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 forever. 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 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 several 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 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 talk 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 which means "Prison", "A watching, keeping watch" "Persons keeping watch, a guard, sentinels" "Of the place where captives are kept, a prison". 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).
Hell is real, eternal, and to be avoided at all costs. It may be 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.