Fire as understood by physical humans consumes and destroys the fuel that it ignites and then goes out. The unredeemed soul is what many religions teach will be tormented eternally in fire of hell. Given the concept of fire in physical world it seems that the fire that does not consume must be taken as not literal by our physical ability to comprehend but must mean something else and the scary pictures of Dantes inferno are artist conceptions based on physical understanding.

I would like an overview of various hellfire beliefs as to what kind of fire torments the spirits that are said to be tormented in hell.

  • 2
    Depends on who you ask. Ask for an overview of the various opinions or for a specific opinion.
    – user3961
    Nov 28, 2015 at 18:20

1 Answer 1


There are many perspectives in relation to Hell, but all of them relate to the fundamental question: What do you do with those who won't follow the rules?

A. My View

Revelation 22:12-17 (KJV)

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

The picture being depicted here is: God/Jesus calling all who are thirsty for the water of life to step through the open gates of the city in order to satisfy it. Outside the gates are "dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie." Revelation 21:8 adds "the fearful and unbelieving" to the list of those who are outside the gates. Those outside the gates are not drawn to the water of life because the thirst they have cannot be satisfied by it.

There have been, is, and always will be only two realms of existence. The first: inside the gates; and the second: outside the gates. Where are "the dogs, and sorcerers, ..., and the fearful and unbelieving" at this present time? They're right here, in the realm of existence where we currently dwell - outside the gates.

God has not created a third realm, tailored exclusively for the purpose of tormenting those souls who have no desire to dwell with God and be governed by Jesus, according to God's principles of life (the Law). No. This realm, the one we know so very well, is Hell. The evidence for that notion is overwhelming.

However, those who wish to be rescued from Hell, need only step through the gates into the other realm - the one where God dwells and the citizens are governed by Jesus according to God's principles of life (the Law). I make no apology for the repetition of that statement, because the simplicity of the Gospel cannot be over-emphasised.

This realm, the one in which we currently dwell, has yet to descend into the ultimate condition depicted in Revelation: fire burning with brimstone, where the smoke of torment ascendeth up forever and ever and there is no rest day or night, and their worm dieth not forever and ever. However, we are witnesses to the beginning of such woes every night we watch the news on TV.

Seven times, the Gospel of Matthew records Jesus as using the word Gehenna (Strong's G1067), which the KJV renders as Hell. It is a reference to the valley of the son of Hinnom that lay outside the city of Jerusalem, and to which access was afforded through the Dung Gate. It was a refuse site, and a place of perpetual burning, a completely apt depiction of the "hell fire" of a future existence outside the gates.

Destruction is the pursuit of human activity in the absence of God's input, and His input into this realm will last only as long as the fruit of its purpose can be harvested. When the last soul who wants to step through the open gates into the city, does so, God will close the gates, step away from this realm and leave it to those who won't let it go. It will then descend into the abyss that we see depicted in Revelation, because there will be no one left to stand in the breach to prevent it.

Why would anyone not want to let go of this realm?

  • The desire for power and authority. In the other realm, the citizens willingly submit to Jesus' authority, so no one who wants to rule in his own right will come within cooee1 of the gates.

  • Those who want to indulge their inclinations towards the flesh, sorcery, whoremongery, murder, idolatry, and deception will not come within cooee1 of the gates.

  • Those "good souls" who are not included in 1 or 2, but who fear what eternal existence would be like under Jesus' governance according to God's principles of life, will not come within cooee1 of the gates.

  • Those "good souls" who are not included in 1, 2, or 3, but who prefer to accommodate the evils of the realm in which they exist in preference to some airy-fairy, idyllic notion, will not come within cooee1 of the gates.

There are other views, of course:

B. The Traditionalist View

"Hell" is a realm distinct from heaven and earth that was/is/will be purpose-built by God for the eternal torment of those who won't play the game by His rules.

C. The Annihilationist View

There is no realm called "Hell", purpose-built or otherwise, and those who won't play the game by God's rules will simply cease to exist.

D. The Universalist View

There is either no realm called "Hell", purpose-built or otherwise, because every soul will eventually resign themselves to playing the game by God's rules; OR there is a purpose-built realm called "Hell" that will be deployed as an intermediate measure to facilitate the resignation of those who won't play the game by God's rules.


Let me use a timely child's Christmas song to summarise the simplicy of the Gospel and the existence of Hell:

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay,
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray!
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care
And fit us for heaven, to Live with Thee there.

Suffering the fires of Hell is a matter of personal preference, as detailed in option A above under the heading, "Why would anyone not want to let go of this realm?"

We, in this realm, are already in Hell and have first hand knowledge and experience of what life in Hell entails, so no one will be taken by surprise when the gates to the city are closed. Each person stands outside the gates of the city until such time as either he/she expresses a desire to be "fitted for it", at which point the fitting process begins; or the gates of the city are closed (Luke 13:23-30).

When the last person who wants to be fitted for life within the gates of the city, is fitted, then the purpose for this realm will have been accomplished, and God will then step away from it, giving it as a possession to those who don't want to let it go. At that time, this realm will no longer have the input required to moderate the inclination of it citizens who will then, themselves, reduce it to the state of the "hell fire" existence depicted in the text of scripture.

1. Not within cooee is an Australian expression that means "not within the distance a loud resonant call would travel."

  • Thanks for working to make your answer better. I hope to see you post again soon.
    – user3961
    Dec 12, 2015 at 5:53
  • +1 You have made this a good answer by describing the most common viewpoints. Your own view remains the most interesting part of it. Can you find references for a similar belief? A C S Lewis quote comes to mind, although it is still not real close to your thoughts, something like "I see certain evil tendencies in me which, if they continue unchecked for a million years, will ...".
    – Bit Chaser
    Dec 12, 2015 at 12:09
  • Also, your link to the interesting word "coeee" requires registration to read. Could you link that to Wikipedia or some other freely available source? You might consider including the definition in a footnote, but there is a nice sense of mystery about it which you might want to preserve.
    – Bit Chaser
    Dec 12, 2015 at 12:10
  • As far as I know, I'm the only one expressing such a view of Hell. It has evolved over the last six years as the result of constant debate with misotheists who frequent philosophy of religion forums and love to push the traditional view, and aren't phased at all by the other views. They don't like the view I express, though, because it shows the love of God extends to allowing them total freedom to determine their own destiny, and that the misery of their final condition will be of their own making. I will fix the cooee links. It my attempt to keep distinctive Aussie vocab alive.
    – enegue
    Dec 12, 2015 at 12:45
  • 1
    And you made the common misconception about Annihilationism to say there is no hell. They do believe in hell. It is just not eternal. This matches with the OP's comment of how fire burns and consumes but then simply disappears when the fuel is gone. Some will even say there is a time of conscious torment as they are being burned. But hell very much exists to the Annihilationist.
    – Joshua
    Jan 11, 2016 at 15:19

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