Topic 3.4.1
Burn in hell forever?

Burn in hell forever?

Answered by Jesus
for sending to friends by messaging or email
Bible verses on hell and death
Linked to Greek-to-English translation and word analysis


Whether or not hell-is-forever is important because it portrays God's character as perceived by doubters and unbelievers. Is God just and merciful? Or vengeful and monstrous?

These are ALL the verses

The verses in this Bible study have not been cherry-picked to support any particular point of view. This is the full extent of what the Bible says regarding the question of whether or not hell is for a time or is forever.


about hell and duration

Verses are listed below in Bible book order
Black is New International Standard Version (NIV)
Red text is commentary
 +  < CLICK buttons to see Greek-to-English translation and word analysis
'Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, some must die.' (2 Samuel 14:14, Joab speaking, military commander under King David)  + 
The Old Testament does not teach about any particular kind of hell after death. In the Old Testament, Jews thought that people – non-Jews (Gentiles) for sure – just die ('cannot be recovered,' end of existence), like every other living thing.
'A little while, and the wicked will be no more ...' (Psalm 37:10, Psalmist speaking)  + 
In the Old Testament times, Jews believed that human life is short and death is end of existence. The important thing is preserving life of the nation. 'Will be no more' means no existence.
'... though the wicked spring up like grass and all evil doers flourish, they will be forever destroyed' (Psalm 92:7, Psalmist speaking)  + 
Same words used by Jesus in the New Testament (see below). 'Forever destroyed' means end of existence, much different than alive forever in hell.
''Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evil doer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,' says the Lord Almighty. 'Not a root or branch will be left to them ... and they will be ashes under the soles of your feet ...'' (Malachi 4:1-3, Old Testament Prophet speaking)  + 
Ashes mean no life, no consciousness.
'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 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 time in hell.
'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)  + 
Seems to mean the dire condition after death while awaiting judgment, before being cast into hell. See 2 Peter 2:4 below.
'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)  + 
Jesus says clearly that BOTH soul and body will be DESTROYED in hell. Even the soul is destroyed. When something is destroyed, it no longer exists.
'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. When something is thrown into fire it is consumed, burned up, ceases to exist, even tho the fire continues.
'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 18:18, Jesus speaking)  + 
Doesn't say a person will burn forever in hell, only that the fire never goes out. People die in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (see next verse below).
'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' (Matthew 25:41, Jesus speaking)  + 
Doesn't say a person will burn forever in hell – only that the fire burns forever – and that the fire (in which a person eventually dies) is prepared for the devil and his angels who will burn there forever (see Revelation 20:20 below).
'Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.' (Matthew 25:46, Jesus speaking)  + 
Doesn't say the burning is eternal, only that the punishment is eternal – i.e., the sentence will never be commuted or changed. The judgment is for all time with no reprieve. The punishment is death, no eternal life.
'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 time there before one perishes.
'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. Death is the default condition for everyone, avoidable only by accepting God's provision for salvation.
'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.
'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).
'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.
'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.
'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.
'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.
'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 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 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 some people in the future. This is not about people past or present.
'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.
'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)  + 
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 John dream)  + 
Like verse above, this this seems to say that 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.


people will not burn in hell forever

DEFINITION: The term 'people' as used here means all people alive now and all people who have ever lived. The term means 'us,' today, and excludes people who will transgress in a future eschatological age.
✓ REASON 1. Jesus is full authority
Jesus said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me' (Matthew 28:18). Jesus is full authority on truth. Not church, not tradition, not even Apostle John's dream. In seeking answer to the question of whether or not people will burn in hell forever, we need to start with what Jesus said. To be true, statements from theologians must align with statements from Jesus.
✓ REASON 2. Dream is lesser authority
The verses people use to 'prove' that people will burn in hell forever are from the Apostle John's dream in the Book of Revelation. Recalling a vision has less authority than hearing a direct statement and is subject to conflicting interpretations. John's vague dream must be subordinated to Jesus' clear statements. The dream verses (quoted in section above) are the only verses in the Bible that might imply that hell is forever (though the verses don't say so). The common interpretation of the dream verses is contrary to Jesus' direct statements.
✓ REASON 3. Dream verses are not about us
Even though many parts of John's dream are difficult or impossible to interpret with clarity, it is clear that the people who will be burning in hell forever are NOT people alive now or people who have lived in the past. The writer specifically identifies the people who, along with Satan and his demons, will burn forever: the false prophet and those who worship the beast and its image. That's not us, but rather some people in a future age.
✓ REASON 4. Jesus did not say hell is forever
There is no verse in the Bible where Jesus says that hell is forever for any person alive now or in the past.
✓ REASON 5. Jesus gave examples
Jesus gave examples (verses above) of what hell will be like: a tree thrown into the fire ... weeds thrown into the fire ... fish thrown into the fire. And what happens to them in the fire? In Jesus' own words: 'burned up ... destroyed ... consumed ... perish.'
✓ REASON 6. Hell fire burns forever, not people
Jesus said that in hell 'the fire never goes out.' But this is not the same as saying that people burn forever in the fire. Jesus says that the fire is forever, but the people are consumed and perish. After a time of punishment commensurate with their sin, people who reject God's salvation will ultimately die in hell (the 'second death').
✓ REASON 7. God is just and merciful
Torturing people in hell forever is capricious and cruel beyond comprehension, not in character with the just and merciful God we meet in the New Ttestament. God now freely offers salvation through Jesus, but physical death seals the offer, either accepted or rejected. If rejected, people will be punished justly in hell for their impudence and individual sins. In hell, death will be God's gift of mercy. Eventually, for them, it's the end of existence. For those who accept God's offer, it's forgiveness – not hell and final death – and eternal life in a new and exciting dimension beyond our imagination. This is the consistent Bible narrative.


assault on God's character

Some say it doesn't matter

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 ... just accept Jesus as Savior and you 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.

The issue is perception of God

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

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

Burning forever regardless of the degree of sin goes far beyond punishment and becomes infinite cruelty. Even Jesus, who paid the ultimate sacrifice for sin, was freed by death from suffering in a matter of hours. (To the thief on the cross: 'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise – Luke 23:43)

The erroneous image of a cruel and vengeful God who condemns people He says he loves to the worst kind of torture imaginable – forever without being able to die – is a contradiction to our God of love and justice, especially for people who have never even heard of Jesus.

This image in the minds of doubters and unbelievers is a big barrier to Christian faith.

Hell, but not forever

The above verses state clearly that, for people who reject God's forgiveness and offer of salvation for a life of unforgiven sin, there is a real hell (see 3.4), but people are not tortured in hell forever.

'For the wages of sin in death, but the gift of God is eternal life' (Romans 6:23) – death, not eternal torture.

After physical death, resurrection and judgment, people who reject God's offer of salvation and eternal life will eventually die (end of existence) in hell, with degree and duration of punishment for personal sin determined by God at time of judgment. A day? Year? Hundred years? Thousand years? Contrary to what most Christians have been taught, but in accord with the Bible verses above, the duration could be very long, but not forever.

Neighbor thinks Christians believe a hoax
Bible geneologies show that Adam lived about 4000 B.C.
Many Christians – probably most – believe Adam's sin is the cause of all death on earth.

How do you answer your neighbor who says that the Bible is flat-out wrong because science has proven conclusively that there has been death on earth for millions of years?

Helping Christians engage in intelligent and persuasive conversations with doubters and unbelievers
< BackHomeTopNext