The First Vision Gehenna the Lake of Fire

"Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20"And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Luke 16:19

"Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23"In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.
Luke 16:22

"And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'
Luke 16:23

"But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.' Luke 16:24

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:14-15

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive [his] mark in his forehead, or in his hand, 10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation;
Revelation 14:9

and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: 11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
Revelation 14:10b

The Bible speaks of two destinations for those who have died separated from God. In English we use the same word for both - Hell

Hades is the name used for the place that the rich man was. It was a place that all the dead went and it had two states. One was paradise. The other was torment. We are told that they are separated by an impassable barrier. There is some communication between the two because Abraham spoke with the Rich man.

Hades is a temporary place the dead reside until the final judgment.

Jesus went to Hades after he died. He went to Paradise.

And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!³ 43And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.³
Luke 23:42-43

But he also visited the place of those who were separated from God.

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark . . .
1 Peter 3:18-21

The final resting place for those who are separated from God by unredeemed sin is what Jesus called Gehenna.

In the book of Revelation it is spoken of in the passages we read as the ³lake of fire.´

It is crucial to understand that the concept of Gehenna did not actually come into being until Jesus. He was the one who taught there would be permanent, eternal consequences to rejecting the mercy God offered through him.

"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell (Gehenna).
Matthew 5:22

"If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Gehenna).
Matthew 5:2918:9 & Mark 9:45

"If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. (Gehenna).
Matthew 5:30

"If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell (Gehenna)
Mark 9:45

"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Gehenna).
Matthew 10:28 & Luke 12:5

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? (Gehenna)
Matthew 23:33

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell (Gehenna) as yourselves.
Matthew 23:15

I see that often the doctrine of hell is used to vent hostility towards others who are believed to be in a different place concerning the love of God.

I once used it that way. I would go out on the streets to witness to people about Jesus¶ love. Invariably I would tell them if they did not receive Him they would suffer eternally for it.

And that is exactly true. If we do not respond to this great call of mercy to be reconciled to God we will remain separated from God for all eternity and that is Hell ± Gehenna.

But as I shared this horrible truth my heart was proud. I was not a man desperate to see people taken from that place. In my insecurity I wanted people to respond to my message.

One night God told me to never come out again to witness until I could talk to every person that I met like I would speak to my mother.

I understood what He told me that night perfectly. It was not the doctrine of Hell that was the problem, it was my heart.

Jesus warned of Gehenna because it was a real place that people would end if they did not listen. Not out of a proud self righteousness or to denounce others but out of love.

on May 9,1980 in the early morning fog the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Florida was crashed into by the ship Summit Venture. This ship toppled half of it causing rush hour traffic to plunge suddenly into the Gulf of Mexico.

A bus driver was unable to see the end of the bridge and drove off the bridge into the sea. Six other cars did the same. Thirty-five people were instantly killed but one driver clung in a death-defying balance on the edge of the boat his truck had fallen onto and survived.

Another car having seen that the top of the bridge was gone slammed on his brakes and stopped 14 inches short of the edge. The passengers got out of the car and desperately sought to stop traffic.

The Pilot of the boat, Capt. Lerro had only one thing on his mind in the seconds after the crash. He screamed over the radio to the coast guard:

Lerro: Get emergency . . . all the emergency equipment out to the Skyway bridge. Vessel has just hit the Skyway bridge. The Skyway bridge is down! Get all emergency equipment out to the Skyway bridge. The Skyway bridge is down. This is Mayday. Emergency situation. Stop the traffic on that Skyway bridge!"

Captain Lerro had the heart that Jesus has about warning people of the disaster ahead if they do not turn from the path they are on.

Gehenna is separation from God and all that is good.

In Jesus¶ day Gehenna was the city dump of Jerusalem.

It got its name from the Hebrew words Gai Hinnom ± The Valley of Hinnom. Aramacized to Gehenna.

Because of the wickedness practiced in the Valley of Hinnom it became a desecrated parcel of land that became Jerusalem's garbage dump.

At night the continual fires of spontaneous combustion lit the whole area. By day maggots and worms openly ate the refuse. This was the symbol Jesus used for the final condition and resting place for those who refused to turn (repent) from sin and turn to Him.

"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go intohell, into the unquenchable fire, 44[where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.] 45"If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46[where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.] Mark 9:43-46

The acts which so defiled this place were not God's desire:

"They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.
Jeremiah 7:31

Now let your faith that the scriptures are the Word of the Living God and can be trusted fully take hold of your mind right now and see what they tell us. God did not desire for people to put their precious children on to the altars of Baal they erected in the Valley of Hinnom.

He did not desire for them to burn them while still alive in a demonic sacrfice to a god that was murderous. Their hearts were so calloused by their deception that they could not have compassion on the most innocent and helpless beings on earth..... their own children.

The Bible says this horror did not even come into His mind. It was not an act of His sovereignty. It was not something He stood by and did nothing about. It was the act of a depraved humanity that rebelled against His will and brought about actions which He hates.

It will be this image that we need to understand if we are to understand the wrath of God. He loved every single little child that was sacrificed on the Altar of Baal erected in Gai Hinnom.

Every soul that has lived bears a potential of this horror inside of themselves no matter how much we look on the outside. It is the horror of sin that separates us from the only source of life - God.

When our first parents turned from God they were separated from Him. This is death.

but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.³
Genesis 2:17

If we do not turn to Him to receive the mercy He purchased with His life¶s blood we will remain separated from Him forever.

Eternally Alone

If however we turn from following our own ways and turn to Jesus we will never be alone.

³I will never leave you nor forsake you.´
Hebrews 13:5

Humans are created for relationship:

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him."
Genesis 2:18

Of all creation God said, ³It is good´ except the man He created being alone.

This is not just about a man and woman.

It is not primarily about the need for romantic intimacy.

It is about the deepest need of the human heart.

To be in relationship.

To not be alone

We are created for relationship.

God created us with the need of Him and each other.

Perhaps one of the most horrible experiences of life is to be alone.

Loneliness can hurt so deeply that it can scar us for life.

When we do not understand God¶s love for us we can be driven to doing anything to keep someone in our life.

The list of activities that grow out of this deepest need is so long it would take weeks to discuss them.

But the foundation of all of them is met in Jesus first and then in loving those who He calls us to love.

No matter how few or many people we have in our lives that love us He always does.

Even when our parents are gone or do not love us He is there.

Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
Psalm 27:10

Even if the dearest friend we have ever had fails in their love for us He will not.

³I will never leave you nor forsake you.´
Hebrews 13:5

The heart of the gospel message is the love of God shown on a cross.

The primary reason for the cross is found in the passage we read from John 15«..

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Having spent time on earth giving away his life he completed the giving by dying for his friends ± including you and me.

This is the mystery of fulfillment that the world has no conception of.

Jesus who gave the most of Himself was the least alone person in the world.

The one who selfishly looks out only for his own interests and takes for himself without giving back to God and others grows more and more isolated.

It is actually very simple to see and understand yet it leaves many totally baffled.

So the mystery of belonging is unveiled.

When I selfishly take for myself from others I end up further and further into the place of aloneness and alienation.

When I give my life for Jesus and others I grow deeper and deeper into His love that cannot be measured.

I believe aloneness is the essence of Gehenna ± The Lake of Fire ± Hell.

A place where the eternal part of the human who has never allowed itself to be given back to God spends in an eternal separation from God and others.

A place that will be fully revealed in the end of time but is seen and felt in every act of selfishness and unkindness.

A place of Eternal Aloneness

I first came to understand this when I was just beginning my relationship with the Lord.

I was going through a time of deep humbling in my life in facing what I had done before and after I had found Jesus.

I knew so well the reality of sin and felt keenly that it needed to be radically removed from my life.

I had not yet found the power to overcome some of the terribly ingrained habits that had been imprinted on my life before receiving Jesus.

For several weeks I was asking God to help me hate sin.

Night after night I prayed for hours that God would free me from the evil in my heart. Night after night I grew more convinced that I could not just will it away.

My friends at the church I attended cautioned me that I was getting too concerned about this. ³After all,´ they said, ³your sins are forgiven.´ But the cry of my heart was not that my sins would just be forgiven but that I would truly change.

One night as I went to pray again I pressed into God with all my heart. Suddenly it was as if I was taken into a very dark room. It seemed like the darkness fell over my whole being. Then I saw what seemed like fire that began to spread across the whole of my vision.

As it came more focused it was a lake of fire. I began to panic. My whole body began to shake and I felt fear like I had only once before had known. I was paralyzed in its grip. The inferno seemed white hot and raging like no fire on earth that I have ever seen.

It was as if I was moving along just above the surface of it but nothing was visible except the fire so I could not really know which way I was traveling.

At the edge of my vision in front of me I saw a figure in the fire. I began to look carefully and the figure became clear.

To my horror I saw myself crying in torment. I was screaming so hard yet no one came to help. I realized that in spite of the great heat I was not burning up. I watched in sheer terror for what seemed to be a long time.

To my horror I saw myself crying in torment. I was screaming so hard yet no one came to help. I realized that in spite of the great heat I was not burning up. I watched in sheer terror for what seemed to be a long time.

With each moment the absolute finality of my fate gripped my soul with unimaginable fear.

I had joked with my friends before being saved that I was wanting to go to hell since that was where all my friends were going to be.

Yet in this vast lake of fire I was alone.

I had flippantly said that hell would be where the party was but there was no laughter here.

Screaming out in absolute pain I knew there would be no relief for me.

No one would bring a sip of water to cool my tongue. There would be no sleep to hide from the terrible flames.

Eternal wakefulness and eternal torment. Day and night forever. No one to help me. No one to take pity on me. Eternal aloneness.

When I thought I could stand no more but would dissolve into the lake of fire myself the vision ceased.

I lay on the floor weeping. Then the voice of Jesus spoke, ³This is what I saved you from.´