“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” –Jesus in Matthew 23:33
Perhaps the clearest and most gripping depiction of hell in all of Scripture is the frequent mention of hell as Gehenna. The name refers to an area outside of the city of Jerusalem where idolatry and horrendous sin, including child sacrifice, were practiced.108
Gehenna was a place so despised and cursed by God’s people that they turned it into the city dump where feces, refuse, and the dead bodies of criminals were stacked. Jesus spoke of Gehenna as the hellish final home of the wicked.109 Since Gehenna is described as a fiery abyss,110 clearly it is also the lake of fire111 to which all the godless will ultimately be eternally sentenced,112 together with Satan, demons, and unrepentant sinners.113 So when the Bible speaks of hell as a place where the fire is not quenched and the worm does not die, the original hearers would easily have remembered Gehenna, where this reality was ever present outside of their city.114
Our attitude toward hell should be the same as the Father’s: He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but begs them to turn from their evil ways.115 Jesus joins the Father’s compassionate yearning as He weeps over Jerusalem.116 Paul also has “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”117 Furthermore, he “did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.”118
Feeling as he ought about hell, Charles Spurgeon rightly began his sermon on the eternal conscious torment of the wicked in hell this way: “Beloved, these are such weighty things that while I dwell upon them I feel far more inclined to sit down and weep than to stand up and speak to you.”119
Take some time today to thank God for His invitation to avoid hell and be with Him in heaven.
108 2 Kings 16:3, 21:6; 2 Chron. 28:3, 33:6; Jer. 19:56, 32:35.
109 Matt. 5:22, 10:28, 18:9.
110 Mark 9:43.
111 Matt. 13:42, 50.
112 Matt. 23:15, 33.
113 Matt. 25:41; Rev. 19:20, 20:10; 20:14–15.
114 Isa. 66:24; Mark 9:47–48.
115 Ezek. 18:23, 33:11; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9.
116 Jer. 31:20; Hos. 11:8; Matt. 23:37–38; Luke 19:41–44.
117 Rom. 9:2–3.
118 Acts 20:31; cf. Acts 20:19–20; Phil. 3:18.
119 Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Final Separation,” sermon no. 1234, preached in 1875, The Charles H. Spurgeon Library Version 1 (AGES Digital Library, CD-ROM), 353.