The hell debate is generally a two-sided argument between the classical view and the annihilationist view. The classical view references the belief that most Christians carry, which is that hell is a real place where those who do not go to Heaven will suffer eternally. The annihilationist view simply believes that this is not true and that those who die and do not reach Heaven will simply disappear. I side with the classical view on this debate and believe both scripturally and reasonably that there is a hell.
First off, if we are really going to accept that hell does not exist, it means we have to throw out a lot of verses that describe it. One can see throughout the Bible that there is in fact a place for everlasting punishment (Mt 25:46). The Great Doctrines of the Bible makes a great point off this punishment against the annihilationist view when it says, “What need is there of a resurrection if the wicked are to be annihilated at death, or why should they be raised from the dead if only to be at once extinguished for ever? Again, there is no such thing as “unconscious” punishment. You cannot punish anything that is unconscious. Can you punish a stone or a house? Punishment can take place only where there is consciousness on the part of the one suffering” (pg. 260).
On top of that, hell is described as being filled with fire (Mt 3:12; Mt 25:41; Mt 13:42,50; Isa 33:14; Re 20:15; Re 14:10). These are only a few of the verses that talk about hell and they are describing it in a physical sense. Now what would be the point in giving a physical description about a place that does not exist?
On top of that there is also a verse pertaining to souls being found there. In Matthew 10:28 it is stated that God chooses where the soul goes. The Bible Exposition Commentary makes a good point on this when it says, “All that men can do is kill the body; and, if they do, the believer’s soul goes home to be with the Lord. But God is able to destroy both body and soul in hell!” It has always been understood that when we die our souls go somewhere and we actually read here of souls going to this place. If not our souls, then whose?
Using my reason, I like to explain Heaven and hell in this way. The entire Bible paints a picture of a battle between good and evil. Now knowing that God is on the good side and that He represents the kingdom of Heaven, we typically recognize that he has an enemy named satan who represents the kingdom of hell. Since earth is neither Heaven nor hell, it can be seen as a place in which the two kingdoms collide. Regardless of whether human beings know it or not, they take residency in one of these two kingdoms and so nearly every action they do can either bring Heaven or hell to earth.
Now it is important to note that hell does not hold a standard for the people who live there whereas Heaven does. Without belief in Jesus Christ, one cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven for there is no way to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). But once again, hell could care less who resides there and since everyone has to choose between one of the kingdoms, it takes both those who have already taken up residency there and those who did not live up to the standard of heaven.
It seems that the main reason people are willing to accept the annihilationist view is because its supporters would obviously prefer to die completely then go to hell. In all honesty who would not want to accept this as reality? The problem is, however, that the annihilationist view is simply wishful thinking.
The biggest point that that annihilationist view has is the question how a good God could promote such an idea as hell? In response to this question, I would make the point that God leaves the decision as to where we will go in our hands. Or as Systematic Theology states in a different light, “we are told that the favour of God is life; that to know God is eternal life; that to be spiritually minded is life; and that to be carnally minded is death” (pg. 874). While He will make the final judgment, it is our job to live in a way to persuade that judgment. So if we want to live in eternal punishment that is by our own choice. Also, since God is perfectly good, there must be justice because that is an aspect of His goodness. While this justice is not necessarily preferable, it appears that according to Scripture hell is real. And I might also add that it is a fairly powerful way to convict someone to live correctly.
Evans, W., & Coder, S. M. (1998, c1974). The great doctrines of the Bible (Enl. ed.) (260). Chicago: Moody Press.
Hodge, C. (1997). Systematic theology (3:874). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary (Mt 10:24). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.