Is there an Eternal Burning Hell?
Recap: In the last study we determined from the scriptures that there is no consciousness in death… and after the Second Death there is no more Death.
Now let’s move to the book of Revelation and the ultimate fate of death-
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:14-15)
1 Cor 15:26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Note that death and hell (the grave) are cast into the lake of fire and destroyed. They will no longer be. Death and the grave will be ended, never again to plague mankind. If all believers receive the gift of eternal life, and they lead a life without sin, then there can be no death or grave. They both cease. This second death of the lake of fire is what faith in Jesus will keep you from-
Rev 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Rev 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
The second death is permanent destruction. For the wicked it will mean eternal obliteration. It is the total destruction of the second death that Jesus gained victory over for us, if we have faith. Just as Matthew 16:18 states, the gates of hell (the grave/death) shall not prevail, not even the second death.
Satan’s Final Fate
So what is Satan’s fate if there will not be anywhere for him to rule over sinners?
Rev 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Satan will also be cast into the lake of fire (the second death), where he will perish, along with the beast, false prophet, death and the grave. Oh, but I hear you say, this verse says there will be torment forever. The Greek word translated as forever is aion (G165), which does not always mean forever as we understand it. From this Greek word aion we derive the word eon. An eon is an unspecified, indefinite period of time, but it does have an end. Geologists use the word to describe very long periods of geologic time or ages, but one eon does end and another begin.
From Strong’s (emphasis is mine):
165. aion, ahee-ohn’; from the same as G104; prop. an age; by extens. perpetuity (also past); by impl. the world; spec. (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future):–age, course, eternal, (for) ever (-more), [n-]ever, (beginning of the, while the) world (began, without end). Comp. G5550.
So Rev 20:10 can be saying that the torment will be for an eon, an unspecified but finite period of time, but that it will end. The lake of fire is where the concept of an eternal burning hell comes from. Yet the lake of fire is described as the second death as we saw in Rev 20:14. It is a death from which no one will ever be resurrected. It is obliteration for eternity.
Deu 15:17 Then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.
The above verse also speaks of forever in a finite sense. The word is Strong’s 5769. ‘owlam:
5769. ‘owlam, o-lawm’; or ‘olam, o-lawm’; from H5956; prop. concealed, i.e. the vanishing point; gen. time out of mind (past or fut.), i.e. (practically) eternity; freq. adv. (espec. with prep. pref.) always:–always (-s), ancient (time), any more, continuance, eternal, (for, [n-]) ever (-lasting, -more, of old), lasting, long (time), (of) old (time), perpetual, at any time, (beginning of the) world (+ without end). Comp. H5331, H5703.
Clearly, however, the servant ceased to be a servant upon his death. Forever, in this case lasted until the servant’s death. In fact, the NIV reads this way:
Deu 15:17 then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your maidservant.
Using the same manner of thinking, this is how Rev. 20:10 would be understood:
Rev 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for as long as they shall live.
Mat 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:
Jude 1:7 “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
Note carefully the last verse. Sodom and Gomorrha surely did burn, but are they burning now? Of course not. So just what is meant by an eternal or everlasting fire? Let me use a match as an illustration. If you light a match and let it burn to ashes, the match cannot be reconstituted into a match, it has been eternally burned and destroyed. The match burned until there was nothing left to burn, then the fire went out. This is what happened in Sodom and Gomorrha. They burned until there was nothing left to burn, and then the fire went out. The results of the fire are complete destruction, but the fire itself does not burn eternally.
2 Pet 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
2 Pet 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Here in 2nd Peter, Sodom and Gomorrha are explicitly held up as examples of the fate of the wicked, which will similarly be reduced to ashes in the lake of fire (hell fire) of Revelation 19 and 20. It will burn and destroy Satan and his angels as well as all sinners, but then it will go out. The results of that fire are everlasting, but the fire will indeed go out, just exactly as it did with Sodom and Gomorrha. Then there will be a new heaven and a new earth:
Rev 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
Rev 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Rev 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
The “former things” are sin, death, Satan and all the rest of the wicked. They will pass away in the lake of fire, be reduced to ashes and be no more.
The Unquenchable Fire – Does It Burn Forever?
Isa 66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases 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 unto all flesh.
Mat 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
Mat 3:12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Mark 9:43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
Mark 9:44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
Mark 9:45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
Mark 9:46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
Mark 9:47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
Mark 9:48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
Jer 17:27 But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.
The key to understanding the phrase unquenchable fire is in the last quote, Jer 17:27. Israel did not heed the warning and as a result Jerusalem and the Temple of God were burned to the ground by Nebuchadnezzar (See II Kings 25:8,9). Is Jerusalem burning today? Obviously not. An unquenchable fire clearly does not burn forever. So what does the phrase mean? A fire that cannot be quenched burns until its divine purpose has been accomplished and then it goes out. Man cannot extinguish or quench the fire, but it does indeed go out when there is nothing left to burn.
Mat 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
The destruction of the wicked in the lake of fire is permanent. It is a punishment that cannot be reversed. The act of punishing will come to an end, but the consequences will last for eternity.
2 Th 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Th 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
By now the pattern should be clear. Does this passage speak of the fiery act of destruction of the wicked as continuing forever? No, as we have seen in the preceding passages the fire will indeed go out, but the destruction caused by the fire is everlasting. The actual act of destruction is relatively brief, but the destruction caused by the lake of fire will be permanent. So once the lake of fire has done its destruction, the process is over, forever. That is what is meant by everlasting destruction.
Mat 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him (God) which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
What could be more clear? God will destroy the soul (life) and body of the wicked in hell (the second death or lake of fire). It will be complete destruction of the wicked.
Psa 37:10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
Psa 37:20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.
Psa 37:38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.
Psa 92:7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:
Psa 104:35 Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.
Mal 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
Mal 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
Mal 4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
Isa 47:14 Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.
So clearly, when the all the above passages are considered in total, the fate of Satan as well as the wicked is destruction, complete and eternal destruction, not an eternal life of torture and torment. The lake of fire (hell fire) will be an unquenchable fire. It is complete destruction, but not eternal fire. It will burn until its divine purpose of destroying the chaff (the wicked) has been accomplished, and then it will go out, and there will not be so much as a warm coal remaining.
Now before you come to the conclusion that I don’t believe in Hell, let me say that I most certainly do, but it is clear that Hell’s fire is a lot hotter than most Christians believe. Scripture makes it clear that Hell’s fire is so hot that Satan and all the wicked will completely burn to ashes like stubble. They will be cut off and cease to exist! There will be punishing torment in the lake of fire, but that torment will come to an end, and the fire will go out when the wicked are destroyed by the second death.
* The KJV and the NKJV are the only two translations in the list above to use “hell” in the Old Testament. Even the NKJV, which was only supposed to modernize the English words of the traditional “Authorized Version,” took many “hell” references out. The use of the word “hell” is decreasing. The NKJV, RSV, ASV, NRSV, and NASB are all technically revisions of the original KJV. From 54 times to 32 and then to 12 or 13 times–who knows–maybe the next revision will bring it in line with the many Bibles which have eliminated the pagan word Hell all together.