Eschatology, the study of last things, can conjure up different emotions and thoughts causing one to reflect on their mortality. Chief among these reflections both emotionally and intellectually is the eternal abode of the unsaved. This is a crucial question to answer from an apologetic standpoint and Scripture has much to say on the matter.
Three major views must be kept in mind when referring to the eternal fate of the unsaved. Annihilationism is drawn from the idea that some if not all persons will cease to exist post-mortem. Perhaps the most common assertion is that while humankind was created essentially immortal those who do not fulfill this destiny in the after life will be utterly destroyed. Eternal punishment stands as the most championed position historically by the church, Christ spoke more of hell than any other person. This points to the sentencing of the unregenerate to an eternity separated from the presence of God (Mk. 9:47-48). The third view, Universalism, espouses that all men will eventually be reconciled to God, thus the Atonement is not limited in its efficacy. This doctrine is viewed from the position of maximum tolerance.
After studying the definitions above the words used to describe these events must be examined. Hades, which is the rendered form of the Hebrew word Sheol in the LXX, has the meaning of grave or hell. This is the place of bodily decay, a state in which disembodied souls live until the resurrection at the last day (Jn. 11:24). Sheol and Hades are virtually synonymous. However, Gehenna, originally referring to the Valley of Hinnom where Baal worshipers sacrificed children to Molech (2 Kings 16:3), encapsulates the more common form of eternal hell, as is currently understood. Sheol and Hades refer to an intermediate state while Gehenna refers to everlasting punishment for the wicked following the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).
Though compelling arguments can be made from all sides the clearest definition from Scripture supports the eternality of reward and punishment for humankind (Dan. 12:2). Matthew 25:46 states, “these shall go away into everlasting punishment…righteous into life eternal.” Both words here can be rendered properly into Greek, aiōn or aiōnion. Strong translates these to mean without beginning and end. How can we deny the eternality of punishment while affirming the eternality of reward? If we hope to be consistent in our theology, we cannot. Paul commented on the state of the damned (2 Thess. 1:9) and in the Gospels Luke mentions the fate of the rich man from Jesus parables (Lk. 16:23). Though pointing ultimately to the result of the unsaved living, this parable can shed light on the state of the unregenerate dead.
The opposition would point to the cessation of existence implied in Scripture (Rom. 6:23; Jas. 5:20) or inconsistency with eternal punishment from a good God (1 Tim. 2:4). The cross, as they espouse, is the place of universal salvation to which the scope of cannot be limited (2 Cor. 5:9). Lastly, Paul appears to explain that eventually all things will be reconciled to Christ (Col. 1:18).
Though the opposition’s defense hinges on misinterpretations there is an emotional element that creeps in. How could a good God send some one to hell? However given libertarian-free will, God would be in contradiction to His nature if He forbid people to freely choose or deny Him. Thus those who choose Him will rest with Him eternally and those who don’t are granted their request, eternal separation from the Creator of the universe (Rev. 20:10). John and Jesus both describe reward and punishment eternally, yet to affirm one of the opponent’s views is to deny the veracity of their writings and subsequently Scriptures inerrancy. Lastly, the doctrine of hell stretches beyond three mere words, destruction (2 Thess. 1:9), damnation (Matt. 23:33), and fiery-furnace (Matt. 13:42).
Given eternal punishment, its wise to heed the words of Christ when he commanded us to make disciples (Matt. 28:19). Proselytizing is meaningless if all are eventually saved or if all cease to exist after death. Evangelism then is the greatest endeavor of every believer who once was lost until they heard the saving grace of the gospel.
The doctrine of eschatology deals largely with the final state of humankind. A proper understanding of eternal punishment on the unregenerate is the goal of the defender of orthodoxy. With the scope of eternal punishment in mind, all other views opposed should be rebuked for inaccuracy. If these views were to hold firm they would negate the gravity of both the cross and resurrection of Christ and the subsequent evangelizing of the post Acts 2 church. We must resist these views and hold to the clearest explanation scripture has to offer, namely the eternal destiny of all people (Dan. 12:2).
 R. Nicole, “Annihilationism.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 64.
 L.L. Morris, “Eternal Punishment.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 395.
 J.R. Root, “Universalism.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 1232.
 W.A. Van Gemeren, “Sheol.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 1099.
 J.A. Motyer, “Hades.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 532.
 V. Cruz, “Gehenna.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 480.
 Morris, 395.
 Nicole, 64.
 Morris, 396.
 Ibid, 396.
 Nicole, 64.
 R.P. Lightner, “Hell.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 548.