The word ‘Gehenna’ comes from the Hebrew “ge Hinnom” or the “valley of Hinnom.” The valley of Hinnom is a deep narrow gorge just outside of Jerusalem. It was also called Tophet, or the valley of dead bones.  In Old Testament days, it was used for the sacrifice of children as we read in Jeremiah 7:31, “And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.”  This practice was forbidden by the Lord.

In the New Testament, Gehenna became the dumping ground for the sewage and refuse of the city of Jerusalem. It was a place of crawling worms and maggots. Fires burned continually to destroy the garbage and impurities. Hence the name Gehenna came to be used as a symbol of everlasting punishment.  The word ‘Gehenna’ is used eleven times in the four Gospels.  Each time it is mentioned, it is by the Lord speaking and is always translated as ‘Hell’ in the Bible.

Because of Gehenna’s characteristics it made the perfect analogy for the Lord to describe the eternal torment and fire for those who rejected the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior.  Let us look at a few of the times the Lord used this word to describe a lost eternity for those who die in their sins. 

  • Matthew 5:22, “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 23:33, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
  • Mark 9:47-48, “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”
  • Luke 12:5, “But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” 

Other times, the Lord described Hell without expressly using the word, Gehenna.

  • Matthew 13:41-42, “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
  • Matthew 25:30, “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
  • John 15:6, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

John the Baptist said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with UNQUENCHABLE FIRE.” (Matthew 3:11-12).

The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” 

So, Gehenna is a word the Lord used to describe the eternal dwelling place of those who reject Him as their savior.  In just the few verses we have used here, it is evident that Hell is a terrible place.  Terms such as “the fire is not quenched”, “wailing and gnashing of teeth”, “unquenchable fire”, etc. should be enough to enlighten us to how eternity without Christ will be indescribably terrible.  This is not what the Lord wants for anyone.  The Lord Jesus said in John 10:10, “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  The Lord of life laid down His life so that we might have eternal life and not have to suffer the horror of Hell.  How can you receive this eternal life?  We read in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Instead of giving you what you deserve (Hell), the Lord has a free gift for you (eternal life).  You can receive this wonderful gift simply by putting your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation.  We read in Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED.”  (482.6)