Hell, the grave, the pit, judgment, punishment, perdition, fire, torments, damnation, the second death, the lake of fire: the Bible abounds with warnings against being cast out of God’s presence. It is so horrible that many words are used to convey the experience. There are fewer words to describe its antithesis: heaven, paradise and glory. Let’s compare the realities of heaven and hell.
Reality Of Hell
Preaching about hell and the lake of fire is not popular today. Men are lethargic or deluded regarding death’s consequences. A woman whose lifestyle is clearly condemned by Romans 1:26 said to me, “We are all God’s children.” My response about what caused the destruction of Sodom was not well received. What a waste of life, for everlasting fire was not prepared for man, but for the Devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41). Simple belief in what the Word of God says saves the soul from such a fate. “The Lord … is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). But alas, “this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn. 3:19). What does the Bible say about the realities of hell and the lake of fire?
When Dathan and Abiram complained about the leaders God had appointed to lead His people out of Egypt to the Promised Land, they and all that pertained to them went down alive into the pit, meaning hell (Num. 16:24-33). It is called “the bottomless pit” or the abyss (Rev. 20:3). It appears, then, that hell is located in the earth, perhaps at the core where earth’s gravity is centered, where every way to go is up, so that a pit could be considered bottomless.
In the future, the beast and the false prophet will be cast alive into “the lake of fire burning with brimstone” at Christ’s return (Rev. 19:20), similar to Dathan and Abiram’s fate. Hell is a holding place for the dead until they are united with a resurrected body, for Satan, death, and hell itself, along with all who are not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire following the Great White Throne judgment after Christ’s thousand-year reign on earth (Rev. 20:10,14-15). This is the second death mentioned four times, all in Revelation. The first death separates us from our family and friends on this earth; the second death separates us from God permanently.
Daniel 12:2 mentions two resurrections: “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus elaborates on this in John 5:29, where two different Greek words are translated “done.” “And (the dead) shall come forth; they that have done (poieo, a single act of) good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done (prasso, perpetual) evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” Believing is the only “good” that a sinner can perform toward God. To not believe Him is to do “evil,” calling God a liar. The first resurrection unites all who “have done good” to be with God in peace and joy forever. The second resurrection leads only to the second death for all those who “have done evil.” There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. So all that are in hell now, will be raised bodily to be cast out of the presence of the Lord for all eternity.
The most graphic description of hell is from Isaiah: “They shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh” (Isa. 66:24). There was a song about the dead that we sang as kids which began, “The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out.” The rest of the song was even worse. It is true, though, that when these bodies of ours die, they naturally are consumed by “worms,” and when there is no more flesh to consume, the worms die as well. It’s over! When Jesus warned of hell fire, He used this verse from Isaiah three times (Mk. 9:44,46,48) to emphasize the horror of being condemned by God. Death will be in perpetuity: “their worm shall not die,” and in agony: “the fire is not quenched.” The offer of life from the dead has been made, but many refuse, and so they will “be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Th. 1:9).
The most detailed description of hell is found in the story concerning the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). This is not called a parable, and Lazarus is named specifically. Notice that when the rich man died he found himself in hell, fully conscious, possessing full use of his faculties: memory, a sudden concern for others, a desire to be comforted from the tormenting flame, and no hope of escape. He could not leave this place. There seemed to be no one else there, no one who could give comfort. A great gulf separated him from the place called “Abraham’s bosom,” a place forever unobtainable by him. Hell is not a big party. There is no camaraderie among those who have rejected God, and no second chance. Each person there is in the same condition that Jesus was in on the cross: utterly alone and forsaken in darkness.
The most notable example of a person in hell is Judas Iscariot, who fell by transgression “that he might go to his own place” (Acts 1:25). Judas is called the son of perdition, akin to the Antichrist yet to come (Jn. 17:12, 2 Th. 2:3). All who are in hell are in the “perdition of ungodly men,” as our opening verse (2 Pet. 3:7) indicates. Perdition means waste. It describes the soul’s eternal loss. It is a waste of life to end up in hell, for men were created to bring glory and honor to God, and it is not His desire that any should perish, “but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
“The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence” (Ps. 115:17). Here is an aspect of hell not typically considered: Part of the torment of hell and the lake of fire is the impossibility of ever praising the Lord. If the inanimate “stones would immediately cry out” so that He would have praise (Lk. 19:40), then what will it be like for God’s crowning creatures to be silenced in hell? What weeping, what sorrow for those creatures who failed to praise Him in this life, to discover the impossibility of it in eternity! True, every knee shall bow to Him, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10), but after being cast out from Him, there will be no further chance of honoring Him.
Reality Of Heaven
If these depictions of hell and the lake of fire are not enough to convince you of their reality, then, as a contrast, consider what heaven will be like.
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him” (1Cor. 2:9). We now look back to the sacrifice of Christ, and love Him for it. In Old Testament times, when God’s people looked forward to the time when He would send His chosen One to make all things right, it was written, “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He has prepared for him that waits for Him” (Isa. 64:4). The things that God has prepared are so wonderful, so pleasurable, and so full of glory that we can’t even imagine them. Even now, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jas. 1:17).
If every good thing we enjoy comes from God, how much more wonderful will be His very presence! Paul was not sure just how he got there, but somehow “he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words” (2 Cor. 12:4). There God shall wipe away every tear: “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes … and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 7:17, 21:4). “In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps.16:11).
David said that God would not leave his soul in hell, but the man after God’s own heart surely did not go to a place of punishment when he died (Acts 13:22; Ps. 16:10, 23:6). David, as well as all the Old Testament saints, went to the place called “Abraham’s bosom” (Lk. 16:22). Jesus told the criminal on the cross that he would be with Him “in paradise” that very day.
When He ascended to heaven to the Father three days later, “He led captivity captive” (Jn. 20:17; Eph. 4:8). Then all those who were waiting – for the day when their sins at last were not merely covered by sacrifices of atonement, but fully taken away by the sacrifice of Christ – ascended together with Him. And since that day, all that are “asleep” in Christ Jesus have an instant place in heaven. They are now “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord,” waiting for the trumpet that will signal the first resurrection (2 Cor. 5:8; 1Th. 4:13-18).
During the first resurrection Christ’s living saints will be outfitted for heaven as well: “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3:2). We shall be clothed with white linen, made like the Son of God: “And to (the Lamb’s wife) was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Rev. 19:8).
|While its hosts cry Hosanna, from heaven descending
With glorified saints and the angels attending,
With grace on His brow, like a halo of glory,
Will Jesus receive “His own.”
By H. L. Turner
Will It Be Heaven or Hell?
Deuteronomy 30:19 says the choice is yours: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life.” Don’t let darkness be your guide, but say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15).
By Tom & Susan Steere
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org