(110) The first death is the death in Adam, but the second death will in no sense be due to Adam. “In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape [of sin] and the children’s teeth are set on edge,’ but everyone [who dies] shall die for his own iniquity.” (Jeremiah 31:29,30) In the Millennial Age each will receive an individual trial, and all who die will die as the result of their own sin, no longer because of Adam’s sin. This will be their second death, their first being the death they suffered in the past on account of Adam’s disobedience. — Romans 5:12,18.
(111) The second death is pictured as a “lake of fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8), a forceful figure of complete destruction — a death from which there will not be a resurrection: for “the Messiah dies no more,” there will not be a second ransom for those who willfully practice sin after receiving the benefits of the ransom. (Romans 6:9) In the Greek text of the Bible, from which our translations are made, the second death is sometimes referred to symbolically as “Gehenna”, one of the three Greek words translated “hell” in the King James Version of the Bible. “Gehenna” is the Greek form of the name “Valley of Hinnom”, the valley situated immediately outside Jerusalem below Mount Zion. It was the garbage dump of the city. Fires were kept constantly burning in it and brimstone was added for the purpose of aiding the work of destruction. All the garbage of the city was cast into it; also the bodies of criminals, so as to signify that these were not worthy of a resurrection.
(112) Jesus used the fires of Gehenna as a symbol — not of torture, but of destruction. Some, however, regard the literal fires spoken of in the valley that were continually kept burning as being a literal description of a supposed life in hell. Yet if Jesus were speaking literally, then we should expect that the wicked would literally be thrown into the Valley of Hinnom. Actually, the “fire that is not put out,” the “worms,” and all the language used in connection with Gehenna is figurative. God’s jealousy for his name and righteousness is never quenched. Yahweh’s zeal or jealousy for righteousness will never be extinguished. Thus we read that “all the earth will be consumed by the fire of his [Yahweh’s] jealousy.” (Zephaniah 1:18) “For you must not bow yourself to another god; for Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, he is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14) “With foreign gods they moved him [Yahweh] to jealousy; and with idols they provoked him to anger; they sacrificed to demons, not God.” (Deuteronomy 32:16,17) “And Judah did evil in the sight of Yahweh, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done.” (1 Kings 14:22) “And my anger will be spent, and I will make my fury rest on them, and I will be eased. And they will know that I, Yahweh, have spoken in my zeal, in my fulfilling my fury on them.” (Ezekiel 5:13) “Surely I have spoken in the fire of my jealousy against the rest of the nations.” Ezekiel 35:5. Worms (or maggots) that consumed the body of the criminals thrown into the Valley of Hinnom represents the utter destruction, not torture, of those thrown therein. These maggots were ever present in the valley. Thus they never died out. Likewise, those who are symbolically thrown into the fires of Gehenna find that there are always consuming worms [elements of destruction] ever present to destroy those who prove themselves unwilling to produce the fruits of the kingdom.
(113) Some believe that Hades and Gehenna are one and the same, as far as the place is concerned. But when that place is called Hades, they believe it refers is to the abode of the souls of the wicked before the judgment day; when it is called Gehenna they believe the reference is generally to the abode of the wicked, body and soul, after the judgment day. Actually Hades/Sheol is used in reference to the realm of death as mankind has inherited it from Adam. Gehenna represents the “second death,” from which there is no return. Jesus died to redeem all in Hades/Sheol, but once we have partaken of the deliverance, we are counted dead to Adam’s sin and alive toward God. If then we continue in willfully sin, there is no more sacrifice for sins, thus we would could be symbolically thrown into Gehenna. We would be “twice dead,” entered into the second death. Likewise, the world of mankind will be made alive during the “last day,” the resurrection day, and if they do not obey they also will be symbolically thrown into Gehenna, the second death.
(114) Thus we see that there is no idea of eternal torture associated with Gehenna, the second death. It means a condition of everlasting destruction. This is just what the Psalmist said: “Yahweh preserves all them that love him; but all the wicked will he destroy”, not preserve in any condition whatsoever. — Psalm 145:20.
(115) Some would have us believe that the English word “hell” indicates the place of everlasting punishment for the wicked. It is true that in modern times hell has come to have this meaning. But it is not the basic meaning of the English word hell. Note the following:
The New Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia (TM) (c) 1991 Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc.
Hell traditionally denotes the place or state of being of unrepentant souls who are damned to eternal punishment after death. Derived from the Old Teutonic word hel, meaning “to conceal” or “to cover,” the word hell is used in English translations of the Bible to represent both the Hebrew Sheol, an ethically neutral underworld for the departed, and the Greek Gehenna, the underworld for the punishment of the wicked from which the Christian concept of hell developed.
We have added bold characters for emphasis.
Copyright (C) 1982 by Houghton Mifflin Company All Rights Reserved
hell n. 1. The abode of the dead in ancient traditions; underworld. 2. Often Hell. In many religions, the abode of condemned souls and devils; the place of punishment for the wicked after death. 3. A place or situation of evil, misery, discord, or destruction: into the hell of battle. 4. a. Torment; anguish: went through hell on the job. b. Someone or something that causes trouble, agony, or annoyance: He’s hell when a job is poorly done. 5. Hell. Christian Science. Mortal belief; sin or error. 6. A sharp scolding: gave him hell for cheating. 7. a. A tailor’s receptacle for discarded material. b. A hellbox. 8. Used as an intensive: How the hell can I go? You did one hell of a job.- intr. v. helled, helling, hells. Informal. To behave riotously; carouse: out all night helling around.-interj. Slang. Used to express anger, disgust, or impatience.-idioms. hell or ( or and) high water. Informal. Troubles or difficulties of whatever magnitude: We’re staying, come hell or high water. hell to pay. Informal. Bad trouble to be faced: If he’s wrong, there’ll be hell to pay. [ME helle < OE]
Thus the dictionary gives as the basic meaning of the English word “hell” as “the abode of the dead”, which we believe more correctly should be “the realm of death.” We also note that the Grolier Encyclopedia shows that the English word hell comes from the Tuetonic word hel, meaning to cover or conceal. Thus it corresponds with the description of Sheol as given in Ecclesiastes 9:10.
The Meek Inherit the Earth
(116) During the 1,000 years of Jesus’ rule, those who resist Satan and who are loyal to God and to righteousness, who love Yahweh their God with all their heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves, will pass on into the Ages to follow, when there will be “no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither will there be any more pain, for the former things will have passed away.” It is at this time that the “meek inherit the earth” to dwell upon it forever. (Psalm 37:9,10,29; Matthew 5:5) Only those who worship God in spirit and in truth will attain to this condition of eternal bliss as perfect human beings on a perfect earth. Then, when the first dominion is restored, God’s great plan of salvation will be complete, and the prayer that our Lord taught his disciples to offer will be answered: “Your kingdom come! Your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven!” (Matthew 6:10) The angel’s message will be fulfilled: “Good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” — Luke 2:10.