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The Early Church Fathers on Hell.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Ignatius of Antioch, (A.D. 50-107)
    St. Justin Martyr, (A.D. 100-163)
    St. Irenæus of Lyons, (A.D. 125-202)
    Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, (A.D. 130-160)
    (Marcus) Minucius Felix, (A.D. c.130-270
    Athenagoras, (A.D. c.133-181)
    The Martyrdom of Polycarp, (A.D. 147)
    St. Theophilus of Antioch, (unknown - A.D. c.186)
    St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236)
St. Ignatius of Antioch, (A.D. 50-107), Syrian; ecclesiastical writer, bishop, martyr. A disciple of St. John, the Apostle; he was bishop of Antioch, in which see he succeeded St. Peter, or, as others think, Evodius. He is supposed to have governed that church for about forty years. He suffered martyrdom at Rome in the year 107.

Corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death, how much more if a man corrupt by evil reaching the faith of God for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire, and so will anyone who listens to him.

Letter to the Ephesians 16:1-2 [A.D. 110]

St. Justin Martyr, (A.D. 100-163), Samaritan; born in Sichem (Naplousia) in Palestine; a platonic philosopher, apologist, and martyr for the faith; he was a convert to Catholic Christianity in A.D. 133. He wrote two Apologies for the Christian religion, one addressed to Antoninus, the other to Marcus Aurelius. He was martyred at Rome in the year 163.

No more is it possible for the evildoer, the avaricious, and the treacherous to hide from God than it is for the virtuous. Every man will receive the eternal punishment or reward which his actions deserve. Indeed, if all men recognized this, no one would choose evil even for a short time, knowing that he would incur the eternal sentence of fire. On the contrary, he would take every means to control himself and to adorn himself in virtue, so that he might obtain the good gifts of God and escape the punishments.

First Apology 12 [A.D. 151]

[Jesus] shall come from the heavens in glory with his angelic host, when he shall raise the bodies of all the men who ever lived. Then he will clothe the worthy in immortality; but the wicked, clothed in eternal sensibility, he will commit to the eternal fire, along with the evil demons.

First Apology 52

St. Irenæus of Lyons, (A.D. 125-202), Asia Minor; bishop, missionary, theologian, defender of orthodoxy. Though by birth a Greek, he was Bishop of Lyons in the second century. He tells us that, in his early youth, he learned the rudiments of religion from St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John the Apostle. He wrote several works, of which only a few fragments are now known, with the exception of his Treatise against Heretics which we have in five books.

The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . It is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, "Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire," they will be damned forever.

Against Heresies 4:28:2 [A.D. 189]

We [Christians] are persuaded that when we are removed from this present life we shall live another life, better than the present one. . . . Then we shall abide near God and with God, changeless and free from suffering in the soul . . . or if we fall with the rest [of mankind], a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere incidental work, that we should perish and be annihilated.

Plea for the Christians 31 [A.D. 177]

Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, (A.D. 130-160), an early Christian writing, though credited to Pope St. Clement of Rome, Eusebius and other modern scholars question the authorship of this epistle and believe it is actually a sermon written by an anonymous author.

If we do the will of Christ, we shall obtain rest; but if not, if we neglect his commandments, nothing will rescue us from eternal punishment

Second Clement 5:5 [A.D. 150]

(Marcus) Minucius Felix, (A.D. c.130-c.270), was one of the earliest of the Latin apologists for Christianity who wrote approximately between A.D. 150-270. Lantantius (A.D. 240-323), speaks of him as "no mean place among the lawyers."

I am not ignorant of the fact that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, would rather hope than actually believe that there is nothing for them after death. They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment. . . . Nor is there measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them.

Octavius 34:12-5:3 [A.D. 226]

Athenagoras, (A.D. c.133-181), Athenian; a Proto-orthodox Christian apologist, a philosopher, and a convert to Christianity. According to Philippus Sideta, he presided over the school at Alexandria. He flourished about the year 170. He wrote apologetic defenses of the Christian religion, and a treatise on the Resurreotion.

We [Christians] are persuaded that when we are removed from this present life we shall live another life, better than the present one. . . . Then we shall abide near God and with God, changeless and free from suffering in the soul . . . or if we fall with the rest [of mankind], a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere incidental work, that we should perish and be annihilated.

Plea for the Christians 31 [A.D. 177]

The Martyrdom of Polycarp, (A.D. 147), one of the works of the Apostolic Fathers, among the first recorded eyewitness writings from the actual age of the Christian persecutions. The work details Polycarp's death at the age of 86 years old, at the hands of the Romans, in the 2nd century A.D.; author unknown but the story is recorded by Eusebius who claims to have received it through a letter addressed to the Church of Philomelium by the Church of Smyrna.

Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire.

Martyrdom of Polycarp 2:3 [A.D. 155]

St. Theophilus of Antioch, (unknown - A.D. c.186), Patriarch of Antioch, born pagan but embraced Christianity by studying the Holy Scriptures, especially the prophetical books. Wrote against idols, made contributions to Christian literature, polemics, exegetics, and apologetics.

Give studious attention to the prophetic writings [the Bible] and they will lead you on a clearer path to escape the eternal punishments and to obtain the eternal good things of God.... [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortally by the patient exercise of good works, he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things. . . , For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire.

To Autolycus 1:14 [A.D. 181]

St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236), Roman; bishop and martyr, probably a scholar of St. Irenæus of Lyons.

Standing before [Christ's] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: "Just is your judgment!" And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them.

Against the Greeks 3 [A.D. 212]



The Early Fathers believed in a literal Hell. The idea that the Bibles torturous descriptions of Hell were somehow symbolic of non-existence, as Jehovah's Witnesses claim, was something that would have been totally foreign to them.



The Church's Scriptures on Hell.


The Existence of Hell


A Prophecy of Deliverance from Foes

11 You conceive chaff, you bring forth stubble; your breath is a fire that will consume you. 14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?"


Isaiah 33:11,14

The Judgment of the Nations

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45 Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."


Matthew 25:41-46

John the Baptist foretells the just judgment

16 John answered them all, "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."


Luke 3:16-17

The Righteous Judgment of God

8 but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,


Romans 2:8-9

The Judgment at Christ's Coming

6 since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,


2 Thessalonians 1:6-9

The Messages of the Three Angels

11 And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name."


Revelation 14:11

See also:

The Pains of Hell

Psalms 21:10
"LORD's anger will consume them ... devour them with fire."
Jeremiah 9:15
"I will send the sword to pursue them until I have completely destroyed them."
Matthew 8:12
"outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding or teeth"
2 Thessalonians 1:9
"pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord"
Revelation 14:10
"fire that torments them will rise forever ... there will be no relief"

Also read:

The Endlessness of Hell

Isaiah 66:24
"who rebelled against me; Their worm shall not die, nor their fire be extinguished"
Matthew 25:41
"eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels"
Matthew 25:46
"these [unrighteous] will go off to eternal punishment"
2 Thessalonians 1:9
"pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord"

Also read:

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