*Sources of screenshots are listed in their respective file names.
The way media works is…weird.
Let’s just take the concept of Hell, for example. Pit of the burn-y variety. Place of eternal suffering. Not too much to misunderstand, there – especially since the Bible uses it as a reference point so often.
Then, along comes a guy like Dante Alighieri. Dante writes a book called The Divine Comedy, detailing some fictional organization and punishments in Hell. As creators after Dante portray Hell in their own works, they find themselves subtly affected by what’s gone before – including Dante’s original sources.
After a while, from John Milton, to Discworld, to DOOM, you end up with a massive, ever-shifting game of creative telephone that make most depictions of Hell a far cry from its original, Biblical form. You can see similar patterns in everything from typical depictions of fantasy (J.R.R. Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons being the primary inspirations there), to science fiction (Star Trek, Aliens, etc.). Strangely enough, this means finding something ‘new’ connected to well-worn ideas often depends on going as far back to the original as you can.
Whether you’re an artist attempting to build a ‘unique’ version of Hell, or a Christian seeking a bit of insight into a place with a lot of cultural baggage, below you’ll find 7 cool facts about Hell straight from the source.
1. Hell Expands
Hell expands according to Isaiah 5:14 – complete with a mouth to accept her new inhabitants:
“Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.”
Passages like the one below prevent the famous “When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth” situation. My apologies to anyone looking forward to the zombie apocalypse.
“Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” (Proverbs 27:20)
2. Yes, Hell Has Gates
Hell does indeed have gates according to Matthew 16:16-19:
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Revelation 1:12-18 then goes on to reveal that Jesus possesses the keys to hell and death:
“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Revelation 1:17-18)
3. Satan Doesn’t Rule It
Satan is a lot of things – among them, the god of this world:
“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-5)
However, one thing I didn’t find evidence for, is Satan being the ruler of Hell. He roams the world “as a roaring lion,” which suggests he isn’t confined to Hell as of yet:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)
Revelation also speaks of him being confined for a period of time before The End, which confirms my suspicion he’s still walking around at the moment:
“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.” (Revelation 20:1-3)
So, knowing that Jesus owns the keys to Hell and death, and that Satan’s affairs are all aboveground, why do we continue to see the latter characterized as the lord of Hell?
I blame Paradise Lost.
4. Hell Doesn’t Make Distinctions
It sounds a bit obvious, but you can find beings from all walks of life in Hell. Just as an example, the following passages list ancient rulers and fallen angels among Hell’s inhabitants:
“Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.” (Isaiah 14:9)
“For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;” (2 Peter 2:4)
5. ‘Hell’ and the ‘Lake of Fire’ Aren’t Interchangeable
Since Hell has, well, fire in it, I grew up using the terms interchangeably. While they may convey the same general information (pit, lots of fire, unpleasant), these two locations don’t coexist.
In fact, according to Revelation 20:7-15, Hell and those within it actually get thrown into the Lake of Fire in the end.
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:13-15)
The idea of Hell is so monolithic, that the idea of it being dissolved in something even more terrifyingly hot is a bit mindblowing, to say the least.
6. You’re Physically Weaker in Hell
Being in Hell is often associated with physical weakness – alongside the regular pain and torment and such:
“Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?” (Isaiah 14:9-10)
“I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.” (Psalm 88:4-5)
7. Heaven and Hell Can See Each Other???
The famous story about Lazarus and the Rich Man found in Luke 16 is fascinating for a number of reasons. It references the gulf fixed between Heaven and Hell (making your residence in either area permanent), for one thing. What particularly interested me, though, was a statement that can easily be taken for granted on a normal reading of the passage:
“And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Luke 16:22-23)
In Isaiah 66:22-24, God speaks about the New Heaven and Earth of Revelation, stating:
“For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. 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 carcases 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.”
After reading these passages, I actually believe people in Hell (and then, those in the Lake of Fire) will be able to see those in Heaven and vice versa.
Of all the research I did about Hell, I think this is the most stunning thing I’ve read. Being trapped in a place of eternal, burning suffering is one thing. Combining that with the ability to always look up and see what you missed out on, though? The pitying (or disgusted) looks of those above you?
Hard to even imagine.