Question: One place in the Bible says that Hell is a place of total darkness; but in Luke 16 the man in Hell is able to see. Is this a contradiction in the Bible?
Answer: There are basically three Greek words that are translated "Hell" in your King James Translation. The reason is that "Hell" is our English word that designates a place of punishment or torment for the lost; whether it be mankind, fallen angels, or demons. Every Christian should have a Strong’s Concordance, which gives the Greek word that our English is translated from, along with a simple explanation of its meaning.
In the New Testament, the three Greek words translated "Hell" are "Hades", "Geenna", and the verb, "tartaroo".
- "Hades" is the temporary abode of the Lost where there does not appear to be total darkness; as the man in Luke 16 could see. Notice in Luke 16:23,24.
"And in hell (gr. Hades) he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom."(23) And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame (24)."
- The Greek word "Geenna," translated "Hell" in our English; is the permanent abode of the Lost. Those in "Hades," now, will stand at the Great White Throne Judgment; and, then, will be cast into "Hell," i.e., "Geenna," for all time and eternity. "Geenna" is the place described as "outer darkness" in Matthew 8:12 and 22:13. In the Parable of Matthew 22:13 we are told:
"...Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
It is also described as a place of everlasting fire in Matthew 25:41. (Also check Mark 9:44,46,48.)
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:" - Matthew 25:41
- The Greek word "tartaroo" is also translated "Hell" in our English; and is found only once in the Greek New Testament, that being in 2 Peter 2:4. Here the most wicked angels that fell with Satan are chained in DARKNESS; until they are cast, at a later time, into the everlasting fire of "Geenna. Here is the Record:
"If God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell (tartaroo), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;"
Concerning these same angels, Jude 6 stated:
"...he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day"
As you can see, there is no contradiction, they are different places as are identified by the Greek words.