Heaven and Hell
We are looking particularly at the biblical doctrine and understanding of HELL. There is a short section on heaven included.
2 Timothy 2v15: ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who….correctly handles the word of truth.’
'HELL' is an often used swear word or the name of a drink, but does the hell
spoken of in the Bible really exist?
‘For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; It is fully mixed, and He pours it out; Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.’ Psalm 75:8 (NKJV).
I remember hearing this quoted at Pensacola, Florida USA during the revival there. We saw so many convicted and saved during our stay, and so many real and live testimonies of salvation, healing, deliverance and new life. The preachers spoke fervently about the love of God, the cross of Christ, and deliverance from hell. The message was not diluted. We saw genuine revival and transformation in society.
I love to hear the Gospel preached, based on the love of God for mankind. Most conversions I have witnessed were in the context of God’s love for people and desire to bring them into His Kingdom. Amen to that! Sometimes though, especially if people have hardened themselves to God’s love, it takes a strong message to wake people up to their need of a Saviour. Revivalist Jonathan Edwards preached a famous message on, ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’ in the 18th century revival, which took people heart and soul to the brink of hell. Many were saved as they heard the danger mankind was in without a saviour from our sin and rebellion against Almighty God. God can use such tough speaking.
As always, there is a balance: the love of God for mankind, for each of us, but also the justice of God which has to deal with sin…remembering that Jesus took the weight of sin on His shoulders for us, in our place. The only requirement of us is to believe His grace through the cross and accept His forgiveness and a new life in His kingdom, as we confess our sin and our need of a Saviour from sin.
So, what is all this about ‘hell’ that we need to be saved from it? Hell is the antithesis of heaven. Hell is the final destination of all those who refuse God, reject God, deny God, who don’t want God. They will be denied access to God for ever once they die….a hell of their own making. They will have filled their own cup with poison and have to drink it themselves! Until then, they still have a choice. I remember preaching on Psalm 75v8 (above) at a youth detention centre in the UK. Unusually, 70 of the inmates came forward at the end of the message. They reality of hell had been spelt out! Sometimes God uses teaching or preaching which results in the fear of God as well as that which reveals Christ as the love of God embodied. The Holy Spirit uses the message of the cross to work in people’s lives to prepare them for salvation, but sometimes if people are stubborn and resist Him, He will then ensure a message which will rock the boat and cause them to consider the consequences of refusing His salvation.
What did Jesus
say about Hell? In our continuing series about the subject of
hell, Jesus spoke much about ‘heaven’ and about the Kingdom of Heaven, the
Kingdom of God. But He also spoke about ‘hell’, the Greek word used is
‘Gehenna’, meaning the final state of hell…fire, etc. A good picture to illustrate this was the
valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem, where the rubbish was continually burning.
Jesus spoke of ‘Gehenna’, translated ‘Hell’ twelve times. Here are some of
Matthew 10:28 (ANIV) Do not be afraid of those who
kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can
destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 18:9 (ANIV) And if your eye causes you to
sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with
one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
Matthew 23:33 (ANIV) "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
Divisions of Hell: In the Old Testament scriptures, ‘Sheol’ (Hebrew) is referred to, in the New Testament (Greek), ‘Hades’ or ‘gates’ (of hell). This is the place of the departed spirits, the grave, death, down below - perhaps the ‘pit’. Tartarus (prison) and Abyss (bottomless pit) are also referred to. ‘Hades’ is referred to by Jesus in the story he told of the rich man and Lazarus. This is worth reading: Luke 16v19-31: "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried.
23 In hell, (Hades) where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' 25 "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' 27 "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' 29 "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 30 " 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' 31 "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "
What we do know
is that these stages of separation are cast into the final hell of the lake of
fire (Revelation 20v13-14).
Revelation 20:13-14 (ANIV): The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.
consequences of refusing God in this life:
John 3v16-18: "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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but…….. whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
God’s justice demands payment for sin. Jesus has already paid the price of our sin at the cross on our behalf. God’s judgment remains on those who refuse to receive the offer and gift of salvation.
Paul writes: Romans 1v18 & v32: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 32. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practise them.
Romans 2v5-8: But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done". 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
Pray that the Church – including you and I - continue to reach out to people in love towards salvation, and if necessary, warning, to be saved. I did this many times with my Dad. He was finally saved on his deathbed! Amen.
Hell has been defined as ‘a place of conscious torment where the wicked are punished for ever.’ For example: Revelation 14:9-11 (NKJV) "….If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever….”
There are various objections to the concept of Hell: Intellectual, biblical and also practical…i.e. what difference it would make in everyday life. Intellectuals reject hell an out of date concept despite people believing in hell for near to 2000 years. The rot started in the age of Enlightenment. Nowadays very few it would seem believe in a literal hell. The Church rarely preaches or teaches on the subject. In the intellectual category falls the Sentimentalists who do not like the idea of hell so reject it based on feelings. We need to know the truth rather than be dominated by wayward feelings, even when we ourselves do not like that truth. Our minds need to be in submission to His revealed truth. Psychologists are concerned that fear generated by the concept of hell is unhealthy. They forget that there can be a healthy fear of danger…e.g. traffic hazards. An unhealthy fear would be a phobia – to be avoided. Sociologists reject the concept of hell as retribution for our sin since in these days of the 21st century, we only punish to deter or reform. Moralists declare that hell is not fair, the idea of eternal punishment for sins committed in our finite lives irks them. Philosophy declares that if there is an eternal hell then God has failed to remove evil from creation.
The theological arguments against hell can be summed up in the question, ‘If God is a God of love, how could He send people to hell?’ This is prevalent in the orthodox churches in Christendom with the exception of the Roman Catholics and some Evangelicals, and, sadly, follows the views of most of the cults and sects such as Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s witnesses and, (I think) spiritualists. Replacing a biblical and literal hell there are various solutions for justice’ sake:
i) Hell is a self-imposed suffering some endure in this life because of their behaviour / lifestyle / choices. However, many endure such a hell because of others not themselves.
ii) God will ultimately save everyone (universalism). This does not allow for the freewill of mankind.
iii) Annihilation theory says that God will destroy the ‘wicked’ finally and completely. This actually pleases some of the ‘wicked’, who cannot abide the idea of punishment.
Biblical views on hell in the Old Testament and New Testament are comparatively few, with references to Sheol (OT), Hades, etc. (NT). The fact is that most of what we know about hell comes from the lips of Jesus!
Perhaps the reason for this is that God would only entrust to His Son the profound truths and warnings about hell. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. We need to submit to His revelation of the truth as Lord of our mind, emotions and will.
So what did Jesus say? Let’s take an example and unpack it: Matthew 10:28 (NKJV). ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.’ Working back, Jesus used the Greek word ‘Gehenna’ for our Anglo-Saxon word ‘hell’, represented by the valley of refuse, worms and continual burning outside Jerusalem. Not a pretty picture! He also used the word ‘destroy’ though scholars agree that the word could be representing a place of perishing, yet ‘perishing’ can also mean continued existence. An example would be a hot water bottle that had perished. It is no longer of use but is not actually destroyed.
No wonder John 3v16-18 is so relevant to evangelism. It is God’s urgent word to souls to save them from condemnation for sin: John 3:14-18 (NKJV): ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’
Jesus used the
phrase, ‘fear Him’ in terms of the One who has the power to place the
unrepentant in hell. Fear God!
Also in Mark chapter 9, Jesus says in Mark 9:43-48: ‘If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 44 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 46 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where " 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' (Also in v 44 & 46).
These are strong words. Wesley and Whitfield preached hell as part of their salvation messages. True repentance means being sorry enough to stop as the Holy Spirit convicts and as we / they choose to do what is right. In the light of this article, surely our priority as the Church in the nations, light in the darkness, is to offer the hope of salvation as we ‘hold out the word of life’ (Philippians 2v16).
We will now look
at final judgment, of which Jesus spoke:
Gehenna: Matthew 10:28
(ANIV) Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell*.
Luke 12:4-5 (ANIV) "I tell you, my friends, do
not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I
will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the
body, has power to throw you into hell*. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
James 3:6 (ANIV) ‘The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell*.’ * (Gehenna)
Eternal Judgment: Hell is what has been prepared for Satan and his
demons (Matthew 25v41) and also for the unbelievers – i.e. who have chosen to
serve Satan rather than God. These are the Christ-rejecters of every
generation, including of our day (2 Peter 2v4-9; Jude 6-7). Mankind is on
probation on this earth, to choose God or Satan.
2 Peter 2:4-9 (ANIV): For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.
Jude 1:6-7 (ANIV): And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
The second death: (Revelation 2v10-11; 21v8).
Revelation 2:10-11 (ANIV): Do not be afraid of what
you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison
to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to
the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an
ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will
not be hurt at all by the second death.
Revelation 21:8 (ANIV) “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death."
The Great White Throne: Man will be judged according to his works at the great white throne.
Revelation 20:11-15 (ANIV): Then I saw a great
white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his
presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and
small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened,
which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done
as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and
death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged
according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the
lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone's name was not
found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Though we long for people to respond to the love and mercy of God, sometimes the awful truth of our eternal destiny causes some to seek God. Pray that God will use you to love people into the kingdom and yet be prepared to warn if needed.
We now look at
the lake of fire.
The Lake of Fire: is the final destiny of those sent to Sheol (Hebrew), Hades (Greek). [Isaiah 14v12-15; Isaiah 38v18].
Isaiah 14:12-15 (ANIV): How you have fallen from
heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, "I will
ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit
enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred
mountain. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself
like the Most High." 15 But you are brought down to the grave, to the
depths of the pit (SHEOL).
Isaiah 38:18 (ANIV): For the grave cannot praise
you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope
for your faithfulness.
Isaiah 66:24 (ANIV) "And they will go out and
look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not
die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all
Daniel 7:11 (ANIV) "Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.”
The lake of fire
is the second death:
Matthew 25:41 (ANIV): "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Mark 9:47-48 (ANIV) ‘And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where " 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' (Is.66v24).
Revelation 19:20 (ANIV) ‘But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur.’
Revelation 20:10-15 (ANIV): And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:8. “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death."
Pray that you may be used by God to win people into His Kingdom through His love and through His truth.
Hell was prepared
for the devil and his angels: Matthew 25:41 (ANIV): "Then
he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the
eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Hell is an actual
place. (Matthew 5v22, 29
& 30; Matthew 10v28; Matthew 18v9; Matthew 23v15).
Matthew 5:22, 29&30: (ANIV): 22, But I tell you
that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again,
anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But
anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. 29 If your
right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for
you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into
hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it
away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole
body to go into hell.
Matthew 23:15 (ANIV): "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
Hell is the eternal dwelling place of the ‘wicked’ (Acts 24v15), the unredeemed, the Christ-rejecters. (See Revelation 20v12-15).
HEAVEN: In contrast, Heaven is the dwelling place of God and of the elect angels. It is the everlasting home of the redeemed of all mankind, the ‘righteous’ (Acts 24v15). It is an actual place (Deuteronomy 10v14) and God’s dwelling place (2 Chronicles 6v25; Daniel 4v26). The heavens were created by God (Job 9v8; Genesis 2v1). There are three heavens: The first heaven….the atmospheric heaven surrounding the earth, corresponding to the outer tabernacle in the temple. A new heaven and earth with a New Jerusalem, will follow in due course (Revelation 21v1-2). The second heaven corresponding to the inner court of the temple, the Holy Place, is the planetary heaven, with its billions of stars, yet to be shaken in the end days (Hebrews 12v27; Revelation 6v13). The third heaven, ‘Paradise’ (Luke 23v43; 2 Corinthians 12v1-4), the ‘heaven of heavens’ (Nehemiah 9v6) corresponds to the Most Holy Place in the temple, God’s heaven, where He resides (Hebrews 9v24). It is the throne-room of the eternal Godhead (Matthew 5v34; Isaiah 66v1), the place of the brightness of God’s glory. Jesus spoke of this as ‘my Father’s house’, ‘a place prepared’. It is the ‘city of God’. There will be no more darkness, hate, sin, sorrow, discord or death here (Revelation 21v4). This is what people need to be pointed to through the Gospel.
Salvation: Evangelists and preachers encourage all the body of Christ to share the gospel with their families, friends and colleagues, their neighbours and their locality, etc. Why? Because they want everyone to have the opportunity to hear about Christ’s cross, about the way of being saved from the wrath of God on sin, saved to the Lord, saved to walk with Him and to enter heaven eternally.
Holding truth in tension: The love of God for mankind and the wrath of God against mankind have to be held in tension. The wrath of God is outlined in Romans 1v18-2v16. It is man’s state without Christ. The love of God for mankind through Christ is outlined in Romans 5v6-9 and John 3v16-18, and in various gospel passages, not least the accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus.
Doctrines of demons: We must be careful not to dilute the message of salvation, as well as the good news of Christ’s love there is a warning to heed. Those who do not respond to Christ’s love may be spurred into action by such a warning.
God wants all to
be saved and come to know the truth (1 Timothy 2v4), and Paul said he would ‘by
all possible means’ seek to save some (1 Corinthians 9v22).
1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV). Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, This and 1 Timothy 6:3-5 are pretty strong on the matter. We long for everyone to be saved but realism says the gate to life is narrow (Matthew 7v13). Nevertheless, we share the Gospel of the love of God towards mankind, and as He leads, are prepared to warn of the consequences - of rejection of God's love and salvation to people’s eternal destiny. Pray that God uses you as He chooses. God bless you! IFC