When a Sinner Dies – How Long Until Hell Fire? :: by Joseph Chambers

The unsaved, lost souls in our world are an extremely heavy burden in my prayer life. What really troubles me is how calloused they are and only get agitated if you press them for their soul needs. Eternity is an eternal period that will never end. Every one of us was created in the image of our Creator.

We have the “spirit of life” from Him and will live forever. This body will be resurrected–whether in Eternal Life or Eternal Death. I would love to believe that the unsaved will be obliterated but I cannot deny the Holy Bible.

In our present society almost no one trembles at the Word of God or before God Himself. We have become a proud, although broken, generation that is glorying in our self-esteem and positive thinking. Since we do not need to fear Him, we do not respect Him and are therefore slowly replacing Him with an impersonal god that is more on our human level.

Religious educators and leaders have convinced the modern preachers to present a more benign God and gospel to this generation to attract a larger portion of the community to their institutions. Indeed it has, but the level of Christianity in these churches is woefully unbiblical.

America needs a dose of the theology of Hell. A proper presentation of the final judgment and the eternal abode of unsaved and wicked men would help shake our churches back to their senses. Our permissive discipline in the home has destroyed the family and is now destroying the church. Three doctrinal truths must be clearly enunciated before the realities about Hell are taught and preached.

Commitment to the Bible

If you don’t believe the Bible is absolute, you will have trouble believing what it says about the horrors of Hell and the Lake of Fire. I would not dare write what I’m writing about this horrible place if I did not know the Holy Scripture was God-breathed and perfect.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).

I also believe the reverse is true, that families and society will have a greater respect for Holy Scripture when they clearly understand eternal judgment.

The Holiness of God

Our God is absolutely holy. He is perfect in every aspect of His eternal being and cannot tolerate rebellion in His universe without proper consequences. To think of our Heavenly Father turning murderers and rapists loose to continue the defiling of humankind right into eternity defies the perfect nature of His very person. The flaming sword at the entrance to the Garden of Eden sets the tone for how He treats sin and rebellion. Rebellion could not eat of the Tree of Life lest it exist forever.

The Redemption of Jesus Christ

The most cruel thing you can suggest is that Jesus Christ died for everyone; that He took our sins on Himself as our substitute; and that He experienced the judgment of God against sin at Calvary. Yet, that same God will not send anyone to Hell because a loving God could not possibly do that.

“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 Biblical Picture of Those Assigned to Eternal Horrors:

Nothing will awaken you to spiritual things like the picture of damned souls separated forever from everything beautiful. According to the Bible, the following is an incomplete list of persons and groups of individuals who will be lost and judged to spend eternity in the “Lake of Fire.”

1. The Children of this World’s Kingdom: “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:11-12).

2. The Selfish and Worldly Who Live for Themselves: “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke 16:23-26).

3. Unprofitable Servants Who Bury Their Talents: “Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

“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.” “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:28-30, 41, 46).

4. Multitudes Who Were Undisciplined as Children: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13-14).

5. Those Who Offend And Do Iniquity: “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” “The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 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” (Matthew 13:30, 38-41).

6. Those Who Reject the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ: “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

7. Whosoever was Not Found Written in the Book of Life: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15, 10).

8. The Fearful, Unbelieving, Abominable, Murderers, Whoremongers, Sorcerers, Idolaters, and All Liars: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

Difference Between Hell and the Lake of Fire

Remember, Hell is the abode of the wicked dead, but the Lake of Fire is the place of eternal judgment. The wicked will remain in Hell from the time of their death until the White Throne Judgment. Then Hell will deliver up its dead to be judged. Then, they will be assigned to the Lake of Fire. It’s important to understand the kind of bodies that the wicked will possess for eternity.

Jesus described the resurrection of all men during His earthly ministry. St. John records His words, “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).

Notice the difference in the two groups; one is a resurrection of life, while the other is a resurrection of damnation. The children of God will come out of the graves with glorified bodies, endued with life in the fullest sense. It will be life without the limitation of anything human.

The opposite is true for the wicked and unsaved. There is a resurrection of damnation. Even their bodies will be fashioned in the horrors of depleted humanity. Every conceivable limitation and misery of human experience will constitute the design of these eternal creatures. They will dwell forever in a body that is full of death. It will be an eternal death.

The Horrors of the Lake of Fire

The bodies which these damned creatures will inhabit is Hell itself, but that’s just the beginning. Let’s use only the explicit words of Holy Scripture to try and paint a picture of this horrible damnation. God never intended that one living soul would spend eternity in this place. It was prepared for the devil and his angels. “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” (Matthew 25:41).

Outer Darkness

“But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12). This term is used three times in Holy Scripture. We are not talking about a moonless midnight or the condition of a dark and foreboding cloud. The term outer darkness would suggest a place completely outside the realm of all light: beyond the very light of creation or a place of uncreated blackness and darkness. In the book of Genesis the Bible speaks before God created light:

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2).

In such a place of outer darkness or uncreated darkness, there will never be even a glimmer or ray of light. No beauty of a created sunshine or sunset, a rainbow, or even a moon or stars will ever appear. There will be nothing, as we know life, to brighten or cheer the constantly deepening gloom. We are talking about darkness totally beyond the reach of light.

Weeping and Wailing

“And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42, 49-50). The physical pain that we presently experience has no kin to what a resurrection of damnation suggests.

The mental stress of such an environment will be shattering. I would suggest that these words, “weeping and wailing” is more descriptive of emotion and mental pain than physical. We probably know nothing in this present world of the kind of insanity this suggests. It will be conscious insanity, while present insanity is more likely to be unconscious. A mental hell is the ultimate fact this truth seeks to convey.

Gnashing of Teeth

“Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). While weeping and wailing is suggestive of emotional pain, gnashing of teeth is probably evidence of both emotional and physical pain. This term certainly means excruciating pain that causes individuals to grind their teeth, but we are talking about more than physical discomfort. The term suggests rage or an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

It’s one thing to hurt, but it’s another matter to be hopeless of ever experiencing relief. “Gnashing of teeth” certainly implies that these individuals have reached a state when they know pain is beyond their escape. It is a conscious experience of misery — emotionally and physically — that will never end.

Everlasting Punishment and Destruction

Acceptance is a basic need of every individual. Our Creator created the God-shaped vacuum in man and acceptance by Him is the basis of happiness. When the prodigal was away from home, sitting on a pig fence, the Bible says, “He came to himself.” In this renewed, clear state of mental health he wanted to go home. That’s God-given sanity.


The place of everlasting punishment is to be removed from this acceptance forever. Chastisements, as we now know it, are for a moment and we know that even as we suffer. This punishment is for eternity and we will be conscious of that. Please note that this Scripture emphasizes, “Everlasting punishment from the presence of the Lord.” The rankest sinner on earth can still drink in the blessings that fall on the just and unjust alike. While man is in his present state, even though he has rejected God, he still experiences a multitude of things that represent the Creator and His presence.

Where the Worm Dieth Not

“Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44). The reality of eternal destruction reaches an indescribable level at this point. The very words, “where their worm dieth not,” mean exactly what he said. Jesus used a word that means a maggot or grub, which feeds on dead bodies. It is the exact word used in Acts 12:23 which states, “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (Acts 12:23). We are talking about dying bodies being invaded by devouring worms that cannot die. The only words to describe that state are “a living hell.”

Unquenchable Fire

“Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable” (Luke 3:17). Here we see fire that far surpasses what is presently known to man. Fire consumes; therefore, we know only of a fire that is limited to the limitations of our present world. Hell and the Lake of Fire are both unquenchable fires. Very clearly, it does not consume and is unlimited in its Fahrenheit. The Bible then adds the last level to this fiery judgment.

Tormented with Fire and Brimstone

“And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20). “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

When you add the idea of being “tormented in fire and brimstone” to the prior elements of eternal damnation, the Lake of Fire becomes an unexplainable horror. Brimstone is burning sulphur. It is both a destructive chemical when burning and is insufferable in its heat and terror. The Encyclopedia Britannica says that .06% of the earth’s surface is sulphur and that it is the 9th most abundant element in the universe.

When found in its original form, it is yellow, but turns red and then black as it is heated. It boils at 444.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Volcanoes are made up mostly of boiling hot sulphur. It sounds apocalyptic when you understand the changes of colors that sulphur passes through in becoming brimstone.

The torture of this kind of burning experience defies one’s comprehension. No wonder many modern preachers and students of Scripture have rejected this truth. How can God send men and women to a living hell? The truth is “He does not.” He is absolutely bent on keeping you out of this horrible place.

Don’t ever say, “God will send you to Hell.” Only your denial and rebellion before His marvelous grace can determine such a hopeless eternity. Yes, Hell is a horrible place! Everything the Bible says about Hell or the Lake of Fire is true. It will be a Christ-less and hellish place. Billions will inhabit its misery. Will you be one of them or will you fling yourself on Jesus Christ and His forgiving and cleansing blood today?

“What will wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”