Definition & Descriptions in the Bible

Let's now look at various biblical descriptions and insights about Sheol not yet addressed or, at least, not fully addressed. Sheol is Contrasted with “the Land of the Living” The reality that Sheol is the realm where dead souls are held awaiting their resurrection can be derived from the fact that Sheol is often spoken of ...
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The Rich Man and Lazarus

Let’s now look at the sole reason why Christians have traditionally believed that Sheol is a state of conscious existence where bad people suffer constant fiery torment hoping for a tiny bit of water for relief and Old Testament saints are comforted in paradise at Abraham’s side. I’m, of course, ...
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Sheol in the New Testament

In this chapter we will examine New Testament references to Sheol (Hades) other than Jesus’ Parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus, which we addressed in the previous chapter. We’ll look at direct and indirect references to Hades and also every passage that people cite to argue Sheol is a state of ...
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Resurrections of the Dead: Firstfruits, Harvest & Gleanings

To tie everything up and see the bigger picture, we’ll focus on the resurrections of the dead in this chapter. Whether believers know it or not, the resurrections of the dead is one of the six basic doctrines of Christianity, as shown in Hebrews 6:1-2. Unfortunately, it’s rarely taught and ...
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Conclusion on Sheol

The most amazing thing about Sheol (Hades) is how blatantly obvious God’s Word is on the topic. The truth about Sheol isn’t hidden whatsoever, but people have been hindered from seeing it due to the power of religious tradition and sectarian allegiance. To illustrate how “blatantly obvious” the Bible is ...
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Epilogue: The Nature of Eternal Life

I think it's only fitting that this two-part study on human damnation -- HELL KNOW and SHEOL KNOW -- should close on a positive note by looking at what the Bible says about eternal life in the new heavens and new earth, traditionally referred to as "heaven." Allow me to breach ...
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  • The print book is available here for just over $10 (257 pages)
  • The eBook is available here for just 99¢
  • The more affordable Condensed Version is available here for only about $6 (153 pages); or get the eBook for just 99¢.


    • Dirk Waren

      Hi Miles.

      While evangelization and genuine repentance are always good, these people who have supernatural experiences about Sheol/Hades (not Gehenna/the Lake of Fire) beg the question: Why did the LORD wait almost 2000 years after the biblical canon was completed to reveal these horrifying details about the nature of Sheol? If their visions (or experiences) are to be believed, why aren’t there similar such descriptions of Sheol in the Bible, the Word of God?

      Everything God wants us to know about Sheol has already been revealed in the Holy Scriptures. This is in line with the apostle Paul’s doctrinal rule: “Do not go beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6), which explains why this book — SHEOL KNOW — focuses exclusively on what God’s Word says on the subject from Genesis to Revelation and not the dubious testimonies of people who claim to have visions or experiences that just so happen to wholly disagree with what God’s Word plainly teaches.

      I call this tendency to formulate vital doctrine based on dubious visions/experiences the “Eliphaz syndrome.” If you’re not familiar with Eliphaz, he was one of Job’s three “friends” whom the LORD accused of folly in what they said to their suffering friend (Job 42:7-8). Eliphaz was the one who made claims based on mysterious visions/experiences (Job 4:12-21). We can extend mercy to Eliphaz since there wasn’t much, if any, Scripture for him to rely on back then. But modern-day believers have ready access to the entire canon of God’s Word for the purpose of determining proper doctrine and correcting false doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So we have no excuse.

      Bill Wiese’ book and similar ones, including Mary Baxter’s book, are commented on in SHEOL KNOW in this chapter, just scroll down to the section titled What about People who Claim to have Visited Sheol Literally or in a Vision? (it’s a long chapter and this section is located near the end, but you can’t miss it since the cover of 23 Minutes in Hell is featured in it).

      Your Servant,

  1. Mary

    Good day Sir Dirk,

    I just wanna ask where do souls of spriritually regenerated individuals go.
    Do they go directly to heaven waiting for the resurrection day? Or they go to sheol?

    Are the spiritually regenerated individuals those who accept Jesust Christ as their personal savior?

    Thank you.

  2. Hi Dirk: My book is called THE COMING CHRIST, and you can view it at as well as my Glossary of Terms. Studying prophecy is exciting, though I didn’t chose to do it, I was knocked off my stump of misunderstanding about the things to come.
    After reading just a little of your interpretation of the First Resurrection, I would like to suggest something different.
    I was puzzled about Daniel 12:2 when he said that ” at that time, many shall be raised, some to eternal life and some to everlasting contempt. I puzzled over this hard. I was in Haiti and I knelt at my bed and asked the Lord what this meant by the “many”. I have for decades, heard preachers say that that word was in error and it should be “all”. In answer to my prayer I stuck my thumb in the Bible and it opened to Rev. 20 and verse 5 was illuminated. I read, “And after the thousand years are complete, the rest of the dead shall rise. This is the First Resurrection.” I have always been puzzled what would happen to my baby girl who had no chance to receive Christ, and Haitians told me that the little ones would go the way of their parents, but that didn’t seem fair.
    Then I read further and in verse 7 I see that Satan is loosed for a little season to go about to deceive the nations. But how can he do that since “blessed are they who live in the 1000 years and who are of the First Resurrection.” And I also remember that at the coming of Christ, (Rev. 11:17) the elders rejoice because Christ has taken back His Power. Wow! That’s it, The little ones and they who were robbed of their choice are raised to see and choose Christ. Satan is foiled, goes back to raise from Hades, Gog and Magog and they come back for one last battle, but God destroys them with fire and immediately the Second Resurrection occurs.
    The First Resurrection is a process, not an event: Christ being the First Fruits, the Redeemed at His Coming are the Harvest, and those raised after the Millennium are the Gleanings. The 1st Resurrection is complete as stated in the last sentence of verse 5, “This is the First Resurrection,” meaning that it is now completed!
    I am not here to argue, just present something that has become very real and encouraging to me.
    God Bless

    • Dirk Waren

      Hi Tom.

      Thanks for the feedback and may the LORD bless your service in the kingdom!

      As far as the definition of the “first resurrection” goes, I stand by what is detailed in this chapter of SHEOL KNOW.

      Here’s how the NIV renders Revelation 20:4-6:

      They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

      While there’s only one resurrection of the unrighteous (Revelation 20:11-15), the resurrection of the righteous takes place in stages, as you point out, which correspond to the analogy of a harvest…

      In biblical times the harvest took place in three basic stages: 1. the firstfruits, 2. the main harvest, and 3. the gleanings. The harvest began with the firstfruits, which concerned the first fruits and grains to ripen in the season and were offered to the LORD as a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Exodus 23:16,19). Later came the general harvest (Exodus 23:16) and, lastly, the gleanings, which were leftovers for the poor and needy (Leviticus 19:9-10). I realize you know this; I’m just including it for other readers.

      Relating this to the resurrection of the righteous — the first resurrection — Christ is the firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:21-23) while the main harvest occurs at the rapture ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and the gleaning refers to the righteous who were not included in the main harvest and are, as such, “leftovers.”

      If the resurrection of righteous is the “first resurrection” then that naturally makes the resurrection of the unrighteous the second resurrection (Revelation 20:11-15).

      The issue of what happens to babies or kids who die before the “age of accountability” is addressed in HELL KNOW in this chapter (the unabridged print version anyway; I can’t remember if it’s included in the web-version). We know that God does not hold children accountable until they reach the age of accountability. Before the age of accountability children are spiritually alive; after the age of accountability they’re spiritually dead (Paul seems to imply this in Romans 7:9). Thus, if children die before the age of accountability, they will not be held accountable for their sins. Does this mean that they are guaranteed eternal life? Not necessarily since they died before having the capacity as an adult to willing accept the gospel, regeneration, reconciliation and eternal life, although it likely means they don’t go to Sheol when they die .

      This is why I theorize in this chapter of HELL KNOW (the unabridged version) that there will be a “simulation test” for those applicable, which would include kids who died before the age of accountability. In this “simulation” God would properly verify if they would receive the gospel of reconciliation or reject it in favor of sin. Such a simulation would be a reproduction of life on earth. The people who would qualify for such an enactment would include those who died as kids because they never had the chance to experience the trials & temptations of life and therefore never had the opportunity to reject the LORD. After all, it wouldn’t be fair that such people would attain eternal life when, in fact, they would have rejected reconciliation if they had actually lived and were given the opportunity. Are you with me?

      For those who argue that such a simulation is incredulous, remember that God is the Almighty who can do anything. It would be nothing for our Creator to put people through such a simulation.

      For those who argue that the notion is unbiblical, remember that it all has to do with God’s just judgment concerning people’s eternal destiny — granting them either eternal life or everlasting destruction (James 4:12). Is there anything more important than such a decision? The Bible matter-of-factly states that righteousness and justice are the foundation of the LORD’s throne and he will judge the world in righteousness and equity, meaning fairness, ethicality and impartiality (Psalm 97:2 & 98:9). As such, everyone must have an actual fair shot at receiving the message of reconciliation and eternal life, or rejecting it.

      The Bible says that “man is destined to die once, and after that to face the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27) and God will need proper information in order to make a just judgment about people’s eternal destiny. If he doesn’t have that data, like in cases of children who die before the age of accountability, then he’ll have to obtain it through some kind of simulation. One way or another he will acquire that information because he cannot make a just judgment without it.

      As far as the first resurrection goes, those that physically died before the age of accountability who ultimately embrace the message of Christ and receive eternal life would be categorized as gleanings.

      Thanks again for writing, Tom, and sharing your theories. God bless your studies & service!

      Your Servant,

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