What it is:
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” – Matthew 25:46
Eternal punishment takes place in hell (the lake of fire, or Gehenna), the place of punishment after death for all those who refuse to repent. In the Bible, three words are used in connection with eternal punishment.
- Sheol, or “the grave”, is used in the Old Testament to mean the place of the dead, generally thought to be under the earth. (See Job 24:19; Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 38:10).
- Hades is the Greek word for the underworld, the realm of the dead. It is the word used in the New Testament to for Sheol. (See Matthew 16:18; Revelation 1:18; 20:13, 14).
- Gehenna, or hell, was named after the Valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem where children were sacrificed by fire to the pagan gods (see 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3). This is the place of eternal fire (Matthew 5:22; 10:28; Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5; James 3:6; Revelation 19:20) prepared for the devil, his angels, and all those who do not believe in God (25:46; Revelation 20:9, 10). This is the final and eternal state of the wicked after the resurrection and the last judgment.
When Jesus warns against unbelief, he is trying to save us from agonising punishment.
©Kingsway International Church 1973 – St Barnabas.