"What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" 1 Peter 4:17.
The wicked are those who have refused the gift of salvation offered by Jesus Christ.
Nobody is suffering in hell today.
Before getting into a discussion about the fate of the wicked, one must first determine who, exactly, are the wicked. This is covered comprehensively in the article "the righteous and the wicked
." If you haven't already done so, please read that before continuing here.
When Jesus returns to earth the first time, the wicked are slain.
"The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:" (2 Peter 2:9).
It would not be fair for a murderer in Jesus' day to suffer a worse fate than a murderer today. God reserves, or holds back, the fate of the wicked until the day of judgment, at which time they will all be punished according to their works.
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29).
"The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction... Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb" (Job 21:30,32).
The Bible is clear: all who have died, both the wicked and the righteous, are in the grave "sleeping" until the resurrection day.
When Christ returns to earth the second time, the wicked are resurrected to face judgment.
Jesus Christ is returning to earth (the return of Jesus Christ to planet earth
). When He does, the righteous go to heaven with Him. The wicked are slain.
"With the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked" (Isa. 11:4).
"And at that day the slain of the LORD shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground" (Jer. 25:33).
After their judgment, the wicked are destroyed by hellfire.
After the millennium, another resurrection takes place, called the "resurrection of the wicked" and the "resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29).
"But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (Rev 20:5).
The end result of sin is death, not life.
All the wicked, which includes Satan and his angels, are destroyed by hellfire.
"As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 13:40-42).
"'You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,' says the LORD of hosts" (Mal. 4:3)
"'For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,' says the LORD of hosts, 'so that it will leave them neither root nor branch'" (Mal. 4:1).
"Therefore they will be like the morning cloud and like dew which soon disappears, like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor and like smoke from a chimney" (Hosea 13:3).
"His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:12).
"You will make them as a fiery oven in the time of your anger; the LORD will swallow them up in His wrath, and fire will devour them" (Psalm 21:9).
This next verse describes the scene at the exact time of the destruction of the wicked. It is found in Revelation.
"And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them" (Rev. 20:9).
To describe the fate of the wicked, the Bible uses words and phrases like "destruction," "shall perish," will "burn" up, "shall be destroyed together," will "consume away," "shall be cut off," "shall be slain." God will "destroy" them, and "fire shall devour them." The wicked are completely done away with. They do not live forever in misery.
The devil is not in charge of hell.
The Bible clearly contrasts the fate of the wicked with the fate of the righteous. While the righteous have eternal life (that is, they live forever), the wicked have eternal death (a death from which there is no resurrection; that is, they are dead forever).
"The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).
"Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:15).
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
The Bible never says the wages or result of sin is "everlasting life in hellfire."
The purpose of hellfire is to isolate sin and blot it out of existence for all time.
The devil and his angels is destroyed by the hellfire, too.
"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone" (Rev. 20:10).
God doesn't want anybody to perish in hellfire.
God's purpose is that hell will destroy the devil and all sin and sinners and make the world safe for eternity. One sinner, if left on this planet, would be a deadly virus forever threatening the universe.
"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" (Matt. 25:41).
"And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:15).
"For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be... But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away" (Rev. 20:15).
The Bible calls the annihilation of sinners God's "strange act."
"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" (Eze. 33:11).
"For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:56).
"Forever" doesn't always mean "for all time."
The work of destroying the wicked in hellfire is so foreign to God's nature that the Bible calls it His strange act.
"For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act" (Isa. 28:21).
Matthew 25:46 contrasts clearly the fate of the righteous and wicked.
The term "for ever," as used in the Bible, means simply a period of time, limited or unlimited. It is used 56 times in the Bible in connection with things that have already ended. It is like the word "tall," which means something different in describing men, trees, or mountains. In Jonah 2:6, "for ever" means "three days and nights." (See also Jonah 1:17). In Deuteronomy 23:3, this means "10 generations." In the case of man, this means "as long as he lives" or "until death." (See 1 Samuel 1:22, 28; Exodus 21:6; Psalm 48:14). So the wicked will burn in the fire as long as they live, or until death. This fiery punishment for sin will vary according to the degree of sins for each individual, but after the punishment, the fire will go out.
"Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7).
Notice that Sodom and Gomorrha were destroyed by "eternal fire." Yet, the fire is not still burning today. Eternal fire is fire that cannot be put out, but that goes out once it has done its work. The effects of eternal fire are everlasting, but not the burning itself.
"And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" (Matt. 25:46).
Notice that Matthew says "everlasting punishment," not "everlasting punishing." Punishing would be continuous, while punishment is one act. The punishment of the wicked is death, and that death is everlasting. So, again, we have a clear contrast between the fate of the righteous and the wicked. The righteous go into "life eternal," while the wicked go into "death eternal."
Some of you won't receive the truth of the Word, despite the indisputable nature of the evidence just presented to you. If you feel you have a point of dispute, or if you think I missed something that could strengthen the truth presented here, please send it to me and I will review it thoroughly and respond.