Summary: This is a study on Sheol - the abode of the dead. This concept is found both in the Old and the New Testament.
SHEOL: WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO PEOPLE WHO DIED BEFORE THE RESURECTION OF JESUS?
All who died before the resurrection went to SHEOL.
Ecclesiastes 9:2-3 (HCSB) Everything is the same for everyone: there is one fate for the righteous and the wicked, for the good and the bad, for the clean and the unclean, for the one who sacrifices and the one who does not sacrifice. As it is for the good, so it is for the sinner, as for the one who takes an oath, so for the one who fears an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: there is one fate for everyone. In addition, the hearts of people are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live—after that they go to the dead.”
Psalms 89:48 (KJV) What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave (Sheol)? Selah.
Sheol means ABODE OF THE DEAD.
Sheol has also been translated as grave, pit, underworld, a place of no return and in the Old Testament it is where all people went when they died.
Those of the Old Testament had MIXED VIEWS of Sheol.
Some did not see it as a PLACE OF HOPE.
Psalms 88:1-10 (HCSB) Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out before You day and night. May my prayer reach Your presence; listen to my cry. For I have had enough troubles, and my life is near Sheol. I am counted among those going down to the Pit. I am like a man without strength, abandoned among the dead. I am like the slain lying in the grave, whom You no longer remember, and who are cut off from Your care. You have put me in the lowest part of the Pit, in the darkest places, in the depths. Your wrath weighs heavily on me; You have overwhelmed me with all Your waves. Selah You have distanced my friends from me; You have made me repulsive to them. I am shut in and cannot go out. My eyes are worn out from crying. Lord, I cry out to You all day long; I spread out my hands to You. Do You work wonders for the dead? Do departed spirits rise up to praise You? Selah
Others believed God’s PRESENCE reached to Sheol.
Psalms 139:7-8 (HCSB) Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.
Daniel 12:2-3 (HCSB) Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to shame and eternal contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the bright expanse [of the heavens], and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Jesus TAUGHT about Sheol.
Luke 16:19-31 (HCSB) “There was a rich man who would dress in purple and fine linen, feasting lavishly every day. But a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, was left at his gate. He longed to be filled with what fell from the rich man’s table, but instead the dogs would come and lick his sores. One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torment in Hades, he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’ “ ‘Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us.’ “ ‘Father,’ he said, ‘then I beg you to send him to my father’s house— because I have five brothers—to warn them, so they won’t also come to this place of torment.’ “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’ ”
Jesus’ story in Luke 16 gives us the clearest picture of Sheol in the Bible. It shows us that it was the abode of the dead. Both the righteous and the un-righteous were there. It was divided into two sections. One side is "Hades" where there is torment and pain. The other side is "Abraham’s Bosom" (Paradise) where there is rest and comfort. It also teaches us four hard-to-hear truths: