Does hell exist?
Question: "Does hell exist?"
Answer: Yes, hell exists, according to the Bible. Note: in the remainder of this article, we will use the term hell to mean, broadly, “place of conscious torment after death.” We realize that hell is technically different from the lake of fire, but we will allow our other articles to describe the differences.
The Bible speaks of the reality of hell in the same terms as the reality of heaven (Revelation 20:14–15; 21:1–2). In fact, Jesus spent more time warning people about the dangers of hell than He did in comforting them with the hope of heaven. The concept of a real, conscious, forever-and-ever existence in hell is just as biblical as a real, conscious, forever-and-ever existence in heaven. Trying to separate them is simply not possible from a biblical standpoint.
Despite the Bible’s clear teaching of both heaven and hell, it is not unusual for people to believe in the reality of heaven while rejecting the reality of hell. In part, this is due to wishful thinking. It’s easier to accept the idea of a “nice” afterlife, but damnation isn’t quite so appealing. This is the same mistake human beings often make when it comes to substance abuse, dangerous behaviors, and so forth. The assumption that we will get what we want overrides the unpleasant (but rational) view that things might not end well.
Rejection of the existence of hell can also be blamed on inaccurate assumptions about what hell is. Hell is frequently imagined as a burning wasteland, a dungeon full of cauldrons and pitchforks, or an underground city filled with ghosts and goblins. Popular depictions of hell often involve a flaming torture chamber or a spiritual jail where evil things reside—and where good things travel to battle evil. This version of hell does not exist. There is a real place called hell, but it is not the Dante’s Inferno image most people think of. Certain details about hell are given in the Bible, but those details do not match the popular myths.
The Bible actually gives very few particulars about hell. We know that it was originally intended for demonic spiritual beings, not people (Matthew 25:41). The experience of being in hell is compared to burning (Mark 9:43; 9:48; Matthew 18:9; Luke 16:24). At the same time, hell is compared to darkness (Matthew 22:13) and associated with intense grief (Matthew 8:12) and horror (Mark 9:44).
In short, the Bible tells us only what being in hell is “like”; it does not explicitly say what hell is or how exactly it functions. What the Bible does make clear is that hell is real, eternal, and to be avoided at all costs (Matthew 5:29–30).
Recommended Resource: Four Views on Hell edited by John Walvoord
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Questions about Heaven, Hell, and Eternity
Does hell exist?