Does Hell Burn Forever?
What is the truth about hell? Do the wicked burn in hell forever? Is there a hell burning right now? Where is hell located? Is the devil in charge of hell? Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about hell and false doctrines surrounding hell that are prevalent throughout the Christian community.
Remember, that everything you believe as a Christian should be based on multiple Bible verses, not just one or two taken out of context. All of your Christian doctrines should be based on the Bible and not based on man-made customs or beliefs.
Matthew 15:9 “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Here is the truth about hell. The Bible says that no one is in hell right now. The wicked are asleep in their graves until the time of judgment.
Hell does not burn for eternity. 2 Peter 2:9 “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished…” The unjust (or wicked or unsaved) are reserved or held in reserve until the day of judgment. So when is this day of judgment?
Hell is at the end of time (at the end of the world). Matthew 13:36-43 “Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” So Jesus gives a parable about the end of time and how the wicked will be punished. The disciples didn’t understand so they asked Jesus to explain what it meant.
The keys to take away from this is that it is at “the end of the world”. The wicked are gathered and “cast..into the furnace of fire”. This is all done at the end of the world and not when the wicked die.
The Bible also shows that hell does not burn forever and all of this can be shown with Bible verses taken in context. Below are the basics, but if you want more information, go to www.helltruth.com.
The truth about hell is very important because many people turn away from or don’t come to God because they say they can’t believe or worship a God that would burn people for eternity.
But, the Bible says that God is a God of love and is a just and righteous God. An eternal hell would contradict what the Bible says about God, so it cannot be true since the Bible does not contradict itself.
For example, If Cain is going to hell (because he killed his brother – see Genesis 4:1-16 for the full story) and there is an eternal hell that is burning now, then that would mean Cain will have burned for a few thousand years longer than Hitler. How is that just or righteous or something a God of love would do? It’s not a part of God’s plan. An eternal hell is a doctrine of the devil to turn people away from the truth and therefore from God.
There is no hell burning right now. The Bible teaches that no one goes directly to heaven or hell when they die. They go to sleep in their graves and await either the resurrection of the righteous or the resurrection of the wicked.
John 5:28-29 “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
When we die we are asleep in the grave. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
This explains what happens at the second coming of Christ. It says that not all of the saved will be dead “sleep” when Christ comes, and we will be changed (given our glorified bodies).
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air…” Here’s another good verse about the second coming of Christ. It explains that when he comes, the dead in Christ will rise first (resurrected) and then the saved that are still alive when He comes will be taken up.
Another example of “sleep” used to explain death. John 11:11-14 “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” Here Jesus is talking and says that his friend Lazarus is asleep. The disciples misunderstand Him so He explains that “Lazarus is dead”.
We do not have eternal souls that go to heaven. When we die and are asleep in our graves, we know nothing. It is a dreamless sleep. Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, 10 “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”
The Bible doesn’t say that you go directly to heaven or hell when you die. It is very clear that we go to our graves and await the resurrection of life or the resurrection of damnation.
Daniel 12:2 “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” There are two resurrections, which is shown throughout the Bible.
Acts 2:29, 34 “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand…”
In this example, the disciples are talking about David (which the Bible says is righteous and will be in heaven) and they say that he is dead and not ascended (not in heaven right now), but that he will be in the future.
Here is an outline of events that occur starting with the second coming of Christ. If you understand this outline, the entire Bible makes more sense.
– Second Coming of Christ
– Dead in Christ rise first (first resurrection)
– Living in Christ taken up to meet Jesus in the air
– Wicked living killed by brightness of Christ
– Wicked dead remain dead (in their graves)
– Earth destroyed
– Satan bound (for a thousand years)
– Millennium (Righteous in heaven for a thousand years)
– New Jerusalem descends (The city descends to Earth)
– Wicked resurrected (second resurrection)
– Satan loosed
– Judgment (every knee shall bow)
– Wicked destroyed by hellfire (this is hell, but it is not eternal)
– New Earth (then God restores the Earth)
There are numerous verses in the Bible that cover every item in the outline above, but those are other doctrines and beliefs that will be covered in future posts.
There are places in the Bible that use the term “eternal fire” and people believe and use those texts to “prove” an eternal hell that burns forever. Those verses are taken out of context. Here are some examples.
Jude 7 “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.” This says that Sodom and Gomorrha are an example of what hell will be like and how the wicked will be punished. It also uses the term “eternal fire”. Is Sodom and Gomorrha still burning today? The answer is no. What is meant here is that the RESULT of the punishment or fire is eternal. Once the cities were burned they were never rebuilt.
Matthew 25:46 “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Here it says “everlasting punishment”, not everlasting punishing. There’s a difference, the first only means that the punishment (which is death) is everlasting. Once the wicked are burned up they will never return. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
What about “unquenchable fire”. Jeremiah 17:27 “But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” Here the verse says that the fire “shall not be quenched”. It means that the fire will not go out until it is done doing what God sent it to do. It doesn’t mean that the fire will never go out. Jerusalem is still not burning to this day, the fire obviously went out when it was done doing its purpose.
Psalm 37:10, 20 ” For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.” This describes what happens to the wicked in hell. They “shall perish”, “shall consume”, and “consume away”. Nothing about everlasting or eternal life. These and other verses are very clear about what happens to the wicked.
Malachi 4:1, 3 “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.” Here are more examples, these verses say the wicked will “be stubble”, “burn them up”, and “shall be ashes”. That is very clear that the wicked do not burn forever.
Here are more texts that say the wicked are burned up, destroyed, or some variation of those words. (Psalm 21:9, Psalm 37:9, Psalm 37:38, Psalm 145:20, Romans 6:23).
There are many more texts in the Bible that say the wicked perish and will not burn forever in hell.
The Bible uses the term “forever”, but it doesn’t actually mean forever in most instances. The term “forever” is used 56 times in the Bible in connection with things that have already ended. Forever can mean an undetermined amount of time in addition to eternity. Here are some examples:
Jonah 2:6 “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.” Here, Jonah says he was in the belly of the fish for ever, but in Jonah 1:17 it explains that “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” It says he was in the fish for 3 days and 3 nights. That’s not forever.
1 Samuel 1:22, 28 “But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever. Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.” Here she takes her child to the temple to serve the Lord for ever, but it only means until he dies or for his entire life.
That’s the same thing that will happen in hell. Everyone will burn for different amounts of time, some longer than others based on their actions or evil works.
Revelation 22:12 “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, but the wicked are judged by their works (the amount of time the wicked will burn in hell).
This makes more sense and fits with the other verses in the Bible. Someone like Hitler (which most people agree is probably lost) should burn longer than someone like Cain.
Matthew 16:27 “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” Rewards according to works for both the righteous and the wicked. If we are saved, our works should reflect our changed hearts. Again, we are not saved by works, but if we’re saved, our good works will reflect our saved condition.
I apologize for this long post but there’s just so much in the Bible about this topic. I encourage you to explore the Bible for yourself and find the truth! If you need help in your personal Bible study of this topic or want more detailed information, just go to www.helltruth.com and watch the video there on the main page.
If you want to watch a bunch of other videos on this topic, click on the “free resources” tab at helltruth.com where there are numerous videos for you to watch.
Here is a video that is similar to the ones you can watch at www.helltruth.com. Pastor Doug Batchelor does a way better job of explaining this Bible truth than I did in this long and rambling post, so please take the time to watch the video.