Various theories on the location of hell have been put forward. A traditional view is that hell is in the center of the earth. Others propose that hell is located in outer space in a black hole. In the Old Testament, the word translated “hell” is Sheol; in the New Testament, it’s Hades (meaning “unseen”) and Gehenna (“the Valley of Hinnom”). Sheol is also translated as “pit” and “grave.” Both Sheol and Hades refer to a temporary abode of the dead before judgment (Psalm 9:17; Revelation 1:18). Gehenna refers to an eternal state of punishment for the wicked dead (Mark 9:43).
The idea that hell is below us, perhaps in the center of the earth, comes from passages such as Luke 10:15: “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell” (KJV). Also, in 1 Samuel 28:13-15, the medium of Endor sees the spirit of Samuel “coming up out of the ground.” We should note, however, that neither of these passages is concerned with the geographic location of hell. Capernaum’s being thrust “down” is probably a reference to their being condemned rather than a physical direction. And the medium’s vision of Samuel was just that: a vision.
In the King James Version, Ephesians 4:9 says that before Jesus ascended into heaven, “he also descended . . . into the lower parts of the earth.” Some Christians take “the lower parts of the earth” as a reference to hell, where they say Jesus spent the time between His death and resurrection. However, the New International Version gives a better translation: “he also descended to the lower, earthly regions.” This verse simply says that Jesus came to earth. It’s a reference to His incarnation, not to His location after death.
The notion that hell is somewhere in outer space, possibly in a black hole, is based on the knowledge that black holes are places of great heat and pressure from which nothing, not even light, can escape. Surprisingly, this concept of hell is presented in the 1979 Walt Disney film The Black Hole. Near the movie’s end, all the characters pass through a black hole. On the other side, the villain finds himself in a fiery place of torment, while the other characters enjoy disembodied bliss. It’s interesting that a Disney movie would include a depiction of hell, but it’s best not to base our theology on movies!
Another speculation is that the earth itself will be the “lake of fire” spoken of in Revelation 20:10-15. When the earth is destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 21:1), the theory goes, God will use that burning sphere as the everlasting place of torment for the ungodly. Again, this is mere speculation.
To sum up, Scripture does not tell us the geological (or cosmological) location of hell. Hell is a literal place of real torment, but we do not know where it is. Hell may have a physical location in this universe, or it may be in an entirely different “dimension.” Whatever the case, the location of hell is far less important than the need to avoid going there.
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