If the ancient words, “Sheol/Hades” and “Tartarus” (erroneously translated “hell” in most Bibles) can in no possible way be employed to promulgate an afterlife of suffering and torture, then the proof of the Christian doctrine of “eternal punishment,” falls entirely upon the last word rendered “Hell” in the Bible – “GEHENNA.”
"And if YOUR right eye offend YOU, pluck it out, and cast it from YOU: for it is profitable for YOU that one of YOUR members should perish, and not that YOUR whole body should be cast into hell (Gehenna) fire" (Mat 5: 29).
Now, the “Sermon on the mount” is arguably the most quoted portion of scripture in the whole Christian Bible. According to mainstream theology, it is here that Christ himself introduces us to the reality and certainty of “Hell.” It is proclaimed almost universally, that if ever there was an endorsement for future retribution in an eternal lake of fire for the wicked and unsaved, then this is it, no confusing riddles, no obscure parables, plain and simple. Here we are told, Christ preaches his warning of “Hell” to the throngs of sinning humanity and to his detractors - repent or suffer the consequences. But who really is the “YOU” (capitalized here) to whom Jesus is addressing?
Few have ever been taught the real spiritual truth of this famous sermon, for unbeknownst to most of Christendom, there lays a monumental problem with the traditional teaching of this portion of scripture. Just to whom exactly was Jesus preaching “Hell” and damnation too that hallowed day? Why all the peoples gathered around him of course says the church - Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests, Scribes, and the sinning multitudes, every day folk - the whole of humanity one would argue, any pastor would agree. No one could be with excuse that day, all could hear and all could choose – “Hell” or salvation……or so it would seem.
But herein lays the mother of theological problems. You see, Jesus DID NOT preach “hell fire” to the sinning multitudes that day. Jesus DID NOT warn the unsaved of a future eternal punishment in fire and Jesus DID NOT use the word “HELL” in his sermon! Would you believe it? Why? How? You may ask. Well, it’s simple - the scriptures plainly tell us so. The following verses taken from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount make it abundantly clear that Jesus WAS NOT addressing the Pharisees, or Sadducees, or the Priests, or Scribes, or even the multitudes. None of these groups followed Jesus up the mountain, but rather waited for His return.
"...and when He was set, His DISCIPLES came unto Him" (Matt. 5:1)
"And He opened His mouth, and taught THEM [His disciples]" (Ver. 2).
"Blessed are YE [all you disciples]..." (Ver. 11).
"...for great is YOUR [disciples'] reward..." (Ver. 12).
"YE [disciples] are the salt of the earth..." (Ver. 13).
"YE [disciples] are the light of the world..." (Ver. 14).
"Let YOUR [disciples'] light so shine..." (Ver. 16).
"For verily I say unto YOU [disciples]..." (Ver. 18).
"For I say unto YOU [disciples]..." (Ver. 20).
"YE [disciples] have heard that it was said..." (Ver. 21).
"But I say unto YOU [disciples]... whosoever is angry..." (Ver. 22).
"But I say unto YOU [disciples]... shall say to his brother, Raca..." (Ver. 22).
"But I say unto YOU [disciples]... whosoever shall say , 'You fool' shall be in danger of hell [Gehenna] fire" (Ver. 22).
"Therefore if YOU [disciples] bring your gift..." (Ver. 23).
"Agree with YOUR [disciples] adversary quickly..." (Ver. 25).
"Veryily I say unto YOU [disciples], YOU [disciples] shall by no means come out thence, till YOU [disciples] have paid the uttermost farthing" (Ver. 26).
"But I say unto YOU [disciples], that whosoever looks on a woman to lust..." (Ver. 28).
"And if YOUR right eye offend YOU [disciples], pluck it out, and cast it from YOU: for it is profitable for YOU [disciples] that one of YOUR members should perish, and not that YOUR whole body [the bodies of Christ's disciples, not the wicked unbelievers in the day of Judgment] should be cast into hell [Gehenna fire]" (Ver. 29).
"And if YOUR right hand offend YOU, cut it off, and cast it from YOU: for it is profitable for YOU [disciples of Mine] that one of YOUR members should perish, and not that YOUR whole body should be cast into hell [Gehenna fire]" (Verse 30).
Any question as to whom Jesus addressed His "Sermon on the mount?" Is this "Gehenna fire" for the world of unbelieving sinners, or for his own Disciples? Jesus was actually addressing HIS OWN disciples (of whom there were initially, many) who followed him up the mountain. You mean, Jesus didn’t preach his alter call sermon on “Hell” to sinners but to his own disciples only? Was he confused? Did he miss his opportunity to save his lost sheep by getting distracted? Why did he only preach “Hell” to the disciples? Jesus…the sinners are down there! How odd!
Well, Here is the truth that Christians the world over have rarely been taught. . Jesus wasn’t preaching repentance to sinners in need of salvation, but was in fact instructing his own believers, his church, regarding a much higher standard of conduct and judgment. Yes - the “Sermon on the mount” is a sermon for believers ONLY! NOT SINNERS!
It is here in this portion of scripture that we are first introduced to the only word left in the Bible rendered “Hell” as the English translations wrongly promulgate - “Gehenna”.
"But I say unto YOU [disciples]... whosoever shall say , 'You fool' shall be in danger of hell [Gehenna] fire" (Ver. 22).
We should keep in mind, that after careful study of the scriptures, even the most hardened orthodox Christian scholar must concede that “Sheol” (the Old Testament Hell) and “Hades” (the New Testament equivalent of Sheol) cannot denote a place of eternal torment in the after life. The doctrine of endless torment must then rely completely on the claim that this word “Gehenna” (the only word left in the Bible rendered “hell”) does convey that meaning. Thorough examination of the Bible use of the term however shows us that this popular view is obtained by injecting the word with pervasive pagan superstition.
Its origin and the first
references to it are in fact found in the Old Testament, a notion well stated by eminent critics and exegetes. Jesus’ use
of “Gehenna” as
we shall learn was never a reference to an afterlife of misery and eternal
torment. Its symbolic significance concerning
Enter – “Gehenna”
Hebrew origin ([H1516] and [H2011]); valley
of (the son of) Hinnom;
gehenna (or Ge-Hinnom),
Dr Strong adds however - a
What then is this strange word “Gehenna” that Christ introduces to his teachings and what does it have to do with “Hell?” It is commonly accepted that the first time a word is used in Scripture, it often gives a great deal of insight into its meaning and usage in the rest of the Scriptures. This is commonly referred to as the principle of first usage. Well right here in verse 22 (the very first use of the words "Hell" and "fire" in the New Testament Scriptures) we have proof positive that whatever "Gehenna fire" is, it is not eternal torture for the masses of sinning humanity.
“Gehenna” is in fact rendered "Hell" twelve times in the New Testament scriptures, three of which have reference to fire. James is the only New Testament writer besides Jesus who used (one time) the word Gehenna in relation to the tongue. And so we have record of Jesus speaking of either Gehenna or Gehenna fire eleven times, but on only four different occasions in His entire ministry:
1. Sermon on the mount: Matt. 5:29, 30, 22 and Mark 9:43, 45, 47 are all the same one occasion.
2. Warning the apostles of Whom to fear: Matt. 10:28 and Luke 12:5 are both the same one occasion.
3. Upbraiding the Pharisees: Matt. 23:15 and verse 33 are both the same occasion.
4. Warning against offending a little one: Matt. 18:9
So, Jesus did speak of Gehenna fire (but never "Hell" fire), and reintroduces the Old Testament valley of Hinnom into His New Testament teaching. His use of this Old Testament symbol of evil, idol worship, and slaughter has nothing to do with the definition of a Christian “Hell” however. Whatever Jesus meant when He spoke of GaHinnom/Gehenna fire, it certainly was not what the pagans of the past or the Christians of the last five centuries mean by the doctrine of "Hell." Jesus only used the notorious Valley of Hinnom in His parabolic teachings on Judgment.
"body... be cast into hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valley of Hinnom']".........(Mat. 5:29).
"body... be cast into hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valley of Hinnom']".........(Mat. 5:30).
"soul and body in hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valley of Hinnom']"................(Matt. 10:28).
"twofold more child of hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valley of Hinnom']"........(Matt. 23:15).
"the damnation of hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valley of Hinnom']"................(Matt. 23:33).
"two hands to go into hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valley of Hinnom']"..........(Mark 9:43).
"two feet to be cast into hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valley of Hinnom']"........(Mark 9:45).
"two eyes to be cast into hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valleyof Hinnom']"........(Mark 9:47).
"Has power to cast into hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valley of Hinnom']"........(Luke 12:5).
"shall be in danger of hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valley of Hinnom'] fire"......(Matt. 5:22)
"eyes to be cast into hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valley of Hinnom'] fire".......(Matt. 18:9)
"tongue...set on fire of hell [Gk: Gehenna - 'valley of Hinnom'] fire"...(Jas. 3:6)
“Gehenna” – the Facts
The actual scriptural meaning of “Gehenna” in the light of vigilant scholarship cannot possibly be defined as the modern Christian “Hell,” especially at the time of Christ. It would be wise to take note of the following observations.
“Gehenna” was in fact a well-known locality near Jerusalem, and ought no more to be translated “Hell” than should Sodom or Gomorrah. See Josh. 15: 8; II Kings 17: 10; II Chron. 28: 3; Jer. 7: 31, 32; 19: 2.
“Gehenna” is never employed in the Old Testament to mean anything else than the place with which every Jew was familiar.
The word should have been left untranslated as it is in some versions, and it would not be misunderstood. It was not misunderstood by the Jews to whom Jesus addressed it. Walter Balfour well says:
"What meaning would the Jews who were familiar with this word, and knew it to signify the valley of Hinnom, be likely to attach to it when they heard it used by our Lord? Would they, contrary to all former usage, transfer its meaning from a place with whose locality and history they had been familiar from their infancy, to a place of misery in another world? This conclusion is certainly inadmissible. By what rule of interpretation, then, can we arrive at the conclusion that this word means a place of misery and death?"
The French Bible, the Emphatic Diaglott, Improved Version, Wakefield's Translation and Newcomb's retain the proper noun, “Gehenna,” the name of a place as well-known as Babylon.
“Gehenna” is never mentioned in the Apocrypha as a place of future punishment as it would have been had such been its meaning before and at the time of Christ.
No Jewish writer, such as Josephus or Philo, ever uses it as the name of a place of future punishment, as they would have done had such then been its meaning.
No classic Greek author ever alludes to it and therefore it was a Jewish locality, purely.
The first Jewish writer who ever names it as a place of future punishment is Jonathan Ben Uzziel who wrote, according to various authorities, from the second to the eighth century, A. D.
The first Christian writer who calls “Hell”- “Gehenna” is Justin Martyr who wrote about A. D. 150.
Neither Christ nor his apostles ever named it to Gentiles, but only to Jews which proves it a locality only known to Jews, whereas, if it were a place of punishment after death for sinners, it would have been preached to Gentiles as well as Jews.
It was only referred to twelve times on eight occasions in all the ministry of Christ and the apostles, and in the Gospels and Epistles. Were they faithful to their mission to say no more than this on so vital a theme as an endless “Hell,” if they intended to teach it?
Only Jesus and James ever named it. Neither Paul, John, Peter nor Jude ever employ it. Would they not have warned sinners concerning it, if there were a “Gehenna” of torment after death?
says he "shunned not to declare the
whole counsel of God," and yet though he was the great preacher of the
Gospel to the Gentiles he never told them that “Gehenna” is a place of after-death
punishment. Would he not have repeatedly warned sinners against it were there
such a place?
Dr. Thayer significantly remarks:
"The Savior and James are the only persons in all the New Testament who use the word. John Baptist, who preached to the most wicked of men did not use it once. Paul wrote fourteen epistles and yet never once mentions it. Peter does not name it, nor Jude; and John, who wrote the gospel, three epistles, and the Book of Revelations, never employs it in a single instance. Now if Gehenna or Hell really reveals the terrible fact of endless woe, how can we account for this strange silence? How is it possible, if they knew its meaning and believed it a part of Christ's teaching that they should not have used it a hundred or a thousand times, instead of never using it at all; especially when we consider the infinite interests involved?
The Book of Acts contains the record of the apostolic preaching,and the history of the first planting of the church among the Jews and Gentiles, and embraces a period of thirty years from the ascension of Christ. In all this history, in all this preaching of the disciples and apostles of Jesus there is no mention of Gehenna. In thirty years of missionary effort these men of God, addressing people of all characters and nations never under any circumstances threaten them with the torments of Gehenna or allude to it in the most distant manner! In the face of such a fact as this can any man believe that Gehenna signifies endless punishment and that this is part of divine revelation, a part of the Gospel message to the world?
These considerations show how impossible it is to establish the doctrine in review on the word Gehenna. All the facts are against the supposition that the term was used by Christ or his disciples in the sense of endless punishment. There is not the least hint of any such meaning attached to it, nor the slightest preparatory notice that any such new revelation was to be looked for in this old familiar word."
Jesus never uttered it to unbelieving Jews, nor to anybody but his disciples, but twice (Matt. 23: 15-33) during his entire ministry, nor but four times in all. If it were the final abode of unhappy millions, would not his warnings abound with exhortations to avoid it?
Jesus never warned unbelievers against it but once in all his ministry (Matt. 23: 33) and he immediately explained it as about to come in this life.
Salvation is never said to be from “Gehenna.”
“Gehenna” is never said to be of endless duration nor spoken of as destined to last forever, so that even admitting the popular ideas of its existence after death it gives no support to the idea of endless torment.
A shameful death or severe punishment in this life was at the time of Christ denominated “Gehenna” (Schleusner, Canon Farrar and others), and there is no evidence that “Gehenna” meant anything else at the time of Christ.
Child of Hell?
Interestingly, apart from Jesus’ instruction to his own Disciples (his own true church), “Gehenna” is used disparagingly in the context of his distain of the supposed house of God (the false church) and the representatives thereof, again highlighting the fact that “Gehenna” has more to do with the life and character the “house of God” than unbelieving sinners
"Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of Hell (Gehenna) than yourselves." (Matt. 23: 15)
Looking upon the smoking valley and thinking of its corruptions and abominations to call a man a "child of Gehenna" was to say that his heart was corrupt and his character vile, but it no more indicated a place of woe after death than a resident of New York would imply such a place by calling a bad man a child of Five Points.
This was long before prophesied by Jeremiah, (chapter 19): "Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the Lord had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the Lord's house, and said to all the people, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring upon this city, and upon all her towns, all the evil that I have pronounced against it; because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words."
Isaiah has reference to the same in chapter 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." This explains the "unquenchable fire" and the "undying worm." They are in this world.
The English author, Charles Kingsley writes (Letters) to a friend: "The doctrine occurs nowhere in the Old Testament, nor any hint of it. The expression in the end of Isaiah about the fire not quenched and the worm not dying is plainly of the dead corpses of men upon the physical earth in the valley of Hinnom or Gehenna, where the offal of Jerusalem was burned perpetually. "
The doctrine of endless torment was as a historical fact, brought back from Babylon by the Rabbis. It may be a very ancient primary doctrine of the Magi, an appendage of their fire-kingdom of Ahriman and may be found in the old Zends, long prior to Christianity. "St. Paul accepts nothing of it as far as we can tell never making the least allusion to the doctrine.”
The apocalypse simply repeats the imagery of Isaiah, and of our Lord; but asserts distinctly the non-endlessness of torture, declaring that in the consummation, not only death but Hell shall be cast into the lake of fire.
"The Christian Church has never held it exclusively till now. It remained quite an open question till the age of Justinian, 530, and significantly enough, as soon as 200 years before that, endless torment for the heathen became a popular theory, purgatory sprang up synchronously by the side of it, as a relief for the conscience and reason of the church."
The English word “Hell” occurs in the Bible fifty-five times, thirty-two in the Old Testament and twenty-three in the New Testament. The original terms translated “Hell,” “Sheol-Hades” occur in the Old Testament sixty-four times and in the New Testament twenty-four times; “Hades” eleven times, “Gehenna” twelve times and “Tartarus” once. In every instance the meaning is death, the grave or the consequences of sin in this life. “Sheol,” “Hades” and “Tartarus” denoted literal death or the consequences of sin here, and “Gehenna” was the name of a locality well-known to all Jews into which sometimes men were cast and was made an emblem of great calamities or sufferings resulting from sin. “Hell” in the Bible in all the fifty-five instances in which the word occurs always refers to the present and never to the immortal world.
Of course, the common Christian view of course is that “Gehenna” is employed in the New Testament, to denote the place of future punishment, prepared for sinners and the devil and his angels. This (according to mainstream teaching) is the sense in which “Gehenna” is always understood in the New Testament, where it occurs just twelve times. Furthermore, most Christian theologians would assert that It is a word that denotes the part of “Hell” (Sheol) which was the habitation of the wicked after death. Nothing could be further from the truth however.
“Gehenna” - Located in this world!
Far from being an
ethereal location in the underworld, “Gehenna” was in fact a well-known valley, near
The valley was sometimes called Tophet, according to some, from Toph, a drum, because drums were beat during the idolatrous rites, but some believe in consequence of the fact that Moloch as an idol was hollow, and heated, and children were placed in its arms, to burn to death; the word Tophet meaning fire stove; Some also think that the name derived from "Toph, is to vomit the loathing." In the Old Testament after these horrible practices, King Josiah polluted the place and rendered it repulsive. Topheth may come from the Aramaic root t-ph-t or the Hebrew toph or taph, meaning "to burn," while others interpret it to mean "altar." Perhaps there is an element of truth in all three suggestions.
And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger (Ch 33:6)
"And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom unto the south side of the Jebusite; the same is Jerusalem, and the border went up to the top of the mountain that
lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward." (Joshua 15: 8)
"And he (Josiah) defiled Tophet, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or daughter to pass through the fire to Moloch."(II Kings 23: 10.)
"Moreover, he (Ahaz) burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen." (II Chron. 28: 3.)
they (the children of
"And go forth into the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter." (Jer 19: 2, 6.)
"Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter; for they shall bury in Tophet till there be no place. And the carcasses of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away. Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate." (Jer. 7: 32-34.)
And I will make this city desolate, and a hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss, because of all the plagues thereof. And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them. And they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury.
...Thus will I do unto this place, saith the Lord, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make the city as Tophet: and the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods. Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the Lord had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the Lord's house, and said to all the people: Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words." (Jer. 19: 8-15.)
These Old Testament passages clearly show that “Gehenna” or Tophet was a detestable locality near Jerusalem, and that to be cast there literally, was the doom threatened and executed originally. Every reference is to this world, and to a literal casting into that place. In Dr. Bailey's English Dictionary, “Gehenna” is defined to be
"a place in the valley of the tribe of Benjamin, terrible for two sorts of fire in it, that wherein the Israelites sacrificed their children to the idol Moloch, and also another kept continually burning to consume the dead carcasses and filth of Jerusalem."
But in process of time “Gehenna” came to be an emblem of the consequences of sin, and to be employed figuratively by the Jews, to denote those consequences - but always in this world. The Jews never used it to mean torment after death, until long after Christ. That the word had not the meaning of post-mortem torment when our Saviour used it, is demonstrable:
Josephus of all people was a Pharisee, and wrote at about the time of Christ, and expressly states that the Jews at the time (corrupted from the teaching of Moses) believed in punishment after death, but he never employs “Gehenna” to denote the place of punishment. He uses the word “Hades,” which the Jews had then obtained from the heathen, but he never uses “Gehenna,” as he would have done, had it possessed that meaning then. This demonstrates that the word had no such meaning then. In addition to this, neither the Apocrypha, which was written from 280 to 150 years. B. C., nor Philo, ever uses the word. It was first used in the modern sense of “Hell” by Justin Martyr, one hundred and fifty years after Christ. Dr. Thayer concludes a most thorough excursus on the word.
"Our inquiry shows that it is employed in the Old Testament in its literal or geographical sense only, as the name of the valley lying on the south of Jerusalem-that the Septuagint proves it retained this meaning at late as B. C. 150--that it is not found at all in the Apocrypha; neither of Philo, nor in Josephus, whose writings cover the very times of the Savior and the New Testament, thus leaving us without a single example of contemporary usage to determine its meaning at this period-that from A. D. 150-195, we find in two Greek authors, Justin and Clement of Alexandria, the first resident in Italy and the last in Egypt that Gehenna began to be used to designate a place of punishment after death, but not endless punishment since Clement was a believer in universal restoration-that the first time we find Gehenna used in this sense in any Jewish writing is near the beginning of the third century, in the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, two hundred years too late to be of any service in the argument-and lastly, that the New Testament usage shows that while it had not wholly lost its literal sense, it was also employed in the time of Christ as a symbol of moral corruption and wickedness; but more especially as a figure of the terrible judgments of God on the rebellious and sinful nation of the Jews."
Time and meaning
Few in current mainstream theological circles would admit to what many scholars have concluded in their attempts to ascertain the usage of “Gehenna,” especially in relation to common understanding at the time of Christ. The Jewish Talmud and Targum for example do use the word in the sense that the Christian Church has so long used it, though without attributing endlessness to it, but none of them are probably older than A. D. 200. The oldest is the Targum (translation) of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, which was written according to the best authorities between A. D. 200 and A. D. 400.
"Most of the eminent critics now agree, that it could not have been completed till some time between two and four hundred years after Christ." Univ. Expos. Vol 2, p. 368. "Neither the language nor the method of interpretation is the same in all the books. In the historical works, the text is translated with greater accuracy than elsewhere; in some of the Prophets, as in Zechariah, the interpretation has more of the Rabbinical and Talmudical character.
From this variety we may properly infer, that the work is a collection of interpretations of several learned men made toward the close of the third century, and containing some of a much older date; for that some parts of it existed as early as in the second century, appears from the additions which have been transferred from some Chaldee paraphrase into the Hebrew text, and were already in the text in the second century." Jahn Int. p. 66. Horne's Intro. Vol. 2. p. 160.
Dr. T. B. Thayer in his "Theology," says: "Dr. Jahn assigns it to the end of the third century after Christ; Eichhorn decides for the fourth century; Bertholdt inclines to the second or third century, and is confident that it 'cannot have attained its present complete form, before the end of the second century.' Bauer coincides generally in these views.
Some critics put the date even as low down as the seventh or eighth century. Justin Martyr. A. D. 150, and Clement of Alexandria, A. D. 195, both employ “Gehenna” to designate the place of future punishment; but the first utters an opinion only of its meaning in a certain text, and the last was a Universalist and did not, of course, believe that “Gehenna” was the place of endless punishment.
At the time of Christ the Old Testament existed in Hebrew. The Septuagint translation of it was made between two hundred and four hundred years before his birth. In both, “Gehenna” is never used as the name of a place of future punishment. One expositor remarks,
"Both the Apocrypha, and the works of Philo, when compared together, afford circumstantial evidence that the word cannot have been currently employed, during their age, to denote a place of future torment. . . . From the few traces which remain to us of this age, it seems that the idea of future punishment, such as it was among the Jews, was associated with that of darkeness, and not of fire; and that among those of Palestine, the misery of the wicked was supposed to consist rather in privation, than in positive infliction. . . . But we cannot discover, in Josephus, that either of these sects, the Pharisees or the Essenes, both of which believed the doctrine of endless misery, supposed it to be a state of fire, or that the Jews ever alluded to it by that emblem."
Even in the Apocrypha, B. C. 150-500, Philo Judaeus A. D. 40, and Josephus, A. D. 70-100, all refer to future punishment, but none of them use “Gehenna” to describe it, which they would have done, being Jews, had the word been then in use with that meaning. Were it the name of a place of future torment, then, can any one doubt that it would be found repeatedly in their writings? And does not the fact that it is never found in their writings demonstrate that it had no such use then, and if so, does it not follow that Christ used it in no such sense?
Jewish usage and understanding
Unbeknownst to most Christian pastors, Many Jewish theologians and teachers today don’t employ “Gehenna” in the tradition of current Christian teaching. Just on what historical and literary grounds can Christianity lay claim to the truth of “Hell” and eternal damnation? The truth it seems has eluded and continues to elude the majority of Christendom’s brightest minds.
Rev. H. N. Adler, a Jewish Rabbi, says: "They do not teach endless retributive suffering. They hold that it is not conceivable that a God of mercy and justice would ordain infinite punishment for finite wrong-doing."
Dr. Dentsch declares: "There is not a word in the Talmud that lends any support to that damnable dogma of endless torment."
Dr. Dewes in his "Plea for Rational Translation," says that Gehenna is alluded to four or five times in the Mishna, thus: "The judgment of Gehenna is for twelve months;" "Gehenna is a day in which the impious shall be burnt."
Bartolocci declares that "the Jews did not believe in a material fire, and thought that such fire as they did believe in would one day be put out."
Rabbi Akiba, "the second Moses," said: "The duration of the punishment of the wicked in Gehenna is twelve months."
Some rabbis have even stated that “Gehenna” only lasted from Passover to Pentecost. This was the prevalent conception. (Abridged from Excursus 5, in Canon Farrar's "Eternal Hope.") He gives in a note these testimonies to prove that the Jews to whom Jesus spoke, did not regard “Gehenna” as of endless duration). Asarath Maamaroth, f. 35, 1: "There will hereafter be no Gehenna." Jalkuth Shimoni, f. 46, 1: "Gabriel and Michael will open the eight thousand gates of Gehenna, and let out Israelites and righteous Gentiles."
A passage in Othoth, (attributed to R. Akiba) declares that Gabriel and Michael will open the forty thousand gates of “Gehenna,” and set free the damned, and in Emek Hammelech, f. 138, 4, we read: "The wicked stay in Gehenna till the resurrection, and then the Messiah, passing through it redeems them." See Stephelius' Rabbinical Literature.
It was of course not until much later that the Jews steeped in paganism began associating “Gehenna” with that of a Greeko Roman hell. Rev. Dr. Wise, a learned Jewish Rabbi, says: "That the ancient Hebrews had no knowledge of Hell is evident from the fact that their language has no term for it. When they in after times began to believe in a similar place they were obliged to borrow the word 'Gehinnom,' the valley of Hinnom,' a place outside of Jerusalem, which was the receptacle for the refuse of the city-a locality which by its offensive smell and sickening miasma was shunned, until vulgar superstition surrounded it with hob-goblins. Haunted places of that kind are not rare in the vicinity of populous cities. In the Mishna of the latest origin the word Gehinnom is used as a locality of punishment for evil-doers, and hence had been so used at no time before the third century, A. D."
From the time of Josephus onwards, there is an interval of about a century, from which no Jewish writings have descended to us. It was a period of dreadful change with that ruined and distracted people. The body politic was dissolved, the whole system of their ceremonial religion had been crushed in the fall of their city and temple; and they themselves scattered abroad were accursed on all the face of the earth. Their sentiments underwent a rapid transformation, and when next we see their writings, we find them filled with every extravagant conceit that mad and visionary brains ever cherished. Expos. Vol. 2. Art, Gehenna, II Ballou, 2d.
"The Rabbis saw Gehenna as a place of punishment for a person who did not live a righteous life, as defined by G-d and Torah for Jews, or the seven laws of Noah for non-Jews. The majority view of the Rabbis is that punishment in Gehenna is of limited duration. The maximum punishment was believed to be 12 months. The Talmud says in tractate "Shabbat" page 33b that 'The duration of punishment in Gehenna is twelve months.' This is also stated in both early and late rabbinical literature (ie, texts of the Rabbis of the Talmud). This 12 month limit is true for both Jewish and Gentile sinners ("Rosh HaShanah" 17a). This is true even of the generation of the flood, who were said to be very wicked. (Mishneh, Eduyyot 2:10; Genesis Rabbah 28:8). Though some individual Rabbis (a minority) expressed the view that certain sinners stayed in Gehenna forever, it was not the majority, accepted view."
"During the twelve-month period in Gehenna, the soul goes through a process of purification and atonement, and, as described in Midrash Pesikta Rabbati, 'After going down to Gehenna and receiving the punishment due him, the sinner is forgiven from all his iniquities, like an arrow from the bow he is flung forth from Gehenna' (Pesikta Rabbati 53:2). After this experience, the soul is sufficiently purified and able to enter the supernal postmortem realm of Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden (Exodus Rabbah 7:4)" (Raphael, Jewish Views of the Afterlife, p145).
"There is a minority opinion (in the Talmud) that holds that some people go to Gehenna (Purgatory is the Christian equivalent, not Hell) for ever. The majority of rabbis in the Talmud reject this view. So, while there may be a non-binding aggada (story) to illustrate a point of some kind (the wickedness of Balak, for example), it is just a story and does not reflect Jewish belief in the afterlife or in the duration of punishment in Gehenna."
"I don't have to ask any Orthodox Jew, since I have a book on Jewish views of the afterlife. You may believe Balak is in "Hell" forever, but it does not make it a Jewish belief. [note: DS is not Jewish] You may believe that Orthodox Jews believe that some people go to "Hell" forever, but that does not make it so. I have looked in 3 Orthodox commentaries on Balak, none of them mention "Hell" or even eternal Gehenna for Balak. As I said in one of my other 2 e-mails, there MAY be a legend about Balak being in Gehenna forever, but like all Aggada (stories) or Midrash, it is not to be taken as the literal truth. That is not just my opinion, it is the official position of Judaism of the Orthodox variety on aggada and middrash."
"I remind you, that a Midrash is non-binding and usually is written to teach a lesson, or to encourage certain behavior (such as the desirability of not committing adultery, perjury, or blaming a neighbor in public). It is not intended to be the literal truth in any way. As you can see, the majority of Medieval Jewish Rabbis did NOT believe that "Hell" was forever. That view was a minority view." (From: The Jewish View of Gehenna based on Jewish Views of the Afterlife by Simcha Paul Raphael).
So clearly the majority of orthodox Jews and Rabbis didn't believe there was an eternal “Hell” according to the Hebrew Scriptures. But after the time of Malachi, the Jews did start adopting the pagan beliefs of the heathens against the commands and warnings of God. Was Jesus influenced by such pagan views? Did he replace “Gehenna” for “Hades” in his teaching of Greek “Gehenna” fire as literal and eternal in the afterlife, or was he in fact using it as a symbol for judging his disciples in this life? The answer becomes so much clearer.
“Tophet” and “Molech” in Hinnom – Then
"And he [King Josiah of Judah] defiled [destroyed] Topheth which is in the valley of the children [son] of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire of Molech." (II Kings 23:10)
Molech or Moloch,
whose name probably derived from Melech
"king," was one of the deities worshipped by the idolatrous
Israelites. He was referred to as "the
abomination of the children of Ammon" (1 Kings
11:7) and the primary means of worshipping him appears to be child
sacrifice or "to pass through the
fire." Solomon was said to have built a temple to him. Molech was a god worshipped by the Canaanites, Phoenicians, and
Ammonites and Israel began sacrificing her children in fire to this pagan god.
The Canaanites were a Semitic people who occupied
"For Mine Angel shall go before you, and bring you in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I will cut them off. You shall not bow down to their gods [one of which was Molech] nor serve them, nor do after their works: but you shall utterly overthrow them, and completely break down their images" (Exodus 23:23-24).
God commanded Israel to utterly destroy them all:
"But you shall utterly destroy them, namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord your God has commanded you. That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should you sin against the Lord your God" (Deut. 20:17-18).
Although Israel killed many of these enemies in the “promised land,” they did not kill them all. Rather, we read this:
"And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and amorites, and perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods" (Judges 3:5-6).
David conquered Jebusi, now Jerusalem, and he named it "The City of David" (II Sam. 5:6-7 & I Chron. 11:4-5).
“Tophet” and “Molech” in Hinnom – Now!
But what has all this history, Molech/Tophet/Valley of Hinnom sacrificing have to do with us today? This is not something Christians today are guilty of so why try to tie it in with a study of Jesus threatening His disciples with "Gehenna fire?" Well, for one, the teachings of Jesus are likewise for His disciples today. The teachings on the Mount apply to all of the followers of Jesus down through the centuries. After all is anyone today guilty of the sin prophesied in Isaiah 66 which introduces the "worm that dies not and the fire that is not quenched?" Surely godly men are not sacrificing to an idol like Molech in a garden behind a tree today, are they?
"For by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many. They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves in the garden behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse shall be consumed together. For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather ALL NATIONS and tongues; and they shall come and see My Glory" (Isa. 66:16-18).
Here's the connection: Jesus said that “Gehenna” was a place:
"Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44). This is a direct quotation from Isaiah 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."
It was IN “GEHENNA” (the Valley of the son of Hinnom) where Tophet was located. And in Tophet is where “they sanctified themselves and purified themselves in the garden behind one tree in the midst” by sacrificing to Molech and by sacrificing their children in the fires of Molech. But again, this is all ancient history, isn't it? One might expect some satanic cult to engage in such ancient pagan festivities, but not anyone with a lick of sense would do this today. But this IS prophecy for our day. The prophecy is dated to the time that God "gathers ALL NATIONS" - and a time when all nations will “see God's judgment and glory.”
Today’s 21st century “Valley of Hinnom” is not just a spiritual symbol of carnal disobedience however. It is also manifested physically and literally in many forms. Take Bohemian Grove in California for example, where many prominent leaders (including our Presidents, Cabinet members, Generals, Scientists, heads of industry, entertainers, media magnates, leading bankers, and even foreign heads of state) “sanctify themselves and purify themselves in the garden behind one tree in the midst,” and actually and literally, make sacrifice to a giant, stone idol, annually, in the Redwood forests of Sonoma County.
This strange ritual in the forest is in fact mirrors typical pagan festivities renowned for their gross immorality, gay prostitution, drunkenness – though the attendees would claim - just a little fun in the sun for high level movers and shakers to relax for a few weeks. We seriously have to ask ourselves, of the thousands of possible settings and themes for a high level elitists men's club: why a sacrifice to a giant pagan idol in the woods to purge themselves of the cares of this world? And why are many of these same barons of politics, industry, and media also members of the Freemasons, Skull and Bones, and similar ghastly and secret illuminist fraternities?
Isaiah 66:17 is undoubtedly one of the more enigmatic verses in all Scripture. Here are some variations on the key words of this Scripture:
"They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves, in the gardens behind one tree in the midst; eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, says the Lord."
"They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves, in the gardens behind one tree in the midst
Moffatt Translation: "to enter groves for ritual dances"
Young's Literal Transltion: "after Ahad in the midst"
Rotherhamn's Emphasized Bible: "a certain thing in the midst"
King James marginal reading: "to the gardens after an IDOL in the midst,"
Young's Translation possibly capitalizes "Ahad" because some thought that ahad was a god. The Moslem religion says: "Allah IS AHAD [one]." Most think when Moslems say: "There is no god but Allah" they mean that Allah is the only true god of all other gods that they do not recognize as gods at all. This, however, is not the whole truth according to some of their best scholars. Some Moslem experts say it should read, "There is no god, ONLY Allah." Or: "There is no god to be worshipped, only Allah.” And so to them Allah is not "a god" or even "the god," but rather there is "ONLY Allah" and "Allah is ahad." The term "god," apparently, being beneath the dignity of Allah for example. But here's the truth of the Scriptures: "God [Elohim] is ONE [echad/ahad]" (Deut. 6:4).
So what's wrong with the leaders of our banks, news media, entertainment, industry, military, and government; foreign heads of states; and Presidents; taking part in such heathen practices as "sanctifying themselves and purifying themselves in the gardens behind a tree in the midst?" What's wrong with sacrificing a human being in effigy to a 45 foot pagan idol? Is that such a terrible sin? Is this reason for God's wrath to come upon our peoples? Bohemian Grove is one of many ostensible symbols of man's defiance of God and His laws. Of course no man made attempt to bring about an Illuminist “one world agenda” will ever succeed against Gods righteous judgement at the end of the age.
That such Idol worship literally and physically continues today (think of the pagan idolatry in the Catholic church) is a plain fact of life. The real loathing exemplified by Christ’s use of “Gehenna” fit only to be burned - is the carnal and spiritual swill of the apostate mind. For as Isaiah states – self sanctifying, idol sacrificing, swine and mice eating are but symbols of far greater sins! Back to Isaiah's 66:17 prophecy: "They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves..." To whom do they look to be spiritually sanctified and purified? To God? No, to "themselves." They are "self-sanctifying" and "self-purifying," which then makes them "SELF-righteous." And what did God also speak through Isaiah concerning men's own brand of righteousness? "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..." (Isa. 64:6).
Now it is true that God told the priests how to physically sanctify themselves, but only God can SPIRITUALLY sanctify or purify anyone: "And the very God of peace SANCTIFY you wholly...." (I Thes. 5:23). It is GOD Who sanctifies us; we cannot sanctify ourselves, yet Isaiah prophesied that these last generations would attempt self-purification. And notice that it is not even through God that they attempt to sanctify themselves, but rather through an idolatrous and heathen practice of sacrificing to an "idol in the midst."
And what else does Isaiah say that they do? "...eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse..." (Isaiah 66:17). Again we must be consistent and acknowledge that these teachings are spiritual. God uses physical symbols to teach spiritual truths. If the physical teachings; if the literal teachings; if the parabolic teachings; are the way we are to understand these things, then why oh why would Jesus have stated so many times: "to him that has an ear to hear, LET HIM HEAR?" Jesus powerfully proclaimed to His disciples:
"By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing,and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal [save] them" (Matt. 13:14-15 cited from Isa. 6:9-10).
The swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse" are all listed by Moses as unclean for physical food. Spiritually they represent the fact that our leaders spiritually feast on those things that God considers unclean and an "abomination."
What are the spiritual philosophies and religions of many world leaders? Why are many of the most prominent leaders members of "Skull & Bones?" What is it about their Christian faith or even the Jewish faith that does not satisfy? What principles of life and spiritual truths does Freemasonry fulfil that God and His Word do not? Why would most of our recent Presidents and many hundreds and thousands of heads of state, military, industry, etc., sacrifice to a giant idol in the woods which they know for a fact is in total defiance of the Word of God? Well, they love the taste of unclean religion and worldliness more than the Word of God. And if they ever "...have tasted ['Take, eat; this is My body' Matt. 26:26] that the Lord is gracious" (I Pet. 2:3),
"...it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God, and the power of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God again, and put Him to an open shame" (Heb. 6:4-6).
Skull and Bones, Freemasonry, The Bohemian Club, and many other such secret and elitists organizations, such as the Federal Reserve Bank, the World Bank, The Federal Trade Commission, the Trilateral Comission, the C.F.R, the Illuminate, and on and on, are man's attempt to bring about a utopia for themselves through man's wisdom. God will bring it all down one day of course. That being said, the Bohemian Club IS a place in the forest behind a tree where there is an altar on which they burn their cares of this world and purge themselves for the new year to a pagan stone idol... a true modern day Tophet as in the Valley of Hinnom [GeHenna] But we digress!
Judgment then- The Law and the Prophets
So apart from the physical fulfilment of the Valley of Hinnom, what of the usage of “Gehenna” as far as very first time Jesus ever used this word? “Gehenna” in "The Sermon on the Mount” starts off fairly simple and innocent:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit... Blessed are they that mourn... Blessed are the meek... Ye are the salt of the earth... Ye are the light of the world... Let your light so shine..." Etc. (Matt. 5:1-16).
But then Jesus suddenly takes a sharp turn into what has got to be one of the most mysterious sections of Scripture in the entirety of the Bible, and it is in this context that “Gehenna fire” is first mentioned. Beginning with Verse 17 we read:
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
Why would Jesus
ever suggest that His disciples would think that He came to “destroy
the law or the prophets?” Well, for one thing, because He appears in
the next few verses to contradict what the law and the prophets had to say, and
therefore, this could be a logical deduction that Jesus was doing away with the
Law of Moses. The primary law of the Covenant God made with
"And He declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even ten commandments and He wrote them upon two tables of stone" (Deut. 4:13).
However, there were approximately 613 laws contained in the law and the prophets, and Jesus makes references to several of them which are not contained in the Ten Commandments. In fact, Jesus made a huge deal about teaching the very laws that He did not come to destroy, plus a new and higher application of those laws:
"...but whosoever shall do and teach them [the very least law], the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:19-20).
Next, Jesus pulls out the law against murder, and explains the consequence of murdering under the Law of Moses: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not kill [Gk: 'murder'—illegal killing]; and whosoever shall kill [murder] shall be in danger of [Num. 35:17] the judgment" (Verse 21). But what was this "judgment" of which Jesus spoke? Now we getting closer to the truth concerning “Gehenna.”
JUDGMENT IN ANCIENT ISRAEL UNDER THE LAW OF MOSES - THE LORD IS JUDGE:
When first God began to deal with Moses and Israel in Egypt, He was the sole Judge,
"For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD" (Ex. 12:12).
Is God executing judgment in the world today? YES! But where, and to whom?
MOSES AND HIS CAPTAINS OF 50, 100, & 1000 JUDGE:
"So I [Moses] took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes. And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him... for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it" (Deut. 1:15-17). "Judges and officers shall you make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God gives thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment" (Deut. 16:18).
THE HIGH PRIEST WITH THE URIM AND THUMMIM JUDGE:
Whenever one sees
a reproduction of the garb of the high priest of Israel, one sees a breastplate
with colored stones set in it. This is the mysterious
"urim and thummim."
Urim and thummim typically
translate as "lights and perfections" or "revelation and truth."
It is on the shield of
"And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goes in before the Lord: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually" (Exodus 28:30).
JOSHUA CONTINUES USING THE ELDERS AND JUDGES IN CANAAN:
Joshua was chosen of God to take Israel into the land of Canaan, and God promised to be with him just as with Moses:
"There shall not any man be able to stand before you all the days of your life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with you: I will not fail you, nor forsake you" (Joshua 1:5).
Joshua continued with the Judges and Elders system established by Moses:
"And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests and Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel" (Josh. 8:33).
"And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived [outlived] Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel" (Josh. 24:31).
THE JUDGES CONTINUE JUDGING ISRAEL WITHOUT A TRUE LEADER:
After the death of Joshua and the elders under him, we read this concerning the future of Israel:
"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim. And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, and the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger" (Judges 2:11-12).
"And the children of Israel dwelled among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites [remember that Hinnom is a Jebusite name]. And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods [among which was Molech to whom they sacrificed their children]" (Judges 3:5-6).
good Judge such as Deborah came along for a short period of time, but for most
of the century and a half that Israel mingled among the heathens and their gods
under this system of judges, it was a one-way street to crime and corruption: "In
those days there was no king of Israel: every man did that which was right in
his own eyes" (Josh. 21:25).
Between Judges and I Samuel is the book of Ruth. Here we have an example of
Ruth a Gentile Moabite marrying into the line of
Samuel was a good
judge, priest, and prophet in Israel.
KING SAUL JUDGES:
Saul was a poor excuse for a king and sinned against God. We can't hate him, however, as he does admit his faults even though he doesn't repent very well, "Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in your eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly" (I Sam. 26:21).
Later when God no longer speaks to Saul, neither through dreams, nor prophets, nor urim and thummim, he inquires from the lying spirit of a witch concerning his future. How interestingthat it was Saul himself who enacted legislation forbidding witches in Israel, yet it is he who seeks out a witch for his own pleasure (I Sam. 28:7-9). So as Saul despises the Word of God and consults with a witch; so God foretells Saul's own demise through that witch ("With the pure You will show Yourself pure, and with the forward You will show Yourself forward," (Psalm 18:26).
KING DAVID JUDGES:
David reigned over all
KING SOLOMON JUDGES:
"And God said unto him, Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life; neither have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies; but have asked for yourself understanding to discern judgment... Then he made a porch for the throne where he might judge, even the porch of judgment..." (I Kings & 7:7).
wise, Solomon allowed his passion for many wives to draw him into sin and
idolatry. There briefly was how God executed judgment
in Israel under different administrations from God instructing Moses to the
reign of Solomon. From there on we find some good kings and some bad kings
It may come as a great surprise to some to realize that in the entire Law; that is the first five books of the Bible, the first two hundred pages of your Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), there is but one case of anyone ever actually being stoned to death. This is the case of the man who presumptuously broke the Sabbath day of rest by gathering sticks for firewood (Num. 15:30-36).
But there was no greater judgment or penalty for any possible sin no matter how evil, than the penalty of death. And the death was relatively quick—usually seconds, not minutes. Certainly there was no such penalty as being continually burned in literal fire for trillions and trillions of centuries as is taught in some pagan religions and more specifically in Christendom. Just when did the wages of sin change from "death" (Rom. 6:23) to an eternal life of torture in fire, as taught in Christendom? We shall see.
One great lesson
from all of
Much happened in those 400 years. The religion and doctrines of the Scribes and Pharisees was decidedly different and unscriptural by the time Jesus confronted them. Much of their doctrines regarding the afterlife were now firmly entrenched in sheer paganism.
And just forty
short years after the crucifixion of Messiah, all Judicial government of the
Jewish nation ceased. The Sanhedrin may have sprung up from the council of the
nobles and chiefs and ancients and carried on down to the re-establishing of
Judah with some of her former powers under Nehemiah and Ezra (Neh. 2:16; 7:5; Ezra 5:5, 9; 6:7, 14;
10:8). At any rate, the first undisputed first mention of the gerousía of
Christ’s “Gehenna” Judgment – Now!
established that Jesus was addressing his own disciples concerning “Gehenna” on
the mount, it would be fatuous to suggest that this “judgement” he refers to is that dispensed by the courts of the day
- "Judgment," "the Council—Sanhedrin," and "Gehenna fire," "imprisonment?" Where are
these four venues of justice of which Jesus so sternly warned? After all, where
do we hear of anyone ever being brought before the Judgment (probably
the local courts in Judea allowed by the Roman rulers), or the Council
(the Jewish high council called the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem), or “Gehenna fire” (the
Jerusalem city garbage dump), for committing the sins of being angry toward a brother, or for
calling a brother “Raca” or “fool?” Where is the proof of any
such judgment ever carried out against the Jews in
So are we to
believe that this "judgment" of which He warned His disciples
is still in effect? Where? In the tiny little state of Israel today? Is the
Then what in the world is Jesus talking about in this Sermon on the Mount regarding, "Judgment," "the Council—Sanhedrin," and "Gehenna fire," "imprisonment?" Where are these four venues of justice of which Jesus so sternly warned? Seriously, WHERE ARE THEY if we are to, "Think NOT that Jesus came to destroy the law, or the prophets: Jesus came NOT to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17)?
"YOU HAVE HEARD [UNDER THE OLD COVENANT... BUT I SAY UNTO YOU [UNDER THE NEW COVENANT]..."
After stating that under the old law, a murderer would be in danger of the judgment (the judgment found in Israel under Moses), Jesus makes some mighty curious statements that seem to be out of context with everything: "But I say unto you..." This is not Moses speaking now. This is not the Old Covenant speaking. This is not the Old Testament Scriptures speaking, but rather Jesus is speaking, and He is saying something totally new:
"But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother ['without a cause' is not found in all manuscripts] shall be in danger ['liable'] of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the Council; but whosoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell [Gk: 'GeHenna'] fire; agree with your adversary quickly... lest... you be cast into prison" (Matt. 5:21 & 25).
What in the world kind of judgments is our Lord talking about? And when, when are these things to be administered, and to whom? Again, Jesus was talking specifically to His disciples, and not the Pharisees or multitudes in this "Sermon on the Mount" Now then, when do we hear of any of Jesus' disciples being brought before "the judgment" in Israel for being "angry" with a brother? Never!
When do we hear of any of Jesus' disciples being brought before "the council" [the Sanhedrin] for calling a brother "Raca?"Do we have a Scripture? A record in history? Anything? When do we hear of any of Jesus' disciples being thrown into "Gehenna fire?"or the Jerusalem city garbage dump for calling a brother "fool?"
Jesus said, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18). Is heaven and earth still here? Even if we take "heaven and earth" to be solely a symbolic term, still, heaven and earth has not spiritually passed away from humanity. Then where is this law of "Judgment," "Sanhedrin," "Gehenna fire," and "imprisonment" ever administered for "anger toward a brother?" Where? Or, are we to believe as some theologians would teach that this is the law as it will be administered during the millennial reign of Jesus and is not for us today? Okay, so then, guess not just "one jot or one tittle" has passed from the law, but rather ALL jots and tittles have passed from the law for going on two thousands years now.
If these detailed judgments of Jesus were not for His disciples, then why did Jesus teach these things to His disciples? Of what value was this information to His disciples if it had nothing directly to do with them? Of what value were these four judgments for believers during the past two thousand years if it has no application to them? Of what value is this information to the followers of Jesus today if the warning Jesus gave for US, has no application for US? Are we to really believe that these Scriptures regarding these four sins and their four judgments or punishments had nothing to do with His disciples who heard them, or His disciples down through the centuries, or His disciples reading these words today?"
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of Hell-fire." (Matt. 5: 22)
“The purpose of Jesus here was to show how exacting is Christianity. It judges the motives. This he affirms in the last sentence of the verse, after referring to the legal penalties of Judaism in the first two. The "judgment" here is the lower ecclesiastical court of twenty-three judges: the "council" is the higher court, which could condemn to death. But Christianity is so exacting, that if one is contemptuous towards another, he will be adjudged by Christian principles guilty of the worst crimes, as "he who hates his brother has already committed murder in his heart." We can give the true meaning of this passage in the words of "orthodox" commentators”
Wynne correctly says: "This alludes to the three degrees of punishment among the Jews, viz., civil punishment inflicted by the judges or elders at the gates; excommunication pronounced by the great Ecclesiastical Council or Sanhedrim; and burning to death, like those who were sacrificed to devils in the valley of Hinnom or Tophet, where the idolatrous Israelites used to offer their children to Moloch."
Whether Jesus here means the literal Gehenna, or makes these three degrees of punishment emblems of the severe spiritual penalties inflicted by Christianity, there is no reference to the future world in the language.
"Unlike the teachings of Judaism, Jesus taught that it was not absolutely necessary to commit the overt act, to be guilty before God, but if a man wickedly gave way to temptation, and harbored vile passions and purposes, he was guilty before God and amenable to the divine law. He who hated his brother was a murderer.
“Jesus did not intend to say, that under the Christian dispensation, men should be brought before the different tribunals referred to in the text to be adjudicated but he designed to show that under the new economy of grace and truth man was still a subject of retributive justice, but was judged according to the motives of the heart. 'But I say unto you, whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.' According to the Christian principle, man is guilty if he designs to do wrong." Livermore's "Proof Texts."
"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, into the fire that never shall be quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into Hell-fire."(Mark 9: 43, 49)
Better to enter the Christian life destitute of some great worldly advantage, comparable to a right hand, than to live in sin, with all worldly privileges, and experience that moral death which is a “Gehenna” of the soul. In this sense it may be used of men now as then. But there is no reference to an after-death suffering, in any proper use of the terms. The true idea of the language is this: Embrace the Christian life, whatever sacrifice it calls for.
Certainly the precepts taught by Jesus on the Mount will be the precepts enforced during His thousand year reign ("till heaven and earth pass & all be fulfilled"), but they have far greater application than that. If one is not spiritually converted, he will never understand the “Sermon on the Mount”, nor will he believe it. And that goes for every person in the Church who claims to be a Christian. If he is not converted, he will never understand or believe these profound verses of Scriptures. “Gehenna” slowly but surely looks to be losing all familiarity with the notion of the Christian “Hell” for sinners, does it not?
“Raca” and “fool” – A lesson in theological stupidity!
Some theologian's theorise: "The three offenses [actually there are four] are scaled from least to most serious. To be angry is bad, but to consider a brother as Raca is worse. It is an insult to his Creator (James 3:9). And to characterize a true brother as wicked is worst of all"
The problem is that “Fool” and “Raca” are practically the same thing. Jesus warned about the one calling another a fool being in danger of “hell fire” (Matthew 5:22). Earlier in the text Jesus warned about insulting another... Now are 'idiot' and 'guttersnipe' synonyms for 'fool'? “Raca” and “fool” are of course insults. “Raca” sounds like spitting and means ‘empty head'. Fool is the Greek ‘moron', their common word for 'stupid person.' The word 'idiot' and 'stupid'; other translations: 'fool', 'worthless'... Elsewhere, 'numbskull', 'airhead'' are also used.
Is then saying "Raca" to a brother really a worse sin than being "angry with his brother," considering "Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer..." (I John 3:15)? Is it really worse to call someone a name than to have murder in one's heart? And is it really a worse sin to call a brother you fool,' than to call him "Raca" ['I spit on you, you cursed empty headed fool'], when both are epithets, albeit, saying “Raca” seems far worse than saying “fool?” And we could also add to those explanations and translations the following: fool and lost soul,' maligns and curses,' worthless and rebel,' I spit on you and cursed fool,' fool and apostate wretch.' Several Versions translate “Raca” as “fool,” and “fool” as “fool.”
So how much difference is there really between these two words? Is there enough difference that one will incur a figurative slap on the back of the hand, while the other (virtual identical sin) will incur eternal torture in literal fire for all eternity? Is Jesus crazy? Of course, the doctrines of the Church are crazy if you apply this passage to the Christian “hell”
Now here is the clincher! For, although “Raca” and “fool” are similar offenses, the difference in punishment between the two sins is greater than ASTRONOMICAL! The difference in punishment would be greater than the entire universe as compared to one grain of sand. Do we still not see the problem with the Christian teaching of eternal hell fire?
Does not this verse prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that whatever "hell [Gehenna] fire" is, it cannot be any worse substantially, than being in danger of a council of judges, or the local town judicial court, or serving jail time. It might be ridiculously compared to paying a parking ticket for $25, as opposed to running a stop sign with an imposed penalty of $875,000 in fines and life in prison!
It is at times like these that the greatest thinking theologians on earth, all of a suddenly lose all sense of reason. They want to worship the god of context,' do they? Then let them CONTEXT this teaching of Jesus according to their insane doctrine of eternal torture: In context,' if a person calls his brother fool,' his punishment is to be billions of quadrillions of times long and more painful than if he was angry with his brother which James calls murder!
If anything, the reverse is true: saying "Raca," is a greater sin than saying "you fool," and having "anger in one's heart" (spiritual murder), is still greater than either. Has any minister ever called this Christian absurdity to the attention of their own flock before? And furthermore, being angry (wroth, enraged, hate) with a brother is worse than accidentally killing a brother. In an accidental killing under Moses, God did not hold the offender guilty if he never hated the victim, (Deut. 19:5).
These sins are all virtually the same: "Angry with a brother, calling a brother Raca, calling a brother fool, or not being rectified with a brother" are for all practicality all the same. They are all sins against our brothers and they must ALL be repented of or they will all be brought into appropriate judgments.
They assuredly do not represent higher degrees of seriousness' as stated in the American Bible footnotes, which would warrant insane differences in judgment. This is one of the great lessons we are going to learn when we understand the meaning of Christ's “Gehenna fire.”
“Gehenna fire” is a vital ingredient in the process of: "sanctifying us WHOLLY" (I Thes. 5:23), so that "our WHOLE body should be CAST into Gehenna." (Matt. 5:30)
“Gehenna” – A New Testament principle established
Before we delve into the true nature of the meaning of “Gehenna” as
employed by Christ, it is interesting to note that the Apostles (far from the Churches teaching) continued this principle to admonish believers as exemplified by the New Testament writings and teachings. Could James for example come up for a better symbol for his his own teachings now we know what “Gehenna” was and symbolised? Fire, garbage anyone?
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell(Gehenna). (Jam 3:6)
Dr. Thayer significantly remarks:
"The Saviour and James are the only persons in all the New Testament who use the word. John Baptist, who preached to the most wicked of men did not use it once. Paul wrote fourteen epistles and yet never once mentions it. Peter does not name it, nor Jude; and John, who wrote the gospel, three epistles, and the Book of Revelations, never employs it in a single instance.
Now if Gehenna or Hell really reveals the terrible fact of endless woe, how can we account for this strange silence? How is it possible, if they knew its meaning and believed it a part of Christ's teaching that they should not have used it a hundred or a thousand times, instead of never using it at all; especially when we consider the infinite interests involved? The Book of Acts contains the record of the apostolic preaching,and the history of the first planting of the church among the Jews and Gentiles, and embraces a period of thirty years from the ascension of Christ.
In all this history, in all this preaching of the disciples and apostles of Jesus there is no mention of Gehenna. In thirty years of missionary effort these men of God, addressing people of all characters and nations never under any circumstances threaten them with the torments of Gehenna or allude to it in the most distant manner! In the face of such a fact as this can any man believe that Gehenna signifies endless punishment and that this is part of divine revelation, a part of the Gospel message to the world?
These considerations show how impossible it is to establish the doctrine in review on the word Gehenna. All the facts are against the supposition that the term was used by Christ or his disciples in the sense of endless punishment. There is not the least hint of any such meaning attached to it, nor the slightest preparatory notice that any such new revelation was to be looked for in this old familiar word."
As we know, Jesus never uttered it to unbelieving Jews, nor to anybody but his disciples, but twice (Matt. 23: 15-33) during his entire ministry, nor but four times in all. If it were the final abode of unhappy millions, would not his warnings abound with exhortations to avoid it? Jesus never warned unbelievers against it but once in all his ministry (Matt. 23: 33) and he immediately explained it as about to come in this life.
“Gehenna” is never said to be of endless duration nor spoken of as destined to last forever, so that even admitting the popular ideas of its existence after death it gives no support to the idea of endless torment. Clement, a Universalist, used “Gehenna” to describe his ideas of punishment. He was one of the earliest of the Christian Fathers. The word did not then denote endless punishment. A shameful death or severe punishment in this life was at the time of Christ denominated “Gehenna” (Schleusner, Canon Farrar and others), and there is no evidence that “Gehenna” meant anything else at the
time of Christ.
We now have proof positive, that whatever "Gehenna fire" is, it is NOT eternal torture nor is it literal fire. How many Christians have not a clue as to what Jesus is teaching in this acclaimed and applauded Sermon on the Mount? Many think it is three chapters on quaint little sayings like, "Turn the other cheek...," "Our Father which art in heaven...," "Judge not...," "Ask and ye shall receive...," and "Do unto others..." The Sermon on the Mount will be a total enigma until we learn to believe Jesus when He taught saying:
"It is the spirit that quickens [gives life and understanding]: the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life" (John 6:63).
Paul asked the question of the carnal-minded Corinthians: "...Are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?"(I Cor. 6:2). What "specifically" did Jesus tell us is the disciplinary action to be taken against someone who hates his brother? And remember, to hate a brother is the spirit of a murderer (I John 3:15). Here is Jesus' answer:
"I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matt. 5:22).
Did Jesus do away with "judgment?" No. "But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother... shall BE [future tense] in danger of the judgment" (Verse 21). Jesus didn't do away with judgment. Now then, what does the Word of God tell us is the penalty of the judgment for committing murder? "He that smites a man, so that he die, shall be surely PUT TO DEATH" (Ex. 21:12). Notice that it does not say: "shall surely be cast alive into hell," or "burned alive forever in Gehenna fire." NO, "...put to DEATH." American Heritage College Dictionary, "death n. The state of being dead" "dead adj. Having lost life; no longer alive." When one is "dead" he is no longer "alive." What a revelation.
Continuing: If Jesus is yet teaching His disciples that murderers will be in danger of the judgment, which meant, "...shall surely be put to death," then how is it even within the realm of human understanding, that merely calling a brother "you fool" would bring upon the offender, ETERNAL LIFE IN LITERAL FIRE OF A HELLHOLE CALLED GEHENNA? Death to the murderer, but ETERNAL TORTURE for calling someone a name? Are they all crazy? Can a spirit-filled follower of Jesus Christ believe such spiritual swill?
Who has used the term "fool" more than the famous TV actor Mr. T? Does anyone (be he cleric or layman) really believe that Mr. T of the TV series The A Team fame, and more recently, I Pity The Fool, really believe that this man will suffer hundreds, maybe thousands, of consecutive eternal sentences in the torture of some insane Christian hell fire for his multitudinous use of the word "fool"? Well, what then is Gehenna?
“Gehenna” – Judgement Fire on all Gods Elect!
It goes without saying that eventually the whole world of unbelievers and ungodly will experience God's Divine consuming fire - His “Gehenna fire,” but not before it has first purged all of His Elect, the called and Chosen of the House of God - which judgment the "House of God" has been experiencing now for 2000 years. “Fire” as we shall discover (scripturally speaking) is not an instrument forged by the Devil for his torture chambers, but rather it is the means by which God purifies, refines and judges. He is after all a “consuming fire.”
These instructions on the mount are decidedly not written for the "Many [who] will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, ...in Thy name done many wonderful works?... I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me..." (Matt. 7:22-23). Only the living experience "Gehenna fire." And during this life, It is rather the living chosen elect of Jesus Christ who go through "Gehenna fire."
"If you be reproached [insulted] for the name of Christ, happy are you... yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf, for the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God..."(I Pet. 4:14, 16-17).
We must all receive “reproaches” from men, but “judgment” from God. And God purges us from the offenses of our carnal mind by "His Divine consuming FIRE" (Heb. 12:29). The word "fire" is used with reference to Judgment many times in Scripture: "Gehenna fire," "salted with fire," "furnace of fire," "unquenchable fire," "everlasting fire," "burn by fire," "baptism by fire," "coals of fire," "flaming fire," "eternal fire," "consuming fire."
Are all of these Scriptural uses of fire really literal, physical, descriptions of how God will torture most of humanity as depicted in medieval Christian art for example? Here are the New Testament Scriptures which speak of different "fires" by which men are judged:
"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of Gold that perishes, though it be tried in the fire [Christ's 'Gehenna fire'], might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 1:7) "Faith" is intangible and as such cannot be "tried" in literal fire. The Greek word translated fire is pur, and it means "fire" (literal or figuratively)-Strong's #4442.
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he has built there upon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet as by fire" (I Cor. 3:13-15).
Again fire (Gk; pur) is used figuratively, because the one being tried, "...he himself shall be saved, yet as BY FIRE." If one is "saved by fire," he is not eternally tortured in fire...will the Church believe it?
"I indeed baptize you [those who repented, not the Pharisees whom he just called snakes] with water unto repentance: but He [Jesus] that comes after me is mightier than I, Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit [that's good], and with fire [that's also good]" (Matt. 3:11). Here, being baptized (immersed) in fire [pur] is as important and beneficial as being baptized with God's Holy Spirit.
"Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His [threshing] floor, and gather His wheat [wheat is good] into the garner, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:12).
Chaff is the bracts enclosing the good, mature wheat, which is removed during threshing-it has no value as food, and so is burned like the wood, hay, and stubble of I Cor. 3:12. The Elect are composed of both the valuable wheat and the worthless chaff, but we are not the tares. Notice that the chaff is "burned up... with unquenchable fire." If this "unquenchable fire" "burns up" the chaff, surely it cannot be eternal. Unquenchable has nothing to do with eternal. Unquenchable fires in scriptures are not allowed to be quenched before they are allowed to burn themselves out. This is the heart of Christ’s real teaching concerning Gehenna. After all, for the Old nature die – it must die completely!
Wheat and Chaff
"He will gather His wheat... but He will burn up the chaff" (Matt. 3:12).
We are the “wheat” of Jesus' parable, and we have unwanted “chaff” surrounding our lives. Jesus is not likening some people to wheat and others to chaff. The wheat is not one group and the chaff another, but rather the unwanted chaff belongs to the desired wheat. The wheat is the baby and the chaff is the bath water. We do not throw away the baby with the bath water, but we do throw away the dirty bath water (in this analogy the bath water represents chaff which is burned in fire).
"For every one shall be salted with fire and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" (Mark 9:49, See Rom. 12:1-we are that sacrifice).
Fire purifies and burns up unwanted character traits likened to "straw, hay, and stubble" and also to "chaff." But Salt is a preservative, hence the salt and the fire. The spiritual fire purifies us and the spiritual salt preserves us.
"And He said unto His disciples... I am come to send fire on the earth: and what will I, if it be already kindled [in His disciples, generation by generation, in this church age, NOW]?" (Luke 12:22 & 49).
How can anyone
suggest that the different "fires"
of which Jesus speaks are literal? What LITERAL FIRE did Jesus set back in
When will the Church give up this literal nonsense concerning the spiritual fire of God's spirit with which he will purify all humanity beginning with His Own House? "It is the spirit that quickens [gives life] the flesh [letter] profits nothing: the WORDS [wheat, chaff, tares, seed, fish, leaven, light, salt, rock, sand, wine, treasure, sons, harvest, Samaritan, physician, sheep, pearl, servants, trees, virgins, talents, vineyards, wedding, supper, coin, talents] are SPIRIT and they are LIFE" (John 6:63). And here is the second witness to this Scriptural truth:
"Who also has made us able ministers of the New Covenant; not of the letter [flesh], but of the spirit for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life" (II Cor. 3:6).
Now understand that when Jesus says His “words are spirit,” He is not saying that each individual phonetically sounded syllable is literally spirit, but the meaning and understanding of His STATEMENTS are spirit. Just a few verses earlier Jesus made a statement that prompted His declaration that "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit." Here is what He said: "For my flesh is meat [food/bread] indeed; and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats My flesh, and drinks My blood, dwells in Me, and I in him" (John 6:55-56).
The words meat and blood are no more "spirit" than is the word poison. But when used to represent "Jesus," Jesus being the bread from heaven, THEN it becomes spirit. Jesus is (spirit) bread that will ultimately impart immortality to those who (spiritually) eat it.
So when the Scriptures tell us, "For our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29), can't we understand that these words are "spirit?" God is SPIRIT..." (John 4:24). "...the INVISIBLE God..." (Col. 1:15). Now how can God be visible fire, when we are plainly told and shown in many Scriptures that God is invisible spirit? This phrase, "For our God is a consuming fire," is not literal, so as to contradict the rest of Scripture, but rather is a spiritual statement-the words are literal words, but the statement, the declaration, is spirit. God, as invisible Spirit, spiritually burns up the spiritual wood, hay, straw, and carnality of the human heart, in a similar way that literal fire burns up these physical materials.
Yes, all these "fires" are the same Fire: GOD IS THIS CONSUMING FIRE! Jesus' judgments are upon His disciples, in this Church age, not upon the wicked and non-believers of the world. Their time is coming, but not in this age.
Christ’s “Gehenna” Judgements are upon us!
"For the time is come that judgment must begin [this began two thousand years ago] at the House of God..." (I Pet. 4:17).
Christian theology of course would have us believe that the world and all of its wicked people who have passed on, are being judged today and every day. That as people live and die, if they are not "saved," they are immediately judged and go to “Hell.” It was in the Egyptian “Hell” of Amenti where the dead were judged at death, not the future "day of judgment" as stated in the scriptures. And so Christendom has rejected the Word of God for the pagan customs of the Egyptians. Ask any pastor why God "has appointed A DAY IN THE WHICH He will judge the world in righteousness" (Acts 17:31) if the dead are judged immediately upon death just as taught by the pagan Egyptians?
"Because He has appointed a day, in the which He will [even in Paul's day it was still a future time] judge the world in righteousness by that Man Whom He has ordained: whereof He has given assurance unto all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).
Two thousand years later that appointed day has not yet arrived. But there is another judgment which did arrive two thousand years ago: The JUDGMENT, COUNCIL, GEHENNA, AND PRISON (Matt. 5) of Christ's “Sermon on the Mount” are for us; Christ's disciples; those chosen; the faithful; the over comers; the few; the elect. And these judgments are NOW in each generation of the chosen few throughout this Church age!
The Gospels were written for us. The judgments they contain are for us. Jesus says unto us, that we are in danger of “judgment,” “council,” “Gehenna fire,” and “prison,” if WE do not spiritually obey from the heart even the least of Christ's commandments. Jesus will not judge us for being “angry with a brother”, in Israel's judgment.
Jesus will not judge us for cursing a brother “Raca,” in the Jewish Sanhedrin. Jesus will not judge us for calling a brother “fool,” in man's Valley of Hinnom. Jesus will not punish us for failing to be “reconciled with a brother,” in man's jail houses. Jesus will not punish us for lusting after a woman by throwing our physical body into a literal “Gehenna” in the valley of Hinnom.
Jesus likens His judgments to the judgments of men with which His disciples were familiar, but these are Jesus' judgments, not men's judgments – not that God cannot judge us by bringing us into subjection to "the higher powers ordained of God" (Rom. 13:1). Remember that Jesus said:
"For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:20).
What then follows is Jesus raising the bar of godly character and morality. The Sermon on the Mount is the beginning of Jesus' teaching His disciples to live a life far more godly and righteous than anyone had previously lived. Just how are Jesus’ disciples to live this life of righteousness that is to "far exceed" that of the Pharisees. Most of them probably thought that the Pharisees (who were the real experts on the Law) would be a hard act to follow, let alone "FAR exceed."
Interestingly enough, Jesus does not tell them how they will be able to accomplish this apparently impossible demand that he is putting on their shoulders. Many of these disciples were baptized already by John the Baptist. They heard John's prophetic words:
"I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, AND with fire" (Matt. 3:11).
Now Jesus is upon the Mount for the express purpose of selecting out of His many disciples, the twelve that will be His closest followers-His twelve Apostles. But He doesn't mention the Holy Spirit of God even one time in this Sermon on the Mount. They most likely all but forgot about that other part John had prophesied about being "baptized... with FIRE."
Jesus introduces the "fire" in His Sermon, but says nothing of this "Holy Spirit." They will see the need for both near the end of their training with Jesus, but none of them comprehended the need for “Holy Spirit” AND “fire” during their spiritual apprenticeship under the Master Teacher.
The Law of Moses or a Higher Law?
It is hardly explained nor reconciled by most Pastors trying to teach such truths that Christ wasn’t contradict Moses’ teaching in his sermon – though sometimes it appears that Jesus might even be doing so. Notice a phrase that Jesus used thirty-three times in the Gospels: "You have heard, but I SAY UNTO YOU...," "I say unto you...," or "For I say unto you...," or "But I say unto you..." Several times when Jesus prefaces His statements with, "But I say unto you...," He is giving His present teaching on something that was taught in the Old Testament Scriptures and Law of Moses.
"Again, ye have heard that it has been said by them of old time, You shall not forswear yourself, but shall perform unto the Lord YOUR OATHS: But I say unto you, SWEAR NOT AT ALL" (Matt. 5:33-34). Here is another: "Ye have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies..." (Matt. 5:43-44).
After all, are those "circumcised in heart" really breaking God's Commandment if they are not "circumcised in flesh?" Are present day Gentile Believers really breaking God's command to sacrifice animals to atone for their sins if they rather spiritually accept the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ Himself on the cross? Are Believers today breaking the tithing law if they rather "present themselves a living sacrifice," and always are willing to "lay in store as God has prospered them" (I Cor. 16:2) their money, time and talents to serve others?
Are Believers today breaking the Sabbath day command if they do not set aside the seventh day to physically rest, but rather have set aside all days as a spiritual rest (Heb. 4)? Likewise, Jesus is not contradicting the Law of Moses in these few examples in His Sermon on the Mount.
We need to really understand and know as Paul did when he said: "For we KNOW that THE LAW IS SPIRITUAL..." (Rom. 7:14). And just how did Paul "know" this? Because of the Tenth commandment of the Ten Commandments which were the main part of the Law of Moses, and the Old Covenant (Deut. 4:13). "...Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law [what law?]: for I had not known lust, except the law [which law?] had said, 'THOU SHALT NOT COVET'" (Rom. 7:7). Oh THAT law. That would be the Tenth commandment of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:17).
The Ten Commandments of God are spiritual – though it takes the spirit of God to obey them. This Tenth commandment is the absolute proof. The Seventh commandment already said to not commit adultery, and the Eighth commandment already said to not steal, but then the last and Tenth commandment says in effect, "...and don't even THINK about it!" Isn't this exactly what Jesus is teaching when He says that the commandment said to not commit adultery, be He then said we are not to even THINK ABOUT lusting after another woman with impure sexual thoughts?
This whole Sermon on the Mount is Christ's teaching on how to live an exceedingly higher level of morality and righteousness than was taught before, and the accompanying Judgments if one does not live up to these standards. Paul taught:
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Gal. 3:24-25).
In the scriptures we find the phrase, “New Covenant,” “New Testament,” and “New Commandment” in the Greek, but you will not find the phrase "New LAW" anywhere. There are "new commandments" regarding that law, but the law is the same, as it is "spiritual" and therefore is not "temporal" (II Cor. 4:18). In the Old Covenant Law, we read this: "...you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18 & Matt. 5:43, 19:19, 22:39, etc.) The apostle John informs us that this commandment is not new:
"And now I beseech you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto you, but that which we had from the beginning, that we should love one another" (II John 1:5).
But John also knew that Jesus did add something to this commandment:
"And this is HIS commandment, that we should believe on the Name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, AS He gave us commandment" (I John 3:23).
Well was there something different about this commandment from the Old Covenant Law and "AS" Jesus commanded it? Yes there was. A new Law? No. A contradictory Law? No. Well what then was different from the way Jesus taught and kept this commandment to "love your neighbour?"
Here it is, simply and profoundly: "A NEW commandment I give unto you, That you love one another [same as the Old Commandment, right? No, here is were the new "AS" part comes in...] ...That you love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, that you also love one another" (John 13:34).
Now that brings a whole lot more meaning to the "old" commandment which they had from the beginning. Loving "AS" Jesus loved, is a whole new ball game, as they say. There was and is nothing wrong with the Law of Moses. God calls it "MY law."The problem was never with the Law, but with the people: "O that there were such an HEART in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always..." (Deut. 5:29).
The problem was never with God's Law, but with the peoples' heart-they were carnal, and when one is carnal, he cannot keep a "spiritual" law:
"For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:6-7). And here is absolutely proof that there needed a change in the Covenant, not in the LAW OF THE COVENANT:
"For if that first covenant ['covenant,' not law] had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For FINDING FAULT WITH THEM, He said, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a NEW COVENANT [not a New Law] with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah... For this is the covenant that I will make... I will put my LAWS [same old laws-but new covenant] into their MIND, AND WRITE THEM IN THEIR HEARTS..." (Heb. 8:7-9). There it is! The New makes alive and ends in "eternal [eonian-immortal] LIFE." "Who also has made us able ministers of the NEW Testament; not of the letter, but of the SPIRIT: for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives LIFE" (II Cor. 3:6).
This along with the blood sacrifice of Jesus IS the New Covenant, the Gospel, the Kingdom of God. The Old letter of the law was glorious, but the newly applied Spirit of the law does "much more exceed in glory" (II Cor. 3:9). The Old Covenant law was how God's people were judged under Moses: the New Covenant law is how God's chosen Elect will be judged under Jesus.
["Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time [under the OLD Covenant], Thou shall not kill [murder]..." (Matt. 5:21 Yes, this one is found in the Old Testament Law of Moses: "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13). "But I say unto you [under the coming NEW Covenant], That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matt. 5:19).
Now we don't find that teaching in the Old Testament. Did Jesus do away with that law of Moses by saying, "But I say unto you, that you SHOULD kill...?" No, of course not. But didn't Jesus at least "contradict" the law of Moses? No, He didn't do that either. It is still a sin to kill [Gk: murder]. He never did away with the law of murder nor did we or anyone I know ever think for one moment that He did. However, what we might consider "least commandments" that follow in this Sermon may appear that Jesus did contradict the old with the new.
Well then, just what does "But I say unto you..." mean? He added "spirit" to this commandment against killing. He got at the root cause of murder which is-being angry with a brother. And being angry with a brother, will likewise put one "in danger of the judgment," but this time it will be JESUS doing the Judging on a much stricter and higher level of attainment. Not by a greater punishment, but by a greater correcting force-RIGHT JUDGMENT.
Punishment has its place, but punishment is not the best deterrent to sin. Righteous judgment, however, is a great deterrent to sin:"When THY Judgments are in the earth the inhabitants of the world WILL LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Isaiah 26:9). Right judgment produces righteousness. Yes, the world absolutely will learn righteousness no matter how much the Church denies the possibility of any such thing. Jesus, true to His word in Matt. 5:17-19, did not destroy any law, nor did He do away with so much as "one jot or one tittle" of the law.
Living with the judgement of the new commandment
Now let's learn how we are to be judged by our Lord, and how we are to live by His NEW COMMANDMENT. THIS MAYBE THE MOST ENIGMATIC SCRIPTURE IN ALL THE BIBLE.
Jesus told His disciples in this sermon that if they called a brother "fool" they would be in danger of "Gehenna fire." What kind of danger is that. How does this “Gehenna fire” actually judge us. Is there anywhere that we are told how “Gehenna” judges us to make us "righteous?" There is a verse that specifically addresses what “Gehenna” accomplishes, but it is one of the least understood verses in all Scripture:
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna fire]" (Matt. 10:28).
The biggest problem in understanding this verse, is to understand who this verse is talking about. The Church will tell you that it is talking about those who will suffer loss of salvation in the eternal fires of hell. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. This verse was addressed directly to and about the 12 apostles, and is applied to all Christ's disciples throughout all generations. Go back to the first verse of chapter 10 for the contextual proof that Jesus is instructing his Apostles only in this teaching: "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them [no one else, just 'them,' just the twelve apostles], saying..." And Jesus continues speaking unbroken all the way to the eleventh chapter, to His twelve apostles only.
If it is the world of unrepentant sinners that are to "fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell," then why oh why didn't Jesus make this clear to His apostles in these verses? But no, Jesus warned His apostles that they are to be the ones fearing. Notice:
"...He called unto Himself His twelve disciples... These twelve Jesus sent forth and commanded them saying... [Jesus continues speaking to His apostles only] ...And fear not them [their enemies and persecutors] which kill the body [their body; your body], but are not able to kill the soul [your soul]: but rather fear Him [you twelve apostles] which is able to destroy both soul and body [both YOUR soul and YOUR body] in hell [Gehenna fire]" (Matt. 10:1, 5, & 28). Assuredly, Jesus was not warning the wicked to not fear the wicked who, when they kill the wicked cannot kill the soul... No, this instruction is for believers.
“Gehenna” is judgment. It is not torture in literal fire. It is judgment upon God's Elect to spiritually purify them; to make them holy and blameless; and to make them strong. “Gehenna” speaks of judgment, and Jesus taught that God is "able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." How are we (God's Elect) presently being destroyed in both body and soul? Notice what Jesus said a few verses after He made this statement: "He that finds his life [Gk: 'psuche' - soul, not zoe which is life] shall lose it: and he that loses his life [soul] for My sake shall find it" (Matt. 10:39).
We must be spiritually baptized into Christ's death, and we must also LOSE OUR SOUL for Christ's sake. Take note that Jesus did NOT say "And fear not them which KILL the body, but are not able to KILL the soul, but rather fear Him which is able to KILL both soul and body in hell [Gk: Gehenna]." No, Jesus did NOT say that, but it is assumed that He either said that or at least meant that. No, He did not. Jesus said: "And fear not them which KILL the body, but are not able to KILL the soul, but rather fear Him which is able to DESTROY both soul and body in hell [Gk: Gehenna]."
Why the switch? Jesus switches from "kill" to "destroy." It is our "soul" that God is more interested in than our "life." An insane person may have a perfectly healthy life, but his soul is severely damaged. A comatose person may be in perfect physical health and be very much "alive," but possesses virtually no soul-conscious awareness, character, love, emotions, knowledge, hopes and dreams, memories, etc.
Now then, "destroy" in vs28 is the Greek word 'appolumi' and it means: DESTROY, PARISH, LOSE. In vs 18 Jesus says that God can "appolumi your body and soul." In vs 39 Jesus tells us that we must "appolumi our own soul." Either we 'appolumi' -destroy/lose our souls, or God will 'appolumi' our souls for us, and that is not the way we want to go, seeing that: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God" (Heb. 10:31).
And notice this is precisely what we read in Matt. 5:29- "If your right eye offend you [then YOU] pluck it out... And if your right hand offend you [then YOU] cut it off... and not that your whole body should be cast [by GOD, 'fear HIM'] into Gehenna" (Matt. 5:28-30).
We must pluck out and cut off those members of the body which are used to sin against God:
"Mortify therefore your members [Gk: 'melos' -'parts of the BODY' -Dr. Strong] which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God comes ['fear HIM'] on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the Image of Him that created him [it]" (Col. 3:5-10).
But hopefully by now, we all know that the different "members" of our body [pluck out your eye; cut off your hand; cut off your foot] do not actually sin, but it is the heart and carnal mind of man that uses the members of his body to commit sin: "Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin..." (Rom. 6:13).
So then God teaches us to "fear HIM" and in so doing, “destroy” [Gk: 'apollumi' -destroy, perish, lose] our “soul” by "plucking out and cutting off" these members of our body so as to stop using them as "instruments of unrighteousness unto sin" so that God will not have to "destroy both our body and our soul in Gehenna" by "CASTING us into Gehenna."
More importantly, the first four judgments of Jesus in His Sermon revolve around "brothers"
in Christ who "do the will of God." And even calling a
brother "you fool," will bring judgment of Jesus on
your life. But what about the last one-"prison?"
Does Jesus put us in prison? Yes, He certainly does.. Sometimes we
are put into a position where we just can't get out. There IS
These four examples of Christ's judgments in His Elect can come in so many varied and over-lapping circumstances that it may be impossible at any given time to tell exactly which if any of these God is using for your benefit at any particular time. Jesus' personalized uses of judgment, high council, “Gehenna,” and prison, are obviously geared to fit each individual according to each needed correction.
Those of us who have been experiencing Jesus' judgments in our lives, can attest to the fact that we can now recognize many of these "strange" things in our lives, as being judgments from God. Have you never experienced a "FIERY trail" such as Peter reminds us of? (I Pet.4:12). As badly as we want these trials to be over, we nonetheless, need to be reminded that these trails are good for us, producing "patience"&"righteousness."
"Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb. 12:11).
For consider Him that endured such contradiction [strife, disobedience] of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If ye endure CHASTENING, God deals with you as with SONS ; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye
BASTARDS, and not SONS" (Heb. 12:1-8).
We are on a road that leads to son-ship. We are to be THE SONS OF THE LIVING GOD. Do we think that such a task can be accomplished with little or no effort? If we are not on the road to son-ship, then we are spiritual BASTARDS! One cannot be a "Son" and be drunk on worldly materialism, filled with pride and vanity, consumed with self-aggrandizement, and hell-bent on personal "free will," and presume to be on the road to son-ship.
The heat, pressure, and fire that God afflicts upon His called and chosen Elect to produce the godly character befitting “sons of God,” the Church calls curses of the Devil! God is bringing spiritual heat, pressure, and fire into the lives of his heirs. One can either reject it by bringing out the Christian fire extinguisher, or one can let God's “Consuming Fire” burn out the resistance and animosity toward His correcting Word.
"...let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Notice that Jesus endured the cross, and all that went with it, "...for the joy that was set before Him..." There is a purpose for what we do and for what God is doing through us. There is a great goal set before us. There is great joy NOW, but only because what is "set before us." This "spiritual fire" business is real. It is extremely emotionally trying and difficult. But it is necessary. There is a saying in body-building: "No pain, no gain." It is equally true for building spiritual muscle. But it is an enigma. It is a paradox. It appears to even be a contradiction. Paul stated with a clear and spiritual mind that:
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (II Cor. 12:10).
WHAT? Is Paul crazy? "For when I am WEAK, then am I STRONG?" Yes, Paul is crazy; crazy like a fox! When we think that we are strong, then we are truly weak. But when we KNOW THAT WE ARE WEAK, then God can make us strong. Listen how perfectly the truly great apostles understood these marvellous truths of God:
"Humble yourselves [admit your weakness] in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up" (James 4:10)
"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time" (I Pet. 5:6).
"But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses" (I Tim. 6:11-12).
Jesus comes to us as a “Comforter,” but also as a “Refiner.” All the symbolic, spiritual fires of Scripture are the same fire. The fire of Gehenna, eonian fire, unquenchable fire, furnace of fire, salted with fire, fire already kindled, God's consuming fire, chaff burning fire, tares burning fire, fiery trials, ministry of flaming fire, and lake of fire are all the same spiritual consuming fire of God. And they all accomplish the same thing--THEY PURIFY!
"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when He appears? for He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness" (Mal. 3:2-3).
It is amazing how much the church has missed out on because it does not understand the marvellous truths of God’s word. In addition to being baptized into Christ's death, we are also "buried." True, this is figurative language, but it is true language. We truly are not only crucified with Christ, and die with Christ, but we are also buried with Him. THIS IS THE FIRST DEATH OF THE ELECT BEFORE THEIR SECOND DEATH IN JUDGMENT BY FIRE.
How sad it is that billions of people are eager to be baptized in water, but do not know what it means to be "baptized into Jesus Christ." If people want to be baptized in water, fine, but if they are not at the same time "baptized into Jesus Christ," which means "baptized into death," then they only go down dry and come up wet--little else changes in their lives.
Remember that the Lake of fire IS DEATH, but death only to those things which are to be NO LONGER! Are there to be people after the Judgment? Yes. Well then people will not be literally killed or annihilated in this judgment by fire. How would God ever be "ALL in all" (I Cor. 15:28)?
“Gehenna fire” is how God gets the sin out of his elect. The lake of fire/second death is how God deals with the sins of humanity. Jesus died for the sins of all humanity (I John 2:2). But what it seems the whole Christian world is failing to see, understand, and experience, is GETTING THE SIN OUT OF THE SINNER. How spiritually blind can we be. After Jesus has died for the sins of the world, the world continues to sin. Surely we can see from the Scriptures that God wants to get the sin out of His Elect. Judgment either now or later is symbolically represented to be by FIRE.
Judgement, the dump of criminal corpses, rot, decay, the abode of the worm that dieth not, and the stench of death. Such is the state of the apostate carnal mind. Could there be anywhere in scripture a symbol more pertinent to our carnality than that of the “Valley of Gehenna?”
Indeed no sweeping or sanitising will do in order to bury this corpse, the scum of carnal mindedness which IS death! It is a job fit only for the unquenchable fire of God’s all consuming Spirit – a fire that judges, a fire that tries and purifies, a fire to bring ALL mankind to righteousness be it in this age or the age to come.
Who would have ever thought that Christ’s “Gehenna/Hell” had less to do with unbelievers, but everything to do with his own Church!