The Catholic Church teaches that there is hell and it is eternal [cf. The Hell There Is! | Catholic Answers].

What is the [common] scriptural basis, if any, for the Christian groups which teach that there is a hell but that it is not eternal?

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    Too broad. Finite punishment in hell could mean annihilation, or universalism, or probably something else again. Please ask about a specific clearly identified doctrine.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 7 '16 at 6:19
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    @curiousdannii I think it's fine. Those doctrines are all going to use the same verses to show that hell is not eternal.
    – fгedsbend
    Jan 7 '16 at 6:55
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    @Flimzy Those few instances where a verse or two are used by some but not others are the exception not the rule. All of these doctrines spawn from first concluding that hell is not eternal torment.
    – fгedsbend
    Jan 7 '16 at 16:35
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    This looks on-topic to me. It's looking for the Biblical basis of a specific belief held by some Christian groups. Jan 12 '16 at 3:43

What is the [common] scriptural basis, if any, for the Christian groups which teach that there is a hell but that it is not eternal?

Much of the trouble with the determination of “eternal” comes from the definition of the Geek word aion. It can mean a period of time like a lifetime, an age or true eternity. One of the Biblical proofs that aion does not always mean true eternity can be seen;

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.

Here one might say that the effects are eternal rather than the fire, however that does not help impart support for the idea of eternal torment as torment that continues eternally.

Another problem in declaring the eternality of torment is the problem of “eternal” life.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

One can ask if the gift of God is eternal life, then how do those who reject Christ merit or receive it and how can torment be truly eternal if life is not.

Another problem of the subject is our limited ability to understand the concept of eternity itself. This can be seen in part if we consider the question, if eternity is the end of time or time unending.

A further problem exists as we are told that punishment is in proportion to works.

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

If one considers a hypothetical person who lived out his life in routine and harmless normality. His biggest crime was not being interested in Jesus. It is difficult to resolve the idea of eternal conscious torment with a merciful God.

There are only a few ways to consider this dilemma.

  1. God is unjust.
  2. Mans slightest infraction deserves eternal torment (making God just).
  3. Torment is not eternal but proportionate.
  4. The system is more complicated than we know or can understand.

There is a lot of flexibility in how to translate the word “eternal” (aion). Some translations (i.e. YLT), use the phrase “age lasting”.


I am sure that there are more answers to this question then this, but many universalist use John 12:32

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

The verse is applied to "all men" dead and alive, the idea is that God is perfect and does not fail in what he does, he will draw all men to himself and he will do this in this life or in the what is considered a temporary punishment of hell.

The argument is based on the use of Hyperbole in language arguing about extreme text only meaning preference. There is a tendency in many of the new Christian practices to apply hyperbole where you wish and ignore it where you do not.

Biblical basis is no basis in and of itself, the idea that the preservation of the living word resides soley in a book is a modern tradition.

  • Unless you mean that some people believe that "all men" includes those in hell (therefore, hell won't be eternal because he'll draw them out) then I have to agree that this doesn't answer the question. If that's what you mean, please clarify, and add references to those that teach this, and flag for us to un-delete, please. Jan 8 '16 at 2:00

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