is hell forever?
Are the Wicked Annihilated or Tortured Forever?
Are the wicked destroyed, or do they burn in hell forever and ever? To answer that question properly we first have to know if we have immortal souls. If we do have immortal souls that never die, then there would have to be some type of eternal punishment for them. However, the idea that we have ‘immortal souls’ in not in the Scriptures. You won’t find the phrase ‘immortal soul’ in the Scriptures. What you will find is the destruction of the soul of the wicked, by God.
Proverbs 6:32, “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul.”
Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Acts 3:23, “And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.”
Ezekiel 18:4, “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.”
We do not have an immortal soul and we do not yet have an immortal body. At some point in history, the ‘righteous’ will receive ‘eternal life’, be we do not have it yet.
At the resurrection of the righteous our bodies are restored and receive eternal life, not an eternal soul. 1 Corinthians 15:53, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
But it is a different story for the devil and his angel, Revelation 20:10, “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The devil and his fallen angel will be tormented forever, because they now have eternal life, they were created as immortal beings. But we were not, we don’t yet have immortality. So without immortality, the wicked people can simply be annihilated, because they have no immortality, or immortal soul.
That's why is was so important to remove Adam and Eve from the Garden before they ate from the Tree of Life. If they ate from the Tree of Life they would have been immortal. If they didn't repent, at judgment time, they would have had eternal punishment, they could not simply be annihilated wicked mortal will be.
Many Christians today believe that the wicked have immortal souls, so they will burn eternally in hell as the wicked immortal angels do. And that would makes the prospect of someone going to hell, especially us, our friend, or our family an unmanageable prospect. And the prospects of someone burning in hell for all eternity would be so horrific that it has cause people to ‘hate’ God for being so cruel, and that would be cruel indeed. But unbelievers and the wicked do not live forever in eternal torment – for they have not received immortality which is given at the resurrection to the righteous only, the wicked will be annihilated after the judgment.
Fortunately for the wicked, and by the mercy of God, they will be annihilated, but before annihilation the wicked will be judged and spend some unknown amount of time suffering for the wrongs they did. (How long? Only the Judge knows that). We read in Luke 12:47-48, “ And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
Those who were unbelievers, and deceived, but not wicked, will also be annihilated, but perhaps fast and painlessly – few stripes. (But only the Judge knows that).
To teach that God would burn someone in hell for all eternity would be to say that God is cruel, inflicts unusual punishments, unjust and shows no mercy - which is nothing short of blaspheming God's character. God always taught Israel to not gloat at the suffering of their enemies but be merciful - because that's how God is.
The Bible teaches that only the righteous will receive eternal life - those not deemed by God as righteous, simply will not receive eternal life – so they are subject to eternal death. They will have an eternal punishment, eternal death, and that is they will no longer exist – gone forever – that is an eternal punishment…not eternal punishing. Here are 100 facts concerning the annihilation of the wicked, unrepentant and unbelievers. This is how the Scriptures describe their fate;
1. Ashes under soles of feet - Malachi 4:1-3
2. Be as though they had not been - Obadiah 1:16, Job 20:9, Psalm 37:1-34
3. Be no more - Psalm 104:35, Proverbs 10:25
4. Become as nothing - Isaiah 41:11, 12
5. Blossom goes up as dust - Isaiah 5:20-24
6. Blot out name forever - Psalm 9:5
7. Blot out of existence - Psalm 69:28, Deuteronomy 29:20
8. Break in pieces - Job 34:24, Psalm 2:9
9. Bring down to pit of destruction - Psalm 55:23
10. Burn like tow - Isaiah 1:31
11. Burn them up - Malachi 4:1
12. Burned up as cut thorns - Isaiah 33:12
13. Candle of wicked put out- Job 21:17
14. Cast down to destruction - Psalm 73:18
15. Cast down, unable to rise - Psalm 36:12
16. Cast off forever - 1 Chronicles 28:9
17. Chaff which wind drives away - Psalm 1:4
18. Chased out of world - Job 18:18
19. Consume - Psalm 59:13, Psalm 104:35, Isaiah 29:20
20. Consume away into smoke - Psalm 37:20
21. Consumed - Job 22:20
22. Consumed out of the earth - Psalm 104:35
23. Cut down like grass - Psalm 37:2
24. Cut off - Psalm 37:9, 22, 28, 34, Psalm 94:23, Proverbs 2:22, Nahum 1:15
25. Cut off remembrance from earth - Psalm 34:16
26. Dash in pieces - Psalm 2:9
27. Destroy - Psalm 145:20, Proverbs 13:13
28. Destroyed forever - Psalm 52:5, Psalm 92:7
29. Destroy utterly - Exodus 22:20, Psalm 21:10,
30. Devour - Psalm 50:3
31. Devour as stubble - Nahum 1:10
32. Die - Ezekiel 18:4, 20
33. Dissolved - Psalm 75:3
34. Driven away like chaff - Psalm 1:4
35. Eaten up like garment -Isaiah 51:8
36. The Soul is destroyed - Joshua 10:28
37. The soul can die - Joshua 11:11
38. God destroys the soul entirely -Job 27:8
39. The soul is not immortal - Psalm 22:20
40. The soul can be destroyed - Psalm 35:17
41. The soul is not separate from the body - Isaiah 29:8
42. The soul has no immortality in itself - Ezekiel 22:27
43. Fire shall devour them - Psalm 21:9
44. Lamp of wicked put out - Proverbs 24:20, Proverbs 13:9
45. Leave neither root nor branch - Malachi 4:1
46. Light of wicked be put out - Job 18:5
47. Melt away as waters - Psalm 58:7
48. Melt like wax - Psalm 68:2
49. Name put out forever - Psalm 9:5
50. Overthrown to oblivion - Proverbs 12:7
51. Shall Not be - Psalm 37:10
52. Overthrown - Proverbs 12:7
53. Perish - Psalm 37:20, Psalm 49:20, Isaiah 41:11, 12
54. Perish forever - Job 20:7
55. Pluck thee out, Psalm 52:5
56. Put away like dross, Psalm 119:119
57. Put out light, Job 18:5, 6
58. Put out name forever - Psalm 9:5
59. Put to death - Leviticus 27:29
60. Quenched as fire of thorns - Psalm 118:12
61. Quenched as tow - Isaiah 43:17
62. Rain of fire and brimstone - Psalm 11:6
63. Return to dust - Genesis 3:19, Psalm 104:29
64. Root out - Psalm 52:5, Proverbs 2:22
65. Roots dried up - Job 18:16
66. Scattered - Psalm 92:9
67. See him no more - Job 20:9
68. Shall not be - Psalm 37:10
69. Slay - Psalm 34:21 , Psalm 62:3, Psalm 139:19, Isaiah 11:4
70. Stubble that is taken away - Isaiah 40:24
71. Swallow them up - Psalm 21:9
72. Tear them in pieces - Psalm 50:22
73. Tread down - Psalm 60:12
74. Turned into hell - Psalm 9:17
75. Utterly consumed - Psalm 37:20
76. Whirlwind passes away - Proverbs 10:25
77. Wither as green herb - Psalm 37:2
78. Blot Out Of Existence - Hebrews 9:26, Revelation 3:5, Revelation 18:21
79. Bring To Naught - 1 Corinthians 1:19
80. Cast Away, Cast Off - Matthew 13:42, 48, 50, John 12:31
81. Consume, Devour Utterly - Matthew 3:12, Matthew 13:30, 40, 2 Thessalonians 2:8,
Hebrews 12:29, Revelation 18:8
82. Crush - Romans 16:20
83. Cut Off, Cut Down - Matthew 3:10, Matthew 7:19, Luke 13:7, 9, John 15:2, Acts 3:23
Romans 11:20, 22, 24
84. Death - Romans 6:21, 23, Romans 7:5, Revelation 21:8
85. Destroy - Matthew 10:28, Matthew 27:20, Romans 6:6, 1 Corinthians 2:6,
1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 15:24, 26, Galatians 5:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:3,
2 Thessalonians 1:9, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, 1 Timothy 6:9, 2 Timothy 1:10, Hebrews 2:14,
1 John 3:8
86. Devour - Hebrews 10:27, Revelation 11:5, Revelation 20:9
87. Die - John 5:24, John 6:50, John 8:24, Romans 7:6, 10, Romans 8:13,
1 Corinthians 15:22, 32, Ephesians 2:1, 5, Philippians 2:27, 1 Peter 2:24
88. Drown - 1 Timothy 1:19, 1 Timothy 6:9, 2 Peter 3:11, 12
89. Fall - Matthew 7:27, Luke 6:49, Revelation 18:21
90. Grind To Powder - Matthew 21:44, Luke 20:18
91. Kill Outright - Matthew 10:28, Matthew 21:41, Matthew 22:7, Mark 12:9, Luke 19:27,
John 10:10, Romans 7:11, Romans 8:13, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Revelation 2:23
92. Lose Life - Matthew 7:13, Mark 4:38, John 17:12, Acts 8:20, Romans 9:22, Philippians 3:19, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 1 Timothy 6:9, 2 Peter 2:1, 2, 2 Peter 3:7, 16, Revelation 17:8, 11
93. Never See Life - John 3:36, John 5:40, Acts 13:46, 1 John 3:15, 1 John 5:12,
94. Overthrow - Luke 1:52
95. Perish - Acts 13:41, 1 Corinthians 3:17, Galatians 6:8, 2 Peter 1:4, 2 Peter 2:12
96. Root Out - Jude 1:12
97. They face Ruin - Matthew 7:27, Luke 6:49, 2 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 13:10
98. Swallow Up - 1 Corinthians 15:54, 1 Peter 5:8
99. Thrown Down - Revelation 18:21
100. They Vanish Away - Hebrews 8:13
The word ‘soul’ is in the Bible over 300 times, and never does the phrase ‘immortal soul’ appear.
Paul wrote that God alone in immortal. 1Timothy 6:16, “who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
As we read earlier, the soul is not immortal, the soul can die. Matthew 10:28, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Ezekiel 18:4, “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die."
We do not have a “soul” that exists outside the body. That idea does not come from the Bible but from Plato, it's called Platonic Dualism. In about 330 BC, the Greeks conquered the Holy Land and forced their philosophies and culture upon the people. Plato’s thoughts were at the heart of Greek philosophy and many conquered peoples embraced it. And the Greek (Plato) idea of us possessing an immoral ‘soul’ was accepted by many Jews and then Christians and unfortunately it found its way into their religion, beliefs and doctrines.
We do not possess a soul that is conscience outside the body. When we die, our body simply rest in the dirt, in sleep, until the resurrection. When righteous are resurrected (the first resurrection), they, in their new bodies, receive eternal life. The unrighteous are raised for the judgment, but they never receive eternal life, so when they die the second time (the second death, Revelation 2:11), it is an eternal death.
A ‘soul’ is another word for a living body. Genesis 2:7, says “And Yehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” When there is a plane crash, or deadly fire, we read about the number of souls were lost. A ‘soul’ is a living being. A human body, plus breath of life, is a living soul. When a person stops breathing, their breath leaves them, they are no longer a living soul – but a dead body. At birth God gives each person breath, and death the breath is said to go back to God. But that breath is not a soul.
Yes, there is an unquenchable fire we read about in the Scriptures, a fire which will burn forever, but that fire is God’s glory, God refers to Himself as a ‘Consuming Fire’. His glory is as a burning fire, like the sun. That unquenchable fire is the fire that will consume the wicked, but it doesn't burn them for all eternity, it consumes them as happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. As we read in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24), and with the destruction of the wicked at the end of time, in Revelation 20:9, the fire that destroys them comes down from God, out of heaven. God Himself is that unquenchable fire, for He often refers to Himself as a 'Consuming Fire'.
BUT AREN’T WE SAVED BY GRACE?
Salvation is by Grace through faith, it’s always has been that way, it was stated that way in the Old Testament, long before Paul was born, written with the finger of God on stone.
God wrote, Exodus 20:5b-6, “For I, Yahoveh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands of generations, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
According to God, to not keep His commandments is to ‘hate’ Him, and to keep His commandments is to ‘love’ Him. To not keep God’s commandments, is to disobey Him, and that is dishonor Him and show Him a great disrespect. To keep God’s commandments is to show love, fear, respect and honor.
But in contrast to the worker of iniquity who are said to ‘hate God’ in verse 5, verse 6 speaks about those who ‘love God’ and keep His commandments. They will receive God’s mercy, or love, for thousands of generations.
‘Generation’ is a Biblical way of expressing time. Three to four generations would be finite period of time, perhaps between 60-160 years. ‘Thousands of generations’ literally means ‘forever’ or for 'all eternity'.
A more literal reading of Exodus 20:5b-6, “For I, Yahoveh your God, am a jealous God, punishing the iniquity, (or sins and lawlessness) of the fathers who hate me for an indefinite period of time, but I will show mercy and love (including saving grace) for all eternity, to those who love Me and keep My commandments (i.e., practice a true faith).”
Why do the workers of iniquity, the wicked, who will not keep God’s commandments, will get punished for an indefinite period of time, because the Bible says that unrepentant sinners, workers of iniquity, or presumptuous sinners will be annihilated after a period of punishment. (i.e., Beaten with many stripes). But that's in contrast to those who love God and keep God’s commandments, who will receive God’s saving grace, love and mercy at judgment time, forever.
That’s compatible with what Jesus said and recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Luke 12:47-48, “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Those who known the master will (God’s law), but didn’t keep His commandments (laws), because they presumed they didn’t need to keep God’s law(s) (the lawless), are presumptuous sinners, and they will receive many stripes before being annihilated. But those who didn’t know God’s law but did what they knew was wrong to do but did it anyway will be beaten with few stripes before being annihilated. The Scriptures tell us that we will be judged according to our works and get what we deserve. Hebrew 10:26-27, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” The fiery judgment of the wicked will devour them.
So according to Jesus, all sinners aren’t just cast into hell for all eternity, sinners are punished according to severity of their sins and rebellion. And that’s what you would expect from a perfectly just God.
And you may say, we are all sinners, and we deserve eternal death. And that may well be true, but God has given us a way to have the record of our sins blotted out, to be pardoned, to be forgiven, to be made white as snow……and that would be ‘repentance’.
To repent in the Scriptures is to turn away from sin, turn away from iniquity, turn away from transgressions, turn away from wickedness, and then ‘bear fruit worthy of repentance’. Jesus said he did not come to call the righteous to repentance, but the sinners. And he said unless a sinner repents, he will perish (not burn in hell forever). And repentance should be preached to all nations.
What is it to repent of sin, and what is the fruit of repentance? To repent literally means to ‘turn around and go the other way’. And sin is the transgression of God’s law. So to repent of breaking God’s law, or transgressing God’s law, has to mean to stop transgressing God’s law and start keeping God’s law. Repentance is literally enthroning God as your supreme authority and obeying Him above all other authorities. Keeping God’s law, and doing good, is then the results of your repentance, or the ‘fruit of repentance’.
God told us to keep His commandments, Jesus told us to keep the Old Testament ‘law and the prophets’, to not do as commanded by God or Jesus, since he spoke God’s word, is sin for which we would need to repent.
And if one doesn’t repent, they will receive ‘many stripes’. But if one does repent, and keeps God’s commandments, God will forget and forgive their sin(s), blot them out, and show the repentant sinner His love, mercy and saving grace.
To say that God would torture nice people who simply didn’t repent of sin, or rejected some of God’s laws, or were deceived, forever and ever in a hot flames, is wrong, and is maligning the character of God, I would call that blaspheme. It also turns people away from that ‘cruel’ God and His religion. It is illogical, unmerciful, and unjust – and that’s how a God that would do that sort of eternal torture is perceived.