Is Hell Eternal?

In a recent discussion with a friend, he stated that he is not convinced that Hell is a place where people literally feel like they are burning forever.

This, as well as the writings of Rob Bell in his text, “Love Wins”, has led me to study the doctrine of Hell as understood by the early Church fathers and as taught in the Scriptures by the Christ.

I believe it has been mentioned before that Rob Bell, and many others, do not believe that Hell is eternal. They believe that Hell is a temporary destination for sinners and the unrepentant until they have suffered their just punishment for their sins on this earth and then they will be released to spend the remainder of eternity living in fellowship with God.

This, as I have learned, and I hope you, dear reader, know, is not biblical and, in truth, does not fit into the justice of the eternal God.

I want to focus right now on the fact that Hell is indeed eternal. We will explore how Hell fits into the justice of God at a later time.

In Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica, he warns them that those who refuse to follow the teachings of Christ will suffer “eternal destruction” as a result of their disobedience (2 Thessalonians 1:5-9).

The Christ Himself even speaks of the fact that Hell is eternal. When speaking regarding the end days, using the separation of the sheep and the goats as an illustration, He tells His hearers that those who did not care for Him or for His followers, or, in His words, “the least of these”, will “go away into eternal punishment“. (Matthew 25:46; emphasis mine)

Jude, the brother of James, tells us that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the “punishment of eternal fire” as a result of their sinfulness and failure to obey God. He comments that this punishment served “as an example” (Jude 1:7).

If Sodom and Gomorrah are an example of the punishment that sinners will receive in that they underwent eternal fire, how much more will Hell be? What makes us, mere mortals, clay in the hands of the Potter, think that sinners will escape eternal judgment and fire if the twin cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, did not escape it?

As much as our human sympathies want to believe that Hell is not eternal, Scripture teaches us otherwise. Who are we to argue with the Almighty? Accept what the Scriptures teach you and bow to the justice of the Almighty.

This is what the Sovereign LORD says.

One thought on “Is Hell Eternal?

  1. Hi, thanks for the article.
    Thru attending a Seventh Day Adventist Prophecy seminar, I’ve come to believe in annihilation (as well as other things) and think conditionalism makes a big difference in the world view of God’s goodness, and feel that conditionalism may close an easy door to reject Christ. To use famous examples, ex-atheist Anthony Flew ended believing in a creator, but he could not accept Jesus because of endless torment. On the other hand, Dr Boyd’s skeptic father ended up fully accepting Christ once Hell was better understood as annihilation.

    The two issues, creation/evolution and endless torment seem to combine and allow easy rejection of the gospel.

    In any event, I’ve written primarily to share a little quiz to try to help others deal with “eternal punishment” of Mt 25:46.

    QUIZ: Although this is an imperfect OVERSIMPLIFICATION, which one of the two answers makes more sense in view of our destinies?

    1-How long do you believe the judging goes on in the “eternal judgment”? Heb 6:2
    A- Basically Judged & Re-Judged each & every day every moment forever, for the rest of eternity
    B- Basically &finally judged just once…but last judgment is permanent, eternal, for the rest of eternity
    2-How long do you believe the saving goes on in the “eternal salvation”? Heb 5:9
    A- Basically Saved & Re-saved each & every day every moment forever, for the rest of eternity
    B- Basically/fully saved once, but final salvation is permanent/irreversible, for rest of eternity, eternal.
    3-How long do you believe the redeeming goes on in the “eternal redemption”? Heb 9:12
    A – Basically Redeemed & re-redeemed each/every day & moment forever, for the rest of eternity
    B- Basically Redeemed once… but final redemption is permanent, for the rest of eternity, eternal

    COMMENT: So far, with these few examples I think you would agree that, although a bit oversimplified, answer B makes more sense. God will not re- judge us and re-save us each and every minute for the rest of eternity. Eternal does sometimes mean “finally and fully imparted ONCE (like redeemed once) but the “CHANGE” is irreversible, permanent, for the rest of eternity, hence eternal”. Please pause and meditate on that meaning of eternal. Now most want to answer B for #1-3 above but want to answer A for next questions #4-5-6 below even though there is NO difference in the texts or in the word ETERNAL itself? As you answer #4-6 below, ask yourself why, why am I not consistent?
    Being consistent!
    4- How long do you believe the condemning goes on in the “eternal condemnation”? Mk3:29
    A – Basically Condemned & Re-Condemned every day every moment Forever, for the rest of eternity
    B- Or fully/finally condemned ONCE, but condemnation is permanent/irreversible/for rest of eternity
    5- How long do you believe the destructing of Hell goes on in the “eternal destruction”?2Th1:9
    A – Basically Destroyed & Re-destroyed every day every moment Forever, for the rest of eternity
    B- Or finally destroyed ONCE, but destruction is permanent/irreversible/eternal/for rest of eternity
    6- How long do you believe the punishing of Hell goes on in the “eternal punishment”? Matt 25:46
    A – Basically Punished & Re-punished each & every day every moment Forever, for rest of eternity
    B- Or fully/finally punished ONCE, but CHANGE is permanent/irreversible/eternal/for rest of eternity.

    Were you consistent? Think about it: unless you can answer A to questions 1-3 above, you are inconsistent to answer A to questions #4-6 because these English sentences with word “eternal” are exactly the same. So logically, without convoluted logic, if you answer B to #1-3, then you should at least consider B as a possibility for #4-6. If not, why not? It must come from outside ideas and texts (this is the whole point of those 6 questions to show that it comes from outside & not the word eternal itself). Notice something powerful, #1-6 can all be EXACTLY THE SAME DURATION – THAT’s RIGHT – they can all be imparted ONCE (judged once, redeemed once, destroyed once, punished once) AND they all can be permanent, irreversible, for the rest of eternity; hence they are all ETERNAL in duration.

    So far we have shown using a simple logical argument that we tend to inconsistently interpret “eternal” in two different ways depending on who is affected (just or unjust). We also show that it comes from external inputs, perceptions, beliefs, and has nothing to do with the word eternal itself or the sentences with it. Isn’t that just amazing! Next, is it possible to confirm that our view of Hell as endless torment is totally imported, while the real meaning should be something “imparted ONCE for the rest of eternity”, per answer B. Let’s see what we can discover with the word most often used with the word eternal: Life.

    What is the #1 verse used to support endless torment? Matthew 25:46. Why? Primarily because, goes the argument, the “eternal punishment” should be the same duration as “eternal life”, which “can only mean endless torment”. Although this would mean reading it per answer A above, can we in fact show that Matthew 25:46 could be properly rewritten as per answer B as follows:

    “And these shall go away into a permanent/irreversible eternal destruction ONCE for rest of eternity, but the righteous into a permanent irreversible life given ONCE (for the rest of eternity).

    In other words, can scripture support that “eternal life” is also basically given ONCE, for the rest of eternity per answer B. Guess what! It does! Eternal life is CONSISTENTLY given once at resurrection/judgment when we (in Christ) will all be MADE ALIVE (finally/fully ONCE but only) at His coming (1Cor 15:22-23), when we receive (once)… in the AGE TO COME, ETERNAL LIFE (Luke 18:30) – (i.e. we receive full eternal life (made alive) at His coming when raised back to life from the dead (our enemy #1)). In short, this shows that the gift of eternal life is also ultimately fully given ONCE at His coming, but it is eternal, permanent, irreversible, for the rest of eternity, so not subject to 2nd death. Hence it is an “eternal” or “permanent” life, just like the final judgment is an “eternal” or “permanent” judgment, just like the final redemption is an “eternal” or “permanent” redemption, just like final destruction is an “eternal” or “permanent” destruction, just like final condemnation is an “eternal” or “permanent” condemnation, just like final punishment is an “eternal” or “permanent” punishment. WOW! Do you see how it is all VERY CONSISTENT. Again, with this understanding of eternal (per answer B), both eternal life and eternal punishment of Matthew 25:46 are the exact same DURATION (i.e. permanent/irreversible), and both are basically given once at judgment of the just and unjust. So, does Matthew 25:46 really support the traditional view of endless torment per answer A? Or does it rather support that the eternal punishment can be an permanent everlasting destruction per answer B.

    This quiz support that the punishment (destruction/annihilation) and the life of Mt 25:46 are exactly the SAME DURATION (for the rest of eternity) and are both given ONCE at the resurrection/judgment. Of course, our view of the eternal punishment in Mt 25:46 is also imported from other verses to be dealt with.For a good overview see jewishnotgreek.com & amazingdiscoveries.org.

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