Early Christian Quotes on Hell
The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Similitude 4:
But the heathen and sinners, like the withered trees which you saw, will be found to be those who have been withered and unfruitful in that world, and shall be burnt as wood, and [so] made manifest, because their actions were evil during their lives. For the sinners shall be consumed because they sinned and did not repent, and the heathen shall be burned because they knew not Him who created them.
Apocalypse of Peter (Early 2nd Century) 1:20-33:
And over against that place I saw another, squalid, and it was the place of punishment; and those who were punished there and the punishing angels had their raiment dark like the air of the place.
And there were certain there hanging by the tongue: and these were the blasphemers of the way of righteousness; and under them lay fire, burning and punishing them. And there was a great lake, full of flaming mire, in which were certain men that pervert righteousness, and tormenting angels afflicted them.
And there were also others, women, hanged by their hair over that mire that bubbled up: and these were they who adorned themselves for adultery; and the men who mingled with them in the defilement of adultery, were hanging by the feet and their heads in that mire. And I said: I did not believe that I should come into this place.
And I saw the murderers and those who conspired with them, cast into a certain strait place, full of evil snakes, and smitten by those beasts, and thus turning to and fro in that punishment; and worms, as it were clouds of darkness, afflicted them. And the souls of the murdered stood and looked upon the punishment of those murderers and said: O God, thy judgment is just.
And near that place I saw another strait place into which the gore and the filth of those who were being punished ran down and became there as it were a lake: and there sat women having the gore up to their necks, and over against them sat many children who were born to them out of due time, crying; and there came forth from them sparks of fire and smote the women in the eyes: and these were the accursed who conceived and caused abortion.
And other men and women were burning up to the middle and were cast into a dark place and were beaten by evil spirits, and their inwards were eaten by restless worms: and these were they who persecuted the righteous and delivered them up.
And near those there were again women and men gnawing their own lips, and being punished and receiving a red-hot iron in their eyes: and these were they who blasphemed and slandered the way of righteousness.
And over against these again other men and women gnawing their tongues and having flaming fire in their mouths: and these were the false witnesses.
And in a certain other place there were pebbles sharper than swords or any spit, red-hot, and women and men in tattered and filthy raiment rolled about on them in punishment: and these were the rich who trusted in their riches and had no pity for orphans and widows, and despised the commandment of God.
And in another great lake, full of pitch and blood and mire bubbling up, there stood men and women up to their knees: and these were the usurers and those who take interest on interest.
And other men and women were being hurled down from a great cliff and reached the bottom, and again were driven by those who were set over them to climb up upon the cliff, and thence were hurled down again, and had no rest from this punishment: and these were they who defiled their bodies acting as women; and the women who were with them were those who lay with one another as a man with a woman.
And alongside of that cliff there was a place full of much fire, and there stood men who with their own hands had made for themselves carven images instead of God. And alongside of these were other men and women, having rods and striking each other and never ceasing from such punishment.
And others again near them, women and men, burning and turning themselves and roasting: and these were they that leaving the way of God
Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (1st or 2nd Century), Testament 10, Paragraph 6:
For if the soul depart troubled, it is tormented by the evil spirit which also it served in lusts and evil works; but if quietly and with joy it hath known the angel of peace, it shall comfort him in life.
The Christian Sibylline Oracles (2nd Century) Book 2:315-383:
and the godless furthermore
Shall to all ages perish, all who did
Evils aforetime, and committed murders,
And all who are accomplices therein,
Liars and thieves, and ruiners of home,
Crafty and terrible, and parasites,
And marriage-breakers pouring forth vile words,
Dread, wanton, lawless, and idolaters;
And all who left the great immortal God,
Became blasphemers did the pious harm,
Destroying faith and killing righteous men
And all that with a shamelessness deceitful
And double-faced rush in as presbyters
And reverend ministers, who knowingly
Give unjust judgments, yielding to false words
More hurtful than the leopards and the wolves
And more vile; and ill that are grossly proud
And usurers, who gains on gains amass
And damage orphans and widows in each thing;
And all that give to widows and to orphans
The fruit of unjust deeds, and all that cast
Reproach in giving from their own hard toils;
And all that left their parents in old age,
Not paying them at all, nor offering
To parents filial duty, and all who
Were disobedient and against their sires
Spoke a harsh word; and all that pledges took
And then denied them; and the servants all
Who were against their masters, and again
Those who licentiously defiled the flesh;
And all who loosed the girdle of the maid
For secret intercourse, and all who caused
Abortions, and all who their offspring cast
Unlawfully away; and sorcerers
And sorceresses with them, and these wrath
Of the heavenly and immortal God shall drive
Against a pillar where shall all around
In a circle flow a restless stream of fire;
And deathless angels of the immortal God,
Who ever is, shall bind with lasting bonds
In chains of flaming fire and from above
Punish them all by scourge most terribly;
And in Gehenna, in the gloom of night,
Shall they be cast 'neath many horrid beasts
Of Tartarus, where darkness is immense.
But when there shall be many punishments
Enforced on all who had an evil heart,
Yet afterward shall there a fiery wheel
From a great river circle them around,
Because they had a care for wicked deeds.
And then one here, another there, shall sires,
Young children, mothers, nursing babes, in tears
Wail their most piteous fate. No fill of tears
Shall be for them, nor piteous voice be heard
Of them that moan, one here, another there,
But long worn under dark, dank Tartarus
Aloud shall they cry; and they shall repay
In cursed places thrice as much as all
The evil work they did, burned with much fire;
And all of them, consumed by raging thirst
And hunger, shall in anguish gnash their teeth
And call death beautiful, and death shall flee
Away from them. For neither death nor night
Shall ever give them rest. And many things in vain
Will they ask of the God that rules on high,
And then will he his face turn openly
Away from them. For he to erring men
Gave, in seven ages for repentance, signs
By the hands of a virgin undefiled.
The Christian Sibylline Oracles (2nd Century) Book 2:404-415:
And to the pious will the almighty God
Imperishable grant another thing,
When they shall ask the imperishable God:
That he will suffer men from raging fire
And endless gnawing anguish to be saved;
And this will he do. For hereafter he
Will pluck them from the restless flame, elsewhere
Remove them, and for his own people's sake
Send them to other and eternal life
With the immortals, in Elysian field,
False manifestly; for the penal fire
Shall never cease from those who are condemned.
For also I might pray to have it thus,
Branded with greatest scars of trespasses,
Which need more kindness. But let Origen
Of his presumptuous babble be ashamed,
Saying there shall be end of punishments
Where move far-stretching billows of the lake
Of ever-flowing Acheron profound.
Apocalypse of Peter (Early 2nd Century):
And he showed me in his right hand the souls of all men, And on the palm of his right hand the image of that which shall be accomplished at the last day: and how the righteous and the sinners shall be separated, and how they do that are upright in heart, and how the evil-doers shall be rooted out unto all eternity. We beheld how the sinners wept (weep) in great affliction and sorrow, until all that saw it with their eyes wept, whether righteous or angels, and he himself also.
And I asked him and said unto him: Lord, suffer me to speak thy word concerning the sinners: It were better for them if they had not been created. And the Saviour answered and said unto me: Peter, wherefore speakest thou thus, that not to have been created were better for them? Thou resistest God. Thou wouldest not have more compassion than he for his image: for he hath created them and brought them forth out of not being. Now because thou hast seen the lamentation which shall come upon the sinners in the last days, therefore is thine heart troubled; but I will show thee their works, whereby they have sinned against the Most High…(Description of Christ’s coming, of Heaven and Hell) Next: ' The Father hath committed all judgement unto the Son.' The destiny of sinners -their eternal doom- is more than Peter can endure: he appeals to Christ to have pity on them.
And my Lord answered me and said to me: 'Hast thou understood that which I said unto thee before? It is permitted unto thee to know that concerning which thou askest: but thou must not tell that which thou hearest unto the sinners lest they transgress the more, and sin.' Peter weeps many hours, and is at last consoled by an answer which, though exceedingly diffuse and vague does seem to promise ultimate pardon for all: 'My Father will give unto them all the life, the glory, and the kingdom that passeth not away,' . . . 'It is because of them that have believed in me that I am come. It is also because of them that have believed in me, that, at their word, I shall have pity on men.'
Oxyrhynchus Fragment 840 (Early to Mid-2nd Century) verses 2-7:
[Jesus speaking,] “Be careful that you do not end up suffering the same fate as them. For the evil-doers of humanity receive retribution not only among the living, but they will also undergo punishment and much torture later."
2 Clement (Early to Mid-2nd Century) Chapter 8:
As long, therefore, as we are upon earth, let us practise repentance, for we are as clay in the hand of the artificer. For as the potter, if he make a vessel, and it be distorted or broken in his hands, fashions it over again; but if he have before this cast it into the furnace of fire, can no longer find any help for it: so let us also, while we are in this world, repent with our whole heart of the evil deeds we have done in the flesh, that we may be saved by the Lord, while we have yet an opportunity of repentance. For after we have gone out of the world, no further power of confessing or repenting will there belong to us.
Mathetes’ Letter to Diognetus (Mid-2nd Century) Chapter 10:
when thou shalt fear what is truly death, which is reserved for those who shall be condemned to the eternal fire, which shall afflict those even to the end that are committed to it.
Justin Martyr’s Dialog with Trypho (Mid-2nd Century) Chapter 45:
some are sent to be punished unceasingly into judgment and condemnation of fire
Justin Martyr’s First Apology (Mid-2nd Century) Chapter 28:
For among us the prince of the wicked spirits is called the serpent, and Satan, and the devil, as you can learn by looking into our writings. And that he would be sent into the fire with his host, and the men who follow him, and would be punished for an endless duration, Christ foretold.
Justin Martyr’s Second Apology (Mid-2nd Century) Chapter 6:
But since God in the beginning made the race of angels and men with free-will, they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed. And this is the nature of all that is made, to be capable of vice and virtue. For neither would any of them be praiseworthy unless there were power to turn to both [virtue and vice].
The Acts of Peter (Mid to Late 2nd Century) Part 3, Paragraph 2:
but if thou repent not, while thou art yet in the body, devouring fire and outer darkness shall receive thee for ever.
Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 3 (Late 2nd Century) Chapter 23, Paragraph 3:
...immediately after Adam had transgressed, as the Scripture relates, He pronounced no curse against Adam personally, but against the ground, in reference to his works, as a certain person among the ancients has observed: "God did indeed transfer the curse to the earth, that it might not remain in man." But man received, as the punishment of his transgression, the toilsome task of tilling the earth, and to eat bread in the sweat of his face, and to return to the dust from whence he was taken. Similarly also did the woman [receive] toil, and labour, and groans, and the pangs of parturition, and a state of subjection, that is, that she should serve her husband; so that they should neither perish altogether when cursed by God, nor, by remaining unreprimanded, should be led to despise God. But the curse in all its fulness fell upon the serpent, which had beguiled them. "And God," it is declared, "said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above all the beasts of the earth." And this same thing does the Lord also say in the Gospel, to those who are found upon the left hand: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into ever: lasting fire, which my Father hath prepared for the devil and his angels; " indicating that eternal fire was not originally prepared for man, but for him who beguiled man, and caused him to offend-for him, I say, who is chief of the apostasy, and for those angels who became apostates along with him; which [fire], indeed, they too shall justly feel, who, like him, persevere in works of wickedness, without repentance, and without retracing their steps.
Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 4 (Late 2nd Century), Chapter 39, Paragraph 4:
God, foreknowing all things, prepared fit habitations for both, kindly conferring that light which they desire on those who seek after the light of incorruption, and resort to it; but for the despisers and mockers who avoid and turn themselves away from this light, and who do, as it were, blind themselves, He has prepared darkness suitable to persons who oppose the light, and He has inflicted an appropriate punishment upon those who try to avoid being subject to Him. Submission to God is eternal rest, so that they who shun the light have a place worthy of their flight; and those who fly from eternal rest, have a habitation in accordance with their fleeing. Now, since all good things are with God, they who by their own determination fly from God, do defraud themselves of all good things; and having been [thus] defrauded of all good things with respect to God, they shall consequently fall under the just judgment of God. For those persons who shun rest shall justly incur punishment, and those who avoid the light shall justly dwell in darkness. For as in the case of this temporal light, those who shun it do deliver themselves over to darkness, so that they do themselves become the cause to themselves that they are destitute of light, and do inhabit darkness; and, as I have already observed, the light is not the cause of such an [unhappy.] condition of existence to them; so those who fly from the eternal light of God, which contains in itself all good things, are themselves the cause to themselves of their inhabiting eternal darkness, destitute of all good things, having become to themselves the cause of [their consignment to] an abode of that
Hippolytus’ Refutation of All Heresies Book 10 (Early 3rd Century), Chapter 30:
You shall escape the boiling flood of hell's eternal lake of fire and the eye ever fixed in menacing glare of fallen angels chained in Tartarus as punishment for their sins; and you shall escape the worm that ceaselessly coils for food around the body whose scum has bred it. Now such (torments) as these shall thou avoid by being instructed in a knowledge of the true God.
Hippolytus’s Against Plato, On the Cause of the Universe (Early 3rd Century), Paragraphs 1-2:
But now we must speak of Hades, in which the souls both of the righteous and the unrighteous are detained. Hades is a place in the created system, rude, a locality beneath the earth, in which the light of the world does not shine; and as the sun does not shine in this locality, there must necessarily be perpetual darkness there. This locality has been destined to be as it were a guard-house for souls, at which the angels are stationed as guards, distributing according to each one's deeds the temporary punishments for (different) characters. And in this locality there is a certain place set apart by itself, a lake of unquenchable fire, into which we suppose no one has ever yet been cast; for it is prepared against the day determined by God, in which one sentence of righteous judgment shall be justly applied to all. And the unrighteous, and those who believed not God, who have honoured as God the vain works of the hands of men, idols fashioned (by themselves), shall be sentenced to this endless punishment. But the righteous shall obtain the incorruptible and un-fading kingdom, who indeed are at present detained in Hades, but not in the same place with the unrighteous. For to this locality there is one descent, at the gate whereof we believe an archangel is stationed with a host. And when those who are conducted by the angels appointed unto the souls have passed through this gate, they do not proceed on one and the same way; but the righteous, being conducted in the light toward the right, and being hymned by the angels stationed at the place, are brought to a locality full of light. And there the righteous from the beginning dwell, not ruled by necessity, but enjoying always the contemplation of the blessings which are in their view, and delighting themselves with the expectation of others ever new, and deeming those ever better than these. And that place brings no toils to them. There, there is neither fierce heat, nor cold, nor thorn; but the face of the fathers and the righteous is seen to be always smiling, as they wait for the rest and eternal revival in heaven which succeed this location. And we call it by the name Abraham's bosom. But the unrighteous are dragged toward the left by angels who are ministers of punishment, and they go of their own accord no longer, but are dragged by force as prisoners. And the angels appointed over them send them along, reproaching them and threatening them with an eye of terror, forcing them down into the lower parts. And when they are brought there, those appointed to that service drag them on to the confines or hell. And those who are so near hear incessantly the agitation, and feel the hot smoke. And when that vision is so near, as they see the terrible and excessively glowing spectacle of the fire, they shudder in horror at the expectation of the future judgment, (as if they were) already feeling the power of their punishment. And again, where they see the place of the fathers and the righteous, they are also punished there. For a deep and vast abyss is set there in the midst, so that neither can any of the righteous in sympathy think to pass it, nor any of the unrighteous dare to cross it.
2. Thus far, then, on the subject of Hades, in which the souls of all are detained until the time which God has determined; and then He will accomplish a resurrection of all, not by transferring souls into other bodies, but by raising the bodies themselves.
Clement of Alexandria’s Fragments (Early 3rd Century) Chapter 3, Paragraph 14:
[Commenting on 1 John 2] Ver. 2. "And not only for our sins,"--that is for those of the faithful,--is the Lord the propitiator, does he say, "but also for the whole world." He, indeed, saves all; but some [He saves], converting them by punishments; others, however, who follow voluntarily [He saves] with dignity of honour; so "that every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth;" that is, angels, men, and souls that before His advent have departed from this temporal life.
Find more of what the early Christians thought on my Christian History page!