“How can hell be eternal when those in hell will be released and stand before God and be judged?”
First of all, their release may only be seconds, and that would not be a legitimate argument against an eternal hell. To go a step further, there are two hells, and only one hell is eternal. Only the future hell called “Gehenna” or “the lake of fire,” is eternal, and it is mentioned in Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8.
The word “Eternal” is only used in the verses that refer to the future hell. The word “Gehenna” (the future hell) is used 11 times by Jesus, and one time by James.
The current hell is called “hades.” Hades is the Greek word and “Sheol” is the Hebrew word. It is a temporal place of torment and fire and it will be delivered up and cast into the Lake of Fire at the Judgment Day mentioned in Revelation 20:12-15. Hades is where those who deny Jesus are being held currently.
Those in the current hell are then delivered up to the Great White Throne Judgment. At that time they will be judged and then assigned their portion in the lake of fire. Again, the period of time that they are released may only be seconds. When people’s lives flash before their eyes, when they are near death, it happens in seconds.
These next verses use the word “Eternal” or the phrase, “to be cast into unquenchable fire” or, “forever and ever,” only referring to the future hell.
- Matthew 18:8-9, to be cast into the everlasting fire…Into hell fire.” (The word used here for hell is “Gehenna,” which is the lake of fire).
- Matthew 25:41, Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
- Matthew 25:46, And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
- Mark 9:43-48, to be cast into hell (Gehenna) fire, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.
- Luke 3:17, He will gather the wheat into his garner, but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable
- Isaiah 33:12-14, The people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire…Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire. Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings.
- Revelation 20:10, The Devil was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone… tormented day and night, forever and ever.
- Revelation 14:10, Tormented with fire and brimstone…forever and ever, and they have no rest, day nor night.
- Isaiah 34:9-10, brimstone…and burning pitch…it shall not be quenched night nor day. The smoke shall go up forever.
- Isaiah 66:24, They shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring to all flesh. (Notice, their fire is personalized and it shall not be quenched.
These next verses refer to the current hell, or hades.
- Matthew 13:40-42, Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Notice there is no mention of hell being eternal. This is because it refers to the current hell, or hades. Also notice it says, “to the end of this age.” The age it is referring to is the time up until the Great White Throne Judgment. After that, it will be a different age, a new heaven, and a new earth. It will also be the time of the future hell (the lake of fire) which is the eternal location of hell.
To continue with scripture:
- Deuteronomy 32:22, For a fire is kindled in mine anger and shall burn unto the lowest hell. The word “hell” is the word “Sheol. (Again, no mention of it being eternal).
- Matthew 13:30, Gather ye first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them. (It only mentions burning).
- Luke 16:24, for I am tormented in this flame. (This is the rich man in hades, the current hell).
- Luke 3:9, Every tree therefore which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.
- John 15:6, cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
- Psalm 21:8-9, Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of his anger. The Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath. The fire shall devour them.
- Isaiah 66:15, For behold, the Lord will come with fire…to render his anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire.
The word “eternal” was not used in any of those verses as these verses refer to Sheol or Hades.
This next verse describes when the current hell is cast into the lake of fire, or Gehenna.
- Revelation 20:14, death and hades were cast into the lake of fire… This is at Judgment Day.
There is no discrepancy in the Bible. There is a temporary hell and there is a permanent hell.
You might look at it this way: If a person commits a crime, they are first placed in a local jail. They await a trial date and if found guilty, they are sentenced to a state prison. Hades is similar to the local jail where Gehenna, or the lake of fire, is like the state prison.
The Bible never contradicts itself. It is only in our ignorance that we falsely accuse the word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16 it states, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…”
There are no mistakes in God’s word.
© Copyright 2007-2021 Soul Choice Ministries – All Rights Reserved
By Bill Wiese, author of 23 Minutes in Hell