The Witnesses insist that the only punishment is death, a ceasing to exist, and the only hell to be expected is the grave. Russell and his posterity claim that it is superstitious error to believe otherwise. They play on the English word Hell in its modern understanding. The word Hell is not a fair present day translation of the term used in the Bible. Our English word Hell has changed in meaning over the centuries so that it now refers solely to the place of eternal torment. Some have supposed that the word Hell in the King James is a mistranslation by them, but that isn’t so, either. For the English of that time it is correct, and does correspond to the word Sheol and Hades. It is now misleading, and is why the Witnesses can deceive the ignorant with such arguments.
There was an early English verb hele which meant to cover, to hide; and from this source comes the final hiding-place, hell. This word was at first used of the abode of the dead, the underworld (which contained both the Elysian Fields of the blessed and Tartarus for the accursed); but it’s use to translate the Greek gehenna, in the New Testament, turned it into the haunt of the fiends and devils, or the horrid hell. The Russellites agree to this truth as in seen in their article on Hell in their Aid to Bible Understanding, page 752. As they state at the opening, “…the word ‘hell’ as understood today, is not a happy translation” So our discussion will not turn on what the current English word Hell means, but rather what does the Bible teach!!
Sheol—this term appears 64 times in the Old Testament. It is translated Hell thirty-one times, and otherwise as GRAVE or PIT, in the King James Translation. More recent translations do not translate the word, but just render it into English as is. The definition of the Hebrew word sheol is the invisible state of the dead, the place and state of those who are out of the way and to be sought for. By this definition, is seems nearly to be the same as the Greek word Hades-which, by the way, the Septuagint almost constantly render it!! Ho hades topos, the invisible place. Our old English Hell, which now scarcely used but for the place of torment, yet being a derivative for the Saxon hillan or helan, which meant to hide, or from holla cavern, anciently denoted the concealed or unseen place of the dead in general, as is seen in the King James version. Jacob cried; “I will go down mourning into sheol to my son in mourning”. Genesis 37:35 What he meant was that he would go down to his grave mourning for he thought his son had been devoured by a wild beast! The Russellites mock this by saying Jacob was going to a receptacle of the body and so that is where all men go; back to the dust of the ground. Jacob certainly didn’t think that in going “unto” his son that he would be going back to the dust where all men go, he was talking about the place he would meet his son when his soul/spirit was separated from his body!! Again, when Nathan and Abiathar contested Moses authority to lead Israel, the Bible says “they went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the congregation.” The Russellites jump on this verse and say; “see here, they perished when they went there!” That is not what the verse says!! It says “they perished from AMONG THE CONGREGATION” Finally, they make much over Ecclesiastes 9:10 which reads; “for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” This passage speaks of things concerning this life, NOW, in the flesh. All one can do must be done NOW; all purposes, plans, thoughts, knowledge, wisdom will cease at death of things DONE UNDER THE SUN. Jonah, Johan 2:2 “cried out of the fish’s belly, out of the belly of hell cried I”—Jonah was not dead, just unseen by human eyes!!