What Is Hell?
By Andy Zoppelt
First, I want to say at the onset, I don’t think anyone can give a definitive description of hell. I have only attempted this definition of hell based on gathering some scriptures that point to the subject.
Once a person’s life begins, it is not in God’s nature to destroy or end it. “You shall not kill” is more than just a part of His law given to Israel; it is representative of His nature not to take life; while the opposite is true concerning Satan. When Satan separated himself from God out of his desire to be exalted above God, he became the enemy of God representing a nature opposite of everything that is God. Satan’s nature is to steal, to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10). Satan’s most powerful weapon in his arsenal is his power to deceive. The question is what are we going to do with our eternal life and where will we spend it?
Its your choice .
God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9, KJV
It is our choice who we will serve. We will either be the servant of the King in His kingdom or we will be deceived and be the servant of Satan and the powers of darkness.
Rom 6:16, “Don't you know that to whom you present yourselves as servants to obedience, his servants you are whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?” WEB
Luke 14:27, 33, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me [he] cannot be My disciple…So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” NKJV
John 12:48, “ He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”NKJV
At the end of this life our soul will either spend eternity with God (heaven) or it will spend eternity without God (hell.) Who we serve defines where we go.
The place and the suffering
Hell is not a place where God or the Devil personally tortures a person; it is a place where a person is tortured by the acts of their own life. Words like fire, outer darkness, destruction from the presence of God, the second death and everlasting punishment, all define the conditions of hell.
Hell is so gruesome and dreadful that we all should make every effort not to be there. The bible says that hell is a place of “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Satan’s one big job is to get us focused on this life and get us focused on our selves. His desires are to blind us from the finality and the reality of our life that is just around the corner.
The biblical term for death means a separation: it can mean a separation from God while we are still living in this world, it can mean a separation from the life of this world and it can mean the finale separation from God presence in the end…hell.
Since life cannot be utterly destroyed or done away with according to scripture, the true meaning of death a relationship deprived of the life of the Lord Jesus. An example of this is 1 Timothy 5:6, “But she who lives in pleasure [sin] is dead while she lives.” So how can a person be dead while they live? The answer is simple, separated in sin separated from God.
Isaiah the prophet put it another way in 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you.”
Paul gives a clear definition of those who don’t know God, “In flaming fire [God] taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished [How?] with everlasting destruction [ruin] from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” 2 Thess 1:8-9, KJV
The word destruction (Greek - olethros) doesn’t mean annihilation, we say, “Since he started taking drugs, he has destroyed his life.” It means to ruin from its intended purpose. A person in hell is destroyed from any function he might have had with Jesus in heaven. This word is also used in 1 Cor 5:5, “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction [ruin] of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” NKJV Paul was not speaking of annihilating the flesh, for he would no longer exist, but ruining him from his success in his sin. How often God has stopped us from continuing a wrong path by allowing some tragedy to come into our life at the point of our success to wake us up.
Destruction is the ruin of our souls from its intended life and purpose with Jesus. Our soul is uniquely designed with a will, with emotions, the power to reason and the memory of all of that. Much of our emotions are the result of our choices in our thinking and actions. Negative thoughts and actions are normally followed by negative emotions. The bible says we reap what we sow. The mind stayed on Jesus lives in perfect peace (Isa 26:3), while the mind stayed on problems suffers negative emotions. Our souls are destroyed and ruined from God’s intended purpose, when we chose to live our lives separate from the life of Jesus. Paul put it this way, “For those who live [choice] according to the flesh set their minds [thoughts] on the things of the flesh, but those who live [choice] according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death [result: separate from God], but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. [result: united with God]” Rom 8:5-6, NKJV
Our earthly brain has a memory where all we have said and done is stored. But thank God that He keeps much of our past hidden in our subconscious memory or we would be flooded by the constant memories of past failures. The soul in hell will have perfect recall, they will be able to remember every thought, action, every decision, everything they accepted and rejected and everything they have said and done.
How do we know this? Because believers will experience the opposite as they enter heaven from those entering hell. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Rev 21:4, KJV
If God does not do the above for unbelievers, we get a picture of what hell is going to be. God is not going to wipe away all their tears or the things that caused those tears. There will be a continual death and separation from the presence of God. The unbeliever will not be able to enjoy any of God’s virtues, hell will be pure evil and darkness.
Sorrow, crying and pain will be the way of life. Depression and anger will turn inward on self in a world filled with darkness.
The former things of the past will now be haunted by past decisions, bad relationships and by the things that once seemed important. All of this will produce a level of regret that will continue to haunt the individual through out eternity.
Heaven wouldn’t be heaven if we were troubled by our past mistakes. The person in hell will have their full memory of every second of their life. They will be able to recall every tear and feel every pain of the past, it will be as fresh as if it all just happened. The continual sorrow of hell will find no relief and no encouragement and it will find no pleasure to relive its pain. The soul in hell will cry out trillions and trillions of times in remorse for what it has done, but the power to change will be gone.
The person in hell will have eternity to question their choices they made in this life, “Why didn’t I listen, why did I do this?” Such statements will come up over and over throughout eternity.
Regret is a torture even in this life. Have you ever lay on your bed and said, “Why did I do that, it was so stupid, I was a fool. I wish I had the chance to do it all over.” In that experience you caught a temporal glimpse of hell while still living on this earth… a ruin and destruction while still alive.
Hell is the place where the only thing one can draw from is the memories of their life on this earth and their experiences while living in the presence of absolute darkness. The mind and emotions without God will be the greatest source of eternal pain; even now we experience many of these negative emotions as we walk in sin and rebellion to Him. Ones whole life will pass trillions of times in what seems like seconds in eternity. Without time, a hundred years of ones life will be like seconds in eternity.
Many people today live in the shadow of hell on this earth. They are tormented in a condition without knowing God. They suffer depression, obsessions, frustration, hopelessness, loneliness and a myriad of other negative emotions. Those things are only an introduction and foreshadow of hell. People lying on their beds at night crying out in the darkness of their rooms gives some idea of hell’s suffering and minds stayed on self. Haunted by memories, mistakes, weaknesses and failed relationships have created hell for many today. Many tormented people who have committed suicide to end their pain and hopelessness, have only woke up and sealed themselves to a much greater longer lasting pain in hell.
We read about Legion, the demon possessed man who lived in the dark tombs in the “country of the Gadarenes,” he was in torment day and night from legions of demons; it speaks of him: “And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.” Mark 5:5, NKJV
We also get a glimpse of hell in the story of the rich man and Lazarus mentioned in Luke 16:23 - 25 and 28, we find the rich man in hell and Lazarus in Abraham bosom awaiting the finale resurrection.
The condition and the words of the rich man is frightening “And being in torments in Hades... I am tormented in this flame…but now he (Lazarus) is comforted and you (the rich man) are tormented…for [rich man says] I have five brothers, that I may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.”
The torment of hell is forever
Matt 25:46, “And these will go away into everlasting (Greek: aionios) punishment (Greek: kolisis torment), but the righteous into eternal (aionios) life." NKJV
The words everlasting and eternal mentioned here come from the same Greek word aionios. One place is defined as an eternal place of torment and the other as an eternal place of life. The punishment of hell is real eternal torment, in 1 John 4:18, this same Greek word mentioned above, kolisis, is translated as torment. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.” NKJV
Love and fear can not coexist like love and hell cannot coexist.
Rev 21:8, But the fearful, and unbelieving... shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
The first death being a separation from this life on the earth and the second death being the finale and eternal separation from the life of Jesus.
There are those who say that hell can not exist, but how could one go into an eternal nonexistent hell and be tormented? Physically dead people don’t feel pain. So for there to be eternal pain there must be an eternal hell. In hell the person will be alone. The bible also says that the punishment of hell will differ in measures according to one’s knowledge of His will so how could it be nonexistent.
“And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few.” Luke 12:47-48, NKJV
“So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'” Matt 22:12-13, NKJV
Doesn’t sound like there is going to be much fellowship in hell with a person living in outer darkness? “Outer darkness” is not a place where one can see. The weeping and gnashing of teeth doesn’t indicate a community of relationships. In Genesis chapter one, it says that darkness covered the face of the earth. Then God said, “let there be light.” In hell there will be no light.
The soul that rejected Jesus’ life and refused to die to self will live in regret and eternal anger. Hell will be the fullness of emptiness and loneliness without end. Tears, death, sorrow, crying, pain and the former things will be fresh all throughout eternity… that is the fire of Hell.
Too often we try to solve the solution of an eternal hell out of our own limited understanding using our limited logic. Making statements such as “God is love” and then concluding that a loving God would have no one suffer for eternity. Such thinking may initially sounds logical, but it is not scriptural. Accurate decision concerning a point cannot be made without knowing all the facts. Truth is not established from working from man’s reasoning up to God, but rather from God’s word and reality down to man.
Matt 25:41, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels”
Fire represents, in a figure, suffering as apposed to a mere comfortable living atmosphere or temperature. Why would there be an everlasting “fire” (suffering) if there was no one there to suffer in the everlasting fire? If the fire is everlasting then those in the fire must also be everlasting. How could there be everlasting suffering in a void?
Matt 25:46, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." NKJV
So if the righteous have eternal life with God, is that life also to be interpreted as a durative time as is with those suffering with everlasting punishment? Both are eternal is obvious.
John 6:47, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” NKJV
Again, am I to assume that “everlasting life” is but for a moment in eternity? What good is heaven or hell if it has no part at all in eternity? Who is going to bring an end to life? God can’t, He doesn’t kill.
Matt 18:8-9, "If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire [suffering]. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” NKJV
Hell is a fire, a place of suffering.
Acts 13:46, “but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.” NKJV
Some of the Jews rejected “everlasting life” and therefore will live in everlasting death… separation from God.
2 Thess 1:8-10, “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction [this explains the fire] from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe.” NKJV
Again we are given another definition of the punishment of Hell: a separation from God, the only source of love and peace.
Rom 6:22-23, “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death [separation from God], but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Jude 6, “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness [no light] for the judgment of the great day [the second death or second and finale separation from God.” NKJV
Jude 7, “as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” NKJV
If hell was a literal fire, how could it be outer darkness???? From my recollection, fire gives light. Fire is not literal; it is representative of the pain one suffers.
Jude 12-13, “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” NKJV
The phrase "forever and ever" comes from the Greek words aionas ton aionon; it is used both of God's eternal being and the duration of eternal damnation. So what conclusion should we draw?
Rev 20:10, “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Some believe that the fires of hell are symbolic and/or temporal. But the following verses show that they are not.
Matt. 3:12 says, "And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (See also Luke 3:17.)
Mark 9:43 says, "And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire."
The word "unquenchable" is "asbestos" in the Greek. According to the Strong's lexicon, it means "unquenchable, the eternal hell fire to punish the damned."
Matt. 3:12, Luke 3:17, and Mark 9:43 means unquenchable, without end. Unquenchable, inextinguishable and not quenched all refer to a fire that cannot be put out. So if the fire of hell cannot be put out, those in the fire of hell can not get out or burn up. Again, fire represents suffering.
Hell is for ever and this is why Jesus said, "And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire," (Matt. 18:8).
Is hell the evidence of the lack of love on God’s part?
Why is there a hell? I prayed about this and I have often questioned how a loving God could send a person to hell. But hell is not God’s decision; it is the person’s decision that rejects Him in the first place. It is a choice that we must all make. We can choose to live by our pride, our knowledge, and hatred of God, or we can choose to live beyond our knowledge and live by a faith, a hope and a love for Him alone.
God created mankind to live in a very unique and love-filled relationship to Himself. Man was created to share in His Glory, His authority and an oneness with Him beyond all His creation and above all His angels. We were to be His one bride…the eternal God having a bride??? This is a one-time event that demonstrates God’s glory in eternity. Who would not want to be a part of His bride? The marriage between a man and a woman is a figure of the finale marriage between Christ and His body. A marriage between a man and woman represents the fulfillment of the inexplicable marriage between God and mankind.
Mankind was intended to be His bride and to enjoy His love forever. It is difficult to comprehend this relationship while living here on this earth.
“But then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” 1 Cor 13:12, NKJV
It is like trying to understand a king going into the slums to pick out his bride. Such a notion is inconceivable. I am not saying God went to the slums to get us, I am saying that such a thought of someone so wonderful, so powerful, so full of love would chose mankind to be the recipients of His love is inconceivable.
A marriage between God and man is God’s eternal purpose. The love within the triune God will bring mankind into an intimate relationship totally separate and exalted from all of His creation. It will be the relationship that will end all relationship. The finale image of God placed on His bride will be so strong that it will bring even further glory in the heavens and throughout eternity.
“And as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man [Jesus].” NKJV
Paul said it this way, “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the called out [loved] ones, which in fact is His body [ Col 1:18,24], the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Eph 1:18-23
We are given the choice to who we will serve now. He has created the universe and all that is in it so no one could miss His design.
I have two daughters and I love them very much and would give my life for them. My plan is that they would hear me and find life, but if they refuse, that doesn’t make me evil or unloving. I have the highest plans for their success and love. If they suffer by rejecting me as their father, their suffering is not my fault based on my wife and I giving them birth. Their suffering is the result of their rejecting us as their parents. God gave man life and in that life He gave mankind the greatest opportunity for a unique loving relationship with Himself; if man rejects that life that doesn’t diminish His love.
His love for His bride was seen in His love for His Son and we are just as dear to Him as His love for the Son. Words in this article can never tell of that glorious plan coming out of His love. If we miss it, it is because we have chosen to reject His Word and we, like Satan, want to be worshipped and recognized in place of God
I am finding it very difficult to communicate God's love and His purpose for creating mankind. I believe we get a peephole picture of God Himself when scripture says of man in Gen 2:20, “But for Adam no suitable helper was found.” NIV
I believe with the creation of all the angels God had not yet created a suitable and unique relationship for Himself. A relationship entered into by a covenant between the bride and bridegroom. If in God creating mankind there was to be a marriage between God and mankind, it was to be the most Glorious event in all of eternity. It is to be a relationship born out of God for the glory of all time. This is why love, not service, is exalted as the most definitive word describing His assembly. “This is how you know we are Christians … by love.” read 1 John 3:14
There is so much in this word love that if one had a true understanding of it, nothing on this earth or in this life would matter. Satan, using religion, has done everything possible to divert us off course from a sacrificial love and intimacy with one anther. Satan has created divisions, denominations, competition, doctrines, forms, programs and institutionalized a Christianity that has diverted us from the real cause of why we are here. Looking at what we call church today, can one even imagine that we are the forming of a united loving bride, so intimately connected, so intimately supported and so intimately in love with one another? Time and the traditions of men have carried us to where we now find ourselves. We are adrift from our course and obsessed with the talents of men… we have lost the vision.
God's great love needed a bride to fulfill His love (love cannot exist alone) and the man God created needed a mate to procreate and to experience love. Later in time God took from the man (now representing God) and created the woman (representing mankind the bride to-be). It was “what” was taken out of the man that became his wife and it was “what” was taken out of God that will become the bride of Christ.
The marriage supper of the Lamb is when all of eternity will have been fulfilled through the union of the bride and the bridegroom. This eternal bond throws my mind into total amazement… beyond description and beyond emotions. This love union is the most powerful, the most purist form of love that will ever be. God is going to bring into union with Himself something that will complete in eternity the full purpose of God. This union can only be described by the word "Glory".
God is looking for a Glorious assembly of special people that have "chosen" to be commitment to Him, as a wife is committed to her husband. This mystery is seen in a number of scriptures, "Christ in you the hope of 'Glory.'" "that He [Jesus] might present her to Himself a glorious assembly, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." Eph 5:27
John 17:22-23, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one.” NKJV
We have yet to comprehend this oneness… attached to it is the glory. Without this union, there is no Glory. In our pursuit as Christians, our religion, fostered by the traditions of men, has cancelled out both the love of one another and the oneness to the complete body of Christ. The spirit that deceives us exercises this deception above all others… for in love and unity is the seed of the bride.
If men go to hell, it is not God who sends them there; they choose to be there for two reasons: first, they chose to reject Jesus and His word and second, they refuse to seek Him with all their hearts. God has given all men an abundant means to know Him through the wonders of the universe, the wonders of creation and finally the wonders of mankind.
God’s love is not marred because a man chooses to reject Him and separate himself from God. In a marriage it is the love and choice of both that form the covenant relation. God is love and He cannot operate outside of Love no matter what other may chose. There cannot be a marriage when one of them rejects the other.
God made the most enormously gracious offer to mankind in a relationship to Himself and some have rejected it by two means: first, men have turned to a “form of Godliness,” a religion based on men’s tradition that ignores the true relationship based on a living faith and obedience to Himself.
“What is ordinarily called ‘religion’ is a substitute. The substitute has the obvious purpose of replacing immediate experience by a choice of suitable symbols
supported by an organized dogma and ritual.” Carl G. Jung (1875-1961).
Second, men have rejected Him by an outward and determinant rejection of God Himself. They deny the existence of God and hate the morale implications that go with there being a God.
God in His justice cannot embrace what rejects Him. When man rejects the greatest offer, he by choice, will have to accepts the consequences as Satan his. Hell is the place outside of God’s presence and outside of His glory. Pride, self-exaltation was the reason for Satan’s fall and it is so today when men in their pride work outside of God’s purposes. In a corrupt world system men exalt themselves with and without religion.
Hell is not the evidence of a lack of God’s love; it is the evidence of the lack of Satan’s and man’s love. God offers love; man rejects it and therefore spends eternity living out the fruit of their heart.
Prov 19:3, “A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.” NIV
We need to wake up and deal with reality. We are here in this life but a few years, but when we die we are there for eternity. No problem is so serious that we should magnify it against a great and loving God. We are now engaged in a struggle and in a war for the life of our eternal souls.
Jesus died for our souls and He want us to be with Him. Satan is using every effort to get us to focus on this life so we will miss the next one with Jesus. Satan is building strongholds in our minds to secure and insure his power over us to send us to hell. Satan is drawing on our pleasures, our wants and our goals and for us to focus on the cries of our self-centered life. Satan uses us to question God and he blinds us from the reality of God, eternity and heaven.
If you can regret the things you have done in this life, it is nothing to be compared with the regret of missing Jesus in the next life. There is nothing we are suffering now that can be compared with the glory that shall be revealed when we see Him face to face.
Repent, strive to enter the narrow gate, lose your life for the sake of having Christ in you and you living your life in and though Him. Love your brothers and sisters. Obey Jesus’ commandments. Walk in the Spirit and not after your carnal nature… heaven is worth it and only those worthy of Him will be there.
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." Mark 8:36-38, NKJV
<< back to
articles back to the top