Christians believe because the Bible is clear that hell exists.
Scripture speaks of hell in many ways:
- as a place of torment (Lk 16:28),
- as the netherworld (Lk 16:22),
- as the abyss (Lk 8:31; Rev 9:1-2,11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1,3),
- as a fiery furnace (Mt 13:42, 50),
- as a pool of fire (Rev 20:10, 14),
- as a fiery pool of burning sulfur (Rev 19:20),
- as a pool of fire and sulfur (Rev 20:10; 21:8),
- as Tartarus (Greek mythological place of punishment)(2 Pet 2:4),
- as Gehenna or as the fire of Gehenna (Mt 5:22, 29; 10:28; 18:9; 23:33).
As a state, Scripture speaks of hell with many words:
- as death (Rom 6:21; 8:6; 8:13; 2 Cor 2:14-16),
- as the second death (Rev 2:11; 20:6; 21:8),
- as eternal ruin (2 Thess 1:9; 1 Tim 6:9),
- as outside darkness (Mt 8:12; 22:11-13; 25:30),
- as eternal fire (Mt 18:8, 25:41; Jude 7),
- as eternal punishment (Mt 25:46),
- as destruction (Mt 7:13; Phil 1:28; 2 Pet 3:7),
- as damnation (Mk 16:16; Jn 12:25),
- as perishing (Jn 3:16; 10:27; Rom 2:12),
- as unquenchable fire (Mk 9:42-47; Lk 3:17),
- as fire and sulfur (Rev 14:9-14),
- as thick gloom of darkness (2 Pet 2:17; Jude 13),
- as corruption (Gal 6:8),
- as Babylon (Rev 18; 19:1-3)
- Mt 25: 31-46
- (Then Jesus told the crowds and his disciples: ...) "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. ... Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' ... And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
- Lk 16: 19-26
- (Jesus said to them [the Pharisees]:...) "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.' Abraham replied, 'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.' "
- Mk 9:42-47
- (Jesus said in reply ... ) "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe (in me) to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna ..."
- 2 Thess 1:9
- These will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, ...
- Mt 13:40-42
- Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
- Jn 15:6
- Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.
- Rom 2:6-9
- ... (he) will repay everyone according to his works: ... wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness. Yes, affliction and distress will come upon every human being who does evil, ...
- 1 Cor 6:9-10
- Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
- Jn 3:36
- Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.
- Jn 5:29
- (This was Jesus' answer ...) those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.
- Rev 21:27
- But nothing unclean will enter it (the new Jerusalem, heaven),, nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies.
- Rev 22:15
- Outside (the new Jerusalem, heaven) are the dogs, the sorcerers, the unchaste, the murderers, the idol-worshipers, and all who love and practice deceit.
- Mt 10:28
- And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.
- Rev 21:8
- But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
The Fathers of the Church reflect the constant faith of the Church on the existence and nature of hell.
- Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians, Ch. 16:1
- Make no mistake, brethren; the corrupter of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. If, then, those are dead who do these things according to the flesh, how much worse if, with bad doctrine, one should corrupt the faith of God for which Jesus Christ was crucified. Such a man, for becoming contaminated, will depart into unquenchable fire; and will any one who listens to him.
- Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, Ch. 40
- Indeed, the sinner's life of torment presents no equivalent to anything that pains the sense here. Even if some one of the punishments in that other world be named in terms that are well known here, the distinction is still not small. When you hear the word fire, you have been taught to think of a fire other than the fire we see, owing to something being added to that fire which in this there is not; for that fire is never quenched, whereas experience has discovered many ways of quenching this; and there is a great difference between a fire which can be extinguished, and one that does not admit of extinction.
The teaching Magisterium of the Church has also affirmed the existence and nature of hell.
- The Lateran Council IV, 1215
- ... the wicked (receive), a perpetual punishment with the devil ...
- Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254)
- But if anyone dies unrepentant in the state of mortal sin, he will undoubtedly be tormented forever in the fires of an everlasting hell. (Letter to the Bishop of Tusculum, Section 24)
- Vatican Council I, 1869-70
- Therefore, all who die in actual mortal sin are excluded from the kingdom of God and will suffer forever the torments of hell from which there is no redemption.
- If anyone says that a man can be justified even after death; or if he says that the punishments of the damned in hell will not last forever; let him be anathema.
By Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl.
Catholic Biblical Apologetics, © Copyright 1985-1997, Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture texts are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
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Last Updated: January 3, 1997