Geenna is Figurative
I was coming from South Carolina, but I had grown up in an area that had snowstorms, if not yearly, then every other year. But this was only October and there must have been at least a foot of snow on the ground. I asked, “Did you guys have an early blizzard?” He replied, “No, the snow comes an inch at a time.”
As we drove out to the base from Fairbanks, there was a moose walking along the side of the road, just as casual as you please. I had lived in other states with a deer population, but they avoided the areas with people. When a deer wandered onto a road or into the suburbs as soon as it realized where it was it would panic and run. But this moose was comfortable with road traffic.
Continuing toward the base, we passed a village appropriately named North Pole. I could not see it from the road, but a large sign promised me Santa was home and waiting for my visit. Then, as we reached the front gate, only feet from the guards, a small herd of caribou. Guessing four can be called a herd. These animals had no fear of man.
I looked at pictures of moose, caribou, and bears before I shipped out, but it was nothing like seeing them in person. I asked the driver if it was normal to see so many animals and he laughed and called me a cheechako. I asked him to explain but he told me to talk to him after I went to the Yukon River. I did not understand, but I was definitely not in South Carolina anymore.
As I signed in at headquarters, I received my barracks assignment and a map showing me the layout of the base. I also received my mukluks, good to keep my feet warm at fifteen below zero, and my military parka. In a slide show I saw pictures of what frostbite does to skin and tissue and how alcohol and artic cold equal frostbite. I heard about avoiding wildlife as they were all very dangerous, especially a bull moose as their rut was ending. This taught me the moose along the road was a cow. I even heard about clouds of mosquitos which will come in the Spring and are deadly. The conclusion of my orientation at headquarters could be summed up in, Alaska has a multitude of ways to hurt you or kill you. But much of what I had seen and heard was almost in a different language. What is a cheechako, why the Yukon River? If the animals were dangerous why were the guards so casual with caribou right by them? I was confused.
Then, after getting my room squared away, one of the other guys living in the barracks came into my room and asked me to go with him. Outside he introduced me to the most amazing thing I had ever seen in my life. It was the aurora borealis, the northern lights, something orientation skipped, and I had not noticed when I looked up Alaska in the library.
A spectacular light show that is designed, choreographed, and performed by nature. Dazzling colors of reds and browns, crisp and sharp in their movements as they exploded with power across the face of the sky. As quickly as it started it appeared to be over, but the guy who took me outside put his hand on my arm and said, “Wait.”
Then, slowly climbing up over a nearby hill yellows and greens begin to rise into the sky. Like a slow dance in complete harmony as the colors weaved in and out with one another. Wrapping around, switching who had the lead intertwined, then coming apart and filling the entire sky. As the lights surrounded me, I did not know where to look, the lights were doing something in all directions. Then, before my eyes the yellows begin to surround the greens until finally, they envelop the greens and the whole sky was now yellow. Freely swirling, spinning, and sliding, until there was only a thin band along the tops of the hills.
Why are we reading about Alaska?
Alaska is the most majestic and awe-inspiring land I have ever seen. It is also a land that many will never see because it scares people. It scares people because they do not understand what they are seeing or hearing. People hear of the beauty and are amazed with the pictures, but it seems wild and untamed, and with vague explanations it appears as only a dangerous and frozen land.
So too, the Bible is filled with peaceful and healing writings, hopeful and profound prophecies, victorious and triumphant promises, but when these things are not understood or handled inaccurately, people become afraid of God and of God’s Word.
The things we have been considering in these last few teachings hell, and eternal punishment, leaves people with fear, confusion, and even some anger. The theological perspective leaves people with fear of going to hell, confusion about how to avoid hell, and anger with God because He seems quick to condemn. How does a God who is Love punish people for all of eternity because they believed a lie? In the theological doctrine pertaining to hell there is no answer to that question. To the average person the God of Love is lost in God the eternal punisher with pain and torment.
Like the Alaska many will never experience, the promise of eternal salvation from God is missed through misleading and inaccurate teachings.
We saw when we looked at tartaroo/tartaros that hell was a bad translation. It should have been translated abyss. Further, we saw that the abyss was a place to confine devil spirits and that at no time are people in the abyss (Hell’s Eternal Torment?). It was intentionally translated hell to promote a false doctrine. Then we looked at the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek word hades and we learned about the realm of the grave and the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We saw the complete and total corruption of God’s doctrine pertaining to the grave and how this corruption, concerning hell, hid and negated God’s doctrine concerning the return of His son. (Hades is the Devil) Again, hades was translated hell to promote a false and devilish theological doctrine.
So far, we have been unable to substantiate the Christian theological doctrine pertaining to hell within the pages of the Bible. However, we have seen one aspect of the corrupt theological doctrine of hell have a near miss with Truth. In that God rejecters, and Christ rejecters, those who refused to believe God, do receive an eternal punishment. But not of pain and torment, rather it is a banishment from the presence of God and the glory of His power.
2 Thessalonians 1:9
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
These people did not want God in their lives during the second heaven and earth, therefore, He will not be in their lives in the third heaven and earth. For they will not be alive during the third heaven and earth.
Let’s refresh our minds with what God lays out, in His Word, as the three heavens and three earths. In Genesis chapter one, verse one we have the first heaven and earth. It was destroyed by the Adversary before Genesis 1:2. Then in Genesis 1:3 God reorders the heaven and earth for the start of the second heaven and earth. When Adam gives the authority of the second heaven and earth to the Adversary in Genesis chapter three, unrighteousness entered the second heaven and earth. The earth we live on unto this day. Then there is a day coming when God will remove the second heaven and earth and all works of unrighteousness as we will see in Second Peter chapter three. Then God will make a third heaven and a third earth for those who have trusted in Him and received His righteousness through His grace.
Christian theology has one last angle upon which they like to push eternal pain and torment and that is the Greek word geenna, sometimes spelt gehenna.
What is geenna?
Blue Letter Bible: Hell is the place of the future punishment called “Gehenna” or “Gehenna of fire”. This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.
Bible Hub: Gehenna, a valley West, and South of Jerusalem, also a symbolic name for the final place of punishment of the ungodly.
Helps Word-studies: géenna (a transliteration of the Hebrew term, Gêhinnōm, "the valley of Hinnom") – Gehenna, hell (also referred to as the "lake of fire" in Revelation). Gehenna ("hell"), the place of post-resurrection torment (judgment), refers strictly to the everlasting abode of the unredeemed where they experience divine judgment in their individual resurrection-bodies. Each of the unredeemed receives one at the Great White Throne Judgment, a body that "matches" their capacity for torment relating to their (unique) judgment.
Strong’s Definition: geenna, of Hebrew origin; valley of (the son of) Hinnom; ge-henna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerusalem, used (figuratively) as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment-hell.
In all that these definitions say we have a couple accurate statements. The Greek word geenna does come from the Hebrew word Gehenna Valley of Hinnom. Helps Word-studies was right when they said it refers to the lake of fire. But then they went with mythology when they added in the pain and torment. Strong’s was accurate when they said geenna was used figuratively.
We use or hear figurative language all the time. A person receives some unexpected and maybe hard news and their comment about the news is, “that news hit me like a ton of bricks.” That is figurative language that expresses the impact of the news received. It shows by example the news was overwhelming. A person is called to the dinner table and responds with, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” It is a phrase that magnifies and exemplifies the person’s hunger.
When we make figurative things literal, we have private interpretation or false doctrine of God’s Word. What if that unexpected news really hit like a ton of bricks? That person would be dead! What if that hungry person really was served a whole horse to eat?
Geenna should never have been translated hell. Just like tartaroo and hades the word hell is not a biblical translation, it is not a word that God has spoken.
2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
“Given by inspiration of God” is the compound Greek word theopneustos. Theo means God and pneustos means to breath, together we have God breathed. When we speak, we breathe. This is the figure of speech anthropopatheia giving God human characteristics.
God never spoke the word hell!
Hell is an invention of theologians, beginning in the second century and continuing into the twenty-first century, who are infatuated with pagan mythologies and with controlling people, “Obey me and live – disobey me and go to hell!”
Geenna is a literal burn pit outside of Jerusalem. The carcasses of sacrificed animals were thrown into the fire that burned there and trash also was thrown into that fire. What happened to the carcass of a dead animal thrown into that fire? It burned until there was nothing left. The same is true with the trash. Individual pieces of trash likewise were burned until nothing was left, utterly destroyed.
So, how should geenna be defined? I would define geenna as destruction, to destroy, to eliminate.
Geenna is used twelve times in the New Testament and all twelve are used figuratively. In each occurrence geenna refers to the lake of fire spoken of in the Book of Revelation.
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
The figure of speech amplificatio hyperbole is used to emphasize geenna and complete destruction. This figure of speech is also known as the figure of exaggeration. Jesus was not recommending self-surgery. He was saying eliminate that which causes you to stumble rather than stumble your way into the lake of fire.
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Again, we have the figure of speech amplificatio hyperbole to emphasize geenna and complete destruction. The same figure of speech can be seen in Matthew 18:9, and Mark 9:43,45,47.
All twelve verses where geenna is used have at least one figure of speech and some have multiple figures of speech. One verse has four different figures of speech. However, geenna is used figuratively in each occurrence as it refers literally to the lake of fire.
The lake of fire is used four times in God’s Word.
And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
And death and hell [hades = realm of the grave] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
All these things are unrighteous. Unrighteousness will not be in the presence of God in the third heaven and earth.
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Let’s go back to our figurative example of the lake of fire.
What happened in the geenna?
In the first century this valley was used as a fire pit for the carcasses of dead animals used in sacrifices and burning trash. Although the fire burned continually, individual items did not burn continually. An individual item, like a goat offered in sacrifice, would burn until it was consumed by the fire. Further, there was no pain nor torment associated with the burning because the carcass of the animal was already dead. The same is true when you consider that trash was consumed by the fire. Ultimately, the fire pit itself was extinguished when Titus, acting for Rome, conquered Jerusalem and killed or enslaved every Judean he could find.
So too is the lake of fire. The judgment fire of God would consume every item that was cast into the lake of fire for the fire of God consumes unrighteousness.
For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
Read the context of Deuteronomy chapter four and see why God is a consuming fire. Refusal to obey His Word and idolatry, the worship of false gods. Some worshipped the Beast, others worshipped power and money. Some worshipped themselves or another false god. All cast into the lake of fire refused to worship the One True God.
Then, as the fires of geenna were extinguished when Titus killed and enslaved Judea and Jerusalem, the lake of fire will come to an end when the second heaven and earth is destroyed.
2 Peter 3:10
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
All the things in the lake of fire and the lake of fire are all part of the second heaven and earth. Like geenna, the figurative, the literal, the lake of fire, shall be destroyed.
What have we learned as we have looked at hell?
We learned that from Jerome and Augustine the Roman Catholic Church copied their concept of hell from pagan mythologies, deliberately ignoring the words of God. Further, we learned that the Reformation failed those who believed God by agreeing with the false doctrine of hell. Since this false, pagan, and devilish doctrine is still taught today we can see that modern theology honors and obeys tradition, even corrupt traditions, over the integrity of God’s magnificent Word.
We need to proclaim God’s true doctrine of our returning Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who now holds the keys, the authority over the realm of the grave. He is coming to gather his Body, those who have believed in the Administration of Grace and to resurrect his Bride. So that we all can live eternally in the presence of our Heavenly Father and witness the glory of His power.
Lift up your eyes to the sky, then look to the earth beneath;
For the sky will vanish like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment
And its inhabitants will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever,
And My righteousness will not wane.
New American Standard Bible
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