What Do We Know About Hell?

"He has prepared darkness suitable to persons who oppose the light, and He has inflicted an appropriate punishment upon those who try to avoid being subject to Him...He has prepared the eternal fire for the ringleader of the apostasy-Satan-and for those who revolted with him."- Irenaeus

The ultimate destiny of the wicked is what is commonly called Hell. The word "hell" is actually an English translation of three different Greek words:

  • Gehenna- Matt. 5:29, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9, 23:15; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6
  • Hades- Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13-14
  • Tartarus- II Peter 2:4
There are other terms used for this place of punishment, such as "the furnace of fire" (Matt. 13:42,50), "eternal fire" (Matt. 18:8; 25:41; Jude 1:7), "the lake of fire" (Rev. 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15), "the outer darkness" (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), and "utter darkness" (Jude 1:13). So, what do Sacred Scripture and the Church Fathers say about the specifics of hell?

Hades is described in Luke 16:23 as a place of self-awareness, torment and agony in flames, memory and remorse, perception of Paradise, and separation from God and the righteous by a great chasm. It is a temporary holding place for the wicked until the Great White Throne Judgment, after which Hades is cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15). 

"The souls of the godly remain in a better place, while those of the unjust and wicked are in a worse place, waiting for the time of judgment."- Justin Martyr

"It is likely enough that they themselves are now lamenting in Hades and repenting with a repentance that is too late."- Justin  Martyr

"As the soul has acted in each individual instance, so proportionately does it suffer in Hades."-Tertullian

Scripture describes Gehenna as a furnace of unquenchable fire that is eternal. There is weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:41-42; 18:8; Mark 9:43-48). Jesus said that eternal fire was created for the punishment of Satan and his angels (Matt. 25:41), and that Gehenna is a place where God can destroy both body and soul (Matt. 10:28).

"Sinners will be consumed because they sinned and did not repent."- Hermas

"Gehenna is a place where those who have lived wickedly are to be punished."- Justin Martyr

"He will send into eternal fire those who change the truth and who despise His Father and His coming."- Irenaeus

Lake of Fire
This is where the beast, the false prophet, Satan, death, Hades and all those whose names are not written in the Book of Life are thrown (Rev. 19:20, 20:10, 14-15). It is described as a place of eternal torment in fire and brimstone, and the second death. 

"He goes to the everlasting punishment of fire."- Justin Martyr

"..every man will suffer punishment in eternal fire according to the merits of his deeds.."- Justin Martyr

"Christ foretold that Satan would be sent into the fire with his host, along with the men who follow him, and they will be punished for an endless duration."- Justin Martyr

"Eternal fire is prepared for sinners. The Lord has plainly declared this, and the rest of the scriptures demonstrate it."- Irenaeus

With all of this being said, it is important that we understand that God does not want anyone to go to Hell.

God and Punishment
Sacred Scripture tells us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). It is not his desire that anyone should perish (II Peter 3:9; Matt. 18:14). However, from God's perspective (which is the only true and absolutely correct perspective), sin  must be punished. So what does this mean for you? If you have not accepted Jesus into your life as Lord and Savior, you need to do so now, since no one knows the time of their death. You need to realize that you are a sinner, you are powerless to save yourself, and thus, you need a savior. Jesus is that Savior. If you are ready to take that step and avoid the destiny of the wicked, please pray the following:

Heavenly Father, I recognize that I am a sinner, and that I am powerless to change apart from your grace and love. I believe that Jesus died for my sins and raised from the dead to cleanse me of my sins and provide for me a way to be with you eternally. I accept Jesus as the Lord of my life, and ask you to forgive my sins. Please send your Holy Spirit to me to help me obey you from this day forward. I ask these things in Jesus' Name. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, please contact me. I'd like to send you information to help you in your new life and connect you with a community of other disciples near you!