E.W. Bullinger writes the following paragraph about Gehenna in the Companion Bible, Appendix number 131. “This is the transliteration of the Heb. Gai Hinnom, i.e. the Valley of Hinnom or ‘the Valley ‘ of [the sons of] Hinom, where were the fires through which children were passed in the worship of Moloch. In the Old Testament Tophet was the Hebrew word used, because it was a place in this valley. In our Lord’s day the idolatry had ceased, but the fires were still continually burning there for the destruction of the refuse of Jerusalem. Hence, “gehenna” was used for the fire of destruction associated with the judgment of God”.
We read of this valley in Jeremiah 7:30-34. This portion of Scripture gives a very clear picture of Gehenna. “The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name, and have defiled it. 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. So beware, the days are coming declares the Lord, when people will no longer call it Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. Then the carcasses of this people will become food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away. I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of the bride and bridegroom in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the land will become desolate”.
It is clear that the Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, is a very real place on earth, but is that all it is? I think not. I believe that the literal Gehenna was a type of the lake of fire. Let me explain my thinking.
Let us consider Mark 9:43-44 which reads, “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 (Gr Gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
The Greek word translated “not quenched” is also used in Matt. 3:12 where we read, “Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner: but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire”. Obviously, the point here is that this fire will never die, it is “unquenchable”.
The question before us is: is it the literal Gehenna to which our Lord referred in Mark 9 or is it the lake of fire? There are two reasons for my belief that the literal Gehenna is not in view in Mark 9.
1) The fire of Mark 9 is “unquenchable”. But the fire of the literal Gehenna is no longer burning, i.e. it was “quenchable”. Because there are no contradictions in the Word of God, the unquenchable fire of Gehenna cannot refer to the literal Gehenna outside Jerusalem.
2) Ezek. 20:33-38 tells of the gathering of Israel for judgment as to who will be allowed entrance into the Land of Israel for the millennial reign of Christ. We read in verses 38, “And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel…..”. So all Israel will be gathered from among the nations, but not all will be allowed entrance into the Land for the millennium. What will happen to those who will not enter the land? We read eight times in the New Testament the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” which is used of those who will not be allowed entrance into the millennial kingdom. Let us look at just a few of those occurrences.
We read in Matt.13:42, “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear”. The “fiery furnace” is obviously a figure of speech for the unhappy circumstances that will produce weeping and gnashing of teeth. That is to say, in order for there to be weeping and gnashing of teeth the person must be alive. (Please see the paper on this web-site What Happens When We Die? for the Scriptural evidence of that statement.) If he were cast into a literal fiery furnace he certainly would not be alive to weep and gnash his teeth. Therefore, those who will be weeded out of the kingdom of Heaven (the land of Israel during the millennium, see the paper on this web-site The Kingdom Of Heaven for the scriptural evidence of that statement) will be alive to suffer the things that will cause them to weep and gnash their teeth.
Luke 13:28 reads, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out“. Note it does not say that they will be killed by being cast into a fire, it says that they will be thrown out of the kingdom.
The point of this little study of the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is that those who are cast out of the kingdom of Heaven must be alive in order for them to weep and gnash their teeth. But when one is cast into the literal fire which will burn with an unquenchable firethey certainly will not be alive. In other words, the punishment of the unbeliever at the beginning of the millennium is that some will not be allowed entrance into the land of Israel. But they will be alive and live outside the Land until they die a natural death.
So Gehenna, although a literal place, is used as a type of something else. For the answer to what the anti-type is let us consider Is. 66:22-24. “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh”( The part of this verse that is in bold type is quoted in Mark 9:44, 46 and 48.)
I believe that this passage concerns exactly what the Word says it concerns, i.e.” the new heavens and the new earth”. But many believe that it refers to the millennium. In order to determine the truth in this matter let us consider the point of this passage. The point is that just as the new heavens and new earth shall remain before God, so too will Israel’s seed remain. But the millennial heaven and earth will last only 1,000 years, while the new heavens and new earth of Rev. 21 has no end. It seems to me therefore, more logical to conclude that the new heavens and new earth of Rev. 21 are in view here, as that would make the point much better than if the millennial heavens and earth were in view.
Let us also note verse 23, “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord”. Many also interpret this to be millennial because of Rev. 22:5 which reads, “And there shall be no night there; and they will need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light….”. Does this tell us that there will be no sun or moon in the new heavens? No, it tells us only that there will be no need for them. In fact verse 2 tells us that fruit will be yielded “every month“. The fact that there will be months on the new earth implies that there will indeed be a moon, even if there was no need of it’s light.
So in Is. 66:22 we have mention of the new heavens and the new earth which, for the reasons given above cannot refer to the millennial reign, and therefore must be understood as the new heavens and new earth of the Rev. 21. And we have in the very context, i.e. verse 24, the mention of a fire that cannot be quenched, i.e. the lake of fire. Surely that tells us that the lake of fire will be on the new earth. Therefore, I believe that the punishment of being cast into an “unquenchable fire” must refer to the punishment of being cast into the lake of fire which will be on the new earth, and “Gehenna” is the type of the lake of fire.
It must be noted that we read in Rev. 19:20 of the beast and false prophet being cast into the lake of fire. “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone”. Because the beast and the false prophet will be cast into the lake of fire at Christ’s coming, the lake of fire must be on the present earth and burn all through the millennium. Was that Gehenna or the lake of fire? I believe it refers to the lake of fire because again, the fires of the literal Gehenna were not “unquenchable”, they have already been put out.
WILL THE LAKE OF FIRE BE ON THE NEW EARTH?
But one might object that death will be done away with as the present earth is replaced with the new earth. Let us examine that thought. We read in Rev. 21:8, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death”. Most believe that the lake of fire was done away with when the present earth was destroyed. (The section below, i.e. “At What Point Will Death Be Cast Into The Lake Of Fire?” will show that death will be cast into the lake of fire some time after the establishment of the new heaven and new earth.) However, I believe that the lake of fire will be on the new earth.
Let us set the time frame of Rev. 21:8 from the context. In verse 1 we read that John “saw the new heaven and the new earth”. We read in verse 5 of “He That sat upon the throne”, and what He that sat on the throne told John to write. In other words, He Who was on the throne that was on the new earth told John to write among other things, that “He that overcometh shall inherit all things”. That means, of course that the overcomers shall inherit all things which are described in the new Jerusalem which will be on the new earth. Then in verse 8 we read that the abominable and murderers etc. “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone”.
What we learn from this passage is that 1) the throne was on the new earth, 2) the overcomer will inherit all things in the new Jerusalem which was on the new earth, 3) the others (murderers etc. ) will have their part in the lake of fire. The context will not allow us any other conclusion but that the throne was on the new earth, the inheritance of the overcomers was on the new earth and that the lake of fire was on the new earth.
Not only is the context clear that the lake of fire is on the new earth but the verbs also tell us the same thing. Note that we read in Rev. 21:8 that some “shall have their part in the lake”. May I remind the reader that this is part of what John was commanded to write by the One on the throne. So the One on the throne, which was on the new earth told John to write of something that shall come to pass, i.e. that at some future point from the start of the new heaven and new earth some will have their part in the lake of fire. Obviously, if some outside the new Jerusalem (which is, of course, on the new earth) shall have their part in the lake of fire, the lake of fire must be on the new earth.
The reader will note that many of the characteristics named in Rev. 22:15 which are attributed to those “outside” the city are the same characteristics of those who “shall have their part” in the lake of fire. Rev. 22:15 names the following characteristic, (the characteristics that are common to both passages are in bold type) “dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers. and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie“. In other words, those who will be outside the new Jerusalem “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire”. They were alive outside the new Jerusalem, but shall have their part in the lake of fire, i.e. they will, at a time yet future from the beginning of the new earth, be cast into the lake of fire.
It has been suggested that this tells us that those outside the city are not living outside the city but are outside in the lake of fire. I disagree with that suggestion because the ones outside the city include those who “loveth and maketh a lie”. Note the present tense in the words “loveth” and “maketh”. That means that they will be alive outside the city, otherwise they could not have been loving (present tense) nor could they have been lying (present tense). But those of 21:8 “shall have (future tense) their part in the lake which burneth with fire”. They are not in the lake of fire when John saw them, but they shall be in the lake of fire some time in the future. In other words, the sorcerers and whoremongers etc. were not in the lake of fire, they were alive outside the city, but they will be cast into the lake of fire at some future point.
It has been argued that the future tense has no relation to the events in the vision but are being spoken to those to whom the whole prophecy was very much future. What one must bear in mind is that John saw the events recorded in Revelation, not as future events, but as events of the present. Let me explain. We read in Rev. 1:10, “I was in the spirit on the Lords day…..”. That tells us that John was transported from the time in which he lived to the time of the Lord’s day. Therefore, he saw things as they were happening in his present, which was the Lord’s day.
Therefore, the tenses in Revelation must be understood in light of the fact that what is still future for us, and even for those who lived in John’s day, was present for John. But that does not mean that we can just overlook the use of the tenses, past, present or future.
AT WHAT POINT WILL DEATH BE CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE?
We read in Rev. 22:15, “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie”. (The word “without” in old English means “outside” which is how the Greek word is most often translated.) These are obviously unbelievers. Then in Rev. 21:8 we read, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death”. My point is that there will be unbelievers on the new earth and that they will die in the lake of fire. (For the Scriptural evidence that there will be unbelievers on the new earth please see the paper on this website Will There Be Unbelievers On The New Earth?)
But Rev. 20:11-15 speaks of the great white throne judgment. Verse 14 tells us that “death and hell were cast into the lake of fire, this is the second death”. If death was cast into the lake of fire before the new earth was created then the unbelievers who lived outside the new Jerusalem could not be cast into it. How are we to reconcile this seeming contradiction?
For the sake of clarity I am going to list the events described in Rev. 20:11-15 in the order in which they are given.
John saw the great white throne
the earth fled away
John saw the dead stand before God
books were opened, including the book of life
the sea and the grave gave up the dead
the dead were judged
death and hell and those whose names were not in the book of life were cast into the lake of fire.
As we look at the events described above, it is clear that they are not given in chronological order. For example, we are told in verse 12 that John saw the dead stand before God, but we are told in the following verse, i.e. verse 13, that the sea and the grave gave up the dead. The dead could not stand before God before the sea and the grave gave them up, they must have done so afterward. In other words, the event of verse 13 (the sea and the grave gave up the dead) must have happened before the event of verse 12 (the dead stood before God). The point is that the events listed in these verse are not given in chronological order.
Along that same line of thought consider that the earth is said to have fled away in verse 11, but the sea gave up the dead in verse 13. Combine that with 21:1 which tells us that there will be no more sea in the new heaven and new earth. If the earth had fled away, and we know that it will be destroyed, then there would be no sea. If there will be no sea, then it could not give up the dead. Again, the point is only that the events of Rev. 20:11-15 are not given in chronological order.
In my opinion, the best way to understand this passage is to use our common sense and scriptural context in determining the chronological order of the events listed in the passage.
1) John saw the great white throne.
2) The sea and the grave gave up the dead.
3) The dead stood before God.
4) The books were opened.
5) The dead were judged.
6) The earth fled away, and then
7) Death and hell, and all whose names were not written in the book of life were cast into the lake of fire.
The reader will note that I have listed the earth fleeing away before death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. Why? Because of the context. Rev. 21:8 comes in the context of the newly established new heaven and new earth (see 21:1). We read in 21:8 of those who “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone”. Note the future tense in the phrase “shall have”. In other words, while John was by the spirit on the new earth, he saw some having their part in the lake of fire as a yet future event. May I remind the reader that John is, through the spirit, in the Lord’s day, so the future tense is not used here because the Lord’s day is yet future. It is used here to say that at some point after the new earth is established some will be cast into the lake of fire. Therefore, because John writes of some having their part in the lake of fire as a future event while he is, through the spirit, on the new earth, death and hell cannot be cast into the lake of fire until some years after the new earth is established.
And this fits perfectly with the fact that some unbelievers who will live outside the new Jerusalem on the new earth will be cast into the lake of fire. That is to say, the earth will flee away and after an unrevealed length of time, the unbelievers who live outside the new Jerusalem and remain unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire along with death and hell.
WHO WILL BE CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE?
A. SATAN, THE BEAST AND THE FALSE PROPHET
Rev. 20:11 tells us, “and the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire, and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet, are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
B. THOSE OF MATTHEW 25
Matt. 25:31-46 records the judgment of nations at the second coming of Christ. Some will “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). It is about these that Christ said that the righteous shall enter into eternal life (verse 46). But some will “go away into everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46). Of these Christ said, “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (verse 41). In verse 46 we read that they “shall go away into everlasting punishment“.
It is clear that the judgment of Matt. 25 concerns the judgment of those who will live in the end times. As we look at Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation in Dan. 2, we will see that part of that dream is also about the end times.
The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is recorded in Dan. 2:36-45. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of an image with a head of gold, a breast and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron, and feet “part of iron and part of clay”. Nebuchadnezzar, as king of Babylon, was represented by the head of gold (vs. 37). The breast and arms of silver represented the kingdom that was to follow after Nebuchadnezzar. The belly and thighs of brass represented the kingdom after that. And the legs of iron and feet of iron and clay represent the kingdom after that. We read in verses 34-35, “Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. The iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, were broken to pieces together and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth“.
We will now concentrate on the part of this dream that centers on the end times. We read in verse 44 that part of the interpretation that explains the kingdom that “filled the whole earth”, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdom and it shall stand for ever“.
It is clear that this is the kingdom of God that will be set up at the second coming of Jesus Christ when He reigns over the earth for a thousand years. So the kingdom represented by the iron and clay will be the kingdom that immediately precedes the millennial reign of Christ. It is what we learn of that kingdom that will tell us a great deal about who it is that will suffer everlasting punishment.
Let us consider for example Dan. 2:43 which tells us of the feet and toes of the image, “And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay”. The phrase, “they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men” is, in my opinion, reminiscent of the phrase we read in Gen. 6:2 used of fallen angels and daughters of man, “…the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair and they took them wives of all which they chose”. Let us consider this verse in Dan. 2 more carefully.
This verse also tells us that even though those represented by the iron and clay mingled “with the seed of men”, they did not “cleave one to another”. That together with the fact that we read that “they shall “mingle themselves with the seed of men” in my opinion, implies that like the days of Noah, the fallen angels of Satan will occupy the kingdom of Satan and his antichrist before it is destroyed by the coming of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, I believe that the ones judged in Matt. 25 who will suffer everlasting punishment are not men, in the truest sense of the word, but progeny of fallen angels. It cannot be men who suffer everlasting punishment, because the unsaved man does not live eternally. Note also that the fire into which those judged to merit everlasting punishment will be cast into the fire “prepared for devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). But we never read of Satan’s angels being cast into that fire. If however, we accept the implication of Dan. 2 that some in the end times will not be men in the truest sense, but progeny of Satan’s angels, then that prophecy will be fulfilled.
C. THE UNBELIEVERS OF THE TRIBULATION
We read in Rev. 20:4-5, ” And I saw …..the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived a reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished”.
About whom does this passage speak? It speaks of two categories of people. It speaks of 1) those who did not receive the mark of the beast and 2) those who did. Most believe that the phrase “rest of the dead” refers to all unbelievers who ever lived and it is those who will be raised at the end of the thousand years and judged at the great white throne. But that thought takes this phrase totally out of the context of the passage, and out of the context of the entire book. The passage is clearly about those who did and those who did not receive the mark of the beast. That obviously limits these people to those who lived during the time of the tribulation as that is the only time one can receive the mark of the beast. (Please see the paper on this web-site Will Unbelievers Be Raised For Judgment? for the Scriptural evidence that only those of the tribulation will be raised for judgment.) And to say that “the rest of the dead” refers to all who ever lived is not in keeping with the fact that Revelation is the the most Israel centered book in the entire New Testament.
So one group of people that is in danger of being cast into the lake of fire is that group that received the mark of the beast.
We have seen that Christ said that Gehenna will have an “unquenchable” fire. But the fire of the literal Gehenna is no longer burning, i.e. it was indeed “quenchable”. Therefore, it is not the literal Gehenna that Christ had in mind. We have seen that Isaiah 66 tells us that the unquenchable fire of the lake of fire will burn on the present earth and the new earth. John tells us the exact same thing in Rev. 22. Therefore, I believe that Gehenna is a type of the lake of fire.
We have also seen that the judgment before the millennium will result in unbelievers not being allowed entrance into the Land of Israel for the millennium.
Therefore, I believe that Gehenna, while a literal place, is a type of the lake of fire.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org