‘Hell’ isn’t an imaginary concept, it’s a scary reality. Currently, 55.3 million people die every year and from Matthew 7:13-14 we know that the vast majority of these people are not resting in peace as some would like to believe.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14, NASB)

It might seem crazy, but the Bible clearly equates physical spaces with spiritual realms. In Ephesians 4:9 it says that Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth. We can be sure that he referred to the centre of the earth because of Matthew 12:40.

(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? (Ephesians 4:9, NASB)

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40, KJV)

‘Hell’ is an all-encompassing English term. It includes an eternal fire that was originally prepared for the devil and his angels.

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; (Matt. 25:41, NASB)

In the lower parts of the earth, we see that there are temporary places of punishment which will eventually empty into the eternal Lake of Fire (aka Gehenna). Hades (Hades/Sheol), Outer Darkness, Tartarus, and the Bottomless Pit (Abyss/Abussos) are these temporary holding places.

When people in the Old Testament died, they went to a place called Sheol which refers to the underworld. Sheol is translated from Hebrew into Greek as Hades. Sheol or Hades includes two compartments separated by a great gulf. On one side was Paradise or Abraham’s bosom which was the abode of Old Testament believers and saints, and on the other side is Hades (in a more specific sense) which sinners went to and still go to. This setting was described by Jesus in the real story of the rich man and Lazarus.

Jesus said many short stories known as parables to convey underlying spiritual meanings. However, the story of the rich man and Lazarus was a real description of the lower parts of the earth because it is never called a parable, it does not have an earthly connotation, and it involves real names, unlike Jesus’ parables.

Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us. (Luke 16:22-26, NASB)

When Jesus died he stayed in the lower parts of the earth until his resurrection preaching judgement to the spirits in prison, and when he ascended he led captivity captive as Ephesians 4:8 says.

Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Ephesians 4:8, KJV)

Outer Darkness is also a place within the lower parts of the earth, and it is generally reserved for those who had an understanding of God yet backslided. It is a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth as Matthew 8:12 mentions.

the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12, NASB) 

Tartarus, worded as hell, is only mentioned once in 2 Peter 2:4 and is the place of imprisonment for the angels who did not keep their first estate by perhaps producing offspring with human woman in Genesis 6:4 in light of Jude 6. Because Tartarus is described as a place of darkness, some have thought it to be within Outer Darkness. Interestingly, Hades and Tartarus are in Greek mythology, and Tartarus is considered the deep abyss under Hades. Given that 2 Peter 2:4 mentions ‘pits of darkness’ it is possible that Tartarus is synonymous with the Bottomless Pit (aka Abyss/Abussos). Personally, I believe Tartarus is a prison near or within the Bottomless Pit.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; (2 Peter 2:4, NASB)

And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, (Jude 6, NASB)

The Bottomless Pit or the Abyss/Abussos is another place within the lower parts of the earth which is strictly for the imprisonment of angels. Satan will be bound here for 1000 years during the Millenial Reign of Christ.

And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. (Revelation 20:2-3, NASB)

In Revelation 20:13-14, when it says the sea gave up the dead in it, I believe it is referring to the waters above the firmament or expanse giving up everything within it because everything in it are burnt up at the White Throne Judgement. Since the dead in the sea are distinguished from death and Hades, it probably refers to those in the first heaven who will not been resurrected up until this point. This becomes more clear because only death and Hades will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. Death and Hades being thrown into the Lake of Fire signifies physical death and the inhabitants of Hades (in the general sense) being thrown into the eternal Lake of Fire.

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:13-14, NASB)

In Revelation 19:20 we see that the Antichrist and the false prophet will directly go into the Lake of Fire prior to the Millennial Reign of Christ. And in Revelation 20:10 we see that after being released from the Bottomless Pit for a little season at the end of the Millennial Reign of Christ, Satan and all wicked spirits will join the Antichrist and the false prophet in the Lake of Fire.

And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. (Revelation 19:20, NASB)

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10, NASB)

In certain verses in English Bibles, the word ‘hell’ is translated from ‘Gehenna.’ ‘Gehenna’ comes from a Hebrew word which means ‘the Valley of Hinnom.’ This valley is linked to various sins throughout the Bible and was ultimately a place for filthy waste. Jesus used it as an illustrative warning about the unquenchable eternal Lake of Fire.

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28, NASB) 

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,  (Mark 9:43, NASB) 

If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, (Mark 9:45, NASB) 

If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, (Mark 9:47, NASB)

The Bible leaves no ambiguity that this fire is a place of conscious eternal punishment. Unfortunately, there are still Christians who don’t accept this. I’ll leave the following link which highlights a few passages demonstrating the conscious eternal punishment of people in the Lake of Fire (Link).

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. (Matthew 18:8, NASB)

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; (Matthew 25:41, NASB)

“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46, NASB)

The annihilistic view suggests that 'eternal punishment' involves perpetual death rather than perpetual suffering. I believe this view stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of God, the nature of sin, and the nature of man.

  1. God, the perfectly just being, punishes all crimes.
  2. Sin, against the infinite being, carries a penalty of infinite value.
  3. Man, a finite being, would have to suffer eternally to satisfy the penalty.

Eternal non-existence, or even a progressive shrinking of existence, is not suffering eternally. Conscious eternal torment is suffering eternally.

Jesus' death was once and for all because He is an infinite being who satisfied a penalty of infinite value.

Only God has immortality in one sense (1 Tim. 6:16). However, "life and immortality" is available to us through the Gospel (2 Tim. 1:10). Therefore, we are told to seek "immortality, eternal life" (Rom. 2:7). This had led some to believe in conditional immortality.

God removing Adam and Eve's access to the tree of life lest they live forever is often pointed to as proof that they were mortal (Gen 3:22). I don't agree, however, because in eternity the tree of life brings life and healing to the nations on a continual basis (Rev. 22:2).

There seems to be a distinction between "immortality, eternal life" and simple immortality. Eternal life, which Adam and Eve lost access to, is a quality of life and not a quantity of life. In Jesus' High Priestly Prayer, eternal life is defined as knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ who the Father has sent (Jn. 17:3).

I believe our souls/spirts are immortal (2 Cor. 4:16-18; 1 Pet. 3:4), while our bodies are mortal. Jesus affirmed the immortality of the soul and the mortality of the body when He said not to fear them which kill the body but cannot kill the soul (Matt. 10:28). Annihilists would point out that the same verse says God can destroy both soul and body in hell, but the destruction here does not necessarily have to be annihilation. When resurrected at His coming, the bodies of the righteous will put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:53-54). Presumably, the bodies of the unrighteous will be immortal when resurrected unto eternal contempt (Dan. 12:2; Jn. 5:28-29).

2 Cor. 4:16-18 contrasts the outer man and the inner man, and then proceeds to contrast the temporal and the eternal. 1 Pet. 3:4 talks about the hidden person of the heart with an imperishable spirit. In 1 Cor. 15:53, which addresses bodily resurrection, we see that 'imperishable' is used interchangeably with 'immortality.' Ergo, the inner man/hidden person of the heart with an imperishable spirit is eternal/imperishable/immortal.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NASB)

but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:4, NASB)

For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:53, NASB)

Destruction does not automatically mean annihilation. In Rev. 17:8,11 we see that the beast is destined for destruction. Yet, in Rev 20:10, we see that the beast will be tormented in the Lake of Fire day and night forever and ever. Rev. 20:14-15 makes it clear that the wicked take part in the second death which is the Lake of Fire. Just as the beast, and those who take the mark of the mark of the beast (Rev. 14:11), the smoke of the wicked's torment will go up forever and ever and they will receive no rest day or night. This 'forever and ever' is eternal, just as the one on the throne lives 'forever and ever' or eternally (Rev. 4:9), and just as God's servants will reign with Him 'forever and ever' or eternally (Rev 22:5).

The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. (Revelation 17:11, NASB)

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10, NASB)

The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). God told Adam he would die the day he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). Adam experienced spiritual death instantly but he didn't experience physical death until he was 930 years old (Gen. 5:5).

God does talk about destroying the mortal bodies of the wicked (Mal. 4:1-3), but the second death involves the immortal spirits/souls/bodies of the wicked. That is why the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever and why they do not have rest day or night (Rev. 14:11; Rev. 20:10,14-15). Like Adam's temporary spiritual death, the second death or permanent spiritual death will be a conscious condition.

Of the second death in Gehenna, it is said that their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched (Mk. 9:48). Some believe that the worm represents the individual's conscience because it is said to be 'their worm.' Annihilists would point out that Isaiah mentions worms not dying and the fire not being quenched within the context of dead bodies (Isa. 66:24). However, Isaiah simply typifies the final destruction of sinners whereas Jesus drives home the point that it's better to lose a hand (Mk. 9:43), lose a foot (Mk. 9:45), or lose an eye (Mk. 9:47) in this life than to be tormented in the afterlife.