What does the word hell mean in the Bible?

Hell in the Bible

The word “hell” appears in the Bible 54 times and is translated from several different words with various meanings, as indicated below:

In the Old Testament:

31 times from “Sheol,” which means the “grave.”

In the New testament:

10 times from “Hades,” which means “the grave.”

12 times from “Gehenna,” which means “the place of burning.”

1 time from “Tartarus,” which means “a place of darkness.”

God’s Purpose

God’s purpose for hell is to destroy the devil, his followers (Revelation 20:10), all sin and make the world safe for eternity. The Lord did all He can to save His children from death (Luke 9:56), but if a person chooses to follow the devil, God will have no choice but let him share the devil’s destiny.  “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be.” “The enemies of the Lord … shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away” (Psalms 37:10, 20).

Hell Will Not Be Forever

The “eternal hell of torment” theory did not originate from the Bible. The scriptures teach that hell is not forever (Malachi 4:1, 3; Psalm 37:10, 20). If God tortured His enemies in a fiery place throughout eternity, He would be more cruel than the most wicked men of war have ever been.

The truth is that an eternal hell of torment would be a torture for God also, who loves even the most wicked person. Such a horrible theory is a blow on the loving character of our Heavenly Father. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The work of destroying the wicked in hell fire is so foreign to God’s nature that the Bible calls it His “strange act” (Isaiah 28:21). God’s great heart will be pained at the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). Further, an eternal hell of torment would preserve sin which is not part of God’s great plan (Revelation 21:3, 4).

Some don’t understand the term forever in the Bible. It means a period of time, limited or unlimited. It is used in the Scriptures in relation to situations that already ended. In Jonah 2:6, “for ever” means “three days and nights” (Jonah 1:17). In Deuteronomy 23:3, this means “10 generations.” In the case of man, this means “as long as he lives” or “until death” (1 Samuel 1:22, 28; Exodus 21:6; Psalm 48:14).

The Bible specifically teaches that hell fire will go out and that there will not be left “a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it” (Isaiah 47:14). The prophet Malachi writes that sinners would burn up as “stubble” and would become “ashes under the soles” of the feet of the saints (Malachi 4:1, 3). Even the devil will be turned to ashes upon the earth (Ezekiel 28:18). The wicked do not keep on burning forever; the fires of the last day will basically “burn them up” (Jeremiah 17:27; Matthew 3:12; 25:41; 2 Peter 3:7–13; Jude 7).

God states that all will be punished according to their deeds. This means some will receive longer punishment than others, according to their works (Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:5-7; Proverbs 24:12) but after the punishment, the fire will certainly go out. The Bible also teaches that in God’s new kingdom all “former things” will be passed away (Revelation 21:1, 4). Hell, being one of the “former things,” will also pass away.

For Bible references on the question: Is Hell forever? Check the following link:

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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