When will the wicked burn in hell? Is it right after death or sometime later in the future?

Samuel Smith



You are welcome to another edition of Insights from God's Word, a Bible study programme that is committed to sharing God's Word by allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

In this edition, we continue with our series on The Truth About Hell. In this study, I want us to consider the topic: When will the wicked burn in hell? Is it right after death or sometime later in the future? It is a common belief among many denominations in Christendom today that the wicked go to the fires of hell immediately after death. If you want a proof to this statement, I've got one coming.

Friends, we read the following from a popular mainstream Christian website: "There has always been a separation of believers and unbelievers after death (Luke 16:19-31). The righteous have always gone to paradise; the wicked have always gone to hell. For right now, both paradise and hell are temporary holding places until the day when Jesus Christ comes back to judge the world based on whether or not individuals have believed in Him" ( In this study, I want us to go into the sacred pages of the Bible and ascertain for ourselves whether the popular viewpoint above synchronizes with the clear words of Scripture. Explained below are five important points with clear biblical support:


The Bible clearly teaches that both the righteous and wicked dead go to one place after death. Here is the scriptural evidence: "ALL GO UNTO ONE PLACE; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again" (Ecclesiastes 3:20). The Bible makes it clear that both the righteous and wicked rest in their graves to await one of two resurrections. From John 5:28-29, we read these clear words of Scripture: "28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which ALL THAT ARE IN THE GRAVES shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the RESURRECTION OF LIFE; and they that have done evil, unto the RESURRECTION OF DAMNATION" (Capital Emphasis Added). Beloved, from these passages of Scripture, we learn clearly that there is no separation of the righteous from the unrighteous at death. Both rest in their graves to await one of two resurrections - the resurrection of life for the righteous at the second coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) and the resurrection of damnation for the wicked at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:4-6). This biblical point clearly contradicts the popular teaching that the righteous go to paradise while the wicked go to hell immediately after death.


The Bible makes it clear that both the righteous and the wicked do not receive their reward at death but rather at the second coming of Christ. From Revelation 22:12, we read the following from the lips of Christ: "And, behold, I come quickly; AND MY REWARD IS WITH ME, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Capital Emphasis Added; see also the symbolic passage of Matthew 25:31-46). As we are all aware, Christ is yet to come. What this means is that no one has received his or her reward as yet. Friends, it is at the second coming of Christ that the righteous dead are rewarded with the resurrection unto eternal life, and actually ascend with Christ and the angelic host to the city of God (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

The wicked dead on the other hand do not resurrect when Christ appears the second time. Even though their cases would have already been determined for eternal destruction (see Revelation 11:18; Revelation 14:6-7), they will continue to sleep in their graves for a thousand more years as the righteous look into the records of their judgement in heaven to ascertain whether God has been fair with everyone (see Revelation 20:4-6; I Corinthians 6:2-3). After the thousand - year period is over; the wicked will be resurrected by the Lord to face the full penalty of their sins in the fires of hell (see Revelation 20:7-10). And friends, this is the day of God's executive judgement; which is still yet future (see Revelation 20:11-15).


From the pages of Scripture, we uncover more proof in relation to the condition of the wicked dead. Here are a few of such texts:

i) "That THE WICKED IS RESERVED to the day of destruction? They shall be brought forth to the day of wrath" (Job 21:30; Capital Emphasis Added).

ii) "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to RESERVE THE UNJUST unto the day of judgment to be punished" (2 Peter 2:9; Capital Emphasis Added).

iii) "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" (2 Peter 3:7; Capital Emphasis Added).

Beloved, the scriptural texts above do not teach that the wicked are thrown into hell immediately when they die. Rather, the texts make it clear that they are reserved unto fire against the day of judgement. The word RESERVED basically means to keep something for a future time. Thus friends, in these texts above, we are clearly taught that the wicked dead are reserved or kept in their graves until the day of judgement and perdition of ungodly men.


From our previous study, we came across the biblical truth that hellfire was originally prepared by God to destroy the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Now, the question I want us to ponder over is this: Would God have been fair to mankind if He actually confined the wicked dead to the fires of hell while the originator of sin and his host of demons walk about freely? (see Isaiah 14:12-17; Revelation 12:7-9). Friends, I don't think our just God will do that (see Isaiah 30:18; Job 34:12; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 9:7-8).

You see beloved, if the wicked went to hell immediately after death, then based on the justice of God, Satan and his host of demons should also have been confined in the fires of hell even now. But the havoc, pain, misery and lawlessness that is occurring on our earth today clearly show that Satan and his host of angels are on the loose rather than in the fires of hell. This fact supports the point that the wicked dead cannot be in hell now. In fact, the Scripture makes it clear that the wicked dead as well as Satan and his angels will end up in the fires of hell at the same time (see Revelation 20:7-10, 15).


For those who teach that people go to hell right after death, a good question I will want them to answer from Scripture is this: Where in the world can we locate hell? In space? beneath the crust of the earth? Or somewhere under the sea? Friends, the Bible's clear teaching is that hellfire is nowhere in the world now. The Bible however compares the destruction of the wicked at the end of time to the destruction of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. From Luke 17:28-30, we read the following: "17:28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;

17:29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom IT RAINED FIRE AND BRIMSTONE FROM HEAVEN, AND DEVOURED THEM ALL.

17:30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed."

(Luke 17:28-30; Capital Emphasis Added)
Friends, as the Scripture above stipulates, fire rained down from God out of heaven to destroy the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah during the time of Lot (see also Genesis 19:24). The Scripture says that "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed" (Luke 17:30). Thus from this text in Luke, we can expect that the fires of hell that will destroy the wicked at the end of time will also come from God out of heaven. And interestingly, that's exactly what we find the Scripture teaching in the last book of the Bible. From Revelation 20:7-9, we come across the following end time truth: "20:7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

20:8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

20:9 And they (the lost) 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."

(Revelation 20:7-9; Capital Emphasis Added)
As you can see friends, hellfire comes from God out of heaven. This is just the same thing that happened during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Beloved, the teaching that the wicked are burning in hell somewhere under the crust of the earth now is not supported by Scripture. This is because as we noted earlier, the wicked are RESERVED UNTO FIRE against the day of judgement and perdition of ungodly men (Job 21:30; 2 Peter 2:9, 2 Peter 3:7).

Furthermore, the wicked can't be burning now since the fire that is supposed to do this work is yet to be triggered from God out of heaven. When this fire is finally triggered, the entire earth will be one horrible place of hell (Revelation 20:7-9, 15).

Beloved, it is clear from the texts we have reviewed so far that the wicked do not go into the fires of hell immediately when they die. Nevertheless, the wicked will be punished in hellfire sometime in the future; specifically, at the time of God's executive judgement.

Exhortation: The parable of Jesus below describes among other things, the time when the wicked will be destroyed in the fires of hell. Read the parable carefully and see whether you can discover this time period: "13:24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

13:25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

13:26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

13:27 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?

13:28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

13:29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.

13:30 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.

13:36 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.

13:37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;

13:38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;

13:39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; THE HARVEST IS THE END OF THE WORLD; and the reapers are the angels.

13:40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; SO SHALL IT BE IN THE END OF THIS WORLD.

13:41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;

13:42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

13:43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."

(Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43; Capital Emphasis Added)
In our next study, we will consider the topic: Will the wicked burn forever and ever in the fires of hell? The Bible Study references for this study are Matthew 18:8, Matthew 25:41, 46; Revelation 14:9-11, 1 Samuel 1:22, Jonah 2:6, Jonah 1:17, Jude 1:7, 2 Peter 2:6, Malachi 4:1-3, John 3:16, Romans 6:23, Psalm 37:20, Matthew 10:28, Revelation 20:6, 14; Revelation 21:8, Ezekiel 28:12-19 and Isaiah 33:14-16. Please do well to go through these passages before the next study is released.

Stay blessed and keep shining for King Jesus.


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