Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Examining all Scriptures dealing with Gehenna, Second Death and Lake of Fire

We start with the OT where the concept first appears and work our way back to Revelation 21...

(Job 38:17) 17 Have the gates of death been uncovered to you, Or the gates of deep shadow can you see? FOOTNOTE: Lit., “death shadow,” M; LXX, “Hades,” that is, the common grave; T, “death of Gehenna.”

The reference to Gehenna is only to be found in Aramaic Targums. This translations were made mostly in the Second Temple period. But if this question of Job refers to Gehenna he makes a clear distinction between death “maveth” (“the place of death”, “Hades” acc. to Geseniu’s Lexicon) and tsalmaveth” “death-shadow”, “a place of very thick darkness” acc. to Genesiu’s)

(Ecclesiastes 5:5-6) . . .. 6 Do not allow your mouth to cause your flesh to sin, neither say before the angel that it was a mistake. Why should the [true] God become indignant on account of your voice and have to wreck the work of your hands? FOOTNOTE: “Do not allow the word of your mouth to determine the judgment of Gehenna upon your flesh,”

I couldn’t find the Hebrew translation for the footnote to check Gehenna. But the noun translated “your flesh” is “basar” meaning “flesh of the body” or “the body itself” (Strong’s H1320). So we see, that the judgment of Gehenna can come or have influence upon our body. If Gehenna was permanent destruction it couldn’t effect our body since the body and thus “we” are already dead when this punishment would be implemented.

(Matthew 5) 22 However, I say to YOU that everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice; but whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court; whereas whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Ge·hen´na.

When someone is continually wrathful against his brother he will stand in front of the “Court of justice”. The word (“krisis”) original meaning to separate. But in the time of Jesus the word was used (and is surely here used so) for the “college of judges” which was a tribunal of seven men in the several cities of Palestine; as distinguished from the Sanhedrin, which had its seat at Jerusalem. The “unspeakable word of content” is the Hebrew idiom “rhaka”, a common term of reproach used among the Jews in the time of Christ, meaning “empty headed man”. So both men would be accountable to human courts. But then Jesus shows us, what would make us liable for the judgement leading to Gehenna. He uses the adjective (“moros”). It can be a word expressive of condemnation, impious, godless, because such a person neglects and despises what relates to salvation. So it shows that if humans judge someone as being godless (and thus liable for Gehenna) we might end up ourselves in the refining fire of Gehenna.

(Matthew 5) 29 If, now, that right eye of yours is making you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you. For it is more beneficial to you for one of your members to be lost to you than for your whole body to be pitched into Ge·hen´na. 30 Also, if your right hand is making you stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you. For it is more beneficial to you for one of your members to be lost than for your whole body to land in Ge·hen´na

See explanation below Mark 9

(Matthew 10:28) 28 And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Ge·hen´na. . .

From this gem we see two simple truths: 1. There are people that can kill (“apokteino”) our body. When our body is killed then we are dead (in the first death). 2. There is one who can do even more. He can “kill” (“apollymi”) body and soul (the angelic vehicle) in Gehenna. The word translated “of those” and “of him that” is “ho” which is a definite article which corresponds to our definite article “the” which is properly a demonstrative pronoun which is sometimes used to make a partition. It is 79 times translated “who” and 413 times “which”. So it could also demonstrate an antithesis between situations/circumstances which cause the mere death of the body and Gehenna itself, which “renders useless” (see Strong’s) body and soul.

(Matthew 23:15) 15 “Woe to YOU, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because YOU traverse sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one YOU make him a subject for Ge·hen´na twice as much so as yourselves.

If Gehenna is a permanent state of non-existence, how can you be a subject to Gehenna “twice as much” (“diplous”) than another person. Can one be switched off for ever twice?

(Mark 9:43-48) 43 “And if ever your hand makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go off into Ge·hen´na, into the fire that cannot be put out. 44 —— 45 And if your foot makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life lame than with two feet to be pitched into Ge·hen´na. 46 —— 47 And if your eye makes you stumble, throw it away; it is finer for you to enter one-eyed into the kingdom of God than with two eyes to be pitched into Ge·hen´na, 48 where their maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.

In verse 48 “their” is “autos”. The maggot “of it”: not clear to what or who it refers. The maggot of Gehenna or the eye? “Die” is okay but means also “finishes” or “come to an end”. The word translated “not put out” is “sbennumi”, a different word than used in 43 “asbestos”. “Sbennumi” is translated “quenched”. Let us see how the word "asbestos” (unquenchable) was used by the Greeks. Strabo calls it the lamp in the Parthenon, and Plutarch calls the sacred fire of a temple "unquenchable," though they were extinguished long ago. Josephus, the Jewish Priest who saw the destruction of Jerusalem says that the fire on the altar of the temple at Jerusalem was "always unquenchable" abeston aei, yet he was there when the fire on the altar was forever extinguished. Eusibius, the church historian who lived in Constantine's day says that certain martyrs of Alexandria "were burned in unquenchable fire." The fire was put out within an hour! Homer speaks of "unquenchable laughter" asbestos gelos, (Iliad, I: 599)

Clearly, we are not dealing here with fire or symbolic fire that is eternal and will never go out. We have a fire which will not be quenched until it consumes that which it is burning! It cannot be put out by an external means such as water or lack of oxygen. When it consumes everything that it was set to consume, it will go out due to lack of material that is burning. The force of the word should be on the emphasis that this divine fire will not be stopped from doing what it was sent to do. It will finish its work and will not be cut short. Whatever it was sent to burn will be completely done in.

Verse 49 then makes it finally clear:

“Thus, everyone must be salted with fire” (Mark 9:49)

This verse gives the conclusion of what was said before. ”The adjective “pas” means everyone or any or all of a group”. Thus, all who go to Gehenna must be seasoned or tested by fire. The verb “halizo” means “seasoned, sprinkled with salt”. We know from the OT that the sacrifice is sprinkled with salt and thus rendered acceptable to God (Lev. 2:13, Ezek. 43:24) So Jesus is speaking here about the fire of Gehenna with which those sinners will be made acceptable before God. Now we can understand the next verse:

(Mark 9:50) “Salt is fine; but if ever the salt loses its strength, with what will you season it itself? Have salt in yourselves and keep peace between one another.

The first sentence of this verse is telling us that salt is fine for “salting”, but it might lose it’s strength compared with the “fire that is not put out”. It’s an antagonism! The second sentence shows us the better alternative: if we have salt in ourselves, the we are an acceptable sacrifice to God and don’t have to go through the refining of the fire of Gehenna.

(Luke 12:4-5) . . .Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more. 5 But I will indicate to YOU whom to fear: Fear him who after killing has authority to throw into Ge·hen´na. Yes, I tell YOU, fear this One.

“This one” at the end could also mean “that/this” (to be thrown into Gehenna). This shows, that “you” as a person can be thrown into Gehenna AFTER you died! That is an proactive action, it cannot just mean to be not resurrected eternally.

(James 3:5-6) 5 So, too, the tongue is a little member and yet makes great brags. Look! How little a fire it takes to set so great a woodland on fire! 6 Well, the tongue is a fire. The tongue is constituted a world of unrighteousness among our members, for it spots up all the body and sets the wheel of natural life aflame and it is set aflame by Ge·hen´na. . .

Why and how is the tongue set aflame by Gehenna? I don’t know, but we can clearly see that this ‘fire’ and this ‘setting aflame’ are used metaphorically here. We are lead to the conclusion that Gehenna is equivalent with the “lake of fire” (and sulphur).

(Revelation 20:6) 6 Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.

The “second death” is in Greek “deuteros thanatos”. Deuteros is used to signify a distinction between two, so it can be translated “the other of two” (Thayer’s Lexicon). The first of the two is “the first death”, sleeping in unconsciousness so “the second death” cannot just be a prolongation of the same situation/sentence. It is the other kind of death, the sin bin of Gehenna, existence in some kind of body less form. It is a ‘pit of dense darkness’ like ‘Tartarus’ for the demons. The unrighteous who are resurrected into Gehenna will go through a rehabilitation and training program until they learn and accept that the law of God is for the best of all creatures.

Now let us examine the last 3 scriptures dealing with the “second death”, “the lake of fire” and “the lake of fire and sulphur”. Here are the relevant texts:

(Revelation 20:10) 10 And the Devil who was misleading them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur, where both the wild beast and the false prophet [already were]; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

(Revelation 20:13-15) 13 And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Ha´des gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds. 14 And death and Ha´des were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire. 15 Furthermore, whoever was not found written in the book of life was hurled into the lake of fire.

(Revelation 21:8) 8 But as for the cowards and those without faith and those who are disgusting in their filth and murderers and fornicators and those practicing spiritism and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death.”

It seems that in verse 10 we learn that 3 entities are tortured forever. We learn from verse 14 and 15 that abstract things like “death” and “Hades” end up in the lake of fire as do man not in the book of life. And we are taught that the “lake of fire” and the “lake of fire and sulphur” mean the “second death”. So now let us scrutinize how this really fits into the picture:

(Revelation 20:10) 10 And the Devil who was misleading them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur, where both the wild beast and the false prophet [already were]; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

What does it mean that this is a lake of fire AND brimstone? We already know from Mark 9:49 that the fire in this place will burn unquenchable by man until it has achieved it’s purpose. As regards “brimstone”, “tormented” and “forever” we’ll encounter a classic ambiguity of biblical Greek.

The noun translated “brimstone” is “theoin”(θεον). Brimstone obviously keeps fire burning. But according to Thayer’s it is a divine incense, because burning brimstone was regarded as having power to purify, and to ward off disease. As fire is used to purify and to melt away undesirable characteristics, so does brimstone have the function of purification.

We know that the “wild beast” and the “false prophet” are not individuals but composite figures, symbolizing manifestations of the UN and the Anglo-American world power respectively.
The verb translated “tormented” is “basanizo” (βασανίζω). Its first meaning is “to test (metals) by the touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal“ (Thayer’s) and its second meaning is to be “to be harassed” or “the distress of those who at sea are struggling with a head wind” which is remarkable given the use of the word in connection with a lake.

What about “forever and ever”? The Greek text uses the same masculine noun “aion” (αἰών) successively. This noun is translated “the worlds” /”universe”, “period of time”/”age” and “forever”/”eternity”. Thus, we have three related but temporal different possible meanings.

Now let us put the jigsaw together. Organizations or systems like the “wild beats” or the “false prophet” will never come back after they are destroyed. So for them, this “lake of fire and sulphur” means complete destruction, in a lake that keeps burning for eternity. But for the Devil as an individual this lake will be a lake of cleaning as if through fire, painful and rigid. He will be tested by the touchstone until he achieves purity and there is no spiritual disease left in him. This will take “from the ages to the ages” but God’s fire will finally achieve it’s purifying purpose.

With this knowledge in mind, let us now re-examine the other two texts!

(Revelation 20:13-15) 13 And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Ha´des gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds. 14 And death and Ha´des were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire. 15 Furthermore, whoever was not found written in the book of life was hurled into the lake of fire.

The word translated “the dead” is “nekros”, the same noun used in verse 12. There we are told that those “nekros” (dead individuals) “stand” (“histemi”) in front of the court. So it seems that those individuals are alive (at least their spirit is conscious) and await their judgment/assignment either to a human body for a life on earth or a body less existence in the sin bin of Gehenna. Anyway, the sea, death and Hades give up those dead in them and are then hurled into the lake of fire themselves. This lake represents the “second” or better “other” death. Also all individuals who are not found in the book of life will reside there. The fire of this lake will achieve all that God set it aflame for and will completely devour “death” and “Hades” and will fully refine the spirits of those who were not found worthy of a resurrection to life.

Now finally also the last scripture threatening scripture can be fully harmonized with the supreme love of our father:

(Revelation 21:8) 8 But as for the cowards and those without faith and those who are disgusting in their filth and murderers and fornicators and those practicing spiritism and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death.”

We already discern that “the other death” is represented by the lake of fire. For human individuals this lake also has brimstone in it to purify from the “disease” of an immoral, atheistic lifestyle. This death is different from the first. It’s the state of consciousness of the spirit without an individual body

After reading all these scriptures at least one point seems very obvious. I haven’t found even one text that supports the idea or a (continued) non-existence!

What does the Bible tell us about God’s love and his mercy?

(Matthew 5:44) However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you;

So Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies and to love them, unconditional of what they are doing or are doing to us. Is it reasonable to conclude that this principle uttered by “the word of God”, Jesus Christ, is only applicable to humans? Well, let us read the next verse how Jehovah thinks about it:

(Matthew 5:45) that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens […]

So in truth by acting like commanded in verse 44 we perfectly imitate the love and the MO of our heavenly Father. Loving unconditionally makes us to real sons of our God!

(Matthew 5:46) 46 For if YOU love those loving YOU, what reward do YOU have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing?

Yes, that is true. We must also love those who hate us. And what happens if we do so?

(Matthew 5:48) 48 YOU must accordingly be perfect, as YOUR heavenly Father is perfect.

We become perfect imitators of God who loves his enemies that hate him.

And quantity is not a matter for God. There is no difference if you hate him 10 points or points. He IS love, period…

(1 John 4:8) 8 He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love. . .

The verb translated “come to know” is “ginosko” which signifies a very deep knowledge and intimate knowledge. This love is the divine essence of Jehovah.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-8) 4 Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, 5 does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. 6 It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails […]

The same love that defines God according to 1. John (“agape”) has all those qualities. Let us emphasize verse 7 and 8a:

(1 Corinthians 13:6-8) . . .. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails. . .

The verb translated “bears” is “stego” and most importantly means “to cover” or “to preserve”. The verb translated “endures” is “hupomeno” can also mean to remain, to preserve. So plainly, the divine love endures all and never fails (“ekpipto” = falls powerless).

Let us do two other deductions that show that God will successfully mold all his children

But a certain man was rich, and he used to deck himself with purple and linen, enjoying himself according to day (literal) with magnificence. 20 But a certain poor [one] named Lazarus had been thrown towards (used to be put at) his gate, having been ulcerated 21 and desiring to be filled with the things dropping from the table of the rich [one]. Yes, too, the dogs would come and lick his ulcers. 22 Now it occurred [that] the poor [one] died and he was carried off by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. Also, the rich [one] died and was buried. 23 And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, he existing in torments, and he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in the bosoms of him. 24 So he called and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in this blazing fire. 25 But Abraham said: Child, remember that you received in full your good things in your life, but Lazarus correspondingly the injurious things. Now, however, he is having comfort here but you are in anguish. 26 And besides all these things, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you [people], so that those wanting to go over from here to you [people] cannot, neither may [people] cross over from there to us (Luke 16).

Lazarus is in the bosom of Abraham, which means he is going to be resurrected into the Kingdom of God. But the rich man is in Hades and is existing in torments. There is a chasm between Lazarus and the rich man. Now Hades is the common grave of mankind, in scriptural terms Hades is the first death, physical death. So Lazarus and the Rich man are both in Hades, but there is a chasm dividing them. Now a man existing in torment cannot possibly represent a man who is permanently switched off. Existence cannot stand for non existence. So those who are not in the bosom of Abraham are indeed tormented and in anguish. The Rich man is in Hell, which is Gehenna in Hebrew terminology. Gehenna means the valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem. This was a rubbish dump which was regularly incinerated. The bodies of criminals were thrown into this dump when they were not considered worthy of a dignified burial. The rich man is being tormented and so is no longer asleep. Lazarus is being comforted and is asked to visit the Rich man, and so is also awake as of course is Abraham who is talking to the rich man. So everyone has been woken up which is their resurrection. The rich man is resurrected out of the first death, the physical death, the unconscious sleep into Gehenna. Lazarus and Abraham are resurrected into the Kingdom of God. Now Jesus advised...

13 But when you spread a feast, invite poor people, crippled, lame, blind,
14 and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones (Luke 14).

Whereas Paul explains...

15 and I have hope toward God, which hope these [men] themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous (Acts 24).

So the unrighteous ones, those who are not in Abraham's bosom, still nonetheless get a resurrection. They get a resurrection into torment and anguish. So the Rich man gets the resurrection of the unrighteous and Lazarus and Abraham get the resurrection of the righteous.

So , Come on! In true justice, could the true God punish a man for ever as a result of his sinning for 100 years? Would those scales balance? Would that be an eye for an eye? No sir. So eventually one must get out of Gehenna. For otherwise God is being pointlessly cruel and unjust. Gehenna is a place of emotionally painful rehabilitation. A place of weeping and gnashing teeth until one gets sin straight in ones mind and heart. For God will teach us all and eventually he will save us all. He will succeed with all of us, however bad we are at learning. For he has stated through his great prophet Isaiah that:

10 Everything that is my delight I shall do (Isaiah 46).

And his apostle Paul said...

21 For since death is through a man, resurrection of the dead is also through a man. 22 For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15).

All will conquer death through the Christ, not some, but all of Adam's sons. All those who die in Adam (well, that all of us!) will get life in Jesus. This is pretty plain and outspoken. Gehenna is the second death. No son of Adam will languish there indefinitely. Jesus fixes all of the problems for all of Adam's kids.

And through Jesus' rock Peter he has stated that:

9 Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance (2 Peter 3).

So if he does not want any to be destroyed, and if he does everything he wants, then he will indeed discipline and finally save all his creatures. Because his love knows no bounds at all and is not only greater than his justice, but is in fact the whole basis of his justice. It is the father of his justice.

Now in a final step, let us go beyond deduction and understand what the Scripture literally state. Jesus himself said when he defined Gehenna saying:

But he will speak and say to you, I do not know where you are from. Get away from me, all you workers of unrighteousness!' 28 There is where [your] weeping and the gnashing of [your] teeth will be, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown outside (Luke 13).

So Gehenna is being thrown outside the kingdom but still 'seeing' those within it. So you must be conscious to experience this! There is no other way!!!


There has been a long standing debate amongst criminologists between the proponents of retributive justice and the proponents of rehabilitative justice. The former group believe in punishment as a deterrent and for the sake of justice or vengeance. The latter believe in punishment for the sake of teaching. The above understanding shows us that God manages to combine both views, for he believes in punishment for all three reasons (the former view has two reasons). But he does not believe in punishment merely for vengeance or merely as a deterrent, there is always a lesson to be learned. God does not support punishment without teaching. He would never support a life sentence which leaves the criminal with no hope. Even Satan has no such sentence. But neither would he support 18 months in prison for rape. The penalty for murder or rape in the days from Adam to Moses was 7 years outside the camp, i.e. in prison if the camp is the whole country, as it is today. Not a day less and not a day more. The purpose of discipline is to teach. The reader may be asking why did God give a 7 year penalty for murder to the sons of Adam (Genesis 4:15), but a death sentence to the sons of Moses (Exodus 21:12). Since God's justice is supposed to be constant how can he be setting these two different punishments for the same crime? The answer would appear to be that death is a temporary imprisonment in any event. In fact one could use this argument to prove that there must be a resurrection from death, just as there is a release from prison.

But as regards those who abuse and who steal human life and those who persistently trash human love, everlasting death is too good for them, let them go to hell for 1,000 years! For there, by losing both of them, they will indeed learn the exceeding value of life and of love. In the present world, some children, such as the orphans of Beslan or of AIDS have never seen much love. One of the kids of Beslan said: There is no God. This is why God cannot permit this system to last much longer. Every child deserves a loving template and God will ensure that one way or another, in one system or the other, they get one.


No comments: