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Is Hellfire Real?

Is Hellfire Real?
The topic of hell has raged throughout the centuries, and the controversy about its reality remains strong even in Christian circles, where the idea that hell is a place of eternal torment is the view most widely held by Christians today.

Recently, author Rob Bell wrote, “It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief [hell as a fiery place of eternal torment] is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.”

Similarly, Pope John Paul II, during his long reign over the Roman Catholic Church, stirred up a theological hornets’ nest when he described hell as “the state of those who freely and definitely separate themselves from God, the source of all life and death.” He added controversially, hell is “not a punishment imposed externally by God.”

Both Bell’s and the former pope’s messages were received with joy and anger alike. In response to these messages, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary accused the pope of “soft-selling hell. … Jesus Himself spoke of hell as a lake of fire, where the worms would not die and the fire would not be quenched. It’s all very graphic.” Most Baptists believe sinners are suffering right now in eternal torment.

And then scholars such as England’s Dr. John Stott, asserting that the belief of eternal torment is based on pagan philosophy, teach that such a view of God is inconsistent with the biblical portrait of His character. Stott and other prominent Bible teachers propose that the fires will ultimately put the unsaved out of existence—not hold them in eternal agony.

He explains that while Jesus did make it very clear that there is a real hell (Matthew 10:28), He explained something vitally significant in the parable of the wheat and the tares—“As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world” (Matthew 13:40). According to Stott, the implications are obvious. First, in sharp contrast to the claims of Vatican City, hell is a real place where the “children of the wicked one” (Matthew 13:38) will be “burned” (verse 40). Yet contrary to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, nobody has gone there yet.

(It is worth noting here that for the majority of times the word translated “hell” is used in Scripture, it literally means “the grave.” In only 12 of the 54 times we read the word “hell” does the original word mean “place of burning.”

Who Is Right?

So who is right?

Is it the pope, Rob Bell, John Stott, or Christians who continue in the tradition of Jonathan Edwards, a Puritan preacher who traveled throughout 18th-century New England proclaiming that “there will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery” of the ever-burning fires of hell?

According to some surveys, 64 percent of Americans believe there is a hell, but only 34 percent believe it is “a real place where people suffer eternal fiery torments.” A surprising 53 percent view hell as "an anguished state of existence eternally separated from God.” But percentages don’t equate with Bible truth.

The makers of this website believe there is firm Scriptural truth about hell, and that your questions deserve sound Bible answers. This site is wholly devoted to exploring and demystifying the Bible topic of hellfire. We believe the truth, as it is in Christ, can both broaden our understanding and draw us into a closer relationship with God.

If hellfire perplexes or scares you, or if you’re looking for answers instead of questions, we encourage you to spend a few minutes with us as we explore this controversial topic through videos, articles, and links.


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Hell in the Bible

The word “hell” is used 54 times in the Bible. It is translated from several different words with various meanings, as indicated below:
In the Old Testament:
  • 31 times from the Hebrew “Sheol,” which means “the grave”
In the New Testament:
  • 10 times from the Greek “Hades,” which means “the grave”
  • 12 times from the Greek “Gehenna,” which means “a place of burning”
  • 1 time from the Greek “Tartarus,” which means “a place of darkness”

What is Purgatory?

A tradition held by the Catholic Church that teaches people who are not good enough to be worthy of heaven, but not bad enough to deserve hell, suffer in an intermediary state until their sins are purged.

But is it in the Bible? Click here to learn more.

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