Have you noticed that when the Bible mentions the current hell (aka Hades), it never includes the words “eternal” or “everlasting” or the phrases “unquenchable fire” or “forever and ever” to describe it? In other words, “forever” is only associated with the future hell, also known as the lake of fire. Jesus used the word “Gehenna” 11 times in reference to the future hell. When a person dies apart from Christ, they immediately go to Hades, which is a place of fire and torment, but it is not the eternal hell. At the Great White Throne Judgment, they are delivered up before the throne of God, judged and then cast into the lake of fire, which exists forever.
Hades is not forever because the Bible says it will be delivered up and cast into the lake of fire at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). Keep in mind, both the lake of fire and hades contain literal burning fire.
Read Matthew 13:40-42 (NKJV), which says, “Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. . . And [He] will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Notice it does not say hell is eternal. Instead, it states “at the end of this age.” The age it refers to is the time remaining until the tribulation, according to biblical commentaries. After that, we will begin the 1,000-year period, a new age. This means the current hell still exists and will continue to be occupied until then.
In summary, there is a temporary hell called Hades, and the permanent hell called Gehenna (the lake of fire). Hades is not purgatory because according to the Bible, no such place exists. Hades currently holds all those who reject Jesus until the Great White Throne Judgment. According to Revelation 20:15 and Matthew 25:30, they will then be cast into the lake of fire and into outer darkness.
Bill Wiese is the author of the New York Times bestselling book 23 Minutes In Hell, the story of his life-changing visit to hell in 1998. Bill has since authored six additional book titles and continues to share his experience around the world. He and his wife, Annette, founded Soul Choice Ministries in late 2006 and have dedicated their lives to reaching the unsaved.