ANCIENT CONCEPTS OF THE AFTERLIFE
Names for the Nether Realms:
Aralu: the Babylonian Underworld.
Tuat (“Dawn”): the Egyptian Place of the Dead.
Neter-Khertet: “Divine Underworld.”
Amentet (“Sunset”): the Egyptian Hell; later Coptic Amente, Amenta.
Abyssos: the Abyss (Greek), the Bottomless Pit; the subterranian Deep; Sumerian Absu.
Tehom: the Deep (Hebrew), the Void beneath the flat Earth; personified by the cosmic water dragon Tiamat (adversary of Marduk) or Lotan (adversary of Baal) or Leviathan (adversary of Yahweh).
Sheol: the Hebrew Underworld.
Sheol Equivalents: “Asleep with the Fathers” or “Gathered to his People;” also, “Grave” and “Pit” were Sheol-equivalent terms or literal places of burial.
Land of Darkness, Silence, and Dust: Sheol as described in the Book of Job. (Job 10:20-22, 38:17)
Womb of Earth: the Underworld according to the Book of Second Esdras.**
Outer Darkness*: Exclusion from God’s Presence in a place of “weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth” - the fate of an exile or outcast locked outside the walls of his city to live with lepers and in fear of desert demons of the night. (Matt. 8:12, 22:13, 25:10, John 3:36, 2 Pet. 2:4, Rev. 22:15)
Tophet: the valley south of Jerusalem where infant sacrifice was practiced; this desecrated ground was turned into a garbage dump; equivalent to Gehenna. (Jer. 7:31-32, 2 Kings 23:10)
Gehenna, from Ge Ben Hinnom*: “Valley of the Sons of Hinnom,” equivalent to Tophet; the garbage dump of Jerusalem; at first it was one entrance to Hell, but by the time of Jesus it was Hell itself. (Matt. 5:22, 23:33)
Hades*: the Greek Underworld; kingdom of the god Hades; for the Romans, the kingdom of Pluto; later, the Christian place of the dead in the intermediate period before the Judgment, divided into two parts: “Paradise” (cf. Elysium) and “Torment” (cf. Tartarus). (Matt. 11:23, 16:18, Luke 16:23)
Torment*: intermediate state of the wicked dead before Judgment Day.
Lake of Fire: in Greek mythology the River of Fire, Phlegethon, which compasses the underworld City of the Furies; for Christians the place where Satan and sinners are consigned after Judgment Day.
Fire,* or Fire and Brimstone: the symbolic term for Hell taken from the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Matt. 3:12, 5:22, 13:42, Jas. 3:6, Rev. 21:8)
Second Death: the final state of dead sinners. (Rev. 2:11, 20:14, 21:8)
Tartarus: the Greek underworld prison of the defeated Titans; later identified as the prison of the fallen angels. (2 Peter 2:4 - only use in the New Testament)
Nether Gloom: equivalent to Tartarus; prison of fallen angels. (Jude 6)
Prison: Hades; the intermediate state of the pre-Christian dead. (1 Peter 3:18)
*Terms used by Jesus.
**Underworld Womb: a Cave was either a Home (i.e., Haunt) of Spirits or the Vaginal Tunnel into the Womb of Mother Earth, where her dead offspring were crammed in , like pips in a pomegranate, to the point of bursting and, hence, due to be resurrected when the pregnant womb could hold no more. (Note Abraham’s cave of burial at Machpelah.)
Abaddon: Hebrew “Perdition” or “Destruction;” Hell.
Apollyon: Greek equivalent to Abaddon. (Revelation 9:11)
Hell: from Hela, the German goddess of the Underworld; the place of torment after Judgment Day.
Limbo, from Limbus Patrum: “Borderland of the Fathers,” an upper region of Hades where non-Christian righteous persons are confined in the afterlife, according to medieval Church doctrine; equivalent to the “Fields of Mourning” in classical mythology; cf. the Elysian Fields (’Hlusion pedion).
Names for the Upper Realms:
Annu or On: ancient Egyptian city of the sun god; later, Heaven.
Sekhet-Heptu: “Fields of Peace,” the Egyptian Heaven.
Paradise: a Persian word meaning “Royal Hunting Park;” equivalent to Eden or Heaven. (Luke 23:43, 2 Cor. 12:4, Rev. 2:7 - only 3 places in New Testament)
Eden or Gan Eden: “Garden of Pleasure,” Adam’s original home; later, a name for Heaven.
Land of Beulah: “Married,” the state of Israel united to God. (Isa. 62:4)
Heaven (Shamayim): the realm above the atmosphere, the region of the Air where Satan dwells; God’s abode above the airy realm; the place beyond the blue vault of the sky from whence angels drop rain, snow, and fire (lightning); the location of the heavely Temple.
Firmament: the Sky Vault through which angels pour rain and snow and from which hang the luminaries. (Gen. 7:11, Mal. 3:10, Rev. 4:1)
Crystal Pavement: the Firmament; the blue “Sea” in the Sky; the blue pavement which represents the Sky beneath God’s Throne. (Exodus 24:10, Ezekiel 1:22, Revelation 4:6)
Clouds: God’s chariots; also the realm of the Son of Man (the Messiah). (Daniel 7:13, Revelation 14:14)
Third Heaven: Paul’s name for Paradise. (2 Cor. 12:2)
Rest: a name for the Promised Land; later, Heaven. (Heb. 3:18)
Reward: Heaven as an award given to the righteous at Judgment Day.
Bliss, the Joy of the Lord: symbolic terms used by Jesus. (Matt. 25:21)
Home With the Lord: a symbolic term used by Paul. (2 Cor. 5:8, Phil. 1:23)
Abraham’s Bosom: a part of Hades corresponding to the Elysian Fields where dwell the righteous dead; the other part, called Torment, lies beyond a great Gulf. (Luke 16:22)
The Throne of God: where the King of Heaven sits enthroned.
Holy City: the heavenly Jerusalem. (Revelation 21:2)
New Jerusalem: the City of God at the close of the Age.
Pearly Gates: the twelve portals of the Holy City; Heaven. (Revelation 21:21)
Choirs, Choruses: the angelic hosts; the saved souls arrayed in ranks before the Throne of God. (Revelation 14:2-3, 15:2-3, 19:1)
Celestial, Ætherial, or Empyrean Heaven: the highest Heaven in medieval Ptolemaic cosmology.
Heaven of Heavens: the highest realm where God dwells. (Deut. 10:14, 1 Ki. 8:27, Ps. 103:11, 148:1-7)
The Highest: the name of Heaven according to the angels of Bethlehem. (Luke 2:14)