There are many people that do not accept the tenets of Christianity because they have heard ministers say that they are going to go into hell and that they are going to burn there through the ceaseless ages of eternity, that God is going to bake them on one side for 6 million years, then turn them over on the other side and bake them on that side for another 6 million years.
People have read Dante's Inferno, where it talks about how people will be put upside down in red hot coals, and the devil comes along with a red hot poker and sticks it to the soles of their feet.
People have read, and ministers have preached, that there are little babies in hell, not over a span long, and their blood runs through their veins like molten lead. Preachers have said that the people in hell are looking up into Heaven and wishing they could be there.
Is this the case? What exactly does the Bible teach about this subject? Where is hell, when did it begin, are there people in hell burning now? What does the Bible have to say about it? Well Jesus told a story that makes it very clear...
Matthew 13:24-30 "24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
The scripture says that after the multitude went away, the disciples of Jesus came to Him and asked Him to explain the parable to them. In His answer it tells us exactly where hell is.
Matthew 13:36-40 "36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world."
Jesus made it absolutely clear - the tares represent the wicked, it says the harvest is the end of the age, and it says as the tares are gathered, so they will be burnt at the end of the age. Is there anybody in hell at the present time? No. The Bible makes this crystal clear - it is not until the coming of Jesus that people will be destroyed.
This is what it says about the coming of Christ:
Matthew 16:27 "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works."
So it's at Jesus' second coming that He will reward everyone according to their works, according to how they have lived - not now, but at His second coming.
Let's look at another verse...
Revelation 22:12 "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be."
Again we see that every person will receive their reward when Jesus comes back - not now, but then.
2 Peter 3:7 "But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."
The Bible makes it clear - fire will burn the earth, and it is then that the wicked will be destroyed. Nowhere in the Bible does it teach that hell is down somewhere beneath the earth and that people go there when they die - it doesn't teach that. It says that it will happen at the end, when Jesus comes - then the wicked will be destroyed. 2 Peter also shows this...
2 Peter 3:10-12 "10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"
So it says the earth is going to burn, all the works of the earth will be burned up, the wicked will also be burned up with it at this time. So hell is going to take place right here on this earth, not some other place.
Speaking of the wicked right at the end of time, Revelation tells us...
Revelation 20:9 "And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them."
So it says fire will come down to burn up the wicked - it uses the word "devoured". Devoured means they will be completely destroyed, they will exist no more, and it takes place right here on earth.