Did you know that in Scripture, the term “forever” is often used in conjunction with an event that has already taken place?
For instance, Hannah pledged to God that she would take her infant son Samuel to serve in the temple at Shiloh, where he would abide “forever” (1 Samuel 1:22). No student of the Bible would take this to mean that he would remain in that temple for as long as time should last. Hannah herself interpreted the statement as meaning that Samuel would serve in the temple for “as long as he lives” (verse 28).
In another case, Jonah stated that he was in the belly of the fish “forever” (Jonah 2:6), but we know that he endured his eerie journey beneath the sea for “three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).
Indeed, more than 50 times the Bible uses “forever” to mean “for as long as time lasts in that specific case.” Even today, the term is used colloquially to describe a downpour or a hot summer afternoon that “went on forever.”
The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is” not eternal life in hellfire, but “death” (Romans 6:23), the same penalty God assured Adam and Eve would suffer if they ate the forbidden fruit.
Ezekiel states clearly that “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4), and a plethora of other Bible verses and passages endorse this position. The prophet Malachi wrote that sinners would burn up as “stubble” and would become “ashes under the soles” of the feet of the redeemed (Malachi 4:1, 3).
Even the final fate of Satan is explicitly pronounced in Ezekiel 28:18, where the Bible says that the enemy of souls will be reduced to ashes upon the “earth.”
Compare that with Psalm 37:10 (“For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more”), Psalm 68:2 (“As wax melts before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God), and other similar verses. Soon you get a clear picture that the purpose of the fires of hell is to eradicate sin and to expunge the universe of its awful presence.
Interestingly, it was the devil who was first to suggest that sinners would not die (Genesis 3:4). A hell where sinners never perish would prove the devil right and would make God, who told Eve she would “surely die” as a result of transgression (Genesis 2:17), a liar.