Did Jesus Talk more about Gehenna than He did about the Kingdom from Heaven?


Walvoord—All the references to gehenna, except James 3:6, are from the lips of Jesus Christ himself…” [ “The Literal View” in William Crockett (ed.), Four Views on Hell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 19-20.]

Glenn Peoples—“all the instances” of gehenna, in the Gospels actually amounts to very few. As it is a very Jewish word (a Greek term derived from a Hebrew word referring to the Valley of Hinnom),

Matthew 7:19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Glenn Peoples– I’m inclined to think that it’s not even a reference to the afterlife, but to the false teachers in Judaism who are going to be cut out of the kingdom in a judgement culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem. But – in spite of no obvious indicators in the context – let’s say that it’s a reference to punishment in the afterlife. If that’s what it is, then bear in mind that there’s also teaching here about acceptance in God’s kingdom too—“the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 13:30, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” In verses 44 and 45 Jesus gives a couple more parables of the kingdom of heaven where only the positive side is mentioned. Then in the same chapter, in verses 47-50, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a fishing net that caught good and bad fish. The good fish are kept and stored, but the bad fish are thrown away. Jesus says that this is like the way the evil will be thrown into a “fiery furnace.”

In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast…. Most of the people in the story get to remain at the wedding banquet. But the king orders his servants to take one guest and “cast him into the outer darkness.”

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), two of the master’s servants, who used what he had given them wisely, are told to enter the joy of their master. The last one is sent “into the outer darkness.”

At the conclusion of the story of the sheep and goats, we read of the two types of people, “and these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into the lasting life of the age to come,

That’s five examples, plus the four contexts where the actual word gehenna is used, so we have nine in total. For three years of public teaching, nine times is not very often. Jesus taught on final punishment, but he didn’t say about it what many evangelicals believe about it.

It would hardly be fair to do a search for a subject in the letters of John and a search for a subject in the Gospels to see who cared more about a subject– John or Jesus! Jesus taught more about most of the things that he taught about than he did about hell, things like showing love to our neighbor, for example, or the importance of concern for the poor and outcast, the way we use money, or even the historical judgement of God that was about to come upon Jerusalem.

Glenn Peoples–“It’s a very Stoic sounding approach—not only did Jesus talk more about hell than other people, but also Jesus talked more about hell than about the kingdom of resurrection and lasting life and His gift of the forgiveness of sins, The beatitudes of Matthew 5 alone would tip the scales heavily. Then we have the treasures in heaven that \in Matthew 6, in others Gospels we have the party thrown for the returned prodigal son…””

Mark McCulley: Preachers (often more into rhetoric than truth) beat their chests and say, “I don’t like it either but it’s the truth.” Most of the preachers, including the “Reformed”, justify it all by saying that God also desired the salvation of the non-elect, and that Jesus was “available” to everybody but that “hell was the default” unless you “accepted Jesus”. Saying that Jesus talked about the destruction of the non-elect more than Jesus talked about resurrection life is NOT THE TRUTH!

Jesus talked more about gehenna than the apostle Paul did because the apostle Paul never talked about gehenna. But almost every reference by Jesus to gehenna in Matthew’s Gospel is coupled with a reference to entrance into the kingdom. Repent, the kingdom is at hand! So the count is about even between blessing and curse when we add up the texts that do refer to gehenna. But there are plenty of other texts that refer to God’s gift of salvation to the elect. For example, the non-elect are not even mentioned in texts like Romans 5 or in Romans 3:22-24. When we think of “judgment”, we must not only think of the condemnation of the non-elect but also about the fact that God’s justification of the elect is also “judgment”

John 5:21 And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to anyone He wants to. 22 The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life. 25 “I assure you: An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted to the Son to have life in Himself. 27 And He has granted Him the right to pass judgment, because He is the Son of Man.

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15 Comments on “Did Jesus Talk more about Gehenna than He did about the Kingdom from Heaven?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Do you believe one’s view concerning the state of man after death is a non-negotiable Gospel issue? Or is this issue an in-house debate? This meme seems to intimate that anyone who holds to the eternal torment view concerning hell/punishment is somehow following Satan.

    Mark Mcculley Good question. I definitely do not. If I did, I would have very few friends in the gospel. The thing is, 99% percent of those who teach “immorality is God’s gift” are Arminians. But another thing is that 99% of those who teach “every human will live somewhere, even if it’s to keep sinning and getting tortured” are also Arminians. As a matter of fact, not everyone who believes in “torments never ends and therefore death is an experience in which you never get finally dead” is Arminian who says what I say in the essay above, like for example, that God loved and wanted to save everybody now living in hell. So, yes, I want you to study the issue. And I want you to not be afraid of men, or what they would say about you, if you think the Bible is saying something. So yes, I want you to cringe when you think of all the Arminian arguments being used to support torture which is never infinite enough for God to stop doing it. But also, I also cringe when i hear a lot of the Arminian arguments for “conferred immortality”. It’s like being a pacifist, and then hearing other pacifists say think that humans are basically good. And then i want to say, well don’t call me a pacifist, call me something else. But with all the Arminians, I want to say, since they are the “Christians”, don’t call me a “Christian.” I am an atheist with regard to the false god of Arminianism

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Tripp is a “Reformed psychologist” who gets featured at Reformed conferences He pushes the idea of sinners living forever in hell, but in the process of defending that notion he says time and again, it was not ever meant to be this way. So “hell” to him is plan b.

    He definitely agrees with what Satan told Adam and Eve—you will never die, you will live somewhere forever. He even endorses the dualism of Ben Franklin—here lies the body, like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out…..And he quotes C S Lewis as if it’s apostolic—we will live forever, because inside we want to live forever.

    Who the we is of course a little fuzzy. Maybe all of us are Christians, or maybe it’s only all of us who are reading his books or paying to hear him in a conference, but in any case we all need to be thankful that we won’t be tortured forever by the God who never wanted to do that. It was never God’s “intention”, the writer keeps telling us. It was not on purpose, it was plan b. And even now, God wishes that it would not happen, but since we have free will, it might…..

    I suppose this theodicy is “intended” to reassure us. God never gave the law to increase sin, but we have free will. God never ordained Adam to sin, but Adam had free will. But in any case, Satan was right–being in the image of God means that we will ‘spend eternity” somewhere, and never die. That part of the plan can’t be changed by us.

    God did not put Adam on probation as a means to giving Christ the glory for the redemption of the elect. But it did turn out that way, and Christ will get glory anyway, provided that you exercise your free will to accept the fact that he died for you. I mean he died for you even if you don’t accept that he did, but if you don’t, then you will live forever in torment.

    Those who are ‘spiritually dead” make bad choices. So that explains how Adam made a bad choice and as a result of that bad choice, Adam became ‘spiritually dead”. And so now what LOOKS LIKE us living is really us being ‘spiritually dead.”. And what LOOKS LIKE “physical death” is really about being alive either in heaven or being tortured in hell. But God never intended any of this, it’s all on us. We placed our own feet on the slippery slope.

    Because when the Bible says that the wages of sin is death or that the soul that sins shall die, that’s not “intended” to be taken literally. Death is not death but torture. Death is not death but a separation. This age will end, but the next age will never end, and in the next age God will not ever really bring anybody to an end, but those who use their free will wrong in this age will be kept existing forever in order to partially satisfy what is so infinite that it never can ever get any closer to being satisfied..

    Death is not literally death, but for some folks (not us) it will have a dark side. God never had any designs on there being vessels of destruction, but it happened anyway, because what we do matters and what we decide has consequences. The fire that tortures forever was not meant for any human but only for Satan and Satan’s angels (Matthew 25:41). But nobody ever perishes or gets destroyed in that fire, because as Satan well knows—you shall never die. The final torture will never be final.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    William Tyndale, 1530—- “Nay, Paul, thou art unlearned; go to Master More, and learn a new way. We be not most miserable, though we rise not again; for our souls go to heaven as soon as we be dead, and are there in as great joy as Christ that is risen again. And I marvel that Paul had not comforted the Thessalonians with that doctrine, if he had known it.” An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue (Parker’s 1850 reprint), bk. 4, ch. 4, p. 180

    William Tyndale—“When More proveth that the saints be in heaven in glory with Christ already, saying, “If God be their God, they be in heaven, for he is not the God of the dead;” there he stealeth away Christ’s argument, wherewith he proveth the resurrection: that Abraham and all saints should rise again, and not that souls were now living hell or in purgatory or in heaven; which doctrine was not yet in the world. With that doctrine More taketh away the resurrection quite, and maketh Christ’s argument of none effect.”

    Luke 20: 34 Jesus told them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to take part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 For they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are sons of God, since they are sons of the resurrection. 37 Moses even indicated in the passage about the burning bush that the dead are raised, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.
    38 He is not God of the dead but of the living…


    • markmcculley Says:

      my brain
      is always ticking
      cool little cluster
      steady working
      flustered, losing power
      1200 neurons every hours
      getting pounded
      pretty soon i’ll be dumbfounded

      The God of the Living” (Matt. 22:32. Mark 12:27. Luke 20:38). In these scriptures it is stated that “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” But Traditionalists, believing that the “dead” are “the living,” making God the “God of the dead,” which He distinctly says He is not. Interpreting the words in this way, they utterly ignore the whole context, which shows that the words refer to the RESURRECTION, and not to the dead at all

      (i) “Then come unto Him the Sadducees, which say there is no RESURRECTION” (Matt. 22:23. Mark 12:18. Luke 20:27).

      (ii) The one issue raised by the Sadducees was the question, “Whose wife shall she be in the RESURRECTION?” (Matt. 22:28. Mark 12:23. Luke 20:33).

      (iii) The answer of our Lord deals solely with this one issue, which was RESURRECTION. Hence He says:
      Matt. 22, “as touching the RESURRECTION of the dead” (v. 31).
      Mark 12, “as touching the dead that they RISE” (v. 26).
      Luke 20, “now that the dead are RAISED, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, for he is not a God of the dead, but of the living, for all live unto him” (v. 38).

      These words were spoken by the Lord Jesus in order to prove “that the dead are RAISED.” Traditionalists use them to prove that the dead are “living” without being RAISED!

      Christ’s argument was:

      1. God’s words at the bush prove a life for the dead patriarchs.
      2. But there is no life for the dead without a resurrection.
      3. Therefore they must be RAISED FROM THE DEAD; or “live again” by Him. This argument held good, for it silenced the Sadducees. For if they are “living” now, and not dead, how does that prove a resurrection? And, moreover, what is the difference between them and those who are in “the land of the living”? For this is the expression constantly used ofthe present condition of life in contrast with the state of death. Psalms 27:13
      “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
      Psalms 56:13
      “For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?”

      Psalms 116:9
      “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

      Psalms 142:5
      “I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.”

  4. Torture in hell forever is a much greater profanity than Trump saying “what the hell”


    When discussing corporations who move abroad for tax advantages—“inversions,” in business speak—Trump said his rivals were dummies. “They don’t even know what the hell it means.”

    — On foreign affairs? “Afghanistan is going to hell.” A follow-up promise: “We’re going to knock the shit out of ISIS.”

    — On President Barack Obama’s vacation to Hawaii? “I’d want to stay in the White House and work my ass off.”

    — On China’s building of military bases in the South China Sea? “They’re ripping the shit out of the sea.”

    — On trade deals? “We’re going to win on trade and piss people off.”

  5. Blanchard — Jesus did not use the identical word in the same sentence about both heaven and hell if he intended it to have diametrically opposite meanings.”
    Paul G. Humber “ First, lasting is not “diametrically opposite” to everlasting. You used a mathematical expression (“diametrically”), so please allow me to use another (I taught mathematics for 30 years). Lasting is the “universal set” of which everlasting is a “subset”. All women are humans, but not all humans are women. ‘Women’ is a subset of humans. Similarly, all ‘everlastings’ are ‘lasting’, but not all ‘lastings’ are ‘everlasting.’ They are not diametrically opposite concepts. The Holy Spirit used olam (OT) and aionios (NT). Neither term means everlasting or eternal. Both mean lasting, and lasting has durational flexibility, just as olam and aionios do. ‘Humans’ has flexibility (could refer to either women or men). Eternal, however, does not have durational flexibility, and for that reason is a mistranslation of olam (aionios). Translators should respect the Holy Spirit’s word by using an equivalent. Everlasting is not equivalent; lasting is.

  6. Luke 9: 58 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” “Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.” 60 But He told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.”

    61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.”62 But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God

  7. markmcculley Says:

    But when the Bible talks about the place of provisional judgment before the resurrection, Gehenna is not the word used. In the Old Testament, the interim realm of departed souls was called “Sheol.” For example, when Jacob’s sons brought Joseph’s coat of many colors to him, torn and with blood on it, Jacob thought that Joseph was dead. He refused to be comforted and said, “I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning” (Gen 37:35).9 The word Sheol is used 65 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. In 61 of those 65 occurrences, the Septuagint translators used the Greek word “Hades” to render the Hebrew word “Sheol.” (See Appendix below.) The word Hades already had connotations from Greek mythology. Hades was both the name of the god who ruled in the underworld and the name of the underworld itself. When referring to the underworld itself, Hades could be a name for the gloomy dungeon of torment for bad people. Or, it could also be used in a neutral sense for the realm of the dead, whether good or bad. Because it was so similar to the biblical view of the afterlife, the Septuagint translators borrowed this word Hades to render the Hebrew word Sheol. Thus, Sheol and Hades are the same thing. It refers to the neutral place where all departed souls go, whether good and bad, whether saved or lost. The key point is that Sheol/Hades is a neutral concept, and is totally distinct from the negative concept of Hell or Gehenna



  8. markmcculley Says:

    Burke begins with a parable; a grotesque and bizarre parable involving people pulling legs off of a variety of creatures. The purpose of the parable is make us believe that the punishment for sin is relative to “the value and worth of the one being sinned against.” Therefore, because God is of infinite value and worth, sin against God is deserving of an infinite punishment. The problem is that this is stated precisely nowhere in Scripture. Instead, we see evidence in Scripture which actually says that punishment for sin is equal to the nature of the sin, not the victim of the sin. The lex talionis of the Mosaic covenant lays out the principle of “eye for an eye” (Ex. 21:23-25). Death, that is capital punishment, is prescribed for certain severe sins. But the infliction of torment- physical, corporeal punishment- is very rarely prescribed, and when it is, the duration and severity is restricted significantly.
    “If the guilty person deserves to be beaten, the judge shall make them lie down and have them flogged in his presence with the number of lashes the crime deserves, but the judge must not impose more than forty lashes. If the guilty party is flogged more than that, your fellow Israelite will be degraded in your eyes. “(Deuteronomy 25:2-3). This text shows that going above 40 lashes for any crime which deserves lashes would be unjust and degrades an Israelite, and is not permitted. Inflicting prolonged physical torment is unbiblical and ungodly.

    When we get to Revelation 20, we see the devil, the beast, and the false prophet thrown into the Lake of Fire, “and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (20:10) Then a few verses later we read, “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” (20:14-15) Again, a surface reading might suggest that those who will not be welcomed into the New Heavens and the New Earth are thrown into hell along with the devil, the beast, and the false prophet to be tormented forever and ever. However, Hebrews 2:14 tells us that in death Jesus “might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil”. The beast and the false prophet are likely symbols of imperial power and false religion/idolatry. How do these things, as well as Hades, that is death itself, suffer an “unending experience” of torment in the Lake of Fire?


  9. Thanks, Mark.Appreciate you not only asserting the truth but also contrasting it with bad teaching that has a form of righteousness.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Psalm 49: 10 For one can see that wise men die;
    foolish and stupid men also pass away.
    Then they leave their wealth to others.
    11 Their graves are their eternal homes,
    their homes from generation to generation,
    though they have named estates after themselves.
    12 But despite his assets,[ man will not last;
    he is like the animals that perish.
    13 This is the way of those who are arrogant,
    and of their followers,
    who approve of their words.
    14 Like sheep they are headed for Sheol;
    Death will shepherd them.
    The upright will rule over them in the morning,
    and their form will waste away in Sheol,
    far from their lofty abode.
    15 But God will redeem my life
    from the power of Sheol…

    Do not be afraid when a man gets rich,
    when the wealth of his house increases.
    17 For when he dies, he will take nothing at all;
    his wealth will not follow him down.
    18 Though he praises himself during his lifetime—
    and people praise you when you do well for yourself—
    19 he will go to the generation of his fathers;
    they will never see the light.
    20 A man with valuable possessions[
    but without understanding
    is like the animals that perish.

  11. markmcculley Says:

    This guy says that being put out of the garden is on the basis of works, and that staying in the garden is on the basis of works, but that getting back into the garden is not on the basis of works. But he doesn’t give any reason for the contrast he assumes. If you confuse law and mercy at the beginning, there is no reason to stop confusing law and mercy later on.

    To compare Adam being put out of the garden to somebody being put out of “the church” or out of “the covenant” is to claim that the punishment for sin is “mercy”. To say that God’s mercy keeps you from breaking the law is not to depend on God’s mercy in Christ.

    To say that Adam already had ‘spiritual life” and that Adam could have and would have earned justification by works is to make Christ plan B. There is no reason to deny that Adam ate from the tree of life before he sinned, but there is also no reason to think that the tree of life was the tree of justification.

    Those who assume that all humans will always exist deny that any humans ever really die. So they deny that being separated from the tree of life is the death which is the wages of sin. They only make a distinction between living in the presence of God, or living in “hell where God is not present”. But this guy knows that ‘returning to the dust” does not mean non-existence but something bad like exile or “spiritual death”

    The next time you hear somebody say that “eternal life” is not about continuing to exist in time but about “quality of life”, ask them why “eternal life” cannot be BOTH knowing Christ and knowing Christ in time forever. A false logic gives us false alternatives.


  12. markmcculley Says:

    2. The Word “Hell” in Scripture Automatically Means a Place of Eternal Torment

    As far as I can tell, White does not go nearly as far as arguing that since the Bible has the word “hell” in it, therefore the Bible teaches eternal torment. However, this idea of an eternal pit of fiery torment called “hell” is so deeply ingrained in our minds and culture that it can color how you interpret the various relevant passages. But to fairly read what the scripture truly teaches, you must be willing to acknowledge this bias and work past it.

    And remember, as mentioned above, Matthew 10:28 describes “hell” specifically as the place where God destroys both body and soul. Hell in the Bible might not be what you were taught to believe.

    3. Jesus Talked about Hell More Than He Talked About Heaven

    Under myth #2, titled “Jesus Didn’t Talk about Hell,” the claim is made that “Jesus talked about hell more often than he talked about heaven.”

    This claim gets made over and over and over again in evangelical circles, but it’s just a cliché without support. Have you, the reader, ever actually gone through the Gospels (and perhaps Revelation and the first chapter of Acts for good measure) and looked at how many times Jesus speaks about hell versus heaven? Or, did you simply hear the claim and accept it without any evidence? There is a good chance that the people you heard it from did the same.

    A detailed analysis of the examples would go beyond the scope of this article, but you might notice that when you go through the Gospels, almost every reference to hell also includes a reference to heaven. For example, the oft-cited Matthew 25:46, which speaks of “eternal punishment,” mentions going to “eternal life” in the same sentence, contrasting the two destinies. If Jesus mentions heaven and hell together, then obviously it nets out to zero in terms of which one Jesus talked about more.

    But Jesus also sometimes talks about the glorious fate of believers without mentioning hell, the resurrection unto damnation, or the like. He makes reference to the eternal life he brings his followers without making any sort of warning of the alternative. (e.g. Mark 10:30, John 6:35-40, John 10:10)7 He talks about treasures in heaven in Matthew 6:20. He tells his disciples of the amazingly glorious fact that he will eat with them in the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 26:29. There is no negative reinforcement.

    Ultimately, I would say that Jesus doesn’t talk that much about heaven or hell as destinations. He puts more emphasis on himself and how he’ll lead you to the right destination. But if you actually look at the Bible, claim #3 looks to be no less of a myth than the citation-free cliché that conditional immortality was condemned as heresy at the Second Council of Constantinople.


  13. markmcculley Says:

    is death not really death but separation from God–“going to the other place”
    passing away

    passing from one place but still living in the bad place?

    Adam did not die but was sent into exile east of Eden

    but the New Testament assumes that exile (diaspora) is a good thing. because it means that Christians are not trying to take over or influence any nation-state

    does death mean “cease to exist”?

    does resurrection mean “recreated”?

    does death mean “living somewhere else but not in the presence of God”?

    Milton–Satan, at least I have a place of my own away from God

    Job 34: 14
    If withdrew the spirit and breath He gave,
    15 every living thing would PERISH together
    and mankind would return to the dust.

    but since we have “immortal souls”, perish does not men destruction but instead we think it means going to a place where there is no presence of the Holy Spirit in us, and where God will punish and torture forever without ever being satisfied by it

  14. markmcculley Says:

    you haven’t made peace with God

    but God didn’t make hell for you

    didn’t want you to die

    had the capacity to be infinitely tortured for you
    in a way that we cannot understand

    but Billy Graham knows that God loves yoou
    make a choice between the things in your life
    and accepting God’s love

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