Jesus talked about hell a lot more than many people realize. Here we see the associations that would have come to mind for his listeners.
Let's face it, Hell as it seems to have been traditionally taught seems old-fashioned, unrealistic, and a lot of us don't like to talk about because it is embarrassing if non-Christians are around. They hold up Hell as an indictment of a loving God.The truth is, Hell is actually God's tribute to our own free will. If we don't want to be in His company, He won't force us. Mary Healy makes it a bit clearer.Word StudyGeenna (Gk.): "Gehenna", the valley directly southwest of Jerusalem. Jesus refers to it 11 times in the Gospels as a dreadful symbol of hell. Two associations are made with Gehanna, one drawn from the OT and the other from Jesus' contemporary setting.
- Gehenna is a Greek rendering of the Hebrew place-name "Valley of the sons of Hinnom". It was the site of a frightful Canaanite cult that worshipped the idols of Molech and Baal by burning children in sacrifice (Jer 7:30; 19:1; 32:35).
- In the NT period, Gehenna served as a smoldering garbage dump where refuse burned continually. Jesus evokes these associations to teach us that hell is not a place of purgation or purification, but one of fiery punishment (Mt 5:22; 18:9; 23:33). In the afterlife, the bodies and souls of the wicked will suffer in hell for eternity (Mt 10:28; 25:41; 46). Other biblical passages corroborate this horrifying prospect (Is 33:14; 66:24; Jude 7; Rev 20:10).The Gospel Of Mark
(The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible)
Some may be struggling with the question of how a good god could send someone to hell. But the truth conveyed in jesus' teaching is that we choose our own destiny. With every decision and action over the course of a lifetime we orient ourselves either to heaven or to hell, and at the moment of death we embrace what has truly become our choice. C.S. Lewis expresses it well: "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' all that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell." But God never ceases to hold out his unfathomable mercy, even at the very moment when a person steps over the threshold into eternity.
The Gospel of Mark:
Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture