- Is Hell A Place Of Eternal Torture?

The traditional view of what "Hell" is is not what is taught in scripture. It is a tradition passed down from Greek mythology that is read into certain proof texts. God certainly would be a monster if he assigned people to eternal torture. Let's take a closer look at what God's word actually says about what hell is. It is simply the grave. People die and they are no more. Our blessed hope as that Jesus will return to raise us out of our graves to eternal life in his Kingdom. We will have no concept of time while dead in the grave. We will have no conscienceness while dead in the grave. Our next moment of conscienceness after death is at the resurrection when Christ returns. It will be like a time warp. You will not be assigned to eternal torture.

Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna are all translated as “Hell.” The word hell is not completely adequate in transfering the meanings of the various words used as hell. Therefore we must look at these original words, breakdown their meaning and context in which they are used.

Sheol = “the grave,” this is the Hebrew word used in the OT

Hades = this is the NT Greek word for Sheol, which means “the grave” 

Tartarus = only once was this word used for "hell" in 2 Peter 2:4. It is a literal place and location that is a holding pit or jail for the rebellious fallen angels until their day of judgment comes.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell(tartarus), putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment.

Gehenna = the Valley of Hinnom, a geographic location just outside of Jerusalem used to burn the bodies of criminals who had suffered capital punishment. Pagan deities were worshiped there and it became a garbage dump and a place of abomination where fire burned continuously. Gehenna became synonymous with “a place of burning.” Most of the occurrences of the word 'hell' in the New Testament refer to this 'place of burning' outside of Jerusalem.

Meaning Of Unquenchable Fire

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell(gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell(gehenna), into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire(gehenna): Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Mark 9:43-48 (Gehenna is Greek for the actual place outside of Jerusalem in Hebrew called “The Valley of Hinnom.” It is referenced in Neh. 11:30, II Kings 23:10, and Jer. 19:6. The people Jesus was speaking to knew of this place and understood. Jesus used this place to teach them that any sin in their lives needed to be cut off from them and thrown into the figurative fire to be completely destroyed, just as what was literally thrown into Gehenna was literally completely destroyed. The fires in the Valley of Hinnom never ceased due to the continued dumping of bodies there. Where the flames didn't reach, the worms did. Either way, the bodies were consumed away by fire or by worm. Never would the Jews have imagined disembodied spirits burning as it was physical bodies they saw. The fact that these fires of Hinnom continuously burned was sure proof that whatever was thrown into it would surely be consumed either by flame or worm. This is what Jesus taught and what the people understood. Jesus was also quoting from the book of Isaiah as seen in the verse below.)

"And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind." Isaiah 66:24 (Isaiah is speaking about the lake of fire that will consume the “dead bodies” before the new heaven and new earth. This is flesh that will be completely consumed away. And flesh represents sin, which is what is so loathsome to all mankind. But whatever burns will surely be consumed because the worms that eat them will not die until all are consumed. And the fires that burn them will not be quenched until all is consumed. But in order for the earth to be new, the flames will and must burn out.)

But if you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying any load as you come through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that will consume her fortresses.’ ” Jer. 17:27 (Jeremiah tells us what an "unquenchable fire" is. It consumed the fortresses of Jerusalem. In other words, it completely destroyed it. The fire was not quenchable UNTIL the destruction was complete. So the unquenchableness of the fire indicates absolute certainty that whatever is within the flames would surely be destroyed completely because the fires would never cease until nothing is left. Obviously those fortresses in Jerusalem are not still burning today.)

Meaning Of Eternal Fire

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. Matt. 18:8-9 (Eternal fire is used here in the book of Matthew that speaks on the same exact passage as that of Mark 9 that is written about on this page above. It's already been shown that these fires in the Valley of Hinnom only continued to burn due to the continued bodies being thrown into it. The illustration Jesus gave spoke to the certainty of complete destruction of that which was thrown into it. The book of Matthew now defines this as "eternal fire." So the account of Mark 9 helps us define this term found in Matthew.)

Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Jude 1:7 (Jude gives us an example of eternal fire. Those cities are obviously not still burning today. Their destruction was eternal and is everlasting. They are still gone to this day. But they are not still burning. The fire is sure and certain to consume what is within it because it will burn eternally and will be everlasting until what's within it is completely destroyed. Jude further confirms the meaning of what eternal fire is.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Matt. 25:41 (This fire will burn until all is consumed away.)