THE VISIBLE HELL
By Tom Ballinger
It is suggested that the February 15, 1972 issue (Volume II - No. 22) of Plainer Words be re-read. It pertains to "The Gates of Hell." It should be remembered that the words the Holy Ghost tries to teach by (1 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 to focus upon 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."
The 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 council refers to the Sanhedrin which was Israel's Supreme Court. Those who hoped to enter the Kingdom were liable to be brought before the Sanhedrin for calling out to another Israelite, "Raca." The possibility would be that those who were convicted of such would forfeit the right to enter.
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 the maps in the back of the Bible (Plate 1 and 9) there 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" (1 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 bury 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 wagons 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 bean 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.