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July 08, 2024

Ep.1341: What Did Jesus Mean When He Talked About Hellfire? (Hellfire Series Part I)

Examining what Jesus meant by talking about hell and "unquenchable fire"

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What or where is the hell Jesus is talking about?

How can you explain away unquenchable fire?

What about the worms that never die?

Theme Scripture: Mark 9:47-48

To the critical observer, modern Christianity is confusing as we have countless denominations and their countless ways of interpreting Scripture. These widely varied interpretations give birth to widely varied traditions that support those interpretations. As a major subset of this, we have wide discrepancies regarding the destiny of unbelievers. Several times, Jesus plainly taught about the consequences of hell. The enormous question that needs answering is, did he teach hell was a place of agonizing and eternal torture from which there is no escape, or were his several references to hell pointing to a very different meaning? Our focus is on the primary New Testament word Jesus used to describe hell. If we understand the word and its context, we will understand Jesus’ meaning.

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Is the fire REALLY "unquenchable"?

Whenever Jesus spoke about hell, it was usually accompanied by descriptions of fire. Not only was there fire involved, but this fire was described as unquenchable. To make things even more dire, there were times when Jesus added descriptions of worms that don’t die. When we put this all together, it looks like we have descriptions of some kind of cataclysmic place, event or time that is wholly unpleasant. Jesus spoke about these things to get our attention. The question is, what was he actually showing us?

For many the answer seems obvious, and their conclusion is that all of this is describing the fiery torment of an eternal hell from which there is no relief. This widely held interpretation has been around for many generations. We would like to respectfully suggest what we consider to be several glaring inconsistencies with this reasoning.

Where is hell, exactly?

The first question arises when we understand what the word for “hell” means in these teachings of Jesus. “Hell” is the Greek word Gehenna. Gehenna literally translates to “The Valley of (the son of) Hinnom.” This was a literal valley outside of Jerusalem that in Joshua’s day was passed on to the sons of Hinnom. So, this is a piece of real estate. Why would Jesus use a physical piece of land in these graphic descriptions? The sad answer is because of the idolatry that took place in the days of Jeremiah. Israel not only worshipped idols, but they burned their children alive to these idols as sacrifices. In the book of Jeremiah, God plainly stated that such torture had never entered His mind.

Why would God eternally torture people when by His own words he so vehemently condemned it? This is just one of many questions that need asking. Check out our July 8, 2024 podcast, “What Did Jesus Mean When He Talked About Hellfire? (Part I).” We dig deeply into this question, as well as the glaring questions about unquenchable fire, undying worms and Gehenna. The source for the answers to these queries is the Bible. No speculation, no tradition; just scriptures put in place to explain other scriptures. Join us as we walk down this biblical road in search of God’s clearly stated truth.



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