The Hell There Is!

The Bible and the Church Fathers on Eternal Hell, and Conscious, Eternal Torment


Michael casts out rebel angels. Illustration by Gustave Doré for John Milton's Paradise Lost.The Hell There Is! The Bible and Church Fathers on Hell

See also:

Examination of Conditional Immortality, Soul Sleep, and Annihilationism by P. (myself)

Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell by Alan Gomes

Internet quotes on "hell" from various unorthodox sites (with respect to the traditional doctrine):

  •  "Conditionalists" (immortality is 'conditioned' on receiving eternal life, i.e. the soul is not 'immortal') or
  • "Annihilationists" (there is no eternal hell, unbelievers shall be annihilated, i.e. cease to exist) or
  • "Universalists" (all persons will eventually be saved and go to heaven forever) :

"...many Christians insist that if you question hell, you are rejecting what has always been agreed upon by the Church, yet the doctrine of eternal torment was not a widely held view for the first five centuries after Christ, particularly in the early Eastern Church, the Church of the early apostles and Church fathers such as Paul [sic], Clement of Alexandria, St. Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, and others." ("How & When The Idea of Eternal Torment Invaded Church Doctrine" from http://brazenchurch.com/how-hell-invaded-church-doctrine/ )

"...The truth is that several Early Church Fathers did teach eternal torment, and others may well have believed it without saying so. But to those with a bit of knowledge about early church history I put the question: How many can you think of in the first couple of centuries who actually taught it?" ("History of Hell | Hell before Augustine" from  www.afterlife.co.nz/2013/05/history-of-hell/ )

"....I have dozens of quotes from the early Church Fathers that universally taught universal salvation .... now you can go to Tentmaker.org and get all this information...." (Gary Amirault, Tentmaker Ministries, in response to Jerry Walls on Lee Strobel's 'Faith Under Fire')"

"There is no documentation that the church councils of the first four centuries embraced the doctrine of 'eternal punishment.' The church councils at Nice [sic] in A.D. 325, at Constantinople in A.D. 381, at Ephesus in A.D. 431 and at Chalcedon in A.D. 451 never embraced this doctrine. In contrast, there is documented evidence that many church leaders and teachers of the first centuries A.D. wrote acclaiming the doctrine of universal salvation or 'ultimate reconciliation', none of whom were censored. It was not until 553 A.D. that the Roman Catholic Church denounced the teaching of ultimate reconciliation as heresy." ("Eternal Punishment: Is It Really of God?" from www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/etpunish.html )


It is clear, people don't like the idea of an eternal hell. In fact, a growing number of Christians today ('conservative' evangelicals among them) do not accept the orthodox, traditional doctrine of an eternal hell, and suggest that the Bible, properly interpreted, does not teach it, and even the Church Fathers or early saints and Councils, did not believe it. This article will be a detailed examination of that question, primarily from an orthodox Catholic perspective. Does the Bible teach, and do the early Church Fathers, saints, bishops, and Ecumenical Councils teach an eternal hell, meaning a conscious, 'everlasting punishment' or 'eternal torment' in a "place" called "Hell" ?

Whether you are a Christian or not, this is not a pleasant or comfortable topic to study or think about. NOBODY likes the 'idea' of HELL. However, if it is TRUE, it is clearly very important as it deals with our eternal destiny. Unlike most Internet sites, I will be documenting this article from standard scholarly sources, which include:

On the Church Fathers --

  • Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott (TAN, 1974)
  • The Teachings of the Church Fathers by Fr. John Willis, S.J. (Ignatius Press, 2002)
  • The Fathers Know Best by Jimmy Akin (Catholic Answers, 2010)
  • The Faith of the Early Fathers by Fr. William Jurgens, S.J. (3 volumes, Liturgical Press, 1979)

On Eternal Hell (and opposing viewpoints) --

  • HELL (and how to avoid it) by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, S.J. (TAN, 1989)
  • Hell Under Fire edited by Morgan and Peterson, et al (Zondervan, 2004)
  • Death and the Afterlife by Robert Morey (Bethany House, 1984)
  • Four Views on Hell (Zondervan, 2016, 2nd edition) -- representing (1) eternal, conscious torment in hell; (2) terminal punishment or annihilation; (3) Universalism; and (4) purgatory (technically according to Catholic doctrine, purgatory is not 'hell' but a vestibule or antechamber of heaven; all souls in purgatory are saved and WILL go to heaven)

These are sources by orthodox, traditional Christian believers in eternal hell, both Catholic and evangelical Protestant Christians that document clearly that the Bible and the early Church Fathers DO teach the doctrine. The sources I have consulted written by 'Conditionalists' or 'Annihilationists' or 'Universalists' are primarily Internet sites and articles, but a few books that I own would be:

  • Unconditional Good News by Neil Punt (William Eerdmans Publishing, 1980)
  • Christian Universalism: God's Good News for All People by Eric Stetson (Sparkling Bay Books, 2008)
  • Unitarian Universalism by Alan W. Gomes (Zondervan, 1998), an evangelical Christian critique
  • The Conditionalist Faith of our Fathers by Leroy Edwin Froom (Review and Herald, 1966) VOLUME 1 (PDF)  | VOLUME 2 (PDF)

I would also recommend Gomes' article published in Christian Research Journal from 1991 called "Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell" (HTML on this site).


Catholic Teaching on Eternal Hell, and Conscious, Eternal Torment

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Scripture on Eternal Hell, and Conscious, Eternal Torment

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Church Fathers on Eternal Hell, and Conscious, Eternal Torment

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"text" (reference [c. AD XXX] or ANF VIII:XXX)

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"text" (reference [c. AD XXX])

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"text" (reference [c. AD XXX] or ANF III:XXX-XXX)

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"text" [c. AD XXX] or Migne PG XX:XXX,XXX)

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