The doctrine of hell is a frightening reality and a stumbling block for many. Many today think that a loving God would not send people to hell for eternity. the Bible uses 3 terms that could be associated with what we call hell; Gehenna, Hades and Sheol.
Gehenna– (Valley of Hinnom) also known as Tepeth or “fireplace” where pagans sacrificed humans. (see 2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31; 32:25) the Jesus used the term Gehenna 11 times In the New Testament (see Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33 Mark 9:43, 45, 47 and Luke 12:5) If you look at the context He is never using it as an earthly place but as a state in the afterlife.
Hades and Sheol– (Power of the grave and death) the term Hades appears in the NT 10 times and in the old 102 times. Sheol appears 462 times in the Old and New testaments. Hades is mostly the so called holding place before the Judgment that is separated into two sections paradise and Gehenna. Luke 16:19-31 describes the rich man and Lazarus both dying and the rich man goes to Gehenna and place of torment and Lazarus goes to paradise or Abraham bosom. In the last days Paradise will be the new heavens and the new earth (Heaven completed) and Gehenna will be thrown into the lake of fire (hell completed Revelation 20:14)
is hell eternal? Matthew 18:8 clearly shows and even uses the words “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,” Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” and verse 46 “…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”using eternal punishment as an antonym for eternal life Revelation 14:1 says that the “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night.” Some people teach a soul sleep or an annihilation, they mostly quote verses out of the old testament when there was little known about hell. the Jehovah’s witnesses said this on their website “the lake of fire symbolizes eternal destruction. Death and Hades are “hurled into” it in that they will be done away with when mankind is freed from sin and the condemnation of death.” http://www.watchtower.org/e/20020715/article_02.htm that sounds like a contradiction on one hand we have eternal fire and during the end times it is thrown into the lake of fire being destroyed that means it was never eternal.
but this still raises the question: “how can a loving God send someone to eternal hell?” the Bible conveys a clear answer. Those who go to hell get exactly what they wanted, they chose to sin against an infinitely Holy God and offended him infinitely and will pay infinitely. If we lie to a Bug it’s no a big deal, if we lie to a 5 year old it becomes a bigger deal, if we lie to our boss we might get fired, if we lie to the president it’s most likely prison time. the consequence goes up depending of the offended party. The fact is that everyone has broken every commandment of God and spits in His face. On top of that, most have been told the Good news of Jesus Christ paying the fine and flat out reject the free offer of grace.
I think this rejecting of the doctrine of hell is caused by our high view of self, thinking that we are pretty good people. The Apostle Paul lays out the following when quoting the Old Testament in Romans chapter 3:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
For more information on how to fix this problem see “How can i be right with God?”