Universalists interpret the Bible to mean that "eternal" punishment is just a long period of suffering for wicked people before they are converted and reconciled to God. My good friend Tom Talbott, professor of philosophy at Willamette University, thinks this. see this review of his book, which gives an account of how he argues.
I don't think his position is absurd. However, the direction of a sinful life is away from fellowship with God, and reversal of that direction that's got to be painful. You've got to swallow your pride and turn around. Because of that, I don't think we can deny the possibility of hell. If a person can sin once, they can keep sinning, and then God either has to reward evil, or punish it.
These discussions of hell make some valuable points.