The Valley of Gehenna is just outside the southern walls of Jerusalem. It was in this rugged, craggy valley, that Molech’s pagan shrines and altars could be found (2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 32:35). On these altars, in this place of utter wickedness, babies were burned as an offering to pacify dead gods.
By the time of Jesus, the valley had been repurposed, transformed into the city dump. All of the sewage, the garbage, and the unclaimed dead, were thrown into the ever-burning heaps of refuse.
Gehenna became synonymous with Hades, Sheol, Hell, the place of the death, the everlasting abode of the condemned, the destiny of all who refuse God’s gracious gift of life and salvation.
Jesus said, “if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:47–48, ESV).
To illustrate the horrors and the reality of everlasting punishment, Jesus told a parable.
Lazarus was poor, but righteous. The rich man had money but lacked righteousness. When they died, Lazarus was awarded with the indescribable joys of Heaven. The rich man was condemned to the unspeakable agonies of an eternity in Hell.
“And being in torment in Hades, (the rich man) looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’ ” (Luke 16:23-24, CSB).
Impossible! In Hell, there will be no relief. None. Not even a drop of cool water.
“ ‘Son,’ Abraham said, ‘remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony. Besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us’ ”
(Luke 16:25–26, CSB).
Hell. Unending agony. Shame. Regret. Disgrace. Absolute, unrelenting separation from life and all that is pleasing and good.
But notice the contrast. The rich man suffered, but Lazarus received God’s lavish love and mercy. Though Lazarus had once suffered, he was “carried away by the angels” (Luke 16:22, CSB) to enjoy peace, joy, comfort, mercy. Heaven.
The choice is yours. I choose Heaven!