Do the Wicked Suffer Forever in HELL?
Does God roast the wicked in HELL for all eternity? Will wicked men burn in "everlasting fire"? Will the Devil be "tormented forever"? What is HELL? Where is it? Who will be thrown into hell? What did Jesus mean by "their worm dieth not"? Why did the rich man ask for only a drop of water?
Three Definitions of "Hell" in the Bible
The word “hell” is found 54 times in the King James Bible. It is translated from several different words with various meanings as indicated below:
In the Old Testament:
“Tartarus” is used once, in 2 Peter 2:4, and means “a place of darkness or restraint.” “Tartarus” is where Satan and his demons reside now. It isn’t a place of punishment or flames.
“Gehenna” means a place of fire, brimstone, and punishment (see Matthew 5:29-30, described in Matthew 13:40-42 and 2 Peter 3:7.) Note these flames are still in the future at the end of the world.
“Hades” means “the grave” (Acts 2:31; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 20:14). The body of Jesus rested there and His saints are resting there now awaiting the resurrection.
The Grave -- Sheol & Hades
The Greek word “Hades” is translated as “Hell” in many English Bibles such as the King James Version. In Revelation 6:8, the King James Version refers to “Death and Hell.” It does the same in Revelation 20:14. Yet some English Bibles use the word “Hades” itself, such as the New International Version, which translates both Revelation 6:8 and 20:14 as “Death, and Hades.” Now here is the point. In Revelation 20:14, “Hades” is eventually “cast into the lake of fire.” So as you can therefore see, “Hades” itself is not a fiery place, but is cast into “the lake of fire.”
So Biblically speaking, Hades means the grave. This is easy to prove from 1 Corinthians 15:55, which in the King James Version states, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave [Hades], where is thy victory?” If you look in the Strong’s dictionary, you will find that the Greek word here translated “grave” is “Hades.” By looking at the context, it is obvious that it means “the grave” because it is God’s saints who rise out of “Hades” when Jesus Christ returns. See 1 Corinthians 15:50-55. Therefore, “Hades” cannot mean a place of burning, for who can imagine God’s people writhing in flames as they await the resurrection? That would be absolutely ludicrous! Additional proof this word means “the grave” is the fact that “Hades” was the place Christ’s body rested right after His death. Acts 2:31 reads, “His [Christ’s] soul was not left in hell [Hades] neither [did] his flesh see corruption.”
Gehenna -- A Place of Burning
The Greek word gehenna denotes a place of punishment or burning. Gehenna, or the Valley of Hinnom, is a valley just outside Jerusalem where trash, filth and dead bodies were thrown to be burned up. It was a city dump and there was always a fire burning to consume the refuse that was thrown there. Jesus Christ and His disciples after Him used this word consistently when they were referring to that "hell" which will BURN UP sinners! Gehenna hell is a synonym for the lake of fire into which unrepentant sinners are to be cast. This is the only hell in the Bible which is associated with flames or fire.
“The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” (Rev. 14:11)?
Revelation 14:11 says, “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever:” At least half of the verses in Revelation are taken from the Old Testament and so many verses need to be looked at in the light of all other scripture. The verse says it is the “smoke of their torment” that ascends forever and this is actually drawn from Isaiah 34:10 where the desolation of Edom is described. Isaiah 34:10 “It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.” It can be plainly seen that Isaiah did not envisage unending fires from the fact that following the conflagration in which he says, “The smoke thereof shall go up for ever,” the country becomes a desolate waste inhabited by wild beasts. (v 10–15). "And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet" (Mal. 4:3.)
“Eternal Fire” (Jude 7)?
Jude 7 says, "Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for AN EXAMPLE, suffering the vengeance of ETERNAL FIRE"! Are these cities still burning and yet not being consumed? Of course not! Therefore the “eternal fire” has gone out. The phrase, “eternal fire” means a fire whose results are permanent or everlasting. Sodom and Gomorrah have never been rebuilt. It was “unquenchable” by man (see Matthew 3:12; Jeremiah 17:27; Isaiah 66:24). The destruction of Sodom was also an “example” of what will happen to the wicked at the end. According to the Bible, God’s eternal fire turned Sodom into “ashes” (2 Peter 2:6) “in a moment.” Lamentations 4:6. This is similar to what will happen to all the lost at the end of the 1000 years when they are cast into the lake of fire, “which is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14).
“Everlasting Punishment” (Matt. 25:46)?
Jesus warned that He will someday declare to lost sinners, “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Is this fire the same type of fire mentioned in Jude 1:7, which is one that destroys completely? We know it is because five verses later Jesus clarified “everlasting punishment” would come upon the lost, not “everlasting punishing.” This is the same as “everlasting destruction” 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Matthew 25:46 contrasts everlasting punishment with “eternal life” which is given only to those who believe in Jesus. John 3:16; 1 John 5:12. The wicked will not live forever, but will finally die the “second death.” (Revelation 20:14). See also Ezekiel 18:4. Hence we can see that the lost experience “everlasting punishment,” not punishing, just like the Sodomites. “Behold, the day is coming, that will burn as an oven. And all the proud, yes, and all who do wickedly, shall be stubble, and the day that is coming shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, That it shall leave them neither root nor branch." (Malachi 4:1)
Fire Never Quenched!
"And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be QUENCHED"! (Mark 9:43 -- see also Matt. 18:8-9) Does that mean burning forever, and never burning up? In Jeremiah 17:27, God warned the Jews that Jerusalem would be burned, and the fire would not be QUENCHED - unless they repented. In Jeremiah 52:13, you read the account of the burning of Jerusalem. That fire was not quenched! It burned itself out. It is not still burning.
In Mark 9:48, Christ spoke of "their worm" that "dieth not." Was Christ talking about the immortality of worms? What did Christ mean? The lexicons define the Hebrew (Isa. 66:24) and Greek (Mark 9:48) words translated "worm" as a grub or maggot. Actually, Jesus was here warning his listeners that those who would "offend" -- who would live a life of rebellion against God -- would be cast into "hell fire" (9:47). Jesus was referring to the Gehenna Valley as a type of the second death in the "lake of fire" which will befall the ungodly. The Valley of Hinnom was located outside of Jerusalem and was a place where trash, filth, and the dead bodies of animals and despised criminals were thrown. If anything, especially a dead body, landed on a ledge above the fires, it would be devoured by many worms or maggots which were kept alive by the animal and vegetable substances thrown there. Christ was referring to these worms when He said "their worm dieth not." But Christ didn't mean that each individual worm continued to live forever!
Will the Devil Be Tormented Forever in an Everburning Hell?
In Matthew 25:41, Jesus Christ warned that unsaved sinners will enter “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Many read this and say, “The lost will sizzle forever.” But in John 3:16 Jesus also declared, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not PERISH, but have eternal life.” So which is it? Will the damned roast eternally in “everlasting fire” or finally “PERISH,” and thus cease to exist?
Revelation 20:9 says, “And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and DEVOURED them.” This verse, like John 3:16, declares that the wicked will be DEVOURED and PERISH, yet the very next verse appears to totally contradict which says, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
Hell Fire Will Destroy All the Wicked -- Even Satan
Psalms 37:20 says, “The wicked shall PERISH ... they shall CONSUME; into smoke shall they CONSUME away.” Psalms 37:38 says, “Transgressors will be DESTROYED together.” Ezekiel 28:15, 18-19 says, Even Satan will become “ASHES” on the “earth” as a result of the fire. Malachi 4:1, 3 says the “day cometh” when the lost “BURN UP ” and become “ASHES.” John 3:16 says those who are lost will “PERISH.” Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is “DEATH,” not eternal life burning in hell. Matthew 10:28 says “Fear Him who is able to DESTROY both soul and body in hell.” Revelation 21:8; 20:14 says “The lake of fire ... is the second DEATH." Matthew 13:42 says the lost will finally be cast “into a furnace of fire.” Matthew 3:12 says the lost will "BURN UP" in “unquenchable fire.” 2 Peter 3:7 says “The heavens and the earth which are now ... are reserved unto fire.” 2 Peter 3:10 says “The earth and the works that are in it will be BURNED UP.” The wicked will not suffer in fiery flames throughout eternity.
"Lake of Fire" At the End of the World
“As the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of this world" (Matt. 13:40). Both the day of judgmnt and the "lake of fire" occur at the end of the 1000 years (Rev. 20:11-15). The earth becomes one big “lake of fire” as God purifies it from sin. The lost suffer the “second death” in that lake. Then there is a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth (where the lake of fire was) has passed away. In the New Earth, there will be no more pain, suffering, sorrow, or death. If the lake of fire burned forever, there would always be pain and sorrow somewhere in the universe and Revelation 21:1-4 could never come true.
The Rich Man And Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)
A careful analysis of the Luke 16:19-31 reveals Jesus Christ was talking to the Pharisees who were “lovers of money” (rich men) and who “derided him” with their tongues (verse 14). The reason why Jesus spoke of the rich man asking for water on his tongue was to teach the Pharisees that their “tongues” were going to lead them into hell-fire. These Pharisees also believed riches were a sign of God’s favour while poverty represented His curse. Jesus exposed this false theory. At death there is “a great gulf fixed” (verse 26) which cannot be bridged. Our destiny will be decided by our decisions in this life. Many want to see a miracle before they will believe. Jesus said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” (verse 31). Why did Jesus use the name Lazarus? This story was a prophecy. Jesus did raise a real man named Lazarus (John 11), yet the Pharisees were not convinced and chose to put Jesus “to death.” (John 11:53).
What is "Abraham's Bosom"?
The time when the angels carry Lazarus and the saints into sharing the inheritance with Abraham -- into Abraham's bosom -- is the time of the resurrection. Christ shall "send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds" -- out of their graves in a resurrection (Matt. 24:31). Lazarus is to be resurrected, and carried by the angels through the air to meet Christ, at His return, and to be with Abraham, in the intimate relationship of father and son! Lazarus will then enjoy the fond embrace of his father through Christ, Abraham -- both then resurrected and living forever more, in the promised land, then inherited! The Bible defines the word "bosom" in Isaiah 40:11. Here we find God will care for His people as a shepherd does his sheep, carrying them "in His bosom." Jesus was "in the bosom" of the Father (John 1:18), enjoying the Father's blessings and close relationship. Moses carried the children of Israel in his bosom (Num. 11:12). To be in one's bosom is to have that one's love and protection, and share his blessings and inheritance. So it will be at the resurrection.“And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).
A Resurrection to Mortality
Only God "has immortality" (1 Tim. 6:16). Only true Christians receive “immortality” at the Second Coming (1 Cor. 15:50-55). It was Satan who told Eve she wouldn't die (Genesis 3:4). The doctrine of souls burning forever is rooted in the idea that “the soul can’t die.” But God said she would die (Genesis 2:16-17).
A Lake of Fire
Then he wakes up and sees a flame which torments him. What is this? It is described in Revelation 20:14-15, as a lake of fire. What happens when one is suddenly so horrified with fear? His mouth goes dry. His tongue sticks to his mouth and throat! The rich man cries out in this mental agony: "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my TONGUE; for I am tormented in this flame." Now if the rich man were in the kind of "hell" most people seem to believe, his whole body would be on fire -- you would think he would have called for at least a bucket of water to put out the fire, wouldn't you? Why did he call for water? -- "to 'COOL MY TONGUE'!" That's what the rich man said! Open your own Bible again, and read it! The flame, he said, was "tormenting" him. This word "tormented," used in verses 24 and 25 is translated from the Greek word odunomai. This is defined in any Greek- English lexicon as "to cause pain, to pain, distress; pain of body, but also, pain of mind; grief, distress," He is resurrected mortal, just as he was before he died -- not immortal like Lazarus. He sees this lake of fire. Now he knows the frightful, the awful doom he is to be thrust into -- to be burned up -- destroyed! He is suffering mental anguish such as he never experienced in his lifetime. His tongue is dry. He breaks out in cold sweat. He cries for a little water on the tip of Lazarus' finger to cool his tongue! He is in a condition of weeping and gnashing of teeth!
A God of Justice and Mercy
“God is love” (1 John 4:8). He is not a tyrant who will burn people forever. Each person will be judged fairly, “according to his works” (Rev. 20:13). “Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints" (Rev. 15:3). "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16), "for you are a gracious and merciful God” (Neh. 9:31).