Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gehenna, or Hell-fire

I think it is useful to know the historical background of commonly held perceptions.

Charles Welch wrote:

Gehenna is translated “hell” and “hell-fire” in Matthew as follows:

“shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt. 5:22)

“Thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matt. 5:29,30).

“Able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).

“Having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” (Matt. 18:9).

“Twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt. 23:15).

“How can ye escape the damnation of hell?”(Matt. 23:33).

It is evident that gehenna is not an English word, and before we can rightly understand any of these references to it we must have some knowledge of the place intended.

Gehenna is the name of the “valley of the son of Hinnom” that lay W. and S.W. of Jerusalem. We learn from 2 Kings 23:10 that Josiah: “defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech”.

Speaking of this awful practice the Lord said: “And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into My heart(Jer. 7:31).

In passing, we might note the strong figure used by the Lord, “neither came it into My heart”, and also realize that the teaching concerning the eternal conscious suffering of human beings necessarily places in the heart of God something infinitely more terrible. Tophet, however, means destruction, as a reference to Isaiah 30:33 will show, and the statement that “the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it”, links it with 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9, which results in “everlasting destruction” and not “everlasting torment”.

In order to stop the abominable rites of Molech, Josiah “defiled Tophet” by “filling it with the bones of men(2 Kings 23:14). From that time forward it became the common cesspool and rubbish heap of the city. Into this valley were cast the carcasses of animals, and of criminals who had been denied burial. Fires were kept burning to prevent pestilence from spreading, and what escaped the destruction of fire and brimstone was eaten of worms. To this the prophet Isaiah refers in 66:24 : “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”.

Charles H. Welch Hell or Pure From The Blood Of All Men THE BEREAN PUBLISHING TRUST 1928 London

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