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Do Christians go to Sheol?

by Stephen Davey

Diane asks, "Do Christians and non-Christians go to Sheol after death?"

No, Christians and non-Christians do not go to Sheol. Only non-Christians go there. 

There are two words in the Bible that refer to the same place. "Hades" in the New Testament is the same place as "Sheol" in the Old Testament. Hades is the Greek word and Sheol is the Hebrew word.

Prior to the resurrection of Jesus, people went to Sheol, or the "place of the dead" when they died. When Jesus was resurrected, he brought with Him all of the Old Testament saints, leaving only the unbelievers in Sheol. 

Now, when we think of Sheol or Hades, these words refer to the place where the souls of unbelievers are staying as they await their summons to the Great White Throne. Everyone who dies as an unbeliever goes to Hades/Sheol. It is a temporary place of torment for those who have rejected God.

In Revelation 20:12-13, we learn that all of the occupants of Sheol/Hades are summoned to stand before God at the Great White Throne. John tells us that, just as the bodies of all believers will be resurrected and given a glorified, immortal body, the bodies of all the unbelievers will be resurrected. Their souls are released from Sheol/Hades and are reunited with their resurrected bodies. They will stand before God in judgment. The result of that judgment will be an eternal sentence in hell.

But to clarify once again, Christians do not go to Sheol/Hades.

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The Hebrew term "Sheol," found 65 times in the Old Testament, is a concept that has intrigued and puzzled theologians and biblical scholars for centuries. While often translated as "grave," "hell," or "pit" in English translations like the ESV, these words fail to capture the full complexity and nuances of Sheol as understood in ancient Hebrew culture.

Sheol in the Old Testament: A Land of Shadows and Silence

In the Old Testament, Sheol is depicted as a realm of darkness, gloom, and silence. It is often described as an underworld, a subterranean abode where all the dead, regardless of their righteousness or wickedness, reside after their earthly lives. Passages like Psalm 88:12 and 115:17 emphasize the inactivity and unconsciousness associated with Sheol, a place where the living cannot praise or remember God.

Sheol is not merely a physical location but a powerful symbol of death's finality and separation from the living world. It is referred to by various names, such as Abaddon (destruction) and the "land of forgetfulness," underscoring its desolate nature. In the cultural context of the Pentateuch, expressions like "gathered to one's people" or "gone to one's fathers" signify a communal aspect of Sheol, where tribes and families are believed to reunite after death.

Sheol and the Concept of Immortality

The concept of immortality in the Old Testament is closely linked to Sheol, yet it's not about an eternal existence in Sheol itself. Instead, the Old Testament presents Sheol as a contrast to the hope of eternal life with God. Death and Sheol are seen as consequences of human sin, unnatural and undesirable states.

Key passages like Job 14:13-15 and Psalm 49:15 hint at a future redemption from Sheol, a resurrection to a renewed life in God's presence. This hope represents a nascent eschatology (study of end times) in the Old Testament, where death isn't the final word but a phase preceding resurrection and true immortality with God.

The Evolution of Sheol in the New Testament

In the New Testament, the concept of the afterlife undergoes a significant transformation. The Greek word "Hades" often parallels Sheol in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), but Jesus introduces new terms like "Gehenna" (a place of punishment) and "Paradise" (a place of bliss) to describe different destinies for the righteous and the wicked.

The teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul emphasize that believers in Jesus Christ will not go to Sheol as understood in the Old Testament. Instead, they will experience eternal life in God's presence. This change is directly connected to Jesus's resurrection, where He defeated death and opened the way for believers to experience eternal life.

Christians and Sheol: A New Hope

The resurrection of Jesus radically alters the concept of Sheol. No longer a final destination, it becomes a temporary holding place. When Jesus rose from the dead, He took with Him all the Old Testament saints, who now reside with Him in paradise, as do all believers who have died since.

This provides profound assurance for Christians: through faith in Christ, they will not experience the darkness and silence of Sheol described in the Old Testament. Instead, they have the promise of eternal life in God's presence.


Sheol is a complex and multifaceted concept in the Bible. Its meaning and implications evolve from the Old to the New Testament, reflecting a shift in understanding about the afterlife. While initially a place of shadows and silence for all the departed, Sheol's significance is transformed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For believers, it is no longer the final destination, but a temporary state before entering eternal life with God.

By understanding the nuances of Sheol in both Testaments, we gain a deeper appreciation for the hope and salvation offered through Jesus Christ. His victory over death has forever changed the landscape of the afterlife for those who trust in Him.

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Kristine says:
Thank you! I have studied Sheol and its relevance and this was very helpful to confirm and clarify!
Jan says:
No, Christians and non-Christians do not go to Sheol. Only non-Christians go there. Huh? Non-Christians do not, only non-Christians go there.