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Does God burn people in hell forever?

The thought of a “loving” God torturing people in hellfire for all of eternity for bad things they do over the course of, at most, a 100-year lifetime, seems, at best, confusing, and, at most, downright evil.

It's no wonder then that so many people find it difficult to reconcile a God who is perfectly just with a punishment that is clearly unjust. Fortunately, the Bible is very clear on this teaching.

First, God is love (John 1:1). The Bible says as much as we love our children, God loves His even more. And you are His child! The Bible says He is patient, kind, merciful and forgiving. It says He loves justice, but that He loves mercy even more.

Second, the Bible does indicate there is a hell. Jesus says there is (Matthew 10:28). But here is what Jesus says about hell in Matthew 13:40: “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world.” What can we make of this statement?

First, hell won't exist until “the end of this world.” Wouldn't that mean nobody today is burning in hell?

Second, it says the “tares” (in this case, it means the wicked) are “burned.” This isn't just some uncomfortable separation from God, as some preach. This is a real place where “children of the wicked one” (verse 38) will be “burned.”

But the Bible doesn't say hell will last forever. It teaches that hell destroys the wicked, once and for all. It makes it clear that hell is a place where the wicked perish in fire. They will burn up as “stubble” and will “become ashes” (Malachi 4:1, 3). Psalm 68:2 says, “as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.”

Even the most popular verse of the Bible supports this position. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Notice that the wicked “perish.” They die. They cease to exist. The righteous, in contrast, have everlasting life.

Finally, where did this idea of eternal suffering in hell come from? Satan. His very first lie was that Adam and Eve would live forever, even if they disobeyed God. Hell is a “doctrine of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1) that is an attack on God's character and has turned many people away from Him.

The purpose of hell, according to the Bible, is to destroy sinners forever and create a universe without sin. That's going to be a great place to live, don't you think?

CK Lester

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