1. The name of a place
Gehenna, a Greek term for the Hebrew Ge-Hinnom (the Valley of Hinnom), is the name of a narrow valley in the southeast of ancient Jerusalem. This site was notorious for sacrificing little children by fire as an offering to a god during the period of the Divided Kingdom.
At that time, the Israelites offered sacrifices to Molech (an idol in the shape of a bull), a foreign god. They heated up the iron idol by fire and sacrificed their little children on the two arms of the red-hot iron; It was such a detestable sacrifice.
“ ‘The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the LORD . . . They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind.’ ” Jer 7:30-31
Such deed of the Israelites was rebellious against God who had bought them, and it aroused God’s wrath. God stopped the detestable deed through King Josiah, so that they would never perform such a wicked sacrifice again.
He (King Josiah) desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice his son or daughter in the fire to Molech (the name of a god). 2 Ki 23:10
Since King Josiah abolished the wicked sacrifice held in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, the Israelites disgusted this site and turned it into the garbage incinerator, where they burned not only their trash but also animal remains and the bodies of criminals who were not buried after execution. Later it was widely regarded as a garbage dump and also became famous as the place for burning the corpses of criminals. The Valley of Ben Hinnom is translated into Greek as “Gehenna” and into English as “Hell.”
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell (Gehenna), where the fire never goes out.” Mk 9:43
“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell (Gehenna) . . .” Lk 12:5
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell (Gehenna)?” Mt 23:33
2. Gehenna and hell
Why is it that Jesus quotes Gehenna while explaining the judgment that will occur after death? It’s because He wants to help us realize the heavenly systems and principles.
. . . said Jesus . . . “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” Jn 3:10-13
When we carefully listen to the words of Jesus, we can understand what He wants us to know is about heavenly things. However, if He explains what happens in the spiritual world as it is, we can neither understand nor accept it. Since we are sinners who committed sins in heaven and were cast down to this earth, we cannot see, hear and feel what happens in the spiritual world. So He explains the things of the spiritual world through the earthly systems and principles. What is on the earth is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven (Heb 8:5).
Through the garbage incinerator where the bodies of criminals were burned, Jesus has taught us that there is the lake of burning sulfur into which the souls who sinned will be thrown. If He only referred to Gehenna itself, a garbage dump that was used as an incinerator outside the city of Jerusalem, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees in Jesus’ time had nothing to do with the judgment of Gehenna. It was because Gehenna outside the city of Jerusalem was the place where the bodies of criminals were burned and when the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, who were highly respected by most people in Jewish society, died, they were buried.
Jesus said in Luke 12:5, “Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell (Gehenna).” Whom does “him who has power to throw you into hell” refer to? Of course, it refers to God. Only God has power to throw into the lake of fire (hell) like Gehenna, after the killing of the body. Therefore, Gehenna Jesus mentioned is not the earthly Gehenna, but the lake of fire (the spiritual Gehenna) where those who sinned in the spiritual world are burned.
3. The lake of fire where the devil will be thrown
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Rev 20:10
The Apostle John saw in a vision the devil and false prophets being tormented in the lake of fire forever and ever. However, as we all know, the devil is a spiritual being, not a physical one. This means that there must be the lake of fire where the devil, a spirit, is thrown and tormented. Through Gehenna, a garbage incinerator where the bodies of criminals were burned, Jesus wanted to show us the existence of the lake of fire where the devil and the souls who sinned would be thrown.
4. The lake of fire where the souls who sin will be thrown
Some people say that there is a lake of fire where the devil will be thrown, but there is no lake of fire where the souls of people will be thrown. However, the Bible says as follows:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him . . . He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left . . . Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ . . . Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Mt 25:31–46
On the last day, those who are not saved will stand on God’s left. Then, where will they go? Who will the unsaved follow? The Bible says, “They will be thrown into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
The lake of fire, which the unsaved will go into, is not a physical place, but the spiritual Gehenna (hell: the lake of fire), because the devil—a spiritual being—is cast into it. As it is written, “For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him” (2 Pe 2:19), those who become slaves to the devil are to follow the devil, their master, into the lake of fire, too. Such is the law in the spiritual world.
5. The devil’s role
What we have to fear is not the death of the body, but the spiritual Gehenna where the unsaved go after death. Since the devil is already sentenced to the punishment of eternal destruction, he leads the whole world astray in order to drag even more souls into hell (Rev 12:7-9).
Considering that the devil is gathering as many companions as possible, he must be afraid of going to hell alone. As if his deed is to take revenge on God, he is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, so he can drag even the elect into hell. Even at this moment, the deceiver is trying every possible means to prevent many souls from coming to God, spreading lies and lawlessness, to dgrag God’s chosen people into hell.
6. Resist the devil
As the end time is drawing near, the devil is even more active at work. He hates us who are loved by God and wants all souls to be forsaken by God. At this point in time when God’s coming is very near, how can we defend ourselves from the devil? How can we protect our brothers and sisters from the devil? What is the way to win the great war against the devil?
There is a saying that goes, “Attack is the best defense.” If a person just tries to avoid the devil’s attacks or thinks, ‘It’s okay if only I am safe,’ that person will become the first target of the devil. It’s because that kind of person is one of the devil’s favorite people. We must resist the devil so that we can win in the end.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you . . . Jas 4:7-8
To submit ourselves to God is to resist the devil, and to resist the devil is to come near to God. It is love that the devil fears the most. Rescuing our brothers and sisters from the chains of the devil with our God-given weapon—love—is the way to come near to God and to resist the devil. Those who resist the devil with the love of God do not need to be afraid of the horror and torment of hell, because the kingdom of heaven God has prepared is waiting for them.
However, the punishment of hell where the saved will go is so dreadful beyond imagination. Since they fear the death of the body, the destruction of the soul must be even more dreadful for them.
Let us all make more of an effort to obey God, who is the Lord and Judge of the whole world—the visible world and the invisible world, so we can attain salvation.