Why Does Hell Exist?
Why is there a place with such horrible, extreme, excruciating suffering?
We know only in part.
The word of God says that hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) – not for man.
The translation for the Greek word “prepared” is “having been made ready.” God did not create hell. He removed Himself from that place, to prepare a place for the enemy, who is eternal.
The enemy is a fallen angel (formerly Lucifer; Isaiah 14 & Ezekiel 28). Angels are eternal beings. There had to be a place for them for eternity. Satan will be tormented in the lake of fire, forever (Revelation 20:10).
The Real Battle
The real battle in the universe is between God Almighty – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and His enemy, Satan.
The devil was originally the highest-ranking angel of God (Lucifer; see Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28) who rebelled and tried to overthrow God. Satan was cast out of heaven and is still today opposing and trying to defeat God. He still thinks he can overthrow God, but he was defeated at the cross of Jesus Christ.
One of the main ways He opposes God is by deceiving human beings into NOT following God through Jesus Christ – and into following the devil, or any other path apart from Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus called Satan “the prince of this world” three times. Another translation is: “the ruler of this world.” Anyone who chooses self instead of God through Jesus Christ is in the world, which Satan rules.
Satan and his enslaved demons hate people, because people are made in God’s image; and Satan hates God.
Why is this happening? This battle is a mystery in many ways to humans. But God has revealed much about it through His word. See the book War in the Heavens for a full summary of the real war in the universe.
This battle has been going on for a long time – we do not know how long.
When someone understands the spiritual battle and the good and evil forces behind it, a lot of questions and mysteries are answered and solved.
Tragically, Satan deceives people into following him – and those who follow him will end up in hell. It’s very important to know this: if someone is not following Jesus Christ, that person is following and serving Satan, the devil. Every person on earth is in one of two families: God’s or the devil’s.
The five underworlds and their inhabitants:
Sheol – the place where humans who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior go upon earthly death; also called hell; located in the center of the earth
Paradise – the place where pre-Christ saints went after dying
The Pit – the home of demons
Tartarus – the place where millions upon millions of angels are kept in prison, in chains
Lake of fire – a literal massive lake of fire; no one is there right now; hell will eventually be thrown into it
Sheol, or Hell
Sheol is the place most commonly referred to as hell. In modern Bibles, the Hebrew word for “sheol” (used 65 times in the original Bible) is usually translated either “hell” (31 times) or “the grave” (also 31 times). The Greek word for hell is “hades,” found 11 times in the Bible.
Millions upon millions of souls are in Sheol right now, suffering in excruciating, continual torment and torture. Sheol is a place of fire, with flames of fire, waves of fire, hot coals, burning, and smoke. Those in hell suffer from the fires of hell continually, with no relief. They are
experiencing eternal death, but they cannot actually die.
They have an eternal spirit; a soul which is their mind, emotions, and will; and a body with flesh that continually burns and falls off their skeleton.
There is loud wailing and weeping, horrible odors, worms crawling in the peoples’ bodies, and many other torments. They have no relief, no comfort, no water, nothing good. In hell, people have all their senses, which are a lot stronger in the afterlife, both in hell and in heaven.
Hell is located in the center of the earth. It is shaped like a human body lying on its back, with arms and legs stretched out. There are many different parts of hell, such as the arms, belly, heart, head, legs, and so forth. In the Bible, hell is referred to as “under” and “beneath” (see Isaiah 14:9, Ezekiel 31:16, Job 11:8, and many others). There are deep depths to hell (see Deuteronomy 32:22). Hell has gates and has deprived people of their years (see Isaiah 38:10). If someone dies without knowing God through the Savior, that person immediately goes to hell (see Job 21:13).
In recent years, Jesus has revealed much about hell through His people. For a detailed description of hell, see the book “Divine Revelation of Hell” by Mary Baxter.
Paradise was the place that pre-resurrection saints went when they died. Today it is empty.
It’s description is just like it’s name: it’s a place of beauty, rest, peace, joy, and love.
Before Jesus died and was resurrected, there was no way for saints to go to heaven, so they went to Paradise. Remember Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Before we discuss that, some background information is needed.
When Jesus Christ died, it was . . . well, that event really cannot be put into human words.
God sent His Son to the earth to die for mankind. It’s beyond human comprehension. The God Who created the universe, the earth, and mankind, sent His Son to die and redeem mankind . . . it’s truly a mystery that He would do this.
For all eternity, the sacrifice of Jesus will be honored, proclaimed, revered, celebrated, extolled, and much, much more.
God’s children, which He made into His own image, sinned and fell. The Holy God cannot look upon sin. There had to be a perfect sacrifice for man’s sins. Jesus is that sacrifice.
Right after Jesus died, some truly incredible things happened.
The veil in front of the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom.
The Holy of Holies in the Temple and the Tabernacle was the place where the holy, sacred Presence of God dwelt. The construction and building of the Tabernacle is described in Exodus 25. The construction and building of the Temple is described in 1 Kings 6.
The veil in front of the Holy of Holies was a very large, thick curtain that took as many as 300 men to move and put in place. Scholars estimate the veil was between about 30-40 feet tall, 30-40 feet wide, and about four to six inches thick.
What does the tearing of the veil mean? After Jesus died, that Presence became available to all people, not just the High Priest or the select few.
We read in the New Testament about more amazing things that happened after Jesus died.
Between His death and His ascension into heaven, Jesus went to the underworld. He went to Paradise and released the saints there to go to heaven. We read about their release in Matthew 27. Note that the phrase “fallen asleep” refers to people who were dead:
“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. Matthew 27:51-53
In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), we learn about Paradise, though the story does not actually use the word Paradise. In the translation from Greek to English, the dynamics of the Greek word “kolpos” are the reason there are various translations for the actual place the beggar Lazarus went when he died.
The word “kolpos” is intended to convey “a position synonymous with intimacy.” It is also used in John 1:18 describing Jesus Christ’s intimacy with the Father.
In the Lazarus Parable, various Bible versions translate the word and phrase “kolpos” in such ways as: “with Abraham”, “in the arms of Abraham,” “Abraham’s side,” “Abraham’s bosom,” and so forth, all describing Paradise.
The Pit is the home of demons. Right now, millions upon millions of demons, the pre-Adamic inhabitants of the earth, are in the Pit, also called “the deep” and “the abyss.”
Many demons are traveling from the Pit to the earth to try to influence and deceive men and women as well as cause problems on the earth. They try to find humans to live in, which will be their “house” (see Matthew 12:43-45). If they do not find one, they have to return to the Pit.
Demons are just one of five divisions in the devil’s army.
In Luke 8:26-39, we read about Jesus casting demons out of a man. The demons actually begged Jesus not to send them to the Pit (see Luke 8:30).
In Revelation 9:1-12, there is a scary description of the end times when demons will be released from the Pit. The demons are commanded twice not to destroy men, because demons would destroy everything if they could. In verse 11, we read that the one in charge of them is Satan:
And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. Rev. 9:11
Remember that Satan and Satan’s army are continually trying to deceive mankind into not following God through Jesus Christ, into not becoming children of God. Satan hates God and is trying to win the war in the heavenlies. His main way of doing this is to influence men and women not to follow Jesus Christ, with the ultimate goal of causing humans to end up in hell, where people will be stuck forever in horrible torment and fire, with the devil.
Hell was created for Satan and his angels, not for human beings. Jesus said:
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: . . .’ “ Matthew 27:41
Satan, his angels, and his demons will spend eternity in hell. Tragically, Satan is deceiving many human beings into also going to hell.
God wants every person to make it to heaven. But He cannot make anyone choose Him or follow Him. How can this be?
Remember the key truth: God made man into His own image and likeness. God gave every person a complete free will to decide every aspect of his or her life, including the god he or she serves. Though God the Father and God the Son want every person to be saved and make it heaven, God cannot make anyone become a child of God. It’s a mystery, yet it’s a reality.
When a human is a child, before the age of accountability, which is usually around five or six years old, they actually are a child of God and in the kingdom of heaven. If a child under that age dies, they go to heaven, where they grow up into adults.
So, the devil knows he can influence people, and he and his armies continually try to do this.
Tartarus is the abode of fallen angels that slept with women.
In 2 Peter 2:4ff, Peter connects “hell,” which in this passage is the Greek word for Tartarus, to the flood. We learned earlier that the flood in Noah’s time was because angels had polluted mankind’s seed to the point that God in anger destroyed all mankind except Noah and his family.
In Jude 1:6,7, we read that the angels “left their habitation” and slept with women, with “strange flesh,” like Sodom and Gomorrah did (see Genesis 19).
In 1 Peter 3:18, we read that Jesus, after he died, went to Tartarus, after He went to Paradise. We also read here about the angels’ disobedience during the time of Noah. The words “spirits in prison” below is “angels in Tartarus” in the Greek:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. I Peter 3:18-20
He preached to the millions of angels who slept with women, who joined forces with Satan and rebelled against God. They polluted the entire human race except for Noah and tried to stop the Messiah from coming. They thought they had succeeded and that they would one day get out of Tartarus. They have been chained there for thousands of years. Jesus proclaimed to them that He made it and prepared them for Judgment Day.
The Lake of Fire
As we read earlier, the Lake of Fire was created for the devil and his angels. There is no one there right now.
Isaiah 66:24 says that the Lake of Fire will last eternally.
One day, all the inhabitants of the five worlds will be thrown into the lake of fire. The other four worlds will be destroyed. The lake of fire will be there forever.