There are four words for hell in the Bible. One in the Old Testament, which is "sheol", and three in the New Testament; "Tartarus", "Gehenna", and "Hades".
Sheol is an easy one, it basically means "the grave", which is our resting place where we go when we die. "From dust you were made and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). The other three in the New Testament need a little bit of explaining:
2 Peter 2:4 .....'For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Tartarus ], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.' ..... Now have a good think about this one. Where are Satan and his angels now? Are they in "hell fire" roasting away? No, they are freely roaming the earth tempting and deceiving people. So why does it say that they are being held in hell? Well, the meaning of tartarus is "dark abyss", or "place of restraint". Now this isn't a place of judgment, because as the Bible verse above confirms, satan and his angels are "RESERVED" for judgment. They won't be punished until after Christ Jesus returns. And what about the chains? Are they literal chains that the angels are kept in? No, as I've said, satan and his angels are FREELY roaming the earth right now. So the chains are symbolic of the circumstance of satan and the fallen angels. They have been cast out of heaven and are BOUND to this earth. They are chains of circumstance. These angels used to be in the presence of Almighty God, but now they have been cast out of heaven and are bound to this earth, which to them is a "dark abyss" and they are "restrained" to this place, reserved for judgment.
Matthew 5:22 .....'but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell [Gehenna] fire.' ..... It is pretty much universally agreed that the word for hell in this verse was based upon the "Valley of Hinnom" where trash and dead animals were burned, and the fires ONLY continued to burn as long as the people added more rubbish or dead animals to it. But the things that were added to it were burned up and consumed away into nothing but ash. In this Bible verse, Jesus is confirming that there will be a real fire where the lost will receive their punishment. But are the lost dead there now? Well, Christ answers this for us in Matthew 5:29, where He says that it is more profitable for us to lose one of our body parts that causes us to sin, than for our WHOLE BODY to be cast into hell [Gehenna]. Now how is it possible for someone who has died and their body is in the grave, at the same time to be cast into hell whole bodied? Doesn't make sense does it? That's because Jesus here is talking about being cast into hell fire, or the lake of fire, AT THE END OF TIME. Look at what Jesus said in Matthew 13:40-42:
'As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.'
Do you see? The lost are cast into the lake of fire [Gehenna] AT THE END, not when they die. And we will show you further in this study that the lake of fire at the end does NOT burn forever, but it will go out once it has done it's job of consuming all the wicked. And then the wicked will be no more.
But many Christians believe that it isn't the body that goes to "hell", just the "soul". The truth is, we do not have an immortal soul that lives on when we die. The creation account in Genesis confirms that we didn't RECEIVE a soul, we BECAME living souls when God created us. So when we die we just return to the dust and are no longer living souls. Now many people are happy to accept this teaching of us having eternal souls, and that it is the souls of the lost that burn in hell, and they will use the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to back it up. But when you really look at this teaching, you begin to see huge problems with it. How? Well, this rich man in hell is supposed to be just a bodyless soul, and yet he has a TONGUE, amongst other body parts! So our souls have tongues do they, that can cool a person burning in hell fire with just a few drops of water? You begin to realise how rediculous this teaching is when you really look into it with open eyes. Please see HERE for the truth about what happens at death.
Revelation 20:14 .....'And death and hell [Hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.' ..... Ok, so if we take hades as being hell fire, a place of torment, then we have a problem because as you can see it says in the above Bible verse that hades is cast into the lake of fire. Now how can a place of fire and torment (hades) be cast into a place of fire and torment (lake of fire)? Do you see the problem? So what is hades? The King James Version Bible and Strong's Concordance translates hades as being "the grave". So does this make sense now? Yes! If we re-read the verse above with this new information it reads as; "death and THE GRAVE is cast into the lake of fire. Obviously this is symbolic of death and the grave being destroyed forever.
1 Corinthians 15:55 ..... 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave [Hades], where is thy victory?'
Just to confirm this even more, let's take a look at the above Bible verse in context ..... 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 .....'Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave [Hades], where is thy victory?
Now if you connect the line "we shall not all sleep", with "O grave [Hades] where is thy victory", it tells us that the saints also rise from hades to everlasting life with Jesus. This shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that hades is the grave and not a place of torment and hell fire, because as we know the saved do not experience any part in hell fire.
So what is the true meaning of the word "hell" throughout the Bible?
Sheol means the grave, the resting place for all who have died.
Tartarus means a place of darkness and restraint for satan and the fallen angels, ie. this earth.
Gehenna means a place of real fire where the wicked are punished and destroyed.
Hades means the grave, the place of the dead.