The reality of Hell is a hotly debated topic. Many believers in Jesus do not believe in a literal “Hell” even though Jesus talked about it at length. Should we discount His words regarding Hell? If so, how can we be sure that the place called Heaven exists? Jesus referred to a place that literally existed in His time to emphasize the existence of a literal Hell. The place was called Gehenna.
What is Gehenna?
Gehenna is a place – a specific location. It is first mentioned in the book of Joshua as the boundary between the lot of land possessed by the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin. It is a valley that lies south of Jerusalem bordering the old city of Zion, heading west and runs into the Kidron Valley.
Gehenna – Ge: “valley” and henna: “Hinnom”. “Valley of Hinnom”
In Joshua 15:8, we see this valley called the “Valley of the Son of Hinnom”. Who the “Son or sons of Hinnom” are is not known for certain, but the valley carries this name to the present day.
God spoke to Jeremiah these words concerning the valley:
Jeremiah 19:1-6: Thus says the Lord: “Go and get a potter’s earthen flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests. And go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the Potsherd Gate; and proclaim there the words that I will tell you, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will bring such a catastrophe on this place, that whoever hears of it, his ears will tingle. “Because they have forsaken Me and made this an alien place, because they have burned incense in it to other gods whom neither they, their fathers, not the kings of Judah have known, and have filled this place with the blood of the innocents (they have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind), therefore behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Tophet or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.”
On the southern brow, overlooking the valley at its eastern extremity Solomon erected high places for Molech, (1 Kings 11:7) whose horrid rites were revived from time to time. In the same vicinity the later idolatrous kings, Ahaz and Manasseh made their children “pass through the fire” in this valley, (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6) and the fiendish custom of infant sacrifice to the fire-gods seems to have been kept up in Tophet, which was another name for this place – Tophet meaning, “the place of burning”.
Before the time of King Josiah, this valley was the place of the worship of Baal and Molech. To put an end to these abominations the place was polluted by Josiah, who renders it ceremonially unclean by spreading over it human bones and other corruptions, (2 Kings 23:10,13,14; 2 Chronicles 34:4,5) from which time it appears to have become the common cesspool of the city, into which sewage was conducted, to be carried off by the waters of the Kidron.
It has been a common opinion that the later Jews, in imitation of Josiah, threw into this place all manner of filth, as well as the carcasses of animals and the dead bodies of malefactors; and that with reference to either the baleful idolatrous fires in the worship of Moloch, or to the fires afterwards maintained there to consume the mass of impurities that might otherwise have occasioned a pestilence, came the figurative use of the fires of Gehenna, that is, valley of Hinnom, to denote the eternal fire in which wicked men and fallen spirits shall be punished.
The prophecy of Isaiah describing the last days mentions a place of continual corruption and burning (Isaiah 66:24) to which Jesus referred when speaking of the seriousness of dealing with our sins:
Mark 9:47-48: “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire—“where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”
Jesus referred to hell as Gehenna at least 11 times. It was a literal place which Jesus used to illustrate a literal place of final punishment for evildoers.
Now, does Gehenna represent the heart of man or the heart of God?
Gehenna/Valley of Hinnom does not represent the will of God but the will of those who reject God and the will of heaven. The things that went on there in the worship of idols; the destruction that is depicted there does not represent the will of God. When speaking to Jeremiah, God said that things that man did in the Valley of Hinnom never entered into His mind to do. They were products of demonic influence and human activity.
God must judge evil. The removal of evil and the judgment thereof is part of justice, which is a component of love. You cannot have true love without justice for the oppressed. Judgment of evil is as sure as the reality of sin. Does sin exist? Then, so does judgment for sin.
But, God’s heart is salvation. He desires to save all who will be saved.
Does society have a problem with the existence of hell? When you look at how many people believe in a literal hell, you would think so.
God has an even bigger problem with it. He hates it more than you do. In fact, He hates it so much He gave His life to save you from it.
Hell was created for the devil and his fallen angels. They not only wronged God; they wronged you and me as well. Without the ability to choose evil, you don’t truly have free will. Without free will, you and I are not created in the image of God. For choice to exist, you must have something to choose between. That’s why there were two trees in the Garden of Eden – that’s why there are still two “trees” available for us to choose today – good or evil.
God has destroyed the power of hell. Through His Son, Jesus, God took your “hell” upon Himself. If you are a believer, this present existence is as close to hell as you will come. If you are not a believer, there is something worse than anything you can experience in this life. Give your life to Jesus. Avoid Hell. When you really think, the choice is an easy one.