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Catholic Dictionary




The unending penalty suffered in hell by the evil spirits and the human beings who die in mortal sin. The Church bases her teaching about the existence of eternal punishment on the words of Christ in foretelling the final judgment (Matthew 25:34, 41). He compares the sentence of the just with the condemnation of the wicked. Christ as judge will first say, "Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world." But to the unjust, "Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Then he repeats the two judgments with a conclusion, speaking first of the lost and then of the saved, "And they will go into eternal [aionios] punishment, and the virtuous to eternal [aionios] life" (Matthew 25:46). Since there is no question about the endless duration of heaven, the Church concludes the same about hell. The eternity of hell was defined by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.