An essay donated by Mahlon Wickey
If there is one subject more than any other subject in the Bible that has captured the attention of many “unsuspecting” church-going people it is the subject of “hell” and “hell-fire”. People by the millions in our Church world love to read their Bibles, and they all read and believe what Jesus Christ said about hell and hell-fire. According to most English Bibles it is very true that Jesus Christ did indeed talk about hell and hell-fire, and He also used the terms, “everlasting punishment” and “everlasting fire”. But the question is, did Jesus Christ talk about the kind of “punishment” and the kind of “hell-fire” that is taught and believed by millions of people in today’s Church world? That is the question that will be addressed in this article.
It is these same millions of people that seem to never give it a thought that there might be mistranslations or mistakes with the translated words found in their Bibles. It is believed that the translated words in our English Bibles are supposedly very accurate since they are taken from the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. But translated words of various languages (namely English) cannot truly and accurately convey the meanings of the words written in Hebrew and Greek. But the meanings of the words found in the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts are the ORIGINAL words of scripture, therefore the meanings are accurate enough to any intelligent mind to know what God intended these words to mean. But some honest study is required to know what these original meanings are by using Strong’s Concordance and other Bible helps which are easily available in today’s world. Some translations are fairly accurate in matching the original meaning of words and these translations use the word “Gehenna” instead of the English word “hell”. I will display these translations later.
Many pastors preach to their congregations that the English words found in our Bibles are the true inspired words of God, and these pastors proudly proclaim that God has indeed “preserved His word”, and then it is assumed the way God preserved His word was by having it translated into our English Bibles (namely the KJV). Many TV evangelists are trained in speaking to get the attention of millions of TV viewers with their clever way of quoting scripture, supposedly proving that the “hell-fire” taught by Jesus Christ is endless torment in unquenchable fire that is waiting for all unbelievers. This teaching on hell-fire is of course designed to promote the fear of God as a warning from a wrathful God that is speaking through these pastors and evangelists. Some of these “men of God” with their skillful speaking generally have a secret motive and desire to (con)vince millions of people to give millions of their dollars to support the lavish and rich lifestyles of these skilled con-artists. The tragedy is that Christians seem to never scripturally question these “men of God”, and somehow it is believed these men DESERVE their fancy homes, expensive cars, and luxurious lifestyles. It is a shame and a disgrace that many Church-going people believe in a merciful God who IS LOVE (1John 4:8), but also believe that same merciful God will cast billions of unsaved souls into hell-fire to suffer endless torment for all eternity. If we are honest that is basically what is generally believed and taught about hell and hell-fire in our so-called Christian environment. I must however point out that in recent years we seldom ever hear the kind of “hell-fire and brimstone” sermons as we did in the past. Could it be that many people today are “waking up” to certain spiritual truths?
So when Jesus Christ talked about hell and hell-fire what did He mean, and what are the original intended meanings that these English words were supposedly translated from? Remember Christ himself stated that His words are spirit and they are life (John 6:63). Therefore the words of Christ MUST be discerned spiritually (1Cor 2:14); they CANNOT be discerned in the normal and natural way by our human way of thinking. The point is, the understanding of Christ’s words must be revealed by the Holy Spirit of God, and we CAN know the spiritual understanding but honest sincere effort in the study of God’s original words must be done on our part. The principle is that we MUST have an honest desire in simply wanting to know truth, and then God will reveal spiritual concepts as we are able to properly discern them. God knows our hearts better than we do, and if we cannot “handle the truth” (as Jack Nicholson would say) then God will NOT give us the truth.
Just a little bit of study is required to check the meanings of “hell” and “hell-fire” in Strong’s Concordance to know that Jesus Christ did NOT talk about the kind of “hell” so-called Christianity has believed and taught for centuries. The fact is, Jesus Christ did indeed talk a lot about hell but there were two kinds of “hell” that He talked about; therefore these two kinds of “hell” of course have two different meanings. It therefore becomes the duty of honest truth-seekers to check out these meanings, and BELIEVE them. Then they should be honest witnesses for these inspired meanings in spite of what they might have taught and believed all their lives about hell and hell-fire. As you probably noticed I make a distinction and separate the word “hell” and the words “hell-fire” simply because these two kinds of hell are taken from the two Greek words “Hades” and “Gehenna”, making a major difference in the meanings of hell and hell-fire. The English word “hell” translated in the KJ Bible has its root meaning to “cover” or to “conceal”, and is found twenty three times in the New Testament. Eleven times the word hell was taken from the word “Hades”, and twelve times it was taken from the word “Gehenna”. Most believers are aware that Hades simply means the unseen state of the dead. “Unseen” is NOT in the sense of physical eyesight; it is rather in the sense of “imperceptible”. In other words, Hades it is NOT “perceived” by our human senses. The Easton dictionary defines Hades as follows"
"That which is out of sight, a Greek word used to denote the state or place of the dead. All the dead alike go into this place. To be buried, to go down to the grave, to descend into Hades, are equivalent expressions."
The Hades/hell of the New Testament is what happens to EVERYONE that dies; NOT just the unbelieving wicked as taught by most Churches. This meaning of Hades says NOTHING of torment or punishment, and most important, it says NOTHING about any kind of “fire”. As many believers know, even Jesus Christ went to Hades/hell when He died. The difference of course is that Christ was resurrected and therefore His soul did NOT stay in Hades/hell (Acts 2:31), which means that ALL souls will stay in Hades/hell until they are resurrected. But the meaning of that unseen and imperceptible state is open for speculation whether souls are in a conscious state of mind or not, but most church-goers are told it means an unseen state of eternal torment for the billions of unsaved souls.
Christians that have NO interest to study the original inspired words of God generally are NOT aware of the two different “hells” that Jesus Christ talked about, and therefore in their minds they are convinced that in ALL examples of “hell” Jesus Christ meant ONLY one thing, and that is torment with unquenchable fire for all eternity for all unsaved souls. Christ did however talk about a certain hell-fire that puts the fear of God in unsuspecting Christians, which is the kind of hell-fire taken from the original meaning that simply means “the Gehenna of fire”. This Gehenna fire is the Greek word (G1067) which means the valley of the son of Hinnom where the most evil practice of children sacrificed by fire was done to the false god Moleck. At the time of Christ this was the same valley in Jerusalem where worms did not “die” and were continually feeding on dead rotten flesh, and the fires were continually burning filth and garbage and were never quenched. Vincent’s Word Studies says this about Gehenna hell-fire:
"Mat 5:22 Hell-fire More accurately, the hell of fire. The word Gehenna, rendered hell, occurs outside of the Gospels only at James 3:6. It is the Greek representative of the Hebrew Ge-Hinnom, or Valley of Hinnom, a deep, narrow glen to the south of Jerusalem, where, after the introduction of the worship of the fire-gods by Ahaz, the idolatrous Jews sacrificed their children to Molech. Josiah formally desecrated it, 'that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire to Molech' (2 Kings 23:10). After this it became the common refuse-place of the city, into which the bodies of criminals, carcasses of animals, and all sorts of filth were cast. From its depth and narrowness, and its fire and ascending smoke, it became the symbol of the place of the future punishment of the wicked. As fire was the characteristic of the place, it was called the Gehenna of fire. It should be carefully distinguished from Hades, which is never used for the place of punishment, but for the place of departed spirits, without reference to their moral condition."
It is indeed very strange that ALL the epistles in the New Testament (except James) did NOT talk about Gehenna. We will look at the example of Gehenna fire found in James 3:6 later. As we all know, the apostle Paul wrote more letters than any other apostle (fourteen letters) but he NEVER wrote about “Gehenna”. If Gehenna fire was such a serious warning for all believers then why didn’t Paul write and WARN about it? Could it be that most of the people that Paul was commissioned to preach the gospel (Gentiles) were generally NOT familiar with the valley of Gehenna near Jerusalem? Could it be that many Gentiles at that time NEVER saw or heard about the “hell-fire” in Jerusalem that Christ talked about, and therefore could it be that Gehenna was NOTHING more than a physical location?
But Paul did write about “Hades” but only ONCE in 1Cor 15:55:
1 Corinthians 15:54-55 KJV "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (55) O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
Paul asked the question, “O grave (G86 Hades), where is thy victory?” implying that the grave was NOT the victory. But The King James translators believed in the kind of Hades/hell that DID have a certain victory. They knew that “grave” would better suit their belief so they translated accordingly as to put their emphasis on the “grave” instead of the Hades/hell that DID NOT have a victory over death and the grave. But the problem is, in all other examples in the New Testament where Hades is found they always translated Hades as “hell”. But it is very strange indeed that they were NOT consistent and made an exception with 1Cor 15:55 and thought it best to use “grave”. They believed Hades/hell DID have a certain victory in claiming departed souls from receiving salvation. But the ONLY victory is the victory over death and the grave (Hades) and this victory is found ONLY through the Lord Jesus Christ, as explained in 1Cor 15:57. Paul quoted from Hosea 13:14 and Isaiah 25:8. Read these scriptures very carefully because they explain exactly what Paul meant in 1Cor 15:54-55:
Hosea 13:14 KJV: "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes."
Isaiah 25:8 KJV "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. "
These Old Testament scriptures explain that God himself will be the destruction of death and the power of the grave (H7585), which is equivalent to the Hades of the New Testament. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word was “sheol” and it was simply translated as “grave” many times, but also translated as “hell” many times; which means the translators were ALSO not consistent with their English wording in the Old Testament.
God himself will swallow up death in victory, which simply means that death and Hades/hell will be NO MORE. This “victory” is also described in Revelation 20:14 when death and hell (Hades) will be cast into the lake of fire. This is also the time when God will wipe away all tears from off ALL faces as we read in Isaiah 25:8; and the corresponding scripture explained this also in Rev 21:4:
Revelation 21:4 KJV "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
Notice “there shall be no more death”, which simply means that death will be swallowed up in victory, which was the premise of Paul’s statement in 1Cor 15:54 when mortality and corruption will put on immortality and incorruption. But please understand, this Hades/hell/grave/ has nothing to do with the Gehenna/hell-fire that Jesus Christ talked about.
Jesus Christ many times used figurative language and parables simply because the understanding of the subject discussed by Christ was NOT given for the masses of the general public. In the case where Christ talked about Gehenna it was instructions ONLY meant for His disciples, and He ONLY spoke of Gehenna from the viewpoint and perspective of the disciples, and NOT from our modern-day viewpoint of “hell-fire” that is preached today in most Churches. Christ’s disciples were very familiar with a valley in Jerusalem where all manner of filth, garbage, and rotten flesh was cast. They certainly were NOT familiar with the “hell-fire” that is taught and believed by millions of Christians in today’s Churches. Let us analyze the meaning of the figurative language that Christ used when He instructed His disciples about a certain valley in Jerusalem which they knew as the place and location called the valley of Gehenna, and they saw the physical fires that were continually burning.
I want to now display several translations of Matthew 5:29-30 showing the words of Jesus Christ when he talked to His disciples about this burning valley in Jerusalem known as Gehenna. Then the corresponding scriptures will also be displayed in Mark 9:43-50, which as you will notice, the foot was added to the hand and eye, and the “undying” worm and unquenchable fire was also added.
Matthew 5:29-30 (Rotherham) (29) "And, if, thy right eye, is causing thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee,—for it profiteth thee, that, one of thy members, should perish, and not, thy whole body, be cast into gehenna. (30) And, if, thy right hand, is causing thee to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from thee,—for it profiteth thee, that, one of thy members, should perish, and not, thy whole body, into gehenna, depart."
Matthew 5:29-30 (1912 Weymouth New Testament) "If therefore your eye, even the right eye, is a snare to you, tear it out and away with it; it is better for you that one member should be destroyed rather than that your whole body should be thrown into Gehenna. (30) And if your right hand is a snare to you, cut it off and away with it; it is better for you that one member should be destroyed rather than that your whole body should go into Gehenna."
Matthew 5:29-30 (Young’s Literal Translation) "But, if thy right eye doth cause thee to stumble, pluck it out and cast from thee, for it is good to thee that one of thy members may perish, and not thy whole body be cast to gehenna. (30)`And, if thy right hand doth cause thee to stumble, cut it off, and cast from thee, for it is good to thee that one of thy members may perish, and not thy whole body be cast to gehenna."
Mark 9:43-50 (Rotherham) "And, if thy hand shall cause thee to stumble, cut it off,—it is, seemly, for thee, maimed, to enter into life, rather than having, the two hands, to depart into the gehenna, into the fire that is not quenched; (45) And, if thy foot be causing thee to stumble, cut it off,—it is, seemly, for thee, to enter into life, lame, rather than having, the two feet, to be cast into the gehenna; (47) And, if thine eye be causing thee to stumble, thrust it out,—it is, seemly, for thee, one-eye, to enter into the kingdom of God, rather than having, two eyes, to be cast into gehenna, (48) Where, their worm, dieth not, and, the fire, is not quenched, (49) For, everyone, with fire, shall be salted. (50) Salt is, good: but, if, salt, become, saltless, wherewith will ye, prepare, it? Have, within yourselves, salt, and be at peace, one with another."
Mark 9:43-50 (1912 Weymouth New Testament) "If your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off: it would be better for you to enter into Life maimed, than remain in possession of both your hands and go away into Gehenna, into the fire which cannot be put out. (44) OMITTED TEXT (45) Or if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off: it would be better for you to enter into Life crippled, than remain in possession of both your feet and be thrown into Gehenna. (46) OMITTED TEXT (47) Or if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out. It would be better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God half-blind than remain in possession of two eyes and be thrown into Gehenna, (48) where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE AND THE FIRE DOES NOT GO OUT. (49) Every one, however, will be salted with fire. (50) Salt is a good thing, but if the salt should become tasteless, what will you use to give it saltness? Have salt within you and live at peace with one another."
Mark 9:43-50 (Young's Literal Translation) "And if thy hand may cause thee to stumble, cut it off; it is better for thee maimed to enter into the life, than having the two hands, to go away to the gehenna, to the fire--the unquenchable-- (44) where their worm is not dying, and the fire is not being quenched. (45)`And if thy foot may cause thee to stumble, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into the life lame, than having the two feet to be cast to the gehenna, to the fire--the unquenchable- (46) where their worm is not dying, and the fire is not being quenched. (47) And if thine eye may cause thee to stumble, cast it out; it is better for thee one-eyed to enter into the reign of God, than having two eyes, to be cast to the gehenna of the fire-- (48) where their worm is not dying, and the fire is not being quenched; (49) for every one with fire shall be salted, and every sacrifice with salt shall be salted. (50) The salt is good, but if the salt may become saltless, in what will ye season it? Have in yourselves salt, and have peace in one another."
Most Bibles have translated Gehenna as “hell” or “hell-fire”, but as we all read, these displayed translations CORRECTLY explain that “hell-fire” was simply that burning garbage dump near Jerusalem called the valley of Gehenna. It was NOT the kind of hell-fire taught today by the modern Churches. There was absolutely NO reason whatsoever to translate Gehenna as “hell” and “hell-fire”, as the King James and other translations have carelessly done. It is very unfortunate that Gehenna was translated as “hell” and “hell-fire”, which is a major reason why the teaching of “hell” has been a major doctrine of the so-called Christian faith for centuries.
Christ used that burning garbage dump near Jerusalem called Gehenna simply as a SYMBOL picturing a very REAL truth about a certain “fire” that consumes and burns away the carnal desires about us in order to get God’s desired results. These carnal desires cause the hands, feet, and eyes to OFFEND us; causing us to sin. Offend (G4624) means entrap, stumble, and entice to sin. The hands, feet, and eyes are obviously the ACTIVE body parts in carrying out carnal thoughts of sin, and if these flesh members were NOT “cut off” (resisting wrongful carnal desires) then these flesh members along with the whole body would be cast into the “Gehenna of fire” to be consumed. As you noticed, Mark is worded different than Matthew in explaining the flesh body parts. In Matthew 5:29-30 I believe Christ used the “right” hand because the right hand (not the left) is favored to lead and be ACTIVE first. But what about the “right eye” that is also mentioned? Could this be the “evil eye” (single) spoken of in Matthew 6:23? If this be the case then this right “evil eye” is also favored along with the right hand to lead and start the physical motions of sin in the body.
As explained, it is better to be maimed with the loss of single body parts than the loss of both hands, both feet, and both eyes. In other words, it is better to RESIST sinful carnal desires which is the SAME as being “maimed” of the use of only one hand, one foot, and one eye than having the whole body cast into the Gehenna of fire, where the worm did NOT die and the fire was NOT quenched. These were REAL worms (maggots) feeding on dead rotten flesh cast into Gehenna, and these worms came from the larva of common flies and then just bred and recycled again, and in that sense they did not die, as Christ explained. Gehenna was also the place where these fires were not quenched, but these fires eventually burned themselves out when nothing was cast into that valley to feed those fires. No, they were never quenched but just go to Jerusalem sometime and see if these fires are still burning.
The Gehenna of fire symbolically pictured the “fiery” judgments of God applied for called-out believers NOW in this evil age, and also in future ages for the rest of mankind when they also will be judged by this Gehenna/hell-fire. In verse 49 Christ explained that the Gehenna of fire applied to EVERYONE when He stated that everyone (all mankind) will be “salted” with this Gehenna of fire (Did Jesus Christ leave anyone out?) I find it very interesting that the "Peoples New Testament" says this about being "salted with fire:"
"Fire is used in the Scripture to denote suffering, persecution, trial, distress of any kind. Salt is used to denote permanence, preservation from corruption. Every one, good and bad, must suffer."
I believe this description of “salted with fire” is RIGHT ON TARGET! Jesus Christ used the symbol of the common mineral of salt for a REASON, showing a very REAL truth! As we all know, the natural mineral properties of salt are to “season” and to “preserve”. EVERYONE (good and bad) must suffer trials and distress of ANY kind (suffer now or suffer later) when they are salted with the Gehenna fire judgment to be preserved from corruption (salvation). To have “salt” in ourselves is to be symbolically seasoned with “prudence” (G217) which means foreseeing and avoiding evil (Webster’s Dictionary), therefore having peace with one another (verse 50).
To be judged spiritually by Gehenna fire is NOT a pleasant experience. We suffer Gehenna fire NOW when we experience trials and distress of ANY kind, and also the mental struggle of “overcoming” the lustful works of the flesh (“cutting off” body parts). It is called the “school of hard knocks” in which the Father has to punish by chastisement (the KJV INCORRECTLY calls this “everlasting punishment”, as we shall see). The judgment of spiritual Gehenna fire will build and develop Godly CHARACTER in us, which is something WE must do (God does NOT do it for us), and character HAS TO BE LEARNED with time and patience and carefully guided by the Spirit of God. It can ONLY be learned and developed through sufferings, trials, and distress of any kind; which takes TIME with chastisement from a loving Heavenly Father, and at times this chastisement can be very grievous (Hebrews 12:11). This grievous chastisement is when it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). God is NOT mocked, and “He means business”, as we would say. He is the Master Potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8), and He molds and shapes us in the manner that He determines FOR OUR GOOD!
Most of mankind has NOT “cut off” their carnal desires of the hands, feet, and eyes and they will suffer “everlasting fire”, as explained in Matt 18:8. It is also called “everlasting punishment” in Matt 25:46. This punishment (G2851) means penal infliction, and was also translated as “torment”. Thayer’s also mentioned “correction”. But this punishment and torment is taken from (G2849) and means “to chastise”. Penal infliction means imposing an unpleasant punishment. The word “everlasting” (G166) is taken from G165 (aion) which properly means an AGE. Matt 18:8 and 25:46 are CORRECTLY translated in the 1912 Weymouth New Testament as follows:
Matthew 18:8 "If your hand or your foot is causing you to fall into sin, cut it off and away with it. It is better for you to enter into Life crippled in hand or foot than to remain in possession of two sound hands or feet but be thrown into the fire of the Ages."
Matthew 25:46… "And these shall go away into the Punishment of the Ages, but the righteous into the Life of the Ages.”
The Gehenna of fire symbolically pictured the “fire of the ages” (G166) when most of mankind will go through the “punishment of the ages” (G166) with the mental torment of penal infliction; the unpleasant punishment in correcting most of mankind. Eventually during the ages (G166) when everyone will be “salted” with Gehenna fire to judged, chastised, and corrected to learn the Godly character of the salt of “prudence” (G217) in foreseeing and avoiding evil, and everyone will then be preserved (salted) from corruption to be saved.
I want to now show several translations where Christ talked about certain judgments facing brothers that speak angry words to each other. The KJV uses “hell-fire” and will be compared to other CORRECT translations:
Matthew 5:21-22 KJV "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (22) But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire."
Matthew 5:21-22 (Rotherham) (21) "Ye have heard, that it was said, to them of olden time,—Thou shalt not commit murder, and, whosoever shall commit murder, shall be, liable, to judgment. (22) But, I, say unto you, that, every one who is angry with his brother, shall be, liable, to judgment,—and, whosoever shall say to his brother, Worthless one!, shall be, liable, to the high council; and, whosoever shall say, Rebel!, shall be, liable, unto the fiery gehenna."
Matthew 5:21-22 (1912 Weymouth New Testament) "You have heard that it was said to the ancients, 'THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT MURDER', and whoever commits murder will be answerable to the magistrate. (22) But I say to you that every one who becomes angry with his brother shall be answerable to the magistrate; that whoever says to his brother 'Raca,' shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin; and that whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the Gehenna of Fire."
Matthew 5:21-22 (Young's Literal Translation) "Ye heard that it was said to the ancients: Thou shalt not kill, and whoever may kill shall be in danger of the judgment; (22) but I--I say to you, that every one who is angry at his brother without cause, shall be in danger of the judgment, and whoever may say to his brother, Empty fellow! shall be in danger of the sanhedrim, and whoever may say, Rebel! shall be in danger of the gehenna of the fire."
Calling a brother “Raca” (G4469) is calling him empty and worthless, and calling a brother a “fool” (G3474) is calling him a dull, stupid, heedless blockhead. A major point is that there is very LITTLE difference (if any) in defining “Raca” and defining a “fool”. Please keep that fact in mind. It is interesting that in Matt 23:17-19 Jesus Christ himself called certain people of His day “fools” (G3474). Of course, there were stupid blockheads in Christ’s day. At that time in history anyone speaking angry words against a brother by calling him Raca would be liable of the judgment of the Jews Sanhedrin, and anyone calling a brother a fool would be liable of the fiery judgment of Gehenna (KJV says “in danger of hell-fire”).
So I am very much compelled to quickly WARN any angry brother that it is MUCH BETTER to call a brother Raca INSTEAD of calling him a fool. Why would I say that when the irony is that there is very little difference (if any) in Raca and fool? Simply because IF (I repeat IF) we happen to believe in the kind of hell-fire that is believed today by millions of Christians then of course it would be MUCH BETTER to call a brother empty and worthless (Raca) INSTEAD of a stupid blockhead (fool). Who in their right mind would choose to suffer torment and torture in an ever burning hell-fire for all eternity, INSTEAD of choosing a MUCH LIGHTER temporary judgment of only facing the Jewish Sanhedrin? This would indeed be a laughing matter if it wasn’t so tragic that people by the millions in the world’s Church system can so easily be “duped” and deceived on the “Gehenna of fire”. The judgment of Gehenna fire will chastise and correct brothers to learn true forgiveness, not to prejudge, not to hate, not to hold a grudge, or have prejudice against a brother. Carefully read the following translations of the Gehenna/hell in James 3:6:
James 3:6 KJV "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell."
James 3:6 (Rotherham) "And, the tongue, is a fire,— as , the world of unrighteousness, the tongue, becometh fixed among our members, that which defileth the whole body and setteth on fire the wheel of our natural life, and is set on fire, by gehenna!"
James 3:6 (1912 Weymouth New Testament) "And the tongue is a fire. That world of iniquity, the tongue, is placed within us spotting and soiling our whole nature, and setting the whole round of our lives on fire, being itself set on fire by Gehenna."
James 3:6 (Young's Literal Translation) "and the tongue is a fire, the world of the unrighteousness, so the tongue is set in our members, which is spotting our whole body, and is setting on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by the gehenna."
James explained Gehenna somewhat similar as Christ explained, but he ADDED the “tongue” to the body parts of the foot, hand, and eye that must be resisted (cut off). The term “course of nature” (G5164) means a wheel or circuit of physical effects, and “nature” (G1078) means nativity (or birth). I want to offer my opinion on what the term “course of nature” could mean. What do the terms “wheel” and “circuit” have in common? They are both in a round shape and they both go “around”, and the physical effects of the natural life from birth are confined and limited within the boundaries of the shape and symbol of a wheel and a circuit. The natural life is predicable in the same predicable way of what is explained by this saying; “what goes around comes around”, and that is WHAT the wheel of the natural life does. Living by the circuit of physical effects is the ONLY way the natural sinful man knows how to live. His life is limited (from birth) WITHIN a symbolic wheel and circuit that just keeps going “around” and finally comes to a dead end (literally). Feeble and carnal man searches for the ideal peaceful and trouble-free life but finds himself “going around in circles”. That indeed it very true! It is the “circle”, “wheel”, and “circuit” of life that leads to “nowhere”. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and that includes nothing NEW about the natural carnal man. The natural man is very limited, and everything about his life just keeps going “around”, “recycles”, and “circulates”, and he finds NO REAL meaning and purpose for his life and his existence. The natural man has no clue WHY he is, and no clue in the WAY he is!
The remedy for his limited condition is NOT found in the “course of nature” (natural life from birth) which is inside that round wheel and circuit, but the remedy IS found in the “spiritual life” by a new birth. This is WHY the “course of nature” is set on FIRE by Gehenna/hell; so as to “clear the way” for the spiritual life. James explained that the tongue is itself a “fire” (started by Gehenna/hell) that is fixed, placed, and set in our bodies and it will defile, soil, and spot our whole body so as to provide the NEED for the spiritual remedy that calls for the judgment of Gehenna/hell-fire. James writes in a special and unique manner explaining that Gehenna/hell-fire is operating NOW and is setting on “fire” the flesh body parts for believers NOW that are sincerely resisting (cutting off) the wrongful works of flesh practiced by the ACTION of the hands, feet, eyes, (and the tongue is now also included by James). Christ also mentioned Gehenna/hell in Matthew 10:28:
Matthew 10:28 KJV 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.
Matthew 10:28 (Young’s Literal Translation) And be not afraid of those killing the body, and are not able to kill the soul, but fear rather Him who is able both soul and body to destroy in gehenna.
This scripture seems to say that God will destroy souls and bodies in Gehenna/hell. But Christ does NOT say that; only that God is ABLE to destroy (not that He WILL). Another point is that “destroy” does NOT mean to destroy “out of existence”. It could mean only to “render useless” (according to Thayer’s). The meaning is to “destroy fully” (G622) in which souls and bodies could be rendered useless FULLY. But here is the problem and dilemma for those that believe in the hell-fire as taught by most Churches. They HAVE to believe that wicked souls will NOT be destroyed out of existence since they are destined to suffer with torment in hell-fire for ALL eternity. But for the sake of argument let’s just say that God WILL destroy souls and bodies out of existence in Gehenna/hell-fire (which some believe means annihilation). If everything about sinful man is completely annihilated (as some believe) then why did Jesus Christ NOT mention the SPIRIT, along with the soul and body? According to 1Cor 5:5 it is the SPIRIT that will be saved, yet so as by FIRE (Gehenna/hell-fire, if you will). Man is composed of spirit, soul, and body (in that creative order). That is HOW man was created and that is WHAT MAN IS. The apostle Paul explains this in 1Thes 5:23:
1Thessalonians 5:23 KJV "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Notice, “sanctify you wholly”. It is possible that God will sanctify (set apart for holy use) the WHOLE man to be preserved blameless. But of course most of mankind had no desire to “cut off” and resist the hands, feet, eyes, and also the tongue from defilement of the whole body. So these bodies and souls are useless to God and are therefore rendered FULLY useless (destroyed), and their whole bodies and souls are destined to be cast into Gehenna/hell-fire (EVERYONE salted with fire) so that their spirits can be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1Cor 5:5). These people have suffered the most severe loss of their souls and bodies, but their spirits are still SAVED to be clothed with a NEW creation of souls and bodies. But the faith of the early believers was the salvation of the SOUL (Heb 10:39). They are a new creation NOW in this evil age (2Cor 5:17), since they are judged by Gehenna/hell-fire NOW and are truly resisting (cutting off) their body parts from being defiled. Their whole spirit, soul, and body are preserved (salted) “blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thes 5:23). It is these saints that will escape the most severe judgment of Gehenna/hell-fire when WHOLE bodies (and souls) will be cast into Gehenna/hell-fire during the unpleasant chastisement and “punishment of the ages”.
The term “fire” is used all over the Bible, and many times it is simply used as cleansing and purifying. Physical fire can be very destructive, but it can also be very useful in preparing food, burning garbage, heating a home, and is useful for other things in every day life. The point is, physical fire is VERY necessary in every day physical life, and spiritual fire is also VERY necessary in our spiritual life; in cleansing and purifying everything that is HARMFUL to us in our spiritual walk with God. The Gehenna/hell-fire we experience spiritually in everyday life at times might be very grievous, but we can all be assured it will ultimately be for our GOOD. The symbol of the Gehenna of fire is simply picturing God punishing, chastising, and correcting His creation of mankind for their ultimate GOOD in the design and purpose of their creation and existence.
The fact is, God IS a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). God himself IS what the “Gehenna of fire” pictured, and yes He is to be feared and highly respected in the SAME manner as we fear and highly respect the hurtful destructive nature of physical fire. But the spiritual Gehenna/hell-fire is also to be feared and highly respected, and it would be BETTER if we suffer in the “loss” of some body parts NOW during this evil age than having our WHOLE body cast into Gehenna/hell-fire later. This means we have to be in subjection to the Father of our spirits (Hebrews 12:9), and being in subjection to Our Heavenly Father not only requires us to “cut off” body parts but also requires us to highly respect the truth of HIS word by honest study of the meanings of the true original inspired words, and then BELIEVE them and bear witness of them!
In conclusion, I believe the spiritual LESSON of Gehenna fire is that it burned and consumed all manner of filth and garbage in the SAME MANNER that the FIRE of God’s Spirit will ALSO burn and consume all manner of SPIRITUAL filth and garbage of our EVIL HEART, so that we are ABLE to "cut off" our ACTIVE flesh body parts that offend, entrap, entice, and cause us to stumble into sin. This is how I currently understand the words of Jesus Christ when He spoke two thousand years ago of a certain fire near Jerusalem called Gehenna; that deep valley where all manner of filth, garbage, and dead flesh was cast where the worm did not die and the fire was not quenched.
The author, Mahlon Wickey, can be Emailed at email@example.com He is the webmaster of:
Originally posted: 2011-FEB-25
Latest update: 2011-FEB-25
Author: Mahlon Wickey