There are two words in the New Testament which are both translated as ‘hell’:
- The Greek word ‘hades’
- The Greek word ‘Gehenna’
What is the difference in these two places?
Many believe that during the days of the Old Testament, the souls of the dead (both righteous and unrighteous) went to a place called ‘Sheol’ (Old Testament) or ‘Hades’ (New Testament).
This place (Sheol / Hades) was made up of two separate compartments:
- a place of torment for the wicked
- and a place of paradise for the righteous
Consider the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
Luke 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom (paradise): the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell (Hades) he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Notice that the rich man was found in ‘hades’ or torment and the beggar was found in ‘Abraham’s bosom’ or paradise. Notice also that they two men could see each other. This indicates that both paradise and torment were at one time in the same place. (Sheol / Hades )
Scripture teaches us that sometime after the resurrection of Christ, He transported those in paradise from Sheol / Hades into heaven. (see Lk 23:43; 2 Cor 12:4; Eph 4:8-10) By doing this, Christ left Sheol / Hades to be the place that now holds only the souls of the wicked.
According to Jesus, the day is coming when the souls of the wicked will be brought out of Sheol / Hades and cast, both body and soul, into a destructive place called Gehenna.
Matthew 10:28 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. (Gehenna) (see also Rev 20:11-15)
Originally Gehenna was a term used to describe a physical place that laid outside the city walls of Jerusalem. It was known as the Valley of Hinnom and it was here that many of the kings of Israel did that which was wicked. Among the many wicked things they did was the sacrifice of their children as burnt offerings to pagan gods.
2 Chronicles 28:1 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: but he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father: 2 For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. 3 Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
Because of this evil practice, the Valley of Hinnom eventually became the garbage dump of Jerusalem. It was here that not only trash was thrown, but also the bodies of both animals and common criminals were burned.
As we might imagined, God despised the sinfulness of King Ahaz and other wicked Jews. During Israel’s time of judgment the LORD said of the Valley of Hinnom:
Jeremiah 19:6 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.
Note – The Valley of Hinnom would be known as the ‘valley of slaughter.’ God would slaughtered the wicked in the very place where they had slaughtered the innocent.
What important principle can we take away from this study? Perhaps the most striking truth is the realization that God is holy and just, and that He will not allow evil men to always get away with their sin. God will punish those who reject Him and His holiness, and He may do so in a way very similar to the way they themselves have sinned. I have often wondered what kind of punishment awaits the person who abuses a child. Jesus said:
“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” (Mk 9:42)
Jesus said that it would be better for a man to have a huge rock tied around our neck and to be thrown into the sea than to one day stand before God with the blood of the innocent on his hands.
There is a Valley of Hinnom – a valley of slaughter – a place of eternal torment awaiting the sinful. That is why we must receive Christ as our Savior before it is eternally too late. Jesus died on the cross to bear the punishment you and I deserve. He suffered our hell for us so that we could be forgiven and live eternally in His paradise called heaven. If you need help in knowing Christ, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.