Hell is a Real Place (Part 2)

Hell is a Real Place (Part 2)

In stories or movies you will come across many places that are not real. Of course, we may allow our imaginations to treat it as real while we engage in the story, but at the end of the day, we know that they are simply fictional. Unlike the places of fiction like Oz, the 100 Acre Wood and Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory – hell is not something that occurs in fictional literature and therefore is to be dismissed. Nor is it a mere metaphor for discomfort and difficulty. Hell is a real place. Of course if we are going to obtain a right understanding of what it is like we must go to the one authority we can count on, and that is the word of God. In the Scriptures there are numerous names and images used to describe hell. Of these, I will consider the most common ones found in the New Testament.

The word hades appears ten times in the NT (Matt. 11:23; 16:18 Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14). It is used in two ways, a place of punishment (in my opinion the word hell is an appropriate translation) and secondly as the state of death (the transliteration hades is helpful). In reference to it being the place of punishment, it refers to the temporary torment of the wicked (cf. Luke 16:23). Though we may refer it it as hell, it is not the final hell.

Gehenna comes from the Hebrew Ge Hinnom which is a reference to the Valley of Hinnom (located at the south end of Jerusalem). The depraved action of sacrificing infants in the fire to the god of Molech occurred in this valley (2 Kings 16:3; 17:17; 21:6; 2 Chr. 28:3; 33:6). It later on became a place where refuse, waste, the dead bodies of criminals and animals were burned. When referring to the place of punishment and condemnation for the wicked, our Lord referred to it as Gehenna (Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5). Such a name was a vivid picture in the minds of our Lord’s listeners.

Linked with the word hell is the word fire. It is called the “lake of fire” (Rev. 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15), “unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12; Mark 9:43, 46, 48), “fiery furnace” (Matt. 13:42, 50) and “eternal fire” (Matt. 25:41). It is unknown what this actual fire will be like, it is clear that it is horrifying.

These terms help us identify the reality of hell as an actual place. It is not an illustration nor is it a fictional place – it is real. In my next post I will discuss in greater detail the occupants and the duration of hell. Then I will conclude the series with a post on God’s wonderful grace to all who are in Christ.


  1. Jackson

    God is love and love never fails. His love and mercy endures forever. Does it really endure forever or only in this finite life? He says to repay evil with good and to love our enemies, will He not do the same? Does evil win out in the end or does God get what He wants?

    1 Timothy 2:3-6- This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

    1 Timothy 4:10- This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.

    • Andrew Courtis

      Thanks for your comment Jackson. You have asked a number of questions, so I’ll look at them separately. It is true (as you said) that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that His love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8). You asked if His love endures forever or is it finite in this life only. The answer is that it endures forever (read Psalm 136). Also, you noted that He calls for us to do good and love our enemies, which is true (Matt. 5:44; Gal. 6:10). You then asked, does He do the same? My reply is yes He does (Matt. 5:45). In answer to your final question (does evil win out in the end or does God get what He wants?), I respond by saying, God gets what He wants (Psalm 115:3). The Bible tells us that God is holy (Lev. 11:44) and hates sin (Psalm 5:5; Proverbs 6:16-19). Yet in His grace, He throughout the ages held off final judgment and has shown great mercy and love towards the lost (they get to breathe and enjoy many benefits of life). However, no one is to presume upon this forbearance, for the unbelieving are storing up wrath for themselves in the day of judgment (Romans 2:4-5). The Lord has been merciful and gracious to mankind, but He will bring final judgment to all the unbelieving.

      Those verses from 1 Timothy (2:3-6 and 4:10) do not teach a final salvation of all mankind (universalism), as such a conclusion will contradict other references within the same letter (1 Tim. 4:1; 5:24). What do they teach? The reference to God desiring “all people to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4) needs to be read in the full context. The “all people” means that salvation is not limited to one kind of group in society (ethnic, male, female, rich, poor etc.), however God desires that those from all kinds of groups will be saved (see 1 Tim. 2:1-2 for this use of all).

      The second reference again is not teaching the error of universalism. The word “Saviour” in 4:10 is used in two ways (the verse makes a distinction between all people and those that believe). The Lord is a Saviour to all in the sense of showing them common grace (Matt. 5:45), but He is a Saviour to those who believe in a special way – He provides them with salvation! Do a word study on the word saviour and discover that various uses it has in Scripture. Always compare Scripture with Scripture and allow it to be your final authority.

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