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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Is the Length of Punishment in Hell?

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Don Stewart
The Scripture teaches that there is a place of punishment for the wicked. It also tells us the length that people will be punished - it is everlasting, it will never end. This is the consistent teaching of Scripture.

Old Testament

The number of references are small with respect to the length of the punishment of the unbeliever. The emphasis is on the destiny of the righteous. The only Old Testament passage that clearly speaks of the duration of punishment is found in the Book of Daniel.

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).

Some argue that everlasting contempt does not mean they will suffer forever. God's contempt for them could be shown by their everlasting destruction, or annihilation. This is a possible, but not a necessary understanding of this passage. The fact that they are raised from the dead suggests more than annihilation.

New Testament

The New Testament also speaks of the length of punishment of the wicked. The Greek adjective aionios, translated eternal or everlasting, describes the punishment of the wicked. When used in the New Testament, the word can have one of three meanings.

1. Without beginning (Romans 16:25; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2)

2. Without end (Romans 16:26; Hebrews 9:14)

3. Without beginning or end (all other New Testament references)


Jesus was very explicit on this issue - punishment will be everlasting.

And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire (Matthew 18:8).

Jesus compared the punishment to an undying worm.

where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:48)

He made it clear that the punishment was forever.

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Matthew 25:46).

The same word that describes the happy state of the righteous also describes the terrible state of the wicked - eternal. If the joys of heaven are eternal, so is the condemnation of hell. If life is eternal, then so is the punishment.

No Forgiveness Ever

There is no forgiveness ever for those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Jesus said.

but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin (Mark 3:29).


The Apostle Paul wrote about the eternal suffering of the wicked.

These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might (2 Thessalonians 1:9).


In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John also wrote about everlasting punishment.

And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name (Revelation 14:11).

Forever And Ever

These people have no rest. The suffering goes on continually.

And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).


From both testaments, we find that the length of punishment of the wicked is everlasting, there is no end. Refusing to believe what the Bible has to say about the matter will not change the facts. Those who go to hell have no hope.
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