Ever since I was a little tyke I have heard people say go up to Heaven or down to Hell.

Up and down would seemingly have its relationship to the surface of the Earth, and while down in that case can only mean toward the center of the Earth; Up would be relative to where you were on the surface of the Earth.

In the Bible Jesus himself appears to fortify that assumption in:

John 3:12 and 13 KJV If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

and again in:

John 20:17 KJV Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

So when:

Luke 24:51 KJV And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

So then if up is in relation to the spot where Jesus ascended from, would up on the opposite side of the Earth still be toward the clouds or would it be in the opposite direction?

It would seem more logical to me ascending and descending would be more in line with being closer to God or further away from him.

Has this been addressed before by any denomination, Theology, or Biblical Scholar?

  • This question is completely appropriate exactly as worded and should not be on hold as "too broad". Given the fact that the biblical writers clearly believed in a flat earth (as explained in user13992's answer), "up" and "down" are very specific directions. Therefore, the question as asked reflects the biblical associations of Heaven with "up" and Hell with "down". The interpretation that up and down are figurative is not supported by scripture. Jan 1, 2017 at 21:34
  • @DrStrangepork - the "flat earth" theory was well-known to be incorrect long before NT times (the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, etc knew the earth was more or less spheroidal)
    – warren
    Mar 8, 2017 at 17:35
  • dictionary.com/browse/antipode could be helpful in your understanding
    – warren
    Mar 8, 2017 at 17:38
  • @warren The issue is not what certain peoples believed, it is what the Bible teaches and thus what is Christian doctrine. Indeed, given that Christianity sprung from Judaism and the Jews in Palestine, what the Greeks or Egyptians or Chinese believed during that same time period is completely irrelevant. Mar 22, 2017 at 19:35
  • @DrStrangepork what sources do you cite for claiming the Jews believed in a flat earth?
    – warren
    Mar 22, 2017 at 19:36

4 Answers 4


We do not know exactly where heaven or hell is. However, in Scripture, the word "up" is commonly used in association with the location of heaven and "down" is typically associated with the location of hell, either figuratively or literally. Also, from the vantage point of heaven, earth is down.

The "up" and "down" context may certainly be completely figurative, as heaven is exalted and glorious and hell is shameful and desolate.

Up to Heaven

And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. 2 Kings 2:1b NASB

The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. Psalm 14:2 NASB

We lift up our heart and hands toward God in heaven. Lamentations 3:41 NASB

And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. Matthew 28:2 NASB

While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. Luke 24:51 NASB

Down to Hell or Hades

And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! Luke 10:15 NASB

In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. Luke 16:23 NASB

  • 1
    I like your answer, and as you say up and down could easily be figurative, but I still would like to know if any others have also been perplexed by this. Especially in light of the fact that if they are relative to the Earth where would they be in God's realm where there was in the beginning nothing. And yet if the rebellion in Heaven was before the creation where was Lucifer and the rebellious angels cast down to? The more I study the more it seems that up and down must relate to the presence of God.
    – BYE
    Oct 3, 2014 at 20:28
  • 1
    You should also note verses that imply that Hell is within the Earth. Those that say things like "swallowed up by the earth."
    – user3961
    Oct 4, 2014 at 2:00
  • So Heaven is up in the sense of away from earth and hell is down in the sense of within the earth.
    – Steve
    Dec 6, 2014 at 16:40


In the Apostles' Creed, in the fifth article of the creed, [Jesus Christ] descended into hell, and in next article, the sixth, he ascended into heaven.

Thus from our deposit of faith, heaven is where people ascend [up] into and hell where people descend [down] into . But as will be answered below, the Church has decided nothing as regards their exact locale.

Where is heaven, the dwelling of God and the blessed?

Please see The location of Heaven in Heaven | New Advent.

From the article:

In general, however, theologians deem more appropriate that there should be a special and glorious abode, in which the blessed have their peculiar home and where they usually abide, even though they be free to go about in this world. For the surroundings in the midst of which the blessed have their dwelling must be in accordance with their happy state; and the internal union of charity which joins them in affection must find its outward expression in community of habitation. At the end of the world, the earth together with the celestial bodies will be gloriously transformed into a part of the dwelling-place of the blessed (Revelation 21). Hence there seems to be no sufficient reason for attributing a metaphorical sense to those numerous utterances of the Bible which suggest a definite dwelling-place of the blessed. Theologians, therefore, generally hold that the heaven of the blessed is a special place with definite limits. Naturally, this place is held to exist, not within the earth, but, in accordance with the expressions of Scripture, without and beyond its limits. All further details regarding its locality are quite uncertain. The Church has decided nothing on this subject.

Where is hell?

Please see the paragraph that starts - Where is hell? - in the section Name and place of hell in Hell | New Advent.

Short answer, no one knows.

From the article:

The Bible seems to indicate that hell is within the earth, for it describes hell as an abyss to which the wicked descend. We even read of the earth opening and of the wicked sinking down into hell (Numbers 16:31 sqq.; Psalm 55:15; Isaiah 5:14; Ezekiel 26:20; Philippians 2:10, etc.). Is this merely a metaphor to illustrate the state of separation from God? Although God is omnipresent, He is said to dwell in heaven, because the light and grandeur of the stars and the firmament are the brightest manifestations of His infinite splendour. But the damned are utterly estranged from God; hence their abode is said to be as remote as possible from his dwelling, far from heaven above and its light, and consequently hidden away in the dark abysses of the earth. However, no cogent reason has been advanced for accepting a metaphorical interpretation in preference to the most natural meaning of the words of Scripture. Hence theologians generally accept the opinion that hell is really within the earth. The Church has decided nothing on this subject; hence we may say hell is a definite place; but where it is, we do not know.

And this is my opinion as well.

enter image description here

  • Hell is less of a place than a condition...Eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord. Jul 8, 2021 at 20:39

An Analysis of the Word Heaven

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 NKJV)

The Hebrew word for Heaven is (הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם) meaning: "Heaven, Sky"

So since the "Visible Sky" can be "Up", heaven "Can be up". Now if you are upside down, that's a different story ^^

An Analysis of the Word Hell

The Hebrew word for Hell is (שְׁאוֹל) "Sheol" meaning "Grave, Dirt-Pit"

The Greek word for Hell (ᾍδης) "Hades" meaning "Grave, Dirt-Pit"

The Greek word for Hell (γέεννα) "Gehenna" a place where bodies where Cremated

So since the "Grave" can be "down", Hell "Can be down".

Why this idea of Eternal Punishment?

One time the Greek Word (ταρταρώσας) "Tartarus" was translated as Hell and considered a place of punishment for the dead.

This verse translates Tartarus as Hell

For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; (2 Peter 2:4 NKJV)

When you group the concepts of the Grave with a crematory with Eternal Punishment
You end up with today's understanding of Hell.

Here we can find a clearly defined example of the punishment

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NKJV)

but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. (Genesis 2:17 NKJV)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NKJV)

For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:8 NKJV)

The Punishment of Death


Given the flat-earth conception of the universe that has already been mentioned, heaven is "up" in the "heavens" and hell/Sheol is "down" beneath the ground. The argument for "not knowing exactly where heaven is" is a modern problem that has only existed since the time of Galileo. Before the age of the telescope, heaven - as in the place where God lived - was widely accepted to be the sky and the clouds. This fact is clearly demonstrated in several places in the Bible, some of which have been cited in the other answers.

In short, the only view of heaven that is consistent with the Bible's actual teachings is "the sky". Yahweh is, quite literally, a sky god.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .