By Hank Hanegraaff
On the basis of what the Bible teaches, we may safely conclude that not all existence in hell is equal.
First, the unified testimony of Scripture is that God is perfectly just and will reward and punish each person in accordance with what he or she has done (Psalm 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Jeremiah 17:10; Ezekiel 18:20, 30; Romans 2:5–16; 1 Corinthians 3:8, 11–15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Colossians 3:23–25; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 20:12).
Furthermore, the Bible is clear that with greater revelation and responsibility comes stricter judgment (cf. James 3:1). Jesus warned the Pharisees that they would “be punished most severely” for their willful hypocrisy (Luke 20:47). In denouncing the cities where most of His miracles had been performed, Jesus said, “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sack- cloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:21). Thus, said Jesus, “It will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you” (v. 22). Moreover, Jesus used the metaphor of physical torture to warn His hearers that those who knowingly disobey God’s commands will experience greater torment in hell than those who disobey in ignorance (Luke 12:47–48).
Finally, the canon of Scripture ratifies the common-sense notion that not all sins are created equal (cf. John 19:11). To think a murderous thought is sin; to carry that thought to its logical conclusion is far graver sin. Every sin is an act of rebel- lion against a holy God, but some sins carry far more serious consequences than others and thus receive severer punishment in this life and the next. Indeed, according to Scripture, the torment of Hitler’s hell will greatly exceed that of the less wicked.
I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
Revelation 20:12 NKJV
For further study, See Hank Hanegraaff, AfterLife: What You Need to Know About Heaven, the Hereafter, and Near-Death Experiences (Brentwood, TN: Worthy, 2013). See also Why should I believe in hell?
**Note the preceding text is adapted from a new Revised and Updated version of The Complete Bible Answer Book that is forthcoming. When available we will update this page with corresponding information. Until then you can still purchase or receive for your partnering gift the current version by clicking here for purchase or here for partnering gift. ***