HELL IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Having in our two previous issues examined the word sheol, the original and only word for hell in the Old Testament, and the word hades, most frequently rendered hell in the New Testament, we now complete this study by noticing every remaining instance in Scripture where the English word hell occurs. There are but two other words than hades, rendered hell in the New Testament, namely gehenna and tartaroo, which we will now consider in the order named.
This word occurs twelve times. It is the Grecian mode of spelling the Hebrew words which are translated "the valley of Hinnom." This valley lay just outside the city of Jerusalem, and served the purposes of sewer and garbage burner to that city. The offal, garbage, etc., were emptied there and fires were kept continually burning there to consume utterly all things deposited therein, brimstone being added to assist combustion and insure complete destruction. But a living thing was never allowed to be cast into gehenna. The Jews were not permitted to torture any creature.
When we consider that in the people 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 play its part, too in illustrating things future. We know that Israel's priesthood and temple illustrated the Royal Priesthood-- the Christian church as it will be, the true temple of God--and we know that their city was a figure of the New Jerusalem, the seat of kingdom power, and centre of authority--the city [government] of the Great King, Immanuel. We remember, too, that Christ's government is represented in the book of Revelation (Rev. 21:24-27), under the figure of a city--The New Jerusalem. There, after describing the class permitted to enter the privileges and blessings of that kingdom --the honorable and glorious, and all who have right to the trees of life,-- we find it also declared that there shall not enter into it anything that defileth, or that worketh abomination, or lies; but only such as the Lamb shall write as worthy of life. This city full, representing the redeemed world in the end of the Millennium, was typified or represented in the earthly city, and the defiling, and abominable, etc., the class unworthy of life, which do not enter in, are represented by the refuse and the filthy lifeless carcasses cast into gehenna outside Jerusalem for utter destruction. Accordingly, we find it stated that those not found worthy of life, are to be cast into the fire (Rev. 20:15), fire here, as everywhere, being used as a symbol of destruction.
Thus we see that while gehenna served a useful purpose to the city of Jerusalem as a place of garbage burning, it, like the city, illustrated the future dealing of God, when the refuse and impure elements will be forever destroyed and prevented from contaminating the holy and pure, after that age of judgment, or trial, has proved which are sheep and which are goats.
Gehenna then was a type or illustration of the SECOND DEATH--final and complete destruction. Strictly speaking, none could be in any danger of the second death while as yet under the first, or Adamic death, and while as yet no ransom from it had been given. Consequently no one could have been liable to the second death before the coming of our Lord, who brought to light the plan of God (to be accomplished through Christ,) for the resurrection of all from the first death, and a second trial of all men individually for the eternal continuance of that life, by obedience to the law of Christ, the penalty of failure to comply with those just and righteous conditions being the second death--condemnation a second time to death, for failure the second time, and this time individually. Nor is the world in general now liable to this penalty: none but consecrated believers could possibly incur it yet; because no others have escaped (even reckonedly) the condemnation that is on the world--the first death, for Adam's sin. The consecrated have escaped it reckonedly, the sin of Adam being no longer imputed to them. (Rom. 8:1; 4:6-8.)
But remember that Israel, though they were not, and could not be actually ahead of other men in this matter, yet for the purpose of being used as types of the future of God's dealing, they were treated typically 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 temple, representative of the true temple, the church, and the true kingdom as it will be established by Christ in the Millennium, that people typified the world in the next 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 submit to the righteous ruling and laws of the Great King.
Seeing then that Israel's condition, etc., was a figure of the world's condition in the coming age, how appropriate that we should find the valley or abyss, gehenna, a figure of the second death, the utter destruction during the coming age of all that is unworthy of preservation, and how aptly, too, is the symbol, "lake of fire burning with brimstone," (Rev. 19:20) drawn from this same gehenna, or valley of Hinnom, burning continually with brimstone, the deadliness of brimstone adding to the force of the symbol fire, to express the utter and irrevocable destruction of the second death. How reasonable, too, to expect that Israel would have courts and judges resembling or prefiguring such courts and judges in the next age; and that the sentences of those (figurative) courts of that (figurative) people under those (figurative) laws, to that (figurative) abyss, outside that (figurative) city, would largely correspond to the real sentences of the real courts 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.
"Ye 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 [future--under 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] fire."
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-three,--the number is in dispute] which had power to judge for some classes of crimes. The High Council, or Sanhedrin, consisted of seventy-one men of presumed learning and ability. This constituted the highest court of the Jews, and its supervision was over the gravest offences. The most serious punishment 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, to be consumed there. 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 the fulness of God's power, they thought he needed their assistance to that extent. (Exod. 13:19; Heb. 11:22; Acts 7:15,16.) Hence the destruction of the body in gehenna after death implied to them the loss of hope of future life by a resurrection. Thus it represented the second death in the same figurative way that they as a people represented, or illustrated, a future order of things under the new covenant.
Now notice that our Lord in the above words pointed out to them, that their construction of the Law, severe though it was, was far below the real import of that Law, as it "shall be" interpreted under the real kingdom and judges which theirs only typified. He shows that the command of their Law, "Thou shalt not kill," reached much farther than they supposed, and that malicious anger and vituperation "shall be" considered a violation of that Law, under the "new covenant," and that such as under the favorable conditions of that new age shall not reform so thoroughly as to fully observe this law, would be counted worthy of that which the gehenna near them typified,--the second death. However, the force and severity of that Law will be enforced only in proportion as the discipline, advantages, and assistance of that age shall enable each to comply with it.
The same thought is continued in
Here again the operation of the 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 were dear to us as a right eye, and as convenient and almost 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 God.
These expressions of our Lord not only serve to show us the perfection (Rom. 7:12,) of the Law, and how fully it will be enforced and defined in the Millennium, but they served as a lesson also to the Jews, who previously saw, through Moses' commands, only the crude exterior of the law of God. If they had found it difficult in their fallen state to keep inviolate even the surface significance of the Law, they must now see the impossibility of their keeping the finer meaning of the Law, revealed by Christ. Had they understood and received his teaching fully, they would have cried out, Alas! if God judges us thus, by the very thoughts and intents of the heart, we are all unclean, [R1016 : page 6] all undone, and can hope for naught but condemnation to gehenna (to utter destruction, as brute beasts). They would have cried, Show us a greater priesthood than that of Aaron, a priest and teacher able to fully appreciate the Law, and fully able to appreciate and sympathize with our fallen state and inherited weaknesses, and let Him offer for us "better sacrifices," and apply to us the needed greater forgiveness of sin, and let him as a great physician heal us and restore us, so that we can obey the perfect Law of God from our hearts. Then they would have found all their needs in Christ.
But this lesson they did not learn, for the ears of their understanding were "dull of hearing;" hence they knew not that God had already prepared the very priest, and sacrifice, and teacher, and physician they needed,--who in due time redeemed those under the typical law, as well as all not under it, and who also "in due time," shortly, will begin his restoring work --restoring sight to the blind eyes of their understanding, and hearing to their deaf ears. Then the "vail shall be taken away"--that vail of ignorance, pride and human wisdom, which Satan now uses to blind the world to God's true law and true plan of salvation in Christ.
And not only did our Lord's teaching here show the Law of the new covenant, and teach the Jew a lesson, but it is of benefit to the Gospel church, his body, also. For though we are not under the Law as a covenant (as the Jews were typically, and as the world in the next age will be actually,) but under grace [special favor], yet our favor is more clearly seen by reason of our Lord's words here. In proportion as we learn the exactness of God's Law, and what would constitute perfection under its requirements, we see that our Redeemer was perfect, and that we, totally unable to commend ourselves to God as keepers of that law, can find acceptance with the Father only under the merit of our Redeemer, while none can be of that "body," covered by the robes of his righteousness, except the consecrated who endeavor to do only those things well pleasing to God, which includes the avoiding of sin to the extent of ability. Yet their acceptability with God rests not on their perfection, but upon the perfection of Christ, so long as they abide in him. These, nevertheless, are benefited by a clear insight into the perfect law of God, even though they are not dependent on the perfect keeping of it. They delight to do God's will to the extent of their ability, and the better they know his perfect law, the better they are able to rule and conform themselves in harmony with it. So, then, to us also the Lord's words have a lesson of value.
The point, however, to be noticed clearly, is the mistake commonly made, of supposing the gehenna which the Jews knew, and of which our Lord spoke to them, to be 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, or who "look upon a woman to lust." Nay, the point is that "gehenna" symbolizes the second death --utter, 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 be cast into gehenna." It is better that you should deny yourself sinful gratifications, than that you should completely lose all future life, and perish in the second death.
MATT. 10:28, AND LUKE 12:5.
"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]. See also another account of the same discourse by Luke--12:4,5.
Here our Lord points out to his followers the great cause they have for bravery and courage 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 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 that he did God a service. Their consolation and reward for this, was to come not in the present life, but in a 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 Deliverer's voice and come forth, either to reward, if their trial was passed in this life successfully, or to trial, as it must be, to the great majority who had not yet come to the necessary knowledge and opportunity constituting the new trial, secured for all by the ransom-sacrifice.
Our Lord here speaks of the present life and the life to come (which he was about to secure for all by the ransom-sacrifice he was giving); he calls that future condition the real soul or being [soul signifies being], while the present life [which is really a dying, rather than a living state,] he designates or indicates by the word "body." His bidding then, is, fear not them which can terminate the present [dying] life in these poor dying bodies, which, full of frailties and weaknesses and aches, you got from dying Adam. 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 being, 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 everlasting--fear him who is able to DESTROY both the present dying existence and the future everlasting existence, in gehenna--the second death.
Here it is conclusively shown that gehenna, as a figure, represented the second death--the utter destruction which must ensue in the case of all who, after having received fully the opportunities of a future being or existence through our Lord's sacrifice, prove themselves unworthy of God's gift, and refuse to accept it, by refusing obedience to God's just requirements. For it does not say that God will preserve soul or body in gehenna, but that he can and will destroy both in it. Thus we are taught that any who are condemned to the second death, are hopelessly and forever blotted out of existence.
MATT. 18:9; MARK 9:43-47.
[Since these two refer to the same discourse, we quote from Mark; remarking that verses 44, and 46, and part of 45are not found in the oldest Greek MSS. though verse 48, which reads the same, is in all manuscripts. We quote only what is in the ancient MS.] "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 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 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 gehenna, where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched."
All must agree with the prophet, after reading the above, that our Lord opened his mouth in figures and obscure sayings. (Psa. 78:2; Matt. 13:35.) No one for a moment supposes that our Lord advised the people to mutilate their bodies by cutting off their limbs, or gouging out their eyes. Nor does he mean us to understand that the injuries and disfigurements of the present life will continue beyond the grave, when we shall "enter into life." The Jews whom he addressed must have understood him better than many to-day; because at that time the Jews had no conception of a place of everlasting torment, and knew the word gehenna to refer to the valley outside their city, which was not a place of torment, (nor a place where any living thing was cast,) but a place for the utter destruction of whatever might be cast into it; so that when they saw the Lord's expression regarding limbs and eyes to be figurative, they knew that the gehenna mentioned was not their valley of destruction, but a destruction which it prefigured or illustrated.
The Lord meant simply this: The future life which God has provided for sin-cursed, defiled and condemned man, is of inestimable value. It will richly pay you to make any sacrifice to receive and enjoy that life. Should it even cost an eye, a hand or a foot, so that to all eternity you should be obliged to endure the loss of these, yet it would be cheap at even that great cost. That would be better far than to retain your members and lose all in gehenna. Doubtless, too, the hearers drew the lesson as applicable to all the affairs of life, and understood the Master to mean that it would richly repay them to deny themselves many comforts and pleasures and tastes, dear as a right hand, precious as an eye, and serviceable as a foot, rather than by gratification to forfeit the life to come and be utterly destroyed in gehenna--the second death.
But now what about the worms and unquenchable fire?
We answer, In the literal gehenna, which is the basis of our Lord's 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, as completely and as surely as those which burned. No one was allowed to disturb this valley's contents, hence the worm and the fire between them completed the work of destruction--the fire was not quenched and the worms died not. This would not imply a never-ending fire, nor immortal worms--the thought is that the worms do not die off and leave the carcasses there, but continue and complete the work of destruction. So with the fire also--if not quenched, it will burn on until all is consumed, just as we might say if a house were on fire which could not be controlled or quenched, but burned until the building was destroyed --it would be an "unquenchable fire."
Our Lord wished to impress the thought of the completeness and finality of the second death. All who go into the second death will be thoroughly and completely and forever destroyed; no ransom will ever be given again; there will be no occasion for any, for none worthy of life will be cast therein--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 to represent the same thing, in the symbols of Revelation, though there it is not called gehenna, but a "lake of fire." Its use in Revelation shows that the time when the destruction, or second death, symbolized by the fire, will "consume the adversaries," will be during the Millennial age, and chiefly toward its close, when the sheep [the meek and good class,] will be separated from the goats [the froward and intractable class of mankind]. Then the goat class--with their "father, the devil," whose image of sin, pride and rebellion they retain and love, in spite of every favor and knowledge and opportunity granted them--will be cast into the "lake of fire"--the "second death," "everlasting destruction," the reality prefigured in gehenna.
The same valley was once before used as the basis of a discourse, by the Prophet Isaiah (Isa. 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 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 death.
The two verses precedingshow the time, and it is in perfect harmony with the symbols of Revelation: it is in the new dispensation of the Millennium, in the "new heavens and new earth" condition of things.
GEHENNA OCCURS BUT ONCE MORE
"So [important] is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature when it is set on fire of gehenna."
Here, in strong symbolic language, the apostle points out the great and bad influence of an evil tongue--a tongue set on fire [figuratively] by gehenna [figurative]. For a tongue to be set on fire of gehenna, signifies that a tongue may be set going in evil by a perverse disposition, self-willed, selfish, hateful, malicious, the sort of dispositions which, in spite of knowledge and opportunity, are like those which, unless controlled and reformed, will be counted worthy to be destroyed-- the class for whom "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.
TARTAROO RENDERED HELL.
The Greek word tartaroo occurs but once in the New Testament, and is translated hell. It is found in 2 Pet. 2:4, which reads thus:--
"God spared not the angels who sinned, but cast [them] down to hell [tartaroo] and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgement."
Having examined every other word rendered hell in the Bible, and all the texts in which they occur, we conclude the subject with this, which is the only instance in which the word tartaroo occurs in the Scriptures. In the above text, all the words shown in italic type are translated from the one Greek word tartaroo. Evidently the translators were at a loss how to translate the word, but concluded they knew all about where the evil angels must be, according to "orthodoxy," and so they made bold to put them into hell, though it took six words to twist the idea into the shape they had predetermined it must take.
The word tartaroo, used by Peter, very closely resembles tartarus, a word used in Grecian mythology as the name for a dark abyss or prison. But the word tartaroo [R1016 : page 7] seems to refer more to an act, than to a place. The fall of the angels which sinned was from honor and dignity, into condemnation and dishonor. Hence we prefer to translate the sentence thus: "God spared not the angels who sinned but degraded them and delivered them into chains of darkness."--2 Pet. 2:4.
This certainly agrees with the facts known to us through the Scriptures; for these fallen spirits frequented the earth in the days of our Lord and the apostles at least. Hence they were not down in some place, but down in the sense of being degraded from former honor and liberty, and restrained under darkness, as by a chain. Whenever these fallen spirits, in spiritualistic seances, manifest their powers through Mediums, pretending to be dead human beings whom they simulate, they must always do their work in the dark, because darkness is the chain by which they are bound UNTIL the great Millennial day of judgment. Whether this implies that in the immediate future they shall be able to materialize, etc., in daylight, is difficult to determine. If so, it would greatly increase Satan's power to blind and deceive for a short season--until the Sun of Righteousness has fully risen.
Thus we close our investigation of the Bible's 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 were condemned through Adam's sin, and from which all are redeemed by our Lord's death; and that hell is the tomb--the death condition. And we find another hell [gehenna--the second death--utter 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.