Hell, The Biblical Reality


Hell, the Biblical Reality

At the moment of death, when your soul separates from the mortal body, your future is eternally and irrevocably fixed. In that moment, you will either be welcomed into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious throne of God and the multitudes of believers, friends, and loved ones… or, your experience will be that of unending darkness, gloom and misery.

Admittedly, hell is an unpleasant topic. Unbelievers disbelieve in it; most Christians ignore it. Even the staunchly biblical diehards are often silent out of embarrassment. Hell, more than any doctrine of the Bible, seems to be out of step with our times.[1]

Yet, Christ Jesus taught more about hell than He did heaven. No one in the Bible spoke about hell as often as He did. The Greek word “gehenna” that is translated as “hell” is “found twelve times in the NT ((Matt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6), eleven of which are in the Synoptic Gospels and in every instance spoken by the Lord Himself.” [2]

Opposition of Today’s Truth to the Biblical Doctrine of Hell

The Goal of Post-Modern Culture

It is not a popular thing to be a Christian these days. The culture of the world has “progressively” moved beyond the revealed truth (John 14:6) of absolutes found in the Bible towards a man-centered make-it-up-as-you-go ethics based upon feelings and tolerance. Truth now finds its source in the individual heart. Humanity is becoming increasingly enslaved by a culture that provides an all-inclusive “truth” that is selfish, inner directed and worldly. The pursuit of happiness, the goal of post-modern man, is best achieved by a future without any constraints, obligations, or consequence. Biblical Christianity and the followers of Christ Jesus expose and shine light onto the meaninglessness of this post-modern pursuit of happiness. The worldly values of a global citizenship, based on a relative and subjective truth, cannot accept this.

A Cultural Worldview that Rejects Christ Results in Judgment

One with minimal discernment can clearly see that today’s world is void of absolute truth, and evolving into greater and greater realms of darkness. Those who operate as channels of the Spirit’s conviction (John 16:8-10) to such a world are under pressure, and attack to conform (Rom 12:1-2) to the progressive views of postmodern culture and religion or suffer persecution (Gal 4:29; 2 Tim 3:12-14).

The Spirit’s ministry towards the world is to convict (to prove one is in the wrong, John 16:8-10) man of the sin of unbelief in Christ Jesus and His absolute righteousness. The world claimed that Jesus was a demon-possessed man who was a liar. (This does not match with today’s perception of Jesus as a good and moral man, who was a great teacher, but got into trouble with the authorities.) The Spirit also convicts the world that the judgment of Satan in hell is sure and will await those who choose to make the devil their master and follow his path through the rejection of God’s Son.

And He (the Holy Spirit), when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. John 16:8-10

A loving and merciful God (1 John 4:8), who has given all for the salvation of the world (Eph 2:4-8), is also righteous, holy and full of light (1 John 1:5). The heart of the Father towards all men is exemplified in the following verse; “God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (John 3:17; 1 Tim 4:10; Tit 2:11; 2 Pet 3:9). Rejection of the Father’s free grace gift of the Son results in judgment. In a world where tolerance is the greatest virtue, judgment of any type, from any direction, is unacceptable.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.    John 3:18-20

The Blinding of the World by Satan

Behind the seemingly unlimited tolerance of the post-modern world one can hide behind an increasingly diverse array of sins as “it is my life and no one can tell me how to live.” Life and truth are now completely subjective, having thrown off the shackles of any and all authority – especially God. This freedom of thought and action, without restraint, leads to enslavement to sin, darkness, and Satan. Man is made to worship. A popular song states the obvious, “It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you got to serve somebody.”

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.   2 Cor 4:3-4

Culture and the way of the world that loves the darkness more than the light (John 3:19-20), and covets its sins and idols (Rom 1:21-24) is however, only one-third of the force that is arrayed against and persecutes believers. Satan and his demonic army blinds the minds of unbelievers to the truth of God the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 4:4), and ensnares and entraps all through the lust of the sin nature (Eph 2:3; 1 Tim 3:7, 6:9; 2 Tim 2:26). Ultimately, regardless of the increasing fury of the world against Christ and His followers, we must be mindful of the eternal outcome of those rejecting the salvation He offers. The struggle to define truth, and the meaning and purpose of life is a spiritual battle that is being waged over the souls and eternal destiny of man.

The Repulsive, Yet Scriptural, Doctrine of Hell

The world’s approach to any discussion about hell is to attack the love and character of God. How can a loving God consign one of His creatures to eternal damnation? “I would rather be in hell than to be in heaven with such a God,” many declare as they slide back into the darkness. “Such a God is evil and does not deserve to be worshipped.” Does the punishment fit the crime? (For a discussion regarding the heart of the Father towards all unbelievers see the post The Heart of the Father in Election.)

It is difficult to reconcile hell with the love of God…To us as humans, everlasting punishment is disproportionate to the offense committed. God appears cruel, unjust, sadistic, and vindictive. The purpose of punishment, we are told, is always redemptive. Rehabilitation is the goal of all prison sentences. The concept of a place where there will be endless punishment without any possibility of parole or reform seems unjust. [3]

Under this emotional assault from the world, and, at times, our own reason, many believers become sheepish about the Biblical reality of hell. Do we believe the Bible? Are we willing to endure the persecution and ridicule of the world to shine as His lights? Will you stand for His name and glory in a world of darkness? Do we tell the truth to those headed to the fire regardless of the world’s ridicule, and risk being branded a “hater?”

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev 20:13-15

Faith in the gospel’s truths about salvation includes the belief that Jesus is the sinless Son of God, who paid the penalty of death for our sins on the cross, so that we could receive His righteousness and His eternal life. The words and works of Christ Jesus proved beyond measure that He was both fully God and fully man.

It would be inconsistent to accept Christ’s teachings on salvation or on ethics as authoritative but deny His assertions about eternal punishment (in hell). Those who respect Jesus Christ will believe in the eternal Lake of Fire.[4]

One of the most loving things one human can do for another is to explain and show the way that leads to eternal life. Yet, the world hates the Christ that saves, and persecutes the very ones whose desire is the same as the Father’s – to give the gospel, so that men’s souls escape eternal judgment.

It is quite fair to admit that the subject of eternal punishment is terrifying and repulsive. Nevertheless, it is very much Scriptural.[5]

Alternative Teachings of Universalism and Annihilation

According to post-modern thought, the concept of hell is indefensible; therefore, many choose to twist the Scriptural biblical truth into forms that are more acceptable and less controversial. In a world where the greatest virtue is tolerance, a God that eternally punishes those who reject Him is beyond reason.


Universalism teaches “all will eventually make it to heaven.” Either hell or purgatory is limited and for the purpose of rehabilitating the wayward sinner. The “hard-headed” ones will take more time and might need the “remedial training” of purgatory to punish them for wrong doings, finishing the job that Christ was unable to accomplish for them on the Cross. This view weakens the work of Christ, and simultaneously obliterates the attributes of God related to His holiness, righteousness, and justice. In universalism, man pays his sin for himself having no need for the grace, mercy and power of God to save. Their position: “Men are basically good, they just need a little help to get moving in the right direction.”

Yet, the God who is love is also light. Christ told the woman caught in adultery and the healed paralytic, “Go and sin no more.” No man can ever pay the eternal price for his own sins. Jesus became man to save man, because man is completely unable to do anything, even in an imaginary purgatory, to save himself. God cannot overlook the rejection of His own Son who paid for all sin with His death.


Another view, annihilation, is the belief that the unbelieving dead are raised at the second resurrection and judged at the Great White Throne Judgment. They are then cast into hell due to their names not being in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Annihilationists deviate from Scripture at this point however, by declaring that there is no eternal torment. The “immortal” souls of unbelievers are instantly destroyed when they are cast into the Lake of Fire. This belief disregards the Lord Jesus Christ’s own statements to arrive at their conclusions. Regarding the unbelievers at the sheep and goat judgment at the end of the tribulation, Christ states that they will go into eternal punishment (Matt 25:41). The descriptions of the afterlife of believers in Heaven, and the punishment of unbelievers (Matt 25:46; Dan 12:2) have in common the term “eternal.” If “Resurrection life is eternal in quality and everlasting in duration.” [6] then, so is the punishment of the second death (death here meaning the separation forever of the unbeliever from the life of God).

In spite of these alternative teachings, which seek to conform an angry or wrathful God of holiness to a worldview of tolerance, Scripture clearly teaches that hell is eternal and conscious torment. Both universalism and annihilation of immortal souls are man-made truths designed to appease.

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matt 25:46

Do Personal Sins Condemn One to Hell?

Personal Sins and the Destiny of Hell

We can see from Scripture that the Father does not eternally condemn man for his sins.

…namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Cor 5:19

The world was reconciled to God through Christ Jesus on the cross so that, God does not count their trespasses against them when it comes to determining their eternal destiny. The Cross defeated sin to such an extent that, even for the unbeliever, personal sins do not condemn one to hell. Yet, Paul tells us in 2 Cor 5:19 and following that there is still a great need for the ministry of reconciliation. The inevitable doom and condemnation that comes with being born in Adam can only be escaped by faith in the gospel.

Relative to sin being the basis for eternal death, the Cross reconciled all men back to their original relationship with God. The Cross so defeated sin that the basis for eternal death is now not sin but only rejection of Christ. Sin is no longer the relevant issue in determining a person’s eternal destiny. God is only interested in what a person does with His Son, Jesus Christ. If (someone) enter(s) hell, it will be because of indifference to Christ. [7]

Propitiation in 1 John 2:2 means that Christ’s work on the Cross set aside God’s wrath and satisfied His righteousness regarding eternal condemnation for personal sins.

and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.   1 John 2:2

It was the guilt of sin that separated man from his creator. Our Lord on the Cross assumed that guilt and paid the penalty in His own blood, and thus removed the cause of alienation. Now a holy and righteous God can bestow mercy upon a believing sinner on the basis of justice satisfied. [8]

God is the Savior of all in the sense that He has provided a salvation that is available to all. He is the Savior of believers in a special sense since they are those who have accepted His provision of salvation. Salvation is sufficient for all but efficient only for those who believe.[9]

The Three Imputations of Salvation and Personal Sins

Imputation means “charged to one’s account.” Salvation completely solves man’s sin and death problem through these three imputations.

But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Gal 3:22

All men are shut up under sin through being born in Adam (imputation #1). His transgression has resulted in all being born separated from God in mortal bodies. Yet, the effects of the one transgression of Adam are solved by faith in the Last Adam, Jesus Christ. In terms of imputation, personal sins do not stand in the way of justification. All sins, those of believers as well as unbelievers, were placed upon Jesus who paid the penalty for personal sins upon the cross (imputation #2).

(A perception of one’s utter depravity in relation to the righteousness of Christ may be a driving force in one’s conversion, but ultimately the issue is faith and trust in the Person and work of Christ so that we can receive life and no longer be enslaved to a life of sin. Sin consciousness can be helpful in one coming to the realization of the need to place faith in the gospel and the value of the Person of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.)

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. Rom 5:18-19

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  1 Cor 15:22

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21

The following helpful chart, which clarifies the above Scriptures and Rom 5:12-21, is modified from Ryrie. [10]

One man                                          One Man

Adam                                                Christ – Last Adam


One Act                                             One Act

Sin of eating the fruit                    Dying in our place

Rom 5:18                                         (Substitution)

2 Cor 5:21


One Result                                       One Result

Condemnation for all                    Justification for believers

Rom 5:18                                   (Declared righteous)

Rom 5:19; 2 Cor 5:21

The first two imputations below have occurred for all men. The critical issue of condemnation or salvation for eternal destiny lies in the condition for the third imputation. Justification, the judicial declaration of righteousness, is based upon faith in the Person and work of the Son on the Cross. We are justified on the basis of faith, which excludes any work or merit on man’s part. Because of the second imputation, Christ’s saving work is also more powerful than any sin, except the sin of unbelief in the gospel. The three imputations of salvation are:

  1. The sin of Adam is directly imputed to all men (Rom 5:12-21).
  2. All personal sins (believers and unbelievers) were imputed to Christ on the Cross and the penalty paid (2 Cor 5:19; 1 Pet 2:24).
  3. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the account of those who believe the gospel (2 Cor 5:21).

It is this last step that unbelievers do not receive. They die in their sins- in that; their entire lives are spent in service to sin, never receiving eternal life. Their love of the world and their sins makes them subservient to Satan’s will, and not the Father’s love, mercy, and grace. The universal reconciliation of 2 Cor 5:19 must be made personal through faith in the gospel so that the results of salvation can be received. Believers are justified and declared righteous, having received His eternal life.

The Seriousness of the Sin of Rejecting the Savior

Christ Jesus entered the world He had made to serve His creatures. Eternal God incarnated and became Man to take away the sins of the world. The world Christ created rejected and murdered Him declaring that He was a demon-possessed blasphemer. The Scriptures of Matt 12:32 and Mk 3:29 both declare the blasphemy of the scribes and Pharisees, who ascribe the power demonstrated by Jesus to demon-possession, an eternal sin for which there is no forgiveness. Universalism, the belief that all will eventually be saved, is a lie. Today, the only eternal sin is rejection of Christ through unbelief in His gospel.

The Father so loved the world He gave His Son to save man from sin and death. Only God can pay the infinite penalty His justice requires for sin. The rejection of this gift of grace salvation, when all has been paid and the Father is in a universal sense propitiated for sin, is unforgivable. The following from Lutzer perfectly describes this point if we assign the rejection of the Savior to the sin he describes. The sin that condemns is unbelief.

Jonathan Edwards said that the reason we find hell so offensive is because of our insensitivity to sin. What if, from God’s viewpoint, the greatness of sin is determined by the greatness of the One against whom it is committed? Then the guilt of sin is infinite because it is a violation of the character of an infinite Being. What if, in the nature of God, it is deemed that such (an) infinite sin deserve(s) an infinite penalty, a penalty that no one can ever repay? [11]

The Relation of Sins to the Great White Throne Judgment

The final verdict of condemnation for all unbelievers at the Great White Throne judgment (Rev 20:11-15) is that their “name not found in the Book of Life.” Judgment is based on unbelief. Man is liable for spiritual death (separation from God for all eternity) due to personal sins, and inherited or Adam’s sin, but the actual charge will be rejection of the Savior. Scriptures that discuss God’s anger towards personal sins or the punishment of man because of them relate to temporal wrath or punishment.

Once the destiny of unbelievers to hell is proclaimed, personal sins determine the extent of punishment one receives. Some sins are greater than others. The extent to which one sins against known truth regarding Christ or the gospel also incurs greater punishment.[12]

Lack of Possession of Christ’s Righteousness, Not Sins, Consigns One to Hell

From the above we can clearly state:

  • A true believer cannot be eternally condemned by any act of sin.
  • Scriptures do not portray anywhere that a believer can lose salvation or how to regain it once lost.
  • Unbelievers will be condemned eternally because of the sin of unbelief and not personal sins or the sin nature. [13]
  • Without faith in the gospel, the unbeliever is still enslaved to sin and in need of redemption. Faith leads to conversion that includes spiritual baptism into union with Christ, regeneration, the possession of eternal life, and entrance into God’s family as a child and heir of God. Faith solves the sin problem of man (personal sin, inherited sin, Adam’s sin).

Scriptures Regarding Sins and Inheriting the Kingdom of God

In several Scriptures, the context seems to indicate that particular sins will keep one out of the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5; 1 John 3:7, 8a, 9).

“Inherit” in the below Scriptures means to receive. “Inheritance” indicates that which one receives, not because of a task or duty accomplished, but due to birthright of sonship. Sonship or family inheritance into God’s kingdom is dependent upon the new birth. The morally corrupt cannot enter or inherit the kingdom. They must be washed, sanctified, and justified.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor 6:9-11

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice (Greek, prasso) such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal 5:19-21

For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Eph 5:5

Those who have given themselves over to sin such that they are identified with it (1 Cor 6:9-11, fornicators, idolaters) or that it is a habitual practice of their lives (Gal 5:19-21) give no evidence of the new birth. Their lives are marked by sin because sin is their master. Sinners can only sin. The ability to live a life apart from sin becomes a reality only upon entrance into the family of God.

The habitual sins and lifestyle of those in the above Scriptures are evidence of lack of saving faith. It is lack of faith in the gospel that condemns and keeps one from entering into, receiving, or inheriting the kingdom of God, not your personal sins.

Genuine salvation results in evidence of fruit (Rom 7:4; Col 1:10, good works (Eph 2:8-10; James 2:18, 26). A spiritual walk is inconsistent with the habitual practice of sin. Unfortunately Scripture does not indicate what God considers the “habitual” practice of sin. In view of this, Paul tells us to self-examine or test ourselves to see that we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5; 1 Cor 11:28-29; Lam 3:40). Paul exhorts Christians to live a life pleasing to God in gratitude and love for all that has been provided for us in grace.

Ryrie explains the reasons as to why a believer who has been freed from slavery to sin “in Adam” is enabled by the resurrection life of Christ to walk in a way that is pleasing to God.

…(B)eing in Christ is not a barren state or an almost unreal positional truth (as it is often presented), but a vital, pulsating, functioning involvement. The chief characteristic of this environment is resurrection life, the life of Christ Himself… In trying to define or describe a difficult concept like this one, it often helps to look at the opposite. What is the opposite of being in Christ? It is being in Adam and encompassed by the environment of death (1 Cor. 15:22). This is a position which all men have by birth, for all sinned in Adam (Rom. 5:12). Notice the contrast in each area—justification, sanctification, glorification—between being in Adam and being in Christ (see below). Thus in relation to sanctification or the Christian life…being in Christ frees us from the bondage of sin and enables us to live righteously before God. [14]

        Area                           “in Adam”                              “in Christ

Justification            None (Condemnation)            Complete (Eternal Life)

Sanctification                 Slaves to Sin                     Servants of Righteousness

Glorification             The Second Death                   Resurrection to Life


Biblical Doctrine of Hell

The New Testament Greek Terms Related to Hell

The New Testament uses three different Greek words for hell (Gk., hades, tartarus, gehenna) and a fourth (Gk., abussos) to describe the bottomless pit or abyss, an abode of demons. These terms relate to different areas of punishment, some for angels and others for men, which may be temporal or eternal. Waterhouse states, “An understanding of these terms …leads to concise interpretation of God’s plan for the punishment of the unbelieving wicked.”

We’ll begin our discussion about hell with a description of these different compartments and their relation to each other in the progress of God’s revelation and redemption through time. God reveals His will and plan through His word. The world is without excuse. Instead of a desire to change Scripture to fit our ideas of justice, it is best we discern God’s will for man and the disaster awaiting those who reject His Son. Love for others who share His image motivates all to share the “ministry of reconciliation.”

And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire…   Jude 1:22-23a

Sheol, the Place of Departed Spirits in the OT

From the writings of the Old Testament, it was understood upon death that the body resided and turned to dust in the grave and the soul/ spirit (immaterial man) went to a place called Sheol in Hebrew. Sheol included the concept of the grave (Nu 16:30), and can be interpreted as grave in many contexts, but it increasingly came to be known as the place of departed spirits.

Scripture reveals that Sheol is in the depths of the earth (Gen 37:35; Job 11:8; Prov 15:24). Later, it came to be portrayed as a place of punishment and the abode of the wicked (Ps 9:17, 31:7; Prov 23:16) from which one must be delivered (Ps 49:15, 16).

The Greek word Hades of the New Testament is synonymous with the Hebrew word Sheol. Christ Jesus further clarifies Sheol or Hades in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. As we shall see, Hades is a temporary abode of departed spirits.

Hades, The Temporary Place of the Departed Dead

Matt 11:23; Luke 10:15, 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev 6:8, 20:13, 14

From the Scriptures regarding Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:20-31), we will learn that there are at least two compartments in Hades: one for unbelievers (Luke 16:23), and another for believers (up until the ascension of Christ) called Paradise or Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:19-22, 23:43). When Christ stated to the believing thief on the cross next to Him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43), He was referring to the portion of Hades that contained OT believers, or Abraham’s Bosom.

Hades is also a temporary place of confinement for the unrighteous dead (in a place called Torments, Luke 16:28) until the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of the 1,000 year reign of Christ (Millennium, Rev 20:11-15). The righteous dead in Hades/ Paradise will be resurrected at the end of the seven-year tribulation, before the Millennium (Dan 12:1-2). See the below summary of events for clarification.

Now, after the ascension of Christ, all church age believers go to be face to face with the Lord at the time of physical death (Phil 1:23, 2 Cor 5:8). Upon the entrance of Christ into heaven, the Father accepted His substitutionary sacrifice by stating, “Sit at My right hand.” (Ps 110:1, Heb 1:13). Now, Christ has opened the way for believing mankind to directly enter into the presence of holy God (Heb 8:1, 10:12-20).

The paradise of Paul does not relate to Abraham’s Bosom and Hades, but to the Third Heaven and the throne of God (2 Cor 12:4). The other mention of paradise is in Rev 2:7. Here paradise refers to the New Jerusalem, the city of God, and the eternal state.

Summary of Future Events

Church Age > 7 Year Tribulation > Millennium > Judgment > New Heavens/ Earth

1.                                  2.                       3.                   4.

<<Hades>>                                                               / Gehenna – Lake of Fire

  1.  1st Resurrection – Rapture of the Church before the Tribulation, at the end of the Church age. [15]

  2. 1st Resurrection – Resurrection of OT Saints and tribulational Saints at end of seven-year tribulation. Unbelievers from the sheep/goat judgment of the nations (Matt 25:41) are cast into the Lake of Fire to join the beast/ false prophet. Satan is imprisoned in the abyss for 1,000 years (Rev 20:1-3). [16]

  3. 2nd Resurrection – All the unbelieving dead from all time are resurrected at the end of the millennium to stand and be judged at the Great White throne judgment. Hades is emptied of all the unbelieving dead (Rev 20:11-13). [17]

  4. After judgment, all unbelievers are cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:14-15) to join the beast, false prophet, and the unbelieving men from the sheep/goat judgment of the nations at the end of the tribulation.

Hades, Lazarus and the Rich Man

The Greek word Hades is never used of the grave. It always refers to the place of departed spirits. In Luke 16:20-31 the story of Lazarus and the rich man describes the compartments in Hades discussed above.

Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ Luke 16:22-31

From these scriptures we learn:

Abraham’s bosom or paradise is a place of rest for all Old Testament believers until the ascension of Christ.

  • There is a chasm between Abraham’s bosom and the agony and fire of the place of torment, where the rich man, an unbeliever, resides. No one can pass through this chasm.
  • Thus, there are two compartments for the departed spirits of men in Hades: one for believers (until the ascension of Christ after which church age believers go to be face to face with the Lord) and another for unbelievers.
  • The rich man is conscious and awake. He has some form of body through which he experiences thirst, pain and agony.
  • There is no argument or accusation that his punishment is unfair or unjust.
  • His desire is to save others (family members) from the fixed fate of his torment. Abraham tells the rich man that the Scriptures are their guide to escape his fate. The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus from the dead to warn his brothers. Abraham’s answer shows the hardness of the heart of unbelief today, “…they will not be persuaded even if someone (Jesus Christ) rises from the dead.”

The Emptying of Hades

As we have stated, Hades (the place of the dead) is a temporary place for departed spirits who have physically died on earth. The part of Hades that holds believers (OT saints in Abraham’s bosom or paradise, basanos in the Greek) will be emptied at the end of the tribulation. These saints will be resurrected, as a part of the first resurrection, for entrance into the Millennial Kingdom. The first resurrection is termed the awakening of the body to everlasting life. In contrast, the second resurrection is to disgrace and everlasting contempt.

At both resurrections, the immaterial man receives an immortal body suited for the environment one enters into. In the case of the damned, it is a body built to eternally endure the sufferings of being in the lake of fire. It is burned without being consumed.

Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.   Dan 12:1-2

All unbelievers (except those in sheep and goat judgement) who have died on earth will temporarily be held in the section of Hades called Torments. It is a place of punishment until the time of their resurrection at the end of the Millennium. The emptying of Hades or Torments at the end of this 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth, is called the second resurrection unto the second death. The earth and heaven will be destroyed at this time, so that there is no place for unbelievers to hide. The final and eternal judgment of those of the unbelieving second resurrection is assignment to the lake of fire (called Gehenna in the Greek). Death and the section of hades called Torments are thrown into the eternal lake of fire.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire (Gehenna). And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev 20:11-15

Hell (Gehenna), The Eternal Destiny of Satan, Demons, and Unbelievers

The Lake of Fire (Rev 20:14-15) Matt 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6.

The Greek word comes from the Hebrew Ge-Hinnom or Valley of Hinnom. This is a narrow, very deep valley to the south of the city of Jerusalem. Wuest states that, “Here, after the introduction of idolatrous worship by King Ahaz, apostate Jews sacrificed their children to the god Molech… After King Josiah stopped the practice, it became the refuse dump for the city. The bodies of criminals, animal carcasses, and all types of filth was discarded here. The constant fire, smoke and burning trash, and bodies of this area became the symbol for the future place of punishment for the wicked.”[18]

The lake of fire or Gehenna is a place that God has already prepared (Matt 25:41) and is the final abode of the wicked dead (Rev 19:20). It was not created for man. The first occupants will be the beast, the false prophet, and the unbelievers of the sheep and goat judgment cast off the earth at the end of the tribulation (Matt 25:46). They will be thrown into the Lake of Fire alive without undergoing physical death.

Satan will spend the 1,000 years of the Millennial period locked away in the abyss or bottomless pit (Rev 20:1-3). At the end of the Millennium, he will be released from the abyss for the final rebellion against the rule of Christ (Rev 20:7-9). He will then be cast into the Lake of Fire to join the beast, false prophet, and the unbelievers from the sheep and goat judgment (Rev 20:10; Matt 25:46).

(After this time, as stated above, the earth and heavens will be destroyed (Rev 20:11) and Torments, the unbeliever portion of hades, will be emptied. All of the unsaved as well as demons from the abyss and Tartarus will stand at the Great White Throne Judgment of Christ. (Rev 20:11-15). The final destination of those of the second resurrection will be to undergo the eternal agony of the second death in the Lake of fire.)

The Great White throne judgment and the casting of demons and unbelievers into Gehenna occurs before the creation/ appearance of the new heavens and new earth. Whereas Sheol/ Hades/ Tartarus/ and the abyss seem to be below or within the earth, the location of Gehenna or the Lake of fire to the new heavens and earth is a mystery.

Tartarus and the Abyss – Prison of the Fallen Angels

2 Pet 2:4, Gen 6:1-4, Jude 6, 1 Pet 3:19

Tartarus is the Greek word used for hell in 2 Pet 2:4. Fallen angels of Gen 6 (those that sinned at the time of the flood) are sent to their temporary prison in Tartarus until the Great White Throne Judgment (2 Pet 2:4). Jesus not only enters the abode of the righteous dead or Abraham’s bosom during the three days His body was in the tomb, but also Tartarus. Tartarus is a dark, murky prison beneath Hades. In Abraham’s bosom as well as Tatarus, Jesus Christ proclaims His victory over sin, death, and Satan. Jesus does not enter Torments, nor does He give everyone there a “second chance” to believe. At physical death one’s destiny is fixed, as the rich man in Luke 16 testifies to all who will listen.

In 1 Pet 3:19, Christ proceeds in His disembodied state to preach to the spirits in prison. The context that Peter uses in speaking of these spirits is the time of the flood.

There are just two prisons in the unseen world where demonic spirits or angels are confined, Tartarus (2 Pet 2:24) and the “Bottomless Pit” or the abyss (Rev 9:1-12).

Our Lord “preached” or made an official proclamation to these spirits. It was not the gospel. Jesus did not die for angels (Heb 2:16). These angels did not keep their first estate. Jude likens their sin to that of Sodom and Gomorrah in giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh. The victorious proclamation of the salvation of man by Christ to the confined demons declares their doom and failure of the Satanic rebellion and his counterfeit plan.

Scriptural Description of Hell

The Experience of Hell

The torment and pain of the rich man in hades will be an ongoing experience for those judged at the Great White Throne and cast into Gehenna. This likely includes a literal fire that does not consume immortal bodies especially prepared for punishment.

There will also be the fire of unfulfilled lusts. In Ez 28:18 there is a description that many commentators ascribe to Satan in hell (as well as to the ancient king of Tyre); “Therefore I have brought fire from the midst of you…” This internal fire for Satan, which consumes him, is likely fueled by his hatred of God and the thwarting of his rebellion. The alcoholic and drug addict will be wracked with desire for the fix that never comes. The worldly idol that each has worshipped and the things that build pride will all be taken away. The perpetually burning desires of sinners will torture them, with no means to be satiated.

There will be no comfort or companionship. Satan himself will be derided and an object of scorn (Ez 28:19: Isa 14:15-17). Demons do not rule in hell. Punishment will occur in the presence of the Lamb and His holy angels (Rev 14:10), but those punished will only experience isolation. Those who reject the love and mercy of God receive His justice.

Cursed – Matt 25:41; 1 Cor 16:22; Gal 1:8-9

Judgment, Condemned – Mk 16:16; John 3:18, 5:24; 1 Cor 11:32

Objects of God’s Vengeance – 2 Thess 1:8; Heb 10:30

Objects of God’s Wrath – Luke 3:7; John 3:36; Rom 5:9; 1 Thess 1:10

Separation from God – Matt 7:23; 25:30; 2 Thess 1:9

Denial, Shame – Dan 12:2; Matt 7:23; Matt 16:33; Mk 8:38

Exclusion from Heaven – Luke 13:25; Rev 21:27; 22:15

Unending Worms – Isa 66:24; Mk 9:48 (Indicating rottenness, corruption, and pain in

one’s immortal body)

Darkness – Matt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; 2 Pet 2:17; Jude 13

Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth – Matt 8:12, 13:42,50; 22:13; 25:30; Luke 13:28

Torment – Luke 16:22-28: Rev 14:11; 20:10

Brimstone – Rev 14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8

Fire – Matt 13:40, 42, 50; Mk 9:48; Luke 3:9

(Lake of fire) Rev 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8

(Furnace of fire) Matt 13:42

(Unquenchable fire) Matt 3:12; Mk 9:43, 48

(Everlasting fire) Matt 18:8; 25:41; Jude 1:7

The Degrees of Punishment

Jesus told Pilate that the religious leaders had the greater sin leading to His death. While all sin is reprehensible, some sins are worse than others. When the Book of Deeds is opened at the Great White Throne Judgment there are two possible reasons given to account for their use: 1) Assign levels of punishment in hell, 2) Prove to unbelievers that their “good works” can never be sufficient to prove righteousness or earn salvation apart from Christ.

Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin. John 19:11

Those who rejected Christ personally while He was on the earth and witnessed His works will receive a greater judgment. The amount of light one sins against indicates a greater sin.

Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. Matt 10:15

Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.

And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.  Luke 12:47-48

The Duration of Punishment

The following examination of the Greek words used in the New Testament that are translated into English as “forever,” “eternal,” or “everlasting” comes from Waterhouse, Not By Bread Alone.

It is true that the particular Greek word “aion” can mean a long but limited time in certain contexts (“the harvest is the end of the age” Matt 13:39). Nevertheless, that word can also mean “eternal” because it is used of the length of time for God’s existence, His Word, rule, and finally, the duration of a believer’s life.

Even more important is the fact that the phrase “unto eons of eons” always means eternity because it refers to God in 18 out of 22 usages. Three of the remaining references concern punishment. The only objective conclusion from the Biblical data is that unbelievers will suffer eternal punishment.

“And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Rev 14:11

In addition to the word “eon” discussed above, there is a second Greek word that teaches even more conclusively the doctrine of everlasting punishment (eonios or aionios). In the 64 uses when it is used without reference to punishment, it always means eternal.[19] One does not have the option of changing the meaning for the six remaining usages that speak of the duration of punishment (Matt 18:8; Matt 25:41, 46; 2 Thess 1:9; Jude 7; Heb 6:2). They unquestionably teach that the Lake of Fire will be eternal. Punishment in hell will be as long as God’s life. Torment will be as everlasting as is the life given to believers.[20]

Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels… These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matt 25:41, 46

These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power… 2 Thess 1:9


Waterhouse admirably sums up this study upon hell.

Bible doctrine is not determined by its popularity or comfort level. Man does not have the freedom to accept or reject a Biblical teaching based on his own fallen sense of justice or depraved sense of reason. It seems “reasonable” to many that salvation comes through works, but the Bible teaches otherwise. To some it seems “reasonable” that a Christian can lose salvation, but the Scriptures teach eternal security. The Scripture is our authority for doctrine and ethics. Regardless of whether eternal punishment seems reasonable to a given individual, unending judgment for those who reject Christ is a Biblical fact.

Rejection of God’s Son is a far more serious sin than many people realize. God will in no way tolerate those who regard His Son as a worthless waste of time. Let the reader be warned. Trust in Christ as Savior or face God’s wrath.[21]


[1] Lutzer, Erwin W., (2015), One Minute After You Die, Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition, p.98.

[2] Zodhiates, Spiros, Editor, (1992), Complete Word Study Bible (CWSB), Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, Gk. gehenna.

[3] Lutzer, One Minute After You Die, pp. 104-105.

[4] Waterhouse, Steven, (2007), Not by Bread Alone, Amarillo, TX: Westcliff Press, www.webtheology.com, p. 537.

[5] Ibid, p. 543.

[6] Walvoord, John; Zuck, Roy, (1985), Bible Knowledge Commentary, Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, Romans 6:8-12, electronic edition.

[7] Ibid, p. 113.

[8] Wuest, Kenneth, (1987), Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1 John 2:2, electronic edition.

[9] Constable, 1 Tim 4:10

[10] Ryrie, Charles C.; Ryrie, Charles C. C.. (1994), Balancing the Christian Life: 25th Anniversary Edition, Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition, p. 29.

[11] Lutzer, One Minute After You Die, p. 108.

[12] Waterhouse, Not By Bread Alone, p. 66.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life: 25th Anniversary Edition, p. 52.

[15] The rapture occurs “in the air.” The dead in Christ rise first (i.e. their bodies from the grave) and those alive at that time are caught up into the air with them, receiving their resurrection bodies mid-flight. Those already passed descend with Christ from heaven, and meet their resurrection bodies in the air. Once the bride of Christ has been completed, the Groom escorts His bride to heaven for the marriage ceremony.

[16] The tribulation saints will receive their resurrection bodies at the end of tribulation with the OT saints. The tribulation saints will descend from heaven as the OT saints will empty the believer portion of Hades, Abraham’s bosom.

[17] All unbelieving dead will be resurrected from Torment in Hades to be judged at the Great White throne judgment.

[18] Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Treasures from the Greek New Testament, VI, “Hell, Hades, and Tartarus.”

[19] “64 uses of “aionios” without reference to punishment include: (42) associations with the length of a believer’s life, (3) eternity past, (3) future glory, (2) length of God’s life, (2) length of Holy Spirit’s life, (1) Christian’s eternal inheritance, (1) eternal salvation, (1) eternal redemption, (1) eternal covenant, (1) duration of heaven, (1) eternal gospel, (1) immortal nature of the glorified body, (1) eternal commandment with (4) miscellaneous references.”

[20] Waterhouse, Not By Bread Alone, pp. 544-545.

[21] Ibid, p. 546.