The context of this scripture is Jesus’s explanation of the wheat and tares parable. He identifies the wheat as “children of the kingdom,” the tares (which look like wheat) as “children of the wicked one,” and the field as “the world.” The reason for the destruction is in verse 41, “The Son of Man will send out His angels (messengers), and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness (iniquity)”. The tares are burned because they are not in harmony with God’s kingdom.  Similarly, if you had weeds in your garden you would remove and destroy them so they would not ruin your garden.

The “furnace of fire” is symbolic just as the wheat and tares are symbolic.  It symbolizes difficult experiences. The Apostle Peter wrote, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes though it be tried with fire,” 1 Peter 1:7. The “furnace of fire” for the tares is for unbelievers and the trail of faith is for those who have faith, i.e., believers. 

The trial for believers is now. Difficult experiences develop a Christian’s faith and character. James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials”.

For tares, or pseudo-Christians, they experience hard trials without the comfort and grace of God. The trials serve to challenge their status as true Christians within their own minds and as viewed by the world. There is anger (gnashing of teeth) and sorrow (wailing) associated with this.

Additionally, in the resurrection, they will learn they lost their heavenly reward and grieve greatly. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness (iniquity)!’”, Matthew 7:21-23.

Additionally, in Matthew 13:42, Jesus does not mention Hades or Gehenna, words used to describe “hell” in the New Testament.

Scriptures on Hell should be studied as a unit or topically. The King James Version would often translate the Old Testament Hebrew word  “sheol” as “grave” or “hell” or “pit”.  Clear statements also should be harmonized. Ecclesiastes 9:5 is an example. “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing”. 

For a more detailed study about hell, please download the free PDF:"The Truth About Hell"