The word “hell” doesn’t exist in the Bible!
Whenever I am asked my opinion on the subject of hell, I usually answer with a counter-question: “What hell do you mean?” The word hell doesn’t exist in the Bible! Rather, there are 4 different words in the Bible, all of which have a different meaning, but unfortunately, all of them are often translated with the word hell. However, none of these 4 words has the meaning we often associate with the word hell. These 4 biblical words are often translated as hell:
Hades / Sheol
the lake of fire
None of these 4 words carry the meaning of a place of eternal torment, as hell is often understood. Here is an attempt to work out the meaning of the 4 words using the Bible:
Hades / Sheol: In the Old Testament (OT) we only find the word Sheol (ןשׂאוֹל) in Hebrew. It stands for the world of the dead in general. The counterpart to this in the New Testament (NT) is the Greek word Hades (ᾅδης). This word is used a total of 9 times in the NT, e.g. in the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Lk.16). Both the rich man and Lazarus are both in Hades. This is the first indication that Hades cannot be hell as it was originally often understood. In addition, in Revelation 20:14, Hades is thrown into the lake of fire and thereby destroyed. Hades is not a place of eternal torment for sinners, but rather “the waiting room of the dead”.
Gehenna: The word Gehenna (γέεννα) occurs 12 times in the NT. It is used 11 times by Jesus (used on 5 different occasions) and once in Jam.3,6. Gehenna is a physical place (the Hinnom valley) near Jerusalem that can still be visited today. The Hinnom valley has a significant prehistory in OT that must not be forgotten when interpreting the words of Jesus! The valley was a place of cruel idolatry. In this valley, children were sacrificed to the god Moloch (2 Kings 23:10; Jer 32:35). In Jeremiah 7: 30-33 it was then prophesied that as a consequence corpses would pile up in this valley. This came true when the Babylonians in 587 B.C. captured Jerusalem and threw the corpses into the Hinnom valley . Later the valley was turned into a huge garbage dump. Fires were constantly burning there (hence “where the worm does not die and the fire never goes out” Mk 9:48). Read a more detailed article about Gehenna here.
What does all this mean for the words of Jesus? I think Jesus’ words in the context of Gehenna have two meanings:
A) Take sin seriously. Sin has serious consequences. Remember what happened then as a consequence of your idol worship.
B) If you do not repent (repent) then exactly the same thing will happen again that was in 587 B.C. happened. Jesus said: “If you do not change yourselves and follow my path, then exactly the same flourishes for you as your ancestors: You will be thrown as corpses into the valley of Ge-Hinnom and burned.” Unfortunately, the Israelites did not take Jesus’ teaching of love for their enemies seriously and instead violently rebelled against the Roman occupation. Therefore exactly what Jesus warned them about happened: Jerusalem was destroyed and the bodies were thrown into the Ge-Hinnom valley and burned there. The siege and destruction of Jerusalem were unimaginably cruel. Over a million people were trapped in besieged Jerusalem (the Romans sealed the city when the Passover pilgrims filled the city to the last spot and then the Romans burned the pantries). Over 600,000 people died! The bodies of the starved were thrown over the wall. Corpses lay everywhere, in and out of town. The people who tried to flee were crucified by the Romans. 500 fugitives were crucified in one day. The Romans crucified fugitives every day until they finally ran out of wood for more crosses.
Jesus foresaw the horror that was imminent in Jerusalem and warned the Israelites with the most haunting words he could find. Jesus ‘Gehenna words were a very concrete and practical warning to the Israelites in Jesus’ day. They did not take the warning seriously and paid a heavy price for it.
Tartarus: 2 Peter 2,4 is the only place where Tartarus (ταρταρόω) occurs in the NT. It seems to be a place of judgment for angels who reject God.
The lake of fire: The fourth and last image which is often understood as hell is the lake of fire in Revelation 20 + 21. It should be noted here that the entire revelation is written as an apocalyptic book and must therefore be read and understood like such a book. The literary genre of apocalyptic uses figurative language to implicitly communicate truths. How exactly the respective images have to be interpreted is controversial, so you can ask 10 theologians about revelation and get 10 different opinions. Most of the time we also understand that it’s just metaphors. We don’t really believe that … a sword will come out of the mouth of Jesus to strike the people (Rev. 19:15) … there is an animal with 7 heads and 10 horns (Rev 17: 3) … the new Jerusalem will only be made of gold (Rev. 21:18) These are all images that have a deeper meaning. Then why should we not understand the lake of fire as a picture but as a real place? It is interesting to note the meaning of fire in the Bible. God himself is often associated with fire (Ex.3,2-6; 24,17; Acts 2,3-4). Fire is associated with purification and revelation of the truth (1 Corinthians 3: 13-16). God himself is a consuming fire (Heb.12.29). Personally, I would not base a dogma on a picture in Revelation that is not secured by other passages in the Bible. So I find it difficult to base the dogma “Hell is a place of eternal torture and eternal torment” only on an apocalyptic image in Revelation. I rather understand the lake of fire as a place of purification and purification. A place (or an age) where God delivers people from their sin and life’s lies. A place of truth where lies are exposed. This process is certainly not an easy one, it is sure to be painful. But it is a necessary process to purify people’s hearts and turn them to repentance. None of this was born out of the wrath of God, but rather out of his love. He himself is the consuming fire that releases, cleanses, and burns evil and dark in hearts.
 NKJV, Apply the Word Study Bible, eBook: Live in His Steps (page 299).