What is Tartarus in the Bible

translated with the one word "hell", thus blurring the clear difference that exists in the basic Greek text. So that the difference becomes clear, we want to go into the three different meanings in more detail.

1. "Hades"

Hades appears eleven times in the NT. "Hades" corresponds to the Hebrew "Sheol" in the OT, as can be seen from the quotation of Psalm 16:10 in Acts 2:27.

"Because you will not put my soul to death

("Hades") let, not even admit that your saint sees the putrefaction " Acts 2:27

Both words mean the world of the dead. Capernaum is pushed into Hades. Mt 11, 23 and Lk 10, 15 The rich man comes into Hades. "Lk 16, 23; Acts 2, 27

Christ has since held the key to Hades and frees the righteous who rest there. 1 Cor 15, 55 and Rev 1, 18.

Hades is not the final place of punishment or the area of ​​damnation, but the place of the dead, the realm of the dead.

2. "Gehenna"

We find Gehenna twelve times in the NT.

If Hades denotes the place of the dead or the realm of the dead, Gehenna means the place of punishment. Scripture differentiates from Hades exactly the Gehenna, the hell of fire, the deep place of fire. The word has its origin from the valley of Hinnom, where the Moloch service once took place. 2 Kings 23:10 Here the corpses of the wrongdoers were cremated, and a constant fire was maintained, into which everything unclean was thrown. Therefore the prophets of the OT took it as the model of the place of judgment outside the city of God. (Isa 30, 33 and 66, 24)

In the time of Jesus it was the common expression for the place of punishment of the damned, which the Lord often used. (Mt 25, 41)

3. "Tartarus"

Tartarus is defined in a Greek dictionary as follows: "Tartarus in its proper, natural sense is the condensed, immobile darkness that surrounds the material universe."

This is also indicated by the parallel passage to Peter 2, 4 in Jude 6:

"Even the angels who did not keep their principality but left their homes, he kept for the judgment of the great day with eternal bonds in the darkness."


Bengel comments on this: "The darkness itself serves as a chain; it pauses them insofar as they are not happy with any light, and in this state they are kept open for the difficult judgment."

According to most and the most important commentators, the permanent abode of the evil spirits is now in the strict sense neither heaven nor hell, but in the circle of air surrounding the earth. If one summarizes all these testimonies, Satan and his angels are in the dark circle of air surrounding the earth, kept for the great day of judgment. This is exactly what Ephesians 2: 2 confirms.

"In what sins you have walked according to the course of this world and according to the prince who rules in the air"

We find the same statement in Ephesians 6:12:

"For we do not have to fight with flesh and blood, but with the princes and powers, namely with the lords of the world who rule in the darkness of this world, with the evil spirits under heaven."

Hence, Tartarus is in the air, in darkness, and under heaven, and there Satan and his angels rule. In all the passages mentioned so far, we found that Satan and his angels are kept for judgment in the dark circle of air that envelops the earth, but not a word that they will be tormented in a pool of fire before the final judgment. We also have a direct statement from the evil spirits themselves that they are not yet in the torment of hell. In the land of the Gergesen, Jesus met two people possessed by unclean spirits, and the spirits called out to him:

"Oh Jesus, you son of God, what have we to do with you? Did you come here to torment us before it was time?"

Mt 8, 29

The Gehenna, the eternal fire, which according to Mt 25, 41 is prepared for the devil and his angels, has to wait for his sacrifices until they are sent there by the judgment of Jesus and his saints. The time to torment has not yet come. Only after the thousand years of the next aeon will the devil and his followers be thrown there.

The devil is still not bound to this day, but he walks around like a roaring lion looking for whom to devour. Bengel says very astutely: "By the way, these miserable comrades of darkness can stay on earth, for example." Luk 8, 31; Eph 2, 2; Rev 9, 11; 12, 9. We find Satan in paradise and also in the desert to seduce Jesus, even at heavenly council meetings he was there (Job 1, 6).

From all of this we can see how far the images and the common view of Satan differ from the biblical account. What a glaring change it must have been for Satan and his angels when they were cast out by the shining presence of God into the dark Tartarus. God in his omniscience lets the fallen angel prince rule in this unlawful possession and the people languish under the stick of this ruthless driver so that they see the deception of sin and turn back to their rightful ruler.

The inhabitants of the realm of the dead or Sheol no longer have any part in the world in everything that happens among the sons. Death is the safest jailer and the realm of the dead of Hades or Sheol is the safest prison, because their robbery cannot escape them. Satan gathers people there "as prisoners in the pit" and locks them up in dungeon.

"That they should be gathered together as prisoners in the pit and locked up in the dungeon ..."


Norbert Burger