10 Things You Should Know about Hell

Sam Storms

10 Things You Should Know about Hell Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I take no special delight in writing this article. But hell is real and people are going there. So let’s look closely at what the Bible has to say about it as well as the on-going debate over whether hell is eternal conscious punishment.

What you and I “like” is utterly and absolutely irrelevant. God doesn’t set his eternal agenda based on what we “prefer”. What we might “hope” to be true simply doesn’t matter. What does or does not make us “feel comfortable” has no bearing on the truth or falsity of this issue. The fact that we have an intuitive sense for what strikes us as “fair” or “just” plays no part whatsoever in coming to a conclusion on whether or not there is an eternal hell. The fact that we may not enjoy the thought of eternal conscious punishment doesn’t make it go away! The fact that you “feel” the existence of hell is inconsistent with your concept of God doesn’t mean there isn’t one. What we “want” or “hope” or “desire” has no relevance at all in this debate. The only important question is, “Does the Bible teach it?” And if the Bible does teach it (and Revelation 14 together with numerous other texts would indicate it does), our responsibility is to believe it and fervently and faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only hope sinners have for now and eternity.

10 Things You Should Know about Hell

1. There's something called "Gehenna."

The word most often translated “hell” in the NT is Gehenna, the Greek equivalent for “the valley of Hinnom”. This valley is immediately southwest of Jerusalem, still visible from the Mt. of Olives. At one time it was there that human sacrifices were made to the pagan deity Moloch (2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; cf. Jer. 7:31-32; 19:5ff.).

There is an on-going debate among scholars as to whether the Valley of Hinnom actually served as the “city dump” or “garbage heap” of Jerusalem. The evidence strikes me as inconclusive and thus we should avoid being dogmatic on the point. But no one denies that this area was at one time the locale for pagan child sacrifice. That it should be used as a way of referring to the place of eternal torment is therefore understandable. Against the notion that Gehenna was, in the days of Jesus, a garbage dump, see the excellent discussion in Francis Chan & Preston Sprinkle, Erasing Hell: what God said about eternity, and the things we made up (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2011), 56-67; and David A. Croteau, Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions (B & H, 2015), pp. 49-53.