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January 12, 2009



I played ultimate Frisbee in the same place when i was in Israel in '93.

My room was the one on the roof overlooking Hinnom Valley.

jason smith

J. R.

What do you think the implications are though? Obviously Jesus did talk about it and uses it to describe a horrid state. Or, it is responsible for a horrid state on earth. Both are probably present.

Based on the evidence you collected, it was like he was using it to motivate his disciples to help keep people out of it/away from it/free from it. Whether they were disciples or not disciples.

Part of that could be helping people understand what hell is. I think Jesus assumes that the woman at the well and the demon-possessed cutter guy already knew what hell was all about. He showed them life and they wanted that more than the death they were experiencing.

The more difficult scenario is the secular person who doesn't really know life or death. Pointing them to Jesus might not seem so desperate a task.


Dan Harney

"Hell Yes" - nice!


I appreciate your sensitivity on this issue. I tend to lump hell in with the Canaanite genocide, the killing of Job's family, and the killing of innocent people for King David's sin. For me, these fit into the category, "things which I don't like that are really difficult to swallow, but which point to some greater plan which I'm too limited to grasp." Thanks again.

Toben Heim

Thanks for this J.R.. Really well thought out. It reminds me of the C.S. Lewis assertion that everyone we meet is an eternal being that will either spend eternity in Heaven or in Hell. I think the concept/reality of hell is most useful to me as a believer in that I am motivated to keep people out of there! But I don't think I would never approach a non-Christian from a starting point that included talk of their damnation.

Ray Briggs

Hey Brent, I never played Frisbee in the Hinnom Valley, but I also had the room on the roof back in '82-'83.

J.R., This past year I taught a little Greek mytholgy. In their view of life/death, everyone went to the underworld where Hades was in charge. "Sooner or later, all mortals came to Hades." The dead even had to pay a fare to cross the river Styx. Hades lived in a dark and gloomy place, once inside his realm, mortals whirled forever like dry leaves in a cold autumn wind. Cerberus, the threeheaded watchdog stood to guard the gate. With that in mind, how fantastic must it have been for the Greeks to hear that Jesus had conquered death, "made a way of escape" and lead the way heavenward!

Ray Briggs

J.R. Briggs

Brent - didn't know that you went to the Institute of Holy Land Studies / Jerusalem University College, too! I lived in the "Tomb Room" by the outdoor terrace.

Ray - fantastic Greek imagery. Wow...yes, the mental image of Jesus defeating death has to be overwhelmingly powerful.

great comments...

Paul Sheneman

Thanks for this word study! One question that your observation led me to ask was, "Would you say that Jesus' conversations with the irreligious were more focused on the here and now (faith, healing, sin, brokenness, love) versus the things to come (heaven, hell, judgment) ?"

John A. Leman


You did a very good job at conquering such a tough topic. My mother seems to never like it when I discuss Hell around her, but it seems that you're clear when it comes to the approach of Christianity and Hell. Because I see that that is only what non-believers see about Christinaity: Accept Jesus or burn in Hell for all eternity. I feel that the hope of Jesus should come first. Good job once again. God bless!

John A. Leman

Mike M

Right now, "hell" is just a "hole" in the ground where bodies go to rot until the resurrection. The "Lake of Fire" which resembles Gehennah does not even exist yet so "souls of the pagans don't go there to be burned eternally" until the end times. How long does it take for a body to be cremated? That is the length of time a non-repentant human has in the lake of fire. Where does it mention in the bible that "souls" of the the dead will be in torment in "hell" for eternity?


If I may offer a couple more points and a suggestion:
sheol is contextually translated as deepest pit or some other dark thing, but it is actually more accurately translated as "grave" or "place of the dead". It is even the word used by the Psalmist when he says, "if I go down into the grave (sheol) You (God) are still there." (Bad paraphrase.) To project this sinister meaning (ie hell) onto it is inaccurate. Likewise, hades was a dark place, but there was no sense of judgement or even suffering associated with it. It was just where your spent spirit went when you died. Interestingly, when the Septuagint was written, the word sheol was always translated as hades, so the two can be seen as analogous.

My suggestion is that your next word study be done on the words aion and aionian. These words are translated as age, eternal, world and other wildly different things. When applied to the idea of gehenna, they are almost translated as eternal or forever. However, in the time they were written they almost certainly meant age or age-long. There are dozens of places in both the NT and the Greek Septuagint where aion or aionian clearly cannot mean eternal or forever, but must denote a limited period of time. Contemporaries of the NT writers used different words to indicate eternal or everlasting: aidion, aidios or adialeipton. We have writings from Jewish authorities threatening eternal punishment to evil doers from the time of Jesus and they always use one of the above words and never the aion words that Jesus uses.

Obviously, there's much more to it than this, but I figured I'd at least give you a heads up for another interesting word study concerning hell while you're at it.

God bless!


I struggle with whether the 'gehenna' passages and the 'hades' passages should be connected, as the KJV did, with the same English translation. There seems to be a lot of scholarship that couples 'hades' to the OT 'sheol', the place of the dead, and not some ultimate place of eternal punishment.


JR, good thoughts here. I really appreciate your pointing out the approach to the "sinners" in comparison to the "righteous" in society. It's the love of God that gives sinners hope and draws them to the Lord. I know before I met the Lord I was not too interested in coming for help to One who was going to send me to hell.

Rebecca, You have some good comments here. You say "When applied to the idea of gehenna, they are almost translated as eternal or forever. However, in the time they were written they almost certainly meant age or age-long." The word in Mt. 25:41 is aionian. Do you think Jesus meant the 'age-long fire' or the 'fire of the age' rather than the "eternal fire" (ESV)? This semantic approach seems needlessly confusing, especially when the same terms are used in v. 46. Do you think the problem is in the English options? Am I misunderstanding what your point is?

Kyle Landis

Love the ending man, "Hell yes." I find it very interesting how simple Jesus intended the gospel to be - and how unfortunately complicated we try to make it.

I also love the point that Jesus never mentioned hell to those who were irreligious. That point is essential in understanding our approaches, methods, etc.

Thanks JR!

David Landt

Fun getting caught up on your blog. Nice post on hell, but I am mainly writing to say I too am an alum of the tomb room ('95).

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