Jesus must be our ultimate authority on this subject of "Hell". Does Jesus teach clearly on the reality of hell? Yes. In His compassion and mercy for mankind, on numerous occasions, He made known the perils of living wickedly. He forewarned of the horrors of eternal damnation, eternal punishment, eternal seperation, eternal torments, of eternal hell fire. His revelaion of this sober reality was not an idle threat by which to scare sinners into following Him, but a revelation of what was created for the devil and his angels, and to where those who are satanized will also be consigned on the great day of judgment.
In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus gives us His most complete picture of Hell and its eternal reality. We see that at the Glorious Second Coming of the Son of Man that there will be a universal judgment; That this judgment will be open and solemn; That this judgment will be strict and terrible; That this judgment will be a "Day of wrath and a revelation of the righteous judgment(Romans 2:5); That this judgment will be final and definitive, for all eternity the fate of each one judged is determined.
In verse 41 we are told that the King will say to those on his left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels". Prior to this, in verse 34, we are told that the King will say to those on his right hand, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world". Notice that Jesus reveals that both, "the kingdom" and "the everlasting fire" were "prepared" for this moment in time. The kingdom of God and all its glory is opened to all those on his right hand. Those on his left hand witness this great inheritance being opened to those who have done the will of God. Then those who have refused to do the will of God are sent to the place not made for humans, but to the place made for the eternally doomed devil and his angels. In Verse 46, Jesus says, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal". Let us settle the question of the eternality of hell! For if hell be temporal, why not the kingdom of God. Theologians fight within themselves about the very things their finite minds cannot fathom. Yet they boldly espouse ideas and doctrines that contradict the very revelations of Jesus Christ Himself on the matters of eternal destiny. Let us not be deceived, let us not be swayed by vain questions and speculations about the afterlife. But let the words of Jesus speak the simple and profound realities that should cause us with fear and trembling to work out our salvation(Phil. 2:12).
St Cyril of Jerusalem instructs us that the sinners, at the general resurrection of the dead, will receive an eternal body suffering the punishment of sins, so that while burning eternally in fire they will never be consumed. WOE!!! St Basil the Great also teaches the same things, when he criticizes that "most people" have been misled by the machinations of the devil and forget the very clear words of the Lord. Some of these people dare to insist that hell will end, that they may sin all the more with audacity...If eternal torment ever ends, then eternal life must also end. If we refuse to imagine this about eternal life, under what logic can we terminate eternal torment? For it is clear that the designation "eternal" is applied equally to the righteous and to the sinners".(Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses, 18,19; Basil the Great, Short Rules, Question 267, pg 31,1265A)
In Mark 9:38-48 Jesus uses a question from John the Apostle to teach on the reality and the horrors and the eternality of gehenna/hell fire. Three times in a very short message Jesus repeats the warning that there will be those "who are cast into hell fire/gehenna: where there worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched".
Reading Matthew 3:5-12 John the Baptist reveals that Jesus will gather the wheat and burn the chaff. St Gregory Palamas comments on the words of the Forerunner, "And He will clean thoroughly His threshing floor, that is, the whole world, and the wheat, those who are fertile for righteousness, He will gather in his granary(the heavenly chambers), but the chaff, as something worthless in the efforts for virtue, He will burn with unquenchable fire. If that fire is unquenchable, then it must also have an inconsumable fuel; this then represents the eternity of hell"(Gregory Palamas Homilies XXII, Homily 59). 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9: St Paul makes it clear, "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with EVERLASTING destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power". St John further clarifies the answer to the question, "Is hell forever?" in his Revelation(20:10,14,15) when he reveals that the devil, the beast, the false prophet, and all those not found in the book of life will be tormented in the lake of fire day and night for ever and ever.
In Mark 3:22-30 Jesus warns that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit puts a person in danger of "eternal damnation".
It appears that there will be degrees of torment for those consigned to hell just as there are degrees of glory for those who enter the kingdom of heaven. Read Luke 12:41-48 and Matthew 10:15 and Matthew 11:21-24. Hell will be a personal experience for the wicked just as heaven will be a personal experience for the saved. Each of us will receive according to what we have done.
(2 Cor. 5:8-10; Mt. 16:27; Romans 2:5-7; John 5:28,29; Mt. 25:31-46)
"The Mystery Of Death" by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis; 1993 by The Orthodox Brotherhood www.bostonmonks.com
"Orthodox Dogmatic Theology" by Michael Pomazansky; 1983,2009 by the St Herman Of Alaska Brotherhood www.sainthermanpress.com
"A Ray Of Light" by Archimandrite Panteleimon; 1946,1991 Holy Trinity Monastery www.jordanville.org