This is the fifth in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.
If Sheol or Hades is the temporary abode of deceased people, is there a transitory place of punishment for some demons?
It seems the answer is yes, in a place the New Testament refers to as Tartarus.
Tartarus is mentioned only once, in 2 Peter 2:4. Many translations render it “hell,” including the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible, while others, like the English Standard Version and the New International Version, provide footnotes linking the English word “hell” to the Greek name Tartarus.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible simply transliterates the Greek word in this passage, which reads: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but threw them down into Tartarus and delivered them to be kept in chains of darkness until judgment …”
A footnote in the HCSB reads: “Tartarus is a Greek name for a subterranean place of divine punishment lower than Hades.”
In the apocryphal Book of Enoch (20:2), Tartarus is used as a place where fallen angels are punished, an interpretation Peter affirms.
So, Tartarus seems to be a place separate from Sheol, the Hebrew term for the abode of the dead; Hades, roughly the Greek equivalent of Sheol; and Gehenna, the lake of fire created for the Devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41) where wicked people also spend eternity (Rev. 20:15).
Ancient Greeks regarded Tartarus as a place where rebellious gods and other wicked ones are punished. Peter refers to Tartarus as the abode of certain fallen angels.
Previously: The rest of the dead – Revelation 20:5-6
Rev. 20:7 – When the 1,000 years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea. (HCSB)
Satan will be released
Verses 7-8 read, “When the 1,000 years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea.”
Satan’s release from the abyss (Greek phulakes or prison) appears related to the well-known prophecy in Ezekiel 38-39. While there are similarities between these passages, there also are differences. The question has been raised as to whether the battle in Rev. 20:7-8 is the same battle prophesied in Ezekiel 38–39, where Gog and Magog also are mentioned (Ezek. 38:2).
These appear to be two different battles, however, for in the war of Ezekiel 38–39 the armies come primarily from the north and involve only a few nations of the earth, while the battle in Revelation 20 involves all nations. These two events are related, however, inasmuch as Israel is the focal point in both conflicts.
Why is Satan imprisoned for a time and then released? Why not cast him into hell before the 1,000 years? Joseph A. Seiss writes, “God uses even the wickedest of beings, and overrules the worst depravity, to his own good and gracious ends. He allows Satan liberty, and denies him liberty, and gives him liberty again, not because the Devil or the Devil’s malice is necessary to him, but to show his power to bring good out of evil, to make even the worst of creatures praise him, and to turn their very wickedness to the furtherance of the purposes they would fain defeat” (The Apocalypse, p. 476).
Previously: The first resurrection – Revelation 20:4b-5
Rev. 20:5 – The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years.
The rest of the dead
John writes, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were completed” (v.5). He then mentions that their fate is the “second death” (v.6). John tells us in verse 15 that the second death is “the lake of fire” into which death and hades are cast.
More will be said about this subject in our discussion of the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15), but it’s important to note that John sees a clear separation between the first and second resurrections and, as we’ll see shortly, different destinations for those who take part in the first and second resurrections.
It’s important to note that the second death has no power over the redeemed (v. 6). The finished work of Christ assures that all who come to Him by faith are released from the penalty of sin. Once they were dead spiritually but now they have everlasting life. They will die physically one day but will be raised and given glorified bodies similar to the resurrected body of Jesus. The lake of fire is not created for them, nor will they experience it.
In contrast, the lake of fire is created for Satan and his demons, and these evil creatures most assuredly spend eternity there. Joining them are those who reject Christ. They have chosen to spend eternity in a place not made for them.
Previously: The key to the abyss – Revelation 20:1
Rev. 20:2 – He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for 1,000 years. 3 He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the 1,000 years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time. (HCSB)
He seized the dragon
In verses 2-3 Satan is “seized,” bound for 1,000 years, and thrown into the abyss. Note the different names by which the evil one is called: the dragon, that ancient serpent, the Devil, and Satan. We have explored these names before, most notably in “The woman, the dragon, and the child – Rev. 12:1-6,” and “Then war broke out in heaven – Rev. 12:7-12.” But a quick review is in order.
John Shore recently authored a commentary for Patheos entitled, “What Christianity Without Hell Looks Like.” Patheos is a website providing information about various religions.
Reprinted in TIME Ideas and complete with a photo of a dove soaring in the sunlight, the article’s main point is that Christianity without hell “would allow Christians to point upward to God’s love.”
Shore is a popular Christian blogger and author, yet his column features a string of shockingly bad theological statements that nevertheless resonate well in today’s relativistic culture.
Let’s look at just four of his false statements.