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Will people burn in hell

What the New Testament says

Even apart from what Jesus said about hell [see Insight 4], there are 16 verses in the New Testament which refer to time in hell, and all are quoted on this page.

There are two categories of verses here:

  1. Doctrinal statements from John the Baptist, Apostle Paul, Apostle Peter, Apostle John, and Jude, and
  2. Recollections of a dream (Revelations) by the Apostle John as an old man on the island of Patmos. Be very cautious about interpreting the dream of a person you never met and which occurred in another culture more than two thousand years ago!

None of these verses say that people alive today, or who have ever lived, will burn in hell FOREVER.

Many Christians claim that the dream verses teach eternal life in hell for most people but – read carefully! – even the dream verses say only that the fire burns forever and that eternal punishment in hell is for Satan, his demons and people in a future age who choose to worship 'the beast.'

– 5 –
'His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.' (Matthew 3:12, John the Baptist speaking)
When something is burned up, it ceases to exist, even though the fire itself is unquenchable and burns forever.
– 6 –
'All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.' (Romans 2:12, Apostle Paul speaking)
Perish means no longer alive. All people sin, but people to whom God has not spoken (no law) will perish (end of existence) and not be judged by the law.
– 7 –
'For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 6:23, Apostle Paul speaking)
What a person gets for sin is death. Does not say eternal life in hell. This death (end of existence) is contrasted with eternal life offered through Jesus. Death is the default condition for everyone, avoidable only by accepting God's provision for salvation.
– 8 –
'What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath — prepared for destruction?' (Romans 9:22, Apostle Paul speaking)
When something is destroyed, it is damaged so badly that it ceases to exist.
– 9 –
'This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved — and that by God.' (Philippians 1:28, Apostle Paul speaking)
When something is destroyed, it is damaged so badly that it ceases to exist. God will save genuine Christians from destruction (will continue living, eternal life).
– 10 –
'Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.' (Philippians 3:19, Apostle Paul speaking)
Destruction means damaged so badly that it ceases to exist.
– 11 –
'He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.' (2 Thessalonians 2:3, Apostle Paul speaking)
When something is destroyed – everlasting destruction – it is damaged so badly that it ceases to exist, and there is no hope of re-construction. This is the ultimate separation from God, forever.
– 12 –
'But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.' (Hebrews 10:39, Apostle Paul speaking)
When something is destroyed, it is damaged so badly that it ceases to exist. People who have accepted Jesus as Savior are saved from destruction and given eternal life.
– 13 –
'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 2:4, Apostle Peter speaking)
'Chains of darkness' is the dire condition while awaiting judgment, before being cast into hell.
– 14 –
'With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 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. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare ... That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.' (2 Peter 3:8-13, Apostle Peter speaking)
Perish means no longer alive, end of existence. When something is destroyed, it is damaged so badly it ceases to exist. This passage says that the day will come when everything will collapse in flames, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth, which will end space as we know it. Since we now know (Einstein) that time was created simultaneously with space and is part of space – now known as space-time – it is possible that time itself could end when space ends.
– 15 –
'And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.' (1 John 5:11-12, Apostle John speaking)
Only two possibilities: Eternal life or no life (death, end of existence). No mention of people being punished forever in hell.
– 16 –
'Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.' (Jude 7, Jude speaking)
Sodom and Gomorrah are cited as examples of punishment of eternal fire. Those cities were burned out of existence.
– 17 –
'If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night FOR THOSE WHO WORSHIP THE BEAST and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.' (Revelation 14:9-12, Apostle John dream)
WORDS IN CAPS make it clear that this is only for a very narrow category of people at a later time. This is the Apostle John's dream about what will happen in the future; words quoted from a dream are not as clear as direct statements from Jesus and the Apostles. The dream says that hell fire is eternal for people who 'worship the beast and his image.' The dream refers only to some people in the future, not about people past or present.
– 18 –
'And the DEVIL who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the BEAST and the FALSE PROPHET had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.' (Revelation 20:10, Apostle John dream)
Says specifically that the devil, the beast and the false prophet will burn in hell forever. Does not say any alive today or in the past will burn forever.
– 19 –
'The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.' (Revelation 20:13-15, Apostle John dream)
First death is physical death on earth and the second death (after judgment) is death in hell. This verse speaks of death (end of existence) in hell, not everlasting life in hell.
– 20 –
'But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfer. This is the second death.' (Revelation 21:8, Apostle John dream)
Like the preceding verse, this says that the first death is physical death on earth and the second death (after resurrection and judgment) is death in hell. This verse speaks of death in hell, not everlasting life in hell. The Bible teaches that there is resurrection after the first death (earth) but not after the second death (hell).
KEY PHRASE: '... they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfer. THIS is the second death.' Unbelievers eventually die in hell, the final end.

Thinkers Bible Studies / Topic 3.4.1


Will people burn in hell

for an informed answer
Insight 1: Bible credibility

Why time in hell matters

The primary reason why we have to be careful in the way we speak about hell is that it defines God's character in the minds of other people. The image of a cruel and vengeful God who condemns people He says He loves to the most horrible torture imaginable is a huge barrier to Christian faith.
Insight 2: yō·wm is Hebrew word for Bible creation day

What the Old Testament says

The Old Testament doesn't say much about hell, but here are all four verses from the Hebrew scriptures that mention a time aspect of punishment in an afterlife. The verses say must die ... will be no more ...forever destroyed ... will be ashes. There is no hint of any eternal conscious existence.
Insight 3: What God created in each 'day'

What the New Testament says

Here are all 16 verses [excluding words of Jesus] in the New Testament that say something about the duration of punishment in an afterlife. The descriptive words are burning up ... perish ... death ... destruction ... destroyed ... does not have life ... second death. The verses say that the fire prepared for Satan and his demons will burn forever but not that people will burn in it forever. [All the words of Jesus regarding time in hell are shown in Insight 4.]

What Jesus said about burning in hell

Here are all 14 verses in the New Testament that quote what Jesus said about hell. His words are thrown into hell ... thrown into the fire ... throw into the blazing furnace ... eternal fire ... burned in the fire ... destroy ... destruction ... perish. Like all the other verses in the New Testament on this subject, Jesus says the fire will burn forever but not that people will burn forever.

Tradition vs. Bible

See the four major views about hell: orthodox, symbolic, purgatory, and annihilation. Common Christian belief about burning in hell forever comes more from tradition than from the Bible. Churches have used it as a scare tactic. Hell has become a joke to most people. Most Christians have never studied this subject for themselves direct from the Bible.

Here's where we combine five Insights to get an informed biblical answer: Will people burn in hell FOREVER?

The Insights here are like pieces of a puzzle. Put the pieces together and see the big picture! Now you'll be prepared to engage intelligently and coherently with anyone about what the Bible actually says about time in hell. See list of seven reasons why hell is not FOREVER. Also see reader comments.
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Helping Christians engage in intelligent and coherent conversations with doubters and unbelievers