IS THERE AN END TO TORMENT IN HELL?

by

Some students of the Bible say that torment in hell is only for a period of time. We want to find out if this is true or not.

Let's look at the meaning behind the scriptural definitions as to the Greek words that give us the answer to this question. While there are many other things concerning hell that might be of interest, we will limit this study to the issue just stated. We will look at words like

"eternal, everlasting, for ever"

as these are the words normally descriptive of the length of the time those in hell will suffer and we would like to see if they mean a finite time or a never ending amount of time.


The first surprise for most Bible students is that the English words "eternal" and "everlasting" in the KJV both come from the same Greek word "aionios" (Strong's 166). For example, take a look at Mt. 25:41&46 in the KJV:

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels...And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."

"Eternal" and "everlasting" in those two verses are the same Greek word "aionios". So the "fire", "punishment", and "life" are for the same time. One is just as long or short as the other. You can not say one word means a finite amount of time and the other means a never ending amount of time.

Some students who claim that hell is only for a period of time do so on the supposed belief that these two English words come from two different Greek words - one for a never ending period of time - and the other for a finite period of time. Obviously, noting that both "eternal" and "everlasting" come from the same Greek word destroys that theory completely! Note also that "eternal", "everlasting", and "aionios" are all adjectives grammatically speaking.


"EVERLASTING", "ETERNAL" ARE ADJECTIVES

In grammer, an adjective describes a noun (person, place, or thing)

"Aionios" (Strong's 166, an adjective) is translated 71 times in the KJV New Testament as:

  • "eternal" - 42 times
  • "everlasting" - 25 times
  • "the world began" - 2 times
  • "since the world began" - 1 time
  • "for ever" - 1 time

So 67 of the 71 times it is translated "eternal" or "everlasting" for the length of time of the following things:

  1. Eternal life - Mt. 19:16, 19:29, 25:46, Mk. 10:17,30, Lk. 10:25, 18:18,30, Jn. 3:15,16,36, 4:14,36, 5:24,39, 6:27,40,47,54,68,10:28,12:25,50, 17:2,3, Acts 13:46,48, Rom. 2:7, 5:21, 6:22,23, Gal. 6:8, 1 Tim. 1:16, 6:12,19, Titus 1:2, 3:7, 1 Jn. 1:2, 2:25, 3:15, 5:11,13,20, Jude 1:21
  2. Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ - 2 Pet. 1:11
  3. Our heavenly habitations - Lk. 16:9
  4. Our covenant with our God - Heb. 13:20
  5. God's power and Godhead - Rom. 1:20
  6. Our inheritance - Heb. 9:15
  7. God's existence - Rom. 16:26, 1 Tim. 1:17
  8. Gospel - Rev. 14:6
  9. Our new body - 2 Cor. 5:1
  10. God's honor and power - 1 Tim. 6:16
  11. Jesus' glory - 2 Tim. 2:10, 1 Pet. 5:10
  12. Our salvation - Heb. 5:9
  13. Our redemption - Heb. 9:12
  14. God's Spirit's existence - Heb. 9:14
  15. FIRE OF HELL - Mt. 18:8, 25:41, Jude 1:7
  16. PUNISHMENT OF HELL - Mt. 25:46
  17. DAMNATION - Mk. 3:29
  18. DESTRUCTION FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD - 2 Thes. 1:9
  19. JUDGMENT - Heb. 6:2
  20. CHAINS OF DARKNESS UNTO THE JUDGMENT - Jude 1:6

Now, if "aionios" means "without end" in the first 14 things listed in the table above, then it certainly must mean the same regarding the last 6 things it is applied to, namely the length of torment in hell, and that it too must be without end!


THE "EVER" IN "FOR EVER" IS A NOUN

In grammar, a noun is a person, place, or thing

Here is another surprise to many students of the Bible. There is NO "forever" in the Bible. It is NOT "forever", but "for ever" with a space between the two words. Many people do not see the space there separating the two words. They see it "forever" not "for ever". This is an important point because the word "for" is the English preposition from the Greek word preposition "eis" (Strong's 1519) that modifies the English noun "ever" from the Greek noun "aion" (Strong's 165).

Next surprise is that "ever" (Strong's 165) comes from the same Greek root word that "eternal/everlasting" (Strong's 166) do...the only difference is that "ever" is the noun form and "eternal/everlasting" is the adjective form. When you realize this, it becomes much easier to see the meanings of "eternal/everlasting", "forever". and how they relate, doesn't it?

"Aion" (Strong's 165, a noun) is translated 128 times in the New Testament as:

  • "ever" - 71 times

  • "world" - 38 times

  • "never" - 6 times

  • "eternal" - 2 times

  • "age" - 2 times

  • misc. - 5 times

Another surprise is that the Greek word "aion" (Strong's 165), for the English "ever", is the root where we get our English words "aeon" and "eon" in the same way that we get our English word "baptize" from the Greek word "baptizo". So, it should not be surprising that "aion" and "aeon" or "eon" mean pretty much the same thing in both languages. \

However, in both English and Greek, the word can mean: a) for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity; b) the worlds, universe; c) period of time, age. Since both the English and Greek words can mean a never ending period of time or a finite period of time, we must look to other ways to discern which is correct for a certain scripture or context of scripture.

It happens that every time (with maybe one exception) "aion" IS NOT PRECEDED WITH THE GREEK PREPOSITION "EIS" (Strong's 1519 for "FOR"), it is translated "world" or "age" and is talking of something that is of a finite time, whereas every time "aion" IS PRECEDED WITH THE GREEK PREPOSITION "EIS" (Strong's 1519) OR "FOR", it is translated "ever" and is talking of something that is never ending as will be shown in the chart below.

[Note: we did not list the passages that translate "aion" (without the preposition) as "world", or "age" simply because they are not relevant to proving that torment in hell goes on for ever since "aion" in these cases means a finite time. However, any one desiring to go further on this aspect can by using a good computer program (like the free one at www.OnlineBible.net) and looking them up.]

"Aion" is translated 71 times (as we just said) "for ever" or "for ever and ever" ("for ever and ever" being the more emphatic form of "for ever" - yet both meaning "never ending") for the length of time of the following things.

Note: the scripture with the emphatic for ("for ever and ever") will be marked with "E" behind them. Note though that the non-emphatic form will be recognized as "never ending" also as "God, Holy Spirit, Lord, Son, Eternal Life, etc. are obviously "never ending".

  1. Your kingdom, power, and glory - Mt. 6:13, Rom. 11:36, 16:27, Gal. 1:5 E, Phil. 4:20 E, 1 Tim. 1:17 E, 2 Tim. 4:18 E, Heb. 13:21 E

  2. Eternal life - Jn. 6:51,58, 1 Jn. 2:17

  3. The Son - Jn. 8:35, 12:34

  4. Holy Spirit abiding in us - Jn. 14:16

  5. God being blessed - Rom. 9:5

  6. We be with the Lord - 1 Thes. 4:17

  7. God existing - Heb. 1:8 E

  8. Jesus remaining the same - Heb. 13:8

  9. Word of God living and abiding - 1 Pet. 1:23,25

  10. Praise, glory, dominion to Jesus - 1 Pet. 4:11 E, 5:11 E, 2 Pet. 3:18, Jude 1:25, Rev. 1:6 E, 4:9 E

  11. Truth with us - 2 Jn. 1:2

  12. 24 elders, every creature, 4 beasts worship God and Jesus - Rev. 4:10 E, 5:13 E,14 E

  13. Blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power, might to God - Rev. 7:12 E

  14. God lives - Rev. 10:6 E, 15:7 E

  15. Lord and His Christ reign - Rev. 11:15 E

  16. Saints reign - Rev. 22:5 E

  17. SMOKE OF WHOEVER WORSHIPS THE BEAST AND TAKES HIS MARK ASCENDS - Rev. 14:11 E

  18. DEVIL WILL BE TORMENTED IN THE LAKE OF FIRE (WHERE BEAST AND FALSE PROPHET HAVE BEEN FOR 1000 YEARS) - Rev. 20:10 E

  19. MIST OR BLACKNESS OR DARKNESS RESERVED - 2 Pet. 2:17, Jude 1:13

Now, if "aion" means "without end" in the first 16 things listed in the table above, then it certainly must mean the same regarding the last 3 things it is applied to, namely, the length of torment in hell, and that it too must be without end!

Now in conclusion we find that "aionios" (Strong's 166) is always time without end and "aion" (Strong's 165) can be time without end or a finite time according to the constructions listed here:

  1. "aion" [singular with no preposition] is translated "age" (some times "world" in the KJV) and means a finite time (with only one exception).

  2. "eis aion" [where "aion" is singular and preceded by the preposition "eis"] is an unending period of time and is translated "for ever" in English.

  3. "eis aions aions" [TWO "aion"s preceded with the preposition "eis", where both "aion"s are plural, the first being accusative or object case, the latter being the genitive case] is literally translated "for ages unto ages" and is the superlative and exaggerated form of #1 due to the word used TWICE, both times as plurals (not one "aion" as a singular noun in #1). Instead of translating the Greek "for ages unto ages" literally, in English the translators have merely said "for ever and ever", which does not have the force of the Greek! It may be very surprising to you that the book of Revelation always uses the emphatic form "for ever and ever" and never "for ever" whereas the gospels use both forms, but mostly "for ever".

Now even in the Old Testament Daniel writes in 12:2 that "many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting LIFE, and some to shame and everlasting CONTEMPT". The same thing applies here that did in the New Testament. Because the same Hebrew word (Strong's 05769) for "everlasting" is used for "everlasting" in "everlasting LIFE" and "everlasting CONTEMPT" in this verse, whatever applies to the duration of time for one applies to the other.

There are other scriptures that tell us that torment in hell never ends. For example - "The worm dies not and the fire is not quenched" - Mt. 3:12, Lk. 3:17, Mk. 9:43,44,45,46,48. Now if the worm doesn't die, then there must be something for it to eat - for ever. If the "fire is not quenched", it must be "burning" something - for ever. Obviously, a resurrected body can't be consumed, burned up, or destroyed, but the scriptures are abundantly cleared that it can be tormented, and we can see that it will be for ever! [Note: Those who will end up in hell will not be cast into there until the "second resurrection" or "second death" 1000 years after the "first resurrection" - Rev. 20:1-6, 11-15]

There is no hint in scriptures that the purpose of hell is redemptive or rehabilitative (like the concept of purgatory in Roman Catholicism).  Hell is punitive.  It is for the purpose of punishment (see Mt. 25:41, 2 Thes. 1:9, 2 Pet. 2:9 for example).  If hell could serve a redemptive (and/or rehabilitative) purpose, then the crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, even the atonement was not necessary and were in vain!

Anyone who ends up in hell, will have ended up there because they refused God's loving and gracious offer of a NEW nature (through the New Birth spoken of in John 3:1-8) and willfully chosen to retain their old sinful nature. Thus for all eternity they will continue to do the same sins they did all their lives... because they love to do them and will continue them (see John 3:18-21) not having any way to be freed from their bondages. Because of that God has a prepared place for them. "Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels" Matthew 25:41).

This is not the prepared place God has for those who have believed in Jesus Christ. "Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also (John 14:1-3).

It is for fortunate that there is a "great gulf" (Luke 16:26) between the "saved" and the "lost" for the benefit of both inhabitants. The lost could not endure the glories and Light of the Redeemed and the saved could not endure the treacheries of the lost with their still retained desires to sin - to lie, deceive, steal, lust, covet, murder, commit adultery, etc. There they can continue forever fulfilling their desires with others who have the same tendencies. It will be a terrible place with all the unrestrained things all that dwell there will do... and to each other.

That is why there is a "great gulf" between the two "prepared places". Heaven would be hell if the unsaved were permitted to enter it.

Now the purpose of this study was to show that the torment of hell is never ending and something that every person should take very seriously.

The good news is that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He that believes on him is not condemned, but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:16-18) and "that if you will confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and will believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation. For the scripture says, "Whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed" "for whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:9,10,11,13).

If you have called upon Jesus and trusted in Him, according to the scriptures just given, for your relationship with God, you have no need to worry about ending up in hell for ever!  If you haven't, go to HOW TO RECEIVE ETERNAL LIFE for help!


FAQ on controversial issues our readers have asked at  OTHER BIBLE STUDIES !

HOME PAGE for the following:
WHEN DID JESUS SAY THE RAPTURE WOULD TAKE PLACE?
WHEN DID PAUL SAY THE RAPTURE WOULD TAKE PLACE?
HOW DOES THE DAY OF THE LORD RELATE TO THE RAPTURE?
FREE COMPUTER BIBLE PROGRAM - See "Downloads" in center column