Usually understood as the final abode of the unrighteous dead wherein the ungodly suffer eternal punishment; the term translates one OT word and several NT words.
OLD TESTAMENT USAGE – The only Hebrew word translated “hell” in the KJV (though not in modern translatons) is Sheol. Sheol itself is a broad term that, depending on the context, may signify the abode of the both the righteous dead and the ungodly dead. NEW TESTAMENT USAGE – In the NT three words are translated “hell”: Gehenna (Matt 5:22,29-30;10:28; 18:19; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6), Hades (Matt 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev 1:18; 20:13-14), and Tartarus (2 Pet 2:4). It is significant that, contrary to Sheol, none of the NT terms for hell or Gehenna are used simply for the gave.
In paganism Hades originally referred to the god of the netherworld but later came to refer to the place of the dead. In Luke 16:23 Hades is definitely depicted as a place of torment (Luke 10:15). Revelation 20:13 depicts Hades as an interim place of habitation for the lost until the final judgment. Gehenna was the name of a valley on the southeast of Jerusalem into which little children were thrown as sacrifices to a god named Moloch.
There is a fundamental difference between Hades and Gehenna that is vital to the understanding of God’s punitive justice. From its use in the NT, Hades is viewed as the place that receives the ungodly for the intervening period between death and resurrection. Gehenna may be equated with the everlasting fire that was originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt 25:41), and the lake of fire in Rev 20:14 into which are cast death and hell. Following the resurrection and the judgment of the lost, Gehenna becomes the final place of punishment by eternal fire.
Tartarus was regarded by the ancient Greeks as that abiding place where rebellious gods and other wicked ones were punished. Its only NT use is in 2 Pet 2:4, which says angels that sinned “were confined in Tartarus” and “kept unto judgment.”
ADDITIONAL DESCRIPTIONS OF SUFFERING After final judgment, the lost experience continual and unimaginable suffering and torment. Such phrases as “weeping and gnashing of teeth” and “outer darkness” (Matt 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; 13:28) and “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44,46,48 HCSB) indicate emotional and physical, as well as spiritual, suffering. Degrees of judgment and suffering also are indicated by such texts as Matt. 10:15; 11:22,24; 18:6; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:12,14.