Does God send people to Hell for eternity and why?

Hi everyone,

This, to me, is the most challenging question concerning my faith. To be honest, I don’t have an answer that could possibly satisfy someone if I were ever asked this. Since I have been researching this question, I noticed some Christians have different beliefs about Hell— some, like I was taught, believe Hell is eternal, while others believe it isn’t. I was also taught that Hell is eternal suffering and agony, while others don’t necessarily believe that either. So, my questions are this:

  1. Does God send people to Hell for eternity and why eternity?
  2. Will people suffer in torment, agony and terror for eternity?

Thank you!

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We often hear about hell having fire and darkness and falling and various other horrors. And while all these are certainly descriptive of hell, they are not at the core of what makes hell so hellish. Hell is essentially being separated from God forever. And for humans who were specifically designed to draw their life from Him and enjoy His presence forever, being eternally separated from Him Who is the ultimate blessing would be the ultimate curse.

If God is light, then to be separated from Him is to endure eternal darkness.

If God is the water of life, then to be separated from Him is to thirst forever.

If God is the God of all comfort, then to be separated from Him is all torment.

If He is the universal foundation by which all things are upheld, then separation from Him would be to fall forever.

In short, all the descriptions we’ve ever heard of hell are the natural chaos one would expect in an existence without God.

So when Jesus went to the cross, He suffered the darkness, the thirst, the torment. But when He cried out, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? he suffered the essence of hell itself. And the ground shook, rocks brake, graves opened, the veil was rent, and hardened soldiers trembled and said, Surely this was the Son of God!

Now, some people think that it is very petty of God to make hell so unnecessarily torturous just to really stick it to people who didn’t believe in Him. But I think that when you understand what hell really is – being eternally cut off from God – you will see that hell’s very nature just cannot be improved.

And I think the eternal duration of hell is what makes it the worst of all. But that really cannot be taken out of the equation.

In the past, the groups which have taught annihilationism have typically been cults or modernists. Lately, some evangelical thinkers have discovered ways to justify this view to their own satisfaction. And I understand their desire behind it. The eternal torment of hell is a repugnant doctrine, and lost people object to it as the work of a cruel God. So there is a desire to make God look less cruel to His critics.

But I think it is a slippery slope to allow the world’s biases to influence our views of what the Bible teaches. I think pandering to the reactions of the lost is counter-productive to the gospel cause. I think they would be better served if we showed them the issue from God’s point of view.

From His perspective, His holiness is infinite. To sin against His infinite holiness is an infinite crime demanding infinite justice. But we finite mortals could never pay an infinite penalty – so the infinite Son of God paid it for us. But if we reject His redemption, then we will spend forever never being able to pay it ourselves.

As far as the concept of the human soul ceasing to exist at some point, I think that’s untenable. The soul of man comes from the breath of God Himself, and it really cannot be destroyed. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has placed eternity into the hearts of men.

Revelation 14:11 says that the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night.

In Matthew 25:46, Jesus describes hell as a place of everlasting punishment.

I realize that Jehovah’s Witnesses and others try to reinterpret the phrase “everlasting punishment” and dismiss verses in Revelation as apocryphal, but I think they are playing with fire when they do that.

As a lost rebel nearly 50 years ago, the thing that frightened me most about hell was its eternal character. If some Mormon or modernist had told me back then that hell was just being annihilated, I would have been very relieved. I would have considered a life of sin very worth it if all that followed was nothingness. But that eternal threat haunted me, and I came to Christ trembling at the idea that modernists nowadays try to sooth away from the consciences of sinners.

I hope this helps you sort through your thoughts on this subject.

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Hi Olivia
Here are my answers to those questions that I had long ago.

  1. Does God send people to Hell for eternity and why eternity?
    We see in Revelation 20:10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. that devil, the beast, and the false prophet are put in hell forever and ever (eternity). Thus we know that God puts Satan and his demons and those of the antichrist there. There are 2 views concerning people being put into Hell in the history of the Church.
    The first uses Matt 25 revelation of the Sheep and the Goats where Jesus says depart from me and this is interpreted as Jesus sending the non-believers to hell.
    The second uses Matt 11:28 where Jesus says come to me and this is interpreted as persons who do not come to Jesus are in fact choosing Hell.
    The consequence of these 3 verses for me is that I always explain Hell is a place of eternal suffering. And I explain that persons end up there both by God’s judgement and their own choice not to come to God on God’s terms. Along with this I explain that their works are meaningless in terms of the judgement of God about heaven and hell, but their works have an impact as to their place in heaven with God or the level of their suffering in Hell.

  2. Will people suffer in torment, agony and terror for eternity?
    See Rev 20:10 above. Understand that God made the angels and mankind to exist for eternity and thus those in Hell will be there for eternity. I am an engineer so I use this analogy: when you sin against an infinite God you commit an infinite sin no matter how small you think the sin is. This means there is no way that you can reestablish your relationship with God by your own actions. Only God can deal with this infinite sin of yours and God has given all of us a way back. That is to accept the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus His Son. If you refuse the calling of God to do this you are actively choosing the only other alternative of eternal existence to heaven which is hell.

Hope this helps. My wife used to say before she went to The Lord that sometimes I get too verbose and it turns into vain babblings :grin:
Dan

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I am halfway through a study on the Day of the Lord. This is the Day that Jesus comes back to war against the nations and to establish His reign on earth. One of the most striking themes, in my opinion, is just who He is warring against. Up to the very last minute, God gives men the chance to repent (Joel 2:32). The character of those whom God is opposing is found in Isaiah 2:11-12, proud and lofty, lifted up, etc. So God has given them every opportunity to come, they simply will not do so. Are they aware that Eternal Hell awaits them if they don’t turn away from their sins? In my opinion, yes. These people would rather rot in Hell forever than repent. So it’s their choice. Not that they don’t regret being in Hell. The rich man woke up in torment. But he did not repent even then, he just asked for relief from the torment. So is Hell forever? Yes, but not because God wants them to stay there, but because they have chosen not to come, and for all Eternity they will not. Jesus said, better that you fall on the rock, then have it fall on you.

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Hi @OJMCKEE You have asked some great questions. With any discussion that comes up regarding the subject of hell, there seems to be another topic of equal and maybe greater importance that also arises. Some have addressed it in this feed. The question is:

Is God really just?

I have found the following words from R.C. Sproul to help me in the wrestling.

"Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy.

God does not always act with justice. Sometimes he acts with mercy. Mercy is not justice, but it also is not injustice. Injustice violates righteousness. We may see nonjustice in God, which is mercy, but we never see injustice in God.

If ever a person had room to complain of injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused. If we have cause for moral outrage, let it be directed at Golgotha."

I hope these words bring more freedom and clarity in the wrestling about the deep things of God.

May you be blessed,
Mary Beth

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@OJMCKEE Hi!

I was watching a YouTube video from The Gospel Coalition and the topic of judgment and eternal punishment was discussed and I thought Tim Keller had some good insights worth considering.

… When you lessen the penalty for a wrong you make the wrong less serious and you make the person wronged less serious, so for example, if you say here’s a country in which if you kill somebody the penalty is 100 dollars, wow, that really devalues the life of the person. Well what if it’s a million dollars? Well what if it’s 5 years in prison?, life in prison?..the point is the greater the penalty the more serious the sin against the person wronged…

…The other side is, what did Jesus really take? I mean, if the penalty for sin is only this big(small hand motion), then Jesus only bore this much on the cross, if the penalty for sin is this big(big hand motion), then Jesus took much more than that somehow, and therefore His love for me is greater…

…You take away the infinity of punishment, everything else starts to diminish…

So, the eternality of punishment is a vital component in confirming the value of humanity, the seriousness of sin, and ultimately the Gospel message itself.

If you’re interested in hearing Tim Keller’s entire response it can be found here (God: Abounding in Love, Punishing the Guilty (Panel)) from 2:30-4:45 minutes. Also, there was a speech from Don Carson before the panel discussion, which I also found interesting, (God: Abounding in Love, Punishing the Guilty (Carson Lecture).

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@OJMCKEE Thanks for asking this question, Olivia. Discussions about the reality of hell are difficult. There is great insight in the saying I’ve heard: that a minister should never be caught expounding eternal judgement without tears in her eyes. We are not speaking about an abstraction; many of us engaging in this discussion feel the weight of their loved ones’ rejection of Christ as we engage here. Thus, your question requires sincere and compassionate love—and this accordingly call for truth-telling.

I recently shared a couple resources in a conversation on Free Will from an Atheist point of View that may also be of use to you. May the Spirit guide you and grant you both understanding of this matter and the heart of Christ for those who have not embraced his salvation, Olivia.

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Excellent quote @MaryBeth1 - thank you! I can easily forsee myself using that sometime!

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Amen, @manbooks - excellent point - the refusal of those in hell to ever repent is just one more reason that hell is eternal. As C. S. Lewis said, “The gates of hell are locked from the inside.”

I believe that your comment about the rich man in hell supports that view. Another support for it can be found in Revelation 16:9-11 and verse 21 where the closest thing to hell on earth cannot bring incorrigible rebels to repentance.

Very tragic!

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I think the most biblical view on hell is Conditional Immortality. It is the view that Hell is the end of existence, it’s eternal death, not eternal torture or suffering.

I think that view makes sense both biblically and logically.

In Genesis Adam is made out of dust, this imagery is meant to convey the mortality of humans, whenever this image is used in the Old Testament it’s about the mortality of humans. Gen 3:19, Psalm 103:14-15, Ecclesiastes 3:20. Not only that, but in the garden there was the tree of life, it means that Adam didn’t have life in himself, but he had to draw it from somewhere or someone else.

So the idea that the human soul is eternal isn’t really a biblical one, but it’s found more among Greek Philosophers, like Plato. The Bible teaches that the soul can be destroyed, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 8:28, “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4. You can even find that Paul, for example, didn’t treat immortality as something granted and given for everyone, “to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;” Romans 2:7. This verse doesn’t make sense if all humans have immortal souls.

Another interesting thing I’ve found while reading the gospels with this view in mind is that Jesus often invites people to believe in him to get eternal life, the opposite of eternal life isn’t eternal torture or suffering, it’s eternal death. Even the images of Hell that Jesus gives make more sense, like the worms and the fire, how worms aren’t being burnt? The images make sense figuratively, worms are famous for being found in dead corpses, and the fire turns anything into dust, it ends its existence. Even the expression of the lake of fire in Revelation has the same meaning of ending the existence of something rather than being an instrument for eternal torture “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
Revelation 20:14. There’s no point of throwing Death and Hades into the lake of fire to be tortured or tormented, for Death and Hades aren’t even beings to get tortured or tormented, the point is that there will be no more death, it’s the death of death. So yeah, I guess the book of life in Revelation should be taken at face value, it is really the book of those who will have life.

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Hi @Shady_Alfred. Thank you for your post. I would like to ask a few questions based on some of the things I read in an attempt to better understand your point of view.

I am interested to know your thoughts in regards to:

Daniel 12.2
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life and some to shame and eternal contempt.

Matthew 25.46
They will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Is it possible for worms to survive a fire? I wonder if the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could be an answer to that in light of the mention that even the hair on their head was not singed?

One last question in regard to your thoughts on Revelation 20.15 and 20.10. These verses describe what will happen to the individual person who rejects Jesus along with a description of the companionship, duration and the conditions therein.

“Anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Could you explain what is meant by these verses? At what point and where does the Bible say it ceases to be torment and becomes just death without any consciousness?

Thank you again for your post and I look forward to learning from you!

Mary Beth

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@MaryBeth1
Daniel’s vision of the day of the judgement doesn’t contradict what I said. Yes, God will judge all people one day, but it doesn’t mean that God’s judgement of the wicked will be eternal torture and torment. Specially how Daniel contradicts “eternal life” and “eternal contempt”. It’s not strange for the OT to speak of death as something that causes contempt and shame. “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” Isaiah 66:24 ESV. Notice “dead bodies”. It’s the same language Jesus used of fire and worms.

Regarding Matthew’s “eternal punishment”, it means that God’s judgement won’t be reversible. A punishment can have consequences that outlive its doing, like death sentence, it happens once but its effects remain. And again in Matthew the contrast is between “eternal life” and “eternal punishment”. So it makes sense to see that eternal punishment as death.

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego isn’t really a strong argument for it can be used both directions. They were saved because one who looked like “a son of the gods” was with them. Life is a gift given and sustained by God, there’s no life away from him.

It’s hard to interpret the book of Revelation for all the imagery and symbols it uses. But I don’t think that the lake of fire mentioned in Revelation can be interpreted as simply as a “place” for torture. It can mean that, but I don’t think it just means that, for the reasons I had mentioned “throwing Death and Hades into the lake of fire”. Are Death and Hades even objects to be thrown? But what adds more confusion is that it’s described as the place of punishment for the devils and evil spirits. Of course these evil spirits are immortals, and it’s debatable whether their torture will be forever or God will take their immortality from them (like in Psalm 82). The book of Revelation uses very similar language used in the book of Enoch, which mixes the idea of eternal torture and getting rid from the evil beings forever.

Apart from this other controversial topic, in Revelation 20:10 “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.” Revelation 20:10 ESV. The devil, the false prophet, and the beast are spiritual beings, so it might be possible that they, since they’re immortals, will be tortured forever. But in Revelation 20:14-15, when other stuff other than these spiritual beings are being thrown into the lake of fire, it speaks of “the second death” and the end of Death and Hades. That’s what gives the idea that their torture won’t last forever (at least for humans thrown there). And in Revelation 21, after these things are done, we don’t see the new creation as a parallel mode of existence to hell, but it seems the only thing that exists “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 ESV. How can pain, crying, mourning, etc… will be no more if there’s a parallel existence “hell” where people are being tortured forever? It seems that all the pain, mourning, and crying have been dealt with “the former things have passed away”. Indeed the statement is repeated “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8 ESV. The second death is the final death one can go through after the first (or physical\bodily) death.

I think there are many passages that say that immortality is conditional. I’ve mentioned a few of them, like Jesus’ words “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 ESV. “destroy both soul and body in hell”, destruction is different than torture. Even the word Jesus uses for Hell is Gehenna. Gehenna was the garbage dumpster in Jerusalem where they used to burn garbage. I think it’s reasonable to say that people burn garbage to get rid of it, not to torture it. It fits perfectly with Death and Hades being thrown into the lake of fire, getting rid of death.
Even in 2 Timothy 1:10 “and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” “brought life and immortality”. Immortality for Paul wasn’t something taken for granted, Jesus had to bring it to us through the gospel.

@Shady_Alfred As I understood your understanding of Rev 12:10 that devil, the beast, and the false prophet are all spiritual beings. Certainly the devil is and the beast referring to the antichrist perhaps, but the false prophet is definitely a human being.
Dan

@dan0647

Not necessarily.
“Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth…” Revelation 13:11.
“And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs.” Revelation 16:13
“And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.” Revelation 19:20

As I said the beast perhaps, but the false prophet is definitely. Throughout Scripture Prophets both False and True are human beings.

He’s part of the Unholy Trinity, he’s even called “another beast”, the same type. I think the false prophet has a human form, but he’s more than just a human.

Hi @Shady_Alfred. I appreciate the time, thought and effort you have taken to respond to my questions. Thank you also for your timely response. :slightly_smiling_face:

Grace and peace,
mary beth

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A few more thoughts to add…

Consider that every major religious world view (excluding the “minor” belief systems like the “Flying Spaghetti Monster”) has a concept of retribution or judgement for lifetime wrongs. They don’t always match the view of the Christian world view, but there is at least some form of final justice. For example, Karma and reincarnation is a system of “paying back” for wrongs done, and even an Atheist has an understanding of final judgement, which is that there is none because there’s nothing after death.

Likewise, the form of “escape” from this judgement can also vary widely.

So, it may be helpful to remember that it’s not just the God of the Christian world view that exclusively holds to the concepts of final judgement after death.

Also, here’s an RZIM video that may also be helpful:

If God is Just, Then Why Give Eternal Punishment for Temporal Sin? Vince Vitale & Ravi Zacharias

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Hi Olivia,

I have struggled with the topic of Hell too. Honestly, it can be a very difficult topic to approach.

I have just been reading about hell in Lee Strobels book “The Case for Faith” and I want to share with you what I have learned, cause it helped me a lot. I pray that it will help you too.

Hell is the Separation from God and His People for eternity. Hell is eternal.

“What hell recognizes is that people have intrinsic value. If God loves intrinsic value, then he has got to be a sustainer of persons, because that means he is a sustained of intrinsic value. He refuses to annihilate a creature that was made in his own image. So in the final analysis, hell is the only morally legitimate option.”

This in Hell, do not want God or his people. So in hell they are away from all of that.

“God doesn’t like it, but he quarantines them. This honors their freedom of choice. He just will not override that. In fact, God considers people so intrinsically valuable that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die so that they can, if they choose, spend eternity in heaven with him.”

People in Hell will not be tortured by flames, the flames are a figure of speech. The worms refer to a place in Jerusalem where the blood amd fat from the sacrifices drained out. “It was a very ugly place.” This was a metaphor to say that hell is worse then that disgusting place out side the city.

The gnashing of teeth describes a state of anger or realization of great loss. “It’s an expression of rage at realizing that one has made a huge mistake.” These quotes are from J. P. Moreland who also said “I believe the gnashing of teeth is an expression of the type of personality of people who will belong in hell.”

The important thing to remember Olivia is that God loves all people He “takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” God, wants all to come to him.

“Hell is God’s fall-back position. Hell is something that God was forced to make because people chose to rebel against him and turn against what is best for them amd the purpose for which they were created.”

Jesus came to save all from hell. To give all eternal life with Him and God. God does not force Himself on people, He let’s them come to Him freely.

I hope amd pray that this was helpful for you Olivia, and I hope that God gives you the comfort amd the answers that you need. God Bless.

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Hi Olivia! This is a beautiful question I have also asked God many times. Based on the Bible God has shown me that He does not send people to hell. God has given us the choice to choose living with HIM (in heaven) or living without HIM (in hell). It is our choice carries us to hell. God is so loving that He doesn’t manipulate our choices but gives us what we want.
So God wants us to live with HIM during our time here on earth as well as in eternity but the truth is that when we do not choose to live with God through accepting Jesus as our Lord on this earth that choice of rejection carries us to hell.

So, sadly, the real question is why do we send ourselves to hell? Living with Jesus is everything!

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