For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
We often look to John 3:16 as a summation or plea from Christians to the general public to be converted. We use it to define how we get “saved”, or to present the advantage of being a Christian. It generally doesn’t show up when we talk about hell. But let’s give it a shot here. Think about it. Whoever believes will have eternal life. The implication of course is that those who do not believe will not have eternal life. Eternal life is given by God who is Himself immortal (1 Tim. 6:15-16). So, if eternal life is the gift of God to those who believe, then only those who believe will live eternally. Well, this is a problem if we hold to the traditional view of hell as eternal conscious torment. In order to experience eternal conscious torment, one must have conscious existence for eternity (i.e. you have to have eternal life- albeit eternal life in hell is not a life worth calling life, but nevertheless, you have to have conscious existence if the traditional view of hell is true).
So, those who do not believe, presumably do not have eternal life. Therefore, they perish. How can one perishing be synonymous with eternal conscious torment? Something has to give. We either redefine the nature of eternal life to include those who do not believe (and then John 3:16 becomes a serious stumbling block), or we re-evaluate the nature of hell. If hell is eternal conscious torment then everyone has eternal life in some sense, whether they believe or not. But I don’t see that in Scripture, and John 3:16 would suggest that not everyone will experience eternity. Some will perish. Some will receive “eternal destruction” (2 Thess 1:9). Of course we can debate semantics of what the nature of eternal destruction is (are you experiencing being destroyed forever or are you destroyed never to return). But what I see in Scripture is that on the one hand there is eternal life for those whose names are in the Lamb’s book of life, and for the rest there is not eternal life. If you don’t have eternal life, what do you have? I can’t imagine a situation in which one who doesn’t have eternal life can experience torment eternally.