What Did the Early Christians Believe About Hell?
Did They Believe It Was a Place of Eternal Conscious Torment?
The Earliest Teaching
As we seek to understand what the Bible teaches about Hell, it may be helpful to understand what the earliest believers believed and taught. The teachings of the early believers have been preserved for us in the writings of the earliest church leaders (known as the Early Church Fathers). While their writings are not canonical (they are not on par with the words of the Bible), they do help us to see what those closest to the apostles first understood as Biblical Truth.
As we assemble the teachings of these first church leaders, several patterns emerge related to the nature of Hell. The Early Church Fathers, with very few exceptions, agree with the teaching of the Bible in the way they describe Hell:
1. Hell is a place of judgment for those who have rejected God and denied Jesus as their Savior
2. Hell is a place of separation from God
3. Hell is a place of torment in which the rebellious are in anguish and pain
4. Hell is a place where the rebellious are tormented forever and are CONSCIOUS of this torment for all eternity (In fact, the eternal duration of their torment is often compared to the eternal duration of the reward of the saved)
At the same time, the earliest Church Fathers are ambiguous on those areas where the Bible is ALSO ambiguous.
1. The exact nature of the torment of the rebellious is unknown
2. The manner in which the rebellious are kept alive in spite of ‘deathly’ anguish is also un-described
The Early Church Fathers simply reflected the clearest teachings of the Bible related to the nature of Hell. They believed that Hell was a place of eternal conscious torment, reflecting the clearest teaching of the scriptures (more on that HERE).
What They Wrote
From the earliest days of Christianity, the first believers wrote about the nature of Hell. Here is a very brief assessment of their understanding related to the final resting place of the damned…
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