Gehenna – New Testament, Part 1

I want to do a quick recap of Gehenna in the Old Testament (you can read my full post here). The Valley of the Son of Hinnom (or Tophet) is located right outside Jerusalem. This valley became a place of false worship for the tribe of Judah, where they sacrificed their children by fire to the god Molech . Jeremiah and Isaiah warned that this valley would become a place of God’s judgement if the people did not immediately abolish their idolatry and return to following Him. Well, they continued in their sin and God used the Babylonian empire to conquer them. Gehenna became a place of sorrow and death. But like always, God in His mercy did not keep His children in captivity for ever. After 70 years, they were allowed to come back to their native land and start over, this time by rebuilding the Temple to worship their true God.

Now, on to the New Testament. There are 12 times (11 by Yeshua, 1 by James) that the word Gehenna is used. I will pull up those verses now (out of familiarity, I do use the KJV version):

But I 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…29 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.30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, 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. Matthew 5:22, 29-30

28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28

Wherefore if thy hand or thy 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. Matthew 18:8-9

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…33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Matthew 23:15, 33

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:44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.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 never shall be quenched:46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.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 fire:48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.  Mark 9:43-48

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. Luke 12:5

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. James 3:6

Wow. That is a lot of Judgement. And Fire (please check out my post about fire and brimstone). And Hell. I highlighted all the words translated “hell.” According to Strong’s Dictionary, this is actually the Greek word γέεννα géenna, gheh’-en-nah; of Hebrew origin (H1516 and H2011); valley of (the son of) Hinnom; ge-henna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerusalem, used (figuratively) as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment:—hell.

I want to look at each occurrence in context. More often than not, Yeshua is speaking directly to the disciples or the Judaic people, those who had been taught by the scribes and Pharisees. Not the Gentiles (granted their might have been a few in the crowds), but from what I have seen, the multitudes understood and marveled at His teachings, so unlike the religious leaders of the time.

  • The Sermon on the Mount:

24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan. 1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:And he opened his mouth, and taught them… Matthew 4:24,25 – 5:1,2

Yeshua then proceeds to teach them the beatitudes, the salt of the world, the light on the hill. He explains that He came to fulfill the Law, not condemn it. He then goes even further:

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19-20

We tend to think of the Pharisees as awful sinful human beings. And they were, just as we all are. However, they kept the Law. They did not deviate, they followed every single 613 commandment written in their Torah and Talmud. Technically, they were perfect in the law. At least on the outside. But they forgot the very first commandment, to love the LORD God with all their heart, soul, and might, and their neighbor likewise. The Pharisees followed the law to the exclusion of actually caring, ministering, and loving the people they were teaching (example: the Good Samaritan). Check out this excerpt from Mark Buchanan’s book ‘Your God Is Too Safe’. (pages 108-109)

“A number of years ago, a wise man pointed out to me the root difference between the ethic of Jesus and the ethic of the Pharisees. Usually we think of the difference in these terms: The Pharisees had an ethic of externals, of ritual and rigmarole, and Jesus had an ethic of the heart, of the heart’s inner workings. The Pharisees were concerned about not committing adultery while Jesus was concerned about lust, the root of adultery He was concerned with adulterousness. That’s true as far as it goes. Only it doesn’t go very far. The deeper difference between Jesus’ ethic and that of the Pharisees was this: ThePharisees had an ethic of avoidance, and Jesus had an ethic of involvement. The Pharisee’s question was not “How can I glorify God?” It was “How can I avoid bringing disgrace to God?” This degenerated into a concern not with God, but with self – with image, reputation, procedure. They didn’t ask, “How can I make others clean?” They asked, “How can I keep myself from getting dirty?” They did not seek to rescue sinners, only to avoid sinning. Jesus, in sharp contrast, got involved. He sought always and in all ways to help, to heal, to save, to restore.”

21 Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:22 But I 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.23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Matthew 5:21-24

Jewish tradition is to tell stories that will resonate with the audience all while teaching a point. Yeshua knew that the children of Israel would understand His references to Gehenna. As previously discussed, it was the place of God’s judgement against His idolatrous people.The prophets warned them. They had opportunity to turn back to God, but they continued to follow after the gods of other nations. They were slaughtered when Babylon conquered them, their temple destroyed by fire, and the dead were piled in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. The valley became synonymous with the punishment for Judah’s sin. Not punishment against the neighboring nations. Or the strangers of the land. But Judah, the people of God. God cleansed them of the idolatry by putting them through 70 years of captivity. When they did return to the promised land, they no longer worshiped idols.

Yeshua is teaching the spiritual side of the Law. In the above verses, murdering a fellow human was punished by death (Thou shalt not kill – Ten Commandments). But Yeshua takes it even further. Hating your brother, treating him with contempt (Raca -worthless, contempt) or calling him a fool is just as serious an offence. No one that God makes is worthless. Hate is the opposite of Love.  Doing so would bring about God’s spiritual judgement/correction.

25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. Matthew 5:25-26

If we sin, God will correct our waywardness until we finally let go of the sin that was turning us away from following Him.

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.29 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.30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, 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. Matthew 5:27-30

Again, Yeshua goes from an outward display of following the law to the internal heart issue involved. He was teaching them that just outwardly following the law was not enough. They also had to obey the law with all their heart, the inward spiritual man. If not, then God’s spiritual “Gehenna fire” would cleanse them. God brings His judgement to His followers in this life to start the purifying process, to “kill” the natural man. We are still fighting the sinful nature until the resurrection.

He quotes one of the 10 commandments, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” You do not have to physically perform the act to be guilty. Desiring, lusting, coveting is just as wrong. He continues to say if your eye offends (or causes you to sin) to pluck it out. Curious, how many of us take this seriously in the physical sense? Because we just have to turn on a movie, walk in the mall, or look at magazines in the checkout line to see things that could cause us to desire, covet, or lust. Yet how many of us Christians have plucked out our eyes to prevent that particular sin from happening? I would say none, myself included. Otherwise, there would be a lot more blind Christians.

I want to also look closely at this phrase: “for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” We are in the process in this life of “cutting off” the parts of us that sin through the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Well if you think about it, our whole body is sinful in the spiritual sense. Our whole spiritual body deserves to be thrown into the spiritual Gehenna fire of judgement. But if we “pluck out our eye” or “cut off our hand” through God’s help, those parts will no longer need judgement in the final day. So only the remaining “parts of the body” will be thrown into Gehenna, as opposed to your whole body.

“And so, when a man who is tempted to spend more time looking at a woman than he should, looking at her to lust after her, the Spirit of God will give him power to turn away. God won’t make you or force you to turn away, but He will give you the power to turn away, and then you have to do the turning. And should you fail to turn away before you actually lust after her, then you must “pluck out your eye. No not your literal, physical, organ of the body, but the lustful eye of your heart.

No man’s physical eyes has ever lusted after anything. All lust comes from the heart, the carnal mind, and that part of the carnal mind must be“plucked out,” or “cut off.” But you must be the one who does the plucking and cutting or God will intervene and “cast your whole body into Gehenna fire” in a later Judgment where this spiritual fire is called “The Lake of Fire.”

We can either volunteer to stop sinning now, in this life, or God will volunteer us to stop sinning later, in the resurrection to Judgment. Yes, of course, it will be God in us regardless of which Judgment we find ourselves… Bible Truths

11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation withgold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.14 If anyone’s work which he has built on itendures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

  • Denying God before men. 

28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28

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. Luke 12:5

Both of these are actually from the same account. Luke’s version is just much shorter than Matthew’s version. In this section, Yeshua is speaking directly to the disciples:

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Matthew 10:28

In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Luke 12:1

I recommend reading both chapters through on your own. The main theme of these passages is that men will hate you for being a follower of Yeshua. Friends and family will turn against you, persecute and even kill you.

21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. Matthew 10:21-22

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. Luke 12:4

But even if that happens, we are to remain strong in our faith. By denying God before men, what sin are we allowing to reign in that moment? Fear? Doubt? Lying? Helplessness? Self-protection? Hypocrisy? The list could go on. All of these are opposite the Fruits of the Spirit. We are loving self more than God in that moment. By allowing them, we are letting our spiritual carnal man take over instead of God living through us. And as discussed in the previous section, such spiritual actions warrant God’s corrective punishment in Gehenna.

28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28

I was kind of surprised by Matthew’s use of both soul and body. So I looked up how how Judaism views the idea of a soul:

“In the mind of the Sages, sin is not the product of an unruly body asserting itself over a pure soul; on the contrary, the body and soul are seen in a partnership of equal responsibility for actions, in this life as well as the next.

This concept is illustrated in the following Talmudic anecdote, from tractate Sanhedrin: The Emperor Antoninus tries to convince Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi that the body and soul can each excuse themselves from sin by claiming that the transgression is the fault of the other, since without its counterpart, it is lifeless. Rabbi Yehudah counters with a parable: Two guards–one blind and one lame–are in a garden. Together, they are able to steal some fruit from a high tree. When caught, each claims that he is obviously unable to commit the crime due to his disability. In the end, the orchard owner places the lame man on the back of the blind man, and they are judged as one (91b). Similarly, God judges the actions of the body and soul in partnership after returning the soul to the body at resurrection.” My Jewish Learning

 

Matthew is basically saying that man can only judge the actions of body, not the inner workings of the spiritual heart (which only God knows). God has full power and ability to judge both in Gehenna.

 

  • Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven:

This next set of verses is very similar to the Sermon on the Mount section. Here Yeshua is responding to a question by the disciples. They had been arguing among themselves about who would be the greatest. This occurs after the transfiguration and Yeshua healing a scribe’s demon possessed son (one of my favorite verses, I believe, help my unbelief!).  I really like the way the Amplified Version translates this passage:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and set him before them, and said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever [a]humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives and welcomes one [b]child like this in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble and sin [by leading him away from My teaching], it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone [as large as one turned by a donkey] hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:1-6 (bold type by me)

“And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.36 And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them,37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.40 For he that is not against us is on our part.41 For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” Mark 9:35-42

So we are to repent, change our ways. We are not to just say a prayer and then boom: we are perfect. Granted, Yeshua’s sacrifice and grace cover our sins, but that does not mean we should stop there. Paul goes into that more in Romans 6. By God’s judgement here on earth through trials and tribulations, events in our lives can help us kill the spiritual carnal man. We can become dead to those spiritual parts of us that cause us to sin. Check out this quote:

“My sons, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure the chastening, God deals with you as with SONS; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons” (Heb. 12:5-8).

The Christian sinner’s prayer: “I hate my sin and I accept the Lord, Amen” won’t cut it in the real world. If we desire to be sons and not bastards, then there is much work to be done and accomplished by our God in our lives. God does not create sons in His Spiritual Image by magic or ten second prayers. Here then is part of the process and the words used to describe that process of changing carnal human nature into the Spiritual Image of God, which we call salvation.” – Bible Truths

Yeshua goes on to teach that as his followers, we have such a huge responsibility when it comes to fellow believers. His disciples tried to prevent a man from casting out demons (Mark 9:38). This man was not part of the “in group.” He did not follow Yeshua in the same manner as the disciples. However, this man was using Yeshua’s name to cast out the demons. He was still following God. Just not the same path as the disciples. And Yeshua told them as much.

39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.40 For he that is not against us is on our part. Mark 9:39-40

Not only can the world, the flesh, and the devil cause you to sin, but if you are not careful, you can cause fellow believers to sin as well. We can become stumbling blocks. What is a stumbling block? According to Webster’s Dictionary a stumbling block is “an obstacle to progress.” According to Strong’s lexicon: skandalízō, skan-dal-id’-zo; from G4625; to entrap, i.e. trip up (figuratively, stumble (transitively) or entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure):—(make to) offend.

“Woe (judgment is coming) to the world because of stumbling blocks and temptations to sin! It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to the person on whose account or through whom the stumbling block comes!“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble and sin, cut it off and throw it away from you [that is, remove yourself from the source of temptation]; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into everlasting fire. If your eye causes you to stumble and sin, pluck it out and throw it away from you [that is, remove yourself from the source of temptation]; it is better for you to enter life with only one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fiery hell. Matthew 18:7-9

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:44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.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 never shall be quenched:46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.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 fire:48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Not only do we deserve Gehenna, God’s judgement, for sinning, but for causing others to sin as well. Pluck it out! Cut it off! Remove the spiritual eyes, hands, and feet that are still part of the natural sinful man.

I wanted to give a bit of attention to a couple phrases that are mentioned in Mark’s account.

  1. “Fire that never shall be quenched”
  2. “Where their worm dieth not”

 

jude 1:7 Jer 17:27

 

 

This post is getting long and I have two more sections of verses to go through. Because there are a few words that I want to focus on in addition to Gehenna in these verses I think I will write a second post. Before ending, I want to share a few verses of encouragement. Remember, God is Love and Just! He is not one or the other whenever He feels like it. He never changes. One of His attributes does not become less than in comparison to another.

For example:”I love chocolate! But only if its dark and made without milk”

By adding the “but” in a sense I am negating the fact that I love all chocolate. I made contingencies. So my statement “I love chocolate” becomes untrue in a way. That’s what happens when we say God is Love! But God is Just! By saying it that way we negate the Love of God by making it subject to His justice. God’s justice is love and God’s love is just. He tries and judges us as a loving Father, bringing us into a closer relationship with Him by destroying the sinful spiritual man.

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Romans 11:35

So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Hebrews 12:5-11

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, do not fear Gehenna. Yes it will be painful. Yes it will be unpleasant. But it will make us more like Yeshua, whether in this life, or the one to come. And there is joy in that!

Peace to You! Shalom  שָׁלוֹם

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