The Evangelical Universalist Forum



referring to rev 20:14-if death and hell are a lake of fire how can it be thrown into a lake of fire? btw I’m only a hopeful dogmatic universalists


Death and hades are thrown into the lake of fire which is God.

it’s really pretty simple, once you understand the symbols and realize there are errors in our Bible translations.

This message will hopefully help you put the pieces together.


Hi Johnmm5,


I’m not sure that death and hell (hades) are ever called a “lake of fire”. Seems to me that, in scripture, they are different things-- although people do generally tend to think of “hell” “hades” and “the lake of fire” all as the same thing.



What are corpses?




Bumping this topic back to the top of the active post list (since the topic of Mark 9:49-50 and its preceding contexts, going back to Isaiah, has come up again in another thread.)

This also seems to be what currently has the most votes for me to work on when I get back; so I wanted it handier. :slight_smile:


(I’ve only read the first page) We also have to realize that by this time, the sheep have been sorted from the goats, and those who “have a good heart” but were not believing in Christ, by this time are, because they see everything in Him that they love: love, justice, peace, joy, etc. These are of the many who RIGHT NOW are passionate about these things but hate institutional Christianity for the evils it has spread. Will these go into the lake of fire? I think not, especially since Jesus sorts the sheep and goats out by who does good and who does not.

It is the evil manipulators of institutional religion, those who oppress others and put them under their thumb, who get drunk and beat the slaves, who put heavy loads they can’t carry on their backs and don’t even lift a finger to help, who shut the kingdom of heaven in the faces of the public and won’t even go in themselves, etc, etc, who will be thrown in. Along with many others who will be shown to be a part of that evil worldly oppressive, institutional system that has risen and fallen throughout the ages… any who stone-heartedly support it, excluding some who did and are transformed, will be thrown in.

So it’s not by who goes by the label “Christian,” or even just the ones of good heart within “Christianity,” but EVERYONE with a good heart, as illustrated by Jesus, even those sheep who are of another pen…

But this gets into the spirit of early Unitarianism.

Also, I don’t totally know the relation between Gehenna and the Lake of Fire, but if the literal Gehenna was seen as the gateway to everlasting fire, then perhaps the two are distinct even if not separate. However, the reason I think that Jesus would not even mention the Lake of Fire is that it was an expression that John came up with much later… it fit the analogy he was using better, so he used it.


Stellar, I wonder, since the Bible is not the actual “words of God” but instead, the words of fallible man, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, If God might have meant by the “Lake of Fire” something other than what John might have actually had in mind when he wrote. To me it provides a vivid picture of a “crucible” in which the fires of God’s loving and righteous judgments serve the purpose of purifying sinners in order to prepare them for entrance into the Kindom. I am reminded of the story of Joseph. When his brothers threw him into the pit, they meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. It could be that the Apostle John, himself, was not completely aware of the significance of what he was writing. Perhaps John meant it to represent retribution for man’s sin, but God had something else in mind altogether. John’s vision did come from God, after all. It is quite probable that John did not understand the full significance of what he was writing.


It was actually information that I found concerning Gehenna that freed me to believe in UR. I actually was studying about Hell, assuming such would confirm my traditional belief in the certainty of damnation for others. The first thing I noticed in my study of Hell was that not one word in the Hebrew or Greek text of scripture correctly interprets as Hell, not Sheol, Hades, Tartaroo, or Gehenna. Sheol and Hades simply mean grave or realm of the dead. Tartaroo, though a torturous realm in Hades is never used in relationship to humans; and the one time in scripture it is used it is not implied to be endless.

Gehenna was the only word left and it was a metaphor, an earthly picture of a spiritual reality. My first thought was to question what it meant to Jesus’ 1st Century Jewish audience. So with a little research I found that Gehenna, the valley of Hinnom, Jersalem’s city trash dump where there was a continuous (eternal) fire and never a shortage of maggots (worm dies not), Gehenna was a Jewish Rabbinical theological metaphor widely understood to speak of a place, an event of judgment in the afterlife. For most people, Jew and Gentile alike, Gehenna was a place/event of Remedial Purification. When a loved one died, they were mourned for 11 months or less because it was assumed that they would have been purified and surely passed from Gehenna to Ga Eden (Paradise) by then. To mourn longer than 11 months was to indicate that you believed the person to be especially evil. During this 11 month period prayers and offerings for the dead were offered as a means of encouraging and possibly shortening a loved one’s season in Gehenna. Only the very righteous went straight to Ga Eden. Most people required the purification of Gehenna where they faced the fire of truth concerning what they did on earth, how they actually lived.

For the especially wicked Jew or Gentile, the Rabbis argued over whether or not the person was annihilated in Gehenna or possibly continued to suffer in Gehenna indefinitely longer than 12 months, as long as the Lord saw was needed. There was certainly no concensus though that even the most wicked would suffer endlessly.

So, Jesus’ words concerning Gehenna are said within this context and thus should be interpreted from this context. Did anything He say counter this understanding of Gehenna? Simply put, No! Jesus affirmed that Gehenna was a terrible place, and that we should be careful how we as believers live because of the fire of Gehenna. Jesus affirmed that Gehenna was based on works, how we actually live our lives, not just on what we believe or confess. Jesus even warned that we should fear God who can destroy the soul in Gehenna, much more than we fear man who can only destroy the body. Even this though does not specifically say that such destruction will happen to anyone. Having immediately warned of the terribleness of Gehenna, Jesus even says in Mk.9.49 that we will all be “salted by fire”. Salt speaks of both purification and preservation. The fire here is meant to preserve us, as in Remedial Judgment!

So to the 1st Century Jew, Jesus’ statements concerning Gehenna would have warned of Remedial Judgment from God that is meant to purge, purify, and preserve the one being judged. They do not meant to convey Damnation, but purgation!

You know, if God intended to communicate to us a warning of the Certainty of Damnation for anyone, it would have been very easy to do so, especially in Greek by simply using the word Tartaroo for it most closely relates to the English concept of Hell. But it is only used once and that passage speaks of the sinning angels that are held there in judgment.

As I said, it was the facts concerning Gehenna that freed me to accept that Jesus truly is the savior of All humanity, especially we who believe (1 Tim.4.10), and that one day every knee shall bow in submission and confess by the Spirit that Jesus is Lord - to the glory of God who is triumphant over all!

In short, in English translations Gehenna would best be interpreted to convey it’s metaphorical meaning as “the trash dump”; if it must be interpreted theologically, the closest English word would be Purgatory, not Hell.



Your comments on the meaning of Gehenna for the Jews of Christ’s time are very interesting to me… Do you have any references you could direct me to so I could do some additional reading on the topic?

Thanks again for the comments.




I felt the same as you, so I asked Sherman the same thing and for permission to post his comments on my website:




You don’t know this guy from Adam, and your posting his comments( which I believe to be not accurate) on your website? Amazing. :confused:


Thanks, Aaron, I needed that!

I did quite a bit of research on the subject today, and can find no corroboration for some of the statements posted on that webpage, so I just deleted the page. As far as I can tell, there is no proof that the Rabbinic traditions referred to on that page date from the first century.

At the same time, however, it cannot be proved that the word “gehenna,” and the valley to which it refers, was regarded by the writers of the Bible as a place of “endless” punishment.

Next time, I’ll do my homework before posting information on my website.


If you can prove me wrong on this, please cite your sources and I will gladly reinstate the webpage.





Good for you, Richard. I know Sherman is sincere, but he sincerely wrong. His use of the RCC creation “Purgatory” is unscriptural. His data about what Gehenna meant to the Jews and Rabbi’s is not accurate.

God bless,



The statements are true, except I believe they are later traditions and do not date to the first century.



Care to give something to back this up? Look up the Jewish understanding of Gehenna and see what you find. Let us know.


Concerning sources for the information I previously posted concerning Gehenna, the following colored quotes are a couple. As you likely know, the two predominant Rabbinical schools of thought during the time of Christ were founded by the Head and President of the Sanhedrin - Shammai and Hillel. As noted in my previous post, for most people, Gehenna was used as a metaphor to speak of purification in the afterlife for Jew and Gentile. There was debate as to who was to be considered so wicked so as to be un-purifiable. And there was debate as to what happened to these - annihilation or punishment for indefinitely long - but of course these were especially wicked people. For most people though judgment/Gehenna was a place/event of Remedial Purification.

The School of Shammai offered this description:
There will be three groups on the Day of Judgment: one of thoroughly righteous people, one of thoroughly wicked people and one of people in between. The first group will be immediately inscribed for everlasting life; the second group will be doomed in Gehinnom [Hell], as it says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence” [Daniel 12:2], the third will go down to Gehinnom and squeal and rise again, as it says, “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on My name and I will answer them” [Zechariah 13:9]… Babylonian Talmud, tractate Rosh Hashanah 16b-17a]

The school of Hillel suggested a more merciful view, in which the middle group are sent directly to Gan Eden (Heaven) instead of Gehinnom after death. Rabbi Hanina added that all who go down to Gehinnom will go up again, except adulterers, those who put their fellows to shame in public, and those who call their fellows by an obnoxious name [Babylonian Talmud, tractate Baba Metzia 58b].

Gehinnom is the postmortem destination of unrighteous Jews and Gentiles. In one reference, the souls in Gehinnom are punished for up to 12 months. After the appropriate period of purification, the righteous continue on to Gan Eden (Rabbi Akiba and Babylonian Talmud, tractate Eduyot 2:10). The wicked endure the full year of punishment then are either annihilated (“After 12 months, their body is consumed and their soul is burned and the wind scatters them under the soles of the feet of the righteous (Rosh Hashanah 17a)”) or continue to be punished.
As implied in the Book of Daniel, the Jewish notion of resurrection in the Maccabeean period was tied to a notion of judgment, and even to separate realms for the judged. In rabbinical thought, the model for heaven was Eden. The rabbinic word for hell, “Gehenna”, is taken from the name of a valley of fire where children were said to be sacrificed as burnt offerings to Baal and Moloch (Semitic deities). Gehenna is a place of intense punishment and cleansing. This place is also known as “She’ol” and other names. This line of Jewish thought argues that after death the soul has to be purified before it can go on the rest of its journey. The amount of time needed for purification depends on how the soul dealt with life. One Jewish tradition states that a soul needs a maximum of 11 months for purification, which is why, when a parent dies, the kaddish (memorial prayer) is recited for 11 months. The concept of Gehenna as a place for temporary purification was the source for the orthodox Christian doctrine of “purgatory.”
Only the very righteous go directly to Gan Eden. The average person descends to a place of punishment and/or purification, generally referred to as Gehinnom (guh-hee-NOHM) (in Yiddish, Gehenna), but sometimes as She’ol or by other names. According to one mystical view, every sin we commit creates an angel of destruction (a demon), and after we die we are punished by the very demons that we created. Some views see Gehinnom as one of severe punishment, a bit like the Christian Hell of fire and brimstone. Other sources merely see it as a time when we can see the actions of our lives objectively, see the harm that we have done and the opportunities we missed, and experience remorse for our actions. The period of time in Gehinnom does not exceed 12 months, and then ascends to take his place on Olam Ha-Ba.

When a person dies and goes to heaven, the judgment is not arbitrary and externally imposed. Rather, the soul is shown two videotapes. The first video is called “This is Your Life!” Every decision and every thought, all the good deeds, and the embarrassing things a person did in private is all replayed without any embellishments. It’s fully bared for all to see. That’s why the next world is called Olam HaEmet - “the World of Truth,” because there we clearly recognize our personal strengths and shortcomings, and the true purpose of life. In short, Hell is not the Devil with a pitchfork stoking the fires.

The second video depicts how a person’s life “could have been…” if the right choices had been made, if the opportunities were seized, if the potential was actualized. This video - the pain of squandered potential - is much more difficult to bear. But at the same time it purifies the soul as well. The pain creates regret which removes the barriers and enables the soul to completely connect to G-d.

Not all souls merit Gehenom. It is for people who have done good but need to be purified. A handful of people are too evil for Gehenom, and they are punished eternally. Pharaoh is one example.

As noted in my previous post, Jesus in Mark 9:49 alludes to the purification of Gehenna when after speaking of the terribleness of the fires of Gehenna actually notes that we shall all be salted with fire - which speaks of purification and preservation. The fire is for our good.

Also, concerning the Rabbinical argument as to whether or not especially evil people like Pharoh were annihilated or suffered in Gehenna indefinitely long more than 12 months, Jesus warns that we should fear God more than man because man can only destroy the body, but God can destroy the soul. Note though that He only recognizes that God can destroy the soul; He doesn’t affirm that God will do that. And of course, the Jews were not privy to the Revelation of the Lamb, the Atonement of Christ; so it’s only natural that the Jews would assume some people were un-redeemable, for salvation was not completely by Grace but was dependent to some degree upon the person doing some good in their lives. So though we study what the Jewish Rabbis taught concerning Gehenna in order to understand the Context in which Jesus spoke of Gehenna, we must remember that we have the Revelation of the Lamb which moved Paul to write that God is the Savior of all people, especially we who believe (1 Tim.4.10). And of course Paul also wrote speaking of the Atonement of Christ that just as the one sin of Adam got us into this mess, the sacrifice of Christ gets us all out of it (Rom.5.18)!


P.S. Btw, the reason I haven’t responded sooner to the request for sources is simply because I rarely get on the computer on the weekend.



I found most of those sources. What I couldn’t find was evidence that similar views to this were held by contempories of Jesus. Please correct me if I am wrong, but were not the views you posted from later rabbinical literature, written centuries after Christ. I’m sure there were antecedants of the same thoughts from the time of Christ, but do we have any documentation of this dating from the time of Christ or the intertestamental period?

I we can prove that the popular view of Gehenna in Jesus day was that of “remedial” punishment, then it would be easier to make the case that Jesus shared those same views. The only difference was, that the religious establishment of Jesus’ day thought they were excempted from this judgment due to their observance of Jewish law and the fact that they were God’s chosen people.

I am anxious to post your thoughts on my website. The only stumbling block for me is the dating of those views.

Thanks for your help,



Hi Richard,

The quotes referenced from the Talmud concerning the sayings of Rabbis Shammai (50 BCE - 20 CE) and Hillel (110 BCE - 10 CE), the President and Head of the Sanhedrin from just prior to the time of the ministry of Christ (30-33 CE). The Talmud, though being written around 500 CE. was the Oral Traditions of the Pharisees that were only communicated orally until around 200 CE when the Mishnah was written. The Mishnah was written in a very short Outline form which was later filled in by both the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud is the one predominantly used today in Judaism.

There are plenty of Jewish sites on which to research their understanding of Gehenna which often reference Shammai and Hillel from the time of Christ. And of course, Shammai and Hillel are two of the most important Rabbis from all time for Judaism. Much, if not most of the doctrine of the Pharisees is built upon their teachings. If one wants to understand the teachings of the Pharisees, the Talmud is the place to go, though it is written in a style that is difficult for modern Western minds to follow and appreciate. Thus the Jewish sites’ reviews of the teachings of both Shammai and Hillel are tremendously helpful for understanding the 1st century Jewish context of what Jesus said - especially as recorded by Matthew which was written to the Jewish community.



For me it is very significant that neither the Hebrew nor Greek text of scripture has a word that is correctly interpreted as Hell. And I especially find it significant that the Greek word “Tartaroo” is never used in scripture to reference punishment of people. As you know, Tartaroo was the torturous realm within Hades. If the authors of the NT intended to communicate such a hopeless state of being in torture, then surely Tartaroo would have been used repeatedly. Instead though, Tartaroo is NEVER used in scripture to speak of torturing humans!

In fact, even in Luke’s parable concerning the rich man and Lazarus, Luke was careful to NOT use the word Tartaroo to speak of the punishment that the rich man faced. And Luke was writting to Greeks, not Jews; and of course, both groups would have understood the meaning of Tartaroo. Of course, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is not about punishment in the afterlife, but is meant to Highlight that God is Just, even taking into account how much suffering we go through in this life - the more suffering the faster track to Paradise (Ga Eden). God is a righteous judge taking everything in our lives to account - even our suffering! Hallelujah! The promise of the passage is that if we’ve suffered much in this life, God takes that into account on the day of reconing and the comfort of the Lord will be all the sweeter and possibly swifter for us. On the other hand, if we’ve led a “blessed” life with little suffering, we should be careful to use our blessings to bless others, and all the more careful to obey the teachings of the Lord!

Also, I believe that Jesus actually originally said that the rich man was in Gehenna, but Luke translated what Jesus said into Greek when He wrote it; and the closest Greek word/concept to communicate the Jewish concept of Gehenna was the non-specific word “Hades” - NOT Tartaroo.