The Greek word hades, like its Hebrew equivalent, Sheol, is used in two ways:
(1) To indicate the condition of the unsaved between death and the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). Luke 16:23-24 shows that the lost in hades are conscious, possess full use of their faculties, memory, etc., and are in torment. This continues until the final judgment of the lost (2 Pet. 2:9), when all the unsaved, and hades itself, will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:13-15).
(2) To indicate, in general, the condition of all departed human spirits between death and the resurrection. This usage is found occasionally in the O.T. but rarely, if ever, in the N.T. (compare Gen. 37:35; 42:38; 44:29,31). It should not lead anyone to think that there is a possibility of change from one state to the other after death, for v. 23 shows that when the unsaved man who was in hades saw Abraham and Lazarus, they were "afar off," and v. 26 states that between the two places there is a great gulf fixed, so that no one can cross from one to the other.
Some interpreters think that Eph. 4:8-10 indicates that a change in the place of the departed believers occurred at the resurrection of Christ. It is certain that all who are saved go at once into the presence of Christ (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). Jesus told the penitent thief: "To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Lk. 23:43). Paul was "caught up to the third heaven . . . into paradise (2 Cor. 12:1-4). Paradise is a place of great joy and bliss, but this bliss is not complete until the spirit is reunited with a glorified body at the resurrection of the just (1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Th. 4:16-17). Though both sheol and hades are sometimes translated "grave" (compare Gen. 37:35), they never indicate a burial place but, rather, the state of the spirit after death.