Is there a hell? Is there such a thing as everlasting punishment, or do we just cease to exist? What happens when we die? Are there any answers? What does the Bible say about hell? This article will explore these questions.
What is Hell?
Hell is defined as the place of punishment for the unrighteous. However, there are some who don’t believe that hell exists at all. Even the ones who believe there is a heaven. No one can deny that there is evil in the world. It is puzzling for one to believe there is a reward for righteousness and not a consequence for evil and unrighteousness. That is simply a denial of what the Bible teaches.
What Does the Bible Say About Hell?
While some do not believe that hell exists, Jesus indeed confirmed that it does. He referred to it eleven times. Let’s look at what Jesus is quoted as saying in Matthew 10:28:
28. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
The context of this passage is Jesus’ warning to His disciples against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. While they had knowledge of the Scriptures, they didn’t live as though they did. Jesus also warned that they might face persecution for their belief and faith in Him, which could include death. But He also told them not to fear individuals that could kill them or even death itself. While they may be able to kill the body, they cannot kill the soul.
He also told them who they must fear: the one who is able to kill the body and destroy the soul “in hell.” According to the New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, the Greek word translated as hell is geena (gheh’-en-nah), which was a valley of Jerusalem and was used figuratively as a name for the place, or the state of everlasting punishment.
For a bit of background on Gehenna, Gehenna is a derivative of the Hebrew Ge Hinnom or the “valley of Hinnom.” Hinnom was conceivably the name of an individual in ancient Israel. The valley of Hinnom is a steep, narrow gorge just beyond Jerusalem.
In the Old Testament, was the scene of the practice of child sacrifice under some of the godless kings of Israel (Jeremiah 7:31).
The point is, according to Scripture, specifically Jesus, hell does exist as a place of punishment.
Is Hell a Place of Eternal Punishment?
Having established that hell exists as a place of punishment for the unrighteous, for some, the question becomes whether hell is a place of eternal punishment by fire or if the punishment is simply eternal separation from God.
Again, Jesus sheds light on this matter in Matthew 25:41:
41. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
The context of this Scripture (vss. 31-46) addresses judgment. Jesus separates the goats from the sheep. This is figurative or symbolic, with the goats representing the unrighteous and the sheep the righteous. He states that He will say to the goats, the unrighteous on His left, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”
He closes the thought in verse 46, saying, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
According to the New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, the Greek word translated as “everlasting” is NT:166 aionios (ahee-o’-nee-os); which means perpetual (also used of past time, or past and future as well). In addition to everlasting, it has also been translated into the English words eternal and forever in other Scripture.
9. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
10. The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
11. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
This passage contains the message from the third angel of The Three Angels Messages. The unrighteous that worship the beast and receive his mark will be “tormented” “forever and ever” with no rest “day or night.” [For more information on the Three Angels Message, please see the article, The Three Angels Message, on this website.
They will be joining the devil, as Matthew 25:41 states, “into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”
Upon examining these Scriptures, it is clear that hell is a place of everlasting punishment for Satan, the devil, his angels, and the unrighteous.
Some believe these Scriptures describe the effects of the demise of the unrighteous being eternal rather than the punishment itself. That can be a reasonable argument regarding the third angel’s message. However, the words of Jesus are acutely poignant, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal “ and Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”
In the former of these two statements, Jesus makes a stark comparison between the demise of the unrighteous, which is everlasting punishment, and the demise of the righteous, which is eternal or everlasting life. In the second statement, Jesus refers to the everlasting fire prepared for the devil.
Additionally, in Jesus’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), we have another comparison in the demise of these two states. The unrighteous rich man died and ended up in hell in torment. Luke 16:23 reads, “In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.” NIV In this Scripture, according to New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, the Greek word translated as hell is haides (hah’-dace); from NT:86 which is the place (state) of departed souls: In other places in Scripture, it is translated as grave.
We also see in this passage that angels carried Lazarus, the beggar, into Abraham’s bosom. According to the Old Testament, Abraham’s bosom represents a place of blessed peace.
Although this is not the same hell as the Lake of Fire nor eternal life in Revelation, torment for the unrighteous and peace for the righteous begins in the grave—the first chapter in the demise of the Righteous and the Unrighteous.
The second chapter commences at the first and second resurrections. The first resurrection is for the righteous. Rev 20:4-5 reads:
- And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
- But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
The first resurrection will involve the righteous, who will live with Christ during the millennium.
The rest of the dead, the unrighteous, will be involved in the second resurrection, known as the Great White Throne Judgement. Rev 20:11-15 reads:
- And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
- And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
- And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
- And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
- And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
The Greek word translated as hell in verse 13 is the same: haides, the place (state) of departed souls. The remaining dead will be resurrected and judged according to their works or deeds; they are judged and thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Let’s look at the devil’s demise in Revelation 20:10:
10. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
The Scripture says the devil will be “tormented day and night for ever and ever.” If the devil is going to be tormented forever and ever, and the unrighteous are going “into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” it stands to reason that both will be tormented forever. It’s axiomatic.
Why resurrect the unrighteous from the dead and then send them away again? They can simply remain dead. Since they are dead, they are already gone forever. To not exist is not actually punishment; it is only equivalent to eternal sleep. Of course, it’s better to be with the Lord in heaven, but we must be realistic regarding the demise of the unrighteous.
In the White Throne Judgment(Revelation 20:11-15), the unrighteous will be resurrected, judged, and cast into the “lake of fire” with the devil to be tormented—forever.
Hell does exist and is the destination of the unrighteous, a place of everlasting punishment. It is for those who refuse to accept the truth, grace, and favor of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Whether one believes hell is a place of eternal damnation according to the Scriptures or simply separation from God, the most crucial emphasis is to avoid it at all costs. The optimal objective is to remain in the will of God and to be with Him in heaven ultimately.
Questions and comments may be left below, including what you believe hell is and your concerns.