St Michael and his Angels Fight the Dragon Fight, Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) Source: Albrecht Durer the Complete Works
It is an undeniable fact that throughout the New Testament there is a consistent sense of anticipation concerning Christ’s impending return.
There are scholars today who claim Jesus and the Apostles got it wrong. Those who do so undermine the inspiration of the Scriptures.
Equally, the 1st century church eagerly awaited the imminent demise of Satan.
I will attempt to explain how and when Satan met his end, which is an aspect rarely addressed today. I will produce scriptural evidence to prove that not only did Jesus return as promised, He also defeated all His enemies, including Satan!
Reluctance to Proclaim Outright Victory
Other than a fleeting comment that Satan is a defeated foe, many sermons about him quickly revert to how he is causing havoc in the world today. Consequently, a typical theme is the ‘wiles of the devil’; exhorting believers to guard against the pitfalls Satan has set for the unsuspecting believer.
Many scholars are willing to defend the view that Christ defeated Satan, yet reluctant to affirm His outright victory! Why should this be? In my opinion, empirical evidence has replaced the inspired Word of God.
Due to the evil prevalent in the world today, the perception is that Satan is alive, well, and more active than ever. Perhaps if Christians accepted what the Scriptures actually teach regarding the defeat of Satan, their outlook would dramatically change for the better.
If Jesus said it, then I believe it! Regardless of how things may appear, believers must put their trust in the Word of God, and not allow every sensational headline or crisis to strike fear in their hearts.
Infatuation with the Origin and Character of Satan
It is not difficult these days to find highly imaginative scenarios as to the character of Satan. There is a profusion of websites, religious and secular books, and fantastic works of art on the subject. All of which nourish an unhealthy fascination with Satan and the occult. Other dubious sources include extra-biblical writing, mythology, and the vain imagination of ‘man’.
Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28
Dramatic sermons often describe the origin and character of Satan, deduced from reading between the lines of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. Correct me if I am wrong, but neither the Lord Jesus Christ nor any of the New Testament writers ever quoted from or alluded to these two chapters. Considering the magnitude of this doctrine and its influence on the Church today, surely it is reasonable to expect some references, since these have formed the foundation of the doctrine.
My articles ‘Who Is the Bright and Morning Star? Jesus or Lucifer’ and ‘There Never Was a Pre-Adamic Race?’ may help to explain my viewpoint on this particular aspect of the doctrine of Satan.
The Hebrew word ‘ha-satan’ means ‘the adversary’, ‘the obstacle’, and ‘the accuser’.
It is interesting to note that Robert Young in his highly acclaimed literal translation of the Bible, took the time to translate ‘ha-satan’ as ‘The Adversary’ on every occasion. Many translators retained the Hebrew ‘satan’ and personalised it by adding a capital ‘S’, thereby raising his status.
God is Sovereign
God in His infinite wisdom chose to use ‘The Adversary’ in His great plan of redemption. Satan, irrespective of his origin and character, had exceptional powers, although he was restricted in his opposition. Only God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, Satan was a created being and never possessed any of these divine attributes.
I will leave it to the speculators whether Satan was an angel who had fallen from favour or otherwise. It is of far greater importance that believers are aware of Satan’s end rather than his beginning!
Satan in the Old Testament
Relatively speaking, the references to Satan in the Old Testament are few by comparison to the New Testament.
Satan’s Adversarial Actions
The beguiling of Eve… Genesis 3:4; 2 Corinthians 11:3
The testing of Job… Job 1:12
The provocation of David… 2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Chronicles 21:11
The adversary of Joshua the high priest… Zechariah 3:1
Satan in the New Testament
Satan dramatically exploded onto the scene at the advent of Christ in a vain attempt to thwart every move to establish the Kingdom of God in the hearts of men.
Satan’s Adversarial Actions
The temptation of Christ… Matthew 4:1
The sifting of Peter… Luke 22:31
The buffeting of Paul… 2 Corinthians 12:7
The prince of this world… John 14:30
The god of this world (age)… 2 Corinthians 4:4
The prince of the power of air… Ephesians 2:2
The power of darkness… Colossians 1:13
The great dragon, the serpent, the devil, Satan… Revelation 12:9
‘Deliverance to the captives’
Luk 4:18-21 KJV The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.’
‘deliverance to the captives’ This quote from Isaiah 61 alluded to Satan’s overthrow. Jesus added ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.’
The Binding of Satan
Mar 3:27 KJV No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.
The miracles that accompanied Jesus’ ministry were evidence of Satan’s binding.
The binding of Satan occurred during the first advent of Christ, and his ‘loosing’ was for a short time prior to Christ’s return on the great and terrible day of the Lord in AD 70.
The Return of the Seventy
Luk 10:17-18 KJV And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. 18 And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
‘even the devils are subject unto us through thy name’ It was when the seventy returned with joy, having exercised the power of God in the casting out of devils through His name, Jesus declared ‘I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.’
Luke 10:18 ‘I beheld Satan – That is, when ye went forth, I saw the kingdom of Satan, which was highly exalted, swiftly and suddenly cast down.’ — John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes
The Casting Out of Satan
John 12:31 KJV Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
‘now shall the prince of this world be cast out’ Why do scholars insist Satan is as active as ever? Surely ‘now’ means ‘the present time or moment’, his casting out is history.
A Quote from John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible
John 12:31 ‘Now – This moment. And from this moment Christ thirsted more than ever, till his baptism was accomplished. Is the judgment of this world – That is, now is the judgment given concerning it, whose it shall be. Now shall the prince of this world – Satan, who had gained possession of it by sin and death, be cast out – That is, judged, condemned, cast out of his possession, and out of the bounds of Christ’s kingdom.’
According to Dispensationalism, Satan’s demise is at the end of the 1000 years reign of Christ on earth. However, Paul wrote to the Romans to reassure them the ‘crushing’ of Satan was about to happen within their lifetime. Did he give them false hope? Of course, he didn’t.
The Crushing of Satan under the Feet of the Saints
Rom 16:20 (King James Version) And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
Rom 16:20 (Young’s Literal Translation) and the God of the peace shall bruise the Adversary under your feet quickly; the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen!
Rom 16:20 (Bible in Basic English) And the God of peace will be crushing Satan under your feet before long. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
‘the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly/quickly/before long’ According to Dispensationalism, the Lake of Fire awaits Satan at the end of the 1000 years reign of Christ on earth, irrespective of Paul’s assurance to the Romans of the impending ‘crushing’ of Satan. This is a typical example of a clear and simple statement of imminence being misconstrued, with its meaning thrust into the far and distant future to support an ill-founded doctrine.
‘Bruise συντρίβω suntribō G4937 soon-tree’-bo From G4862 and the base of G5147; to crush completely, that is, to shatter (literally or figuratively): – break (in pieces), broken to shivers (+ -hearted), bruise’ – Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries
According to Strong’s dictionary, this ‘bruise’ was not just a slap on the wrist!
Did Paul get it wrong? Of course he didn’t. Not only would doubt be cast over the Epistles of Paul, the inspiration of the Word of God would be undermined.
The Destruction of Satan
Heb 2:14 KJV Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
A Quote from Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
Hebrews 2:14 ‘He might destroy – That he might “subdue,” or that he might overcome him, and “destroy” his dominion. The word “destroy” here is not used in the sense of “closing life,” or of “killing,” but in the sense of bringing into subjection, or crushing his power. This is the work which the Lord Jesus came to perform – to destroy the kingdom of Satan in the world, and to set up another kingdom in its place. This was understood by Satan to be his object: see the Mat 8:29 note; Mar 1:24 note…’
The Timeline of Satan’s Demise
Jesus Had the Keys
Rev 1:18 ISV the living one. I was dead, but look-I am alive forever and ever! I have the keys of Death and Hades.
At the time John received the Revelation, Jesus said ‘I have the keys of death and Hades’. He thereby announced He had complete control over Satan. The Revelation was for the encouragement of believers in John’s day, and unveiled the impending sequence of events leading to the final destruction of all Christ enemies.
Rev 20:2-3 KJV And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
According to Dispensationalism the binding of Satan begins at the future 1000 years reign of Christ, then loosed for a short season at the end. This view contradicts the foregoing Scriptures that clearly describe impending judgement.
The Thousand Years and Chilias or Chilioi
In my opinion, the millennium was not a literal 1000 years. The timeline began with the binding of Satan during Christ’s ministry… Matthew 12:21 and continued until set loose for a short time leading to the Roman/Jewish war, AD 66 to AD 70.
John did not write the Greek numerical ‘thousand’ (chilias) years’, six times he wrote the Greek ‘thousand’ (chilioi) years’. So what is the difference?
A Quote from Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary
‘G5505 ÷éëéÜò chilias khil-ee-as’ From G5507; one thousand (“chiliad”): – thousand.’
‘G5507 ÷ßëéïé chilioi khil’-ee-oy Plural of uncertain affinity; a thousand: – thousand.’
In Revelation 20, ‘thousand’ was not ‘chilias’ the numerical 1000, but always ‘chilioi’, it was suitable for figurative speech.
Rev 20:7 KJV And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
With Satan released from the abyss, the end of ‘1000 years period’ drew near. The Dragon enlisted the beast to make war with the saints… Revelation 13:7 Many suffered martyrdom for the testimony of Jesus… Revelation 20:4
At that time the Old Covenant was still in effect but was ready to pass away; it ended with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in AD 70.
Rev 20:10 KJV And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
God has accomplished His great plan of redemption; therefore, there is no longer satanic deception of the nations.
Why is There Still Evil in the World Today?
Jas 1:14-15 KJV But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
According to the Scriptures, this world’s problem is no longer Satan but mankind’s sinful nature.
Joh 8:44 KJV Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
Col 2:18 KJV Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
Sin has been the major contributing factor in this grief stricken world.
Jer 17:9 KJV The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
1Jn 2:16 KJV For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
‘Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity’
Hos 4:1-2 KJV Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. 2 By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.
Hos 8:7 KJV For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.
Hosea prophesied God’s judgement upon the Kingdom of Israel because of their idolatry and wickedness. The idols they had created and worshipped would prove incapable of rescuing them.
‘For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind’ God revealed to Hosea the reason why and its consequences. In other words, it was inevitable their sins would catch up with them.
The Assyrian Empire swept down and laid the Northern Kingdom to waste, enslaving its inhabitants.
Hos 10:13 KJV Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.
Personally, I believe this tragedy is a reflection of the sinful condition of mankind. Throughout the annals of history to the present time we constantly read of such events.
Gal 6:7-8 KJV Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
It is impossible to reap anything other than sown. Notwithstanding, ‘man’ never takes the blame or responsibility for his sinful actions, instead he claims ‘the Devil made me do it’.
The modern idiom comes to mind, ‘What goes around comes around’.
I have presented Scriptures that describe Satan’s demise during the lifetime of Christ’s generation. These Scriptures contain words such as bind, fall, cast out, judge, bruise, crush, and destroy. All of which vividly portray the ‘death throes’ of Satan.
At Christ’s parousia, the final blow was struck during the great and terrible day of the Lord in AD 70. God’s great plan of redemption was accomplished, bought and paid for by the blood of the New Covenant.
Unfortunately, many New Covenant believers are encouraged to continue a war that has already been won, instead of rejoicing in Christ’s victory.
Where is Satan today? Satan was completely ‘whipped’ and ‘stripped’ of his kingdom and cast into the Lake of Fire.
1Jn 3:8 KJV He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
A Quote from Vincent’s Word Studies
1 John 3:8 ‘The Devil See on 1Jn 2:13. Compare Joh 8:44. “The devil made no one, he begot no one, he created no one; but whosoever imitates the devil, is, as it were, a child of the devil, through imitating, not through being born of him” (Augustine).’
Satan’s only legacy today is found in his imitators who prefer darkness to the light of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Scriptures proclaimed Jesus would return quickly to complete His victory. I believe He did exactly that.
Was Christ a failure in His mission to defeat the Devil? Of course He wasn’t.
What do you think?
The Story of Lazarus and Dives, Meister des Codex Aureus Epternacensis, (c1035-1040), National Museum, Nuremburg Source: Wikimedia Commons
In my opinion, many scholars misconstrue the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in an attempt to validate their doctrine of Eternal Torment in Hell. Thereby, ambiguity has eclipsed the simplicity of the narrative. Most Christians believe its purpose was to illustrate the final state of believers and unbelievers after physical death, but was that really Jesus’ intention?
If we establish exactly to whom Jesus was speaking, we will obtain a clear understanding of the parable.
Luk 16:14-15 KJV And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. 15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
Jesus recounted this story in response to the contempt and greed exhibited by the Pharisees. He exposed the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders of His generation and warned them of impending judgement. If the parable pertained to the modern day concept of ‘Heaven and Hell’, how do we account for the following?
The Rich Man
Luk 16:19 KJV There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
Why would a rich man be chosen to represent the unbeliever bound for Hell? It is the love of money that is the root of all evil, not the possession of wealth… 1 Timothy 6:10
Surely, Joseph of Arimathaea would rest on Abraham’s bosom even although he was wealthy, the difference being, he managed his wealth honourably.
This parable described the self-indulgent lifestyle of the Pharisees; Jesus warned them that by their mistreatment of the poor in body and spirit they would soon reap what they had sown.
Luk 16:20-21 KJV And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
‘full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table’ Why would a beggar be chosen to represent the heaven bound believer?
Psa 37:25 KJV I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
Why would a child of God desire the crumbs from the rich man’s table rather than look to God and His people to meet his need? Obviously, the parable was specifically directed at the Pharisees and not Heaven and Hell.
Luk 16:22 KJV And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
A Quote from Vincent’s Word Studies
Luke 16:22 ‘Abraham’s bosom – A Rabbinical phrase, equivalent to being with Abraham in Paradise. To the Israelite Abraham seems the personal centre and meeting-point of Paradise (Goebel).’
Jewish tradition taught the righteous dead went to Abraham’s bosom in Sheol. Josephus mentioned this in his writings.
A Quote from Josephus
’For there is one descent into this region, at whose gate we believe there stands an archangel with an host; which gate when those pass through that are conducted down by the angels appointed over souls, they do not go the same way; but the just are guided to the right hand, and are led with hymns sung by the angels appointed over that place, unto a region of light, in which the just have dwelt from the beginning of the world; not constrained by necessity, but ever enjoying the prospect of the good things they see, and rejoice in the expectation of those new enjoyments which will be peculiar to every one of them, and esteeming those things beyond what we have here; with whom there is no place of toil, no burning heat, no piercing cold, nor are any briers there; but the countenance of the fathers and of the just, which they see, always smiles upon them, while they wait for that rest and eternal new life in heaven, which is to succeed this region. This place we call The Bosom of Abraham.’ An Extract from Josephus’s Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades
Luk 16:23-24 KJV And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
Babylonian and Greek mythology influenced Jewish tradition. Jesus did not teach or correct the Pharisees’ understanding of the doctrine of ‘Hell’, many were rebellious and beyond instruction. Instead, He used Jewish tradition popular at the time, to accentuate the moral of His parable.
A Quote from Andrew MacLaren
Luke 16:19-31 ‘II. In the second part of the narrative, our Lord follows the two, who had been so near each other and yet so separated, into the land beyond the grave. It is to be especially noticed that, in doing so, He adopts the familiar Rabbinical teaching as to Hades. He does not thereby stamp these conceptions of the state of the dead with His assent; for the purpose of the narrative is not to reveal the secrets of that land, but to impress the truth of retribution for the sin in question. It would not be to a group of Pharisaic listeners that He would have unveiled that world. He takes their own notions of it-angel bearers, Abraham’s bosom, the two divisions in Hades, the separation, and yet communication, between them. These are Rabbis’ fancies, not Christ’s revelations. The truths which He wished to force home lie in the highly imaginative conversation between the rich man and Abraham, which also has its likeness in many a Rabbinical legend.’
The rich man saw Lazarus and Abraham in bliss and they could see him in torment. Do you think Abraham and Lazarus could watch a man in eternal torment and be at peace and happy?
Why did Abraham say to the rich man ‘Son’? The Jews proudly boasted that Abraham was their father. Again, audience relevance is important; Jesus was speaking to Jews in a narrative they could understand… Matthew 3:8-9
Luk 16:28-31 KJV For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them‘ If this parable was about eternal torment in Hell, why did Abraham tell the rich man his five brethern had Moses and the prophets? Moses taught blessings and curses in this life, he never mentioned eternal torment in Hell. Old Covenant Israel was a privileged nation. If the Pharisees had obeyed and taught the Torah instead of the traditions of men, the imminent judgement would have been averted in AD 70.
This parable does not describe the outcome of mankind. The moral of the story is simply this:
The hypocritical Jewish leaders had led astray the nation of Israel. Without conviction of their evil ways along with sincere repentance, judgement was about to come upon them, and it ultimately did in AD 70.
What do you think?
The Valley of Hinnom, Public Domain Source: Wikipedia
In my opinion, Jesus did not teach the doctrine of eternal torment in Hell.
With roots in post Babylonian Jewish thought and Greek mythology, these influences resulted in the development of a doctrine without scriptural support. Astonishingly, woven into the tapestry of Christianity over the centuries, it became a means of control and extortion.
Writers, for example, Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) the author of Inferno, and the English poet John Milton (1608-1674) the author of Paradise Lost, were also contributing factors. Artists including Michelangelo and Hieronymus Bosch provided dramatic approbation and credibility.
I will attempt to explain why I reject this doctrine.
Lost in Translation
Mat 23:33 KJV Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Mat 23:33 YLT ‘Serpents! brood of vipers! how may ye escape from the judgment of the gehenna?
Jesus preached the ‘judgement of gehenna’ and the ‘fire of gehenna’ to Old Covenant Israel as a warning of imminent national judgement. The fulfilment of His prophecy was ‘the great and dreadful day of the Lord’ in AD 70.
The Greek ‘gehenna’ referred to the valley of the son of Hinnom. This vicinity was used by Old Covenant Israel during times of idolatry, which included the sacrificial burning of children. It later became Jerusalem’s garbage dump. Perpetual fire burned to consume rubbish and the dead bodies of criminals.
When Jesus warned His generation of impending judgement, He used ‘gehenna’ to drive home the severity of the punishment that awaited those who were unwilling to repent.
The translation of the Scriptures from Greek into English added to the misconception when ‘gehenna’ was translated ‘hell’, with its pagan connotations.
A Quote from Thayer’s Greek Definitions
‘G1067 γέεννα geenna 1) Hell is the place of the future punishment called “Gehenna” or “Gehenna of fire”. This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.’
‘gehenna’ appears 12 times in the New Testament. The KJV translated ‘gehenna’ as ‘hell’ on every occasion. However, Robert Young never used ‘hell’ in his highly acclaimed literal translation.
Surprisingly, ‘gehenna’ appears 11 times in the Gospels, but only once in the remainder of the New Testament.
Peter, John, and Paul never mentioned ‘gehenna’ in their writings!
The Fire of Gehenna
The Jews were familiar with the significance of ‘gehenna’ in Christ’s preaching, due to its association with horror and suffering.
It was with good reason the valley of the son of Hinnom became known as ‘the valley of slaughter’, having been filled with the blood of innocents.
King Ahaz and the Fire of Gehenna
2Ch 28:3 KJV 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.
King Ahaz was 20 years old when he became king of Judah, and reigned for 16 years (744-728 BC). He was an evil king who led his people into pagan worship. Idolatrous Ahaz ‘burnt his children in the fire’, as did King Manasseh and King Amon… 2 Chronicles 33:6; 2 Chronicles 33:22
King Josiah and the Fire of Gehenna
2Ki 23:10 KJV And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.
Josiah (648-609 BC) the son of Amon became king of Judah when he was eight years old and reigned for 31 years. He was a good king and introduced many reforms, including the renovation of the Temple. Josiah removed the worship of Molech in Topheth during his purification of the land.
A Quote from Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary
2 Kings 23:10 ‘Topheth so called from Toph – a ‘drum.’ It is the prevailing opinion among Jewish writers that the cries of the terrified children made to pass through the fire in that place of idolatrous horror were drowned by the sound of that instrument.’
Jeremiah and the Fire of Gehenna
Jer 19:2-6 KJV And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee, 3 And say, Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle. 4 Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; 5 They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: 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.
Jeremiah called to the office of prophet c 626 BC; lived during the reign of Josiah. The Lord told him to go to the valley of the son of Hinnom and prophesy judgement on Israel.
The Jews came to know Hinnom as a place of punishment and burning.
When Jesus preached the ‘fire of gehenna’, He warned of impending judgement at the end of the Old Covenant Age, not the end of time or the end of the world.
The Unquenchable Fire
‘Unquenchable fire’ was uncontrollable fire that caused utter destruction not everlasting fire. There are examples in the Scriptures of fire that ‘shall not be quenched’, but ceased when God’s purpose was fulfilled.
Isaiah and the Unquenchable Fire
Isa 34:9-10 KJV And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. 10 It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.
Isaiah used figurative, prophetic language when he prophesied God’s judgement with fire and brimstone on Edom. Although Isaiah said it shall ‘not be quenched’ it is not still burning today, it finally quenched when God’s purpose was accomplished.
Ezekiel and Unquenchable Fire
Ezekiel used prophetic language when he prophesied national judgement on Judah. The Babylonians fulfilled his prophecy by the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC; Jerusalem has not been burning since 586 BC!
From their prior knowledge of the Scriptures, something we are inclined to underestimate, Jesus’ audience would have understood that He referred to national judgement. The concept of eternal torment in Hell would not have entered their minds.
John the Baptist issued warnings of impending destruction, and used the same prophetic figurative speech as the other Old Testament prophets… Matthew 3:12 The fulfilment of John’s prophecy was in AD 70, the ‘unquenchable fire’ is not still burning today.
The Worm Dieth Not
Isa 66:22-24 KJV For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. 23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. 24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
Isaiah prophesied the establishment of the ‘the new heavens and the new earth’, the New Covenant Age. The fulfilment of this prophecy took place when the Old Covenant Age passed away in AD 70.
Mar 9:44 KJV Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
When Jesus spoke of the undying worm and unquenchable fire, He quoted from Isaiah. The worm would thrive and hasten the corruption of the dead, the phrase metaphorically emphasised the shame and disgrace of the deceased.
The ‘worm dieth not’ should not be taken literally.
The first mention of ‘gehenna’ was during the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus came to the Jew first and preached the Kingdom of God was at hand. He graphically described the ‘gehenna of fire’; His audience would have recalled the horrific stories recorded in the Old Testament.
Only through repentance could they avoid the fiery national judgement at the hands of the Romans.
The Gehenna Timeline
Mat 23:36 KJV Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
Jesus actually stated the time of ‘the judgement of the gehenna’.
Mat 24:34 YLT Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
It is not difficult to understand when taking into account audience relevance that Jesus was admonishing His generation. His warning is inconsequential to a generation 2000 years in the future.
Old Covenant Israel finally ended in AD 70, God’s remnant escaped to Pella and lived to enter into the New Covenant Age; the spiritual Kingdom of God… Matthew 24:16
Josephus recorded that a multitude of dead bodies filled the valley of Hinnom following the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.
‘Now the seditious at first gave orders that the dead should be buried out of the public treasury, as not enduring the stench of their dead bodies. But afterwards, when they could not do that, they had them cast down from the walls into the valleys beneath.’ — Josephus
Consider the following:
If Hell is a place of eternal torment and the final destiny of those who remain ‘in Adam’ rather than ‘in Christ’, why did God not make it clear to Adam from the beginning?
God told Adam the penalty for eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was that he would die… Genesis 2:17 At what time did He add eternal torment in Hell?
If Paul declared all the counsel of God… Acts 20:27 How could he make such a claim since he never mentioned Gehenna or eternal torment in Hell?
So what will become of the lost and unrepentant? In my opinion, the Scriptures are silent. However, I do know it is far better to be ‘in Christ’ with the assurance of everlasting life, and to enjoy the blessings of fellowship with our Heavenly Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, than to dwell in darkness and carry the burden of accountability with fear and uncertainty.
I endeavour to speak only when the Scriptures speak, and remain silent when the Scriptures remain silent. In my opinion, the Scriptures do not fully reveal the fate of the lost.
‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’… Genesis 18:25
What do you think?