In my little knowledge I believe any form of punishment is a way of curbing crimes or wrong doings and for others to learn not to do wrong. When this life ends some would be in heaven and the rest in hell fire as punishment for their wrong doings.

My question is why should there be punishment forever since there is no one to learn from these people any more and they cannot even repent? Why not just annihilate them and be remembered no more?

What am I missing? Is my understanding of punishment different? How does Christian doctrine approach the issue of the duration of hell? What purpose do they see it serving that makes it an eternal necessity? What basis do they cite for their understanding?

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    To paraphrasing from Paul Washer's The wrath of God, the original question assumes that the point of suffering is to teach others; however, it's perfectly just for God to pour out his wrath upon sinners.
    – user1694
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 2:29
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    love the idea of being annihilated instead. Probably once created, can't be undo.
    – Sufendy
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 5:15
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    I posted an answer, but got picked up (perhaps correctly) because it didn't cite a scriptural source. However, I don't think (AFAIK) that the Bible ever attempts to justify / qualify this; so a purely scriptural answer may also be tricky. We'll see. Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 8:50
  • @MarcGravell I wish I had seen your answer before removed. Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 9:13
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    @MarcGravell Perhaps what happened to your answer is a metaphor for this question itself. Very meta. ;)
    – Kaz Dragon
    Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 6:51

11 Answers 11


I immediately thought of C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" upon reading this question. In the book, he puts forth the idea that separation from God is what sinners desire, and God gives them what they desire. I did some digging and found this blog (written by Bird) on the topic:

"The idea of Hell being something of a choice for the damned fits hand-in-glove with the idea represented by C. S. Lewis who said that the damned souls are in some sense successful rebels to the end, and, as Lewis' character George MacDonald says in The Great Divorce,

"There are two types of people in the world. Those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'"

I'll end with another Keller quotation from...(The Reason For God):

"All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from himself. What could be more fair than that?"

Source: "Hope all things about your brethren"

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE! This is a great first answer and I hope to see more great contributions from you in the future. :D Commented Aug 5, 2012 at 2:14
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    I like Lewis, but the Bible doesn't support the notion of hell being separation from God: "If anyone worships the beast and its image...he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb" (Rev 14:9,10; emphasis mine). Christ is present. I agree with the notion that those in hell remain rebels, continue to hate God, etc. Just not the separation from God part. Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 2:21
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    Randy, I think your answer speaks more to what will happen during the Tribulation rather than what all sinners experience in Hell. I was going to write basically what Ben said, so upvote for him. :)
    – elemjay19
    Commented Sep 20, 2012 at 21:10
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    I would have loved not to accept my answer but this does not cite scriptural reference. @kurosch answer is great but is not upvoted for lack of biblical reference. Your answer is part and not the whole reason why sinners has to be in that state forever. The link provided engages the mind so I liked it. +1 to you Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 2:54
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    Fair enough, but we're jumping the bounds of the OP's question here. I'm sure there are other great questions on this site which address the issue of "unreached" people groups. Actually, here's a good one
    – Ben
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 19:36

I have never had a problem with the idea of God punishing someone forever. It is based on the concept of infinity, if God is infinitely excellent and glorious than sin against him is an infinite crime. We do not get it because part of our sinfulness is to deny His absolute glory. Love hates hatred; it does not just want to reform it, but to punish it for how harmful it is. If we die wrapped up in unforgiving hate, which is the nature of sin, we are bound under its rightful eternal ruin.

For example, if back in the times of Kings, a King of England known for punishing criminals approached a criminal who repeatedly raped his wife, while she had been held hostage by bandits, we might not find it shocking that the man is put to death. However the distance between a criminal and a King in old England is a minor one.

Say for instance the criminal appeals to the King and say’s: “What is so bad about my crime, most every day I lived a good life, only once I day I raped your wife?’ This would seem ridiculous. Yet when we say ‘Oh, I am only human and only sin a little’, we do not realize our crimes are immeasurably more than a criminal raping the wife of a King. We have sinned against God the infinite and immeasurably glorious and excellent King!

I believe in my daily sins as a Christian (who has drawn my sword against sin by faith) still, with each new moment, deserves anew to be punished forever, for not one moment has been spent loving God with my whole heart. However, in God’s great love He sent His son to remove this punishment and this is the glory of God in the highest. Praise his holy name forever and let all the angels sing! As a result, not believing in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, is the highest form of hatred towards God that a human can ever do.

The reason why there is no annihilation of demons or sinners is not directly mentioned in the Bible as far as I know. For some reason when God made angels and men He chose that their spirits would live forever. It might be simply that sinners and devils in hell continue to magnify God’s glorious justice to those who are not in hell. So instead of undoing his creation of devils and sinners, he still makes use of them to benefit others.

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    I like your last paragraph most Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 21:29
  • Decent answer, but I think it would be better with specific biblical references to back up the arguments. Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 2:19
    – FFCoder
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 10:18
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    @Mike now you are just making stuff up, right? can you provide references about the stuff you are saying, please. A God that gets pissed off for eternity without the capability of forgiveness is a petty God. Maybe you are talking of a different god.
    – FFCoder
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 4:47
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    @Mike maybe we are talking about different gods.. well im talking about the merciful one and with infinite love and forgiveness.. which one are you talking about? and by the way you are the one who is limiting his potential saying that he is not capable of forgiving those who are already in hell.if he is infinite. there is every possibility.
    – FFCoder
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 5:45

There are several verses in the Bible which clearly say that wicked don't die for ever (hell is not eternal, but the results are) but are consumed and cease to exist.

For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts. Malachi 4:1-3

Magog mentioned here is also mentioned at the final destruction of the wicked in Revelation - Making it clear that God is talking about destruction of wicked. (see below for the verse)

And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the LORD. So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord GOD; this is the day whereof I have spoken. And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall burn them with fire seven years: So that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire: and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord GOD. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the noses of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it The valley of Hamon-gog. And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land. Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them; and it shall be to them a renown the day that I shall be glorified, saith the Lord GOD. And they shall sever out men of continual employment, passing through the land to bury with the passengers those that remain upon the face of the earth, to cleanse it: after the end of seven months shall they search. And the passengers that pass through the land, when any seeth a man's bone, then shall he set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamon-gog. And also the name of the city shall be Hamonah. Thus shall they cleanse the land. Ezekiel 39:6-16

Speaking about death the Apostle Paul says:

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:26

Death and Hell are destroyed:

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Revelation 20:14

You shall search for the wicked diligently but will not find them:

For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. Psalm 37:9 - 11

Wicked shall be no more:

For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been. Obadiah 1:15 - 16

Speaking about Satan, God says:

Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more. Ezekiel 28:18 - 19 (Empahasis added)

Speaking about the earth the Bible says:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. Revelation 21:1

For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. Isaiah 65:17

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. Revelation 20:11

Gog and Magog:

Revelation 20:7 - 8: And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.


Answering the question first (tldr;)

I see hell as not a punishment, but a double exercise of mercy. On the one hand, God is not withdrawing the goodness he has given us which is our very existence. It would be a worse punishment for him to remove them from existence than it would be for him to leave them where they are. (though, strictly speaking, it would be easy to argue that in order for Him to do this it would involve a contradiction as He would be calling something "not good" which He defined as "good"). The other mercy is His respect for our free will.

The reason hell is eternal (and their is no repentance) is the very fact of this free will. Once we have chosen to separate ourselves from the divine presence so directly and completely, the corruption and bitterness in our hearts only increases.

Whatever we are at death will increase forever after the final judgement. Those in heaven will forever race toward God, completely unencumbered by the flesh. On the other hand, a soul in hell forever races away. It cannot repent because after a thousand years it is more repugnant than it was than it first in.

Why would someone go to hell?

I know that this is not strictly part of the question, but it does have a very strong effect on my view of hell.

Based on conversations I've had with other Christians of late, I think I may need to mention that there is a delight in sin. There is a revelry in corruption that most of us have either forgotten or have never considered. I do remember a time in my life, however, that I actually enjoyed watching the corruption of others. I can totally imagine that in such a state I would have turned my soul away from the divine.

I have also had times when pride has spoken far louder than humility. I was once challenged to act righteously at such a point and I chose not only to reject righteousness, but I also turned from the friends who so desperately tried to turn me from pridefulness. The tremendous feeling of indignation and self-righteousness caused me to fall, and fall hard (it took a year and a half to resolve that act). I can see that easily leading to destruction too.

Finally, I know what it is like to turn from God in despair and swear against Him, expecting that it would result in my death. And at that moment, I did not care what His opinion was for I called Him dead.

I see judgement this way: if I, who know Christ and was taught to love Him in my youth can stray so incredibly far, can I really believe that there are those who have not made similar judgments? If I were to reach such a purifying state as we will see in the eschaton while in those states, I can very easily believe that I would have rejected God perpetually.

What do I base the doctrine of hell ON?

I think I also should address why I do not believe that hell should rightly be thought of as punitive, despite the many images in scripture as a place of "blows."

I find the images of hell in the Bible actually fit the image of systematic "putrification". After death those who have little will find even the little they have taken away (parable of the talents), and the foolish will have their houses swept away in the flood. Since we know that the only thing a man has after death is the condition of his soul, this, to me, means that those who do not go to heaven lose the last semblance of righteousness that they contained. Further, anything which is placed in perpetual, unquenchable fire will be more and more burned up. Even if the level of pain remains constant, that will mean that it will still increase by virtue (he... virtue) of the fact that it has lasted longer (any pain which lasts longer will be worse than any pain which ends sooner).

Further, the testimony of Saints say that hell is a place deprived of love for God (Little Flower once said that if possible, she would even dwell in hell if only to increase the love for God there. How awesome is that?). If love is absent, only its opposite can exist. Such bitterness (or hate, or anger, whatever you would list as what is left when the last vestige of love for anything but the self is removed), combined with the very pains of hell (which are more tortuous than we can even imagine), can only lead to greater corruption.

I think that the most depressing thing about hell (and perhaps the most damning) is that people in hell will likely refuse to even admit to fault. They will blame God because they will not be able to admit to their own faults (for without love, pride grows faster than thistles and thorns). They will not turn from sin, in part, because their very existence is one denial and excuse after another. They will not be able to admit that they have committed a wrong and I would even guess that they get to the point where they would rather spend eternity in hell than admit to the slightest of errors.

Why would removal from existence fail divine mercy?

Two reasons. First God has made us ontologically good. We are His likeness and image. There is no point where God ever removes that reality, and, if He did, it would involve the statement that a person has the ability to change His worth through his thoughts and actions.

This is something which is repugnant to Christian doctrine. If a man has the ability to change his value, then all value is subjective we can start doing things like killing the infirm, ignoring those in need, and catering to the wealthy. No, we have an objective, intrinsic worth, even if we are corrupt. We are worth so much, we are so important to God (even the least of us) that He came in the likeness of sinful flesh to redeem us from our corruption. His blood was not shed that whoever follows Him might have eternal life. He did not die for the righteous, but the sinner. That speaks not to subjective but to objective worth (for you would not sacrifice all for something which had no value whatsoever).

The second reason, the respect for free will, also cannot allow for the destruction of the soul. A soul which is so corrupt likely feels that it has not done nothing wrong. If it has done nothing wrong, then it would absolutely choose existence over non-existence (and I would even argue that no person would ever truly want to stop existing). The corrupt soul will choose hell because it views it as the best option, as perverse as that may sound.

  • This doesn't answer the question why the sinner must suffer forever. Perhaps it answers why sinners won't be able to repent. But not why God wouldn't just annihilate them and put an end to all of it. Commented Aug 6, 2012 at 8:15
  • @MonikaMichael I've expanded it a little. Is that better? (if not, please let me know, and I'll try to edit it.) Commented Aug 6, 2012 at 8:51
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    Have to downvote, can't get past the first sentence: "I see hell as not a punishment, but a double exorcise [sic] of mercy." Hell is an exercise of mercy? "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night..." (Rev 14:11). Or the logic based on man's freewill. Not an answer well reasoned from the Scriptures IMO. Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 2:17
  • Sorry about the homonym mistake. Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 5:38
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    The dentist's drill is mercy to the man with a cavity, even though it is more painful than the cavity might be at the moment. But then, it is also a good deal less painful than the untreated cavity. Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 5:41

It is not God that decides who goes to heaven or hell. The choice is man's. The Good news is that God is not interested in punishing the wicked forever as evident in these verses

Ezekiel 33:11

Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved

Proverb 28:13

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy

Therefore God made a way available to all people to escape his judgment by giving Jesus up as ransom for our sins and a light out of darkness.

Titus 2:11-13

For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ

God does not and will not have pleasure putting his creatures in perpetual punishment.

But why are sinners going to be punished forever

John 8:44

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies

Before God created the earth, good and evil existed, darkness and light existed. Mankind is given options to choose from. We choose on which side we want to be by our actions.

The good exist with God and the evil exists with Satan and his subordinates.

To make it to the good side, God has given us commandments, given us Jesus as a pace setter, and the Holy Spirit to teach us how to be good. However, man choose to do evil perpetually.

Matthew 3:19

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

Because there are two sides, therefore, there must be two places. Those who want to dwell on the good side live with God and those who want to dwell on the evil side live with Satan. Because Satan's place is hell, then those who belong to him need to be where he is. When man rebels against God and sins and refuses to repent, he is saying "God leave me alone, I want to live with Satan" and that's what happen in the end. Some do this unconsciously based on their non-challant attitude towards the gospel and towards God's bidding.

So in the end, Satan goes with his allies to hell and christians go with Jesus to heaven. It is man's decision not God's. If a teacher told his students to read before coming to take class test, it's their choice to read and if they don't they will fail the test and the blame won't be the teacher's.

Everyone chooses where they want to be - those who choose Satan's way belong to him and may/could/should be with him forever

  • This begs the question of my favorite Monk Paradox. If a monk was raised in the mountains and lived a pure life upholding (while not knowingly) the old commandments, but never new of Jesus, does he go to Heaven? I believe so, but there's nothing in scripture to suggest that. In fact, it suggests that he would go to hell. So then, per your post, he would be with Satan's way. However he didn't chose either.
    – user1054
    Commented Oct 2, 2012 at 17:25
  • I believe he would make heaven. Moses, Elijah, David didn't have the new testament but they already made heaven. It's not his fault so I don't think he would be judged. That's why it is said until the gospel is preached to the nook and crannies of the world Jesus won't come. Some will be ministered to in their dreams, through angels and other means so that nobody on that day would have excuses. Commented Oct 2, 2012 at 18:19
  • If God had not instructed Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit, and they ate it like they did, God wouldn't have blamed them. There is a verse in Bible where it says: faith comes by hearing and if there are not preachers how would they hear, if they didn't hear how would they believe Commented Oct 2, 2012 at 18:21
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    its not god who decides? then why did he became a judge?
    – FFCoder
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 10:15
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    You are saying that hell is a consequence not a punishment. That is unscriptural. The scripture teaches that God's wrath will be poured out on the wicked. That is punishment not natural consequence.
    – user3961
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 18:12

I am hoping to answer simply and from scripture.

For that, there will be a some starting points:

  1. There is God. Precisely, God IS.
  2. God is Love.
  3. He is Good.
  4. He created man in his image. cf. [Gn 1:27].
  5. He created man free.

Why was man created free?

So that he may choose and do good freely and the ultimate good to be chosen is God himself.

If man does this, he does what precisely God himself does, in whose image he is made. The persons in the Blessed Trinity move toward the other, hence the triumphal hymn of the Angels, the "Trisagion"1 (thrice holy), addressed to the three Divine Persons. More precisely, the Father loves the Son and the Son returns his Father's Love, and that Love between them is the Holy Spirit.

In his goodness, God has invited us to participate in this Love.

1. cf. Is 6:3.

The Father by his authority, has put a limit to the time in which we are to correspond to his Love, to return his love as the Son does.

For each person, that time comes to an end at that person's death and their choice for and against God is fixed for all eternity. In the simple terms I spoke of at the beginning, one then has either chosen God, who is good, the Only Good, or one has chosen self. Not to choose God is the hell, because apart from God there is no good, no beauty, no happiness, only endless misery.

Some imagery

Scripture tells of God's love for us being like that of a husband for his wife. In fact, Christ is described as the bridegroom, and heaven as the marriage feast of the Lamb. God has wanted to espouse us to himself. The one who rejects God's proposal is like that bride who rejects her affianced's hand in marriage. She may choose to marry someone else, but once she does that, she will never get to be brought to the house of the one she rejected.

Note: Pope St. John Paul II [the Great] speaks of the response of the Bride to the Bridegroom's redemptive love in Apostolic Letter, Mulieris digitatem, 15 August 1988, 27.

C.S. Lewis, quotes from The Great Divorce

No one is good but God alone
“There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.”

Hell is chosen
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

There is a limit to the time to choose + eventual permanent and eternal separation of evil from good
“Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it, or else, for ever and ever, the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves.”

Is hell eternal?

From scripture, it is cf. Mt 2:56, Rv 20:10, etc. Hell is eternal.

Does one really get to choose?

From scripture and as answered above, the choice placed by God before one is: 'either you are with me, or you are against me'/'choose the LORD or other gods.'

Please see: Hell | New Advent.

We must not consider the eternal punishment of hell as a series of separate of distinct terms of punishment, as if God were forever again and again pronouncing a new sentence and inflicting new penalties, and as if He could never satisfy His desire of vengeance. Hell is, especially in the eyes of God, one and indivisible in its entirety; it is but one sentence and one penalty. We may represent to ourselves a punishment of indescribable intensity as in a certain sense the equivalent of an eternal punishment; this may help us to see better how God permits the sinner to fall into hell — how a man who sets at naught all Divine warnings, who fails to profit by all the patient forbearance God has shown him, and who in wanton disobedience is absolutely bent on rushing into eternal punishment, can be finally permitted by God's just indignation to fall into hell.


As I read the Bible, the fact that 'the Lake of fire' is established unequivocally in:

All Scripture is quoted from the King James translation.

Revelation 20:13 through 15 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

By virtue of the fact that both death and Hell are cast into the Lake of fire, before anyone not found in the book of life tells me that punishment for sin is eternal.

The main objection to this can only lie in what death are we referring to; and the Bible tells us that there are a first and a second death.

As stated above being cast into the lake of fire is the second death, but what is the first death and how do they differ?

We find a clue to that in verse 13 where it states that the sea, Death, and Hell give up the dead which are in them. If Death is to give up the dead that are in it, the it must be either a place; or a state of being. We know that both the sea and Hell (or whatever else it may be known as), are places do we have any clues as to whether death is a place or a state of being?

We have a clue in first Samuel chapter 28:

1st Samuel 28:11 through 15 A Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?

Since we know that Samuel was definitely a man of God he appears to have been residing in a place which according to the Diviner was in the ground. This is a separate place than where the Rich man from the Parable of Lazarus and the rich man was, since Samuel said why have you disquieted me, and the Rich man complained of the heat and was apparently not quieted.

We may assume by that Scripture that Death as referred to in Revelation 20:13 is in reference to a place.

By the process of elimination we derive death as referred to in Revelation chapter 20:13, is a place separate from Hell where the uncondemned go to await their final destiny.

So why is it that punishment must be eternal and not just something that is given and then comes to an end? For the answer to that we must go back to Genesis;

Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

We must take into consideration the second part of this verse, where man becomes a living Soul. The Soul is a Spiritual being, and is eternal, it cannot die any more than God can die. So in reality the second death is actually the ongoing process of dying or in other words being burned to death eternally.

The process of being saved is to allow our first death to be combined with Jesus on the Cross, and is the basis for Paul's assertion that absent from life present with the Lord, and that is derived from Jesus telling the thief at the Crucifixion that he would be together with Christ in Paradise today.


My question is why should there be punishment forever since there is no one to learn from these people any more and they cannot even repent? Why not just annihilate them and be remembered no more?

So basically heaven for good people and free passes for everyone else. Christianity promises nothing more than a free trail to everyone and an afterlife given according to the seriousness of your crimes. I don't see why the wicked should escape there judgment.

Why is the punishment to some crimes life in imprisonment because the earthly law giver has deemed the this an punishment befitting the crime. Why is some laden with the punishment of hell because the eternal law giver has deemed it punishment befitting the crime.


My question is why should there be punishment forever

There is some disagreement regarding if those who rejected having their sins forgiven by Jesus will actually suffer eternal conscious torment. Much of this disagreement centers around the definition of "forever" or "eternal".

The Greek word aiōnios is usually translated "eternal". However, the word is actually "age lasting". In Jude the Bible uses the word eternal to describe something that is not now happening.

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.

Some use the concept that the effects of the fire are eternal.

We do know that the unsaved will be judged according to their works;

Revelation 20:12 and I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and scrolls were opened, and another scroll was opened, which is that of the life, and the dead were judged out of the things written in the scrolls--according to their works;

We know that God gives eternal life to the saved, but the unsaved may not have eternal life which would hinder the theory of eternal conscious torment for the unsaved.

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

There are verses which support the eternal conscious torment view;

Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

I think one can be a solid Christian without having to chose either the eternal conscious torment view or the second death of those who are punished according to their works view.


Sometimes, punishment is not only to correct the wrong-doer and promote good behavior. Sometimes punishment is about protecting the innocent. You may be locked away in prison not only as a consequence that will help demonstrate to you or others that you should not do this act, but because we can no longer trust you to function in society without harming others.

I think heaven will work in part in a similar way. All your "physical" needs will be met. The nature of place is that nearness to God should satisfy your wants. There won't be a prison, and there won't be a police force; even God won't fill that role. You won't lock your doors (assuming we have doors). We won't need those things anymore, because no one who would ever harm anyone else, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually, will be there.

If it is in the nature of a person that they would ever harm someone else, even though their needs are satisfied, and even after having met God face to face at Judgement, then I would bet that the love of God is not in that person, and it will never be in that person, even through all eternity. Such a person would be excluded from Heaven, not only for their own punishment but because their absence is part of what would make Heaven work.

  • 3
    This doesn't address why the punishment in Hell would be eternal. Commented Aug 5, 2012 at 2:51
  • Yes it doesn't. May be this is in part and the rest are coming. Nice effort. Commented Aug 5, 2012 at 2:54
  • Added a paragraph that should help. Commented Aug 5, 2012 at 2:58
  • Punishment seems to be a (if not the) primary motive behind the biblical understanding of hell. Commented Aug 27, 2012 at 2:28
  • I actually think there is merit to this thought, but 'd like to see you address why this answer is not just a lead in to Annihilationism -- which seems like a relevant thing for answers to cover on this question.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 10:36

Why should a sinner suffer forever in hell fire? Short answer, They Don't.

Punishment is indeed a way of curbing crimes or wrong doings and for others to learn not to do wrong. The idea that when this life ends some would be in heaven and the rest in hell fire as punishment for their wrong doings, is a misunderstanding.

Why should there be punishment forever since there is no one to learn from these people any more and they cannot even repent? The point is to learn from the death of others, therefore the ones to learn the lessons are the ones left alive. And since the purpose of repentance is to stop sinning and to do what God says. Death is the last form of repentance. No Life, no Sin, and "Must do as God says".

Why not just annihilate them and be remembered no more? For some this might be what happens.

What am I missing? You are missing the true definition of Hell.

Is my understanding of punishment different? Your understanding of punishment is right on.

How does Christian doctrine approach the issue of the duration of hell? You are there until you are called back to life.

What purpose do they see it serving that makes it an eternal necessity? God in the end has it his way. We have been given opportunity to do it his way while alive. If we refuse, then we receive death.

What basis do they cite for their understanding? It is formed by a melting of concepts. Soon I hope that you will see.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. And the Hebrew word for Grave is "Sheol". When someone died, it was custom to bury the dead, therefore placing the body in Sheol, or in English terms "Placing the body into a grave."

The New Testament was written in Greek. And the Greek word for Sheol is Hades [a]. Now in the days of the Roman Empire they cremated the bodies. For Jerusalem the would have the bodies cremated in a valley name Gehenna. Now all these words Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna where translated into a default Old English word "Hell".

In another piece of literature that was common in those days named "The Book of Enoch". There is a story about how angels defied God and later where tortured for a duration of darkness. In 2 Peter, an example of this story was used to teach something, the Greek Word that Peter used was Tartaroo [b] (meaning "throw to Tartarus"). This word unfortunately also was translated as Hell.

So what do we get when we mix all these concepts together? Death, Fire, Eternity of Pain, Darkness, and Punishment. So this might make you feel better. If you choose not to believe in God. You will die and stay dead, your body will either be put into a grave, or your body will be cremated. Unless, God decides to raise you from the dead anyways, just for kicks.

[a] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hades
[b] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartarus

  • You basically ignore Gehenna (just mentioning the word once without discussing its significance). I don't know if this is unintentional. However, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, but also a downvote. Gehenna is the place of eternal punishment; Judaism believed that even before Christianity, and orthodox Christianity continues to believe it today.
    – user900
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 1:02
  • What you say is true. For a Jew under the Law, if one was to die, there body would have been thrown on a pile in Gehenna and set on fire. Today we call that action cremation. Although, since people are not journeying to Gehenna to cremate the bodies, other places are now options for your body to turn back to dust. I honestly don't know if it is still custom to do that in Jerusalem though.
    – Decrypted
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 2:18
  • Nah...you already know Jews believed Gehinnam was the place of eternal punishment. I posted David Kimchi's commentary on Psa. 27:13 in the other thread you made, which explained why Jews began to use that term to describe it. So, no, nobody here is talking about the actual Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem.
    – user900
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 2:29
  • 1
    I still believe that Jews believe Gehenna is the place of eternal punishment. I'm with the understanding that Gehinnam and Gehenna are the same place. I'm also with the understanding that Gehinnam / Gehenna is located at the actual Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem. I'm with the understanding that at that location people were set on fire after they died. I'm with the understanding that setting a body on fire after it is dead is called cremation. I will accept correction. Please correct my understanding. Thank you so very much.
    – Decrypted
    Commented Jan 12, 2014 at 2:40
  • 1
    @DavidStratton It's been a year. I doubt Only is going to fix it. That's why I flagged it. I would just delete it.
    – user3961
    Commented Feb 18, 2015 at 6:12

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