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:

The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

We see plain evidence here that unredeemed people are held in a place called Hades after their physical death. This place is called Sheol (she-OHL) in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament. These disembodied souls are kept in Hades until judgment day when, as you can see, they are resurrected for the purpose of divine judgment. What is the nature of these people’s condition in Hades during this intermediate period between physical death and resurrection? The traditional religious view is that they will be in a state of conscious torment the entire span or, if they’re righteous, they’ll hang out in bliss with father Abraham. Although this has been the common Evangelical position of the “intermediate state,” it’s rarely mentioned or elaborated on in Christian circles.

Is this what the Bible really teaches? That people who are spiritually dead will suffer hundreds or thousands of years of torment in captivity immediately after they die merely waiting for God to judge them? (As shown in HELL KNOW, the people who believe this also believe the damned will then spend all eternity in roasting torture in the lake of fire after they’re judged).


We see plain evidence here that unredeemed people are held in a place called Hades after their physical death. Hades is called Sheol (she-OHL) in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament. These disembodied souls are kept in Hades until Judgment Day when, as you can see, they are resurrected for the purpose of Divine judgment. Whoever’s name is not found written in the Book of Life, will be cast into the Lake of Fire, which is the “second death.”

This shows, interestingly, that Hades/Sheol and the Lake of Fire are two separate places or conditions. They are not synonymous terms.

What is these people’s condition in Hades during this period between physical death and resurrection on Judgment Day? The traditional religious view is that they will be in a state of conscious torment the entire span or, if they’re righteous (that is, in-right-standing with God due to covenant), they’ll hang out in bliss with father Abraham. Although this has been the common Evangelical position of the “intermediate state,” it’s rarely mentioned or elaborated on in Christian circles.

Is this what the Bible really teaches? That people who are spiritually dead will suffer hundreds or thousands of years of torment in captivity immediately after they die merely waiting for God to judge them? (The people who believe this also believe that the damned will then spend all eternity in roasting torture in the Lake of Fire after they’re judged).

Our purpose in this study is to thoroughly search the Holy Scriptures to find out the truth about Sheol/Hades, the intermediate state of the unsaved dead. If Sheol/Hades is indeed a place and condition of conscious torment, then God’s Word will clearly support it from Genesis to Revelation. However, if the Scriptures don’t reinforce this then we need to expose it as a false doctrine, eliminate it from our belief system, and proclaim what the Bible actually teaches on the subject. This is the only way “the truth will set us free.”

Before starting our study, it needs to be established that…

Sheol and Hades Are Synonymous Terms

Sheol and Hades are one-and-the-same; that is, they refer to the same condition or place. Sheol is the Hebrew term and Hades is the Greek. For proof of this, note the following Psalm passage, which speaks of Sheol, then observe how the Hebrew sheol is supplanted by the Greek hades when the text is quoted in the New Testament:

PSALM 16:10 (NASB)
For Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.

ACTS 2:27 (NASB)
Because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.

As you can see, Sheol and Hades are synonymous terms in the Bible.

Since using both words could be overly wordy and confusing, we will simply use the term Sheol throughout this book, generally speaking. The main reason for this decision is that the Hebrew sheol appears much more often in the Scriptures than the Greek hades; the former appears 66 times in the Old Testament and the latter 10 times in the New Testament. A secondary reason is that the word Hades is apt to conjure fantastical images of Greek or Catholic mythology rather than biblical truth; the Hebrew Sheol, by contrast, offers no such misleading images.

Sheol/Hades Only Concerns the Spiritually Un-Regenerated

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

One other vital point needs to be established before we start our study and this is the fact that only unredeemed souls go to Sheol/Hades. This includes Old Testament people in covenant with God because redemption and spiritual rebirth were not available until the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ.

New Covenant believers, by contrast, are reborn inwardly of the imperishable seed of Christ and thus possess immortality and eternal life (1 Peter 1:23, Titus 3:5 & 2 Timothy 1:10). Hence death & Sheol have no power over the blood-bought, spiritually-regenerated believer!

Clear scriptural support for this can be observed in Revelation 6:9-11, 7:9-17, Hebrews 10:39, 1 Thessalonians 5:10, 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 and Philippians 1:20-24. This is covered in detail in chapter 10 of SHEOL KNOW (not available on this site, but you can read it here).


Now let’s start our study on Sheol from Genesis to Revelation…


  • The print book is available here for just over $10 (257 pages)
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  1. Jerry S Jones

    Very informative, however I will need to study it in depth to know all the truths identified, then I will buy the books to confirm my conclusions.
    It is the best in depth study I have been searching for. Thank you. Jerry

  2. Justin

    So are the unrighteous souls in Sheol awake or asleep. Like are they conscious? While the righteous souls are in Heaven where God dwells. Are they also awake or asleep?

    • Dirk Waren

      Hi Justin.

      Dead souls are held in Sheol until their resurrection on Judgment Day (Revelation 20:11-15). They are not conscious in Sheol because they’re dead. The spirit of life that animates an unregenerated soul returns to God who gave it when that person physically dies (Ecclesiastes 12:7 & Psalm 146:4). Souls don’t literally sleep in Sheol, although the Bible describes them as “sleeping” in a figurative sense. Why? Because all unregenerate souls will be “awoken” from the first death — that is, resurrected from Sheol — to face divine judgment but no human is ever resurrected from the second death because it’s an “everlasting destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9 & Matthew 10:28).

      For clear scriptural details on the nature of Sheol start with Chapter Two of SHEOL KNOW and proceed forward.

      God Bless You, Brother.

  3. Todd

    The detailed account of the rich man and Lazarus is not a parable. No parable ever had proper names in scripture. And your interpretation of bosom is outlandish. It is symbolic. It could be his lap, a garment to carry things or even a bay. All pulled together means a safe haven to carry people imo. In Rev we see souls under the altar alert awake and some crying out to God. Clearly not sleeping. No usage of the word sheol would have to be ignored. It’s not right to say bold generic statements like this without clear examples but once you are off, then your incorrect view becomes the foundation for the next.

    • Dirk Waren

      Hi Todd. Thanks for the feedback.

      Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus is covered in detail in Chapter Eight. As that chapter details, the story is clearly a parable — a symbolic tale — seeing as how it comes in a long line of parables: The whole first half of Luke 16 is a parable that starts with the same exact words as Jesus’ tale of the rich man and Lazarus; and Luke 15 consists of three other parables.

      Furthermore, as that chapter points out, Jesus’ story contains fantastical elements and obvious symbolism.

      Concerning what you say about parables and the use of proper names, where does the Bible ever say that a parable cannot use a proper name? No where. This particular parable does use a proper name for one of the characters because it reveals who Lazarus represents — the gentiles. You’ll observe, however, that the rich man is not given a name. The rich man is symbolic of a group of people, as the article elaborates. This shatters the argument that Jesus’ tale is a historical account on the grounds that he uses the proper name of ‘Lazarus’ because the rich man is the sole character in supposedly proving the conscious roasting of the damned in Sheol and yet he’s not given a name!

      If you want further proof that the story of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable simply consider the differences between the fictitious Lazarus of this parable as opposed to the real-life Lazarus of John 11:11-15 as detailed in the section titled The Parabolic ‘Lazarus’ vs. the Real-Life Lazarus (scroll down to it here).

      In Revelation we see souls under the altar alert awake and some crying out to God; clearly not sleeping.

      Who said they were sleeping? Certainly not me. “Context is King” and that particular passage in Revelation 6 is referring to Christian martyrs who died during the Tribulation. Believers are born of the imperishable seed (sperma) of Christ and hence are spiritually regenerated, thus possessing eternal life inwardly (1 Peter 1:23 & Titus 3:5). You can read loads of biblical verification of this here.

      No usage of the word sheol would have to be ignored.

      You are correct and this is why SHEOL KNOW addresses every key passage in Scripture that comments on Sheol/Hades and their synonyms, e.g. “the Pit”. There are hundreds of such passages and they’re clear as day, but adherents of eternal roasting torture either totally ignore them or try to write them off.

      Remember, brother, Sheol/Hades and Gehenna/the Lake of Fire are two separate places and therefore two separate subjects. The unredeemed do NOT possess immortality and eternal life. Several passages make this abundantly clear, like 2 Timothy 1:10, Romans 2:7 and Genesis 3:22-24. The souls of the unsaved who die are stored in Sheol/Hades until their resurrection on Judgment Day; THEN whoever’s name is not found written in the book of life is cast into the Lake of Fire, “which is the second death.” There they will be destroyed as “raging fire consumes the enemies of God” (Matthew 10:28 & Hebrews 10:26-27,31). They will burn up JUST LIKE weeds thrown into fire, as Christ taught (Matthew 13:40) (What happens to weeds thrown into fire? They burn for a little bit and ultimately BURN UP). They will be executed like a king’s enemies brought before him, as the Messiah taught (Luke 19:27).

      If you want to study all the passages that address the intermediate state of Sheol/Hades please read SHEOL KNOW; here’s the CONTENTS page, which provides access to all the chapters. This particular page is simply the opening chapter of a long and detailed book; it’s merely the set-up. It’s in the following chapters that we examine hundreds of passages straight from God’s Word in order to verify the nature of Sheol/Hades, the intermediate state of the unsaved.

      If you want to read about the nature of the “second death” – that is, damnation in the Lake of Fire – please read HELL KNOW; here’s the CONTENTS page.

      Please resist a knee-jerk response, my good friend. Prayerfully study the materials and draw your own conclusions based on what God’s Word clearly and consistently says. If you still have questions/comments/rebukes by all means write me at dawaren@msn.com

      God Bless You, Brother!

    • Bradley Pierce

      Couldn’t it be possible for a third way? For example, admitting it’s a parable doesn’t mean it doesn’t say “something” about the intermediate state. I think that’s a hurdle for lots of traditionalists. Let’s admit that it does. Well, there’s figurative language here that can correspond to at least some Old Testament and Intertestamental ideas. For example, the Old Testatment thinks of the dead as “shades” or shadows in Sheol. This to me means that if a soul is in Sheol, it has some level of consciousness, likened to that of our sense of consciousness when we sleep (hence, “soul sleep.”) Some of us sleep soundly without as much as a peep, some of us wake up every now and then, some of us have pleasant dreams, some have violent nightmares. Is it therefore that far fetched to expect that some souls in Hades/Sheol experience a nightmarish soul sleep?

      I believe a better translation of “tormented IN this flame” is “tormented BY this flame” as the preposition is the same word in the Greek. This meaning, the soul was “aware of” his impending doom via the flames of Gehenna for which he was tormented in this nightmarish condition until judgment. In fact, there is proof that some Jewish people believed that the fires of Gehenna would be used as a kind of taunt to the damned souls in Hades, but that they were not actually “in” the flames. This makes sense to me b/c they are souls after all, and our soul is simply our conscious awareness of self, but we cannot actually sense any pain or feeling through the body’s physical senses. Hence, the figurative language of the soul’s torment in Hades.

    • Dirk Waren

      Thanks for the feedback, Bradley.

      The Hebrew word for “shades” is rapha (raw-FAW), which the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon defines as “the dead in Sheol.” The word is associated with the Hebrew word for death in Scripture (muwth) and is elaborated on in the unabridged book version of SHEOL KNOW, which is advertised above. An eBook version is also available, which is the more updated version.

      The biblical evidence shows that souls stored in Sheol are not conscious, but rather dead and ‘awaiting’ their resurrection on Judgment Day (Revelation 20:11-15); Old Testament saints are resurrected at the beginning of the Millennial reign of Christ (Matthew 19:28-30).

      For scriptural proof that souls confined in Sheol are dead and not conscious please breeze through the evidence featured in SHEOL KNOW, starting with this chapter and progressing through the subsequent ones. If you just want the main facts without the excessive details you can read this online abridged version.

      The problem is that many believers think that Jesus’ tale of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a literal account, but it’s not; it’s a parable, a symbolic story, which you can read about here.

      Another issue is that many believers’ position on the nature of Sheol/Hades stems solely from a literal reading of this parable. They’ve never studied the hundreds of passages that tell us everything we need to know about the nature of Sheol. That’s why I wrote SHEOL KNOW — to educate people on what God’s Word says on the subject, not just a single symbolic tale, but what the Bible plainly says about Sheol from Genesis to Revelation, including the unmistakable descriptions by the LORD Himself.

      Once it’s understood what the Holy Scriptures clearly & repeatedly say on the topic we no longer have to speculate.

      God Bless You in Your Studies, Brother.

      Your Servant,

  4. David Pace

    how can you believe in the disembodiment of the soul and it be separate from the body. Our whole body and mind is the soul of man. And God breathed into Adam and he became a living soul. Then that would make the soul immortal or a state of consciousness so as to live on after death.

    • Dirk Waren

      Thanks for the feedback, David.

      To address your question: You are interpreting ‘soul’ in its broadest sense and are correct that the Hebrew & Greek words for ‘soul’ (nephesh & psuche) refer to the entire human being in various scriptural contexts (e.g. Genesis 46:26 & 1 Peter 3:20). But you are neglecting the passages where these words — nephesh & psuche — refer to a specific part of human nature in certain contexts, such as the body (Leviticus 21:11), the mind (1 Chronicles 28:9 & Acts 14:2) and the sprit/mind in unison (1 Kings 17:21, Psalm 31:9, Revelation 6:9-10 & Revelation 20:4).

      Because of this, the topic of human nature can be confusing to Bible readers, which is why HELL KNOW contains an entire appendix addressing this important topic, complete with easy-to-understand diagrams, which you can study at this link: Understanding Human Nature: Spirit, Mind & Body.

      God Bless You, Brother, as You Seek & Serve. Amen.

  5. Rickard Fogelkvist

    What are your thoughts about luke 23:30?
    Doesent it sound like they are tormented in some underground hellish place?

    • Dirk Waren

      No, because Luke 23:30 isn’t talking about the condition of souls in Sheol whatsoever. The context of the verse is when Christ is hauled off to be crucified and he speaks to the “daughters of Jerusalem” (who likely weren’t disciples of Christ, but rather obligatory professional mourners). Here’s the full passage:

      (26) As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. (27) A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. (28) Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. (29) For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ (30) Then

      “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
      and to the hills, “Cover us!”’

      The end quote is from Hosea 10:8, which is a prophecy concerning the northern kingdom of Israel and the imminent threat of the invasion of Assyria and the ensuing captivity. ‘They’ in Hosea 10:8 refers to Israel: With Israel’s altars destroyed and overgrown with wild plants, the people will call out to the mountains and hills to hide them, even to crush them, rather than face God’s wrath through His instrument Assyria.

      Like many Old Testament prophecies the Law of Double Reference is at play in Hosea 10:8, which simply means that prophecies have an immediate application as well as a far-flung one, whether past or future. The “far-flung” application of Hosea 10:8 is Luke 23:30 where Christ applies the prophecy to 1st century Jews: He saw first-century Jerusalem as deserving punishment in a similar manner to that of the idolatrous ancient Israel. However, the context in Luke doesn’t indicate the punishment was for idolatry. Rather, it was because Jerusalem played a part in the unjust crucifixion of Jesus. The prophecy came to pass with the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem by Titus’ army wherein the city was sacked and the Second Temple destroyed.

      Of course, Christ was Himself a prophet — in fact, He’s The Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18) — and his prophecy in Luke 23:30 also has a double application. It’s “far-flung” application applies to the future Tribulation on earth (Revelation 6:16-17 & Revelation 9:6), which takes place on earth and thus is not a reference to dead souls in Sheol (i.e. Hades). Hades (Sheol) is not mentioned in the passage or even insinuated.

      For more about the “law of double reference” breeze through this chapter (actually appendix) of HELL KNOW.

      Thank you for your feedback, Rickard, and God Bless You in your studies! 🙂

  6. Rick

    Hello Again!
    What are your thoughts about this verse:
    Hebrews 2:14
    For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
    I couldnt find anything on your site about that verse .
    Thanks Again

    • Dirk Waren

      The word “destroy” in Hebrews 2:14 is katargeo, which means “to render neutral or idle, nullify, sever or abolish” and is not used in reference to human damnation. Here’s how the NASB renders verses 14-15:

      Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

      As you can see, Christ’s death and resurrection provided justification for believers and thus rendered the devil powerless in their lives in that believers are freed from both death and the fear of death. As 2 Timothy 1:10 says:

      …our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

      So Hebrews 2:14 doesn’t say that the devil was or will be literally destroyed.

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