Is Hell Real?

Studies show that most religious people believe in some concept of heaven and hell. Whether they understand those concepts or not, most want to avoid hell at all costs. Who can blame them? Hell is seen as a place where people are burned alive forever. That is the predominant concept of hell in society today, but it could not be more false.

Have you ever wondered what kind of God would sentence someone who lived a mere 17 years to endless torture? Does that sound like the act of a loving God? Satan wants us to believe that God is arbitrary, evil, and vindictive. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the Bible makes clear.

The Bible does teach that hell is real, but the hell of Scripture is nothing like the hell of popular imagination. It is not a perpetual place, but a one-time event. The prophet Malachi wrote that the wicked will one day perish and go up in smoke (Mal. 4:1, 3).

The apostle Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Rom. 6:23). Death is the opposite of life, not just another stage of suffering. While Jesus describes the saved as receiving “eternal life” while the wicked receive “everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46), it is the effects of the punishment that are eternal, not the punishment itself. Jude 7 describes the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” but their fires went out long ago.

While some believe that hell is the place where Satan rules, the Bible says otherwise: “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” (Rev. 20:10). Satan and his evil angels will not escape the fire that cleanses the earth. But will the fires ever go out? The Bible offers a clear answer on this point.

Before answering this question, we must remember something important about God: He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). He does not want anyone to be lost but desires for everyone to be reconciled with Him (2 Pet. 3:9). When God chooses to destroy the wicked in hell’s fire, He cannot possibly burn them forever. Why? He has promised to make all things new (Rev. 21:5). John, the writer of Revelation, saw a “new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Rev. 21:1).

If God allowed hell to burn forever, then sin would be around forever. Instead, the wicked only burn until they are consumed, and sin is destroyed. Their destruction is an act of mercy, for eternal life in a sinless universe centered on God’s limitless love would be true torture to them.