The doctrine of hell is one of the most controversial topics in the world of "Christianity" today. No one likes the idea that they might spend an eternity in hell suffering for the punishment of the sins they committed throughout their life. It is for this reason that many groups have tried to dull down the severity of hell, claiming that rather than being eternal we will merely spend a specific amount of time there before moving on to heaven. Some groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, have even gone so far as to suggest that the doctrine of hell is a lie conjured up a long time ago in order to strike fear into people. Is hell a real place? If so, how long does it last? What does the Bible say?
Jesus Christ himself spoke more about hell and "eternal punishment" than he did about heaven. The list of verses showing this is huge, and we will take a look a few. Matthew chapter 25 verse 46 states: "And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." This verse not only shows us that hell is eternal, but also shows us that our soul will enter an eternal state. That state will either be eternal life or eternal punishment. This completely disproves the religious groups that deny hell and say that when we die we merely "cease to exist."
In revelation chapter 14 when we are presented with the concept of the "lake of fire" we read in verse 14: "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." This is another reference to eternal punishment and suffering. Even later in the book of revelation we again read: "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet are too, and they will be tormented there day and night forever and ever." This lake of fire is once again described as a place where people are tormented eternally.
Another common view held against anti-hell groups is the "second chance" view, which simply states that even if we end up in hell it will not be for eternity and there will be a way to escape hell and enter heaven. However, in Luke chapter 16 we have the parable of the rich man who dies and goes to hell. It describes a "great gulf" being fixed between heaven and hell that no one is able to pass. So much for the second chance view.
There is also the view of "Annihilation," which teaches that when you die you will simply cease to exist. This is taught in attempt to remove the idea of hell and "eternal torment." This is refuted by Hebrews 9:27 which says that every man will die once, and then the judgment will follow. We will all face judgment whether we like it or not. What is most pathetic about the "annihilation" view is that it lines up directly with the atheistic view of death, whereby we simply cease to exist as a person.
Lastly we come to the concept of "universalism," which teaches that in the end everyone will be saved and go to heaven. This view is so unbelievably ridiculous that I will not even bother responding to it since any of the verses cited above will refute it completely. Hell is both real and eternal. There are no second chances. Hell is eternal because we have sinned against an eternal God. Now is the day of salvation, repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ.