From Plainer Words

The Lake of Fire - Part 3

Posted in: 2011
By Tom L. Ballinger
Jan 10, 2011 - 3:03:57 PM

December 9, 2010


Part 3


 “And he [ Josiah ] defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech”       (2 Kings 23:10).

Here, Topheth  is in the “Valley of the children of Hinnom.” The Bible, also, states that the “Valley” is said to be known as “the Valley of the son of Hinnom.” It, also, became known as the “Valley of Drums.” The Hebrew word for drum is “toph;” hence, the name the “Valley of Topheth.” “Topheth” is, also, spelled as “Tophet.” It was a word that became used to describe anything abhorrent. Where the two valleys converge, i.e., Hinnom and Kidron, is the “Topheth” where fires burned continually.

The original name given to this Valley was “the son of Hinnom.”  In Hebrew, it would be “Ge [son of] Hinnom.” This gives us a clue of how it would be translated into Greek—“Ge Henna.” The Greek name of the Valley and its continual fires became, in New Testament Greek, the word, “Gehenna.”

The serious student will have noted that the word, “Gehenna,” has already cropped up in their pursuit of studying such words as” hell,” “hell fire,” “everlasting fire,” “fire and brimstone,” and “the Lake of Fire.” The student should not ignore “Gehenna;” if he does, he does so at his own peril. Without coming to grips with “Gehenna,” he will be ensnared by “giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). To understand important words spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ, we must have a working knowledge of the Greek word, “Gehenna,” because He spoke the word.

“Gehenna” becomes the New Testament name for the place described by Isaiah in his reference to the City of Jerusalem during the Day of Jesus Christ.

 “And it shall come to pass [during the Day of Christ], that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men [who were cast into Gehenna] that have transgressed against Me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh”    (Isaiah 66:23-24).


More can be said regarding how the word, “Gehenna,” came into being. According to “Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament”—“Gehenna” is a transliteration from the Aramaic to the Hebrew “ge-hinnom.” This Hebrew word, “ge-hinnom,” is transliterated into Greek as “gehenna.” There was no English word equivalent to the Greek word, “gehenna.” So, the word, “hell,” was settled on by the English translators.

The Greek word, “gehenna,” became, in the King James’ English, “hell.” The word, “hell,” was derived from the Old English “helan” (to hide or conceal). This Old English word stemmed from the Vikings’ word, “hel,” and the Germanic word, “kel.” Both words mean “to conceal, to hide, and to cover.” English dictionaries accommodated the translators by defining “hell” as a noun as it relates to:  (1) A place of punishment of the wicked after death, (2) Any place or state of misery, (3) A tailor’s hell. A “tailor’s hell” is very instructive. What was a “tailor’s hell?” In the year of 1611, the year in which the “Authorized King James Version” was published, “hell” was a common secular word. “Hell” was a receptacle, or a place in which worthless scraps and unusable bits and pieces of stuff were thrown.

A “tailor’s hell” was a bin, or receptacle into which a tailor threw his unusable scraps, or shreds of worthless material. When the receptacle was full, the shreds were removed from the tailor’s shop and incinerated.

In the years surrounding 1611, it is apparent that “hell” was a noun. “Hell” was any receptacle, or place (even as a pit)  in which were thrown waste, rubbish, garbage, scraps, or bodies of dead animals, as well as bodies of criminals who died for committing capital crimes. That’s not all. Consider the following. Carpenters had their “hell.” Cobblers had their “hell.” Tinkers and Barbers had their “hells.” Kitchens had their “hell.” This reminds me of a kitchen’s “hell” on South Lamar Street in Dallas, Texas. It was probably around the year of 1940. This “kitchen’s hell” was in a café across the street from a very large Sears and Roebuck Store.

My Grandfather, Emmitt Thomas Stevenson, worked for Sears in their maintenance Department as a carpenter and painter. Grandpaw (Texas spelling) lived on a twenty-five acre truck farm just outside of Irving, Texas. He farmed and carried his produce to the Dallas City Market. He sold his produce out of the back of his pickup truck on the weekends. He drove a 1937 Ford Coupe. It had a very long trunk. He cut the trunk out with a torch and made a small flat-bed where the trunk had been. It had wooden slats around the flat-bed. This was not uncommon, in Texas, in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Those folks, who took a coupe (with a one front-bench seat) and converted the trunk area into a home-made pick-up truck, had a name for this. It was called a “Skin-Down.”

Grandpaw Stevenson had made arrangements with a café, across the street from Sears, to save all of their food scraps in five-gallon buckets. Grandpaw supplied the buckets. Every Friday evening, after work, Grandpaw would drive his Skin-Down around to the back of the café and load the “plum-full-buckets” into the back of his Ford Skin-Down. The contents in the buckets were not called scraps. No Sir, not at all. The real name for the contents was “Slop.” For you urban city slickers, “slop” was an unappetizing watery food—only fit for hogs. And, that’s what Grandpaw used it for. It was for him to “slop his hogs.”

In this scenario, we have two “hells.” One was the “kitchen’s hell,” the buckets of slop, and the other was the “pig-pen’s hell.” The “pig-pen’s hell” was the trough in which Grandpaw threw the slop.

On the week-ends that I wanted to spend with Grandpaw and Grandmaw, I’d “catch” the “street car” (electric trolley) and ride, transferring once, to get to Sears and Roebuck. I would meet Grandpaw and his son, my Uncle Jack, who worked at Sears, also, and ride with them to his small farm. The Stevenson’s place was on Shady Grove Road. I would ride in the “flat-bed,” along with the buckets of slop. The odor and sloshing around of the slop didn’t bother me; I had too much fun riding in the open Skin-Down. I would pretend I was on a train, in the frontier days, shooting at Indians who were riding horse-back as we roared through Indian Territory. After a weekend of fun, my parents would drive from Dallas and pick me up on Sunday.

The application I make is obvious. Anywhere waste, scraps, rubbish, shreds, slop, trash, or dead bodies were deposited, it was a “hell.” Added to this dimension, out-of-door “hells” were burned for health reasons.  So was the Valley of Hinnom—it was a “hell” in the Biblical sense of the word because it was where worthless, offensive, stinking matter was dumped and was burned in the perpetual fires. Again, let it be said that the Valley was where the Jews, who worshiped Moleck/Baal, offered their children alive to the fires. The latter day Jews abhorred this place. It became the garbage dump for the Metropolitan City of Jerusalem. The fires burned continually, consuming the waste material. From this place arose what was to become an idiomatic expression—the fire that is not quenched (Isaiah 34:10. 66:24. Mark 9:43, 44, 45, 46, and 48).

Even the Lord Jesus spoke to and warned the Jews, eleven times, about being cast into “hell,” or “hell fire”, or the “fires of hell.” He was not speaking about a subterranean hidden, fiery spot beneath the earth’s surface, known by most Christians as “a devil’s hell.” The Valley of Tophet, aka, the Valley of Slaughter, was the valley on the southern outskirts of Old Testament Jerusalem where the City’s waste was dumped. It was, also, appropriately designated as “the Valley of the Dead Bodies” in Jeremiah 31:40.

This is a good working definition to the New Testament Biblical “hell” from which “Gehenna” is translated. Under the Government of the Lord Jesus Christ, during the Pre-Millennial Kingdom of God, He will have a definite place for apostate Jews that He adjudicates as being worthless—Gehenna is that place. It could rightfully be called “The Lord’s Hell.” This Valley will be the “Lord’s hell” during the time He rules and governs the world from Heaven, as well as during the Millennium.


We must take a “side-track” and point out, briefly, the three different words used in the New Testament for “hell.” A concise definition will be given for each of the three words. (1) The Greek word, “hades,” is used 11 times which means “the unseen abode of the dead, or the state of death,” or “the grave.” (2) “Tartaroo,” named as the place where God cast the angels that sinned (2 Peter 2:4), is used 1 time and means “the deepest abyss in Hades, or “the pits of darkness,” Revised Version. (3)  “Gehenna” is used 12 times and means “the name of a valley on the south and east of Jerusalem.” The Gehenna Valley was the place where Jewish children were burned-alive as sacrifices to the god Molech.

Adherents to Christian fundamentalism find no place for their “hell” in the New Testament. The only place in the Bible that they can find “to hang their hats on” is in Luke 16:28-31.  In these passages, the Lord Jesus was mocking the Pharisees in their traditional belief of a Hell having two compartments, both in which are found disembodied spirits alive—one for the living damned; the other for the living blessed. This idea of hell is based upon the pagan imaginations of men, mainly, the imaginations of Plato. He had a big influence on the so-called “Church Fathers.”

The Jews practiced this abominable religion of Molech and Baal. It took place from the time of King Solomon (992 B.C.) to King Josiah (624 B.C.). This abomination lasted 368 years according to the dates listed in “The Scofield Reference Bible.” The pagan influences were very powerful over many Hebrew believers in that day, just as they are     over many, today, who profess to be Christians.

Many current dictionaries list synonyms for “Hell” as:  Gehenna, Pandemonium, Perdition, Tophet, and Purgatory.

© Copyright 2011 by Plainer Words