Is Hell Eternal or Not?

Where do bad folks go when they die?
They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly.
They go to a lake of fire and fry.
See them again till the fourth of July.

-Kurt Cobain, Lake of Fire

Patrick Mead jumped into the deep end with no life vest on today over at Tentpegs.

He’s challenging the traditional view of hell in that he believes it is not eternal.

I’ll be following this conversation pretty closely and have already chimed in under Patrick’s first post in this series.

I’d like to invite all my friends over to Patrick’s blog to join in – especially any Greek scholars.

Is hell eternal, or not?

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12 thoughts on “Is Hell Eternal or Not?

  1. Jen says:

    interesting.. I won’t weigh in because with all this greek speak im waay out of my league.. but I will keep an eye on this post and watch and learn : ]

    PS love the disclaimer.. haha!

  2. K. Rex Butts says:

    This is an issue that I have never studied much but I know enough to know that there are good arguments for supporting both the traditional view and the alternatives…that’s is just the nature of theological questions. And I realize that what we claim about the doctrine of Hell/divine judgment is also a claim about God, so I recognize the importance of this issue. However, there is a sense in me that says “What does it matter? Whether I am cast into an eternal fire called hell or totatly anihilated in judgment, I have missed my goal to know Christ and his powerful resurrection (cf. Phil 3.10-12).

    Any ways, I will jump over to Patrick Mead’s blog and see what he has to say.

    Grace and peace,


  3. WesWoodell says:

    Jen – Patrick’s is an excellent blog. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve gleaned some great insight from him over the course of the past few years … you ought to add it to your regular blog browsing if you haven’t already.

    Rex – you’re not the first one who’s responded with the “what does it really matter” question. I don’t believe an eternal fire vs. annihilationistic view should serve as the linchpin of anyone’s faith, but I do believe it’s an important topic. It reveals something about the character of God to us, how He views sin, and what the rebellious should expect. I know my view will affect my day to day preaching and teaching, and I simply want to get it right if I can.

    I’m willing to look at the other views, but Patrick, Ed Fudge, and other annihilationists haven’t shown me anything convincing yet (but I’m more than willing to listen).

    • K. Rex Butts says:


      You are right, this issue is important because it makes a claim about God and that is why I have changed my mind and been willing to listen to what others say – even if that willingness came reluctantly.

      Grace and peace,


  4. WesWoodell says:

    p.s. – did you ever decide if you’re going to Pepperdine or not, Rex?

  5. Jim Woodell says:

    There is a book, published by College Press, 3rd edition in 1963, (Joplin, Missouri) by A.B. McReynolds that has a sermon entitled, “Hell,” that I think lends substance to the fact that hell is real and eternal.

    A good rule of thumb when studying the scriptures is to interpret the complex in light of the simple. For instance, the language of Matt. 25:46 is simple: “Then they will go away to ETERNAL punishment, but the righteous to ETERNAL life.” Same word is used to describe both.

    Much more will be said about this subject. I look forward to following you scholars to see what you conclude!

  6. WesWoodell says:

    Yeah – seems pretty simple to me too, but I’m willing to listen to those who disagree.

  7. Scott Johnson says:

    Very interesting discussion. I read Patrick’s blog and it is very informative, but I agree w/ you on the usage of the word “aion”, Wes. I have learned in my studies (and know that I might just be the furthest thing from a scholar) that if most of the recognized works of reference (BDAG, TDNT, Strong’s,etc.) don’t agree w/ something I’ve thought up (or something that has fringe support) then it might not be the right understanding. I guess I’m a traditionalist in believing that God let’s us know exactly what He wants us to know. I guess that’s where the Spirit comes in.

    • WesWoodell says:

      Thanks for the comment, Scott.

      I’m a little suspicious when the best resources available flatly contradict a particular view regardless of what that view is. I’m not saying the mainstream sources can’t be wrong, only that the vast majority of the time they’re NOT when you’re talking biblical languages.

  8. charliesohm says:

    What does the eternalness of hell say about the attitude of, “hate the sin; love the sinner”?

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