The Intermediate State

 Adapted from Vol. IV,  Orthodox Church Magazine (Anglican), Feb. 1803



1. Matt. 5:22 – “In danger of HELL-fire.” The word in the Greek, here rendered HELL, is Gehenna.  This word Gehenna relates, in its primary sense, to that dreadful doom of being burnt alive in the valley of Hinnom, where the idolatrous Jews (in that particular spot of the valley called Tophet) burnt their children in sacrifice to Moloch; and in its secondary sense, it means the place, or the state, of the damned. Beza subjoins to this verse a note, which has an imposing air of research into Jewish polity. He enumerates the “quatuor Suppliciorum Genera Hebraeis usitata; Strangulatio, Gladius, Lapidation, Ignis” [four kinds of capital punishment (literal: supplication, kneeling, viz., torture) used by the Jews: strangulation, sword, stoning, and fire].  To this our excellent WHITBY seems to allude in his Commentary; and, with more straightforward simplicity, thus determines the meaning of the passage.  “He that represents and censures his brother as a child of Hell, shall be obnoxious to Hell-fire. – Gehenna mean here the place of torment in the life to come; and it occurs in a singular sense in the 29th and 30th verses of this chapter.”  Principal Campbell, in his very curious “preliminary dissertations” to his Translation of the Four Gospels, says that the word Geenna does not occur in the version of the LXX.  It certainly does not.  But in Josh. 18:16, the word Gaienna represents what in our English Bible is denominated the valley of Hinnom: this gives us the primary meaning of the word.

2. Matt. 10:28 – “Both soul and body in HELL.”  En Geevn. Here too the word is used in its secondary sense. – By the way, what do materialists say to this distinct mention of “both soul and body,” xia psyxnv swma

3. Luke 12:5 – The parallel passage to the preceding. HELL. Geennan.

4. Matt. 11:23 and the parallel text, Luke 10:15 – “Shalt be brought down to HELL.”  Ews (topon subaudit.) Adhj is derived from a primitive, and idain to see; and indeed the word was spelt Aidhj by the older Greek writers, at least the poets. Thus Homer IX, IL, 312. “Aidao pulnsin,” “the gates of hell.”  Aidao AEloice for Aide. “The Hebrew sheol the Greek Adhj, the Latin orcus, (says the very learned Bishop of St. Asaph, in his critical notes appended to his elaborate translation of HOSEA) are words of one and the same import; signifying the place appointed fro the habitation of departed souls, in the interval between death and the general resurrection.  In the New Testament two words are indiscriminately rendered, in our Englsih Bible, by the word HELL, Adhj and Geenna: the latter a word of Hebrew origin, translated into the Greek language, as the appropriate name of the place of the damned; which was generally called so by the Jews of the Apostolic age. This use of the word HELL, in the English New Testament, has imposed a sense upon it quite foreign to its etymology, and abhorrent from its more general application.”  Our English, or Saxon word HELL, means a place concealed or unseen; in which it agrees with the Greek word Hades.  “Another inaccuracy (says the Bishop) obtains in our English Bible; the Hebrew sheol being perpetually in the Old Testament, and the Greek Adhj sometimes in the New, rendered improperly by the word grave, which neither signifies.  The Hebrew names of hell and the grave are never confounded, nor the Greek by the sacred writers.  No two things can be more distinct; hell is the mansion of the departed spirit, the grave the receptacle of the dead body.”  I find Hades translated grave but once in the text of the English New Testament, I Coir. 15:55; and once in the marginal rendering, Rev. 20:14.  The words tomb or sepulcher are translations of Mman, or mvneion; though this latter word is more than once rendered grave

The situation of Hades is always described as far beneath the surface of the earth; where a large vacuity is represented, part o which forms Hades; and a part lower still,  nearer the centre of the earth’s hollow sphere, in the site of Gehenna, the place of the damned, answering to the Tartarus of the ancient poets. The Scriptures speak of three places inhabited by intelligent Beings; Heaven, Earth, and what is styled under the Earth.  Rev. 5:3, in Heaven, en tw ouranw; in Earth, epi thj ghj; and under the Earth, uhoxatw thj ghj; are distinctly enumerated.  Upokatw thj ghj, can refer to no place except one within the crust of this earth’s ball. Rational being are scripturally denominated eparanioi, epigeioi, and kataxqonioi.  Thus at the name of Jesus every knee must bow eparaniwn, kai eipheioi, and kataxqoniwn Phil 2:10.  To go into the lower parts of the earth, or into the pit, is to die; to come back to life, is to rise again. There is a word which may explain what I would here urge – “the DEEP” – the abyss; Rom. 10:7.  thn Abysson.”  Who (say the Apostle) shall descend into the deep?  (the abyss – Hades – the place of the separate spirits) that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead; - anagagein.

The meaning of the expression then in the two text Matt 11:23 and Lk. 10:15 is this – “Thou, Capernaum, which are now very highly exalted, shalt be abased and brought low hereafter, by the just judgment of God.” – Hades is here used in a figurative sense. 


I have treated upon the words Gehenna and Hades the more diffusely on their first occurrence; because if we rightly apprehend their meaning in the outset, the progress of our inquiry will be much facilitated.


5. Matt. 15:18 – “And the gates of HELL shall not prevail against it;” (see the Church of Christ) Pulai adou the gates of Hades: the confines of death. The word is here used figuratively; and the expression, as Whitby has proved at length, amounts to this; “My church shall continue for ever, it shall never perish.”


6. Matt. 18:9 – “To be cast into HELL-fire.”  “Eij thn Geennan to puroj.”  Here, as well as in the parallel passages, Matt. 9:43, 45, 47, the meaning is the same with that laid down under No. 1.


7. Matt.23:15 – “The child of HELL.”  Uion Geenhj.”  Verse 33.  “The damnation of HELL.”  Thj krianqj thj Geennhj.”  HELL here means the torment, where burns the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels “to pur to aiwnion, to etoimasmenon tw diabolq kai toi Aggelios auto.” 


8. Lk. 16:23 – “In HELL he lift up his eyes, being in torments.”  En to Ado.”   The rich man is here described as in torments; and therefore he must be supposed to be in that lowest abyss, (already mentioned under No. 4.) which, though in Hades, may be considered as Gehenna [better, Tartarus, Editor].  This passage occurs in a parable; but it is more than probable that it is couched in terms agreeable to truth, and coinciding with the popular belief of the Jews.  The ancients, generally, held the same opinion. Homer’s Hades, Virgil’s infernal regions, are formed on the same model. You descend below the earth’s surface; you behold the receptacle of separate spirits; and the place of the damned is comprehended beneath the same tremendous vault.  The “Descensus Averni” leads to both to Elysium and Tartarus.  (See No. 12.)  Abraham’s bosom is Paradise, the receptacle of happy, and that part of Hades which we may call Gehenna of guilty souls.


9. Acts 2:27 – Thou wilt not leave my soul in HELL.”  Eij adou.”  Verse 31.  “Not left in HELL.”  Eij Adou.”  This passage refers to Ps. 16:10 where the word is Sheol, Hades. Our Lord’s sufferings terminated at his death on the cross. There is was that he said, “tetelestai,” consummatus est, it is finished.  He had nothing to undergo in the palce of torment.  The expression means only “Thou wild not leave my soul in the receptacle of separate spirits; it shall be re-united to my body, and I shall rise again.” Our Lord told the repentant thief that he should be with him that day in Paradise – doubless that place where the souls of the righteous are reserved, “in happy rest and tranquil hope,” in the enjoyment of some portion of felicity, till the day of judgment.


A great deal has been surmised, and a great deal affirmed concerning I Pet. 3:18, 19, 20.  “Christ was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the spirit; by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing.”  Bishop Horsley interprets it in this way, that “the soul of Christ went and preached to the souls not in prison, as we read in our English Bible; but en fulaxh “in safe keeping,” (if that text of St. Peter is to be understood literally, and I know not how it can be understood otherwise,) which had been disobedient (apeiqhssi pote); but, as the expression “one while had been” implies, were at length recovered from that disobedience, probably by the preaching of Noah, and before their death had been brought to repentance and faith in the redeemer to come.   To these souls our Lord Jesus Christ went in his soul and preached. But what could he preach to them? Not repentance. They had repented of their disobedience before they were separated from the body by death, or they had not been found in the bundle of life. But, if he went and proclaimed to them (ekhrucen) the great tidings that he had actually offered the sacrifice of their redemption, and was now about to enter into glory; this was a preaching that would give new animation and assurance to their hope of the consummation, in due season, of their bliss.  And this, by the way, I take to be the true sense of this text of St. Peter.  (Critical notes upon Hosea, p. 158.)


But Bishop Pearson says, that “Christ preached toij en fulakh pneumasi),by the same spirit by virtue of which he was raised from the dead; but that spirit was not his soul, but something of a great power. 2dly, That those to whom he preached were such as were disobedient.  2dly, That the time when they were disobedient was the tem before the flood, while the Ark was preparing. It is certain then, that Christ did preach unto those person, which in the days of Noah were disobedient all that time the long-suffering of God waited, and consequently so long as repentance was offered.”…”  It remaineth therefore, that the plain interpretation be acknowledged for the time that Christ did preach unto those men which lived before the flood, even while they lived.”…”For though this was not done by an immediate act of the Son of God, as if he personally ad appeared on earth, and actually preached to that old world; but by the ministry of a prophet, by the sending of Noah, the eighth preacher of righteousness; yet to do any thing by another not able to perform it without him, as much demonstrates the existence of the principal cause, as if he did it of himself without any intervening instrument.”  (Bishop Pearson on the Creed, p. 113, 10th edition.)  The Bishop is here discussing the pre-existence of Christ before his incarnation. In his exposition of the article of the Creed “he descends into Hell;” after recapitulating this comment on the text in question, he refers his readers to the passage quoted.  (p. 229.)  [Editor: the better view is the latter, that Christ preached to the spirits in Tartarus now (when Peter wrote) through the Holy Spirit in Noah when the ark was preparing; not that he preached to the souls in Hades following his death upon the cross.]


I Cor. 15:55 – The word HELL occurs in the margin here.  In the text we have the well-known apostrophe, “O grave! Where is thy victory?”  Ho su, adh, to vikoj;  Grave here, and Hell in the margin, mean only the place of separate spirits, out of which “the prisoners of hope” shall come forth at “the resurrection of the just.”


11. Jam. 3:6 – “It is set on fire of HELL.”  Fylogizomenh (h’ Glwssa) upo thj Geennhs.  In this passage, though used figuratively in an hyperbolical sense, the word means the place of everlasting fire, the place of torment.


 12. II Peter 2:4 – “Cast them down to HELL.”  Tartarqsaj;” casting them into Tartarus. The word hell here undoubtedly signifies the place of punishment prepared for the devil and his angels, “the angels that sinned.”  [Editor: Better, Tartarus was the intermediate place of punishment and confinement pending final execution of judgement and sentence in Gehenna; viz., eternal death.  The “angels” who sinned should be interpreted as the “sons of God” (viz., the sons of Seth or children of faith) who apostatized before the flood by marrying unbelieving women.]


13. Rev. :18 – “And I have the keys of HELL and Death.”  Kai exw tas kleij to qanatoj kia to Adu.”  Of Death and of Hades. HELL means here the palce of separate spirits.


14. Rev. 6:8 – “Death and HELL followed with him.” Oqanatoj kaio Adhj akoloqei met auto.”   The same.


15. Rev. 20:13 – “Death and HELL deliverd up the dead which were in them.  O Qanatolj kai o Adhj edwxan tas en autoij nekros.”  These two passages (the last quosted and this), says Biship Horsley, afford the boldest personifications of Hell and which occur to my memory.”  Stript of its figurative form, and once more disembodied, Hades in each instance has the same meaning.  The bishop says (p. 159), “I am inclined to think, but suggest it only to the examination of the learned, without venturing to assert, that death and hell are always conjointly personified by the sacred writers, never one without another.” I submit tot the learned a passage where HELL is personified alone.  Isa. 14:9 0 “HELL from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee (the King of Babylon) at thy coming; it stirreth up the dead for thee.”


16. Rev. 20:14 – “And Death and HELL were cast into the lake of fire.”  Kai o qanatoj kai o Adhj ejlhqhsan eij thn limhn to puroj.”  Hades has here the same meaning as in the two last quoted passages. IT appears evidently that there is a place lower than Hades; into which abyss, being personified, together with Death, it is cast. Eij thn limhn ta puroj, is, I conceived, a phrase of the import as eij thn Geennan ta puroj.


Gehenna and Hades are perfectly well distinguished from each other in the New Testament, and are no more confounded than Sheol and Keber in the Old. Bishop Horsley, to whom the Christian world is under lasting obligation for his translation of Hosea, specifies six instances where Sheol may seem to be used for Keber. We have found but one where Hades appears to have the sense of Gehenna; that which I have already explained under No. 8.


I have noticed twenty-three places where the word HELL occurs in the text in our English Bibles, and one where it is found in the margin; which we may call twenty-four in all. In thirteen of these, the word in the original is Geenna, and in one Tartaroj; for this later word is wrapt up in the participle tartarwsaj; and in these it is to be deemed the place of torment; and in the remaining eleven, including the instance where it stands in the margin, it must be counted the receptacle of separate spirits.


Bishop Horsley, I perceive, (Hosea, p. 46) says, “we find the word Hell in our English Bibles in twenty-one passages.”  His lordship, though he counts three verses in Matt. 5 22, 29, 30, in which the word occurs; counts but on in Mark 9, viz, verse 47; but it occurs also in verses 43 and 45; and stands in the margin opposite the word grave in I cor. 15:55.


The bishop says, it signifies simply the region of departed spirits in twelve places. Now, even taking in the marginal instance, I can find but eleven places where it has this signification; and in proof of my assertion, I refer, very humbly, to the above recital of particular passages. His lordship has not specified the texts where it has this latter meaning.


I subjoin a table of all the places in the New Testament wherein the word HELL is found; distinguishing those expressed in the original by the word Gehenna, from those where the word in the Greek is Hades.




  1. Matt. 5:22
  2. Matt. 5:29
  3. Matt. 5:30
  4. Matt.10:28
  5. Luke 12:5
  6. Matt. 18: 9
  7. Mark   9:43
  8.  Mark 9:45

9.  Mark 9:47

  1. Matt. 23:15
  2. Matt. 23:33
  3. James 3:6
  4. I Pet. 2:24





  1. Matt. 11:23
  2. Luke 10:15
  3. Matt. 16:18
  4. Luke 16:23
  5. Acts 2:27
  6. Acts 2:31
  7. I Cor. 15:55 margin
  8. Rev. 1:13
  9. Rev. 6:8
  10. Rev. 20:13
  11. Rev. 20:14



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