Hell: is it a real place? There’s so much material out there about the nature of hell and many Christians misinterpret the meaning, some even saying hell is not real. What did Jesus historically teach about it?
What I can say for sure is that the Bible describes hell as a real place. We can debate whether the Bible is inspired and authoritative. That is another question, but if it is inspired and authoritative, then hell is real. There are many dozens of passages in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, about hell. Jesus talked about hell as much as he talked about heaven. Let me give you just a very small number of passages on hell. Mark 9:8 Daniel 12:2 Rev 20:10 2 Thess 1:8-10 2 Peter 2:4 Rev 21:8. I purposefully gave you a passage from Jesus, from the Old Testament, from Paul from Peter and from John to show that this is a broad teaching in the Bible.
You ask an important question. How can I know the precise nature of hell if there is such a variety of interpretations about what it is like? Some even deny actual punishment in hell, which can make it even more confusing. Let me give you a version of an answer which is simply my attempt to cut through the clutter on this issue. First of all, hell is real. We have as much reason, biblically, to believe in hell as we do to believe in heaven. It would be irrational to accept the reality of heaven based on the teaching of Jesus and of the Bible but to reject the reality of hell. Second, whether the suffering in hell is physical or only mental/emotional and whether the suffering in hell is literally for infinite amount of time or only for a limited time, followed by our annihilation, I do not think it is really necessary for us to decide on these questions (note: these are some of the debates sincere believers have over the nature of hell). Here is the bottom line. Hell is reality. I do not want to go there and I do not want anyone I know or meet to go there. I want to help as many as possible avoid going to hell and, short of doing something evil, I will do whatever I can to keep people from that fate. We can debate the precise nature of hell and I do not mean to demean those who ask these questions and who seek some biblical clarity, but in the end, I do not think it really affects materially how we live our lives. We can disagree on the exact nature of the punishment and condemnation in hell, but we can all agree the most important aspect is that we want to help as many as possible avoid going there.