Are there different levels of hell and degrees of sin?

by Ryan Turner and Chad Ressler

Biblically, there seems to be definite teaching that there are different levels of hell - at least in the sense that there are various degrees of punishment.  The Bible does not specifically mention higher or lower levels of hell in the location sense, but it does allude to degrees of punishment and sins:

  1. More Tolerance for Certain Sins
    1. Matthew 10:15, "Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city."
    2. Matthew 11:23-24, “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 “Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."
    3. Luke 10:13-14, "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you," (cf. Luke 10:7-12). 
      1. The implication of those above three passages is that there is a greater punishment for rejecting Jesus than there is for even the most atrocious sins in the Old Testament.
  2. Greater Punishment
    1. Matthew 23:14, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation," (cf. Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47).
    2. Luke 12:47-48, "And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."
      1. This passage appears to indicate that the greater our knowledge, the greater our responsibility.  Also, it indicates the greater our punishment if we fail in our responsibility (this is in relation to unbelievers).
  3. Greater Sin
    1. John 19:11, " . . . for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin."
      1. Jesus specifically attributes Judas's betrayal as a greater sin than Pontius Pilate's.