The city of Tophet in the Valley of Hinnom has been given a much more comprehensive meaning after atrocities such as killing innocent children were performed there. Such acts were vehemently condemned by God.
The meaning of Tophet was changed from a place of suffering of the innocent to a place of perpetual suffering for those causing the suffering, or in fact, any transgression against God.
Tophet in the Old Testament was renamed Gehenna in the New Testament with the expanded meaning of an eternal place of fire and brimstone.
Gehenna was now the final destination of the wicked after the great white throne judgment.
The punishment in Gehenna involved both the body and the soul. Jesus spoke often of Gehenna and described it in detail.
When speaking of repentance from sin:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell (Gehenna).” Mathew 5:28-29
Shortly thereafter, Jesus confirmed that a much more serious problem was to lose both body and soul.
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna).” Matthew 10:28
When the wicked dies, their soul departs into hell (Hades) while the body rots in the grave. However, the wicked are resurrected, first to stand before the great white throne, and then to be cast into eternal torment.
Daniel in the Old Testament confirmed the resurrection of the wicked as he was describing end time events.
“And many (all) of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2
The Hebrew word ‘shame’ means ‘reproach’ or ‘scorn.’ Everlasting means ‘without end.’ Contempt means ‘abomination’ or ‘abhorrence.’
Therefore, the wicked are not only resurrected, but are then condemned to everlasting punishment.
Jesus confirmed that significant fact.
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” John 5:28-29
Thus resurrection is universal.
Judgment is most often expressed and accompanied with fire. Such describes Gehenna.
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell (Gehenna), into the fire that shall never be quenched – where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” Mark 9:43-44
Jesus quoted Isaiah confirming the perpetuity of Gehenna with worms and fire.
Jesus in another way described the conscious suffering of those condemned to Gehenna.
“Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:40-42
And Jesus described the fate of those who claimed physical lineage of Abraham as their salvation.
One who places their trust in the Messiah is of the spiritual seed of Abraham. Recall the faith of the Roman centurion who trusted Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus marveled at the centurion’s faith.
“And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven. But the sons of the kingdom (physical Jews only) will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 8:11-12
Thus the Bible reveals that annihilation is not the fate of unrepentant mankind. Gehenna involves eternal suffering, outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, perpetual worms and unquenchable fire.
Next we’ll examine Gehenna and the ‘lake of fire.’