People joke about it. Cartoons depict it inaccurately. We use the word flippantly. When we're angry with someone, we tell them to go there. People say that they are going there, and they will be partying with their friends - sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Many people don't even believe such a place exists. This is all false.
Why do we have such misconceptions about hell? It is because we are not informed by what Scripture teaches. The Bible depicts hell in a sobering tone as a very real place. It is a dreadful place that we must avoid at all costs. Jesus said, "And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 'where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'"
Many people don't believe in the reality of hell because they don't read what the Bible actually says about it. Most of what we know about hell comes straight from the lips of Jesus. Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone else in the Scriptures. Let's take a thorough look at the doctrine of hell.
What Is A Good Biblical Definition Of Hell?
The place of eternal conscious punishment for those who have broken God's law.
The Bible describes Hell as a place of...
outer darkness (Matthew 25:30)
weeping (Matthew 8:12)
wailing (Matthew 13:42)
gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:50)
flames (Luke 16:24)
everlasting fire (Matthew 25:46)
a furnace of fire (Matthew 13:42)
separation from the righteous (Matthew 25:46)
eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
torment (Luke 16:23)
everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46)
the lake of fire burning with brimstone (Revelation 19:20)
Let's define some more terms -
Sheol - A Hebrew word. It is the place of the dead, not necessarily the grave, but the place that the dead go to.
Hades - A Greek word. It is the place of the dead, the location of the person between death and resurrection.
Gehenna - A Greek word. It was the place where dead bodies were dumped and burned. Jesus used the word to designate the place of eternal torment. It was here that some pagan kings practiced human sacrifice by fire.
The Lake of Fire - The final hell, the place of eternal punishment for all unrepentant rebels, both angelic and human.
Why Do People Go To Hell?
Sin. Some people say individuals go to hell because they haven't "accepted" Jesus. That's not true. They go to hell because of their sin. That would be like saying that a person got the death penalty because they didn't receive a pardon. No, they got the death penalty because they committed a capital offense.
Where Is Hell?
Scripture does not tell us the geological location of hell. Hell may have a physical location in this universe, or it may be in an entirely different dimension.
Are People In Hell Forever?
Yes. Matt. 25:46 says "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." In this verse, there is a perfect parallel, the same word "eternal" is used to describe the punishment of the wicked as well as the eternal life of the believer. Just as eternal life for the believer is endless, the punishment for those without forgiveness of sins is endless. The believer will be in heaven just as long as the unbeliever will be in hell.
Some other verses to consider -
Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.
And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
2 Thess 1:7-9
Are The Dead Conscious After Death?
Yes. In that place (hell) there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. Luke 13:28
Are There Different Degrees Of Punishment?
Yes. What does Jesus say about this...
And in his teaching He (Jesus) said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."
For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."
"That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows."
Are the descriptions of hell symbolic or literal?
This is a debated question. I don't know the answer to this, but I tend to agree with what theologian RC Sproul says regarding this issue - "I suspect they are symbols, but I find no relief in that. We must not think of them as being merely symbols. If these images are indeed symbols, then we must conclude that the reality is worse than the symbol suggests. The function of symbols is to point beyond themselves to a higher or more intense state of actuality than the symbol itself can contain. That Jesus used the most awful symbols imaginable to describe hell is no comfort to those who see them simply as symbols."
Who goes to hell?
Here is what God has said:
Then I (John) saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people - none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.
1 Cor 6:9-10
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Who deserves hell?
If hell is reserved for those who have broken God's law, the answer is everyone. We all deserve hell.
Does God throw anyone into hell?
Do you agree with this popular statement...? God does not send anyone to hell. If a person chooses to reject Christ, that person has chosen hell for himself or herself. God did not send them there. I've always wondered how one harmonizes that type of sentiment with Bible verses such as these -
And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 'where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'
How can we have joy in heaven knowing some of our friends and family are in hell?
This is a difficult question because the Bible says certain things about what it will be like for us being in the presence of God. Psalm 16:11 says, "In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore." Revelation 21:4 tells us, "He [God] shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." So what about those friends and family members who we love that end up paying the price for their rebellion against a holy, just and infinitely worthy God? Does God wipe away our memory of them? How can we be happy knowing they are suffering for eternity because of their sins? It's my belief that we will be so fully satisfied with seeing God for who He is and we will be so enamored with Him that we won't focus on our loss, but rather on our gain. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2 In addition, how about this challenging thought...I suspect that we will praise Him for His justice, even when it is demonstrated on those whom we love.
What does the Bible say about Purgatory?
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Purgatory is "A place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God's grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions." Our natural inclination is to feel as though we need to contribute something to our salvation. That is one reason why the man-made doctrine of purgatory was created. If we were able to pay to satisfaction somehow, someway for our transgressions against God we would then be able to say that we earned even a small portion of our salvation. That is one reason why hell is eternal, we can never pay back our debt in completion to an infinite God. We would need to pay forever, which is what hell is. In addition, to say that we must also suffer for our sins is to say that Jesus' suffering was insufficient. Purgatory denies the sufficiency of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus said, "It is finished." This declaration eliminates the idea of us having to suffer in any way for our sins. Either we pay the price ourselves in an eternal hell, or it was paid for, in total, on the cross. The payment that Christ made emphatically stamps a "Paid In Full" upon the record of all those who would come to know Jesus as savior. The idea of anyone paying even a small portion towards their redemption is contrary to everything the Bible says about God saving a people for His glory. To answer the question, what does the Bible say about Purgatory?...Nothing.
How Does Someone Avoid Going To Hell?
Repent (turn away from sin) and believe the gospel (the good news that Jesus came to save sinners).
"A Loving God Wouldn't Send People To Hell"