Many wonder if Hell is a real and an eternal place of punishment. Some religious groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have tried to deny the existence of Hell by saying Hell (Gehenna) is simply the “Valley of Hinnom” (a deep cleft just south of Jerusalem). Certainly this valley did exist (in first century times it was a kind of public “garbage dump”) – a place where a fire burned and maggots could be found in abundance. Did Jesus mean people would “end up in a garbage dump” and this punishment was worth losing body parts to avoid (Mt. 18:8-9)? No one can believe that. Jesus used a public garbage dump to illustrate the terribleness of Hell.
Jesus spoke of Hell more than any New Testament author. One of the places where we see Him issuing a severe warning about it is Mk. 9:43-48. Due to a manuscript variation, some translations contain verses 44 and 46 while others do not. If a Bible translation does have all three verses, the text should be identical in all three places.
• The ASV reads: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
• The KJV says: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
• The NKJV has: where ‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.
• The NIV says: where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
In Mk. 9:43 Jesus stressed the awfulness of Hell in yet another way. He said this place is “unquenchable.” In the Greek text this term is “asbestos” (yes, the Greek word asbestos is spelled the same way as the English word asbestos). Used as a Greek word in the New Testament, asbestos means “unquenchable” or “inextinguishable.” Since the fire that used to burn in the garbage dump around Jerusalem is no longer burning (it has been quenched and extinguished), the “Gehenna” Jesus had in mind was not in the land of Israel. He had in mind an eternal place of punishment. Hell is a real place, and it is reserved for those “that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:8). God and the Bible says Hell is real; uninspired men say it is not. Who will we believe?
A final point about asbestos (the Greek word for unquenchable fire in Hell) relates to its origin. Ralph Earle (Word Meanings in the New Testament, One-Volume Edition, p. 42) offers this fascinating insight: “The reported discovery of asbestos is an interesting story. It is told that a man who was burning some wood in his fireplace noticed that a bird’s nest in one of the small branches did not ignite with the wood. Investigators in the forest produced more of the material. Some scientist who knew the Greek gave to the substance the name ‘asbestos.’”
Find the truth about God and become a New Testament Christian. Find out more about New Testament Christianity by running some Internet searches for “church of Christ” and “churches of Christ.” You may also want to visit http://www.abiblecommentary.com for Bible study information.
Remember, in order to be saved and enjoy all God’s blessings (not the least of which is salvation), a person must have faith (Jn. 8:24), be willing to repent (Lk. 13:3), and after confessing Christ as Lord, the final step is water baptism (Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 12:13; 1 Pet. 3:20-21). Bible baptism is by immersion only (“burial,” Rom. 6:4), and once it is done, heaven puts that person “into Christ” (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3). After proper baptism a person has their sins forgiven (Acts 2:38).