Is Hell Eternal?

I have a tendency to try to treat Scripture as literal as possible within the context. But if the context makes clear that symbolism is being used or sometimes a different aspect of the context, then that takes priority.

For example, the “eternal fire” that burned Sodom and Gemorrah, which is used as an example of what will happen to the lost (in Jude 1:7). Since we are told clearly, twice, that “our God is a consuming fire”, the “eternal fire” that was used to destroy those two cities was “from the Eternal One” and could not be put out by any human means - it burned until its purpose was fulfilled. [By the way, have you heard about the new scientific finding that S & G were destroyed, at about the time of Abraham/Lot by an exploding meteorite over the area? Exciting archeological find!]

So the context makes clear it was not a fire that kept on burning S & G forever. And the specific statements by Jesus about Gehenna destroying both body and soul make clear that the lost will have neither a body or soul burning forever. Of course, Isaiah backs that up with his description of the dead bodies in the “Final Fire”, that burns forever, in 66:24.

Regarding what C.S. Lewis said (a hell where God has given a person over to their own desires), that could fit with being “cast into outer darkness”, which could be perhaps another universe in another dimension where there is no Redeemer, but that still has the One Who is perfect love keeping His creatures alive so they can suffer non-stop for time beyond time. Inconsistent.

So being “cast into outer darkness” would be one way to describe becoming non-existant, since God/Christ/Spirit is Light, and is everywhere present.

Psalm 37 has some interesting statements:

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.”

“For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.”

“In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.”

“For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.”

“But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.”

“Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.”

“For there is a future for the man of peace. But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.”

Seems pretty clear, doesn’t it…

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@DeanW I think it would be speculation to try to figure out exactly how God will judge the wicked or, for that matter, reward the righteous. God didn’t give us the details about the afterlife. But thankfully He gave us Himself and that is all that we need :slight_smile:

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I agree, the exact details of the End of the lost are not given us, purposefully i believe. The point is do we trust our God to do the perfect thing with them as He will with us who want to be with Him, unendingly.

Historically, it seems that the whole “problem of an eternally torturing hell” was created by one false assumption – that being created “in the image” of God has to include permanent immortality of the soul. But, as i have been considering, if “the Image of God” is the pre-incarnate Christ, as 2 Cor 4:4 / Col 1:5 imply, then Adam and Eve were created “in Christ”, and immortality could only be preserved by a willing oneness connection with Him – which was broken by their rebelliousness.

So they had to be removed from the Garden in order to prevent them from becoming immortal as sinners. And the “found” are only those who allow Him to reconnect ourselves with His unending Life.

If this is the correct understanding, then the very thing which has been used to support unending punishing of the lost was actually proof that the lost will be only mortal at the Judgement, and therefore will die a second, final, time instead.

Ironic, isn’t it.

Gen 3:22-24
“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”

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@DeanW I’m not sure it’s necessary to pull in the NT verses on this one. I think we simply have no indication in the Bible that the human soul is inherently immortal. I don’t think the Bible rules out this possibility, but I think the origin of the immortality of the soul is actually pagan philosophy. That does not automatically mean it is wrong, just that it was not originally a Hebrew idea as far as I can tell.

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Have you ever seen anything in the earlier Testament that makes a claim for a human soul being immortal, Sean? I can’t recall any statement even close to that.

If not, then we can see that no one in the pre-Jesus era would have believed in an eternal place of punishing for the soul. In which case, they were not warned that the punishment for their sins was eternal suffering, since death was the highest penalty in the Law.

Also, the NT appears to point to destruction (with eternal effect) for the lost, doesn’t it?

  1. The persistently lost are called “vessels of destruction” by Paul. Rom 9:22
  2. Their final end is destruction. Phil 3:19
  3. For, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it”. Matt 7:13
  4. Gehenna, the Lake of Fire, “destroys both body and soul” according to Jesus. Matt 10:28
  5. The last enemy of God to be destroyed is Death; the lost are destroyed first in the Second Death before Death is eliminated. 1 Cor 15:26, Rev 20:14, 21:8
  6. Sodom and Gomorrah are the example God gives, twice, of what will happen to the wicked - destruction by eternal Fire. 2 Peter 2:6, Jude 1:7. (This was a complete burning up into ashes, with no long-term torture involved.)
  7. God will destroy those who destroy the earth, and they will be ashes under our feet. Rev 11:18, Mal 4:3

We have to change these verses to mean “on-going non-stop destroyng” to justify eternal punishing.

[By the way, this topic was moved from Bible Questions to Daily Evangelism, wasn’t it? Do you know why?]

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@DeanW I am uncertain if or why it was moved :slight_smile: While I agree that the soul is not necessarily immortal, I do not think we can say that no one in the pre-Jesus era would have believed in an eternal place of punishment. In fact, there are counterexamples to that point. But I would say that it is difficult to see how Scripture alone would indicate the eternality of the soul.

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Yes, i’m sure there were many people who subscribed to the beliefs of pagans in the surrounding cultures, but any Jew who was raised to memorize the Scriptures would not have had any verses, in mind, to suggest unending punishing for the wicked.

To the contrary, there are many OT verses that make clear their destruction. Like Psalm 37 which i quoted above. There are so many examples in the Hebrew Scriptures of God’s complete elimination of, or commandments to eliminate completely, the wicked, but none of a long-term torture of anyone, no matter how wicked.

I am surprised, by the way, that no one here is willing to present counter-proof against the statements we have been making. Surely there must be some person who wishes to defend the predominant view of much of Church history.

Oh, i just realized that i had not read the first posts in this topic, i came in near the end. Sorry. :hushed: :blush:

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Thank you for posting these Helen. I am a great fan of NT Wright and he hasn’t disappointed. He is a great scholar.

I remember reading a book called the Great Divorce by CS Lewis which was a fascinating take on hell and as NT has said in the video it is based on the premise that God doesn’t so much send people to hell but rather they choose not to go to Heaven, they choose to follow themselves rather than form a relationship with Him.

I personally see Hell is simply wherever God and all His love and goodness cease to be. If we choose to not follow God then we are choosing ourselves and over time, the little God given goodness we have fades away and we are left with the very worst of ourselves and there is no escape. The thought is just awful, but can there be an alternative if we truly reject God?
I wonder about eternity too, that is, I wonder when we leave this earth spiritually whether we will still be bound to physical time, which is a result of earths orbit of the sun and it’s axial spin, or outside of it.
My apologies, I am way behind on this topic, but it is fascinating and scary and heartbreaking as I have so many family members and friends who are not yet believers. I am so grateful to be saved by Jesus.


Just happened to stumble on this topic again. And i feel inspired to challenge anyone to show me where in Scripture it says the finally lost are made immortal, as Believers are when we put on immortality in Him.

And if they are mortal, then in their free-will choice to be separate from Father-God/Christ/HS, forever, they are choosing the path that leads to complete and total destruction, not unending existence in eternal-grace-Life.

Romans 9:22
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,”

Phillipians 3:18-21
“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Matthew 7:13-14
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

We can thank our God that He is merciful, even to His worst enemies, as He has instructed us to be, also. Amen.

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