A Biblical Description
by Kimberly B. Southall

All scripture references are linked to The Bible Gateway. When you click on a scripture reference, it may take a few moments for it to load. Once you are finished reading the scripture reference, click "back" on your browser to return to this article.
There are countless ideas and opinions about hell. Some believe it exists, others don't. Of those who do, some believe it is literal, others only figurative. To find the truth, there is only one source: God's Word. The Bible makes it very clear that hell does exist and that it is a literal place. So, what does the Bible tell us about hell? [Please note that this study was written using the New International Version of the Bible.]

Environment. Those sent to hell are outside (Matthew 8:12) and shut out from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Hell is a place of darkness (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 25:30) or, more specifically, blackest darkness (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 1:13). No doubt, there is smoke in hell (Revelation 14:11), because it is a place of fire (Matthew 5:22; Matthew 18:8-9; Matthew 25:41; Mark 9:43; Luke 16:24; Jude 1:7, 23)--blazing fire (Daniel 7:11), consuming fire (Isaiah 33:14), unquenchable fire (Isaiah 1:31; Matthew 3:12), to be exact. Hell is known as the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15), the fiery lake (Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10; Revelation 21:8), and the fiery furnace (Matthew 13:42, 50). Hell is a place of burning sulfur (Revelation 14:10; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10; Revelation 21:8). It is described as gloomy dungeons (2 Peter 2:4), the pit (Job 33:16-30; Psalm 28:1; Psalm 30:3, 9; Psalm 69:15; Psalm 88:4; Psalm 103:4; Psalm 143:7; Proverbs 1:12; Isaiah 14:15, 19; Isaiah 38:17-18; Ezekiel 26:20; Ezekiel 28:8; Ezekiel 31:14, 16; Ezekiel 32:18-30), and the depths (Psalm 63:9; Psalm 71:20; Psalm 86:13; Proverbs 9:18; Isaiah 14:15; Lamentations 3:55; Ezekiel 32:23; Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15), and it contains dead bodies (Isaiah 66:24).

Condition of those there. Those in hell are twice dead (Jude 1:12); they have died the second death (Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8). They are punished (Matthew 25:46; Jude 1:7). They are condemned (Matthew 23:33; Mark 16:16; John 3:18; John 5:24, 29; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:12; James 5:12) to destruction (Matthew 7:13; John 17:12; Romans 9:22; Galatians 6:8; Philippians 3:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 6:9; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:7, 16; Revelation 17:8, 11) and ruin (1 Timothy 6:9). Those in hell suffer shame (Isaiah 1:29; Daniel 12:2), disgrace (Isaiah 1:29), and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2), because God's wrath remains on them (John 3:36). They are in agony (Luke 16:24-25) and torment (Luke 16:23, 28; Revelation 14:10-11; Revelation 20:10). In hell, everyone is salted with fire (Mark 9:49) and is burning (Isaiah 1:31; Isaiah 33:14). They are cut to pieces (Matthew 24:51). Both body and soul are destroyed in hell (Matthew 10:28). There is no rest day or night (Revelation 14:11). It is certainly no wonder that there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 13:42, 50; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 24:51; Matthew 25:30; Luke 13:28).

Duration. As horrible as hell and its suffering is, it gets worse. For once one goes to hell, there is no end to it. In hell, the worm does not die (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:48). The fire never goes out (Mark 9:43); indeed, it is not quenched (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:48). The horrors of hell last day and night (Revelation 20:10), forever (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 1:13), and ever and ever (Revelation 14:11; Revelation 20:10). Hell is eternal (Matthew 18:8; Matthew 25:41, 46; Jude 1:7) and everlasting (Isaiah 33:14; Daniel 12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:9).

Warning to avoid at all costs. Jesus gives us very serious warnings about avoiding hell. He tells us it would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around the neck than to risk being sent to hell (Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2). Indeed, He warns us it would be better to forfeit parts of our bodies rather than to risk going to hell (Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-47). And we are warned not to fear others but to instead fear God, who has the power to throw into hell (Luke 12:5).

Conclusion. If we use all of these descriptions of hell to make a mental image of the eternal place of punishment, it is hard to imagine why anyone would risk going there. Why would anyone risk such endless torment when God has provided a way to avoid it-through the blood of His only Son, Jesus?

Hell exists. It is a real place of agony and suffering. And once one is in hell, it is forever.

Copyright © 2000 Kimberly B. Southall. All rights reserved.