I've heard particular denominations claim that although hell is definitely a real place and hell itself will burn forever, people who are condemned to hell don't actually exist forever in hell but instead are eventually destroyed, wiped out of existence. They claim that the soul being naturally immortal is a pagan idea, and that only those given eternal life will live forever.

As far as I know most mainline denominations affirm that if you are not saved then you will indeed exist forever in Hell.

My question is, what is the biblical basis to support the doctrine that people who are condemned to hell will actually continue to exist in hell for eternity (as opposed to being annihilated)? Alternatively, what is the biblical support for the soul itself being naturally immortal?

  • possible duplicate of Is Hell eternal, or do some/all escape it? – Flimzy Aug 29 '11 at 6:50
  • @Flimzy Nope not what I'm asking. That's the oposite, that post is basically saying that some people believe that everyone will eventually get saved. I'm saying that some people believe that those who don't get saved won't exist forever, but hell will. – 2tim424 Aug 29 '11 at 7:12
  • Ah, indeed... the titles are deceptively similar. I can't think how to suggest retitling to make it more clear without making it an annoyingly long title. I did add a tag, though... – Flimzy Aug 29 '11 at 7:16
  • @Flimzy thanks for the tag, I had completely forgot the term when I asked this. – 2tim424 Sep 2 '11 at 5:37

There are indeed many verses that speak of Hell as being eternal although there aren't so many that make the clear that the punishment is also eternal. Here are a couple:

Matthew 25:46 (NIV)
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 (NIV)
8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might

(Emphasis mine.)

A look at Matthew 25:46 on Blue Letter Bible shows that the same word is used for both usages of "eternal" (and for "everlasting"). This word is also used in all the instances of "eternal life", of which there are about 40. Hence, one can safely infer that the two verses I referenced above make it clear that Hell is not a temporary suffering, but that anyone who is sent to Hell will burn forever.

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    Unfortunately it's these scriptures that they are using to support their claim. They say that the punishment being eternal means that it wont be undone, and that the everlasting destruction points to being completely eradicated from existence so that the destruction is in fact everlasting as it cannot be undone. – 2tim424 Aug 29 '11 at 7:16
  • Funny about your first point; that's not what the Greek word means at all. It just means that there's no end. Yet another example of humans twisting words to support their viewpoints... – El'endia Starman Aug 29 '11 at 7:28
  • I Agree with you, by the way. – 2tim424 Aug 29 '11 at 7:32
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    @El'endiaStarman How do you counter this stance about the words used "The Hebrew word "olam," and its Greek counterpart "aion," and its adjective, "aionios." – gooddadmike Jul 30 '12 at 23:09
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    "eternal" or "everlasting" implies that the punishment will never end, not that the punishing will continue forever. If someone is punished by say branding or by amputating a hand, the punishment is permanent, it can't be ended. But it in no way implies that the recipient of this punishment will live forever. ¶ Similarly, "everlasting destruction" means just that, permanent destruction, never again to be rebuilt or repaired. ¶"‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched" doesn't mean that the worms are immortal or the fire will burn forever. It means they will never be killed. – Ray Butterworth Jul 19 at 0:16

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