To begin I should state that I believe that the scripture teaches a final punishment that has an everlasting, or better said, a never ending result.
I recently read a book loaned to me by a friend. It was titled Counterfeit Christianity, by E. Raymond Capt. I had the opportunity to meet Mr Capt many years ago. I was able to speak to him at length about several things over a period of four or five days. He was a very well respected man. It was very much deserved too. Many of his writings and films have been very helpful in presenting truth. The one thing that surprised me was at some point during the week I saw a book on his table that told me that he believed in a form of Universal Reconciliation. Unfortunately the book I read is very heavily influenced by that doctrine. However, the point he made about an eternal bar-b-que pit known as hell was reasonably well made.
Most of the time that the word hell is found in scripture the Hebrew or Greek word really just means grave and should have been translated as such. The Hebrew word sheol is one of these. The Greek word hades or haides is as well. The Greek word tartarus really just means a really deep pit or grave. Gehenna found only in the Gospels or writings that were intended for an audience in or around Jerusalem was understood because it was the local garbage dump. The fires were kept burning there as long as there was garbage to burn. The result of the burning was permanent as none of it ever was restored to an unburned state.
The other day I was looking closely at the Greek wording of a verse that ended with the word diablos. Diablos had been translated as devil. I have to say that it is hard to undo years of false teaching. Once I looked closely at the whole verse, however, it was easy to see that there was only a false accuser of some kind. There was no creature called a devil being discussed. The same goes for the hell issue.
Probably the largest stumbling block for people comes from Luke 16 with the Rich Man and Lazarus. Another author of the past, Sheldon Emry, dealt with this subject pretty well. It is another situation where just looking at the Greek text with out prior bias solved the problem all together. It is not the easiest thing to do, but we who desire truth must look beyond our teaching to find truth. By the way, you can download and listen to Emry’s taped messages on this subject by finding the tape catalog at the link above. Look under the year 1974 and then all the way at the bottom of the page.
Other than that the phrase “lake of fire” is found four times in scripture. We are not left to guess it’s meaning however. In two of those four verses we are told exactly what the phrase means. It is the second death. It means that the person who is put in the lake of fire perishes, permanently. There is no scripture concerning returning after the second death. The word perish is also found in John 3:16, but how many really believe what it means?