In Old Testament times the valley south-west of Jerusalem was called Ge Hinnom and it was the city’s rubbish dump. It was a notorious valley that was previously used as a place of child-sacrifice to Molech* the detestable God of the Ammonites. Molech’s image was believed to have been a hollow brazen figure, with the head of an ox, and outstretched human arms. The figure was heated red hot by a fire from within and the babies placed in its arms to be slowly burned, while to prevent the parents from hearing the dying cries, the sacrificing priests beat drums.
This valley outside Jerusalem came to be a typical, smelly, maggot-filled rubbish dump where there were constant, spontaneous fires caused by the escaping gases. Jesus used the word for this valley to refer to the final destination of those who reject him. Jesus said there is a far bigger, far more serious, cosmic rubbish dump reserved for Satan and his demons and for those who have not taken up their cross, denied themselves and followed him.
The fire is not quenched
Jesus said in Mark 9:47-48, “If your eye (or hand v43, or foot v45) causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
Jesus is expanding on what he said in Mark 8:36, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
When Jesus says “cut off you hand”, he using figurative, not literal language. Jesus means that Gehenna is reserved for persons unwilling to deal drastically and radically and decisively with those things that prevent them from following him.
Jesus means that what ever that thing is that is causing you to fall spiritually, take your eyes off God or causing you not to deny yourself and follow Jesus, deal with it drastically. Cut it out of your life. Jesus is saying that you need to take responsibility. At some stage we each need to take responsibility for our lives and deal drastically with sin because of the reality of hell. It’s interesting that Jesus mentions one’s hand, foot and eye. Jesus is probably referring to what we do, where we go and what we see.
Cut of your hand
Is there something you are doing that’s keeping you from following Jesus? Perhaps it’s the beginning of an affair, or an immoral relationship, or you’ve been stealing money, or you’re simply not willing to humble yourself before God?
Cut off your foot
Is there somewhere were you are going that’s keep your from becoming a disciple of Jesus? Do you love Grand West casino too much? Your love of sin at a girlfriend or boyfriend’s house? Your meeting at the coffee shop with someone who’s not your spouse? That secret place where you go to sin.
Gouge out your eye
Is there something that you see that keeps you from submitting to king Jesus?
We all know internet porn is the silent destroyer of guys, marriages and future marriages. Do you have a secret folder on your browser? Do you delete your browser history whenever you log off? Do you love porn more than Jesus?
Parents, if a child or teenager is exposed to porn, the likelihood that he will become addicted to porn as an adult is massive. Do you know what sites your children are surfing?
Is there something you see that is preventing you from following Jesus?
Maybe the stumbling block is more intangible? For guys it’s often the love of money and success, or the temptation to have power and control.
What about the ladies? Is there a guy at work you keep fantasizing about? When does an affair begin? Not with the first forbidden touch, but with the first unfaithful thought, even a seemingly harmless emotional connection with another man. The consequent affair, double-life and divorce may cause you so forsake Christ. Deal with it now!
Maybe it something more hidden? Anger, jealousy, pride? Is that thing keeping you from humbling yourself and serving Jesus?
Do you ever find yourself obsessed with the magazines that promise: “One month to a bikini body” or “Make-up tricks to make you hot.” Do you love yourself more than Jesus?
Drastic times call for drastic measures
Whatever it is that is causing you not to follow Jesus, make the appropriate change. Stop it! Take responsibility! Today! Now! The reality is that sin destroys. All the time. Every time. And sin ultimately leads to death, eternal Death in Hell.
Jesus said, “It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
The firemen have done an admirably job in the Cape fighting the wildfires. In hell the fire will not be quenched. Hell is the eternal judgement on those who have infinitely offended the Eternal, Holy God. Either Jesus bears God’s infinite judgement for you, or you bear it infinitely. The gospel is only good news for those who believe it.
*Of course, we might not worship Molech today, but he has a new name: Mammon or Money. Many parents have sacrificed their children to Mammon in abortion clinics as they choose comfort, career and corporate ladders, instead of parenting.