Question 1: Are unsaved sinners eternally tormented? (Part of a series entitled “Biblical Contradictions?” )
Answer: It doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters is that hell is a real place and you don’t want to be there. Scripture used to debate the suffering that takes place in hell does not necessarily contradict itself because hell is a place that does not exist in our plane of reality. Hell is not bound by the confines of linear time and corporeal space like earth is, because hell is in a spiritual realm. Therefore, any attempts to describe it may seem contradictory because we are attempting to describe an eternal realm with a finite, non-eternal language and limited understanding.
There is also more than one “hell”, therefore if scriptures describing hell seem to contradict themselves, we may need to ask which hell they are describing. We know that one hell which is described by darkness is referred to as Tartarus, which is where the angels who rebelled are being held in chains until judgment (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). Another hell is described as a lake of fire, which is where the devil, beast and false prophet will be thrown (Rev 19:20; Rev 20:10). And yet another hell, referred to as Hades, is described as a sort of holding place for the unsaved until the judgment (Rev 20:13). Then, even Hades itself will be thrown into the hell that is described as the lake of fire (Rev 20:14).
Ultimately, scripture describes hell as a place of destruction. It doesn’t really matter whether that destruction happens in an instant or over an eternity because either way, torment is involved. All that matters is that hell is a place that God has given us the ability to avoid through Jesus Christ.