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ORIGIN 3.5.1

Death and hell

Seeking answer to this question
Where in the Bible does it say that people will burn in hell forever?
(It doesn't)
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS
Following are ALL of the explicit verses about hell in the New Testament.
These verses have not been cherry-picked to support any particular point of view. This is the extent of what the Bible says regarding the question of whether or not hell is forever.
From this page, you can answer the question yourself from these verses.
There are no verses here from the Old Testament because that part of the Bible does not speak with any clarity about hell, only some vague references to an after-life. The ancient Israelites did not have the same concept of hell as taught by Jesus and the Apostles.
Black text is from the New International Standard Version (NIV), listed here in book order. Comments are red.
'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)
Doesn't sound like hell forever. When something is burned up, it ceases to exist, even though the fire continues.
'If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.' (Matthew 5:29, Jesus speaking)
Jesus acknowledges hell as a terrible place, but no mention of duration.
'Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.' (Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus speaking)
Only two possibilities: Eternal life or destruction. When something is destroyed, it is damaged so badly that it ceases to exist.
'Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire' (Matthew 7:19, Jesus speaking)
Jesus giving an example about what will happen to false prophets who come in sheep's clothing. When trees are thrown into the fire, they burn up and cease to exist.
'But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' (Matthew 8:12, Jesus speaking)
Darkness, not flaming fire. If darkness is symbolism for hell, maybe fire is symbolism, too.
'Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.' (Matthew 10:28, Jesus speaking)
When something is destroyed, it is damaged so badly that it ceases to exist.
'As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth' (Matthew 13:40-42, Jesus speaking)
Weeds thrown into fire become dry, burn up and cease to exist.
'Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth' (Matthew 13:47-50, Jesus speaking)
Dead fish rot and cease to exist. When any living thing is thrown into a blazing furnace, it is killed and ceases to exist.
'And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.' (Matthew 18:9, Jesus speaking)
Doesn't say people will live forever in hell. Usually when something is thrown into fire it is consumed, burned up, ceases to exist.
'All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left ... Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the ETERNAL FIRE PREPARED FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS ... Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.' (Matthew 25:32-46, Jesus speaking)
The text says that the eternal fire is not for people; the eternal fire is for the devil and his angels (demons). Eternal punishment for people is not the same as burning in hell forever. The punishment is eternal – i.e., there is no hope that the judgment will be changed, no second chance for eternal life.
'If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed with two hands than to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.' (Matthew 25:32-46, Jesus speaking)
Doesn't say a person will burn forever in hell, just that the fire never goes out. People die in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (see verse above).
'Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell' (Luke 12:5, Jesus speaking)
Jesus says there is a hell but doesn't say anything about duration.
'But unless you repent, you too will all perish.' (Luke 13:3, Jesus speaking)
Perish means no longer alive, end of existence.
'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, Apostle John speaking)
Does not say people will have everlasting life in hell. Says people will perish (end of existence). Where will they be when they perish? Not on earth because sinners without Christ will be cast into hell. So it must be in hell where they perish.
'My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.' (John 10:27-28, Jesus speaking)
Perish means no longer alive, end of existence. Eternal life is contrasted with perish, the alternative.
'While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one [Judas] doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.' (John 17:12, Jesus praying)
When something is destroyed, it is damaged so badly that it ceases to exist.
'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.
'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.
'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 it ceases to exist.
'This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved — and that by God.' (Philippians 1:28, (Romans 9:22, Apostle Paul speaking)
When something is destroyed, it is damaged so badly it ceases to exist. God will save genuine Christians from destruction (will continue living, eternal life).
'Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.' (Philippians 3:19, Apostle Paul speaking)
When something is destroyed, it is damaged so badly it ceases to exist.
'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' (2 Thessalonians 1:9, Apostle Paul speaking)
When something is destroyed – everlasting destruction – it is damaged so badly it ceases to exist, and there is no hope of re-construction.
'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 it ceases to exist, and there is no hope of re-construction. It is the ultimate separation from God, forever.
'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 it ceases to exist. People who have accepted Jesus as Savior are saved from destruction and given eternal life.
'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)
Darkness, not flaming fire. If darkness is symbolism for hell, possibly fire is symbolism, too, considering that hell fire is prepared for 'the devil and his angels' (see Matthew 25:41 above), who are spirits, not bodies.
'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 – like the Big Bang in reverse – 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 will end when space ends.
'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.
'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.
'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 Paul 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 the preceding 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 a relatively small number of people in the future. This is not about people past or present.
'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 Paul dream)
Sounds like the first death is physical death and second death (after judgment) is death in hell fire. This speaks of death (end of existence) in hell, not everlasting life in hell. Any living thing thrown into a lake of fire dies.
'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 suffer. This is the second death.' (Revelation 21:8, Apostle Paul dream)
Like verse above from John's dream, this sounds like the first death is physical death and second death (after judgment) is death in hell fire. This speaks of death (end of existence) in hell, not everlasting life in hell.
All Bible verses on topic are quoted above
No verses say that people
will burn in hell forever
You've seen for yourself
Why 'not forever' is important
This reflects the character of God

Some say it doesn't matter

Here's a common response from traditional Christians:

It really doesn't matter to me whether hell is forever or only for a duration ... it's horrible either way ... anyone who accepts Jesus as Savior won't go there at all.

That response misses the point and is shortsighted and self-serving. That's thinking only about me, not about others.

God's character is the issue

The primary reason why we have to be careful and accurate in the way we speak about hell is that it defines God character in the minds of other people.

Burning forever, without ever being able to die, is the worst kind of torture imaginable.

Burning forever, regardless of the degree of sin and understanding, goes far beyond punishment and is infinite cruelty. The erroneous image of a vengeful God who condemns most people to the worst kind of torture is in complete contradiction to our God of love and justice, and this has become a big barrier to Christian faith.

Hell, but not forever

The above verses state clearly that there is hell for people who reject God's forgiveness and offer of salvation. Hell is just punishment for a life of unforgiven sin, but it is not forever.

After physical death, resurrection and judgment, people will eventually die (end of existence) in hell.