|Terry Watkins, Th.D.||Dial-the-Truth Ministries|
|NOTE: This is a detailed study of the place of hell found in the Bible. It is fairly lengthy. I would strongly encourage you to carefully and prayerfully read it all. It could be the most important words you’ve ever read.|
|Anyone familiar with the Bible realizes the Lord Jesus repeatedly warns of a place called hell. You can’t travel very far in the Gospels without crossing paths with hell. The Bible’s descriptions and careful details of hell plainly depict a real place. Someone that doubts Jesus Christ believed in hell concedes either gross ignorance or deliberate dishonesty. Billy Graham writes in his book, Storm Warning, “One cannot read the Bible and miss the references to hell. They are unmistakable in the teachings of Christ Himself.” (p. 263)
Throughout history, man has searched for a magical hammer to chip away at the place of hell. They’ve used mind and madness trying to douse the place called hell. Some have quietly declared hell as a mere state of existence. Others have mystically obscured hell as nothing but symbolism or religious fantasy. Others have taught hell as an endless termination or annihilation. Today’s Bible-rejecting churches bury hell deep in the murky mire of Hebrew and Greek word games, or self-serving scholarship. Whatever the method or whatever the message – the flames of hell are cooling rapidly. The first step in extinguishing the flames of hell starts with removing the place of hell.
Bishop Wordsworth, warned years ago of Satan’s attack on the place of hell:
On July 28, 1999 Pope John Paul II used the mighty pen of religion to decree that hell was no longer a place, but simply a “state.”
Others have quenched hell using the deadly and deceitful duo of psychology and philosophy. The Los Angeles Times writes in, “Why a Fiery Hell Gets Cold Shoulder”:
In the same article, The Los Angeles Times, also states the once believed place of hell is now a “state of the soul”:
InfoPlease online encyclopedia writes under the definition for hell:
Even the popular evangelist Billy Graham sadly attempts to douse the literal fire of hell. In his book, Storm Warning, he states, “Jesus used this symbol [fire] over and over. I believe that it means a thirst for God that is never quenched.” (p. 263)
U.S. News and World Report, in a cover story titled, “Hell, A New Vision of the Netherworld” (Jan. 31, 2000), wrote that in 1997, 48% believed hell was a real place – but just three years later, that number dropped an astonishing 14 points to only 34%! The article said, “Edwards [Jonathan] would scarcely recognize the hell of today. After decades of near obscurity, the netherworld has taken on a new image: more of a deep funk than a pit of fire.” (p. 45) The article also states that 53 percent now view hell as simply “an anguished state of existence eternally separated from God”. This is the same teaching promoted by Billy Graham and Pope John Paul II.
The attack on the place of hell is widespread. And it is effective. . .
While man ridicules and redefines hell – the Bible speaks. Despite 6000 years of opposition, God’s Word continues the message of hell. It’s impossible to read the Bible and not realize the Bible describes a literal place called hell. You may reject it. You may refuse to believe it. But you can not ignore it. It is there.
In Luke 16, the Lord Jesus Christ tells of a terrifying place called hell. The rich man in hell asks Father Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brethren, lest they also come to “this place” of torment.
People attempt to deny the “place” of hell in Luke 16 with the teaching that Jesus is speaking a fictitious “parable,” not an actual event. But Jesus never names the people in parables. And in Luke 16, Jesus says, “there was a certain beggar named Lazarus. . .” Jesus Christ begins Luke 16 with the definitive statement, “There WAS a certain rich man. . .” Luke 16 is no parable.
When the Lord Jesus speaks in “parables,” He later explains the parable. In Luke 16, the Lord Jesus gives no “parable” explanation. Luke 16:19-31 stands as told – a real event.
You’ll notice Jesus Christ calls Lazarus by his name, but not the rich man. John 10:3, the Lord Jesus says, “. . . he calleth his own sheep by name. . .” Matthew 7:23, He tells the unsaved, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” The rich man in hell was just “. . . a certain rich man. . .” The Lord did not know him. He knew of him, but He did not know him.
In John 14, the Lord Jesus tells His disciples about the place of heaven. He instructs His disciples that He will go and “prepare a place” for you.
Heaven is a “prepared place.” It is no accident. It is not a state of reality. The Lord Jesus prepared a real place for His children. The Lord Jesus says in Matthew 25:41 that hell also is a “prepared” place.
Hell is a prepared place. It is a “prepared place” of judgment and wrath. Heaven is a prepared place gleaming with the love of God. Hell is a prepared place burning with the wrath of God. Hell is as real as Heaven. Hell is as much the work of a Holy God as is Heaven. If there is no hell – there is no heaven.
It is worth noting that hell was not a part of the original creation. Genesis 1:1 reads, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis chapters 1-3 contain no mention of hell. The creation of hell apparently came as a direct result of the fall of Lucifer. The Lord Jesus told us in Mathew 25:41, hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels.” Any suggestion that hell was the “perfect” will of God quickly dissolves “In the beginning. . .” of the Genesis creation.
Every word the Lord Jesus spoke about hell clearly describes a real place.
In Matthew 13, Mark 9, and Luke 12, the Lord Jesus says the unsaved are “cast INTO” or “go INTO” a place – a furnace or a fire. Clearly, He is not referring to a state of existence, but a real place of fire that lost people are “cast into.”
The Bible employs the phrase “cast into” hell [fire] 14 times:
The Bible uses the phrase “cast into” 44 times, and every time, it refers to a real, literal place. The following two scriptures are examples of “cast into” referring to a literal place.
The following scriptures describe hell using words that undeniably reference a real location, such as, “in”, “into” or “to”—again, plainly indicating a real place.
In Matthew 5, the Lord Jesus warns of being physically and bodily cast into hell. The only valid explanation of Matthew 5 is that Jesus is describing an actual event. Any other reading completely destroys the text.
Scores of scriptures confirm hell is a real place. There remains no other conclusion. To read otherwise, demands either willful misinterpretation or the deliberate distortion of the scriptures.
HELL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT •
Hell is a major topic in the Word of God. And it should be. The Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament spends much time warning about hell. Jesus preached about hell more than any other subject. The Old Testament does not overlook the place of hell. The Old Testament contains over 67 direct references to hell. In the King James Bible, the word “hell” occurs 23 times in the New Testament – but 31 times in the Old Testament. The Old Testament includes some of the clearest and most horrifying pictures of hell.
The following scriptures are examples of “hell” in the Old Testament.
Hell is just as real as heaven or the sea. In Psalms 139, David compares hell with heaven and the sea.
39 times the Old Testament calls hell “the pit.” It never uses the plural “pits” or the indefinite “a pit,” but always the singular, specific place, “the pit.” The wording, “the pit” refers to one particular place.
Isaiah 14 describes the fall of Lucifer. Isaiah 14:15 reveals “the pit” is hell, “. . . thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”
Ezekiel 31:16 also confirms “the pit” is hell.
As we can see, the scriptures teach a real place called hell. But the Bible does not stop there. The Lord gives careful details about the place called hell. The precise information the Lord provides dumbfounds many. They refuse to believe the simple Word of God. Many recklessly dig through Greek and Hebrew words searching for a morsel of bread. And like Esau, they sell their birthright, the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23), for one morsel of meat.
Evangelist and radio-preacher, Oliver Greene understands the Bible’s teaching about the place of hell.
Amen, Brother Greene. . . Amen
THE LOCATION OF HELL •
Note: Our study on the location of hell deals with the present location of hell. The Lake of Fire described in Revelation 20:14 will replace the current place of hell.
The Bible does not describe an unknown, mystic place of hell. The Word of God gives specific and careful details concerning hell. The Bible even provides the geographical location of hell. As the Lord reveals the location of hell, He challenges us to examine the evidence.
Despite man’s massive efforts to disprove the Word of God, no fact has ever been proven contrary to the Word of God. Not one. Every discovery of true science, history, and archeology, agree with the Word of God. The place of hell is no different. In our next chapter, we shall examine the place of hell under the skeptical microscope of verifiable science.
As we study the following scriptures, I strongly encourage the reader to carefully read along in the King James Bible. Look up the verses. Read them. They may be the most important words you will ever read. If you have a different Bible version, you will see a deliberate attack on hell. (We will examine the perversion of Hell in a later chapter.)
The Lord openly gives us the location of hell.
In Acts 2, the Apostle Peter preaches the Holy Spirit filled message of Pentecost. In verse 31 he says, ” . . . seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in HELL.”
When Jesus Christ died on the cross, His soul descended into hell. To deny this fact, (as many do), is to deny the scriptures. What Jesus did in hell may be open for discussion, but the fact He went there is not. Where the scriptures speak—the critics remain silent.
In Matthew 12:40, Jesus Christ tells the apostles the geographical location where He will be after His death.
Some Christians teach “the heart of the earth” signifies the grave. But Jesus is not referring to the grave. Nor is He talking about His body. His body was not in the earth, nor in the ground, but in a “tomb which he had hewn out in the rock.” It is not His body because His body was not “in the earth.” The Bible distinctly and plainly states that the body of Jesus Christ was in a rock – not in the earth.
Another reason why Matthew 12:40 can not mean merely His body placed in the grave because the body is buried only six feet in the ground–not in the heart of the earth. The only accurate explanation is that the soul of the Lord Jesus Christ descended into the heart of the earth—exactly as the Bible said.
John Gill, in his popular, Exposition of the Entire Bible, acknowledges the difficulty of reconciling the “heart of the earth” in Matthew 12:40 with the “rock” tomb of the Lord Jesus. But rather than accepting the text as it reads, Gill rashly decides “inside the rock” satisfies Matthew’s “heart of the earth.”
Because of the importance to firmly resolve “the heart of the earth” could not be the body of Jesus in the grave, let us observe the women’s visit at the tomb (sepulchre) on resurrection morning. In Luke 24, after the stone was rolled away, the women walked into the tomb. Obviously, this was no “hole in the ground” located in the “heart of the earth.” You do not “walk” into a hole in the ground – you “fall” into it.
A careful reading of the women’s arrival at the grave in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20 completely debunks the teaching that His body was in the “heart of the earth.”
It is amazing (and appalling) the effort some Christians exert to twist and shrewdly reject the scriptures. They will not accept what the Lord says. So they “interpret” for us what God really meant to say. As someone acutely asked, “If God didn’t mean what He said–then why didn’t He say what He meant?”
Author J. Sidlow Baxter, in The Other Side of Death, furnishes us a classic example of “interpreting” what the Lord really meant in his massacre of Ephesians 4:9 and Matthew 12:40:
Baxter’s comments about Ephesians 4:9 and Matthew 12:40 are disingenuous and false. The standard depth of the grave is a mere six feet down. Considering the earth’s diameter is over 8,000 miles, to imply six feet is “deep-dug” and in the “lower parts of the earth” is laughable. And we have already verified, the body of the Lord Jesus Christ was not placed in a “grave, deep-dug in the earth” but “in a tomb rock.” Mr. Baxter also states a scientific error. The earth is not “solid,” but filled with a liquid “lake of fire and brimstone” called hell.
Ephesians 4:9 gives us another account where the Lord descended after His death. Ephesians 4:9 plainly reads that Jesus Christ “descended into the lower parts of the earth” before “He ascended in heaven.” Again, the “lower parts of the earth” is not the grave. Ephesians 4:9 defines a specific part of the earth, not just in the earth, but “the lower parts of the earth.”
Ephesians 4:9 does not passively say “His body” was placed into the lower parts of the earth. But the verse actively states, “he (not his body) also descended first into the lower parts of the earth.” The Lord Jesus, Himself [He] actively descendedinto the lower parts of the earth. The first part of Ephesians 4:9 reads, the Lord Jesus actively and literally ascended into heaven, but first He actively and literally descended into the lower parts of the earth.
Bodies do not “descend” into the grave. Someone else places the body in the grave – the body does not descend. The body is dead and motionless. To “descend” requires the action of moving or motion. Webster’s Dictionary defines descending as:
1 Thessalonians 4:16 describes the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus as “descending” from heaven. This event is an active, visible moving of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The body does not descend into the grave, it is simply laid there.
The Bible presents many verses that emphatically locate hell in the center of the earth. And not vague verses that are open to self-interpretations, but clear and precise references. For a Christian to reject or disregard this extremely important Bible fact is inexcusable. Until the last fifty years, most Christians knew hell was a real place of fire in the center of the earth. With the murky confusion sown by the plethora of new Bible versions and Christian relativism, the literal place of hell is classified as archaic fantasy. Virtually every modern book on hell consists of nothing more than murky mud wallowing in the mire of Greek and Hebrew word studies. And yet, the simple Word of God gives us crystal clear details of hell.
The following verses designate the physical location of hell. The direction of hell always references down or beneath. The Bible never refers to hell in any other direction.
Eleven times the Bible reads the direction of hell is “down.”
Twenty-one times the Bible says the location of the pit [hell] is “down.”
Two times, the Bible states hell is “beneath.”
In Isaiah 5:15, the Bible records that people “descend” into hell. Descend means “To move or pass from a higher to a lower place;”
Twice the Bible states that people “descend” into the pit.
Seven times the Bible distinctly locates hell or the pit in the “lower” or “nether” [nether means lower] parts of the earth. Ezekiel 26:20 and 31:16 also record people “descend” into the pit. To descend requires downward action— to the nether parts of the earth–not simply laid in the grave. This is not the body or the grave.
The following three verses in Ezekiel 31 (verses 14, 16 and 18) that reference “trees” are referring to men and kings, in particular the judgement of Pharaoh (verse 2) and the Assyrian (verse 3).
Job 11 uses the comparative phrases “as high as heaven” and “deeper than hell.” The comparison of “deeper” obviously refers to “descending far downward” while “as high as heaven” goes in the opposite direction or upwards.
Amos 9:2 is very interesting. Amos makes the astonishing statement, “Though they DIG into hell. . .” Webster’s Dictionary defines “dig” as “To open and break or turn up the earth with a spade or other sharp instrument.” Amos certainly believes hell is in this earth. Either you discount Amos as foolish metaphor or clearly, inside this earth contains a lake of fire burning with suffering souls of the damned.
Sidlow Baxter, in The Other Side of Death, writes about the Hebrew word “sheol”:
Do you know what the Hebrew word for “hell” is in Amos 9:2—”Though they dig into hell”? It is “sheol.” Baxter shows how Christians disregard the simple text, in this case, both the English and Hebrew, to prove their own private mis-interpretation.
Reading the scores of precise and clear scriptures the Lord provides, how can Christians who have even casually read the Bible, deny the location of hell?
But they do. . .
In the popular book, Whatever Happened to Hell?, author John Blanchard, incredibly writes:
How can anyone who has read the Bible truthfully say, “As to its location, we are given no details. . .”? The answer is simple. The human psyche of mankind, even among Christians, refuses to accept the reality of hell. If they ignore the evidence long enough and loud enough, maybe it is not really there. But it is there. . .
As far as Blanchard’s assertion that “the clearest clue we have is that hell is ‘outside’”–completely ignores scores and scores of clear scriptures, in favor of three “outer” references (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30). How can Blanchard write, “. . . Not even statements which say that heaven is ‘above’ and hell is ‘beneath’ tell us very much?” Why don’t they? Why did God write them? Over a hundred verses describe hell as “down”; “in the heart of the earth”; “beneath”; or “lower parts of the earth” and yet that doesn’t “tell us very much!” How can a man stand in such judgment of the Word of God by telling us God’s Word does “not tell us very much”? No wonder they ripped the Bible from our schools — preachers have been ripping it apart for years.
The three verses in the Bible that mention “outer darkness” plainly refer to earthly judgments during the millennium. Not hell. Here are the verses:
Matthew 8:10-12, says, “That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” The “sitting down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob” occurs during the millennium. The “kingdom of heaven” refers to the earthly millennial reign.
Matthew 22:10-12 has someone (Friend) walking into a wedding without the proper garment (salvation). Obviously, no one can “die” and casually “walk” into heaven, but they can “walk” during the millennium into the Lord’s presence. Again, we are plainly dealing with the earthly millennium.
The last “outer” occurs in Matthew 25:28-31. The context of (verse 31), “When the Son of man shall come in his glory. . . then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:”—no question is the millennium. Verses 28-29 teach “earthly rewards” by working and talents. Again, this can only be the millennium.
Aren’t you glad the Lord wrote the Bible where any dummy can understand it—if they’ll just read it! The Lord Jesus gives the “key” to understanding the Bible in Matthew 24:15, “. . . whoso readeth, let him understand. . .” Read and understand. Not read and say, this doesn’t “tell us very much.” What it says – is what it means.
Another sad case of Bible rejection occurs in Sidlow Baxter’s The Other Side of Death. Baxter conveniently dismisses the reality that God placed hell inside the earth with feeble human logic:
How can a Christian reject the scriptures with the mindless reasoning of, “I cannot see. . .”? Beloved, there are many amazing things the Lord says and does that humanly speaking “I cannot see.” I cannot see the innumerable stars the Lord created. I cannot see the infinite wisdom of creation. I cannot see why He loved me so much to die for my sins. But what I cannot see with these frail physical eyes, the boundless spiritual eyes of faith can clearly see in the Word of God. Does not our Lord admonish us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 to, “walk by faith, not by sight:”?
Mr. Baxter also writes the reckless humanistic statement that the “intense internal fire” inside this earth would “burn them to nothingness.” First of all, if hell is a literal fire (which it is) it does not matter where it is located, as pertaining to “burn them to nothingness.” To follow Baxter’s explanation leads to the total elimination of the fire of hell.
I wonder has Mr. Baxter ever heard about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego of Daniel 3. These three Jewish boys were thrown alive into a furnace of literal fire that was heated seven times hotter than normal. Yet their hair was not even singed! The Bible says in Daniel 3:27, “. . .the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.” The power of Almighty God is not limited, nor confined by the power of fire. To reject the scriptures on pathetic human rationale is disgraceful.
In Numbers chapter 16, the Lord silences all skeptics to the location of hell. You may have disputed or questioned the evidence thus far – but no further. . .
In Numbers 16, the Bible records the rebellion and destruction of Korah. As a consequence of their rebellion, the Lord opens the earth and they go down alive into the pit of hell. This is not the grave—verse 30 says, “. . . the LORD make a new thing. . .” There’s nothing “new” about “opening the earth” and going into the grave. Verse 33 also states, they “. . . went down alive into the pit. . .” Obviously, the “went down” does not refer to the shallow grave.
What could the Lord possibly write in the scriptures that He could make the location of hell any clearer? For you to reject the fact that God prepared hell inside this earth, you must intentionally ignore many, many plain and detailed scriptures. The evidence of the scriptures is convincing. It is conclusive. And it is real.
TESTIMONY OF OTHERS •
We’ve listed some quotes from various preachers throughout history that clearly understood hell was located in the center of the earth. These are just a few of the many quotes we could provide:Author and Bible-Believing scientist Dr. Henry Morris deduces from the scriptures, the present hell “is somewhere in the heart of the earth itself. . .” and the writers of the scriptures, “. . . certainly themselves believed hell to be real and geographically ‘beneath’ the earth’s surface.”
“Both Hades and Gehenna were believed to be underground, and both were places of suffering. ”
This star, like Wormwood, is a messenger from God, but the judgment it brings is even more terrible. It does not strike the earth or poison the waters, but with the key to the shaft of the Abyss (v. 1) opens a pit [the bottomless pit] into the very heart of the earth. From the pit, or Abyss, comes smoke like the smoke from a gigantic furnace, darkening the sun and sky
“Though they dig into hell, into the centre of the earth, or the darkest recesses of it, yet thence shall my hand take them, and bring them forth to be made public monuments of divine justice.”
Christ, as Lord of all, took possession first of the earth the unseen world beneath it (some conjecture that the region of the lost is in the central parts of our globe), then of heaven
Though they dig into hell–though they hide ever so deeply in the earth
Hades [Hell] is a place in the created system, rude, a locality beneath the earth, in which the light of the world does not shine; and as the sun does not shine in this locality, there must necessarily be perpetual darkness there. . . And in this locality there is a certain place set apart by itself, a lake of unquenchable fire. . .
By ourselves the lower regions (of Hades) are not supposed to be a bare cavity, nor some subterranean sewer of the world, but a vast deep space in the interior of the earth, and a concealed recess in its very bowels; inasmuch as we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth, that is, in the secret inner recess which is hidden in the earth, and enclosed by the earth, and superimposed on the abysmal depths which lie still lower down.
Hence he says, If they dig for themselves passages to hell, that is, to the center of the earth. . .
“So Job calleth hell the land of darknesse, and the reason thereof is plaine, because the nethermost hell is a bottomlesse pit in the heart of the earth. . . ”
Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them, . . .the utmost recesses of the earth, the very centre of it. . .
The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them. . .
“Hell — The center of the earth. . .”
At the same time it provides against that despair into which men would be otherwise plunged, when convinced of their sins, by revealing the immense love of God, the glory and grace of Christ, and inviting all to come to him, that they may obtain pardon, life, and happiness. In a word, it shows the pit of hell under men’s feet, and opens the gate and points out the way to heaven. An excerpt from a letter entitled, “Man in His Fallen Estate”
“And Jesus after His return from ‘The Underwood,’ said—‘I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the ‘KEYS’ (of the Gates) of hell and of death.’ Rev. 1:18. To get these ‘Keys’ Jesus had to descend into the lower parts of the earth.’ Eph. 4:9 . . . Therefore Hades or ‘The Underworld,’ must be in the ‘heart of the earth’. . .”
“The Bible locates Sheol [Hell] in the heart of the earth. . . Jesus then descended first into the lower parts of the earth (Ephesians 4:9). But we know that Jesus upon His death went into Hades [Hell]. . . And Hades [Hell] was in the lower parts of the earth.”
There is no doubt in my mind that hell is in the center of this earth. . . Amos describes hell in these words: “Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to Heaven, thence will I bring them down” (Amos 9:2). Certainly when we think of digging, we think of going down in the earth – we do not dig UP, we dig DOWN: we do not dig in the air, we dig in the dirt. Amos tells us as the Holy Spirit leads him to write – “Though they dig into hell, thence shall my hand take them.” Amos believed that hell is in the center of the earth. . . Without a shadow of a doubt, hell is in the center of this earth. . .”
I personally believe that Hell is in the heart of the earth. . . Scientists say that beneath the earth there is a boiling volcanic disturbance constantly going on in the heart of the earth. And so I personally believe Hell will be in the heart of the earth.
“Some scoff and say, ‘Where is hell?’ Well, that’s easy. It is under your feet. ‘They . . . are gone down into hell,’ Ezekiel 32:27. Hell is down under your feet, Isaiah 14:9. . . There is no doubt where hell is . . . it was in the heart of the earth where Christ went after He died. In Acts 2:31 and Acts 2:27 you are told that although Christ went through hell, He was not ‘left in hell.’ In plainer words, the Bible teaching on this is so clear that you have to go to Hebrew or Greek to get rid of it.”
Hopeless immortals! how they scream and shiver,
For more info on hell see our tract The Truth About Hell