What is the lake of fire? This is an image we see painted in the scriptures in the book of Revelation. The actual term “lake of fire” is used 4 times in this particular book of the bible. We will explore the definitions of the words hell and lake of fire to better understand.
* Hell *
The Hebrew word for hell is found in the Old Testament as “sheol”. The Greek word for this same place is known as “hades”. You will find these two words often interchangeable. Outer darkness is also used to describe the destination of those who reject the Lord Jesus found in Matthew 8:22 and 22:13.
But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:22 KJV
Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 22:13 KJV
In the Strong’s dictionary sheol is defined as the underworld, grave, hell, pit. Hell is also described as a bottomless pit, destruction, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth to name a few. In the Old Testament this was the designation for the abode of the dead. It was a place of no return and a place without the praise of God. The wicked were sent there as punishment. It continues to be a place we should do everything to avoid and far worse than we could imagine.
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. Revelation 20:3 KJV
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 2 Thessalonians 1:9 KJV
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 25:30 KJV
* Lake of Fire *
The word “Gehenna” is the Aramaic word for lake of fire. It is also called “gehinnom” used in the Hebrew language. Spiritually it is known as the abode of the damned in the afterlife in Jewish and Christian beliefs.
In ancient times there was a practice of child sacrifices to a Canaanite deity know as Moloch, also spelled as Molech. The location where the Jews did these sacrifices was a hill side outside the walls of Jerusalem on the south side of Mount Zion. This occurred during the reign of King Solomon in the 10th century BC and King Ahaz and his grandson Manasseh of Judah in the 7th century BC. This valley was known as the “valley of the sons of Hinnom”. Hence, Gehinnom. Gê-ben-hinnom is the longer form in Hebrew. If you break down the word you will get gê = earth/valley, ben = sons, hinnom = a proper name.
In Jewish and Christian study of end times the imagery of burning people supplied the concept of “hellfire”. It is mentioned several times in the Gospels and the book of James as a place that will destroy the wicked with fire.
The laws that were given to Moses explicitly forbade the Jews to give or offer their children to Moloch through fire. King Ahaz and his grandson Manasseh were influenced by the Assyrians to worship Moloch. Because of this influence they did what was not right in the eyes of God.
Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: but he did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father: 2) For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. 3) 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. 2 Chronicles 28:1-3 KJV
This was a time when God himself was surprised they would practice this type of ritual. The bible says it never entered God’s mind that man would do such a thing.
And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart. Jeremiah 7:31 KJV
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: Jeremiah 19:5 KJV
Such cruel behavior from His people never entered God’s mind because He always has good thoughts. He never would think such evil but unfortunately, it occurred. The Lord said:
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 19:6 KJV
The valley was later turned into a dump site to discourage the reintroduction of child sacrifices. It was, instead, used to dispose of the dead animals from the temple sacrifices to rot and be eaten by worms.
In Jesus’ time it was a place of constant fire and the last place for all items that were judged to be worthless were sent there.
* Land of the Living *
The bible makes references to the land of the living. Naturally, this would indicate where we live now.
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalms 27:13 KJV
There are things that we cannot see because there exists a natural world and a spiritual world. Elisha in the Old Testament prayed to open the eyes of his servant so he could see the number they had with them was more than the enemy.
(16) And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. (17) And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. 2 Kings 6:16-17 KJV
* Second Death *
The lake of fire found in Revelation 20 is also referred to as the “second death”. This is the final destination of the people who rejected Jesus. It will also be the place for Satan and the rebellious angels. It will be a place of continual suffering and complete separation from God.
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: Matthew 25:41 KJV
Those who are waiting for their final judgment will be in Sheol or Hades until they are resurrected to the white throne of judgment. This is why it is called the “second death”. They were dead, then hell (sheol & hades) gave up the dead, the sea gave up the dead and they will stand before God the Father to receive their judgment. Once they are judged for what they did they will be cast into the lake of fire where they will die once more. Remember sheol is the Hebrew word and Hades is the Greek word. They are not different places. They are one in the same. It appears to be the temporary holding place until the final judgment is presented for the enemies of God and those who rejected Jesus.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13) And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14) And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15) And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:12-15 KJV
Could the Gehenna/Gehinnom mentioned in Revelation be the same place outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem or merely an allegory? The prophet Jeremiah said the Lord would make the valley of Hinnom a “valley of slaughter”. We must remember many times the stories we read in the Bible have spiritual connotations behind them.