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Table of Contents

Section 1: Is Salvation for All Biblical?

Section 2: Is the Doctrine of Hell Biblical?

Section 3: Symbolism

Section 4: Biblical Judgment: a Consistent Theme of Redemption

Section 5: Philosophy and Scripture

Section 6: History and Tradition

Section 7: Addressing Objections

Section 8: Strongholds

A Historical Perspective

In the previous chapter, I briefly mentioned that some of the verses that are typically interpreted to refer to eternal hell actually refer to specific consequences that Israel would experience as a nation. One of Jesus’ roles was to serve as a prophet to Israel, and like the long line of prophets before Him, He warned of future events that would happen on earth to that nation if they did not heed his counsel. It appears that Jesus’ teaching on the narrow door (discussed in the previous chapter) may be one such instance. There are a couple of reasons why this is likely. 

The first is that He was delivering His message on the narrow door to Israelites who will claim (when the door is shut on them) that they ate and drank in His presence, and that He taught in their streets (Luke 13:26). So, we know that we are dealing with a specific Jewish audience who was familiar with the Old Testament prophetic writings on national judgments. Just as God warned the Jewish people through the prophets about the invasions of Assyria and Babylon if they would not repent of their evil ways at that time, Jesus could easily be referring to the massacre that would be completed by the Romans in A.D. 70 as a response to the First Jewish Revolt (A.D 66-70).

The second is the context. The narrow door teaching is bookended by warnings of impeding earthly dangers. Luke 13 begins and ends with such warnings which are specifically addressed to the nation of Israel or Jerusalem particularly. This is how Luke 13 begins:

Luke 13:1-5

There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Interestingly, the above passage is sometimes cited (usually only partially) as a verse about endless hell. This is certainly incorrect, as Jesus makes it clear that He is talking about earthly death here. It is imperative to notice that He says that unless the people of the day repent, they will likewise perish. In the Greek texts, the word “likewise” is either homoiōs (ὁμοίως) or hōsautōs (ὡσαύτως). These words mean “likewise” or “in the same way.” In English we have words that use the same Greek roots to refer to sameness or similarity, like homologous and homogenous, for example. It seems quite obvious that being kept perpetually alive in order to be tormented forever is not at all the same as being killed by a Roman soldier or falling tower. There is nothing “likewise” about those scenarios. 

So, what Jesus is saying is that the Jewish people needed to repent, or they would be physically killed in the same way that Pilate’s soldiers killed the Galileans whose blood was mingled with their sacrifices. Or, if not killed by the sword directly, they would be killed by the falling of buildings in the same way as those who were killed by the falling tower in Siloam. Both of these prophecies were fulfilled in A.D. 70 when Rome slaughtered over 1.1 million Jewish people and destroyed Jerusalem, according to Josephus (The Wars of the Jews VI. 9.3).

This tragic series of events was brutally violent and horrific but was spurred on by a mindset that Jesus was trying to correct. You see, at the time, the Jewish people were expecting a Messiah who would violently overthrow the Romans and rule on earth. Judea was a hotbed of civil unrest and rebellion against Rome as Zealots and other factions sought to win freedom from Roman oppression through the sword. The reigning assumption, even in Jesus’ disciples, was that the Messiah would establish an earthly kingdom then. This is why his disciples ask Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Even after His resurrection, they believed that an earthly kingdom would be established right away. 

But this was a way of thinking that needed correction, and was in large part what the people needed to repent of to avoid perishing via a Roman siege. This is one reason why Jesus said that those “who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52) and why he said to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). In the minds of the Jewish people of the first century, the Romans were despised enemies who took advantage of them. But rather than encouraging violent retaliation, Jesus told them to “not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:39-41). Undoubtedly, some of these descriptions would have made the people think of occupying Roman soldiers. It was, in fact, law that a Roman soldier could compel anyone to carry his load for up to one mile. Rather than fight their enemies, Jesus was encouraging his Jewish brethren to love them self-sacrificially, going beyond what they asked. So, in some respects, Jesus was warning his fellow countrymen that they needed to repent of their mindset that salvation was political and would be accomplished by a violent insurrection. The kingdom of God He was establishing was not of this world. 

The people, however, did not heed Jesus’ warnings and did not repent of their vengeful mindsets. The consequences, we see, were to be felt by Jerusalem. This is how Luke 13 ends:

Luke 13:31-35

On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to Him, “Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.”  And He said to them, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’ Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Notice that Jesus is speaking to Pharisees shortly before his entrance to Jerusalem and is pronouncing its desolation. This is the context of the narrow door. It is sandwiched between Jesus’ prophetic words that “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” and his statements about the destruction of Jerusalem that would result from their rejection of the prophets, especially Himself. It is highly unlikely that this is coincidental. The consequences of continuing down the path of hatred for enemies, violent insurrection and rejection of the Messiah and His message of peace would be severe. Jerusalem would be destroyed. We are told more precisely why this destruction would occur in Luke 19:

Luke 19:41-44

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Jesus weeps over the consequences that Jerusalem will experience, longing for the people to accept His message of the kingdom. But, for the most part, they did not. They did not recognize the time of their visitation by the Messiah or the message of peace that he brought. Instead, led by the Sicarii and Zealots, Jerusalem revolted against the Romans and the Romans did exactly what Jesus claimed they would do. They built an embankment around Jerusalem, closed it in on every side and leveled the city, crushing its inhabitants brutally and indiscriminately. The people were killed by the sword and by the falling and burning buildings. There are many sources that you can consult to verify these facts.

We are told by early church historians, including Eusebius and Epiphanius, that Christians at the time recognized the signs prophesied by Christ and fled Jerusalem, just as Jesus recommended (Scott 1998). It was quite clear to them, and should be clear to us that Jesus was speaking of the actual destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 in this context, as verified by several biblical passages:

Matthew 21:20-24

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The violence and great distress in the land of Israel are well-known facts pertaining to A.D. 70 and the years preceding it.  Historian Jona Lendering also confirms that many were led captive into various nations:

During the four years of war, the Romans had taken 97,000 prisoners. Thousands of them were forced to become gladiators and were killed in the arena, fighting wild animals or fellow gladiators. Some, who were known as criminals, were burned alive. Others were employed at Seleucia, where they had to dig a tunnel. But most of these prisoners were brought to Rome, where they were forced to build the Forum of Peace (a park in the heart of Rome) and the Colosseum (Lendering 2018).

All of these things are certainly terrible, but what is most interesting is that it is connected directly by Jesus to His teaching on "hell," which is inarguably correctly translated as the "Valley of Hinnom."

Matthew 23:29-39

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets. ’So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell (The Valley of Hinnom)? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Notice that Jesus is making an explicit connection between being condemned to the Valley of Hinnom and the rejection of Himself by that specific generation. The incorrect translation of the Valley of Hinnom as “hell” obscures the meaning for English-speaking readers. The Valley of Hinnom is an actual place, right outside of Jerusalem’s walls, that the people of Israel would be very familiar with. Here is a map showing its location and the location of the Kidron Valley as well.

Map of Jerusalem with Valleys

A map of Jerusalem. I have boxed the label for the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) in green and the label for the Kidron Valley in blue for easier visibility.  Image retrieved from: The Bible Journey

The reason why this is significant is that the siege of Jerusalem resulted in such heavy death tolls that multitudes of bodies were in fact literally cast over the walls of Jerusalem into the Valley of Hinnom.  Consider the following:

There were signs that the supplies of Jerusalem were giving out: some Jews had left the city, hoping to find food in the valleys in front of the walls. Many of them had been caught and crucified - some five hundred every day. (The soldiers had amused themselves by nailing their victims in different postures.) The Romans decided to starve the enemies into surrender... The death rate among the besieged increased. Soon, the Kidron valley and the Valley of Hinnom were filled with corpses (Lendering 2018).

Josephus as an eyewitness to the Roman siege of Jerusalem, corroborates Lendering's account about how the dead were cast into the valleys outside of Jerusalem:

Now the seditious at first gave orders that the dead should be buried out of the public treasury, as not enduring the stench of their dead bodies. But afterwards, when they could not do that, they had them cast down from the walls into the valleys beneath. However, when Titus, in going his rounds along those valleys, saw them full of dead bodies, and the thick putrefaction running about them, he gave a groan; and, spreading out his hands to heaven, called God to witness that this was not his doing; and such was the sad case of the city itself (The War of the Jews/Book V, Chapter 12.3-12.4).

These awful events are certainly what Jesus is warning about given that the context of his discussion with the scribes and Pharisees culminates with his pronouncement that Jerusalem would be made desolate. The verses about fire and worms should probably also be taken to refer to these events since they are references to Isaiah 66 where we learn that it is the “corpses of men” that are consumed by these things. This literally occurred in the Valley of Hinnom with the valleys “full of dead bodies, and the thick putrefaction running about them.” It is no wonder that Jesus warned Jerusalem and wept over it. 

The Valley of Hinnom had been the site of a similar judgment, as described in Jeremiah, and for many of the same sins. 

Jeremiah 19:6-8, 11

So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. 
“‘In this place I will ruin the plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, at the hands of those who want to kill them, and I will give their carcasses as food to the birds and the wild animals. I will devastate this city and make it an object of horror and scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds… They will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room.

This very passage prophecies the trials of the siege being so severe that “they will eat one another’s flesh because their enemies will press the siege so hard against them to destroy them” (Jeremiah 19:9). This too occurred during the Roman siege of Jerusalem. The fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and later to the Romans bear striking similarities: unrelenting siege, cannibalism, death, and decomposition of huge numbers of corpses in the Valley of Hinnom (“hell”).

The sins that preceded these horrible events are also similar:

In the New Testament

In Jeremiah’s Time

Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?  But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you (Luke 11:39-41).

In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation” (Mark 12:38-40).

“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:51-53).

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:12-13)

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you…

In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness (Matthew 23:28).

Like cages full of birds,
their houses are full of deceit;
they have become rich and powerful
and have grown fat and sleek.
Their evil deeds have no limit;
they do not seek justice.
They do not promote the case of the fatherless;
they do not defend the just cause of the poor.
Should I not punish them for this?”
declares the Lord.
“Should I not avenge myself
on such a nation as this? (Jeremiah 5:27-29)

“But your eyes and your heart
are set only on dishonest gain,
on shedding innocent blood
and on oppression and extortion” (Jeremiah 22:17).

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and all the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words’” (Jeremiah 19:15).

If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

“‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord (Jeremiah 7:5-11).

Just a cursory examination of these passages reveals many similarities between Jerusalem at the time of Jesus and the apostles, and Jerusalem during the days of Jeremiah and the prophets. During both time periods the religious leaders exhibited hypocrisy, pretending to be very religious while harboring idolatry internally. They were dishonest and oppressed the poor and needy for their own benefit. They made the temple into a “den of robbers” and were referred to as “stiff-necked people” at both times. Rather than listening to the prophets, they plotted to kill them, shedding innocent blood. And all the while they thought themselves safe to do these detestable things, and not only safe, but superior to others. 

Similar crimes, similar punishment. But it must be noted by an astute reader that the terrible consequences for Jerusalem described in both instances have absolutely nothing to do with eternal conscious torment.  Instead, they plainly refer to actual historical events. Let’s now look at one final aspect of these events, from which we can plainly ascertain that A.D. 70 is being referenced.

The Destruction of the Temple and The Abomination of Desolation

Matthew 21:5-6

Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”

Matthew 24:15-16

So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

From history we know that the Roman soldiers who conquered Jerusalem destroyed and desecrated the temple.  Thousands "were taken prisoner at the Court of the Gentiles, while the legionaries sacrificed to their standards in the Holy of Holies" (Lendering 2018). The desolation and defiling of the temple by the Romans was certainly accomplished with these events.

Even those who adhere to the "traditional" hell doctrine acknowledge that many of Jesus' statements of judgment refer to the historical events surrounding A.D. 70.  Dan Doriani of The Gospel Coalition notes that Jesus accurately prophesied that these events would come upon "this generation" and that a generation was considered to be forty years (hence A.D. 70 fell within the time window Jesus specificed).  Consider his words, beginning with his discussion of Matthew 24:4-14:

Jesus is preparing his disciples for events—most of them extremely difficult—that will take place in their lifetime. These troubles are not signs of the end; the disciples must be ready to “stand firm” through them (24:4-8, 13). Then he says, “When you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation . . . '—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

This prophecy makes sense only with reference to the fall of Jerusalem. It cannot possibly apply to Jesus' return. When he comes it will be pointless for an unbeliever to try to flee. And a believer will not want to flee. For the same reason, the following command not to go back to get a cloak and the woe for nursing mothers who must flee cannot refer to Jesus' return. But they make perfect sense if Jesus predicts that another abomination of desolation, like Antiochus Epiphanes of Daniel, is coming. Indeed that abomination did come in Roman form in AD 70. The Roman armies were always an abomination because they carried with them idolatrous images of the emperor, whom they worshiped. And those armies brought desolation because their commander leveled the city and entered the holy of holies, defiling it.

The line “let the reader understand” (24:15) means that those who read Matthew—which would have been written before AD 70—must be ready to flee when they see Roman armies besieging Jerusalem. Indeed, the parallel account in Luke 21 makes this point explicit: “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies . . . flee to the mountains” (Luke 21:10-24). In fact, many Christians did flee, sparing their lives, when they saw Rome's armies coming. Eusebius, the first great historian of the church, says that when the Romans fell upon Jerusalem, “the church at Jerusalem . . . left the city, and moved to a town called Pella.”[1] So Jesus, ever the Good Shepherd, told the first Christians how to survive those most harrowing years of the church's infancy. (Doriani, 2018)

It seems undeniable that the prophecies and judgments that Jesus was referring to were already fulfilled in A.D. 70. This is when the temple was destroyed, when Jerusalem fell by siege, when the people were slain by the sword and led away captive. Notice that Jesus said that there “will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.” Jesus declared that “all this will come on this generation” and it did. 

But none of it refers to eternal consequences. It is all temporary. Notice that Jesus says that “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” This means that its desolation is not permanent; it is only until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, the purpose of which is described in Romans 11:25-32:

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this wayall Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now  receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

We see, therefore, that the time of the Gentiles has a purpose: the salvation of all of Israel. In fact, the disobedience of both Jews and Gentiles is for the purpose of allowing God to show mercy to everyone. Lest we erroneously assume that this is somehow not referring to individuals as some traditionalists claim, consider Hebrews 8:10-12:

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.

This passage makes it abundantly clear that every single individual of Israel will know the Lord, despite their former wickedness, which God will forgive and remember no more. All Israel means all Israel, not some small, exclusive portion of Israel. They will all know God, from the least to the greatest, no exceptions. 

I think that some traditionalists will now attempt to argue that not all Israel is Israel, based on Romans 9:6. In this verse, Paul is explaining that those who are the true children of the promise to Abraham are those who have faith like Abraham did. At the time of the writing of Romans, most of Paul’s Jewish brethren did not have faith in the Messiah and for that reason he said that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” Note the present tense. Paul is stating that those who lack faith in Jesus are not presently acting as children of the promise to Abraham. But just as Paul was formerly disobedient (to the point of seeking to murder Christians), many in Israel would remain disobedient until the fulfillment of the time of the Gentiles.

Why? Romans 11:31-32 tells us the answer: “they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” It is apparent that Paul is referring to the disobedient and unbelieving portion of Israel (and mankind generally) being saved and shown mercy. Though they were not yet full of the faith that marks a true child of Abraham, God promises a day when He Himself will put His laws in their minds and write them on their hearts, despite present disobedience. He will be their God and they will be His people.

I think this is why Jesus pronouncements of judgment on Jerusalem end with hope. Matthew 23:38-39 and Luke 13:35 both end with the same refrain:

“Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

It must be kept in mind that Jesus is speaking to the scribes and Pharisees whom he just referred to as a “brood of vipers” when he makes this statement (see Matthew 23). It is therefore extremely unlikely that he is referring to the pronouncement of the common people on Palm Sunday just a few days later when He said, “you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” It seems rather ludicrous to assert that Jesus was saying here that they would not see Him again for a few days. The desolation of Jerusalem had not yet happened and the audience he was speaking to (the scribes and Pharisees) did not say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” on Palm Sunday, but rather grumbled to themselves about His triumphal entry, having already plotted to kill Him. It seems that he is instead saying that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and those very same scribes and Pharisees would not see Him again until they acknowledge Him as their Savior, which is promised to occur when all Israel is saved and every knee bows and every tongue confesses the Lordship of Christ, to God’s glory.

Conclusion

It is clear from context that some of Jesus’ statements about destruction and perishing are references to historical events. His warnings were often meant to inspire a new way of life that embraced even one’s enemies with forgiveness and self-sacrificial love. Adherence to such a way of life would have indeed been a dramatic change of thinking for the Jewish people of the first century, whose land was occupied and whose rights were violated by the brutal foreign superpower that was Rome. The hatred of one’s enemies, however, was a sin that people did not want to repent of then (or now). So, revolt occurred and the natural consequences of pursuing vengeful insurrection against the unrivaled military superpower of the time period were experienced by Jerusalem. People perished by the sword and by the crushing weight of stones that were hurled down so that not one stood upon another, just like the Galileans slain by Pilate and the eighteen killed by the falling tower of Siloam. And then their bodies were literally cast into "hell," the Valley of Hinnom where they were decomposed by worms and eventually burned to ashes.

What the traditional interpretation of "hell" passages fails to recognize is that this temporal historical outcome is the primary and most obvious meaning of the text. The judgment of “hell” in this context is part of a consistent thought flow of Jesus that Jerusalem would experience serious consequences at the hands of the Romans for rejecting his message. Whatever symbolic interpretation (if any) that is then attached to the imagery of the Valley of Hinnom (“hell”) must be secondary.  It must also be considered in light of the overall redemptive story arc of Scripture as a whole.

Jerusalem was destroyed and trampled by the Gentiles, but not without purpose. Beyond the wreckage we hear the promise that all Israel will be saved, from the least to the greatest, and that all people will experience God’s mercy. Disobedience and failure result in consequences, but also allow God to show his unfailing mercy and love to all people despite our sins, “for God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (Romans 11:32).

 

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Citations and Notes

Doriani, Dan. “What Is the 'Abomination of Desolation'?” The Gospel Coalition (TGC), The Gospel Coalition, 18 July 2018, www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-is-the-abomination-of-desolation/.

Josephus, Flavius. “The War of the Jews/Book VI.” Codex Hammurabi (King Translation) - Wikisource, the Free Online Library, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_War_of_the_Jews/Book_VI#Chapter_9.

Josephus, Flavius. “The War of the Jews/Book V.” 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wire - Wikisource, the Free Online Library, https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/The_War_of_the_Jews/Book_V. Accessed on 11/17/2018

Lendering, Jona. “Titus' Siege of Jerusalem.” Pliny the Younger - Livius, 12 Apr. 2018, http://www.livius.org/articles/concept/roman-jewish-wars/roman-jewish-wars-4/. This page was created in 1998; last modified on 12 April 2018, and accessed on 11/17/2018

Scott, J. Julius. “Did Jerusalem Christians Flee to Pella? Evidence from Biblical, Historical, Archaeological and Critical Studies.” Preteristarchive.com, https://www.preteristarchive.com/Bibliography/1998_scott_flee-pella.html. Archaeology Conference, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL (1998).