A few days ago I was shocked to read an email from an unbeliever. Many people have so little or no
knowledge of who God is. Instead of going to the Bible to look for answers, they live driven by hatred
towards God, because they think He has an eternal hellfire prepared for them if they don't follow Him. It is
a picture that contradicts the image of a loving Father God, who gave His only begotten Son as sacrifice for
fallen men, and it leaves little to no place to God's free will offer. If God would indeed have an eternal hell
awaiting at death those who don't accept Him, it rather feels like having a gun directed to your head:
"Follow me or you will be punished forever." Not a favorable picture of a just, loving God, is it? However, is
this theory Scriptural?  

In
2Peter 2:9 we are told that the unjust are reserved for punishment in the day of judgement, not at their
death.
“the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under
punishment for
the day of judgment.”

According to the scripture above nobody is burning in a hellfire today. The Bible says that God reserves, or
holds back, the wicked until
the day of judgment to be punished. The sinners will be cast into the hellfire at
the end of this age.
“Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.  The Son of
Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who
practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of
teeth.” (Matthew 13:40-42)

“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words,
has that which judges him—the word that I have
spoken will judge him
in the last day.” (John 12:48)

That makes all the difference, doesn't it?  Sinners will be cast into hellfire at the great judgment day, at the
end of this world and
not when they die.  Moreover, God will not punish any person until his case was tried
and decided in "court" at the end of this world.  There will be a judgment day when every single person will
be judged in front of all the inhabitants of the universe!  (
Coming soon: "The Judgement of the Wicked" and
"The Judgement of the Saints")
.  The theory of going to hell after death it is not Scriptural.  

The Bible is specific!  Both the wicked and the righteous who have died are in their graves “
sleeping” until
the resurrection day.  
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and
come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the
resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28-29)

“The wicked are reserved for
the day of doom; They shall be brought out on the day of wrath.” (Job 21:30)

The wages, or the punishment for sin is eternal death, not an everlasting life in a hellfire.  The wicked will
“perish”, or receive “eternal death”, while the righteous will receive “everlasting life”.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not
perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus Christ lived in flesh, He was tempted by the devil in every area, just like we are, but He did not fall
into any temptation.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points
tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrewa 4:15)

After being unsuccessfully tempted, He gave His life on the cross, in our place, in order to pay the penalty
for our own sins, which would have been eternal death.
“Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for
righteousness, and by Whose stripes we were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

By resisting all the devil's temptations and by dying in our place, our Saviour acquired the legal right to
redeem us from the fate the devil has for his followers, which is eternal death.
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love”
(Colossians 1:13)

Through His victory over sin and death, Jesus reconciled us with God.
“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having
been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10)

Now let's see what will happen to the wicked in hellfire.
“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars
shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is
the second death.”
(Revelation 21:8)

The Bible says that the wicked will die a second death in hellfire.  If the wicked lived forever being tortured
in hell, they would automatically be immortal.  However, this is impossible because,  according to the Bible
“only God has immortality”.
 
“Who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, Whom no man has seen or can see, to Him
be honor and everlasting power. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:16)

When Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, an angel was posted to guard the tree of life so
that sinners would not eat of the tree and live forever in sin.  The teaching that sinners are immortal in hell
originated with Satan and is completely untrue.  God prevented sin to reign forever when it first entered
this earth; by guarding the tree of life.

The Scriptures bellow are clear that the wicked will be obliterated (wiped out totally or annihilated) and not
tormented forever:
They will suffer eternal death.
 
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
They will suffer complete destruction.
“For the wicked are reserved for the day of doom; They shall be brought out on the day of wrath.” (Job 21:30)
They will perish and vanish.  
“But the wicked
shall perish; And the enemies of the LORD, Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish.
Into smoke
they shall vanish away.” (Psalm 37:20)
They will burn up and be consumed.
“'For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be
stubble. And the day which is coming shall
burn them up,' says the LORD of hosts, 'That will leave them
neither root nor branch
'”. (Malachi 4:1)
They will be destroyed.  
“But the transgressors shall be
destroyed together; The future of the wicked shall be cut off.” (Psalm 37:38)
They will be cut off.  
“For evildoers shall be cut off;  But those who wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.” (Psalm 37:9)
They will be slain.  
“How long will you attack a man? You shall be slain, all of you, like a leaning wall and a tottering fen.”
(Psalm 62:3)
They will be destroyed.
“The LORD preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.” (Psalm 145:20)
They will be devoured by fire.  
“You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger; The Lord shall swallow them up in His
wrath and the fire shall
devour them.” (Psalm 21:9)

All of these references make it clear that the wicked will be fully destroyed at the end of this sinful world.  
They are not burning in flames from the moment they die and they will not suffer forever.
 
“Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.  The Son of
Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who
practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of
teeth.” (Matthew 13:40-42)

The Scripture tells us that at the end of this world, as the holy city, the New Jerusalem, will come down
from God out of heaven, the wicked will attempt to capture it.
“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride
adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:9)
“They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And
fire came down from God out of heaven and
devoured them.” (Revelation 20:9)
The Bible is clear that only at that time, God will rain down fire from heaven upon the earth, and the fire
will devour the wicked.  This fire is the hellfire.

The hell will actually be the entire earth on fire.  It will be 25,000 miles in circumference – it's heat so great
that everything on earth will be “burned up.”
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great
noise, and
the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be
burned up
.” (2 Peter 3:10)

This fire will be so hot as to melt the entire earth and burn up all “the works that are in it”.  The
atmospheric heavens will explode and “pass away with a great noise.”

The Bible doesn't tell how long the wicked will suffer in the flames until they will receive eternal death.  
God does specifically state, however, that all will be punished according to their deeds.  This means some
will receive greater suffering than others, each one based upon their wrongdoings.
 
“'And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one
according to his
works
.'" (Revelation 22:12)
“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then
He will reward each
according to his works
.” (Matthew 16:27)

Jesus will insist upon just treatment for the wicked.  Their degree of punishment will be fair and according
to their works, as He promised.
“And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall
be beaten with
many stripes.  But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be
beaten with
few.” (Luke 12:47-48)

We are specifically told that hellfire will go out and that there will not be left “a coal to be warmed by, nor a
fire to sit before.”
 
“Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall
burn them; They shall not deliver themselves from the
power of the flame; It shall not be a coal to be warmed by, nor a fire to sit before!” (Isaiah 47:14)

The Bible also teaches that in God's new kingdom all “former things” will be passed away.  Hell, being one
of the former things, is included, so we have God's promise that it will be abolished.
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also
there was no more sea.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be
no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.
There shall be no more pain,
for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1,4)

God will recreate a new earth where no trace of the former sin from this world will be seen.  If God tortured
His enemies in a fiery horror chamber throughout eternity, He would be more vicious and heartless than
men have ever been in the worst of war atrocities.  An eternal hell of torment would be hell for God as well
because He loves even the vilest sinner.  However, nothing but ashes will be left when the fire will go out.
“'For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be
stubble.  And the day which is coming shall burn them up,' Says the LORD of hosts, 'That will leave them
neither root nor branch.  You shall trample the wicked, for
they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on
the day that I do this' says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 4:1-2)

Notice the verse does not say the wicked will burn like asbestos, as many today believe, but rather like
stubble, which will be burned up.  The little word “up” denotes completion.  Nothing but ashes will be left
when the fire goes out.  Even the bones will be completely gone.  The Bible says the wicked will go up in
smoke and be completely destroyed.  
“For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;  Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it
shall be no more.'
'But the wicked shall perish; And the enemies of the LORD, like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish.
Into smoke they shall vanish away.” (Psalm 37:10, 20)

The devil will be also cast into the fire, and will be completely destroyed.  The fire will turn him into ashes.  
“The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false
prophet are.” (Revelation 20:10)
“You (the devil) defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your
trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, and I turned you
to ashes upon the earth
in the sight of all who saw you.  All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have
become a horror,
and shall be no more forever.” (Ezekiel 28:18-19)

Does the word “hell” as used in the Bible always refer to a place of burning or punishment?  The answer is
No!  The word “
hell” is used 54 times in the Bible, and in only 12 cases does it refer to “a place of burning”.  
The word “hell” is translated from several different words with various meanings, as indicated bellow:

IN THE OLD TESTAMENT (which was written in Hebrew)
31 times from “Sheol” which means “the grave”.

IN THE NEW TESTAMENT (which was written in Greek)
10 times from “Hades”, which means “the grave”.
12 times from “Gehenna” which means “the place of burning”.
1 time from “Tartarus” which means “a place of darkness”.

54 TIMES IN TOTAL

The Greek word “Gehenna” (mentioned above) is a transliteration of the Hebrew “
Ge-Hinnom”, which
means the “
Valley of Hinnom”.  This valley, which lies immediately south and west of Jerusalem, was a
place where dead animals, garbage, and other refuse were dumped.  Fire burned constantly, as it does at
modern sanitation dump sites.  

The Bible uses “Gehenna” or the “Valley of Hinnon” as a symbol of the fire that will destroy the lost at the
end of time.  The fire of Gehena was not unending, otherwise it would be still burning southwest of
Jerusalem today.  Likewise, neither will the fire of hell be unending.

God's plan for the hell is to destroy the devil, all sin and sinners and make the world safe for eternity.  Only
one sinner, if left, would be a deadly virus once again threatening the universe.  Fortunately, God's plan is
to isolate sin and blot it out of existence for all time.  
“Then He will also sa to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire
prepared for the devil and his angels'”. (Matthew 25:41)

“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 25:15)

“For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it
shall be no more.” (Psalm 37:10)

ETERNAL HELL WOULD PERPETUATE SIN

An eternal hell of torment would perpetuate sin and make it's eradication impossible.  An eternal hell of
torment is not part of God's plan at all.  Such a horrible theory is slander against the holy name of a loving
God.  The devil delights to see our loving Creator pictured as such a monstrous tyrant, and only the devil
benefits from such teachings.

ETERNAL HELL IS A MAN-MADE THEORY

The “eternal hell of torment” theory did not originate from the Bible. It originated from misguided people,
who were, as usually, and most likely inadvertently, fooled by the devil.  The devil also knows that not one
person will be in heaven only because they feared hell.  People are saved from evil because they spend time
studying the Word of God, getting to know Him.  They are saved because they love God for His character.
Because they love and desire to be like Him.  
Destroying sin, sinners, and Satan is the only way to make the universe safe for eternity.  The work of God
has always been to save and not to destroy.
“'As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from
his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'”
(Ezekiel 33:11)

God's great heart will ache at the destruction of the wicked.  The work of the wicked in hellfire is so foreign
to God's loving nature that the Bible calls it His “unusual act”.
 
“For the LORD will rise up at Mount Perazim, He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon— That He may
do His work, His awesome work, and bring to pass His act,
His unusual act.” (Isaiah 28:21)

Notice how diligently He works to save every soul?  Our Saviour will be deeply saddened when He will
have to destroy those for whom He died to save.
 
“'For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.'” (Luke 9:56)

However, if one spurns His love and clings onto sin, God will have no choice but to destroy the sinner so He
could eradicate sin in the fires of the last day, the day when He will rid the universe of the horrible,
malignant growth; the sin.  

After sinners will be destroyed and the hellfire will go out, God will recreate a fantastic new earth and will
restore it to His people – with all the beauties and glories of Eden before sin.
"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to
mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)

The pain, death, tragedy, woe, tears, sickness, disappointment, sorrow, and all sin will be banished forever.  
“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will
dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God
will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall
be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.'” (Revelation 21:3-4)

SIN WILL NOT RISE AGAIN

God tells us that sin will never rise again.
“What do you conspire against the Lord? He will make an utter end of it.  Affliction will not rise up a second
time.” (Nahum 1:9)
His people will be filled with perfect love, peace and joy.  Their lives of complete happiness will be far more
glorious and thrilling than mere words could ever describe.  The real tragedy of hell is in missing heaven.  
A person who chooses not to enter this magnificent, loving kingdom has made the saddest choice of a
lifetime.  


            THOUGHT QUESTIONS


1. Doesn't the Bible speak of “eternal torment”?

ANSWER:  No, the phrase “eternal torment” does not appear in the Bible.

2.  Then why does the Bible say that the wicked will be destroyed with unquenchable fire?

ANSWER:  Unquenchable fire is fire that cannot be put out, but which goes out when it has turned
everything to ashes.  In
Jeremiah 17:27 God warns Israel through Jeremiah the prophet that if they will not
hallow the Sabbath day,  He will devour Jerusalem with
unquenchable fire.  
“But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the
gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of
Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.”

In 2 Chronicles 36:19-21 the Bible says this fire burned the city to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth
of Jeremiah the prophet, and left it desolate.  
“Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and
destroyed all its precious possessions.  And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon,
where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word
of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths.”

Yet we know this fire went out, because Jerusalem is not burning today.  Again, unquenchable fire is fire
that cannot be put out, but which goes out once it has turned everything to ashes.

3.  Doesn't Matthew 25:46 say the wicked will receive “everlasting punishment”?

ANSWER:  Notice the word is punishment not punishing.  Punishing would be continuous, while
punishment is one act.  The punishment of the wicked is death. The death is everlasting, not the fire.

4.  How about the story of Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 ?

The Rich Man and Lazarus

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.
But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,  desiring to be fed with
the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that
the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.  
And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his
finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember
that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is
comforted and you are tormented.  And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so
that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house,  for I have five
brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’  Abraham said to him,
‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes
to them from the dead, they will repent.’  But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”

Doesn't this story teach an eternal hell of torment?

ANSWER: No, indeed!  It is simply one of a series of parables spoken by our Lord, used to emphasize a point;
to teach a certain lesson.   Many facts make it clear that this is a parable.  A few are as follow:

A.  If we are to take this parable as a literal account, then heaven and hell are close enough for a
conversation to be held between the inhabitants of the two places - a rather undesirable situation to say the
least. But the Bible is plain that people in hell
can't talk to those in heaven.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;  and the former shall not be remembered or come to
mind
.” (Isaiah 65:17)

B.  The dead are in their graves.
“If I wait for the grave as my house,  if I make my bed in the darkness” (Job 17:13)

C.  Men are rewarded at Christ's second coming, not at death.
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”
(Revelation 22:12)
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and
come forth—
those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the
resurrection of condemnation
.”  (John 5:28-29)

If this parable is to be taken literally then the reader must accept that men receive their reward at death -
hence the rich man’s situation.  However, this view would cause Jesus to contradict Himself.  Christ states
definitely the time when the righteous receive their reward and when the wicked are cast into the
consuming fire; at His second coming.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory,... And before him shall be gathered all nations:... Then shall
the King say unto them on his right hand, 'Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared
for you from the foundation of the world'...Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, 'Depart from
me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels'” (Matthew 25:31-41)

D.  The lost are punished in hell at the end of the world, not when they die.
“Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.  The Son of
Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who
practice lawlessness,  and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of
teeth.” (Matthew 13:40-42)

There is no need that one return to give warning about the fate beyond the grave, because the living “have
Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”
 We, the living, are therefore surely justified in
understanding the parable in harmony with that which the prophets have said.  Malachi, for example, states
that
“the day is coming” (it is a future event) when the wicked are to suffer the torments of consuming fire.
“'For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven,  and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be
stubble.  And the day which
is coming shall burn them up,'  Says the LORD of hosts, ' That will leave them
neither root nor branch.  But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in
His wings;  and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.  You shall
trample the wicked,  for they
shall be
ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this' says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 4:1-3)

The Old Testament writers are very emphatic in stating that the dead, righteous and wicked alike, lie silent
and unconscious in the grave until the resurrection day. (See
Job 14:12-15, 20, 21; 17:13; 19:25-27;
Psalm 115:17; Eccl 9:3-6, 10 to share just a few, of the sixty plus biblical references, that the dead sleep until
Jesus returns.)

Stories and parables were the usual method that Christ employed in His teaching.  We therefore seek to find
the lesson Christ was trying to teach, and not to attempt to make a parable contradict God's Word.  Evidently,
Christ was wishing to rebuke the Pharisees who were covetous.  
“Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him."
(Luke 16:14)
                                  
They, and many of the Jews, thought that riches were a sign of God’s favor, and poverty a sign of His
displeasure.  Christ drove home the one primary lesson, that the reward awaiting the covetous rich, who
have nothing but crumbs for the poor, was the very opposite of what the Jews believed.
                                                                 
Parables
cannot be taken literally.  It is a well settled rule of interpretation that no parable should be used as
a basis for doctrine.  It is used to enforce truth established by plain Scripture, but is in itself not designed to
establish or reveal truth.  Oftentimes it is in itself pure fable or allegory, in which inanimate things are
made to act and speak, though in reality they may not even be alive.  Elsewhere in the Bible we find the
vivid parable of the trees going
“forth to anoint a king over them”.  
“The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them. And they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us!’ But
the olive tree said to them,  ‘ Should I cease giving my oil, with which they honor God and men, and go to
sway over trees?’…... Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us!’ And the bramble
said to the trees,  ‘If in truth you anoint me as king over you, then come and take shelter in my shade;  but
if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon!’ “ (Judges 9:8-15)

If we took parables literally, then we must believe that trees talk! Can you imagine trying to prove from
this parable that the tree walk around in order to find a king tree reign over them? Of course not, that would
be trying to prove more than the speaker intended. The same rule applies for the parable of the rich man and
Lazarus.

5.  Matthew 25:41 speaks of “everlasting fire” for the wicked.  Does it go out?

ANSWER:  Yes, according to the Bible, it does.  We must let the Bible explain itself. Sodom and Gomorrah
were destroyed with everlasting, or eternal fire.
 Jude 1:7
“Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to
fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example,
suffering the vengeance of eternal
fire
.”

That fire turned them “into ashes” as a warning to “those that after should live ungodly”.  
“And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making
them an example unto those that after should live ungodly.” (2 Peter 2:6)

These cities are not burning today.  The fire went out after everything was burned up.  Likewise,
everlasting fire will go out after it has turned the wicked to ashes.
“And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I
shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 4:3)

The effects of the fire are everlasting, not the burning itself.

But the Bible speaks of the wicked being tormented “forever”, doesn't it?

Answer:  The term “for ever”, as used in the Bible, means a period of time, limited or unlimited.   It is used
56 times in the Bible in connection with things that have already ended.  To check in a concordance, look up
the word “ever”.  

It is like the word “tall”, which means something different in describing men, trees, or mountains.  
In
Jonah 2:6 “forever” equals “three days and nights”.
“I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You
have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord, my God.”
“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish
three days
and three nights
.” (Jonah 1:17)


In Deuteronomy 23:3, “forever” means “10 generations”.
“An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of
his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever.”

In the case of a man, this means “as long as he lives” or “until death”.  
“But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, 'Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him,
that he may appear before the Lord and
remain there forever.' 'Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as
long as he lives
he shall be lent to the Lord.'” (1 Samuel 1:22, 28)
“then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and
his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.”
(for as long as he lives) (Exodus
21:6)
“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” (Psalm 48:14)

So the wicked will burn in the fire as long as they live, or until death. As it was already mentioned above,
this fiery punishment for sin will vary according to the degree of sins for each individual.
“Then I will punish their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.” (Psalm 89:32)
“And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall
be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be
beaten with few.” (Luke 12:47-48)

Therefore, after the punishment the fire will go out.  The teaching of eternal torment has done more to drive
people to atheism and insanity than any other clever invention of the devil.  It is slander upon the loving
character of such a tender, gracious heavenly Father.