Is Hell a Place of Eternal Torment or Will Non-Christians Cease to Exist?

Will a good God really torment people for ever and ever in hell or will unbelievers die and go to hell, face their punishment and then cease to exist? One of the more popular views out here today is this view that is called “annihilation”. This is the idea that if you are an unbeliever and you die and go to hell, that you will not be tormented eternally but rather you will be tormented for a certain time that matches your crime, and then after that time is up, you will cease to exist. In this video, I want to talk about why I believe that hell is first of all a literal place, but second of all, it is a place of eternal torment and why I do not believe that the teaching of annihilation is biblical.

The first argument that an annihilationist will make is: How is it possible for someone or anything to burn eternally in hell because fire consumes things. What does the Bible actually say? If you look at Luke 16, it describes hell as a place of torment, it describes Hell as a place where this man was in anguish, in flames. If you look at the story of Moses in the burning bush, that is proof that God is powerful enough to have something that is on fire but yet is not burning up. Revelation 14:9-11 “Then another angel, a third one, followed them saying with a loud voice ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of his anger.’” Notice it says here “and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb”. You may say “where does it say that they’re gonna be tormented forever?” Revelation 14:11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, they have no rest day and night those who worship the beast and his image.” An annihilationist says “It’s only the smoke that is rising up forever, not the actual fire”, which is in my opinion not a strong enough argument because how can you have smoke when there is no fire? Smoke comes from fire. If smoke is rising up day and night forever and ever, they’re gonna be tormented day and night, then it seems to suggest that there’s going to be fire that is going to be burning as well.

The second argument that an annihilationist will make is that there are certain verses in the Bible such as John 3:16 that say that people will actually perish or will be destroyed. In my opinion, there is much more biblical proof that when an unbeliever dies, sadly they are going to be tormented eternally. Revelation 20:10 says “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” I don’t see how I can get more clear than that. It says they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. If this is the fate of Satan and the false prophet and the Antichrist, then it seems to suggest that this will also be the fate of his followers the unbelievers as well. In addition to this, notice that the beast and the false prophet were both thrown into the lake of fire a thousand years prior, before the millennial period had begun, which means that they have been burning for a thousand years, which is a very long time and now Satan himself is cast into the lake of fire. Finally, the most common use of the word death is to describe something that passes from one state to another state, not something that ceases to exist. 

The third argument that an annihilationist will make is that the word “eternal” does not always mean eternal or everlasting; it could have other meanings, which there is some truth to. There are different ways to use the word “eternal” but in my opinion the verse that clearly dispels the view of annihilationism is Matthew 25:46, which describes the fate of both believers and unbelievers. It says here “these will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life.” This is the same exact Greek word here for eternal punishment and eternal life, which seem to suggest that if we do believe that believers are going to be experiencing eternal bliss in heaven, then we also have to believe that unbelievers are going to be experiencing eternal punishment as well. But they will suggest that eternal punishment does not mean eternal torment but rather eternally being separated from God, which in my opinion is a far stretch considering the other scriptures that we have read.

The fourth argument that an annihilationist will make is that it doesn’t seem fair that God would punish people throughout all eternity for sins or crimes that were committed in time. The problem with this view is that who are we to decide what is fair and what is unfair. That is God’s responsibility. So I see this as being more of a logical argument rather than one that’s based on Scripture.

The fifth and final argument is: how can we as believers and how can God, being the moral God that He is, enjoy all eternity knowing that on the other side there are people that are being tormented eternally. Some would suggest this means that God did not actually triumph over evil because how can that be if evil is still going on in the form of torment. The problem here is that the Bible nowhere describes heaven as a place where we’re going to be concerned with anything other than what is going on in heaven. The Bible describes heaven as a place where there’ll be no more death, no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain, the old things have passed away. So I don’t believe we’re gonna be in heaven concerned about loved ones who have passed on that didn’t know Jesus, who are experiencing eternal torment.

You may have a different view about hell and I respect that but in my opinion this view of annihilationism simply takes the sting out of death, it softens the blow knowing that if I die and go to hell, I’m only going to experience torment for a certain period of time and then I won’t know anything anymore and I won’t experience torment. Regardless of what you believe about Hell, one thing is true. We need to get busy about sharing our faith so that we can snatch as many people away from the devil as possible.