Some, like Edward Fudge, believe that the person who dies without believing in Jesus ceases to exist. Unquenchable fire cannot be extinguished and consumes until nothing is left. And “everlasting” simply means “the disintegration of the wicked will never be reversed” (Two Views of Hell, p. 33).
The more traditional view of hell sees it as conscious punishment that lasts forever.
Which is it? What the heck is hell?
To be honest, I find either of the first two views easier to accept than the traditional view. The thought that someone can suffer forever is difficult to swallow! But here’s where we must be careful. I cannot decide the truth of a doctrine based on my emotions or feelings. Never. I must always let the truth of God’s word provide the answer.
Here’s the end result, my answer to the question, based on my understanding of what the Bible says: The fate of those who have never believed in Jesus is unending, conscious torment away from God as the consequence of rejecting God’s solution in Jesus Christ that fully satisfies His holiness and perfectly displays His love. You can stop here, but I’d encourage you to work with me through the process to see how I came to my conclusion. The answer lies in carefully looking at the nitty-gritty details of the Scriptures.
Wherever we end up in our view of hell, we must begin with the character of God and the message of His Word. Many who do not buy the traditional view of hell have in their argument something to the effect of “God is love. He loves us too much to...” The first half of that statement is absolutely true. God is love, and I fear too many believers don’t understand the depths of that love. I applaud ministries that help believers understand and experience God’s love. The second half of the statement can become a problem if we decide what God can or cannot do.
God is love, but God is not only love. A cursory look through the Bible reveals dozens of “God is” statements. Some speak of His relationship to us, like “God is my helper” (Psalm 54:4), and some speak of His character, like “For the LORD is good” (Psalm 100:5). And, we find statements like “The LORD is the righteous one” (Exodus 9:27), “God is a righteous judge” (Psalm 7:11), and “holy is the LORD our God” (Psalm 99:9), or, even stronger, “Holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts.” (Isa. 6:3, Rev. 4:8). “Hebrew uses repetition to express superlatives or to indicate totality. Only here is a threefold repetition found.” (Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, p. 76).
God is love.
But God is also holy.
So, now, let’s look for the pieces that define this judgment.
Let’s start with Matthew 25:41: “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels’”. Whatever this “eternal fire” may be, we see its original purpose was for Satan and his fallen angels for their judgment. This judgment of the devil is carried out in Rev. 20:10, “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone…”