What About Eternity?
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the word for eternity (aionios) in Scripture refers to that which is “forever” and “everlasting” and “always.” Dictionaries define eternity as “existence without beginning or end.” People often say that they pass into “eternity” when they die.
Where After Death?
Where do we go after death? We are more than just bodies; we are also spiritual beings. The Bible tells us that “God created man in His own image,” and that “God is a spirit” (Gen. 1: 27; Jn. 4:24 NASB). Speaking of the death of a person, Zophar said to Job, “He flies away like a dream and they cannot find him” (Job 20:8). They knew where the body was, but not the spirit. Zophar asked, “Where is he?” The Hebrew would answer “in sheol.” The Greek would say “in hades.”
Hades/sheol is divided into two parts which the Lord said are separated by a “chasm” so wide that none can cross (Lk. 16:26). One side is wonderful: the Hebrews called it “Abraham’s bosom” (Lk. 16:22); Jesus referred to it as “paradise” (Lk. 23:43); Paul described it as being “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8); and we call it “heaven,” as does Scripture. The other side is a horrible place where only unbelievers go; Scripture calls it “hell.” 1 Note however, that spirits in “sheol” and “hades” are not in the eternal state. There will be a resurrection!
Who Is Resurrected?
Who will be resurrected? Everyone! And it won’t matter what has happened to the body; man’s efforts to preserve it are unnecessary. The Lord Jesus said, “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs (all the dead) will be resurrected” (Jn. 5:28-29). Actually, there will be two resurrections!
The Lord described them as “a resurrection of life” and “a resurrection of judgment” (Jn. 5:29). Scripture says, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:6; 11-15). It also says that “the rest of the dead” did not come to life for a thousand years (Rev. 20:5). At the time of this second resurrection, the sea, death and hades will give up their dead, and everyone will be judged. “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” This judgment is aptly called “the second death” (Rev. 20:13-15).
Eternity In Hell?
We will spend eternity either in the lake of fire or in heaven. The lake of fire is commonly called “hell.” It is “the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41). The terrible physical pain of burning is a metaphor for the spiritual suffering of the eternal state. Our loving Lord does not want anyone to spend eternity in hell (2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore, He sent His Son to be crucified so that everyone who believes in Him would not perish, but would go to heaven instead (Jn. 3:14-18).
Sadly, the truth about hell is being ignored by many liberal preachers and teachers today. One well-known TV preacher said that he “hasn’t preached on hell in 40 years.” And some contemporary theologians teach that even “the worst sinners will eventually be restored.” 2 What an awful delusion! God’s Word is clear: there is a chasm between hell and heaven “that none may cross over” (Lk. 16:26).
God has, however, provided a way of escape, but it must be chosen now, by each one of us individually: it is belief in Christ with repentance. Those who die not having accepted God’s way, will go to hell – and then to the lake of fire where they will suffer eternally! They do not have to be what the world considers “bad” people, but only people who do not have the “righteousness from God – which comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom. 3:21-22). “There is none righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10), except those who have this righteousness from God,
Eternity In Heaven?
Heaven is the spiritual realm where God lived even before time and space existed. Scripture distinguishes it from our atmosphere and outer space where the stars reside. Paul referred to it when he wrote that he was “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2 NIV). The word “up” merely tells us that heaven is away from earth and not located in the created heavens. No one can get to heaven in a spaceship, and heaven can never be seen through a telescope, no matter how powerful.
People have many different ideas of what life in heaven will be like, but Scripture tells us that “what we will be has not yet been made known” (1 Jn. 3:2). Thus man’s speculations about heaven – whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc. – are just that! A heaven with “beautiful, available women” and “full of sensual pleasures” 3 that is promised to Muslim men does not exist. Jesus contradicted this idea when He said that those who are resurrected “neither marry, nor are given in marriage, and they can no longer die, for they are like angels” (Lk. 20:35-36). Being like angels, we would no longer have the drive to eat, drink, nor have sex.
In eternity, believers “will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes … There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4). Scripture tells us nothing of any “happenings” or “events” after the end of time, for such concepts all include the existence of time. We are now such creatures of time that we can’t understand eternity. 4
Focus On Today
Scripture therefore only symbolically describes the wonderful life that believers will inherit (Rev. 21:5-27; 22:1-5). But the Lord directs our attention away from eternity and to His coming again for us. At the very end of the Bible, He says, “Behold I am coming soon! My reward is with Me and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12). What you do now determines eternity for you! So repent of your sins, accept Jesus as your Savior and live for Him.
- The King James Version translates both sheol and hades as “hell.”
- Newsweek, Aug. 12, ’02; p. 52.
- Newsweek, p. 45.
- Scientific American, Sept. ’02, p. 61.
By Alan Crosby