What Say the
Here is an exposition of every text of Scripture
in which the word hell is found. It is condensed from Food for Thinking Christians, written by Charles T.
Russell and first published in 1881.
This is not a rewrite or a paraphrase, but a true
condensation in the authors own words as they appear in the original edition, and
although only one-third the size, the authors treatise does not suffer from the
abridgement. For the convenience of the reader, the texts have been rearranged in Bible
It is the hope that this booklet will serve as a
Bible class textbook as well as a reference in private study by young and old alike.
A correct understanding of the subject of this
booklet is almost a necessity to Christian steadfastness. For centuries it has been the
teaching of orthodoxy, of all shades, that God, before creating man, had
created a great abyss of fire and terrors, capable of containing all the billions of the
human family which he purposed to bring into being; that this abyss he had named hell; and
that all of the promises and threatenings of the Bible were designed to deter as many as
possible (a little flock) from such wrong-doing as would make this awful place
their perpetual home.
While glad to see superstitions fall, and truer
ideas of the great, and wise, and just, and loving Creator prevail, we are alarmed to
notice that the tendency with all who abandon this long-revered doctrine is toward doubt,
skepticism, infidelity. Why should this be the case, when the mind is merely being
delivered from an errordo you ask? Because Christian people have so long been taught
that the foundation of this awful blasphemy against Gods character and government is
deep-laid and firmly fixed in the Word of Godthe Bibleand consequently, to
whatever degree their belief in hell is shaken, to that extent their faith in the Bible,
as the revelation of the true God, is shaken also; so that those who have dropped their
belief in a hell, of some kind of endless torment, are often open infidels and scoffers at
Guided by the Lords providence to a
realization that the Bible has been slandered, as well as its divine Author, and that,
rightly understood, it teaches nothing on this subject derogatory to Gods character
nor to an intelligent reason, we have attempted in this booklet to lay bare the Scripture
teaching on this subject, that thereby faith in God and his Word may be reestablished, on
a better, reasonable foundation. Indeed, it is our opinion that whoever shall hereby find
that his false view rested upon human misconceptions and misinterpretations will, at the
same time, learn to trust hereafter less to his own and other mens imaginings, and,
by faith, to grasp more firmly the Word of God, which is able to make wise unto salvation;
and on this mission, under Gods providence, it is sent forth.
Hell an English Word
In the first place, bear in mind that the Old
Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek. The word hell is an
English word sometimes selected by the translators of the English Bible to express the
sense of the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek
words hades, gehenna, and tartaroo.
The word hell in old English usage simply meant
to conceal, to hide, to cover; hence a concealed, hidden, or covered place. In old English
literature records may be found of the helling of potatoesputting potatoes into
pits; and of the helling of a housecovering or thatching it. The word hell was
therefore properly used synonymously with the words grave and pit, to translate the words sheol and hades
as signifying the secret or hidden condition of death.
The Hebrew word sheol occurs sixty-five times in the Old Testament.
In the King James Version it is translated hell thirty-one times, grave thirty-one times,
and pit three times. If the translators of the Revised Version had been thoroughly
disentangled from error, they would have done more to help the English student than merely
to substitute the Hebrew word sheol and the
Greek word hades as they have done. They should
have translated the words. But they gave us sheol
and hades untranslated, and thus permitted the
inference that these words mean the same as the word hell has become perverted to mean.
Yet anyone can see that if it was proper to translate the word sheol thirty-one times grave and three times pit,
it could not have been improper to so translate it in every other instance.
A peculiarity to be observed in comparing these
cases, as we will do shortly, is that in those texts where the torment idea would be an
absurdity the translators of the King James Version have used the words grave or pit;
while in all other cases they have used the word hell, and the reader, long schooled in
the idea of torment, reads the word hell and thinks of it as signifying a place of
torment, instead of the grave, the hidden or covered place or condition. For example,
compare Job 14:13 with Psalm 86:13. The former reads, O that thou wouldst hide me in
the grave [sheol], etc., while the latter
reads, Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell [sheol]. The Hebrew word being the same in
both cases, there is no reason why the same word grave should not be used in both. But how
absurd it would have been for Job to pray to God to hide him in a hell of eternal torture.
Hell in the Old Testament
As before noted, the word hell occurs thirty-one
times in the Old Testament, and in every instance it is sheol in the Hebrew. It does not mean a lake of
fire and brimstone, nor anything at all resembling that thought; not in the slightest
degree! Quite the reverse: instead of a place of blazing fire, it is described in the
context as a state of darkness (Job 10:21); instead of a place where
shrieks and groans are heard, it is described in the context as a place of
silence (Psalm 115:17); instead of representing in any sense pain and
suffering, or remorse, the context describes it as a place or condition of
forgetfulness (Psalm 88:11, 12. There is no work, nor device, nor
knowledge, in the grave [sheol] whither thou
goest (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
The meaning of sheol is the hidden state, as applied
to mans condition in death, in and beyond which all is hidden, except to the eye of
faith; hence, by proper and close association, the word was often used in the sense of
gravethe tomb, the hidden place, or place beyond which only those who have the
enlightened eye of the understanding can see resurrection, restitution of being. And be it
particularly noted that this identical word sheol
is translated grave thirty-one times and pit three times in our Common Version
by the same translatorsmore times than it is translated hell; and twice where it is
translated hell, it seemed so absurd, according to the present accepted meaning of
the English word hell, that scholars have felt it necessary to explain in the margin of
modern Bibles that it means grave (Isaiah 14:9 and Jonah 2:2). In the latter case, the
hidden state, or grave, was the belly of the fish in which Jonah was buried alive, and
from which he cried to God.
Thirty-One Texts in Which Sheol is Translated Hell
32:22For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn in the lowest
hell. [A figurative representation of the destruction, the utter ruin of Israel as a
nation wrath to the uttermost, as the apostle called it, Gods anger
burning that nation to the lowest deep, as Leeser here translates the
word sheol1 Thessalonians 2:16.]
22:6 (margin)The cords of hell compassed me about. [A figure in
which trouble is represented as hastening one to the tomb.]
[Gods wisdom] is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell [than any
pit]; what canst thou know?
[the tomb] is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.
wicked shall be [re]turned into hell [the condition of death], and all the nations that
forget God. [That the application of this text belongs to the coming age is evident,
for both saints and sinners go into sheol or hades now. This Scripture indicates that in the
time when it applies, only the wicked shall go there. In further proof of this, we find
that the Hebrew word shub, which in our text is
translated turned, signifies turned back, as to a previous place or condition. Those
referred to in this text have been either in sheol
or liable to enter it, but, being redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, will be
brought out of sheol. If then they are wicked,
they, and all who forget God, shall be turned back or returned to sheol.]
16:10Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine
Holy One to see corruption. [This refers to our Lords three days in the tomb.
Acts 2:31; 3:15]
(margin)The cords of hell compassed me about. [As in 2 Samuel 22:6,
trouble is represented as hastening one to the tomb.]
55:15Let them go down quick into hell [margin: the grave].
86:13Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell [margin: the
116:3The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold
upon me. [Sickness and trouble are the figurative hands of the grave to grasp us.]
139:8If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
[Gods power is unlimited; even over those in the tomb he can and will exert it and
bring forth all that are in the graves. John 5:28.]
5:5Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell [i.e.,
lead to the grave].
7:27Her house is the way to hell [the grave], going down to the chambers
9:18He knoweth not that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the
depths of hell. [The harlots guests are represented as dead, diseased, or
dying, and many of the victims of sensuality are in premature graves from diseases which
also hasten their posterity to the tomb.]
15:11Hell and destruction are before the Lord. [Here the grave is
associated with destruction and not with a life of torment.]
15:24The path of life [leadeth] upward for the wise, that he may depart
from hell beneath. [This illustrates the hope of resurrection from the tomb.]
23:14Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from
hell [i.e., wise correction will save a child from vicious ways which lead to
premature death, and may also possibly prepare him to escape the Second Death].
27:20Hell [the grave] and destruction are never full: so the eyes of man
are never satisfied.
5:14Therefore hell hath enlarged herself and opened her mouth without
measure. [Here the grave is a symbol of destruction.]
14:9,15Hell [margin: grave] from beneath is moved for thee, to meet thee
at thy coming . . . thou shalt be brought down to hell [the graveso rendered
in verse 11].
28:15-18Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with
hell [the grave] are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it
shall not come unto us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid
ourselves: Therefore, saith the Lord . . . Your covenant with death shall be
disannulled, and your agreement with hell [the grave] shall not stand. [God thus
declared that the present prevalent idea, by which death and the grave are represented as
friends, rather than enemies, shall cease; and men shall learn that death is the wages of
sin, and that it comes as a result of Satans power (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 2:14) and
not as an angel sent by God.]
57:9And didst debase thyself even unto hell. [Here figurative of
31:15-17In the day when he went down to the grave . . . I made the nations
to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend
into the pit . . . They also went down into hell with him, unto them that be slain with
the sword. [Figurative and prophetic description of the fall of Babylon into
destruction, silence, the grave.]
32:21The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of
hell with them that help him. [A continuation of the same figure, representing
Egypts overthrow as a nation to join Babylon in destructionburied.]
32:27And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the
uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell with their weapons of war: and they have laid
their swords under their heads; but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, though
they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living. [The grave is the only
hell where fallen ones are buried and lie with their weapons of war under their heads.]
they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them. [A figurative expression; but
certainly pits of the earth are the only hells men can dig into.]
2:1,2Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord, his God, out of the fishs
belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord and he heard me; out
of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. [The belly of the fish was
for a time his gravesee margin.]
2:5Who enlargeth his desire as hell [the grave] and as death, and cannot
Thirty-One Texts in Which Sheol Is Translated Grave
37:35I will go down into the grave unto my son.
42:38Then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the
grave. [See also the same expression in Genesis 44:29,31. The translators did not
like to send Gods servant, Jacob, to hell simply because his sons were evil.]
2:6The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and
2:6,9Let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace . . .
his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood.
that goeth down to the grave.
that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret until thy wrath
be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me [resurrect me].
I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. [Job waits for
resurrection in the morning.]
24:19They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the
grave. . . . Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have
sinned. [All have sinned, hence death passed upon all men, and all go down to the
grave. But all have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ; hence all shall be
awakened and come forth in Gods due time in the morningRomans 5:12,18,19.]
death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should
not go down to the pit. [This passage expresses gratitude for recovery from danger
31:17Let the wicked be ashamed; let them be silent in the grave.
49:14,15Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them;
and the upright [the saints, Daniel 7:27] shall have dominion over them in the morning
[the Millennial morning]; and their beauty shall consume, the grave being an habitation to
every one of them. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave.
life draweth nigh unto the grave.
89:48Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?
141:7Our bones are scattered at the graves mouth.
1:12Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go
down into the pit [i.e., as of an earthquake, as in Numbers 16:30-33].
30:15,16Four things say not, It is enough: the grave . . .
9:10Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is
no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
Solomon 8:6Jealousy is cruel as the grave.
14:11Thy pomp is brought down to the grave.
38:10I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of
38:18The grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that
go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
31:15In the day when he went down to the grave.
13:14I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them
from death. O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction. Repentance
shall be hid from mine eyes. [The Lord did not ransom any from a place of fire and
torment, for there is no such place; but he did ransom all mankind from the grave,
from death, the penalty brought upon all by Adams sin, as this verse declares.]
Three Texts in Which Sheol Is Translated Pit
16:30-33If . . . they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall
understand. . . . The ground cleave asunder that was under them: and
the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the
men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to
them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from
among the congregation.
shall go down to the bars of the pit [grave], when our rest together is in the dust.
The three lists given foregoing include every one of the sixty-five occurrences of the
Hebrew word sheol in the Old Testament. From
this examination it must be evident to all readers that Gods revelations for four
thousand years contain not a single hint of a hell, such as the word is now understood to
Hell in the New Testament
In the New Testament, the Greek word hades corresponds exactly to the Hebrew word sheol. As proof see the quotations of the
apostles from the Old Testament in which they render it hades. For instance, Acts 2:27, Thou wilt not
leave my soul in hell [hades], is a
quotation from Psalm 16:10, Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [sheol].
And in 1 Corinthians 15:54,55, Death is
swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave [hades], where is thy victory? is an
allusion to Isaiah 25:8, He will swallow up death in victory, and to Hosea
13:14, O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave [sheol], I will be thy destruction.
Ten Texts in Which Hades Is Translated Hell
11:23And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought
down to hell. [In privileges of knowledge and opportunity the city was highly
favored, or, figuratively, exalted unto heaven; but because of misuse of
Gods favors, it would be debased, or, figuratively, cast down to hades, overthrown, destroyed. It is now so
thoroughly buried in oblivion that even the site where it stood is a matter of dispute.
Capernaum is certainly destroyed, thrust down to hades.]
16:18Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall
not prevail against it. [Although bitter and relentless persecution, even unto
death, should afflict the Church during the Gospel Age, it should never prevail to her
utter extermination; and eventually, by her resurrection, accomplished by the Lord, the
Church will prevail over hadesthe tomb.]
thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shall be thrust down to hell. [Same
thought as in the parallel passage, Matthew 11:23]
hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments. These words form part of a
parablethat of the rich man and Lazarus. To our understanding, the rich man
represented the Jewish nation. At the time of the utterance of the parable, and for
a long time previous, the Jews had fared sumptuously every daybeing
the special recipients of Gods favors. Lazarus represented the outcasts from Divine
favor. Although these included publicans and sinners of Israel, in the main they were
Gentilesall nations of the world aside from the Israelites. These, at the time of
the utterance of this parable, were entirely destitute of those special Divine blessings
which Israel enjoyed. They lay at the gate of the rich man. When, as a nation, Israel
rejected Christ, the Rich Man soon found himself in a cast-off
conditionin tribulation and affliction. In such condition Israel has suffered
from that day to this.
In the parable the dissolution of the Jewish
polity is well illustrated by the symbol of death, and their dispersal amongst the nations
by the symbol of burial. To these symbols our Lord added a third: In hell [hades, the grave] he lift up his eyes, being in
torments, and seeth Abraham afar off.
The dead cannot lift up their eyes, nor see
either near or far, nor converse; for it is distinctly stated: There is no work, nor
device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave; and the dead are described as those
who go down into silence (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Psalm 115:17).
But the Lord wished to show that great sufferings
or torments would be added to the Jews as a nation after their national
dissolution and burial, and that they would plead in vain for release from the hand of the
formerly despised Gentiles. And history has borne out this parabolic prophecy.
Christ in Hell [hades] and Resurrected From Hell [hades]
2:1,14,22-31And when the day of Pentecost was fully come . . .
Peter . . . lifted up his voice, and said . . . Ye men of Israel, hear these
words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you . . . being delivered
by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked
hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains [or
bands] of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it [for the
Word of Jehovah had previously declared his resurrection]. For David speaketh concerning
him [personating or speaking for him], I [Christ] foresaw the Lord [Jehovah] always before
my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: therefore did my heart
rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because thou
wilt not leave my soul in hell [hades, the
tomb, the state of death], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou
[Jehovah] hast made known to me [Christ] the ways of life.
Here our Lord, as personified by the prophet
David, expresses his faith in Jehovahs promise of a resurrection and in the full and
glorious accomplishment of Jehovahs plan through him, and rejoices in the prospect.
Peter proceeds: Men and brethren, let me
freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his
sepulchre is with us unto this day [so that this prophecy could not have referred to
himself personally; for Davids soul was left in hellhades, the tomb, the state of deathand his
flesh, did see corruption]. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn
with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would
raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he, seeing this before [prophetically], spake
of the resurrection of Christ [out of hellhades,
the tombto which he must go for our offenses], that his soul was not left in hell [hades, the death state], neither did his flesh see
Thus Peter presents a strong, logical argument
based on the words of the prophet David showing first, that Christ, who was delivered by
God for our offenses, went to hell, the grave, the condition of death, destruction (Psalm
16:10); and second, that according to promise he had been delivered from hell, the grave,
death, destruction, by a resurrection, a raising up to life; being created again, the same
identical being, yet more glorious, and exalted even to the express image of his [the
Fathers] person (Hebrews 1:3).
And now that same Jesus (Acts 2:36),
in his subsequent revelation to the Church, declares in Revelation 1:18, I am he
that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys
of hell [hades, the grave] and of death.
Amen! Amen! our hearts respond; for in his
resurrection we see the glorious outcome of the whole plan of Jehovah, to be accomplished
through the power of the Resurrected One, who now holds the keys of the tomb and
of death and in due time will release all the prisoners who are, therefore, called
the prisoners of hope (Zechariah 9:12; Luke 4:18).
6:8And behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and
Hell followed with him. [Symbol of destruction or the grave.]
20:13,14And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell
[the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man
according to their works. And death and hell [the grave] were cast into the lake of fire.
This is the second death.
The lake of fire is the symbol of final,
everlasting destruction. Death and hell [the grave] go into it. There shall be no
more death. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (Revelation
21:4; 1 Corinthians 15:26).
Other Occurrences of the Word Hell
Having examined the word sheol, the only word in the Old Testament rendered
hell, and the word hades, most frequently in the
New Testament rendered hell, we now notice every remaining instance in Scripture of the
English word hell. In the New Testament two other words are rendered hell: namely, gehenna and tartaroo,
which we will consider in the order named.
Twelve Texts in Which Gehenna Is Translated Hell
This word occurs in the following passages:
Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43, 45,47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6. It is
the Grecian mode of spelling the Hebrew words which are translated Valley of
Hinnom. This valley lay just outside the city of Jerusalem, and served the purpose
of sewer and garbage burner to that city. The offal, garbage, etc., were emptied there,
and fires were kept continually burning to consume utterly all things deposited therein,
brimstone being added to assist combustion and insure complete destruction. But no living
thing was ever permitted to be cast into gehenna.
The Jews were not allowed to torture any creature.
When we consider that in the people of Israel God
was giving us object lessons illustrating his dealings and plans, present and future, we
should expect that this Valley of Hinnom, or gehenna,
would also play its part in illustrating things future. As we shall see, it was indeed the
type or illustration of the Second Deathfinal and complete destruction, from which
there can be no recovery; for after that, there remaineth no more sacrifice for
sins, but only fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries
Let us remember that the people of Israel, for
the purpose of being used as types of Gods future dealing with the race, were
typically treated as though the ransom had been given before they left Egypt, though only
a typical lamb had been slain. When Jerusalem was built, and the
templerepresentative of the true Temple, the Church, and the true kingdom as it will
be established by Christ in the MillenniumIsrael typified the world in the
Millennial Age. Their priests represented the glorified Royal Priesthood, and their
Law and its demands of perfect obedience represented the law and conditions under the
New Covenant, to be brought into operation for the blessing of all the obedient, and for
the condemnation of all who, when granted fullest opportunity, will not heartily submit to
the righteous ruling and laws of the Great King.
Seeing, then, that Israels polity,
condition, etc., prefigured those of the world in the coming age, how appropriate that we
should find the valley or abyss, gehenna, a
figure of the Second Death, the utter destruction in the coming age of all that is
unworthy of preservation; and how aptly, too, is the symbol, lake of fire
burning with brimstone (Revelation 19:20), drawn from this same gehenna, or Valley of Hinnom, continually
burning with brimstone.
The expression adds force to the symbol,
fire, to express the utter and irrevocable destructiveness of the Second
Death; for burning, brimstone is the most deadly agent known. How reasonable, too, to
expect that Israel would have courts and judges resembling or prefiguring the judgments of
the next age; and that the sentence of those (figurative) courts of the (figurative)
people under those (figurative) laws to that (figurative) abyss, outside that (figurative)
city, would largely correspond to the (real) sentences of the (real) court and judges in
the next age. If these points are kept in mind, they will greatly assist us in
understanding the words of our Lord in reference to gehenna;
for though the literal valley just at hand was named and referred to, yet his words carry
with them lessons concerning the future age and the antitypical gehenna the second Death.
Shall Be in Danger of Gehenna
5:21,22Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not
kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be amenable to the judges; but I say unto you, that
whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall [futureunder the
regulations of the real kingdom] be amenable to the judges; and whosoever shall say to his
brother, Raca [villain], shall be in danger of the [high] council; but whosoever
shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell [gehenna]
To understand these references to council and
judges and gehenna, all should know something of
Jewish regulations. The Court of Judges consisted of seven men (or
twenty-threethe number is in dispute), who had power to judge some classes of
crimes. The High Council, or Sanhedrin, consisted of seventy-one men of recognized
learning and ability. This constituted the highest court of the Jews, and its supervision
was over the gravest offenses. The most serious sentence was death; but certain very
obnoxious criminals were subjected to an indignity after death, being refused burial and
cast with the carcasses of dogs, the city refuse, etc., into gehenna, there to be consumed. The object of this
burning in gehenna was to make the crime and
the criminal detestable in the eyes of the people, and signified that the culprit was a
hopeless case. It must be remembered that Israel hoped for a resurrection from the
tomb, and hence they were particular in caring for the corpses of their dead. Not
realizing fully Gods power, they apparently thought he needed their assistance to
that extent (Exodus 13:19; Hebrews 11:22; Acts 7:15,16). Hence the destruction of the body
in gehenna after death (figuratively) implied
the loss of hope of future life by a resurrection. Thus, to such, gehenna represented the Second Death in the same
figurative way that they as a people illustrated a future order of things under the New
The same thought is continued in Matthew 5:29,30:
It is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy
whole body should be cast into hell [gehenna].
Here again the operation of Gods Law under the New Covenant is contrasted with its
operation under the Old or Jewish Covenant, and the lesson of self-control is urged by the
statement that it is far more profitable that men should refuse to gratify depraved
desires (though they be dear to them as a right eye, and apparently indispensable as a
right hand) than that they should gratify these, and lose, in the Second Death, the future
life provided through the atonement for all who will return to perfection, holiness, and
The point to be specially noticed here is that gehenna, which the Jews knew, and of which our Lord
spoke to them, was not a lake of fire to be kept burning to all eternity, into which all
would be cast who get angry with a brother and call him a fool.
No; the Jews gathered no such extreme idea from the Lords words. The eternal torment
theory was unknown to them. It had no place in their theology. The point is that gehenna symbolized the Second Deathutter,
complete, and everlasting destruction. This is clearly shown by its being contrasted with
life as its opposite. It is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed,
than [otherwise] to be cast into gehenna.
It is better that you should deny yourselves sinful gratifications than that you should
lose all future life, and perish in the Second Death.
Able to Destroy Both Soul
and Body in Gehenna
10:28Fear 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]. Here our Lord pointed out to his
followers the great cause they had for courage and bravery under the most trying
circumstances. They were to expect persecution, and to have all manner of evil spoken
against them falsely, for his sake, and for the sake of the good tidings of
which he made them the ministers and heralds; yea, the time would come, that whosoever
would kill them would think he did God a service. Their consolation or reward for this was
to be received, not in the present life, but in the life to come. They were assured, and
they believed, that he had come to give his life a ransom for many, and that all in their
graves must in consequence, in due time, hear the Deliverers voice and come forth,
either to reward (if their trial had been passed in this life successfully), or future
trial (judgment), as must be the case with the great majority who do not, in this present
life, come to the necessary knowledge and opportunity essential to a complete trial.
Under present conditions men are able to kill our
bodies, but nothing that they can do will affect our future being (soul), which God has
promised shall be revived or restored by his power in the resurrection day, the Millennial
Age. Our revived souls will have new bodies (spiritual or natural)to each seed
his own [kind of] body, and these none will have liberty to kill. God alone has
power to destroy utterlysoul and body. He alone, therefore should be feared, and the
opposition of men even to the death is not to be feared if thereby we gain Divine
approval. Our Lords bidding then is, fear not them which can terminate the present
(dying) life in these poor, dying bodies. Care little for it, its food, its clothing, its
pleasures, in comparison with that future existence or being which God has provided for
you, and which, if secured, may be your portion forever. Fear not the threats, or looks,
or acts of men, whose power can extend no farther than the present existence; who can harm
and kill these bodies, but can do no more. Rather have respect and deference to God, with
whom are the issues of life everlastingfear him who is able to destroy in gehenna, the Second Death, both the present dying
existence and all hope of future existence.
Here it is conclusively shown that gehenna, as a figure, represented the Second
Deaththe utter destruction which must ensue in the case of all who, after having
fully received the opportunities of a future being or existence through our Lords
sacrifice, prove themselves unworthy of Gods gift, and refuse to accept it, by
refusing obedience to his just requirements. For it does not say that God will preserve
soul or body in gehenna, but that in it he can
and will destroy both. Thus we see that any who are condemned to the Second
Death are hopelessly and forever blotted out of existence.
18:9It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than
having two eyes to be cast into hell [gehenna]
fire. This verse refers to that same discourse recorded in Mark 9:43-48 (see
23:15,33 The class here addressed was not the heathen who had no knowledge of the
truth, nor the lowest and most ignorant of the Jewish nation, but the Scribes and
Pharisees, outwardly the most religious, and the leaders and teachers of the people. To
these our Lord said, How can ye escape the judgment of hell [gehenna]?
These men were hypocritical. Abundant testimony
of the truth had been borne to them, but they refused to accept it, and endeavored to
counteract its influence and to discourage the people from accepting it. And in
thus resisting the Holy Spirit of light and truth, they were hardening their
hearts against the very agency which God designed for their blessing. Hence they were
wickedly resisting his grace, and such a course, if pursued, must eventually end in
condemnation to the Second Death, gehenna. Every
step in the direction of willful blindness and opposition to the truth makes return more
difficult, and makes the wrongdoer more and more of the character which God abhors, and
which the Second Death is intended to utterly destroy. The Scribes and Pharisees were
progressing rapidly in that course: hence the warning inquiry of our Lord, How can
ye escape? The sense is this: Although you boast of your piety, you will surely
be destroyed in gehenna unless you change your
Undying Worms and Quenchless Fires
9:43-44 It may be remarked that verses 44 and 46, and part of 45, are not found in the
oldest Greek manuscripts, though verse 48, which reads the same, is in all manuscripts. We
quote the text as found in these ancient and reliable manuscripts: 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 [gehenna], 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 [gehenna], 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 [gehenna]
fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
Here the lesson is the same as that unfolded by
the Master in Matthew 5:29,30, considered foregoing. But what about the undying worms and
the unquenchable fire? We answer, in the literal gehenna,
which is the basis of our Lords illustration, the bodies of animals, etc.,
frequently fell upon ledges of rocks and not into the fire kept burning below. Thus
exposed, these would breed worms and be destroyed by them, as completely and as surely as
those which burned. No one was allowed to disturb the contents of this valley; hence the
worm and the fire together completed the work of destructionthe fire was
not quenched and the worms died not. This would not imply a never-ending fire, nor
everlasting worms. The thought is that the worms did not die off and leave
the carcasses there, but continued and completed the work of destruction.
So with the fire: it was not quenched, it burned on until all was consumed. Just so
if a house were ablaze and the fire could not be quenched, but burned until the building
was destroyed, we might properly call such an unquenchable fire. Our Lord
wished to impress the thought of the completeness and finality of the Second Death,
symbolized in gehenna. All who go into the
Second Death will be thoroughly and completely and forever destroyed; no ransom will ever
again be given for any (Romans 6:9); for none worthy of life will be cast into the Second
Death, or lake of fire, but only those who love unrighteousness after coming to the
knowledge of the truth.
Not only in the above instances is the
Second Death pointedly illustrated by gehenna,
but it is evident that the same teacher used the same figure of the Valley of Hinnom to
represent the same thing in the symbolic language of Revelation though there it is not
called gehenna, but a lake of fire.
The same valley was once before used as the basis
of a discourse by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 66:24). Though he gives it no name, he
describes it; and all should notice that he speaks, not as some with false ideas might
expect, of billions alive in flames and torture, but of the carcasses of those who
transgressed against the Lord, who are thus represented as utterly destroyed in the Second
The two preceding verses show the time when this
prophecy will be fulfilled, and it is in perfect harmony with the symbols of Revelation:
it appertains to the new dispensation, the Millennium, the new heavens and new
earth condition of things. Then all the righteous will see the justice as well as
the wisdom of the utter destruction of the incorrigible, willful enemies of righteousness,
as it is written: They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell [gehenna]. This is another account of the same
discourse recorded in Matthew 10:28, considered foregoing.
Set on Fire of Gehenna
[important] is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth
on fire the course of nature; and [or when] it is set on fire of hell [gehenna].
Here, in strong, symbolic language, the apostle
points out the great and bad influence of an evil tonguea tongue set on fire
(figuratively) by gehenna (figuratively). For a
tongue to be set on fire of gehenna signifies
that it is set on going in evil by a perverse disposition, self-willed, selfish, hateful,
malicious, the sort of disposition which, in spite of knowledge and opportunity, unless
controlled and reformed, will be counted worthy to be destroyedthe class for whom
the Second Death, the real lake of fire, the real gehenna, is intended. One in that attitude may by
his tongue kindle a great fire, a destructive disturbance, which, wherever it has contact,
will work evil in the entire course of nature. A few malicious words often arouse all the
evil passions of the speaker and engender the same in others. And continuance in such an
evil course finally corrupts the entire man, and brings him under sentence as utterly
unworthy of life.
One Text in Which Tartaroo Is Translated Hell
The Greek word tartaroo occurs but once in the Scriptures and is
translated hell. It is found in 2 Peter 2:4, which reads thus: God spared not
the angels that sinned, but cast [them] down to hell [tartaroo], and delivered [them] into chains of
darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.
Having examined all other words rendered hell in
the Bible, and all the texts in which they occur, we conclude the examination with this
text, which is the only one in which the word tartaroo
occurs. In the above quotation, the words cast down to hell are translated
from the one Greek word tartaroo.
This word very closely resembles tartarus, a word used in Grecian mythology as the
name for a dark abyss or prison. But tartaroo
seems to refer more to an act than to a place. The fall of the angels who sinned was from
honor and dignity, into dishonor and condemnation, and the thought seems to be: God
spared not the angels who sinned, but degraded them.
Thus we close our investigation of the Bible use of the word
hell. Thank God, we find no such place of everlasting torture as the creeds and hymn books
and many pulpits erroneously teach. Yet we have found a hell, sheol, hades,
to which all our race were condemned on account of Adams sin, and from which
all are redeemed by our Lords death; and that hell is the tomb the
death condition. And we find another hell (gehennathe
Second Deathutter destruction) brought to our attention as the final penalty upon
all who, after being redeemed and brought to the full knowledge of the truth, and to full
ability to obey it, shall yet choose death by choosing a course of opposition to God and
righteousness. And our hearts say, Amen! True and righteous are thy ways, thou King
of nations! Who shall not venerate thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou art
entirely holy. And all nations shall come and worship before thee, because thy righteous
dealings are made manifest (Revelation 15:3,4).
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