THE OLD TESTAMENT
Among Biblical scholars, it is generally agreed that in the Old Testament, very little is mentioned of Hell as a place of eternal punishment in fire. Isaiah 66:24: “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against Me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” While this does not mean Hell did not exist in Old Testament times, it does mean, however, that a clear and full revelation of Hell did not seem to be present. We read of the Grave, the Pit (Ps. 88:1-13), a place of darkness, for the wicked dead who have no hope, and in Daniel 12:2: “everlasting contempt.” Everlasting punishment in fire is hinted at, but never forcefully nor repetitively revealed.
1 ENOCH – 300 B.C.
During the intertestamental period, there were some charismatic visionary books written, in which the revelation of Hell as eternal punishment in fire starts to get clearer. 2 Baruch 59:10: “And the mouth of Gehenna, and the station of vengeance…and the likeness of future torment.” But especially so with 1 Enoch: “This accursed valley is for those who are accursed for ever: Here shall all the accursed be gathered together who utter with their lips against the Lord unseemly words and of His glory speak hard things. Here shall they be gathered together, and here shall be their place of judgment. In the last days there shall be upon them the spectacle of righteous judgment in the presence of the righteous forever: here shall the merciful bless the Lord of glory, the Eternal King” (27:2-3); “As straw in the fire so shall they burn before the face of the holy: As lead in the water shall they sink before the face of the righteous, and no trace of them shall any more be found. And on the day of their affliction there shall be rest on the earth, and before them they shall fall and not rise again: And there shall be no one to take them with his hands and raise them: For they have denied the Lord of Spirits and His Anointed” (48:9-10).
“And I looked and turned to another part of the earth, and saw there a deep valley with burning fire. And they brought the kings and the mighty, and began to cast them into this deep valley. And there mine eyes saw how they made these their instruments, iron chains of immeasurable weight. And I asked the angel of peace who went with me, saying: ‘For whom are these chains being prepared?’ And he said unto me: ‘These are being prepared for the hosts of Azazel, so that they may take them and cast them into the abyss of complete condemnation, and they shall cover their jaws with rough stones as the Lord of Spirits commanded. And Michael, and Gabriel, and Raphael, and Phanuel shall take hold of them on that great day, and cast them on that day into the burning furnace, that the Lord of Spirits may take vengeance on them for their unrighteousness in becoming subject to Satan and leading astray those who dwell on the earth'” (54:1-6); “And the judgment was held first over the stars, and they were judged and found guilty, and went to the place of condemnation, and they were cast into an abyss, full of fire and flaming, and full of pillars of fire. And those seventy shepherds were judged and found guilty, and they were cast into that fiery abyss. And I saw at that time how a like abyss was opened in the midst of the earth, full of fire, and they brought those blinded sheep, and they were all judged and found guilty and cast into this fiery abyss, and they burned…and I saw those sheep burning and their bones burning” (90:24-27); “Know ye, that their souls will be made to descend into Sheol. And they shall be wretched in their great tribulation. And into darkness and chains and a burning flame where there is grievous judgment shall your spirits enter; and the great judgment shall be for all the generations of the world. Woe to you, for ye shall have no peace” (103:7-8).
Jesus continued with this tradition and brought this clear revelation of Hell into the Bible. It should be no surprise that He would be the one to do this task, since it is He who was appointed to save mankind from its eternal torments, through His teaching and His sacrifice on the cross. Repentance and faith in the cross of Christ saves men from eternal punishment in Hell-fire; and it turns out that the Savior from Hell is also the same person who not only created it for the devil and his angels, and all men who share their rebellion against God, but also taught and believed in it more than any Biblical figure. Jesus Christ had the strongest revelation of Hell before anyone else did; and after He went up into Heaven, the apostles did: especially the apostle John, as in Revelation 14 and 20. This is because Hell is an essential revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without Hell, there can be no Gospel to save men from it. This is simply because the Gospel is the message that repentance from sin and faith in the cross secure forgiveness of sins and salvation from Hell. If Hell is removed from the revelation, then all you are left with is a humanistic this-worldly gospel that implies salvation is only about deliverance from sinful habits.
JESUS’ TEACHING ON HELL
In the Bible, Jesus is the main Revealer of and sole Savior from Hell. But even Jesus launched His ministry off of John the Baptist‘s, who started preaching of “unquenchable fire” in Luke 3: “He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire…His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (vv. 3, 9, 17). Jesus carried on John’s revelation of repentance, the forgiveness of sins, Heaven, and the unquenchable fire of Hell, and eventually completed the Gospel message in the space of about three years. John even knew that Jesus was the “lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29), but it is probable he did not yet know it would involve Jesus dying on the cross nor ascending into Heaven. The ministry of Jesus would complete this Gospel revelation.
Jesus warned that murder, hateful anger, and adultery of the heart are damnable sins if unrepented of: “I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Hell…You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into Hell.” (Matthew 5:22, 27-30). Later on Jesus clarified His view: “and be thrown into eternal fire…thrown into the fire of Hell” (18:8-9). If we were just to look at these three passages of Scripture, it becomes clear that Jesus believed in the existence of Hell, the reality of its danger, that it involves physical sensations of pain, that the wicked are thrown into the eternal fire of Hell, and suffer from the pain of burning! Dr. Robert Yarbrough said that Jesus “used the fear of Hell as a motivator” for people to repent, put their faith in Him, and pursue a life of holiness and obedience to God, so as to avoid the eternal punishment to come. I agree with this line of thinking. Jesus said, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matt. 10:28). The fear of Hell is a motivator to holy living; but I would also like to add, that the original intent is not to use Hell merely as just some type of ethical mechanism, as if it didn’t really exist as a place; it does exist, and spiritual reality and supernatural revelation attest very clearly of this horrible place, even among the visions of pagans in remote tribes and jungles; it definitely exists, but primarily because God created it as a place to spend His wrath on those souls who remained stubborn and rebellious against Him. Jesus warns us of Hell; and so preaches reconciliation and obedience to God. Hell is a place of eternal punishment for the wicked, revealed by the Holy Spirit; it is not just a literary device invented to pressure or intimidate people into becoming Christians. You have to first acknowledge why it is necessary that a place like Hell should exist, and after doing so, deal with it: become a Christian if you have any sense of self-preservation: 1. God exists. 2. Souls exist and they are immortal. 3. The eternal fire of Hell exists (Jesus said so). 4. Unrepented sin exists. 5. The cross exists. 6. And so all souls who refuse to repent and place their faith in the cross will be thrown by God into the eternal fire of Hell. Solomon Stoddard, the grandfather of Jonathan Edwards, wrote seven sermons entitled together as: “The Efficacy of the Fear of Hell, To Restrain Men from Sin,” to which I would heartily agree! Call it “theological terrorism” if you wish, but it still makes sense! And returning to my original point, Jesus would believe in this too.
JESUS, THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, AND ETERNAL PUNISHMENT IN HELL
By no means did Jesus ever teach that Hell is a temporary place of existence (as the annihilationists think). No, Hell-fire is an eternal place for damned souls; and souls are immortal and indestructible. In Matthew 5 and 18, He already warned against living wickedly so as to avoid being thrown into the eternal fire of Hell.
In Matthew 25, Jesus said: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left…Then He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (vv. 31-32, 41-46). Jesus clearly teaches in Matthew 25:31-46 that on the Day of Judgment the wicked will be put into eternal punishment in fire, not a temporary fire, not an extinguishing, nor annihilating fire that turns men into ashes; but an eternal fire for souls who exist eternally. Annihilationists, who are heretics, take passages such as Matthew 7:13, which says, “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it,” and then they say, “See! Hell is a place where the souls of the wicked are destroyed, and that means they burn up into ashes, and cease to exist.” This is foolishness. You can’t make a soul extinguish; then it would not be a soul. Souls are immortal. It would also make no sense for Jesus to refer Hell as a place of eternal torment or “eternal punishment” if the wicked souls in Hell, suddenly after arriving there, just ceased to exist! Words have no meaning if this is the case. No, it’s clear that the life of the soul continues to exist in Hell; and will not cease. No crazy teaching of soul-annihilation was ever taught by any Biblical figure: soul-annihilation is actually a Hindu concept—the idea that liberation from reincarnation through Eastern meditation leads to the annihilation of the soul after death (moksha). But the “destruction” of damned souls in the Biblical Hell means there is a destroying fire, that eats away at their vessels of wrath (Rom. 9:22), but like the burning bush of Moses, the bush is not consumed (Exod. 3:2), the soul is not consumed. Mind you, it is a spiritual fire for wicked spiritual souls which God, who is eternal and holy, created so that justice may be eternally served in Hell upon their eternal impenitence and hatred against God.
Jesus said in the teaching on “The Rich Man and Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31)–a passage so long and clear, and so instructive of Hell, that John Bunyan was able to write an entire expository book on it: Sighs from Hell (1658)–in this teaching Jesus said that when the wicked rich man realized he was in Hell, he said in 16:24: “I AM TORMENTED IN THIS FLAME!” 1. Souls are immortal. 2. Jesus believed in immortal souls. 3. Hell-fire is eternal. 3. Jesus believed in an eternal Hell. 4. Jesus believed that the people who are thrown into Hell will be tormented in flames, eternally, not temporarily, not to be consumed, nor extinguished, nor turned into ash–because it is to be an ETERNAL PUNISHMENT (Matt. 25:46), something that could not constitute a punishment, if those in Hell were merely executed, and ceased to exist. It is foolish to imagine that some could experience something called a punishment if they did not exist anymore to experience the punishment; and Jesus calls it “ETERNAL PUNISHMENT” (Matt. 25:46), which obviously means that the damned souls are there in Hell to experience the eternal punishment in Hell’s fires and torments, otherwise it’s an absurdity to call Hell a place of eternal punishment. If the person is not even present to experience to the punishments of Hell, then why on earth do annihilationists persist in this error? Perhaps they thinks it’s a more “compassionate” view of Hell; but it’s still a wrong view. Execution is not eternal; it’s the quick way out; it’s what the Hindus and Buddhists are aiming for: soul-annihilation, or moksha. Hell is not suicide, not execution, but an everlasting nightmare, a place of horror, and dread, and pain, and torment, for the devil, his angels, and all of the wicked!
With popular pastors like Rob Bell and his book Love Wins, or Edward Fudge and his The Fire That Consumes, pushing such heretical notions about Hell–it makes me wonder why people who don’t take the words of Jesus seriously, or at face value, persist in these errors or even bother attending churches. Perhaps it’s just for social reasons. But Hell is not a social matter; it is an eternity issue; and a divine revelation not to be tampered with as a mere literary device.
Jesus believed in Hell. Do you?
 Daniel I. Block, “The Old Testament on Hell” in Hell Under Fire, edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), p. 44.
 Allen C. Myers, ed., “Hell” in The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), p. 479.
 Robert W. Yarbrough, “What Jesus Said About Hell” in Is Hell for Real or Does Everyone Go to Heaven?, edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004, 2011), p. 25.
 Josh McDowell, Handbook of Today’s Religions (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), pp. 288, 297.