Understanding the Spiritual World and spiritual Places
Table of Contents
Based on biblical teachings, we can understand what the spiritual world is like, and how it influences our physical reality. There are specific spiritual places that are paralleled to geographic locations here in our physical world. These parallels are can be aesthetic depictions or allegorical concepts that help our limited understanding relate to how things work in the spiritual world.
The bible depicts a few well known spiritual places. Heaven and hell are the two of these well known places that the spirit of man will be sent to after death. When we studies the words for these two places from the English translations to the original language (Hebrew and Greek) we are able to get a clearer picture of what these places are like and the correct interpretation for these words in the original verses.
The word for heaven in English originated from the word heofon, meaning the home of God, visible sky or firmament. It has an earlier origin that came from the German word heben, similar to the norse word himinn, or gothic word himins.
The Hebrew word for heaven is shamayim, meaning high or lofty. In the New Testament, the word for heaven in the Greek is Euphemism and is used over 270 times.
Heaven is the dwelling places of God, the sons of God and His angelic beings. Heaven is Gods throne. We know that it is a complex ‘place’ topologically as the descriptions in the Bible speak of multiple heavenly places. The Bible speaks of the heavens of heavens which would seem to indicate a higher level above heaven, or of the heavens.
We see that even Satan was allowed at some point to come before God in heaven as we see in Job chapter 1. Christians fight against or wrestle with the principalities and powers that currently dwell in the heavenly places, primarily through the armor of God, prayer and supplication.
Attributes of Heaven
Heaven is a place that is full of God’s Glory. It is full of all His goodness, love, compassion, mercy, etc. Heaven is full of pleasures forevermore (Ps 16.11).
God will wipe every tear for every eye (Rev 21.4); there will be no sadness, pain or sorrow.
There will be a river of life that we drink from and fruit from the tree of life that we eat from. Jesus spoke of drinking wine in heaven with all of His people (Matt 26.29).
All those who have been justified by God will be brought to Heaven. The children of God will live forever with God in heaven and enjoy His pleasure forevermore (Ps 16.11). As soon as a believer dies, they go to be with the Lord.
The 3rd Heaven
Paul mentions being caught up to the 3rd heaven in 2 Corinthians 12.2. He tells us that what he experienced is inexpressible and forbidden to be spoken about in this world. You get the idea that it is a place that is beyond human imagination and comprehension as we perceive things from this world.
All those who have been justified by God will be brought to Heaven. The children of God will live forever with God in heaven and enjoy His pleasure forevermore (Ps 16.11). As soon as a believer dies, they go to be with the Lord. We also get a sense for the numbering of the heavenly positions. Most scholars agree that this term signified the understanding for the heavens in a sequential order:
- First Heaven – Sky or atmosphere- abode of the birds
- Second Heaven – The Outer Space or the Universe in regard to our physical domain
- Third Heaven – The heaven above our universe, or the abode of angels.
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.2 Corinthians 12.2
Host of Heaven
We are able to get an example or glimpse into God’s heavenly court and the Hosts of Heaven in 2 Chronicles 18, when the prophet Micaiah told Ahab what he saw when God declared Ahab to die.
I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right hand and His left. 19 And the Lord said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab king of Israel to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner.
20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’ 21 So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him and also prevail; go out and do so.’
Throne of God
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!Isaiah 6. 1-3
The Bible tells us that King Solomon proclaims in truth that God dwells in the heavens above the heavens. The prophets tell us that God dwells in eternity.
God exists outside of time and physical space. Time and space are physical properties that create limitation here in the physical world.
Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite onesIsa 57.15
I declare the end from the beginning, and ancient times from what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and all My good pleasure I will accomplish.’Isa 46.10
The English word for hell is derived from the old English word helle that refers to the realm of the dead. First attested to around 725 a.d from an anglo-saxon pagan time period. The word is strongly related to other old European languages and beliefs systems that infer relation to the realm of the dead. Old Norse hel, was both the location and the goddess. Old Gothic, Frisian and Germania have reference to the term hella.
Attributes of Hell
Biblically, hell is the place that was created by God for the devil and his angels after they fell from His grace (Matthew 25.41). We know that those who die and are judged by God as sinful and unrepentant will also be cast into hell (Ps 9.17) for their crimes against the Holy God.
- Hell is a place of eternal tournament (Matt 25.46) and punishment.
- It is a place that the fire is never quenched and the worm never dies (Mark 9.44, Isa 66.24).
- Hell is eternal separation from God and His glory, and since He is the source of all goodness, joy and pleasure, it makes sense that in hell you can only experience the opposite of those attributes. (Isa 59.1-2; 2 Thess 1.9)
- A place of fire and brimstone (sulfur), raining coals, a burning wind shall be their cup (Ps 11.6)
- There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 13.50)
- Body and soul are destroyed forever (Matt 10.28)
A Hebrew term that is in some translations is translated to the English word grave. However it is correctly translated in other versions as a different term altogether. When you look at its definition biblically, you can see that the word has a meaning far beyond just a physical hole in the ground for a dead body.
The term Sheol in the bible and in ancient Judaism is known to be the realm of the dead, or the location of the departed souls, both good and bad.
Sheol is described as a place that is under the earth or as the lower parts of the earth, or better referred to as the underworld.
The first occurrence of this word is in Gen 37.35 when Jacob thought Joseph was killed by wild beasts. From this we gather a few truths about Sheol from Jacob;
- Jacob believed he was conscious after death.
- That he will be with him one day, or go down to him.
- Further we can see this could not have been a literal grave ‘hole in the ground’ as he was torn by animals.
- Sheol is always referred to as ‘down’ geocentrically.
And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down to Sheol to my son mourning. And his father wept for himGen 37.35 ASV
… You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead (Sheol), nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.Psalms 16.8-11
Those who want to kill me will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth (Sheol)Psalms 63.9
Hell (Sheol) from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.Isaiah 14.9
Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth (Sheol): break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in IsraelIsaiah 44.23
When I shall bring thee down with them that descend into the pit, with the people of old time, and shall set thee in the low parts of the earth (Sheol), in places desolate of old, with them that go down to the pit, that thou be not inhabited; and I shall set glory in the land of the living;Ezekiel 26.20
neither their trees stand up in their height, all that drink water: for they are all delivered unto death (sheol), to the nether parts of the earth, in the midst of the children of men, with them that go down to the pitEzekiel 31.14, 16, 18
Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit (sheol).Ezekiel 32.18, 24
Kever vs. Sheol
Contrast from the term ‘Grave’
The term for grave, or place of burial, in the Hebrew is kever (qeber), which is not synonymous to sheol in any way. We also see in the Greek Septiugient, the word for sheol is translated to Mneema or hades.
- Kever is a verb, as it is used to bury someone (Gen 23.4,6,9,19,20; 49:30,31, etc.)
- Kever can by pluralized (as in having multiple graves) Sheol can not be pluralized, there is only one sheol.
- A grave is located at a specific site, sheol is never specifically localized.
- A grave can be owned or purchased (Gen 23.4-20) Sheol is owned by no man.
- Bodies are unconscious in the grave, but those in sheol are conscious (Isa 14.4-7; 44.23; Eze 31.16; 32.21; Luke 16.19)
The Dead are Conscious in Sheol
From within the realm of the dead (sheol) the mighty leaders will say of Egypt and her allies, ‘They have come down and they lie with the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword.Ezekiel 32.21
In the Greek New Testament the word for hell is Hades. We know from classic Greek mythology Hades was the realms of the dead, underworld or lower regions of the earth.
The Early Church fathers used this word from the Greek since it described exactly what hell, or rather sheol was, the place for disembodies spirits. Hades received both good and bad people, and is also geographically pointed to be at the center of the earth, or in a downward orientation.
We see that Hades has a destiny that leads to Gehenna in Rev 20.14
In the Greek Jesus specifically used a different term besides Hades. Jesus spoke of Gehenna in the afterlife. Originally south of Jerusalem, Gehenna was the place for the filth, waste and dead animal carcasses to be cast out and burned. Gehenna was basically the city dump.
The unsaved are temporarily held in Hades or Sheol, and after the final judgment they are cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20.14), also known as the second death.
The location of Gehenna is also different then Hades. Gehenna is in a place of outer darkness (Matt 8.12; 22.13; 25.30).
This place was not originally meant for human soul, it was originally meant for the devil and his angels (Matt 25.41).
Jesus Account of Sheol, Hell & Abraham’s Bosom
In Luke 6 Jesus gives us an account of Lazarus and the rich man who died and went to sheol. Here we can see the wicked are put into the place of torment, and the righteous are placed in a holding place called Abraham’s bosom or paradise.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.Luke 9. 19-31 (KJV)
This account reveals a lot about how the afterlife and sheol work(s/ed). We can see that rich man doesn’t argue that his situation isn’t just or fair, he knows that it is fair; he is conscious about his entire previous life on earth. He knows if his family members repent they can avoid that fate.
Abrahams Bosom was a place that the righteous dead went to in Sheol after they died, waiting for the coming Messiah. When Jesus descended to Sheol after his crucifixion, he broke the captives there free and brought them to heaven (Eph 4.8; 1 Peter 3.18-20).
Bottomless Pit or Abyss
The bottomless pit, or abusso in the Greek means abyss, bottomless, unbounded, the pit or immeasurable depth. It is a separate place from Hades or the abode of the dead.
Rev 20.1-3 we see the angel that is given the key to the bottomless pit or the abyss. The devil is chained and held for the duration of the millennial kingdom.
In 2 Peter 2.4 the word Tartarus is used to describe the place reserved for the angels that sinned who are reserved in chains of darkness for judgment (Jude 6), in gloomy dungeons. It is the only place in the bible that word is used so it is believed to mean the same place as the abyss or the bottomless pit. These inhabitants are released or short time to torment those on the earth for the last 3 ½ years of the tribulation.
Earthly ‘Spiritual’ Plane or the Invisible
It is believed that on some level there must be a spiritual aspect here on the earth that exists all around us. As there are multiple spiritual encounters recorded in the Bible here on earth. We know that spiritual or angelic beings are able to move around ‘to and fro’ here on earth and are able to materialize in and out of the physical, or at least from our perception. This may be an aspect of spiritual beings in which we as humans do not have the perception to be able to see. Elisha was able to open the eyes of one of his companions to see the armies of angels that encompassed them, thus revealing the invisible.
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.– 2 Kings 6. 17-20