Things You Probably Did Not Know About Hell


PLEASE NOTE : When we speak of Hell, we are referring to the "Hell" that most Christians believe in -- a place of eternal conscious torment.

Before you begin

Please note that when we speak of Hell on this page, we are referring to the "Hell" that most Christians believe in -- a place of eternal conscious torment.

Hell is NOT easy to understand

Hell is NOT easy to understand ... for a number of reasons.

One of those reasons is that there is NOT one homogenous view of Hell.  By this I mean that Hell means different things to different people.  I think most persons have what is sometimes referred to as the infernalist view.  Some hold to the annihilationist view.  Others subscribe to what could be called the universalist view.  Those three views can be explained, briefly, as follows ...

  • the infernalist view ... Hell is a place of eternal conscious torment.
  • the annihilationist view ... Hell is a place where the wicked are wiped out completely and it becomes as if they never existed at all.
  • the universalist view ... Hell is a place of punishment, but ... that punishment is for correction, not eternal destruction (as in the other two views).

Another reason Hell is difficult to understand is that there seems to be Biblical support for each of the three views mentioned above.

A third reason Hell is difficult to understand is that there are inherent contradictions.  For example, it's believed to be hot because of fires and yet it's supposed to be a place of outer darkness.   It's also supposed to be a place where people go to be separate from God and yet the Bible makes it clear that God is omnipresent, which means there is no place that He is not present in.

A fourth reason, and, for me, the most important, has to do with the image of God that Hell presents.  Hell, as some Christians describe it, is NOT consistent with a God of justice or mercy or love.   Hell, as some Christians describe it, presents a God who, I could say, is very unloving, though some might say is incredibly wicked.  How else would you describe a God who would unilaterally decide to create someone whom He knew would be destined for Hell, someone who had not asked to be created, someone who could not come to Jesus unless He drew him to Jesus ... someone whom God knew would commit a number of sins (albeit a finite number) and then assign that person to unbearable suffering for an eternity.

What kind of God would do something like that?

Would a God, who is love, be capable of such action?  I doubt it.

Ultimately, it seems, the view that a person subscribes to is based, primarily, on that person's theology -- that person's view of God and the nature of God.






Hell is NOT what most people believe

Hell is NOT like most people believe it to be because the view(s) that most persons hold is based more on pagan philosophy and tradition than on Holy Scripture ... and those philosophical views and traditions have caused translators to (wittingly or unwittingly) mistranslate, and thereby misrepresent, the Hebrew and Greek words that they have translated as "hell" in their various works.

Most persons, when they hear the word "Hell", tend to think of a place where people are writhing in pain, burning in fire without being burned up ... and without any hope of ever being burned up completely.  However, the Hebrew and Greek words that have been translated as "Hell" in the English Bible have no such meaning.  Indeed, none of the words imply or denote suffering that is eternal.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated as "hell" is 'sheol" and it means, essentially, "place of the dead".  It refers to a place where people go after they die (whether they were good or bad in their lives on earth).

In the New Testament, there are three Greek words that are translated as "hell" -- "hades", "Gehenna" and "tartaros".  The main meaning of each is as follows:

  • the word "tartaros" (or tartarus) is used only once in the NT, where it refers to a place of constraint for fallen angels (see 2 Peter 2:4) who are reserved for judgement.
  • the word "hades" can be considered as the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word "sheol" and it carried the meaning of a resting place for the dead (as in a grave).  It has also been translated as "pit" in some modern translations.
  • the word 'gehenna" is the word most frequently translated as "hell" in the New Testament and it referred to a place that actually existed just south of Jerusalem.  In one sense, the word "gehenna" can be considered as a contraction of "ge hinnom", which meant "valley of Hinnom".





Hell will NOT be populated forever

Are there people in Hell right now?    Are they conscious?

Will they be there forever?   Some verses indicate they will not be.

  • 2 Peter 2:4  For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
  • Jude 1: 6  And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
  • Revelation 20:13  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.



  1. Assuming the angels come out of Hell to face their judgement, where do they go afterwards (after receiving the judgement?
  2. What will happen to the "dead" who were in "death" and in "hell" AFTER death and Hell have given them up?
  3. What does it mean for Hell to give up the dead ... and what does it mean for "death" to give up the dead in it?

All of the above are very interesting questions, but the answers are outside the scope of this study.   The purpose of this study is just to show that Hell will not be populated forever.



Hell is NOT the Lake of Fire

Most people, on hearing the word "Hell", think about a place where there is a lot of fire (possibly due to the influence of Dante's Inferno on Western Christian thought).

As a result, many people (including many Christians) tend to associate Hell with the Lake of Fire.  Some may even think they are the same.  The Bible, however, makes it clear that Hell is NOT the Lake of Fire.  Note what John wrote in the book of Revelation ...

  • Revelation 20:14   And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Note ... Hell was "cast into the lake of fire" ... So Hell must be different from the Lake of Fire.

The Bible is clear ... Hell is NOT the Lake of Fire.

Hell is NOT eternal

Hell is NOT eternal is the sense that it will not last forever.

One passage that many Christians will turn to, in the attempt to prove that Hell is eternal is in Matthew's gospel ...

    • Matthew 25:46  “Then [the unrighteous] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life”

Note, however, what John wrote in the book of Revelation ...

  • Revelation 20:14  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  

Many people understand the second death to be a permanent death -- a death from which there will be no resurrection, a death which implies the cessation of existence.

If that is true, then Revelation 20:14 is a clear statement that Hell will cease to exist (be destroyed or die the second death) at some point.

Hell is NOT something Jesus Christ spoke about

Jesus would not have spoken about Hell ... because Hell is NOT an Hebrew or Aramaic (or Greek) word.

Note what the Britannica says, in part, about Hell ...

    • The Old English hel belongs to a family of Germanic words meaning “to cover” or “to conceal.”  Hel is also the name, in Old Norse, of the Scandinavian queen of the underworld.  Many English translations of the Bible use hell as an English equivalent of the Hebrew terms Sheʾōl (or Sheol) and Gehinnom, or Gehenna (Hebrew: gê-hinnōm).
    • The term Hell is also used for the Greek Hades and Tartarus, which have markedly different connotations. As this confusion of terms suggests, the idea of hell has a complex history, reflecting changing attitudes toward death and judgment, sin and salvation, and crime and punishment.
Hell is NOT Scriptural
Hell is NOT a literal place

Hell cannot be a place ... IF God is not in Hell. 

    • 2 Thessalonians 1:9

God, by definition, is omnipresent (all-present; present everywhere)

    • Jeremiah 23:24
    • Proverbs 15:3
    • Colossians 1:17
    • Psalm 139:7-10

... so there cannot be a "place" where He is not.


Hell cannot be literal ... IF it is brightly lit and dark at the same time.


Is Hell dark or bright (brightly lit)???

Some passages indicate Hell is a place of darkness

    • Matthew 8:12   But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
    • Matthew 22:13  Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Some passages indicate Hell is a place of fire ...

    • Matthew 25:41  Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
    • Mark 9:44,46,48    44 where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched ... 46 where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched ...  48 where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
    • Revelation 14:11   and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Some try to explain the obvious contradiction by saying that there are different compartments in Hell and some are dark, but some are bright.  If that's true, however, how should we understand what we read in the story of The Rich Man and Lazarus.

    • Luke 16:23,24  ... and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 

Hell cannot (should not) be taken as literal IF it is both bright (because of flames) and dark at the same time.

And Hell cannot be a place IF God is not there (which would be the case IF people are sent there in order to be eternally separated from God) ... because God is everywhere.

    • Psalm 139:7-8  Whither shall I go from thy spirit?  or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.



Hell is NOT on (or in) Earth
Hell is NOT what Christ saved us from
Hell is NOT Christian ... It is really pagan


  • Mesopotamian civilizations from the 3rd to the 1st millennium BCE produced a rich literature dealing with death and hell, much of it designed to impress upon the hearer the vast gulf separating the living from the dead and the fragility of the cosmic order on which vitality and fertility depend.   In Mesopotamian traditions, hell is described as a distant land of no return, a house of dust where the dead dwell without distinction of rank or merit, and a sealed fortress, typically of seven gates, barred against invasion or escape.
  • In a cycle of Sumerian and Akkadian poems, the god-king Gilgamesh, despairing over the death of his companion Enkidu, travels to the world’s end, crosses the ocean of death, and endures great trials only to learn that mortality is an incurable condition. Hell, according to the Gilgamesh epic, is a house of darkness where the dead “drink dirt and eat stone.”
  • In Archaic Greece (c. 650–480 BCE), Hades is an underworld god, a chthonic personification of death whose realm, divided from the land of the living by a terrible river, resembles the Mesopotamian land of the dead. The house of Hades is a labyrinth of dark, cold, and joyless halls, surrounded by locked gates and guarded by the hellhound Cerberus.
  • In the late Archaic period, however, Greek traditions began to envision a greater divergence of paths in the afterlife. The mysteries of Demeter at Eleusis, among other esoteric cults, claimed that adherents would enjoy a heavenly immortality, while those outside the cult would sink into the gloom of Hades. The cult of Dionysus represented Hades as a place of torment from which only initiates could escape; there, according to some ancient traditions, Persephone punished humankind for the death of her son, Dionysus.
  • Throughout the Classical (c. 500–323 BCE) and Hellenistic (323–30 BCE) periods and during the long span of the Roman Empire, Mediterranean societies played host to a profusion of eschatological teachings in which the underworld was increasingly “infernalized,” its hellish dimensions explored, and its moral implications exploited.
  • While Odysseus travels no farther than the entrance to the underworld, Virgil, the Roman author of the Aeneid, sends Aeneas through Sibyl’s cave by the shores of the foul-smelling Lake of Averno, across the River Styx on Charon’s ferry, past the three-headed dog Cerberus, and from there down the labyrinthine path as it forks right to the torture fields of Tartarus and left to the Elysian fields of the blessed. Virgil’s hell includes special compartments for infants and suicides and specific punishments for specific crimes, but the ordinary dead, who merit neither a hero’s reward nor a scoundrel’s punishment, remain unaccounted for. Further attention to the structure of hell came during the first centuries of the Common Era, as a rising tide of eschatological thinking, fed by currents of thought from western Asia, swept through the Roman world.
  • Ambiguities in the New Testament passages on hell, however, have led to significant disagreement among Christians. Are sinners and fallen angels tortured forever or only for a fixed term? Are the pains of hell reserved for the Last Judgment, or do they supervene immediately upon dying? To what extent has Satan been left in charge of his kingdom and free to work his woe? Theological reflection on hell is intimately connected to conceptions of the nature and moral psychology of human beings, in particular their status as free beings created in the image and likeness of God, the extent of their corruption by the Fall (the fall of humanity from innocence to sinfulness as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve), the particular weight attached to specific sins and evil dispositions, and the efficacy of the various means of reconciliation to God.

    The physical location of hell is similarly ambiguous. Some ancient and medieval Christian texts describe places of postmortem torment and demonic mischief in the upper atmosphere, while others locate hell in the centre of the earth, finding entrances in caves, moors, bogs, and volcanic fissures. Such entrances to hell appear frequently in folk traditions, along with lore about the fairy underworlds in which the unwary may be trapped. Virgil’s Lake of Averno and the infernal rivers Styx, Acheron, Cocytus, Lethe, and Phlegethon, among other Classical features, recur in Christian literary treatments. Drawing on diverse biblical, Classical, and folkloric sources, a great variety of cautionary tracts and tales, often cast in the form of firsthand visions, further developed the imagery of hell, mapping its flaming lakes, perilous bridges, demon-infested pits, and stinking cesspools and enlarging its catalogue of torments while at the same time providing milder sufferings for penitents. In the 2nd-century Apocalypse of Peter, for example, blasphemers hang by their tongues over a lake of flaming mire, murderers are tortured in the sight of their victims, and slanderers have their eyes burned out by hot irons. Hope remains, however, that some sinners can be saved through the prayers of the righteous. Anticipating the doctrine of purgatory, the postbiblical apocalypses suggest that penitents may be purified by the same fires of hell in which the reprobate sink to their doom.

  • In his Dialogues, Pope Gregory I (590–604), writing in a time of pestilence and invasions, included return-from-the-dead accounts from a hermit, a merchant, and a soldier who witnessed the terrors of hell and the joys of the blessed before being sent back to warn the living of what lies in store. Tales of this kind proliferated throughout the Middle Ages, receiving consummate literary expression in Dante’s The Divine Comedy and providing matter for allegories such as Guillaume de Deguileville’s The Pilgrimage of the Soul (1358) and John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). Dante’s hell, with its nine levels leading to Satan frozen in a lake of ice, is a parodistic inversion of the sublime order of heaven; even here, justice prevails in the precise conformity of punishment to crime.


Hell is NOT Godly (pro-God; of God)


According to Wikipedia ...

There are several major issues within the problem of Hell.

The first is the definition of Hell. There are several words in the original languages of the Bible that are translated into the word Hell in English.

A second issue is whether or not the existence of Hell is compatible with the existence of a just God.

A third is whether or not Hell is compatible with God's mercy, especially as articulated in Christianity.

An issue particular to Christianity is whether or not Hell is actually populated forever. If it is not, one must suppose that those populating Hell may eventually die, or that God will ultimately restore all immortal souls in the World to Come.  This is known as the universal reconciliation doctrine.

In some respects, the problem of Hell is similar to the problem of evil, assuming the suffering of Hell is caused by free will and something God could have prevented.  The discussion regarding the problem of evil may thus also be of interest to the problem of Hell.  The problem of Hell could be viewed as the worst and most intractable instance of the problem of evil.[2]

Criticisms of the doctrines of Hell can focus on the intensity or eternity of its torments, and arguments surrounding all these issues can invoke appeals to the omnipotenceomniscience, and omnibenevolence of God.

If one believes in the idea of eternal Hell, unending suffering, or the idea that some souls will perish (whether destroyed by God or otherwise), author Thomas Talbott says that one has to either let go of the idea that God wishes to save all beings, or accept the idea that God wants to save all, but will not "successfully accomplish his will and satisfy his own desire in this matter."[3]


In Christianity, Hell has traditionally been regarded as a place of punishment for wrongdoing or sin in the mortal life, as a manifestation of divine justice. Nonetheless, the extreme severity and/or infinite duration of the punishment might be seen as incompatible with justice. However, Hell is not seen as strictly a matter of retributive justice even by the more traditionalist churches. For example, the Eastern Orthodox see it as a condition brought about by, and the natural consequence of, free rejection of God's love.[7]

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Hell is a place of punishment[8] brought about by a person's self-exclusion from communion with God.[9] The Catholic Church believes that hell is the free and continual rejection of God's forgiveness of sins.[10] Doctrine states that this rejection takes the form of a committing of a sin without repentance.[11] Notably, however, those who die only in original sin are not predestined to hell[12] since God is not bound by baptism.[13] Catholic teaching explains Hell's eternality by claiming that the sinner, once in hell, will inevitably refuse to turn away from his mortal sin to God's forgiveness.[14] Accordingly, Hell must endure as chief punishment for this continuing lack of repentance.[15]

In some ancient Eastern Christian traditions,[which?] Hell and Heaven are distinguished not spatially, but by the relation of a person to God's love.

I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna, are scourged by the scourge of love. Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love?...It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of torments sinners...Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret.

— St. Isaac of Syria, Ascetical Homilies 28, Page 141[7][16]

In terms of the Bible itself, issues of salvation and access to heaven or to hell are mentioned frequently.[opinion] [discuss] Examples include John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." which tends to show the wicked perish and the saints have everlasting life or John 3:36 (NIV), "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them",[17] and 2 Thessalonians 1:8–9 (NIV), "Those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, they will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might."[18]

The minority Christian doctrine that sinners perish and are destroyed rather than punished eternally such as is found in John 3:16 "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.", is referred to as Christian mortalismannihilation for those not awarded immortal lifeconditional immortality for those who are.[19] This Christian view is found in very early Christianity, resurfaced in the Reformation, and since 1800 has found increasing support among Protestant theologians.[20]


Some opponents of the traditional doctrine of Hell claim that the punishment is disproportionate to any crimes that could be committed. Because human beings have a finite lifespan, they can commit only a finite number of sins, yet Hell is an infinite punishment. In this vein, Jorge Luis Borges suggests in his essay La duración del Infierno[21] that no transgression can warrant an infinite punishment on the grounds that there is no such thing as an "infinite transgression". Philosopher Immanuel Kant argued in 1793 in Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason that since morality lies ultimately in a person's disposition, and as disposition is concerned with the adoption of universal principles, or as he called them: "maxims", every human being is guilty of, in one sense, an infinite amount of violations of the law, and so consequently an infinite punishment is not unjustified.[22]

Divine mercy[edit]

Another issue is the problem of harmonizing the existence of Hell with God's infinite mercy or omnibenevolence which is found in scripture.

Some modern critics of the doctrine of Hell (such as Marilyn McCord Adams) claim that, even if Hell is seen as a choice rather than as punishment, it would be unreasonable for God to give such flawed and ignorant creatures as ourselves the responsibility of our eternal destinies.[23] Jonathan Kvanvig, in The Problem of Hell (1993), agrees that God would not allow one to be eternally damned by a decision made under the wrong circumstances.[24] One should not always honor the choices of human beings, even when they are full adults, if, for instance, the choice is made while depressed or careless. On Kvanvig's view, God will abandon no person until they have made a settled, final decision, under favorable circumstances, to reject God, but God will respect a choice made under the right circumstances. Once a person finally and competently chooses to reject God, out of respect for the person's autonomy, God allows them to be annihilated.


Hell does NOT exist
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