FIRE is the word most frequently used to describe what hell is like. Regardless of whether hell fire is symbolic, literal or both, the fact remains that it paints a clear picture of suffering, or torments.
In a story Jesus tells, the man who is carried away into hell cries: ". . .I am tormented in this FLAME." (Luke 16:24). This man is not warming himself by a fire, he is IN the fire, he is IN the flame and consumed by it.
No matter what interpretation is given to hell fire, real or symbolic, HELL FIRE IS REAL and it brings real pain, everlasting pain. To be burn by fire is one of the most painful experiences a person can have. From an early age, we teach our children to avoid getting burn by fire. Please, don't get burn by the fires of hell. Please consider the following passages from the Bible which use the image or symbol of fire to describe hell.
The Fire of Hell is real because it brings Real Torment
Jesus says: "And shall cast them into a FURNACE OF FIRE: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 13:42
Jesus says: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting EVERLASTING FIRE, prepared for the devil and his angels: . . ." [Note: hell was never originally prepared for people. However, because we have broken God's laws, God's justice now demands it.] Matthew 25:41
Revelation 20:15 says, " And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the LAKE OF FIRE.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:22 "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of HELL FIRE."
Jesus says in Matthew 18:8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast [them] from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into EVERLASTING FIRE."
Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, 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.
Revelation 14:10 says: "and he shall be tormented with FIRE and BRIMSTONE in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:"
Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the LAKE which burneth with FIRE and BRMISTONE: which is the second death.
The Bible quotes above are just examples. This is more than enough to make it clear that when God describes eternal hell as a lake of fire, he is describing a real place of unbelievable torment which the wicked will be imersed in forever. During this earthly life, Christians are warned about the fiery trials that they may endure (1 Peter 4:2). The image of fiery trials brings up a picture of pain but this suffering does not come from the poured out and unreserved wrath of GOD, upon wicked and unrepentant sinners.
Hell fire involves unimaginable torment, far beyond any fiery trials experieced in this life.
So whether fire is the literal instrument of eternal torment in hell, or whether hell fire is the symbol of eternal torment, you are still left with: eternal torment! The picture which the fire of hell paints should be enough to "scare the hell out of you!" And the fact that God has the authority to throw you into hell fire to be tormented forever, should give you cause to fear God - God who can not only damn you to hell but save you from hell.
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” - Spurgeon