There is a lot of confusion regarding this teaching and we will need to consider several lines of truth in order to correct it. First of all, it is important to distinguish between the words “Hell” and “Hades.” Many use these two terms interchangeably, but they are NOT the same thing.

Hell is the FINAL DESTINY OF THE LOST and not a temporary place where the saved and unsaved were kept in separate compartments until Jesus came “to fetch Lazarus and Abraham and others in the other side of Hades.” The word “hell” is the Greek word GEHENNA and it is equivalent to the “lake of fire” in the New Testament. Jesus spoke on several occasions of this place. In Matthew 5:22 He warned some of being “in danger of hell fire.” Later, in verses 29-30 He said that one’s “whole body should be cast into hell.” In Matthew 25:41 He spoke of a future time when He will say to lost sinners, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into EVERLASTING FIRE prepared for the devil and his angels” (NKJV). This clearly teaches us that hell is a PLACE FOR THE LOST and that it is NOT A TEMPORARY PLACE, but an EVERLASTING PLACE.” At the very end of time the Lord Jesus will sit on the Great White Throne and He will summon all the lost before Him (Revelation 20:11-12) and we are told in verse 15, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into THE LAKE OF FIRE.” This is their ETERNAL DESTINY!

Hades is a TEMPORARY PLACE OF DEPARTED SPIRITS, including the saved and the unsaved. It is the same as the Old Testament word SHEOL which meant “the realm of the dead.” Unlike Hell, it has nothing to do with one’s BODY. The moment one dies their spirit/soul departs to a place. For the believer their spirit is in heaven. Regarding Lazarus we are told in Luke 16:22 that he “was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom” where he was “comforted” (verse 25). I believe “Abraham’s bosom” is simply another word for heaven, which means that Jesus did NOT have to go “to fetch Lazarus and Abraham” to take them to heaven. For the unbeliever they are in a place of torment. In that same account in Luke chapter 16 we read of a “rich man” who died, was buried (his body, that is) and was then “tormented” (verses 24-25). Both men were in Hades; that is, in the “place of departed spirits,” and yet exactly which PLACE they were in depended on whether or not they had placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. I should mention the fact that the King James Version renders the word “Hades” as “Hell” in verse 23. This is unfortunate, for as we have seen Hell is the eternal destiny of the unsaved sinner, where their body, soul and spirit will be for all eternity.

Another verse where the word Hades has been wrongly translated as Hell (and this has led to the error in question) is Acts 2:31. The King James Version reads, “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that HIS SOUL WAS NOT LEFT IN HELL, neither his flesh did see corruption.” The New King James Versions corrects this and says, “he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that HIS SOUL WAS NOT LEFT IN HADES, nor did His flesh see corruption.” We repeat, Hell is the eternal destiny of the lost and no one is in Hell yet (as we saw in Revelation 20:11-15). So, the soul of Jesus was NEVER IN HELL; it was IN HADES, for between His death and resurrection His spirit departed from His body for three days. As to THE PLACE that His spirit was in, we get the answer in Luke 23:45, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” He went back to heaven to be with the Father! This is why He could say to the penitent thief, “Assuredly, I say to you, TODAY you will be with Me in PARADISE.” The body of Jesus and the thief was buried that day, but their spirits went to Paradise (i.e. heaven). Three days later Jesus was raised from the dead and thus His spirit was reunited with His body. That goes right along with what we saw in Acts 2:31, for “His soul was not left in Hades”; it was not left in the state of being separated from His body.  (343.1)  (DO)