Pollock on Gehenna
I have taken a month’s break from blogging due to a home renovation project and a heavy workload. For the time being my schedule has eased up so I am back to blogging for at least a little while.
In this post I am going to continue quoting from A. J. Pollock’s defense of the traditional doctrine of eternal conscious torment (see HADES and Eternal Punishment ). I will not comment extensively on this section because I do believe that Gehenna is a real place so there isn’t a lot for me to add on that count.
There is one thing that I have finally figured out that I probably should clarify to my remaining audience. Many times in this series I have stated that I believe Sheol/Hades is a real place and I don’t understand why Pollock was so determined to make it a “condition.” To me it didn’t appear to advance his argument. The light has finally come on for me and I understand what he is doing. He makes Sheol/Hades a condition but Gehenna/the Lake of Fire is real. By doing this he can make any unbeliever simultaneously in the condition of Hades while physically located in Gehenna.
Just to be clear I believe the following:
The Greek Hades and the Hebrew Sheol speak of the same physical place. Both believers and unbelievers were located in Sheol prior to Christ’s resurrection in different compartments. Unbelievers are still located there while believers have been relocated to Heaven.
Gehenna and the Lake of Fire speak of the same physical place. This is where unbelievers will be cast after the Great White Throne Judgment.
There are a couple of paragraphs at the end of Pollock’s discussion of Gehenna that I am going to make into separate posts. But, for the most part, here is A.J. Pollock’s discussion of Gehenna:
The Truth as to “GEHENNA”
But now we must go a step further. A new word is introduced in the New Testament, a word not known in the Old Testament. It is introduced by the Lord Himself, a word of terrible import. It is the word gehenna.
Gehenna is translated ‘hell’ nine times and ‘hell fire’ three times. It is rightly translated hell, as we understand the word. It is never translated grave.
Both hades and gehenna are translated hell. To contrast the usage of the two words will help the enquirer as to the meaning of both.
Hades is a condition. This we have already clearly seen, and therefore there is no need to repeat the evidence.
Gehenna is a place. “Whole body… CAST INTO hell [gehenna]” (Matt. 5:29). “Two eyes… cast INTO hell fire [gehenna]” (Matt. 18:9). It is never said that the body is cast into hades.
- Hades is temporary. “Death and hell [hades] were cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14). This will be fully explained later.
- Gehenna is eternal. “Two hands to go into hell [gehenna], into the fire that never shall be quenched” (Mark 9:43). Hades affects only the soul as we have seen. Gehenna affects both body and soul. “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]” (Matt. 10:28).
- Hades is like the condition of the prisoner awaiting the assizes.
- Gehenna is like the prison into which he is cast on judgment being passed.
Just as the grave is a locality for the dead body, so gehenna is the locality for the lost – body and soul.
Gehenna was the valley of Hinnom, literally ‘the valley of the groans of the children’. It was a deep, narrow gorge on the east side of Jerusalem. We read of King Ahaz:-
“Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen” (2 Chron. 28:3).
It is written of King Manasseh that:-
“He caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom” (2 Chron. 33:6).
But Manasseh’s godly grandson, King Josiah:-
“Defiled Topheth 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 Molech” (2 Ki. 23:10).
A writer says, “It was not till within less than thirty years of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, that the idol – the hideous ox-headed human figure of Moloch – and its accessories were swept away from the valley by the good Josiah and the place so defiled that it could never again be desecrated by the frightful worship. But so deeply had the horrors of the past printed themselves on the popular mind that henceforth the spot bore the name of Tophet – the abomination – the place to be spat upon; and in later times the very words Gehinnom – the Valley of Hinnom – slightly changed into gehenna became the common name for hell.”
After King Josiah had defiled the place it became the open sewer of the city. Fires were kept continually burning to consume the filth and impurity of the place. Worms fed on garbage out of reach of the fire. Vultures gloated in crowds over the horrid scene. Stenchful smoke rose continually from the valley.
Well might our Lord use it as an emblem of hell and stamp the usage of the word with the hallmark of His authority. But let it be carefully noted that the Lord, in speaking of gehenna, never referred to the place outside Jerusalem but used it to designate that place of eternal torment which is prepared for the devil and his angels and to which the impenitent will be consigned.
It is not a little remarkable that every time hell [gehenna] is spoken of, save once (see James 3:6), it is from the lips of the Son of God Himself. If it had been otherwise the critics would have cried out, “Paul spoke of gehenna, Peter spoke of gehenna, but Christ never did.”
All the same, what Paul and Peter and John wrote is of equal authority with what the Lord said – the source is the same, divine inspiration. It is not a question of degree but method. There is no difference save in method between what a person speaks and what he writes.
There is, then, no difference in authority between what Christ spoke and what HE wrote by Paul, or Peter, or John, but such a miserable quibble is shut out by the fact that hell (gehenna) is always (save once) spoken of by the Lord Himself.
There is no question as to the existence of hell to the one who bows to Scripture. To refuse to believe in its existence is to refuse to believe in the word of Christian truth, in Christ Himself. No person can rightly claim to be a Christian, and disbelieve in the existence of hell. Can anyone be a Christian who refuses to believe the most solemn and oft-repeated asseverations as to hell which fell in warning pity from His gracious lips? Let us clear our minds of cant. We believe in hell or we do not. We believe Christ’s word or we do not.
If only the belief in the existence of hell were to establish itself more firmly and absolutely in our minds, it would evidence itself in a deeper sense of sin, a truer appreciation of the atonement of Christ, in a more intense desire to spread the blessed gospel of God’s grace on the part of every true Christian. The weakening of these truths in our souls will loosen God’s hold upon us and sap our energy in seeking the blessing of others. Even heathen consciences admit there must be a hell. The Apostle Peter makes use of this when he says, “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarus)” (2 Pet. 2:4). Tartarus was the pagan Roman’s conception of hell. According to heathen mythology Tartarus was a gulf of gloom, its gates of rock guarded by Furies whose every hair was a serpent.
Robert Browning wrote:
“There may be heaven, there must be hell”
We have all heard people speak of heavens and hells on this earth. We have come across men where the fire of remorse and the worm of accusing conscience have made their guilty breasts a veritable hell. Break the laws of nature and suffering is the inevitable result. Sometimes an awful life of suffering is the result of a moment’s gratification of sin in this life. Tears of blood have unavailed to stay the consequences of breaking the governmental laws of God.
And shall the punishment of sin be only in this life? Shall there be no reaping on the other side of death when men in their sins, spurning the mercy of God, die red-handed in rebellion? God in pity and kindness warns us in terrible language that there must be. He says:-
“Fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [gehenna]” (Matt. 10:28).
One well-known minister foolishly wrote, “What settles the matter in the end for each one of us is our temperamental bias.”
We reply that such unutterable twaddle would be unthinkable in any ordinary court of law. Shall “the temperamental bias” of the thief and the murderer decide the punishment he should receive, or will all right-minded men look for the judge to pass righteous judgment? What sickly sentimentality is indulged in this matter, where above all, the creature, whatever his “temperamental bias,” must bow to the decrees of the Creator. What settles the matter in the end for each one of us is not our “temperamental bias,” but the Word of God, whether we like it or not.
There is still another expression used as to hell – “the lake of fire” – which we must consider. It occurs five times in the latter part of the Book of Revelation. Most evidently it is the same place as gehenna. The proof of this lies in the fact that whilst the Lord speaks of the danger of being cast into gehenna, and clearly states such a doom will affect both soul and body, the Apostle John in vision presents the lake of fire as that into which souls and bodies of unbelievers will be consigned in their final doom. They cannot possibly be two different places.
We read in Rev. 20:14:-
“And death and hell [hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
Seeing all the “blessed” dead will have experienced the bliss of “the resurrection of life” before the millennium at the Lord’s second coming (see Rev. 20:5-6), “the dead small and great” who “stand before God” must be the wicked dead who will experience “the resurrection of damnation” [judgment] (John 5:29). So the verse might be explained for simplicity’s sake as follows – and death (the condition of the bodies of the dead as being apart from their souls), and hades (the condition of the souls of the dead as being apart from their bodies) were in the persons of the resurrected wicked dead cast into the lake of fire, that is to say, the dead, whose bodies had filled the grave etc., were raised and their souls, which had been in the condition of hades, were reunited to their bodies, as part of the process. As resurrected individuals, bodies and souls reunited, they represented what had been death and hades, and as such, sinners, who had died unrepentant, were cast into the lake of fire, which clearly answers to gehenna. When this takes place, not only will there not be any bodies in the condition of death, nor any souls in the condition of hades – but “death and hades” will thus have been “cast into the lake of fire.” Hence the conditions themselves having come in by sin are ended by an act expressive of God’s judgment of them. And note, this event will take place after the earth and heaven shall have fled away, after time, as such, has ceased to be. The scene is laid IN ETERNITY, in view of the new heaven and the new earth.
HADES and Eternal Punishment
A J Pollock
[Click on this link to see the next installment in this series: Pollock on Revelation 21:8]