Have you noticed that when the Bible mentions the current hell (aka hades) it never includes the words eternal or everlasting, or the phrases unquenchable fire or forever and ever with it?
In other words, forever is only associated with the future hell, also known as the lake of fire. Jesus used the word Gehenna eleven times in reference to the future hell. When a person dies apart from Christ, they immediately go to Hades, which is a place of fire and torment, but it is not the eternal hell. At the Great White Throne Judgment, they are delivered up before the throne of God, judged, and then cast into the lake of fire, which exists forever.
Here are some of the verses that associate everlasting with 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 refers to the lake of fire. Notice, everlasting is coupled with it.
- Mark 9:43-48 “to be cast into hell fire (Gehenna),where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”
The phrase, “the fire is not quenched” is another way of saying, everlasting fire, and it is said of Gehenna.
These next verses refer to the lake of fire, which is eternal.
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.
This is referring to the lake of fire. Since Jesus said, “everlasting fire prepared for the devil,” it ties it to this next verse where the devil will be:
- Revelation 20:10, The Devil was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone tormented day and night, forever and ever.
We see that the devil is in everlasting fire, which is the lake of fire.
- Revelation 14:10, And they shall be tormented with fire and brimstone…forever and ever, and they have no rest, day nor night.
Fire and brimstone are associated with the lake of fire, the eternal fire.
As this next verse ties it to this.
- Revelation 21:8, But the fearful, the unbelieving…will have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
Notice it says, the second death. This takes place at the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:14), so it refers to the future hell. The lake of fire being the future hell.
- Isaiah 34:9-10, Brimstone…and burning pitch…it shall not be quenched night nor day. The smoke shall go up forever.
Again, the association of brimstone not being quenched forever.
- Matthew 25:46, And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Commentaries point out that this verse will take place at the Great White Throne Judgment, when people will be cast into the lake of fire. So again, the word everlasting associated with the lake of fire.
Now keep in mind, both the lake of fire and hades contain literal burning fire. Again, Hades is not forever because it will be delivered up and cast into the lake of fire at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
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. And he 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 because it states, “at the end of this age.” The age it is referring to is the time up until the end of the tribulation, according to the commentaries. After that, it will be the beginning of the one-thousand year period, a new age. So the current hell is still in play.
- 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. Sheol is the Hebrew word for the current hell. Hades is the Greek word. Again, there is no mention of this verse being eternal.
- Matthew 13:30, Gather ye first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them.
This is referring to the end of the tribulation period, where hades is still the destination.
- Luke 16:24, For I am tormented in this flame.
This is the rich man in hades, the current hell. No mention of the fire being eternal.
- Luke 3:9, Every tree therefore which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. This refers to the current hell or hades.
- Psalms 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.
This is referring to the end of the tribulation period.
There is a temporary hell, called hades, and the permanent hell, called Gehenna (the lake of fire). Hades is not purgatory, as there is no such place in the Bible. Hades holds all those who reject Jesus until the Great White Throne Judgment. Then according to Revelation 20:15 and Matthew 25:30, they are cast into the lake of fire, and into outer darkness. Hopefully, hearing these descriptions of hell will be the closest you ever come to this place of torment.
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By Bill Wiese, author of 23 Minutes in Hell