The Jewish eschatology of the time of Christ conceived of the abode of departed spirits as a great abyss, in the midst of which was a lake of fire, intended primarily as a place of punishment for the angels and giants, and accordingly for sinners. The abyss existed before the creation, and was the home of the various enemies of God, such as the dragon and the beast. In the NT it is used only in Apocalypse (AV 'bottomless pit') and in Ro 10:7 and Lu 8:31 (AV 'deep').
See BOTTOMLESS PIT.
ABYSS, or DEEP ???????, without bottom. The chaos; the deepest parts of the sea; and in the New Testament, the place of the dead, Ro 10:7; a deep place of punishment. The devils besought Jesus that he would not send them into the abyss, a place they evidently dreaded, Lu 8:31; where it seems to mean that part of Hades in which wicked spirits are in torment. See HELL.
In the opinion of the ancient Hebrews, and of the generality of eastern people at this day, the abyss, the sea, or waters, encompassed the whole earth. This was supposed to float upon the abyss, of which it covered a small part. According to the same notion, the earth was founded on the waters, or at least its foundations were on the abyss beneath, Ps 24:2; 136:6. Under these waters, and at the bottom of this abyss, they represented the wicked as groaning, and suffering the punishment of their sin. The Rephaim were confined there, those old giants, who whilst living, caused surrounding nations to tremble, Pr 9:18; 21:16, &c. Lastly, in these dark dungeons the kings of Tyro, Babylon, and Egypt are described by the Prophets as suffering the punishment of their pride and cruelty, Isa 26:14; Eze 28:10, &c.
These depths are figuratively represented as the abodes of evil spirits, and powers opposed to God: "I saw," says St. John, "a star fall from heaven unto the earth, and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of it, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth. And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit," Re 9:1-2,11. In another place the beast is represented as ascending out of the bottomless pit, and waging war against the two witnesses of God, Re 11:7. Lastly, St. John says, "I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season," Re 20:1-3.