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In Revelation 20:14 (ESV) we read:

"Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire."

The concept of "fire" is used multiple times in the New Testament to refer to a place of final judgment. To list just a few of them:

Matt 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, "You fool!" will be liable to the hell of fire.

Matt 13:40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.

Matt 25:41 Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

Likewise, the term Hades (other translations use the word Hell) is a word that is also used multiple times in the NT to refer to a place of judgment and torment. Examples:

Matt 11:23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Luke 10:15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.

Luke 16:23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

Acts 2:27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.

Acts 2:31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

With those scriptures in mind, the Revelation passage throws me for a loop. What causes confusion, for me, is that I've always considered Hades and the lake of fire to be the same thing. And if Hades and the lake of fire is the same thing, how can Hades be cast into itself? What's more confusing to me is, if the "lake of fire" is a physical place that those who are not written in the "Book of Life" will be sent for all eternity, how is it possible to send Death and Hades to that same place?

I suppose my question boils down to:

In Revelation 20:14, what is Death, Hades, and the Lake of Fire?

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I was reading Rev 2o:13-15 this morning as part of my morning fellowship and got kind of confused abit about the difference between death and hades as I thought they were one and the same thing?. My earlier thinking was that once one is dead, than you go to "sleep" in your grave which was to me was hades until the time of resurrection when we will all be Judged according to our deeds in life. But the verse in 13 which says, " The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. So thinking about this verse I begin to think that there are three… – user2236 May 6 '13 at 0:48
…places the dead people are going to be delivered, (1) from the sea, (2) from Death and (30) from Hades as per verse 13. By the grace of GOD I desire to understand this verse thoroughly. Can anyone please enlighten me. Lydia – user2236 May 6 '13 at 0:48
be sure to check out Why is Hadēs translated as “hell”? – Dan May 20 '14 at 2:51
up vote 13 down vote accepted

"Hades" is the Greek word for the realm of the dead. In the Greek Septuagint, it replaces the Hebrew word "Sheol". There's not a lot of description of Hades within the main canon - chiefly the parable in Luke 16 - but generally it is considered the holding place for the souls of the dead until the final judgement. It is sometimes thought to be divided into "compartments" of sorts: e.g. a place of torment and a place of comfort (the bosom of Abraham). This is somewhat apparent in Luke 16 and 2 Peter 2:4 mentions the angels bound in Tartarus: the Greek name for the place of torment.

You'll see in Revelation that Hades is always accompanied by Death (esp. see Revelation 6:8 where they are together personified). Death is thought to claim the material portion of a person and Hades the immaterial portion. It's not clear that the Lake of Fire is a place per se; but what is clear is that it represents destruction.

Whatever it is, the Lake of Fire supercedes Hades. Once Hades gives up its dead for the final judgement it is no longer needed and is sent to destruction along with those whose names were not in the book of life. Keep in mind that earlier Death and Hades were personified, so it makes sense in the apocolyptic setting that they could be sent to the same "place" as other persons.

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Might there be a sense in which they are equivalent and we might say that the place of destruction is wrapped up into itself—it consumes it self in the sense that it no longer affects anything external to itself; it is sealed? – Kazark May 12 '12 at 19:16
@Kazark - Certainly death is portrayed as a defeated enemy, one who is vanquished. But I'm not so sure how neatly everything is sealed off as you say. Rev. 14:10-11 suggests to me otherwise. I'll have to think about it, though. – Soldarnal May 12 '12 at 20:20
+1 Though you don't state it very strongly that this only makes sense if the lake of fire is destruction. ;) The OP may be thinking it doesn't make sense for the condition of death and holding place for death souls to be sent to eternal torment. Which he's right, it doesn't. It only makes sense if they are being destroyed. – Joshua May 14 at 15:11

This isn't from Scripture but perhaps like an oubliette it is a place of forgeting. Throw death and hades as a concept into a place where no one thinks of it again. Please note:

Revelation 1:18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.

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I'm of the opinion that θανατος and αδης are to be understood as two Greco-Roman deities. αδης is well known as the keeper of the underworld. While I'm not aware of any particular extant references in secular literature to θανατος but it seems pretty clear that both θανατος and αδης are person's in Revelation 20:13-14 as they "surrender" the dead and then they are destroyed. Compare with:

NIV Rev 6:8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Berean Literal Bible Rev 1:18 and the Living One. And I was dead, and behold I am living to the ages of the ages, and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.

May Protestants presume that the "Substitution Theory of the Atonement" is the historic soteriology but that is certainly not the case. The Catholic view from the beginning was that Jesus triumphed over Death, snatched the keys and led his captives to freedom:

Christus Victor (Christ the Victor) is a view of the atonement taken from the title of Gustaf Aulén's groundbreaking book, first published in 1931, where he drew attention back to the early church's Ransom theory. In Christus Victor, the atonement is viewed as divine conflict and victory over the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection. Aulén argues that the classic Ransom theory is not so much a rational systematic theory as it is a drama, a passion story of God triumphing over the powers and liberating humanity from the bondage of sin. As Gustav Aulén writes, "the work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil."^1^

The Ransom Theory was predominant in the early church and for the first thousand years of church history and supported by all Greek Church Fathers from Irenaeus to John of Damascus. To mention only the most important names Origen, Athanasius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom. The Christus Victor view was also dominant among the Latin Fathers of the Patristic period including Ambrose, Augustine, Leo the Great, and Gregory the Great.

A major shift occurred when Anselm of Canterbury published his Cur Deos Homo around 1097 AD which marks the point where the predominate understanding of the atonement shifted from the ransom theory to the Satisfaction Doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church and subsequently the Protestant Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church still holds to the Ransom or Christus Victor view. This is built upon the understanding of the atonement put forward by Irenaeus, called "recapitulation".^[2]^

As the term Christus Victor indicates, the idea of “ransom” should not be seen in terms (as Anselm did) of a business transaction, but more of a rescue or liberation of humanity from the slavery of sin. Unlike the Satisfaction or Penal-substitution views of the atonement rooted in the idea of Christ paying the penalty of sin to satisfy the demands of justice, the Christus Victor view is rooted in the incarnation and how Christ entered into human misery and wickedness and thus redeemed it. Irenaeus called this "Recapitulation" (re-creation). As it is often expressed: "Jesus became what we are so that we could become what he is".

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The wicked are thrown into the lake of fire (New Testament). In Revelations Death and Hell/Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. The reason why that doesn't seem to make sense is that we have not been taught the truth! The English bible is a translation, and we have been taught that Hell/Hades is a place of eternal punishment in hell-fire---for ever and ever! Wrong!!! Hell/Hades is the same as the Hebrew word Sheol, and simply means the grave! If you read revelations (corrected) it should say death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is symnbolic (only!) of permanently destroying something! Death and the grave will be destroyed in the end, and all the true believers will have eternal life!!! No need for death and hell anymore, since Death and the grave were a punishment for sin! Halleluyah!

Ps--You were absolutely correct in saying the verse doesn't make sense (according to what we have been taught in the churches)! You cannot throw Death into a fire, and it certainly would not make sense to throw hell-fire into a fire either!

More proof...People (Europeans) use to refer to "planting their potatoes in hell". They understood hell to mean the ground/earth or when talking about a human body, the grave!

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We are looking for well-supported and well-reasoned answers here. This answer is neither. I encourage you to look around the site and see how other answers are written. – Jon Ericson Sep 24 '12 at 6:33

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