There are two words in the New Testament which have been translated into the English word hell. The first is Hades which is the temporary abode of the dead and the same as Sheol in the Old Testament. The second is the word Gehenna which was used by Jesus Christ to warn people about the dangers of hell. I believe Gehenna is the final or eternal hell.

In the twelfth chapter of the book of Luke, Jesus was speaking to a multitude and said, “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell (Gehenna); yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” Luke 12:4-5. This is the beginning of wisdom, when a person starts to fear God. That person has started on the path to eternal life. In another part of the Gospels Jesus spoke stronger words to warn people about the final hell. “And 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 hell (Gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not 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 hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 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 hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:43-48. Jesus was speaking in symbolic language. Anyone who actually cuts off his hand or plucks out his eye is mentally sick. I heard about one such person and he was mentally and spiritually confused. A parallel scripture to Jesus’ description of hell is given in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah. “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” Isaiah 66: 23-24.

According to the Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Gehenna in the New Testament was an actual place southwest of Jerusalem which was called the valley of Hinnom in the Old Testament. Within the valley of Hinnom was a place called Tophet. The prophet Jeremiah pronounced a curse upon it because the Israelites were killing their babies in that place and worshipping Baal and Moloch. “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter.” Jeremiah 19:6. At the time of Jesus, that valley had become a despised cursed place where fires were always burning for the disposal of rubbish. I believe Gehenna symbolically refers to the final hell in the New Testament and Tophet symbolically refers to the final hell in a prophecy in the book of Isaiah. “For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.” Isaiah 30:33.

I believe there are more descriptions of the final hell in the Old Testament. “Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” Psalm 88:12. Apparently, the living will forget about the people in the final hell. Also, Hannah prophesied and said, “He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.” I Samuel 2:9. In the New Testament, the prophet Jude wrote this about wicked people: “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” Jude 1:13.

Some people say they would rather go to hell than to heaven because their friends will be in hell. They do not know what they are saying. From the scriptures given, the truth about the final hell is that there will be total darkness and total silence. The people sentenced to go there will fall down and become limp carcasses. The final hell would be the final death, the end of everything for them. It may be that their spirits will be consumed by fire, and all that will remain will be dead bodies and dead souls lying in eternal ruin. Is it any wonder Jesus said to do whatever it takes to avoid being sentenced to that horrible place called Gehenna?

Choose life, if you have not done so already. Only in Jesus Christ is there eternal life. We Christians have confessed to God that we are sinners and have asked Jesus Christ to come into us by the Holy Spirit. We have given up our lives to have his life within us. As the apostle Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. Also, we have this promise from the Lord, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” John 5:24.