Bible Truth Examiner


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Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

IN our last study we considered the symbolic expression “lake of fire,” one of the Bible terms used to describe the Second Death. Let us now consider four other ways the Bible mentions the Second Death:


The second way the Bible describes the second hell is by the Greek word gehenna. This word occurs twelve times in the New Testament, and in every case the King James translators rendered it hell. This has caused confusion since they also translated the Greek word hades by the word hell, which we have seen refers to the first hell – the unconscious condition of the Adamic death state. The Greek word gehenna is equivalent to the Hebrew words ge-Hinnom, translated valley of Hinnom, a valley to the west and southwest of Jerusalem, in which the offal, refuse, etc., of the city were burned and utterly destroyed.

The Jews used this literal Gehenna, not as a burying place, but as the city’s sewage plant. The offal, refuse, etc. which fell upon its rocks and ledges was consumed by worms and that which fell into the bottom of the valley was consumed by the fires mingled with brimstone that were always kept burning. Living things were never cast into this valley, for the Jews were strictly prohibited from torturing any creature. After certain particularly wicked criminals were executed, their dead bodies were cast into this valley in order to make the crime and the criminal detestable in the eyes of the people. The Jews believed in a resurrection, so the destruction of the body in Gehenna after death (figuratively) implied the loss of hope for a future life by a resurrection. The destruction wrought by the worms and fires of this valley fittingly types (or pictures) the eternal annihilation that antitypical Gehenna works.

Scriptural Passages using the word Gehenna

Let us consider the twelve occurrences of the Greek word gehenna in the New Testament:

  • Matthew 5: 21, 22: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment [the lower Court of Judges]: 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 [villain, or vile fellow, a serious accusation], shall be in danger of the council [the High Council, or Sanhedrin, the Jews’ highest court]: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool [apostate wretch], shall be in danger of hell [gehenna] fire.”

These verses indicate increasing degrees of malice and hatred, together with corresponding punishments, increasing in severity. The scribes and Pharisees only considered the letter of the Mosaic law, for example, the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” was taken as only prohibiting external, physical killing, so they believed that only those who would take the natural life of another would be in danger of the judgment. They did not recognize the other application – that some were in danger of coming into judgment for putting others to death by assassination of character, reputation, etc., even though they did not kill them physically. 

Jesus here emphasized the spirit of the Law, rather than the letter. Sin must be sought out at its root. The scribes and Pharisees only saw its deadly fruit, when it was ripe. By yielding to unjust and improper anger, one starts out on the same course that leads to physical murder. He therefore breaks the sixth commandment from God’s point of view, for He looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16: 7).

  • Another passage containing gehenna is Matthew 10: 28. Jesus says: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul [the right to a future life]: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [gehenna].” Luke 12: 5 is similar: “Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell [gehenna]; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” These texts indicate that God has the power to destroy both soul and body utterly, completely and eternally in Gehenna.
  • Gehenna occurs twice in Matthew 5: 29, 30. Verse 29: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell [gehenna]. Our Lord here warns that if we possess some choice knowledge or pet theories which stumbles us, even though it be as dear as a right eye, nor how well it makes us appear, nor how much we may love it, it is better to put them away rather than allowing them to lead us to the Second Death.
  • Verse 30: “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell [gehenna].” Our Lord again warns, if we have any depraved desires that manifest themselves in deeds which stumble us, we should get rid of such deeds with the desires that caused them, rather than permit them to lead us to the Second Death.
  • Matthew 18: 8, 9 is a parallel passage which uses the word gehenna, but being so similar, we will not consider it here.
  • Mark 9: 43-48 contains three occurrences of the word gehenna. Most parts of this passage have already been commented on, except for the clause, “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” This evidently refers to the valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, which, as already explained, was just outside of Jerusalem, and served as a place where waste material was cast and burned. Some of it fell upon the rocks and ledges, where worms bred and continually devoured it. The remainder fell into the bottom of the valley where fires were continually kept burning until they completely destroyed everything combustible. Thus Jesus used this valley of Hinnom as a symbol of God’s absolute destruction of the wicked.
  • Two more occurrences of the word gehenna are found in Matthew 23: 15, 33. Verse 15: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell [gehenna] than yourselves.” The scribes and Pharisees were very active in making proselytes, believing that such good works would gain eternal life for themselves. But they made their proselytes twofold worse by teaching them wrong doctrines and false practices, for conversions gained by misrepresentations of God instill a poison into the heart that will be difficult to eradicate in restitution times.
  • Verse 33: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation [condemnation] of hell [gehenna]?” Jesus called them serpents, because, like Satan, they loved sin; and He called them a generation of vipers, because they were like the Satan system, the symbolic viper. Jesus almost despaired that these hypocrites could ever avoid the Second Death, for, by their willfulness in sinning against such great light, they were so undermining their characters as to be almost irrecoverable.
  • The final passage using the word gehenna is James 3: 6: “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell [gehenna].” This strong, symbolic language, points out the great and bad influence of an evil tongue. The tongue is so powerful that if not ruled properly, it defiles the whole body – one’s character, work, honor, office, position, relation to others, etc. It injures all with whom it comes in contact, and is extremely destructive. When on trial for life, if it is not controlled, it will lead to the Second Death.

“Everlasting Fire”

The third way the Bible describes the second hell is through the symbolic expression, “everlasting fire.” This expression is used in Matthew 25: 41, in the parable of the Sheep and Goats: “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” At the end of the Little Season, following the Millennial Age, Jesus will condemn the symbolic goats to destruction. Since this statement is parabolic, the fire is symbolic, because if we consider the fire as literal, we should also consider the goats as literal, and not referring to people. In the previous study we proved this fire to be symbolic by showing that Satan’s final fate is destruction. Revelation 20: 9 also shows, using the symbol of fire, that utter, complete and eternal annihilation will be the fate of those who are deceived into sin in the Little Season: “Fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” The word devoured surely did not preserve them in any sense, let alone in torment.

Some think that Matthew 25: 46 teaches eternal torment: “These [the goat class] shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” This verse says nothing about eternal torment; on the contrary, the Scriptures declare death to be the punishment for sin, not torment. “The wages of sin is death.” “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “Every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed” (Romans 6: 23) (Ezekiel 18: 4, 20) (Acts 3: 23). Make this punishment eternal and you have eternal punishment, eternal death, but not eternal torment. The Greek word translated punishment is kolasis, meaning literally a cutting off. The wicked, therefore, go into an everlasting cutting off from life, the opposite of eternal life.

Matthew 18: 8 also uses the expression “everlasting fire,” and it evidently has the same meaning as in Matthew 25: 41, so we will not discuss it here.

“Eternal Fire”

The fourth way the Scriptures designate the second hell is by the symbolic expression, “eternal fire.” Jude 7: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” The fire of punishment that the people of Sodom and Gomorrha and the surrounding cities suffered did not last forever; rather, it destroyed those cities forever. The destruction of those cities primarily pictures the destruction of certain great religious systems, and the destruction of the wicked of those cities types the eternal destruction of the incorrigibly wicked of the Gospel and Millennial Ages.

Luke 17: 28, 29 also mentions the destruction of Sodom in the days of Lot: “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” The people were here engaged in their ordinary occupations when destruction from the Lord came upon them suddenly. Nothing is mentioned about their eternal torment.


As the fifth and final way, let us consider the Old Testament use of the Hebrew word sheol. As was shown in study five, the Old Testament uses this word for both the first and the second hells.

Psalm 9: 17 (American Revised Version): “The wicked shall be turned back [returned] unto Sheol, even all the nations [Gog and Magog – Revelation 20: 7-9, 15] that forget God.” This passage refers to the willfully wicked in the Little Season. These had previously been brought out of hades, the first sheol; but forgetting God in the trial of the Little Season, they will return unto sheol, as the second death state, and will never come back again.

Proverbs 15: 24 (American Revised Version): “To the wise the way of life goeth upward, that he may depart from sheol beneath.” The way of life for the wise is in the higher things: the things that are noble and in harmony with truth and righteousness. Their wisdom shows that they are following these things so that they may depart from sheol beneath – the second hell.

Proverbs 23: 14: “Thou shalt beat him [thy son] with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell [sheol].” This passage cannot refer to the first hell (sheol), for no matter how much a child is corrected now, it will go into the first hell regardless. But proper discipline and correction on the part of parents has delivered many children from going into the second hell (verse 13), for it has prevented those who have properly responded from going into the way of wrong and iniquity in this Age, and will therefore help them from going into the second hell in the Millennial Age.

Job 7: 9: “As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave [sheol] shall come up no more.” This text does not refer to the Adamic death state, the first hell, for those who go into that condition will come forth again (Acts 24: 15). The simile here used refers to the second hell, for the cloud which has passed out of existence never returns into existence, which illustrates the eternal non-existence of those who go into the second hell.

Isaiah 14: 15: “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell [sheol], to the sides of the pit.” The context primarily indicates that the devil, because of his evil deeds, shall go into the second hell.

In some cases, the word sheol may have an application to both the first hell and the second hell. One example is Isaiah 28: 15-18. Verse 15 reads: “Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell [sheol] are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.” The nominal people of God have made a covenant with death, declaring it to be a friend to those who join their denominations; that they need not fear death, claiming that when they die they are much better off and more alive than before they died. The Scriptures, however, declare that death is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15: 26). Many in the various denominations are in agreement with sheol, whether we consider it from the standpoint of the first hell or the second hell; they have magnified sin’s penalty into being eternal life in torture, but that all within their sectarian systems are safe from going into this place. They therefore use fear of eternal torture in hell as a means of driving people into their churches. They claim that the overflowing scourge (the great Time of Trouble) will not affect their members, but they fail to realize that this very Time of Trouble will overthrow their evil institutions. They have made lies (the doctrines of eternal torment, the immortality of man, the consciousness of the dead, etc.) their refuge, and under falsehood have hid themselves, preferring their own errors and ways instead of seeking guidance from God’s Word.

Verses 16, 17: “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation [Jesus]: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.” Those who believe will not make haste, but will wait on the Lord. The Lord will require strict adherence to doctrinal Truth (judgment) and conduct in harmony with the Truth (righteousness). Hard, distressing truths (hail), which God has been giving here in the end of the Age, shall sweep away the doctrines of eternal torment, the consciousness of the dead, etc., and the Truth (waters) will utterly destroy these errors.

Verse 18: “And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell [sheol] shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.” The understanding that death is a friend (covenant with death) shall be completely refuted. They shall be forced to see that membership in sectarian systems (agreement with hell [sheol]) will not avail them anything. The “overthrowing scourge” is primarily God’s Truth on various subjects, such as the death state, hell, etc. The various systems and their erroneous doctrines shall be destroyed by God’s Truth in the Time of Trouble.

Isaiah 28: 15-18 also has an application to the Millennial Age. Those who make a covenant with death at that time are the two classes of Isaiah 65: 20 (discussed in study five). They will make lies their refuge and will think that they can escape the Second Death. They will hide themselves under falsehoods (errors). The faithful then will have our Lord and His Church as their precious corner stone (Acts 3: 22, 23). Those who believe will not make haste then, but will wait on the Lord. Strict conformity to the Truth and conduct in harmony with it will be required. Those who will be faithful to the New Covenant arrangements, obeying them from the heart, will gain eternal life. The hard, distressing truths of that time will destroy Satan’s lies; he and his deceived ones will be plunged into complete and eternal annihilation, and they will be an everlasting abhorrence to all flesh (Isaiah 66: 24).


Finally, let us consider 2 Peter 2: 4: “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [tartaroo], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” The fall of the angels who sinned was from honor and dignity into dishonor and condemnation. The thought seems to be, “God spared not the angels who sinned, but demoted them, and delivered them into chains of darkness.”

This agrees with our knowledge of these fallen angels from other Scriptures, for these fallen spirits were in the earth in the days of our Lord and the Apostles. They were not down in some place, but “down” in the sense of being degraded from former honor and liberty, and restrained under darkness, as by a chain. They have been confined to this earth’s atmosphere as their prison, and are unable to leave. Spititistic séances manifest the powers of these fallen spirits, in which they pretend to be certain dead human beings; they always have had to do their work in the dark because darkness is the chain by which they have been bound until the Day of Judgment. The repentant will be given the opportunity during the Millennial Age of gaining life, on the condition of obedience. The unrepentant, along with Satan their leader (Revelation 20: 2, 3), will probably be spirited so far away from the earth as not to know what will be transpiring here. At the end of the Millennial Age, in the Little Season, they will be loosed along with Satan, and will seek to deceive mankind. Together with Satan (Hebrews 2: 14) and the “goat” class (Revelation 20: 7-10), they will be annihilated, symbolized by their being cast into everlasting fire (Matthew 25: 41).

We close our study of the Bible use of the word hell. We have found that there is no place of eternal torture such as the creeds of the Dark Ages and many hymn books and churches teach. Yet the Bible does teach a hell (sheol, hades) – the unconscious, oblivious state of death, to which our entire race was condemned on account of Adam’s sin, but from which all are redeemed by our Lord’s death. We have also found another hell (gehenna – the Second Death – utter, complete and eternal annihilation) as the final penalty upon all who, after being redeemed and brought to the full knowledge of the Truth (1 Timothy 2: 4) and to full ability to obey it, shall choose a course of opposition to God and righteousness. Praise God that He has provided so much light for us on these subjects in His Holy Word, and that through the elimination of the first hell and the eternal existence of the second hell, there will be a clean universe (2 Peter 3: 13). “Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and [even] all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. (Revelation 5: 13).