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Jesus Goes to Gehenna for Us

“For the bodies of animals whose blood for sin is brought into the holy places by the high priest are burned outside the camp. Consequently Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that he might sanctify the people through his own blood.” (Hebrews 13:11-12)

It was pointed out to us in today’s local Sunday school class that the bodies of sin offerings from Jesus’ day, which the Torah commanded to be burned outside the camp, were probably burned in Gehenna, that famous 24/7 pile of burning garbage outside Jerusalem that Jesus and the rabbis used as their name for Hell. (See picture, which I shot and made into a postcard with the caption, “Wish you were here!”)

I had never seen the awesome symbolism in this fact! The sin-offering carcasses are burned in Gehenna, while Jesus suffers in the ultimate Gehenna beyond this world while he hangs on the cross, enduring the eternal penalty of sin for billions of human souls. Indeed, in terms of global positioning, Jesus is crucified less than half a mile northward up that valley from the stench of burning garbage.

The Good News is that Jesus finished paying that price so completely that he could then cry, “Paid in full!” For those who place their faith in what he has done for us, Jesus puts out the hideous fire of Gehenna! But the book of Revelation reminds us that this hideous destination remains for those who tragically reject the tremendous mercy made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus. For those who insist, “It’s my way or the highway!”, God reluctantly says, “OK, have it your way.”