What Is Hell?

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Image by Janko Ferlič. Adapted for Redemption of Humanity. Used under licence.

Last edited on 12/Mar/2021

Introduction

Hell is the place of eternal separation from God’s presence (2 Thessalonians 1:9–10). It is a place of eternal and conscious torment and suffering (Luke 16:22–26). According to the Bible, all non-Christians who reject Jesus till death will go to Hell as punishment for sinning against God, who is infinitely holy (John 3:18, 36; Romans 1:18).

The Bible Teaches That Hell Is Real

Jesus clearly taught the reality of Hell when he said:

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:4–5, ESVUK)

Here, Jesus taught us the importance of giving God the proper honour and respect that he intrinsically deserves as our Creator and Saviour. If we sin against the infinite Creator, and reject his means of reconciliation through Christ, then we will reap infinite punishment accordingly.

Hell Is Eternal

In his parable of the final judgement, Jesus taught the eternal nature of Hell, saying:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. … And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:41, 46)

By referring to the “eternal fire” and “eternal punishment”, this clearly tells us that Hell isn’t just some temporary abode of suffering, but an eternal one. This gives a crucial warning to all people in the world: rejection of the biblical Jesus has eternal consequences—so don’t take his warnings lightly.

Furthermore, Jesus referred to Hell as the “unquenchable fire”, and the place “where their worm does not die”, teaching that it is far better to suffer temporary harm in this life for the sake of the gospel, and enter the kingdom of God, than to reject the Gospel and enter Hell (Mark 9:43–48). Jesus carefully used these terms to make sure we understand clearly that Hell is a place of eternal suffering, and that we will go there unless we accept him as our risen Saviour, who died for our sins on the cross.

Unbelievers Suffer Consciously in Hell

He also refers to Hell as “the fiery furnace”. In his parable of the net, he said:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47–50)

This teaches that in contrast to Heaven, a place where we consciously experience peace, happiness and contentment, Hell is a place where we consciously experience suffering, sadness, and regret. We will not simply be annihilated and cease to exist.

The book of Revelation teaches that on the final judgement, the non-believers will “drink the wine of God’s wrath”, be “tormented with fire and sulphur” and that “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever”, having “no rest, day or night” (Revelation 14:9–11). This also confirms that Hell isn’t simply a state of eternal annihilation, but is actually a state of everlasting, conscious torment. It also refers to Hell as “the lake of fire”, where the beast and false prophet of the end times will be “tormented day and night forever and ever”, and where every non-believer will be cast (Revelation 20:9–10, 11–15).

Conclusion

Although many will end up in Hell (Matthew 7:13–14), it is not God’s desire for anyone to be punished there. Instead, God desires everyone to accept the free gift of eternal life in his Son, Jesus Christ, and to have our broken relationship with him restored (1 Timothy 2:3–4; 1 John 5:11–12).

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