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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    Related but not a duplicate: What is the Biblical basis for saying that God can annihilate human souls? Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 19:59
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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
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 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.
    – user3961
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 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.
    – user3961
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 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. Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 3:43

2 Answers 2


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”.


Hell is eternal in that it was prepared as a place for the punishment of eternal beings.

Firstly - Angels are eternal.

Heb 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Second - Therefore the fire is eternal.

Mt 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

During this earthly life, we can participate in their punishment as the judge evaluates our behavior.

Mt 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Since we are not eternal beings, during our earthly lifetimes we can go into Hell and come out of the eternal fire, based upon our behavior.

Mt 5:26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

After physical death, there is evidence that mankind cannot escape Hell.

Lu 16:26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

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