I stood in a beautiful valley. Birds were flying over head, singing their song. The iconic yellow-brown walls of the Old City of Jerusalem provided the backdrop. To my right, was what it known today as Mount Zion. Children were playing in the grass before me. It was almost impossible to believe that I was standing in Hell.
Before we go any further, I want to be clear that I’m not writing about a theological position on the destiny of man. This isn’t about eternal life or eternal judgment. But, let me assure you, I’m talking specifically about Hell.
The term “Hell” isn’t used all that often in Scripture. Most often what we think of as “Hell,” is described as a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, or where the fire is never quenched, or where the worm never dies. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the place is often called the Valley of Hinnom. In the Christian Scriptures, it’s called Gehenna.
Both of those locations are a specific geographic location just outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Today, it’s a beautiful park. Occasionally, concerts are hosted in this valley. But 3,000 years ago, it was a place of indescribable horror.
It was in the Valley of Hinnom that Israel sacrificed their children to the pagan god, Molech. Millions of babies and young children were thrown into a cast iron idol that had been stoked to the highest possible temperature, and their screams could be heard all night long.
What kind of insanity causes a mother and father to become willing burn their child to death, thinking that they are worshipping a god?
There are many reasons that the Children of Israel were scattered and exiled, but make no mistake, their worship of Molech in the Valley of Hinnom was clearly one of the primary factors.
When the Kingdom of Judah was permitted to return from Babylon, this valley became a place of cursing. All that it was used for was as a garbage dump that burned constantly. Worms would be found wherever you stirred the filth. The only people who would enter that valley were lepers looking for scraps to eat.
This is Hell.
It doesn’t matter what your theological position on eternal damnation is, one thing is abundantly clear from Scripture: Hell is what happens when humanity rejects God. Hell was what resulted when a people who had seen untold wonders performed by the Creator of the universe, chose to reject Him for the worship of idols. It caused them to do the unthinkable. Even to muder their own children.
As I stood in the Valley of Hinnom, I couldn’t help but feel the dichotomy of death and life. You see, this valley is not only a place of horror. The Valley of Hinnom is a place of hope.
It is this valley that the prophet, Ezekiel, is talking about when he gives his famous prophecy of the Valley of Dry Bones. If you study the CONTEXT of the entire book of Ezekiel, this is clear. And his prophecy is one that sees death and destruction brought back to life, resulting in paradise. Ezekiel even talks of the curse on the valley being changed to a blessing.
This is what happens when those who have rejected God Almighty, repent and follow Him.
As recently as a few decades ago, the Valley of Hinnom was a place that no resident of Jerusalem would pass through. In fact, the legend was that no one had ever seen anything living in the Valley; that even the birds refused to land there. It was considered cursed.
But now, it seems that curse has been lifted. Birds are seen there. Music is heard there. Children play there. Today, the place that was once the ultimate synonym for death, has become a place of life.
That is hopeful.
In November of 2015, I will be leading thirty people to Israel, where we will stand in the Valley of Hinnom and see for ourselves the life that has returned to this place of death. If you’re interested in learning more about this tour, please CLICK HERE.