Have you ever asked “Why Hell?” or “How could Hell exist?” In short, each person kindle one’s own fire. “Behold, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with firebrands, Walk in the light of your fire And among the brands you have set ablaze. This you will have from My hand: You will lie down in torment” (50:11 NASB).
Jesus Preached about Hell
In the Bible, Jesus spoke the most about “Hell.” The actual word is Gehenna. Gehenna refers to the earthly valley of Hinnom or Tophet. The earthly Tophet was the Valley of the Hinnom where the idolaters offered their own children in sacrifice to Molech (2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chr 28:3; 33:6; Jer 7:31–32; 19:6; 32:35). However, Jesus spoke of the spiritual Tophet. In judgment, Jesus will judge that those who did not do good to others and these will go in to “everlasting punishment” (Matt 25:46). This is a spiritual and physical place of “the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of God” (2 Thess 1:7–9). All of the eternal punishment of Hell can be understood to be just, because people are separated from God by their sins and that eternal separation is an eternal fire and torment (cf. Eph 4:18, Col 1:21).
Jesus Described Hell
Hell is a real place where body and soul will go into torment. Jesus warned, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28 NASB). While Gehenna is a spiritual place, Jesus and His apostles described Hell as a “the everlasting fire,” a “lake of fire,” and a “furnace of fire” “that shall never be quenched” where the “worm does not die” (Isa 66:24; Matt 25:41; Mark 9:43–48; Rev 21:8). Isaiah described this spiritual place of torment called “Tophet” that burns by the breath of God (Isa 30:33), and Isaiah described the worm and maggot that covered the king of Babylon and the dead in Hell were excited about his going there (14:11, 15). Hell is a place of “outer darkness” and “the blackness of darkness” (Matt 8:12; 2 Pet 2:17). Hell is so dark that false teachers are described as being bound by “the everlasting chains of darkness” (2 Pet 2:4; Jude 6). In Hell, “there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 13:49–50). Hell is described as a place where a neglectful rich man will thirst, yet he will see and still have memories (Luke 16:19–31).
The Duration of Hell
This “eternal punishment” means that there will be no rest day or night in Hell. For example, those who worshiped the Beast and those who received his mark will suffer eternally (Rev 14:10–11). The Bible teaches clearly that there will be an eternal torment for the Beast, the False Prophet, and even Satan in Hell (Rev 20:10). Everyone not written in the book of life will be cast into this Lake of Fire (Rev 20:15). However, the punishment for each person can be different in Hell (Luke 12:47–48). The Bible does not teach overtly about annihilation or purging from Hell (Luke 12:59).
The Justness of Hell
While some ask, “How could everlasting punishment be eternal torment for all the condemned or even some of them? How is this not cruel and brutal? How can a loving God do this?” Skeptics do not believe the Bible for the same exact questions that believers ask and do not lose faith. Both skeptics and believers ask, “How could God send people to Hell?” Hell is just, because Jesus said that it is. People kindle their own fire and separate themselves from God (Isa 50:11). Many are blind to the justness of Hell. When people understand the severity and treachery of sin, they understand the severity of Hell. When people understand the alienation that sin has caused between humanity and God (Eph 4:18; Col 1:21), then they can understand “the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess 1:7–9). When people separate themselves from God by sin and die, they go into eternity separated from God. The lack of understanding the justice of Hell shows a fundamental misconception of sin, and the need for Jesus to save everyone from their due justice in Hell.
Hell was not made for man. Jesus revealed that “the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). Hell was prepared and intended first for the punishment of the Devil and his angels. The Devil will not be ruling Hell. Why is Hell used for people? This is the place of separation from God.
Hell Is Fitting for Sin
People do not understand Hell, because they do not understand sin. Man and woman were made for good and owe their lives to God. Every person was made in the image of God, and man is the image and glory of God (Gen 1:26; 1 Cor 11:7). By sinning, each person profanes the image of God and their life, and thus their life is required having earned death (Rom 5:16, 18; 6:23). Therefore, Romans 3:23 concludes that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (cf. 2 Cor 4:4). All are guilty of sinning and falling short of God’s glory. God is love and He made us in His image to love. By sinning, each person has acted contrary to love. Therefore, God being just requires the life — the blood — of each person (Gen 9:4–6; Lev 17:11–14).
Separation as the Consequence of Sin
Sinning is unrighteousness and lawlessness (1 John 3:4; 5:17). Sinning is profaning the holy nature, and therefore judgement results in the death of condemnation (Rom 5:16–18). Hebrews revealed, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). If someone’s words or works revile the life that God has given to oneself, then that person deserves a death. Every sin that one does is a profaning of the life that God gave them, and this is why death is just. Death from God is separation from God like the physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body (Jas 2:26). Rebellion against God leads to eternal separtion in the afterlife and the second death that is called “the Lake of Fire” (Rev 21:8).
Holiness Apart from Sin
The severity of sin is in contrast to the purity and holiness of God’s image. People separate themselves from God by unholy living. The apostle Peter taught, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (1 Pet 1:15–16). Each person can purify one’s soul by obedience to the truth when each one is born again (1 Pet 1:22–23; cf. 1 Pet 1:3; 3:21). Because of the separation of sin that alienates people from God, one must be reconciled to God (Isa 59:1; Eph 4:18; Col 1:21). Therefore, “these shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess 1:9). Christ described this separation from God as torment of fire.
Eternal Separation from God
When reading about Hell in the Scriptures, people are reading about the description of the severity of everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. This eternal separation from God is the only just punishment for those who profane eternal life. God gave them life of whom God created in His image. Hell is just for those who profane one’s life in how they live unholy lives contrary to God’s holy nature. When one dies in separation from God, that person does into eternity in separation from God.
God’s Mercy through Jesus Christ
God has been patient regarding these wages of sin, and He is merciful in Jesus Christ. Because of the wages of sin, God in due time begot His Son, Jesus, “for the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) who is “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Heb 1:3), “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15), and “the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). Now, Jesus did not profane the image of God by sinning like us “for in Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5; Heb 4:15). This made Him perfect to reconcile man to God. Jesus was not worthy of spiritual death, and God being just would not send Him to Hell. However, Jesus died and conquered death. Jesus can reconcile all of humanity who were alienated and enemies in our minds by transforming sinners into obedient believers who are holy and blameless before God if they continue in the faith (Col 1:21–23). In this way, the faithful are saved from wrath through Christ who reconciled Christians to God through Jesus’s death and justified them by His blood (Rom 5:6–11).
Jesus was perfect and accomplished perfection by being “wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him” for whom “the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” so “He was cut off from the land of the living” (Isa 53:5–6, 8). “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). God did not leave Jesus’s soul in Sheol or allow His soul to see corruption (Psa 16:10), but God prolonged His days (Isa 53:10).
Trampling the Son of God Underfoot
Because of Jesus’s perfection, Hell is even more a wage for those who neglect Him. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation (Heb 2:3)?” In contrast to the sentence of death in Moses’s Law, Paul warned in Hebrews 10:29, “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?”
Humanity Can Find God and Avoid Hell
The second epistle to the Thessalonians teaches that when Jesus comes back with His angels, then He will take “vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:7–9). This is just. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20). Everyone is without excuse for not thanking God and not glorifying God (Rom 1:21). No one has an excuse for “the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing” (Rom 2:15). No matter where someone is in the world, God has placed that person to find God, “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). This is confirmed by Jesus who proclaimed, “Seek, and you will find” (Matt 7:7). Seek God and you will find Him.
God Wants All to Repent and Be Saved
God works justice either in this life or the next. Each person has the opportunity now. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is enduring toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). Only when God transforms someone into the image and glory of Christ, then that person can be saved. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).
The Gospel that Saves
God saves and reconciles those who obey the Gospel. As 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9 affirms that those who do not obey the gospel will go to eternal destruction. Only the Gospel can save humanity (1 Cor 15:1–2). The Gospel is the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:3–4). Believers have not been saved by grace until they have died, been buried, and raised with Jesus Christ (Eph 2:4–6). Romans 6 shows believers how to die, be buried, and raised with Christ. Those pursuing salvation must died to sins, be buried in baptism, and arise to live in the newness of life (Rom 6:3–7; cf. Col 2:12–13). This is when God raises believers alive in Christ (Col 2:12–13). This is when believers are saved and born again when they are saved by baptism through the resurrection of Christ (1 Pet 1:3; 3:21).