Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992



Hell is a subject that is very much misunderstood by many people, both saved and lost. As this study progresses some of these mistaken concepts will be mentioned.

We don't have a lot of information about the eternal state of the lost person, yet we have enough facts to give the thinking person reason to consider carefully the Lord's work on the cross for them.

Many today suggest that we shouldn't scare people into hell. To this I ask, "Why did Christ talk so much about it for then?" I have heard many many testimonies of people that accepted the Lord because they had heard of hell and did not want to go there. Fear of the Lord may well involve the fear of his judgments and justice!

Let us begin with a story. A man died and found himself near a large entry way. He was ushered into a large mansion, and was told that all that he desired would be presented to him. He began asking for the many things that he had enjoyed on earth. All these items were delivered immediately. He began to ask for things that he had never had on earth, and these as well were delivered.

He realized after a time that all of the items he had desired had grown common and uninteresting. He requested to see the earth again, and this was granted. He gazed upon the sickness, poverty and war. His return to his mansion and things left him yearning for something more.

The man finally asked if he could have a peek into the place of torment - hell. The man standing before him asked, "So where do you think you are?" (adapted from Woodson, Leslie H., "HELL AND SALVATION"; Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1973, p 35)

Many in our day question the existence of hell. It has been reported that someone said to Hugh Hephner, the publisher of Playboy magazine, at a party, "If there is a hell - I'd sure hate to be you!"


There are four major schools of thought concerning hell.


Some that have defended and preached this position: Tertullian, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Wesley brothers, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Wyclif, Savonarola, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, Moody , and many others.

Some creeds and works that have proclaimed this position: Athanasian Creed, Augsburg Confession, The City Of God by Augustine, Summa Theologica by Lombard, Institutes of the Christian Religion by Calvin, Paradise Lost by Milton, and Pilgrim's Progress by Bunyon.

Simply put the position views hell as an eternal torment for the lost of all ages. Hell is a general term for the place. It is also known in the eternal state as the lake of fire. In the pre-resurrections era it is termed Sheol.

Some view hell as a place where the lost go, but never realize that Sheol and the Lake of Fire are also involved.


This position holds that God and good are eternal, but that Satan and evil are temporary and will be destroyed in the end. This translates into the lost being annihilated in the end.

Some of those holding this thought: Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Richard Wahatley, Richard Tothe, Albert Ritschl, Horace Bushnell Franz Delitzsh, and Henry Drummond.


This view believes there is a remedial effect to hell, and that God is trying to turn His erring children around.

Some that teach the position: Origen, Charles Chauncy, Immanuel, Kant, Friedrich Schleiermacher, and Alfred Tennyson.


This view sees that during this time before eternity that the rejectors are in torment, but this is only till the end at which time all will be given a second chance. Turn, and the torment is over. Indeed, I think that the Mormon's view that all will turn or be destroyed. When doing door to door evangelism in Colorado Springs years ago I was witnessing to a Mormon and he told me that he believed that hell was for the purification of those that did not believe in this life. All would one day accept Mormon teachings of God or be destroyed.


1. This can be seen in the nature of the soul. Man was created in the image of God. From the beginning of a soul it must be eternal toward the future to be in the image of God. If an eternal soul is not in a fit condition to be with God, then there must be a place for that soul to reside throughout eternity.

2. Separation is a principal of life and nature. The dead are separated from the living. We separate the criminals from the good citizens. (At least in most countries. I'm not sure about the US anymore.) Garbage is separated from good food. Trash is separated from good items. Lepers were separated from healthy people before there was a cure for the disease. Christ will separate souls, the good from the bad. "Those who refuse life in God become 'refuse' in character sooner or later, and in the nature of things must be removed to a place apart." (Dixon)

3. From the principle of Consequence. No consequence - no restraint. That's why God gave capital punishment - to deter killing. He gave hell to deter sin and rebellion. This has a very strong effect on those that believe in hell or eternal punishment. Many religions have very strong - good behaviour due to their teaching of torment.

4. History tells us that a place of torment is a universal concept. All peoples have tried to please the gods to escape future punishment. They have all had some concept of good place/bad place. The burial crypts of the world give evidence of a belief in an afterlife. The ancient civilizations placed food and water in containers so the person could have them in the next life. Indeed, some of them buried the wife and servants for the man to enjoy in the next life. Most peoples have served gods of one sort or another out of fear of displeasing the god involved.

5. Luke 16:21 and context show there is existence after death.

6. All of Scripture declares a place of punishment.


In the New Testament there are three Greek words translated Hell.

1. "Gehen'na" (gheh'en nah) Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem (Taken from: "UNGER'S BIBLE DICTIONARY"; Unger, Merrill F.; Copyright 1957, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. pp 394,395) "...a deep, narrow glen to the south of Jerusalem, where the Jews offered their children to Moloch (II Kings 23:10; [Verses 13,14 show it was a burning place for corpses (Josiah did this. Also II Chr. 33:6] Jer. 7:31; 19:2-6). In later times it served as a receptacle of all sorts of putrefying matter, and all that defiled the holy city, and so became the representative image of the place of everlasting punishment, especially on account of its ever-burning fires; and to this fact the words of Christ refer when he says 'the fire is not quenched.'"

In Christ's day this dump burned day and night. This is probably the final resting place and probably is equal to the lake of fire in Revelation.

2. "hades" This word is indicative of the intermediate state for the Old Testament dead, and since Christ the dwelling place of the unrighteous dead.

Things to be learned from this term. a. Lost of Old Testament are in misery from death. b. Lost of New Testament are in misery from death. c. Saved of Old Testament were there until the resurrection of Christ, but now are gone. (Luke 16:19-31 shows the two sides of hades. Acts 2:27 shows David was to be there for a time. David was looking forward to Christ's resurrection when he spoke of hades. Verse 31 shows he was taken out at Christ's resurrection.)

Revelation 20:13 shows hades giving up the lost souls at the end. Rev. 20:14 mentions that hades is cast into the lake of fire. This term is also translated grave. I Cor. 15:55, "Oh grave, where is thy victory."

The joy of the study is that Hades cannot hold the redeemed, for it could not hold Christ.

3. "Tar taro'o" This word is only used once. II Pet. 2:4. Angels cast into hell to await judgment. This may be the name for the great gulf that is mentioned in the Luke 16 passage. Most feel that II Peter is speaking of this location.


I once heard a young Methodist theologian mention that hell was, "Southern California." I don't think that this would be a provable fact, and YES, he was joking.

I would like to just list some references and some information that we can draw from them. Num. 16:30,33 indicates that it is below the surface of the earth in the Old Testament times. Luke 16:23 indicates that it was still below in the New Testament period of time.

As to the lake of fire which will be the eternal dwelling place of the lost, we are not told in scripture just where it is. Some feel that Isa 66:22-24 speaks of the redeemed being able to view the lost in the eternal state. Rev 14:9-11; Rev 22:15 also indicate this as a possibility. If this be true, then there is a possibility that it is just outside the New Jerusalem as the original hell of Christ's time was. That city dump of the New Testament day.


Just who will occupy this place of torment, and why. The Scripture teaches that all mankind will be judged according to his or her works. Within this concept is one special consideration and that is the decision for or against Christ. The decision to accept Christ places the person in eternal joy, while a decision to reject Christ places the person in eternal torment. After this decision is made there is still a principle of being judged according to the works of the person.

Indeed, the Great White Throne shows there will be levels of torment in that they are judged according to their works. The redeemed receive a varying reward, thus it would also be logical that the lost would also receive a varying degree of torment.

For the saved, works will determine the amount and type of rewards. The lost will be tormented according to their works. Lost is lost, yet there will be levels of being tormented it seems. (Rom. 2:5,6, "Who will render to every man according to his deeds:"; Matt. 11:20-24 mentions that it will be more tolerable for some cities than others in the judgment/Matt 10:15 is a similar idea; Luke 12:47,48 I don't like to base things on parables, yet this one seems to indicate our point; Rev. 20:12,13, vs 13, "...and they were judged every man according to their works.")

Even some of the isms of our day teach this concept of works being a part of judgment. Zoroastrianism for example teaches that the person must pass a bridge of judgment. If his good works outweigh his bad the bridge is wide and easy to cross. However if his bad works outweigh his good the bridge becomes narrow as a blade as he reaches the middle and he slides into hell. Hell is a temporary place for these souls, but while there they are tortured beyond belief. This torture is according to their lives and how they lived. I ran across an illustration of the type of torture. A man that had committed adultery was placed in a boiling pot, but because he had killed many dirty creatures with his foot, the foot was left out of the pot so it would not suffer. (From Persian Mythology; John R. Hinnells; Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited; London; 1973) P 66)

There won't be any complaint about final punishment it seems. Luke 16:29-31 tells us that the rich man did not complain about anything. His only desire was to keep his brothers from the same fate.


We have already seen that some believe that this is a forever situation while others see it as a temporary situation. Forever or annihilation is the question. The word for eternal seems to be eternal in nature at all times. "That the 'second death' ('Lake of Fire') or gehenna is not annihilation is shown clearly by Rev. 19:20 and 20:10. After 1000 years in the Like of Fire the Beast and False Prophet still exist there undestroyed." (Taken from: "UNGER'S BIBLE DICTIONARY"; Unger, Merrill F.; Copyright 1957, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. pp 394,395) Rev.19:20 states that the Beast and False Prophet into Lake of Fire; 20:3 sets time before Millennium; 20:10 shows that the Devil is cast in 1000 years later and the Beast and False Prophet are still there.)

There are a couple of other indications that would show that the condition of the lost is not annihilation. The angels in hell do not seem to be annihilated either. (II Pet. 2:4) We have seen that Rev. 20:13 and others show punishment is according to works. Why judge according to works if all are to be consumed?

The fallen angels, including Satan will be in the lake of fire, and they are ever living spirit beings. When man dies, they become a spirit being, thus by deduction man also would be an ever living being as well.

Eternal hell is the easiest interpretation you can find. Any other interpretation is forced and causes doctrinal problems. Since the same term is used of God and hell, to have one mean the stopping of existence and another usage to show continuing existence is illogical.


I will just list some conditions with references and some comments.

DARKNESS: Psalm 49:19 "never see light"; I Sam. 2:7-9 they will be silent in darkness (same word) as in Gen. 1:4 God divided light from darkness.

If you go into a seemingly dark room you will find after awhile that you will be able to see something. But deep darkness is not so. While in the Navy I needed a part to repair the radar. We were with a number of other ships during a war games situation, so the radar was needed right away. During such operations the ships run under what is called "darken ship" condition. This means that all outside hatches are closed and no light is allowed out on deck. The parts area was not accessible to me from the radar room by going inside the ship, so I was forced to go out on deck. Remember - no light - none - and it was very cloudy on top of everything which meant no star or moon light. Dark is the term! Imagine trying to walk outside on the deck unable to see anything - groping with your hands - hoping nothing is in you way - the ship pitching and rolling slightly - just enough to make it hard to keep you orientation. When you finally see light there is such an overwhelming relief.

Imagine - eternity - ever in darkness - in fear of what's around you. How many of you were afraid of the dark when you were small. I used to get just as scared as Ichabod Craine did in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod was riding on a dark lonely road. Fear was already in his mind. "Suddenly he heard a groan - his teeth chattered, and his knees smote against the saddle; it was but the rubbing of one huge bough upon another, as they were swayed about by the breeze. He passed the tree in safety, but new perils lay before him." He sees an unknown rider in the shadows. I won't continue with the story because of its length, but I think that you get the idea.

I trust that you have some concept of what the lost will go through in everlasting darkness. Matt. 8:12 mentions outer darkness as well.

BINDING: Those that say they'll be shaking hands with friends may be wrong. From Matt. 22:13 we see they will be unable to use their hands and feet. If this is true then the muscular discomfort will be tremendous. We went to a service in a home. The service was in the basement. The service ended in a time of prayer. We kneeled for prayer. The room was crowded and there was little room to kneel. I only had room to get down on one knee. Before it was over my legs were giving me fits. I was very near tears because of the pain in my knees.

The armed forces have developed ways of placing people in a completely immobile state. They are floated in a body of water for prolonged periods of time. This is with no sight and sound - it is very disorientating.

What could you do in a motionless state? You could think about things - dream - worry - etc., but sooner or later the inactivity would begin to wear heavy on a person mentally.

SEPARATION: Have you ever stared at the stars and just let your mind wonder - how far away they are, how lonely they seem. The lost will be separated from one another.

Imagine never using eyes, hands, feet. Total separation from everything but torment and thoughts. The voice will only be used for cries of torment. There will be no one near enough to talk to, or hear you. Jude 13 mentions wandering stars which indicates a separation. At any rate it is a certainty that it is a separation from God and all that is good.

MEMORY: Luke 16 pictures the rich man as remembering his brothers that have not died. (NO HOPE, Isa 38:18; Prov. 11 7, "When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish; and the hope of unjust men perisheth."

FIRE: There will be fire. The type of fire has been questioned over the years. Since there is darkness, there cannot be light from fire, which leads some to believe that it will be a very hot and pure fire. (Jude 7 "...eternal fire...."; Matt 5:22; Mk 9:44.)



PAIN AND TORMENT: Luke 16:23 "...being in torments...."; Luke 16:24 "...I am tormented in this flame."


Maybe now when we talk about the lost you will have a more concerned attitude. Christianity needs a healthy dose of the Hell fire and brimstone preaching of yester year to stir their hearts. Men, women, boys and girls are going to hell everyday. Our responsibility is to tell them of the saving power of Christ.

The Lost! Think about their state. God has prepared for Christians a mighty, glorious abode. A city of mansions. A city for His own people. I have no doubt that hell will be just as horrible for the sinner as heaven is glorious for the saint.

As I've said, "Hell is only a four letter word." But remember its home for the lost for eternity and that makes it a mighty important word. The next time you ask someone where they're going and they reply, "To hell if I don't change my ways.", will you still feel like laughing?

Hell must, by proper interpretation of Scripture be a place, a place of torment, a place of eternal torment run on a system of levels so that the damned can be judged according to their works.

The only escape route from this horrible destiny is through the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. So what, some would say. Let me illustrate. In the Navy we had to go through fire fighting training. They had a large oil pond they would set afire. We had to move in with an umbrella spray unit that protected us from the heat. As we were fairly near they shut the water off (which was protecting us from the heat) for just an instant. The heat was tremendous - our faces were in immediate pain though we weren't burned. They did this to show us how dangerous fire could be when it was that large. If you've experienced great heat you'll have some idea of what the lost are enduring now and what the living lost face.

As a child I used to think that pain was mind over matter. I used to love to swing higher and higher, but to go high you had to work at it. I used to wear blisters on my hands. I always tried to put the pain out of my mind, but never succeeded. This is only a trifle when compared to the pain and flame of hell. Can you imagine having to suffer that pain forever?

As you cannot imagine how glorious heaven is going to be you cannot imagine how horrible hell is going to be. If the demons were in fear of Hell and torment it must be bad.

Another point to ponder. Scripture does not teach that God gives you a second chance. Some teach today that God will hold up judgment long enough to give everyone a second chance to accept Christ. This is false hope and false teaching. As breath leaves your body your eternity is sealed - your destiny is set. Getting to your final dwelling place is only a very brief formality.

Hell - a four letter cuss word now, but the most significant word of all to the lost. Consider Hell as you witness. It might put a little fire into your witnessing.

I would suggest reading some of the old time sermons from Moody, Spurgeon etc. to get a feel of some of the preaching on hell. Many of the great revivals were based in part on the clear preaching of hell. Don't be afraid to preach on hell today. I have ventured onto this limb a number of times and the response has been very positive. Indeed, some have been saved, even in the 80's and 90's with such preaching.

Christ spoke often of hell and the conditions there, so we as His followers ought to preach of the same.