The doctrine of Hell, damnation, or eternal punishment is an integral doctrine of the Christian faith. It has the support of Holy Scripture, the words and admonitions concerning it by Christ, and the creeds of the church.
The idea behind the doctrine is that at the end of time, there will be a last judgment by the returned Christ. And that all men and women will be judged on the basis of their lives, works, and Christian faith. Some we are told will enter into the joys of paradise and eternal love with God and Christ. Others will be condemned to eternal death and punishment. The idea of eternal punishment is in many ways an outrage and unacceptable concept. The idea that a loving God would condemn his creation to eternal death whom he created out of love, and sent his only begotten son to die for is beyond belief and understanding.
If I could eliminate this doctrine from the Christian dogmatic system, I would gladly do so with all my heart. I offer here three justifications for this doctrine. First, all of us are given a certain time to live in this life. For some of us, that time is short, and for others it is longer. We do not know the reason for this. We know this much, that we are given in our lives the opportunity to form and create ourselves. If in this life, we are arrogant or cruel, greedy or sharp-tongued, we will be so forever and we will be with others who are the same as us forever.
On the other hand, if we are kind, humble and generous, we will be so forever and will be forever with people such as we are. In some sense, in this timeline, if we become inhuman and inauthentic as men and women, this is our fate or we can choose to rise to what God and Christ has made possible to us. In some sense, we are not condemned to hell but it is the end result of our failed humanity of what in this life we have chosen to be.
Second, the image of hell I believe as a place of torment and torture is an image only. Hell is isolation, loneliness, and separation from love. Separation from love is separation from God. Hell is being cut off and spending the rest of our lives for eternity with selfish, arrogant, egotistical, and indifferent people. Hell is being condemned for eternity to be surrounded by people like ourselves and to only be with people such as ourselves.
Hell is eternal and if we are condemned to this fate or choose it, we will not die because a loving God does not and will not destroy his creatures. He allows them to live out their lives, cut off from joy and love. It is notable and noteworthy that Satan created by God, despite his rebellion and works of evil, is allowed to live as his creation.
Third, God is a God of justice as well as mercy and love. We all fell from paradise into sin. God gives us free will and free choice. He does not want his creation and creatures to be robots. He gives all of us the option of choosing him over mammon and selfishness. What we choose so we will be.
Fourth, there are many conservative Christians who seem to take delight in condemning the large portion of humanity to hell. Hell is not about Hitler and Stalin. It is not about our nasty neighbor or unremitting boss. This warning of Christ is not about those other unkind and mean people we talk about, criticize, and attack. It is about ourselves.