(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New International Version).
Some people are of the opinion there’s no literal place burning with fire called hell, where the souls of unrepentant sinners go to after death. While some of the deniers of hell don’t believe in life after death and the reward and punishment that will follow, others simply can’t accept the fact that a merciful and loving God can be that indignant and fiery in his judgement, to send any of his beloved creatures to such a horrible place of torment! Does hell exist? If yes, where is it located? Who are the people that go there, and what is the state of the souls in hell, as well as their ultimate fate? This article will attempt to answer these questions through a careful examination of the Scriptures.
The Almighty God, Jehovah, is a God of knowledge and justice. Each individual’s actions are carefully weighed and rewarded by him. God’s judicial system defers judgement and punishment/reward till the end of each person’s life on earth, thus giving everyone a chance to make things right with him while they’re still alive. God doesn’t count anyone out, until life on earth is truly over for that person. That’s why the thief on the cross was able to make peace with God with almost his last breath, and just about squeezed into paradise thereby. Such is the mercy and long-suffering of God with sinners! He is this long-suffering and merciful with humans because he doesn’t want anymore to perish, but desires for all to come to repentance.
1 Samuel 2:3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogance come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed (AKJV).
Romans 2:2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.
Romans 2:3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?
Romans 2:4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
Romans 2:6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”
Romans 2:7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
Romans 2:8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
Romans 2:9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile;
Romans 2:10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Romans 2:11 For God does not show favoritism.
St. Luke 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
St. Luke 23:40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?
St. Luke 23:41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
St. Luke 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. “
St. Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
1 Timothy 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people —
1 Timothy 2:2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
1 Timothy 2:3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior,
1 Timothy 2:4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
The judgement of sinners who refused to repent during their lifetime on earth will take place at a set time at the end of the ages, for God has set aside a day to judge the world in righteousness. This means that sinners are not being judged individually as they die. All will be judged collectively at the same time, at the end of the ages. So, what happens to the souls of sinners from the time they die to when they will face God’s judgement? The answer to this question may be found in recalling what happens to those who commit heinous crimes, between their arrest and trial. Such offenders are usually kept in custody (prison), pending trial. The same thing happens to sinners when they die. They go to God’s prison house, where they are kept in custody until judgement day. That prison house is called hell or hades.
The Acts 17:30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
The Acts 17:31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
Hebrews 9:27 People are destined to die once and then face judgment (CEB).
1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
1 Peter 3:19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits —
1 Peter 3:20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water.
Hell is located beneath the earth. It’s a bottomless pit (abyss) originally created by God to be a prison house for the rebellious devil and his angels. Some of the fallen angels are currently imprisoned there, while the rest, like satan, still roam free on earth and in the heavens. They too will be eventually thrown into hell, and ultimately into the lake of fire, after completing their mission and fulfilling God’s purpose for them. As God’s maximum security prison, hell is under lock and key (Jesus holds the keys of hell), and is guarded by powerful angelic beings. It’s a place of darkness and anguish, where fire burns and torments the inhabitants non-stop. Although hell was initially designed for the devil and his angels, it also houses wicked and rebellious human beings who follow satan to reject God’s rule and his righteousness. We’re told in the Scriptures that the wicked shall be turned into hell, as well as all the nations that forget God. Hell is enlarging every day as it receives more and more human inhabitants. The road to hell is broad and wide, and unfortunately, many people are on it.
St. Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ’Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
St. Matthew 25:42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
St. Matthew 25:43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
St. Matthew 25:44 “They also will answer, ’Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
St. Matthew 25:45 “He will reply, ’Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
St. Matthew 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;
2 Peter 2:5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others;
2 Peter 2:6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;
2 Peter 2:7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless
2 Peter 2:8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) —
2 Peter 2:9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.
Jude 1:6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling —these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.
Revelation 20:1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.
Revelation 20:2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
Revelation 20:3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
Revelation 1:18 I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever more, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death (AKJV).
Psalms 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God (KJV).
Isaiah 5:11 Woe to them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
Isaiah 5:12 And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.
Isaiah 5:13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
Isaiah 5:14 Therefore hell has enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoices, shall descend into it (AKJV).
St. Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
St. Matthew 7:14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
The spirits in hell are conscious and alive, and are sensitive to their environment. They feel the excruciating pain and torment there, as they weep and wail night and day, pleading for mercy and for their agonies to be lightened. But, alas, that’s not possible! The fire will burn them without consuming them, for the soul is indestructible! And so, their torment will continue day and night, till the final judgement.
St. Luke 16:19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
St. Luke 16:20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores
St. Luke 16:21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
St. Luke 16:22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.
St. Luke 16:23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
St. Luke 16:24 So he called to him, ’Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
St. Luke 16:25 “But Abraham replied, ’Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.
St. Luke 16:26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
St. Luke 16:27 “He answered, ’Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,
St. Luke 16:28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
St. Luke 16:29 “Abraham replied, ’They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
St. Luke 16:30 “’No, father Abraham,’ he said, ’but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
St. Luke 16:31 “He said to him, ’If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
The Lord Jesus warned people to do all they can to avoid hell, as the torment there is real, unbearable and unimaginable! If an eye would cause one to sin and go to hell, the Lord said it would be better to pluck out that eye, than to go to hell with both eyes! If a limb would cause one to land in hell, it’s better to cut off that limb, than to end up in hell with all limbs intact. This is because the torment of hell is for ever, and is better imagined than experienced. There, the fire is not quenched, nor do the worms cease that torment the inhabitants.
Mark 9:43 And if your hand offend you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
Mark 9:44 Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.
Mark 9:45 And if your foot offend you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
Mark 9:46 Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.
Mark 9:47 And if your eye offend you, pluck it out: it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
Mark 9:48 Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.
Mark 9:49 For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt (AKJV).
Isaiah 66:22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure.
Isaiah 66:23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD.
Isaiah 66:24 “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
Souls in hell will be there till the final judgement. At the final judgement, the inhabitants of hell will be released to appear in judgement before the Lord Jesus Christ, who will be the one to judge all men. Sinners in hell will be judged according to their works. But no man’s works can save him, for all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and none is righteous! The righteousness of any man is just like filthy menstrual rags before God. And that is what the inhabitants of hell will find as they stand before God in judgement. Their works, like that of every other person, won’t be able to save or justify them before God, for no man is saved by the works of the flesh (Romans 3:20; 4:2; Ephesians 2:8). By rejecting God’s atoning sacrifice of his Son, and by refusing to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, every sinner is already doomed. Whoever rejects God’s son is already condemned, because the wrath of God abides on such a person. The book of life will be opened to find if the names of the inhabitants of hell are written therein, for only those whose names are in the book of life will escape the second death. Of course, none of the inhabitants of hell will find their names in the book of life, for only the redeemed of the Lord have their names written therein. And because their names are not written in the book of life, all those in hell will be transferred to the lake of fire, having been pronounced guilty before God. This is the second death. All in the lake of fire will burn eternally with fire and brimstone (sulfur).
John 5:22 For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son:
John 5:23 That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which has sent him.
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life.
John 5:25 Truly, truly, I say to you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
John 5:26 For as the Father has life in himself; so has he given to the Son to have life in himself;
John 5:27 And has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
John 5:29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.
John 5:30 I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which has sent me (AKJV).
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
John 3:20 For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
John 3:21 But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are worked in God (AKJV).
Revelation 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Revelation 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
Revelation 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Revelation 20:15 And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (AKJV).
Thus, we see that the souls of sinners imprisoned in hell are destined for eternal destruction, because their fates were already sealed during their lives here on earth, by their rejection of God’s salvation. The judgement of the final day is but a confirmation of the word of God that those who reject his mercy here are eternally doomed, with no second chance to make things right with God after death.
In conclusion, hell or hades is a prison house and a place of torment designed by God to keep in custody rebellious and sinful men and angels, pending the final judgement. When unrepentant sinners die, they go to hell where they remain until the final resurrection, when they will be released from hell to appear before the Lord Jesus Christ to be judged for the sins they committed while alive on earth. All the inhabitants of hell, because their names are not written in the book of life by virtue of their rejection of God’s salvation in their lifetime, will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. There, they will burn for ever and ever. That is the fate and final destiny of all rebellious sinners among men and angels. Hell is therefore not a metaphor for suffering, but a real place of torment and unimagined sorrows which men should avoid at all cost, by taking hold of God’s pardon for sin through Jesus Christ and getting saved thereby. That’s the only way to escape the torment of hell and the second death in the lake of fire. The God of mercy is also the God of judgement and justice, and he will punish sin and rebellion severely, while rewarding faith and obedience accordingly.
Hebrews 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,
Hebrews 10:27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Hebrews 10:28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Hebrews 10:29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Hebrews 10:30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
Hebrews 10:31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
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