Does Hell Burn Forever?
To find out the truth about hell fire, we must use the Bible as our guide, and not the opinions of man. God's Word in the Bible is the only word we can trust beyond doubt. No matter what the majority of people believe, we MUST base our belief's on the Word of God alone, even if it goes against the majority. There are many people who struggle with their faith, believing that God would torture people in flames of hell fire forever. So it is of vital importance that we come to the truth about hell fire. My prayer is that you would humbly put aside any previous teachings on this and open your heart and let God guide you to His truth.
If you believe in a literal everlasting hell fire that burns forever, then some scripture verses seem to contradict one another. Let's look at a couple of examples:
Matthew 25:41 ...'Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' ... Some people look at this verse and think, "well, hell must last forever". The problem is, that other verses suggest it doesn't. Jesus also said in John 3:16 ...'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.' ... Do you see the contradiction, if you take Matthew 25:41 to be literal? Jesus said in John 3:16 that those who are lost will 'perish'. Now we all know what perish means, they will come to a complete end (cease to exist).
Revelation 20:10 ...'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.' ... You may look at this verse and think that satan will burn for eternity. But take a look at what it says in Ezekiel 28:18-19 ...'Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.' ... The prophet in these verses, is describing satan. Look at what he said. Satan will be 'devoured' and he will 'be no more' (cease to exist). So can you see the contradiction if you take the hell lasting forever verses literal? The truth is, even Satan will be completely destroyed in the lake of fire and will no longer exist.
Before we go on, let me clarify that the Word of God in the Bible does not contradict itself. So what do we do? We need to take into account the whole picture of what happens to the lost in the Bible and then the difficult, unclear verses that appear to contradict, will become a lot clearer as to what they actually mean. We need to find the truth, afterall, God is seeking those who worship God in spirit and in truth. So let's delve into this and find out the real Bible truth about hell fire.
Bible Truth About Burning in Hell Fire
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. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. 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.' ... Friend, this is the clear Word of the Lord above. What happens to the wicked? They are 'burned up'. How much of a plant or flower is left after you have destroyed it's roots and branches? Nothing!! God clearly says in Malachi above, that the wicked will have neither root or branch left, there's nothing left. Are you getting this amazing truth? Nothing left! Does this sound like people will burn forever in hell fire? Not at all.
Psalm 68:2 ...'As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.'
Psalm 37:10 ...'For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.'
Psalm 37:20 ...'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.' ... The Psalmist wrote about what would happen to the wicked, and he was pretty clear about it, don't you think? The wicked shall 'perish', and will come to a complete end.
Jude 1:7 ...'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.'
2 Peter 2:6 ...'And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly.'
Lamentations 4:6 ...'For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her.' ... Put the pieces together from the above 3 verses. What was the result of eternal fire on Sodom and Gomorrah? They were destroyed! The fire from God was so fierce that it turned the cities (including the people) into 'ashes' and they were 'overthrown in a moment'. Are Sodom and Gomorrha destroyed? Yes! Are they still burning today? No! So what does eternal hell fire mean? Well, we can see from these Bible verses that it is the effect of the flames that is eternal, not the flames themselves.
Matthew 25:41 ...'Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' ... Is this the same type of fire that destroyed Sodom? Of course it is. Just as the people of Sodom were destroyed by 'eternal fire', so will the wicked at the end time after the second coming of Christ be destroyed with everlasting hell fire ... Matthew 25:46 ...'And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.' ... Notice that Jesus says the wicked shall go into everlasting 'punishment', not 'punishing', their 'punishment' is eternal death by hell fire. Just like the Sodomites were punished and destroyed.
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 ...'In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.' ... Paul agrees with Jesus and says that the wicked are punished with 'everlasting destruction'. Now if someone told you that someone was destroyed with everlasting destruction, would you think that they were still alive? Paul cannot be any clearer here. The wicked are destroyed completely forever.
Are you starting to see what everlasting hell fire is all about? The fire will 'burn up' the lost. They will not have either 'root or branch' left. They will be completely destroyed 'forever'. Let us continue with this Bible study of God's truth about hell fire and 'earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.' (Jude 1:3)
Are the Lost Burning in Hell Now?
Many Christians believe that those who have died and are lost, are burning right now in hell. If so, then that means they have already received their reward for the lives they lead. Does the Word of God in the Bible agree with this?
Luke 14:14 ...'And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.'
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.'
Revelation 22:12 ...'And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.' ... It seems that God does NOT agree with them. As we can clearly see in the above 3 verses, everyone receives their reward and are judged only after the second coming of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. So where are those who have passed away?
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.' ... They are sleeping, awaiting the return of Jesus. After all, 'from dust we were made and to dust we shall return.' ... Genesis 2:7 ...'And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.' ... Notice, we don't HAVE a soul, we BECAME living souls with the breath of God in us. So when we die, we return to dust, until Christ returns.
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.' ... No need to marvel at this, Jesus says it is a simple truth. He doesn't say, those who are in hell and those who are in Heaven will come forward to receive their reward. Where does Jesus say they come from? The grave! The saved and lost who have passed away are in the SAME PLACE now, the grave.
1 John 5:12 ...'He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.' ... If the lost burn forever in hell, then they would have life, but the Word of God confirms that it is only those who have Christ Jesus that have life. Those who don't follow Jesus have 'not life'. In other words, death.
Hell is on Earth
Revelation 20:9 ...'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.' ... Many Christians believe that hell will be under the earth or maybe on some other planet in space, but where does God say it will be? ON the earth. The wicked are ON the earth when God reigns hell fire down from Heaven and devours them. Notice also the following verse from Isaiah:
Isaiah 34:8-10 ...'For it is the day of the LORD's vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. 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.'
Did you notice above that Isaiah describes "hell" as being on earth? And did you notice Isaiah says the smoke shall ascend up forever and ever? Does this sound like Revelation 14:11? Yes! Revelation 14:11 is taken right from Isaiah 34 and yet it is talking about THE EARTH. The streams, dust and land become burning pitch. Hell fire is ON the earth. So can hell fire burn forever on earth?
Revelation 21:5 ...'And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.'
2 Peter 3:13 ...'Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.'
No, once the wicked are 'burned up' on the earth with hell fire, God then renews the earth for the saved.
Peter says something very interesting in the above verse. He says that in the new heavens and earth only 'righteousness dwells'. Well, where are the wicked if there is only righteousness in the heavens and on earth? There is only one answer; They have ceased to exist. They have been completely destroyed by the hell fire from God; They have 'burned up' and are 'no more'. The wicked cannot burn forever in hell, because if they did, sin would still be alive for eternity, and the statement by Peter could not be true.
The Wicked Perish
What did the apostle Peter say to Simon the sorcerer, when Simon tried to buy the Holy Spirit with money?
Acts 8:20 ...'But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.'
Did Peter say "your money will burn forever in hell fire with you"? No. He said PERISH. As in completely destroyed. And while we are on the subject of the apostles. When did they ever go around preaching to people that they would burn in hell fire for all eternity if they didn't accept Christ Jesus? Where are those Bible verses?
Are you still not convinced that 'eternal fire' isn't a literal hell fire burning the wicked forever? Then take a look at the following Bible verses:
Matthew 3:12 ...'but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.' ... Well, what is unquenchable fire? ... Isaiah 47:14 ...'Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame.' ... Friend, you have the truth of God's Word right there. 'Eternal fire' is 'unquenchable fire', which means the wicked, as it says above in Isaiah, will 'not be able to deliver themselves from it'. Eternal hell fire means that no man can put it out, it will CONTINUE to burn UNTIL it has 'burned up' every last wicked person, including satan himself.
Psalm 68:2 ...'As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.'
Luke 13:3 ...'I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.'
2 Peter 2:12 ...'But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.' ... We all know what 'perish' means. A Complete end! Peter even goes one step further to confirm it with 'utterly perish'.
John 3:15-16 ...'That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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.' ... According to those who believe in a literal eternal hell, the two routes for us are either eternal life in heaven, or eternal life in hell. Now something is wrong there. What did Jesus say the two routes are? One is eternal life, the other is to perish (death).
If the lost burn in hell fire for eternity, then it means they will be immortal, but what does the Word of God say about this ... 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 ...'For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.' ... We are in a mortal state now, and can be destroyed completely. It is only through Jesus that we inherit immortality, therefore the lost do not inherit immortality and as a consequence, they are destroyed in hell fire.
Revelation 21:6-8 ...'And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.' ...... IT IS DONE! God is the beginning and the end. God gives eternal life (beginning) to those who overcame, but He will bring the wicked to an end. Hell fire and the lake of fire is the same thing. Remember from earlier that the lake of fire is ON the earth? God will cast all the wicked into that fire and what will happen to them? They will DIE the SECOND DEATH. The 'wages of sin is death' (Romans 6:23).
Friend, this is the Bible truth about hell fire. God's Word clearly teaches that hell fire will not last for eternity, it is just the result that will be eternal. Remember, the wicked will be 'burned up', they will become 'ashes' and they will 'utterly perish'. And where will this happen? 'On the breadth of the earth'. And then God will 'renew the heavens and the earth' and the wicked will 'be no more'. David knew the truth about this ... Psalm 37:20 ...'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.'
Just as in Noah's day, God cleansed the wicked from the earth with the flood. And one day soon, as we are now living in the end times, God will cleanse the earth again, but this time with fire, and when God puts the fire out, the wicked will be gone, just as it says in Revelation 21:4 ...'And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.'
Notice also above God reveals the truth that there will be no more pain. If the wicked are to burn in hell fire forever, there would be plenty of pain! Thankfully, the Bible is something we can trust. Friend, put your trust in the Word of God and not in the teaching of man. Don't just trust what your preacher says, but test everything against the Word of God in the Bible yourself.
To continue with this Bible study on the truth about hell, see The Worm That Never Dies.