Is There Real Fire in Hell?
via Gospel Minutes, Vol. 58, No. 34, Aug. 21, 2009.
Is there real fire in hell where the wicked shall go to be punished after this life is over?
In answering this question, let us look at a couple of passages of Scripture.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus pictures the final judgment, with the righteous and the wicked being separated. To the wicked the Lord will say, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). Note a couple of things from this: 1) Hell is a place of "eternal fire" and, 2) It is prepared for the devil and his angels. Hell is not prepared for you, nor for any other human being. But still, some will be there for eternity -- by their own choice. As Jesus continues, He says of the lost, "These shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:46). How long will the punishment be in hell? The same "duration" as the life for the righteous -- both are said to be "eternal."
Another passage of Scripture says: "And whosoever shall cause one of these little ones that believe on Me to stumble, it were better for him if a great millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire. (where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched). And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having thy two feet to cast into hell (where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched). And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out: it is good for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell; where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:42-48). Notice the emphasis which Jesus makes about the fire of hell, and note that He says "their worm dieth not" -- in other words they still feel pain. And this pain is eternal.
In Revelation 20:10-15, the Lord reveals something about hell to John. "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever...And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. And if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire." So hell was prepared for the devil and his angels, "And they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." And notice that any one whose name was not written in the "book of life" was cast into the (lake of fire). So, the punishment of the devil is shared by those who are banned to hell:"Eternal fire, tormented for ever and ever."
This theme is also found in Revelation 14:11, as John speaks of those who do not serve God: "The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever, and they have no rest day or night." That means that there will be unceasing, conscious pain, with no hope for a reprieve. Jesus pictures the rich man in "torment," pleading for relief, "I am in anguish in this flame" (Luke 16:24).
But man does not have to be lost. the apostle Paul wrote that Christ "came into the world to save sinners" (I Timothy 1:15), and He died "for all men" (Hebrews 2:9). His promise to you and me is, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). And again He promises, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give unto thee the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). Thus, the terrors of hell hold no terror for one who puts his trust in the Son of God and lives for Him. But for one who refuses to do His bidding, there is the "certain expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire" (Hebrews 10:27).
The real tragedy is that any should be lost and spend eternity in the fire of hell. But many will. No one needs to be lost, for Jesus died for one and all. Think: "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3).