Two years ago I published Heaven...What...Where...Who’s Been There. In the post I wrote that the Bible says;
In answer to the question “who’s been there” the post lists four people who wrote about having visions of heaven Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul, and John, in addition to the accounts of Jesus coming to earth from heaven in several theophanies (a visible manifestation to humankind of God or a god) in the Old Testament and as a baby born from Mary’s womb.
The emphasis of that post was God’s dwelling place or the “third heaven”
2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (NKJV)2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven.3 And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
This is Paul’s account of his vision and he said that he was not allowed to tell what he saw.
The only descriptions of the third heaven are sketchy at best.
Isaiah 6:1-4 (NKJV)1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.3 And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!"4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
Ezekiel 1:1 (NKJV)1 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
Revelation 4:1-8 (NKJV)1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this."2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.3 And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.5 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.6 Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!"
My conclusion in that post was that we should not try to figure out what heaven is like beyond what has been revealed in scripture. It’s what God has given us in His Word and you can rely on it as being the only reliable knowledge about heaven available to us. That is what we should fix our minds on not on the speculations, dreams, or visions of other human minds. God has already given us all the information that we need on what heaven will be like and He asks us to walk by faith. What we know for sure is that heaven will be without tears, sorrow or pain; no disease or death, without wrong, injustice, fraud, and sin. It will be pure and holy; a place free from evil.
Revelation 21:3-4 (NKJV)3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
After writing that post you would think that the next post I would write would be about hell, but the thought never crossed my mind. In fact it didn’t cross my mind until my daughter-in-law, Rhonda, wrote me this text “And in case I forget, I really would like to talk about your concept of quote unquote hell”. That got me to thinking; what about hell, what is it, where is it, and who’s been there. So here it is.
Hell...What...Where...Who's Been There?
From the time that we were young children we’ve heard about hell. It was the place where your mother told you that you would go if you didn’t obey God or them. Then when we went to church we were told that if you didn’t obey God that you would go to hell which was a place where you would burn for ever. You were told that the devil, his angels and all the bad people who die live in hell. You were told that hell was a place where there is constant fire. You were always told that hell was somewhere down there in the middle of the earth.
In the In the Old Testament, the word translated “hell” is Sheol which is also translated as “pit” and “grave.”; in the New Testament, it’s Hades (meaning “unseen”) and Gehenna (“the Valley of Hinnom”). Sheol is Both Sheol and Hades refer to a temporary place of the dead before judgment
Psalm 9:17 (NLT) The wicked will go down to the grave. This is the fate of all the nations who ignore God.
Revelation 1:18 (NLT) I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.
Gehenna refers to an eternal state of punishment for the wicked dead
Mark 9:43 (NLT) If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands.
There have been a number of theories put forth about the location of hell. Some say that hell is a “black hole” in space. The traditional view is that hell is in the center of the earth.
The idea that hell is perhaps in the center of the earth, may come from
1 Samuel 28:13-15 (NLT)13 “Don’t be afraid!” the king told her. “What do you see?” “I see a god coming up out of the earth,” she said.14 “What does he look like?” Saul asked. “He is an old man wrapped in a robe,” she replied. Saul realized it was Samuel, and he fell to the ground before him.15 “Why have you disturbed me by calling me back?” Samuel asked Saul. “Because I am in deep trouble,” Saul replied. “The Philistines are at war with me, and God has left me and won’t reply by prophets or dreams. So I have called for you to tell me what to do.”
Luke 10:15 (NLT) And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead.”
Ephesians 4:9 (NLT) Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world.
Although the NIV translation of this verse seems to say that Jesus came to the earth, and is a reference to Him physically come to earth, not to His location after death.
Ephesians 4:9 (NIV ) (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions ?
Another speculation is that the earth itself will be the “lake of fire” spoken of in
Revelation 20:10-15 (NLT)10 Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide.12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books.13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds.14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death.15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.
What Does The Bible Say About Hell
The Bible gives little detail information about hell or its location.
We do know that it was not intended for people but for evil spiritual beings.
Matthew 25:41 (NLT)41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.
The Bible tells us that people have gone to Sheol or Hades, but not to hell. Scripture actually says that nobody will physically go to hell or heaven, for that matter, until Jesus returns to the earth or “Judgement Day”.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NKJV)16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Revelation 20:11-15 (NKJV)11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
The experience of being in hell is like being constantly burned.
Matthew 18:9 (NLT)9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
Mark 9:43, 45, 47-48 (NLT)43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands.45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’
Hell is compared to darkness.
Matthew 22:13 (NLT) Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Hell is associated with tremendous grief.
Matthew 8:12 (NLT) But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
It is also associated with great horror.
Mark 9:44 (NKJV) where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'
What the Bible does make clear is that hell is real, eternal, and to be avoided at all costs
Has Anybody Been To Hell?
There have been a number of people who have claimed that they went to hell and then returned to tell about it. Personally I don’t believe any of those claims because I have not been able to find any references in Scripture of anybody going to hell and then returning. I haven’t even found any references of anybody going to hell.
I know that many people say that Jesus went to hell and preached to souls but I don’t believe that Scripture says that Jesus went to hell at all.
1 Peter 3:18-20 (NLT)18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.19 So he went and preached to the spirits in prison--20 those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood.
There is no reference at all in this scripture to hell. The Greek word translated “prison” is phylakē (a guarding or (concrete guard), the act, the person; figurative the place, the condition, or (special) the time (as a division of day or night), literal or figurative :- cage, hold, (im-) prison (-ment), ward, watch) - Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary
There has been great discussion and debate about this scripture for centuries but it in no way refers to hell as described in scripture (I’ll share my opinion, based on scripture from throughout the Bible, about who these souls were and where and when Jesus preached to them in another post).
My Answer To Rhonda
This is my answer to my daughter-in-law. "Rhonda, hell is real, eternal, and to be avoided at all costs. It may be, like I said in my blog post about heaven; an actual place or it may be another dimension where everyone who has died will await the return of Jesus Christ. Then everybody that has been born from the beginning or time will be resurrected. At that time everybody ever born will be assigned to their final eternal existence. All those who received salvation through their faith in Jesus as their Savior and Lord, to the eternal presence of God on a new earth. That's heaven. Those who rejected Jesus as Lord and Savior to eternal separation from God where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That's hell.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.