The Visible HellTom Ballinger
It is suggested that the “Gates of Hell” study be re-read. It should be remembered that the words the Holy Ghost tries to teach by (I Cor. 2:13) are the words of man, but for them to be the words of God, He has had to purify them seven times as silver is purified in a furnace (Ps. 12:6-7). The words the Holy Ghost has chosen to use have been refined and given an altogether higher meaning than that which man has assigned them. Some of the words and phrases the Holy Ghost has selected to use, He has given them a usage that is totally different from the way man has used them. So, within the confines of the Word of God, Itself, we should look for the meanings of words and phrases that God purified.
The reader of the English Bible can be confident that, as an English speaking person, all the Truth that God would have him know can be found in the Authorized Version. Knowledge of the “original languages” is not an absolute essential ingredient for God to make known His Truth. His Truth has been preserved and given to an English speaking world in a Bible that English speaking people understand. The Lord, Himself, assigns the meanings to His words. These meanings are found in the Word of God, Itself, and the meanings are to be determined by how the Lord uses them within the Word, Itself.
In the article, “The Gates of Hell,” the conclusion was reached that the gates referred to the power the grave has to maintain its captives. The Lord Jesus Christ is said to have the keys to open the gates of the grave and release those who are held captive, thus bringing them up from the power of “hell” by means of resurrection. The grave would be the visible hell. But there is to be a “visible “one prior to and during the millennium.
When the Lord Jesus Christ was on earth heralding, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” He was presenting Himself as the King of the Kingdom. During His earthly ministry His audience was Jewish. He came as a minister to the circumcision to “confirm the promises made to the fathers (i.e. of Israel)” regarding the promised Kingdom. He even tells the woman of Canaan, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). Therefore, when He delivers the Sermon on the Mount He is speaking to a people who had been promised a restoration of the Kingdom with Messiah sitting on the Throne of David. This Messiah was to establish and rule over the promised Kingdom. Part of this rule over the Kingdom was that of exercising judgment in the affairs of the Israelites. The people present understood clearly that the Lord was speaking about gaining entry into this Kingdom which was then “at hand” (Matt. 4:17, 5:20).
Now, remember that the Kingdom which was being proclaimed was a literal one, which necessitated a King to sit upon a literal throne in the literal land of Palestine, Who was to rule and reign over a literal government which was to be Jewish, Davidic and Messianic in nature. The hungry heart of the devoted Jew was waiting for the “consolation of Israel” (Lu. 2:25). When the King of the promised Kingdom showed up and delivered His address from the Mount saying, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” (Matt. 5:20). They knew that He was speaking of gaining admittance into the long awaited kingdom. The subject of His dissertation was ENTRANCE INTO THE KINGDOM (Matt. 5:20-30). Of course the opposite of entrance and admittance would be denial and refusal. In the portion of Scripture we are considering, the Lord tells His audience:
Ye have heard that it was said…(refers to the OT law) Thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.”
Judgment refers to the three man council in the local synagogue who were to pass sentence and render the verdict on those who were charged with murder. But the Lord gives further meaning to this law of old by saying, I say unto you (i.e. the audience then present) That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. The Lord further stated that if any should say, “Thou fool” they would be in danger of “hell fire.” Note the three-fold danger that the Lord mentions in verse 22:
1. shall be in danger of the judgment
2. shall be in danger of the council
3- shall be in danger of hell fire
Our understanding from Jewish antiquity is that the judgment had the authority to condemn to death by the sword. The council was the Sanhedrin. They had the authority to condemn to death by stoning. Hell fire should be noted very carefully in the context. This cannot be the “hell” of orthodoxy, for the “hell” of orthodoxy is prepared for those who fail to believe on Jesus Christ. But in Matt. 5:22 the “hell fire” is held out as a possibility for those Israelites who would call another a “fool.”
It is quite apparent then that we must be prepared to believe God, even at the risk of rejecting “that which we have always been taught.” The “hell fire” in Matt. 5:22 associates hell with fire. This does not have reference to a subterranean place of torment but it has a relationship to a place where bodies of dead men are thrown. To get additional information on this refer to Mark 9:38-48. In this section of Scripture we notice the word “hell” and its connection with fire. “than having two hands to go into hell, into (the fire. . .”V. 43 than having two feet to be cast into hell, into (the fire. . .”v. 43 “than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire;” v. 47 This connection of “hell” with fire refers to a literal, physical place with literal, physical fire. This turns out to be the place outside the Dung Gate south of the walled city of Jerusalem. It is here that Jerusalem’s garbage was burned. Scripture indicates that again, prior to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Valley of Hinnom will again be the city garbage dump. It is suggested that the reader look at most any Biblical map, you will see the Hinnom Valley or Topheth. In the OT reference is made to this valley as the Valley of Topheth. It was here that Israel in her practice of idolatry passed her children through the fires in their worship of the god Molech. After Israel was cured of idolatry, the fires of the valley kept burning. However, it was used as the garbage dump and the fires burned continually.
Before going further we should cite some Scriptures relating to the OT references mentioned. Solomon built a high place on a hill that was before Jerusalem for the god Molech, “the abomination of the children of Ammon” (I Ki. 11:7). In 2 Kings 23 Hilkiah, the high priest, is given the job to cleanse the Temple, break down the houses of the Sodomites and he “defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech” (v. 10). Jeremiah makes a very prophetic statement in the seventh chapter, for in verse 31-33 he says regarding the children of Judah, “they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not,. . .Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, BUT THE VALLEY OF SLAUGHTER: for they shall burn in Tophet, till there be no place. And the carcasses of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth:. ..” The name change from that of being “the valley of the son of Hinnom” to that of “the valley of slaughter” speaks volumes; for in this valley will be thrown the “carcasses” (i.e. dead bodies) of the People of God. There will be those who are denied burial, and they will be thrown into the fires of this valley. Again in Jer. 19:2-7 reference is made to this changing of the name to “the valley of slaughter.” “For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the King it is prepared (i.e. for Molech); He hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.” Isa. 30:33.
Tophet or the valley of Hinnom was a place where the refuse of Jerusalem was consumed by fires that burned continually. Also, it is suggested that the reader look at Appendix 68 of the Companion Bible where it is pointed out under the heading of VIII. THE DUNG GATE OF NEHEMIAH that there was an underground sewage system which flowed from the Temple area through the dung gate and discharged itself into the valley junction of Kidron and Hinnom. This sewer carried the blood of the sacrificial animals, the water of the ceremonial cleansings as well as the sewage from the Levitical quarters. The Dung Gate was the closest to the perpetual fires. It would naturally be the gate through which the “meat wagons” would pass. That is, the wagon that went through the city collecting the dead animals; for the carcasses of the dead animals were thrown into these fires. It was there that the maggots worked on the carcasses. The coals of the fires would consume the flesh. Flesh, however, does not burn like kindling. It smolders, only the “fatty” tissue burns readily. The Lord said He would change the name of the valley to the VALLEY OF SLAUGHTER, for He would see to it that those of His people that sinned or transgressed would be killed by the sword and their burial would be in this place. This calls to mind the passage in Isa. 66:23-24 which is clearly millennial. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their (fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” Here a reference is made to the carcasses of men who have transgressed against the Lord. This ties in with Matt. 5:22-30 where individual Jews stand in danger of this happening to them. In verse 22 it is being “in danger of hell fire,” in verse 29-30 it is said that the danger would be that “thy whole body should be cast into hell.” Allowing the Bible to speak for itself we see immediately that this reference to “hell” is not a reference to the place that orthodoxy teaches it as being, a place of conscious torment. In the references we have thus noted it refers to a place where the dead bodies (carcasses) are thrown. The orthodox hell is a place where the “invisible” part of man goes when he dies because he failed to believe on Christ. Thus the Bible is self-interpreting. By comparing Scripture with Scripture the Bible yields its own meanings to words and phrases apart from the meanings that man has assigned to them.
In our last study it was noted that prior to and during the millennium, there will be a valley outside of Jerusalem for the burning of refuse. Those individuals living in the environs will be living under an administration which will execute judgment upon those who “transgress against the Lord” (lsa. 66:24). This especially has reference to the millennium. The guilty in many instances will be executed and denied burial. They will be thrown in an open visible grave, which is the garbage dump outside the Dung Gate. Their carcasses will “be an abhorring to all flesh” (lsa. 66:24) who views this sight.
Admittedly this will be very obnoxious to “all flesh.” But what, a warning it will be! Those who would transgress the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) would stand in jeopardy of being sentenced to such an indignity, that is, being refused burial and cast with the carcasses of dogs, the city refuse, and, etc., into the ”hell-fire.”
This “hell-fire” has reference to the place where an open grave would exist in the midst of Jerusalem’s garbage dump. The object of this “visible hell” is to make the crime and the criminal detestable in the eyes of the people. The ”visible hell” is not a place of conscious torment but a place where carcasses of transgressors are thrown in order for the fires of “hell” to consume, for the fires will burn continually. That part of the bodies which the hell fire” fails to consume, the worms will eat, for “‘their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” (Mk. 9:48).
During the millennium when the nations come up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord they will view the carcasses of those who have broken the laws of the Kingdom. (Isa.66:23-24). Psalm 101:8 clearly indicates that morning after morning in the millennium, judgment will be meted out as the wicked will be destroyed out of the land, and the wicked doers will be cut off “from the city of the Lord.”
We purpose to enumerate the verses which make reference to this ”visible hell.”
(1) Matt. 5: 22-.6 But l say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
This verse has been explained in the previous study, (The Visible Hell – Part 1), and we feel no further explanation is needed.
(2) Matt. 5:29-30 “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable to thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”
These two verses fall into the context with Matt. 5:22. These two most certainly do not relate to an invisible place in the heart of the earth where the “departed souls” of men go when they die. Here the subject is “thy whole body,” not the orthodox soul of man.
So in Matt. 5:20-30 the possibility was if a member of the man’s body was going to cause him to transgress it would be better for him to pluck out an eye, or cut off a hand rather than having his whole body perish in the visible grave with its perpetual fires. The word “grave” is interchangeable with ” hell.” These are the words the Holy Ghost uses to teach with, not the words of men’s wisdom.
(3) Matt. 10:28- ”And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him (i.e. God) which is able to destroy both soul and body in heIl.”
Now man can kill the body, that is, he can cause the loss of life. Only God can destroy both body and soul. For believing this men have been branded as heretics. This verse only confirms that the soul is not immortal because the soul as well as the body can be destroyed. Matt. 10:28 only affirms that Ezk. 18:4 is true ; ”the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
In Matt.10 the King and the Kingdom are still “at hand.” The warning of the ”valley of slaughter,” “the danger of “hell fire” is still in view when the Lord speaks here in Matt.10:28. This verse teaches that the soul can be destroyed, not that it will undergo torment. For a soul to be destroyed has the underlying meaning that there will be no resurrection, which is the only means of release from the power of death.
(4 ) Luke 12:4-5 “And I say unto you my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear; Fear Him , which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him.”
This is the same reference as Matt. 10:28. The Lord here is pointing out to His followers the reason they should take courage in view of the expected persecution. For the time would come when there would be those who think they are doing God’s service if they killed Christ’s disciples. His followers were to take heart. They should not fear the ones who could only kill them. But rather they should fear the One who not only had power to kill them, but they should fear Him who had the authority to cast into “hell,” (i.e. the hell fire of Matthew 5); for from the “visible hell” there was no resurrection.
Men can kill the bodies of another but only God has the power over the future of the being.
(5) Matt. 18:8-9 “Wherefore if thy hand or they foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.”
The “everlasting fire” of verse 8 is the same as the “hell fire” of verse 9. It is everlasting in as much as it lasts throughout the millennium age. “Everlasting not only means “lasting or enduring forever” but it also means “continuing indefinitely, or during the present state of things.” (Websters ,1828) Hell fire is everlasting in the sense that it will come “during the present state of things,” (i.e. during the age of the millennium).
The language Christ uses here is figurative. He is not saying to dismember one’s body by cutting off limbs or by gouging out the eyes. He is simply saying it would be better to do that and it would be better to even enter into resurrection-life halt or maimed than to be killed and have the carcass deposited in the valley of slaughter, for there the fire is not quenched. nor does the worm die. From “hell fire,” (i.e. the visible hell), there is to be no resurrection.The Lord is not saying that these would be those who would enter “into life,” (i.e. in resurrection), halt or maimed. He is simply saying that it would be better to live in resurrection halt or maimed than to perish which the visible grave typifies.
(6) Matt. 23:15 – “Woe, unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”
The “child of hell” is a Hebrew idiom that means a person spoken of belongs very emphatically to that which he is said to be the “child of.”
Examples of this type of idiom are found in Matt. 9:15 and Luke 5:34. “Children of the bride chamber.” In Matt.13:38 you will notice- “children of the wicked one.” The idiom “child of the devil” is used in Acts 13:10 and “children of disobedience” is found in Eph. 2:2 and 5:6.
The reference is that the proselyte becomes “two-fold more the child of hell” than the scribes and Pharisees. Resultant of the false teaching the proselyte would belong emphatically to the same class as those who would have no hope of resurrection. “Hell” in this verse must of necessity have reference to the one we have been reviewing.
(7) Matt. 23:33 “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
Here again, as in the other verses, the “damnation” of hell” must refer to the judgment of condemnation associated with the valley of Hinnom, where the perpetual fires burn.
The Lord warned the scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites that they were “the children of them which killed the prophets” (v.31), (i.e. they belong most emphatically to that group, being like them, that killed the OT prophets). In verse 34 the Lord tells them that He will send to them the prophets, wise men, and scribes: ” and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city.” Hence, His question is in order, “How can ye escape the damnation of hell (i.e. hell fire)?”
(8) Mark 9:43 “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.”
(9) Mark 9:45 “And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off, it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched.”
(10) Mark 9:47 “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out; it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell.”
These three verses in Mark 9 are followed by “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (vs. 44,46,and 48). This is the direct reference to Isa. 66:24. Thus Isa. 66:23-24 ties together all the references in the Gospels which are associated with “hell fire.”
Mark 9:43 refers to a “hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched.” Mark 9:45 refers to a “hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched.” In these two verses the “fire that shall never be quenched” modifies the word “hell:” But in verse 47 the phrase “into the fire that shall never be quenched” is omitted and the word “fire” replaces the phrase, hence “hell fire.”
By comparing verse with verse the Bible student learns that there are times when the Bible uses the word “hell” to refer to the place where the carcasses of men who have transgressed against the Lord are deposited. Sometimes the Bible uses the expression “hell fire” to refer to the same place. The context must be studied. The carcasses of dead men are deposited in this “hell” or “hell fire” for the purpose of being “an abhorring to all flesh.”
(11) James 3:6 “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell.
The verse clearly speaks figuratively in as much as the tongue is not literally “a fire.” James simply is stating the unruliness of the tongue. In order to depict how obnoxious the untamed tongue is he says that it is “set on fire of hell.” In light of the foregoing it should be clear that James is making reference to the perpetual fires in the Valley of Hinnom.
We will again set forth Isa. 66:23-24 and suggest that the student should keep these verses in mind when considering the eleven instances that have been set forth in this study.
“And it shall come to pass (i.e. the millennium), that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
Isa. 66:23-24 is of paramount importance in the unfolding of the New Testament truth regarding a “visible hell”.
It should be repeated that the Lord assigns meaning to His Words. The definitions of His Words are to be found within the confines of the Word of God Itself. Whatever tradition held by the scribe or the translator regarding the word “hell” and “hell fire” the reader of the English bible (the A.V.) can rest assured that within the confines of the Book of the Lord shows us how He uses these words, thus overruling the bias and traditional influence that might have affected the scribes and translators.
The conclusion is reached that in the eleven instances enumerated in this study, that sometimes God refers to the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem as “hell.” Sometimes He refers to it as “hell fire.” The serious student reads nothing more into this than what is written for our learning. Thus it is concluded that “the visible hell” will be a place to deposit dead bodies of those who have transgressed against the Lord. Since there will be fire to burn the refuse, it is called “hell fire.” There is no hint of the corpses being conscious or in torment. The fire is only to consume the remains, not to torment.