Jesus was clear that if on your final judgment, you are in serious sin, you will be treated as rubbish and will be rubbish forever. 

Gehenna was a dump for hated people, for criminals.  He used that word to describe the final fate of the wicked.  The doctrine is dehumanising and full of hate. 

And yet some want us to think Gehenna means temporary punishment or where you go and end up put out of existence.

Jesus is clear that it is final.  And the damned are remains yes but not in the way a corpse is.  People who are alive are called dead in the Bible.  It means that without God you are totally defective, you are not yourself, you are a slave to evil.

Jesus told a lot of parables that warn against judgment so much and a lot of gospel space is taken up with them that it is clear that some temporary punishment for sin is NOT meant.  Nobody would warn you against jail that much unless you would end up there for sins that don’t seem that bad and if you end up there for longer than you can imagine.  If jail was a conveyor belt of horrors there would be more fear and more focus on jail and keeping out of it.

Read the parables and see how they imply severe judgment and the existence of Hell.  The parable of the rich fool is in Luke 12:16 to 21.  The parable of the wise and stupid builders in Matthew 7 and Luke 6.  The sower in Mark 4, Matthew 13 and Luke 8.  The parable of the wheat and the tares is in Matthew 13.  The barren fig tree parable can be read in Luke 13.  The fig tree that is unfruitful will be cut down.  Unfruitfulness must be understood not in light of the fact that most people always do reasonable good but in the light of the fact that the true disciple of Jesus will be holier and better than the normal person.  The dragnet in Matthew 13.  Jesus warns that following him his very costly and the warfare against spiritual enemies is very serious and very real in Luke 14:28-33.  The unforgiving servant meets a terrible fate in Matthew 18.  The dishonest servant in Luke 16.  The rich man and Lazarus the poor man in Luke 16 reads more as a story than a parable but it deserves inclusion.  The wicked vineyard workers in Matthew 21.  The great feast in Matthew 22 and also Luke 14:15-24.  Matthew has the parable of the wise and stupid virgins in chapter 25.  The terrible parable of the sheep and the goats is clear that eternal punishment awaits the goats in Matthew 25.  Jesus sternly warns that we must be ready for his return in Mark 13 and Matthew 24.  Even the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 has a threat for it says the son was welcomed back for repenting and there was great joy for he saved himself from being as good as dead.  None of these make sense unless you understand that if death comes for the sinner or unfruitful person that person will be damned for all eternity.  They make no sense if it is extremely hard to go to Hell.  The amount of space they get indicates that damnation is very common.


In Mark 9, Jesus called the apostles around him and he told them that it was better for them to cut off body parts that led them into sin for sin merited Gehenna. He informed them that it is better to enter life without them than to be flung into Gehenna with the parts all intact and that the worm of the condemned there will never die (Mark 9:48). Life means life with God after death. He added that they would be cast into flames that would never go out. Contrary to many cults he never actually said that the body would be destroyed there. He believed in the story of the three young men in Daniel who were in the furnace and never burned so fire did not necessarily mean destruction to him.

Gehenna refers to the Hinnom Valley - the cursed Valley outside Jerusalem which was considered an abomination because there were tombs there and it was a place of pagan worship where children were burned as sacrifices. The main thing about Gehenna is that it was shunned and feared and seen as a place of suffering and the presence of evil spirits. That main thing is what Jesus was getting at.

Four meanings have been proposed for Gehenna in the gospel.
1 A symbol for the place of everlasting punishing after death where you are hated and shunned and cursed for all eternity.
2 A symbol for the dump God will make at the end of the world where he will kill sinners and discard them there. He will put sinners out of existence.  Is Gehenna a dump for the bodies of criminals? Does Gehenna refer to a dump or graveyard that God will make at the end of time to cast all those who wouldn’t obey him and where they will be permanently destroyed?

The dump interpretation appeared centuries after Jesus and there is no evidence that it was a dump in the time of Jesus. Jesus gives no hint that he is using it as an image because it is a dump but because it is a place of suffering and horror.

3 Gehenna is alleged by some believers to be a metaphor for a garbage dump which could mean it stands for where you will be dumped alive forever if you are a sinner.
But it was no more a dump than anywhere else!
“Archeology shows no evidence of garbage ever being burned at the site” see Blaming Jesus by Robert Price. If that is true, then Jesus was not referring to the cursed valley at all but using its name to describe something horrible that takes place in the afterlife. For him it was a metaphor of a horrible place.

If Price is wrong, then Gehenna is a garbage dump in the afterlife where sinners go. It would mean just a garbage dump for corpses and not a graveyard or a place of human sacrifice.
4 Nothing more than the grave. This interpretation does not fit the images of horror and suffering. Why not just say the grave? Gehenna means something more!

The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Christadelphians reckon that Gehenna is death or the grave. They think Gehenna was the dump, the resting place of the wicked. Jesus would not have used the image of Gehenna for the grave for it is not a good image because Gehenna is a horror and burns.  People aren’t dumped into death for God takes life and dumps nobody as if they were rubbish. It is he that lets the murderer’s knife kill for he could turn it into paper. Death doesn’t burn. Death isn’t always horrible as in Gehenna. Death is never a punishment in Gehenna for it is a resting place for dead bodies not a place of execution. If it is then the grave is a bigger punishment than death and that is stupid. Gehenna is a good image if it is a place where half-dead people are thrown into the flames showing that they are completely rejected and degraded. Not even once does the Bible hint that Gehenna is physical death alone.
5 The real Gehenna - it is not a symbol. Prophecy in the Old Testament speaks of God's enemies being destroyed there in war. Some feel that Jesus is not talking about something that happens after death. They notice how he talks as if you lose an eye you are better off entering life or salvation without it than going into Gehenna with two eyes. It must be admitted that this interpretation could be right. If it refers to the afterlife then Jesus thinks the way your body is when you die is the way it will rise again to live with God. That is an extremely crude view of resurrection but Jesus was not the only one to absorb that silly belief.

Some think that the best understanding is that Jesus was expecting the end of the world any second and if you were not ready then you would be judged and condemned there so it is better to live and lose one eye or limb than to end up there able bodied. It must be remembered that Jesus never speaks of Gehenna as death but emphases how it is disgusting and tormenting. It is so bad that there is no time to waste. You have to get ready for God right away and repent.

Jesus was a man of his time in a small simplistic naïve world. When he threatened Gehenna on those who ignored him and who refused to call him Lord he probably did mean the literal dump of Gehenna outside Jerusalem. He wanted those who he did not like and who he considered immoral executed and dumped there. Of course he talked as if God would intervene to make sure these people were some kind of living dead where they were corpses "their worm will never die" but still conscious enough to suffer terribly but that is only a detail.

The "lovely" doctrine that Jesus came to save us from Gehenna by wiping our sins away with his sacrifice if we ask him is lovely in the way the following is.  It is lovely of Hitler to wine and dine me instead of having me tormented to death for my political opinions.  It is a bad look for we all know that human nature carries a passive aggressive streak.


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