What Is Hell? Is It a Place of Eternal Torment?
The Bible’s answer
Some Bible translations use the word “hell” for the Hebrew word “Sheol” and the matching Greek word “Hades,” both of which refer to the common grave of mankind. (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27) Many people believe in a fiery hell, as shown in the religious artwork accompanying this article. However, the Bible teaches otherwise.
Those in hell are unconscious and so cannot feel pain. “There is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol.”—Ecclesiastes 9:10.
Good people go to hell. The faithful men Jacob and Job expected to go there.—Genesis 37:35; Job 14:13.
Death, not torment in a fiery hell, is the penalty for sin. “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.”—Romans 6:7.
Eternal torment would violate God’s justice. (Deuteronomy 32:4) When the first man, Adam, sinned, God told him that his punishment would simply be to pass out of existence: “Dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19) God would have been lying if he were actually sending Adam to a fiery hell.
God does not even contemplate eternal torment. The idea that he would punish people in hellfire is contrary to the Bible’s teaching that “God is love.”—1 John 4:8; Jeremiah 7:31.
Who Goes to Hell?
The Bible’s answer
Hell (“Sheol” and “Hades” in the Bible’s original languages) is simply the grave, not a place of fiery torment. Who go to hell? Both good people and bad people. (Job 14:13; Psalm 9:17) The Bible says that this common grave of mankind is “the house of meeting for everyone living.”—Job 30:23.
Even Jesus went to hell when he died. However, “he was not kept in hell,” because God resurrected him.—Acts 2:31, 32, The Bible in Basic English.
Is hell eternal?
All those who go to hell will come back out, brought to life by Jesus through God’s power. (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15) Speaking of that future resurrection, the prophecy at Revelation 20:13 says that “death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them.” (King James Version) Once hell has been emptied, it will no longer exist; no one will ever go there again because “death will be no more.”—Revelation 21:3, 4; 20:14.
Not everyone who dies goes to hell, though. The Bible shows that some people become so steeped in wickedness that they are beyond repentance. (Hebrews 10:26, 27) When such ones die, they go, not to hell, but to Gehenna, which is a symbol of everlasting destruction. (Matthew 5:29, 30) For example, Jesus indicated that some of the hypocritical religious leaders in his day would go to Gehenna.—Matthew 23:27-33.