Jesus does not shy away from the topic of hell. For instance, he tells his disciples, “It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell (γέεννα; géhenna), ‘where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’” (Mark 9:47-48). Indeed, explicit warnings about “hell” appear throughout the Gospels (Matt 5:22-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk 9:43-47; Lk 12:5). In light of this biblical truth, the following statement will seem counterintuitive—or even heretical—but it’s equally true: Hell does not exist.
The Jewish notion of punishment after death originates from an actual geographical location. The Valley of the Son of Hinnom is listed among Canaan’s locales in Joshua (cf. 15:8; 18:16), and it became a place of child sacrifice and foreign worship. The ancient Israelites “built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom (גאי בן הנם; gei ben hinnom), to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech” (Jer 32:35; cf. 7:31-32; 19:6; 2 Kgs 23:10; 2 Chron 28:3; 33:6). This valley served as the earthly template for a post-mortem pit that ancient Jews called “Gehinnom” (גיהנום)—“Gehenna” in Greek and “Gehinnam” in Aramaic—the “Valley of Hinnom.” While Israel’s Valley of Hinnom certainly exists, its otherworldly counterpart is still awaiting existence.
According to Scripture, hell will be created after the resurrection of the dead; at present, hell does not exist. When Jesus describes hell as a place “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mk 9:48), he quotes from Isaiah’s eschatological vision of the righteous living in God’s kingdom and the rebellious dying in fire. Through the prophet, God describes a future creation: “The new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me…. All flesh shall come to worship before me… and they shall go out and look at the corpses of the people who have rebelled against me. For their worm will not die, nor their fire be quenched, and they shall remain an abhorrence (דראון; deraon) to all flesh” (Isa 66:22-24). This “abhorrence” for the wicked is a post-resurrection reality. As Daniel 12:2 notes, “Multitudes of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake [in resurrection], some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting abhorrence (דראון; deraon).” The Bible describes everyone being raised from their graves and then receiving either eternal life or ongoing abhorrence. Hell is not a destination for the wicked after death, but after resurrection (for the destination after death, called Sheol or Hades, click here).
The ancient Aramaic translation of Isaiah—or “Targum” (תרגום)—replaces “abhorrence” (דראון; deraon) in the original Hebrew with an explicit reference to hell. In Aramaic, Isaiah 66:24 reads, “their breaths shall not die, and their fire shall not be extinguished, and the wicked shall be judged in hell (גיהנם; gehinnam).” The Targum parallels Jesus’ quotation of this same verse in Mk 9:47-48 alongside his own reference to “hell” (γέεννα; géhenna). For both Yeshua and the Jews who wrote the Targum, “hell” will be a place that exists in the “new heavens and new earth” that Isaiah prophesied. The wicked do not arrive in hell immediately after death; instead, they go there following their bodily resurrection. This post-resurrection scenario is what the Targum and Revelation call the “second death” (cf. IsaTg 65:6; Rev 20:14; 21:8)—that is, a death that comes after resurrection. Scripture clarifies that a fiery place of judgment is reserved for the World to Come, rather than the present world. “We are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which the righteous will dwell” (2 Peter 3:13), and “hell” is a pending part of that future creation. In other words, hell does not (yet) exist.