16. Heaven and Hell

The Bible makes clear pronouncements on both heaven and hell as distinct places.

Heaven

There are three heavens. The Bible refers to the following three heavens: 1. The atmosphere around the earth, which is the habitation of the birds of heaven (Jer. 4:25; Ezek. 38:20; Hos. 2:18; Matt. 6:26, 13:32). 2. The starry heaven (Ps. 8:3; Ezek. 32:7; Matt. 24:29; Rev. 8:10). 3. The third heaven, which is the highest heaven where God is (Luke 2:14; 2 Cor. 12:2-4; Eph. 4:10).

It is the dwelling-place of the Triune God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. (Deut. 26:15; Eccl. 5:2; Matt. 5:16; Luke 24:51; Acts 7:55-56; Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1; 1 Thess. 1:10, 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7; Heb. 8:1; 1 Pet. 1:12; 1 John 5:7).

It is also the dwelling-pace of angels. (Matt. 22:30; Luke 2:15; 22:43).

The kingdom of heaven. This kingdom rules over the entire universe, and is controlled from the throne of God, which is in heaven (Ps. 103:19; Acts 7:49). The Lord Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 1 Pet. 3:22).

Blessings and judgement come from heaven. God provides spiritual food for His children from heaven in the form of His Son and His Word (John 6:31-35; Luke 4:4). Christians who contravene the divine principles of the Word, are sinning against heaven (Luke 15:18,21). Judgements are also poured out from heaven upon the wicked (Luke 17:29; Rom. 1:18).

Christians have a heavenly destination. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20) because our names are also written up there (Luke 10:20). The Lord Jesus is preparing an eternal home for us in the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, which is in the house of His Father (John 14:2-3; Rev. 3:12; 21:1-2). That is part of our heavenly inheritance (1 Pet. 1:4) of which the beauty is indescribable (1 Cor. 2:9).

Heavenly treasures. Those who suffered tribulation on earth for the sake of Christ will be rewarded in heaven (Luke 6:22-23). They are encouraged to also use other means to ensure that they lay up treasures in heaven by supporting the work of the Lord financially and to do things that have value for eternity (Luke 12:21,33; 18:22; 2 Cor. 8:9; 9:6-7).

Joy in heaven. There is joy in heaven for every person who is saved and thus becomes a member of this divine kingdom (Luke 15:7). The saints will be full of joy when they receive their glorified resurrection bodies, which will elevate them far above the limitations of their earthly existence (2 Cor. 5:1-2; Phil. 3:21).

Hell

The Lord Jesus said more about hell than any other preacher in biblical times. His warnings against the terrible consequences of sin were the plainest and sharpest in all the Bible. Consider the following statements of the Lord Jesus about hell: Matt. 5:22; 10:28; 13:40-42,49-50; 23:33; 25:41,46; Mark 9:43-49; Luke 16:19-31.

Jesus referred to hell as a place where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched (Mark. 9:48). We are also informed that hell is an eternal lake of fire burning with brimstone (Rev. 14:10-11; 19:20). The rich man in hell knew that he was not simply in some spiritual state, and he wanted his brothers warned “lest they also come in this place of torment.” Hell is a literal “place of torment” where the wicked are punished (Luke 16:22-28). During the second resurrection, the unsaved dead will be resurrected from their graves, appear before God as condemned people, and will then be judged and cast into the lake of fire forever (Dan. 12:2; Rev. 20:11-15). The unsaved will be resurrected just as sure as the saved will be resurrected (John 5:28-29).

The Lord Jesus referred to physical bodies in hell when He said that sinners will be cast into the everlasting hell fire (Matt. 18:8-9). We must fear God because He can condemn people to hell (Matt. 10:28). The devil has deceived people who do not know God’s Word into believing that hell is some indefinite, ghostly place where there might be discomfort but no conscious suffering or physical torment. In this way, all fear for the judgements of God are removed from people’s minds. May God help us to see that the most severe tortures await the doomed and damned souls who have rejected Christ and will go to hell.

The terms used in the Bible about hell and about the condemnation of the lost people are not words of temporary meaning. They are words that indicate an eternity of suffering and shame (Dan. 12:2; Mark 3:29; Rev. 14:10-11). How profoundly moved a Christian ought to be when he thinks of hell and the millions who go there! It is little wonder that modern Christians move away from the burden and passion for the salvation of sinners. They have forgotten the Bible’s teaching on hell. The preachers have explained away the torments of the damned! What a compelling motive we have for prayer, for preaching, for soul winning when we learn that every human being who leaves this world without a definite change in heart immediately lifts his eyes in the place of the doomed, underway to the eternal lake of fire.

Unbelievers often say that they, weak and sinful men, would not send their children to a place like hell, and that if God loves His children He would not condemn them to go to hell. But the unsaved sinners are not children of God. No person is a child of God until he is born again. The unsaved are the children of wrath. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). God’s children never go to hell, but the children of the devil do. How foolish to charge God with wrongdoing because people go to hell. Hell is the result of people’s sins. People go to hell because they ought to, not because God hates them. Sin is a hateful subject to those who do not like the Biblical teaching about hell, but sin is the cause of hell (Rom. 6:23; Ezek. 18:4).

The Lord Jesus said that a person’s soul is worth more than all the treasures of the world (Mark 8:36-37). Sinners have lost everything if they have lost their souls. Unfortunately, most of the people on earth are on their way to this gruesome destination (Matt. 7:13-14). The false prophets and others who only have a form of godliness will be very surprised to open their eyes in this place of torture (Matt. 7:21-23).

The unsaved are always wicked but regard one another as very good and virtuous people. But the Bible very clearly describes the depraved condition of the human heart (Isa. 53:6; Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:20-23; Rom. 3:10,23). The rich man deserved to go to hell. He was a sinner. Outwardly he may have been moral, upright, intelligent and loveable. However, in his heart, where God alone could see, he was a deliberate, malicious, wilful, continual, unrepentant sinner against God. Remember that those were refined, educated, cultured, religious, praying men who condemned Christ to be crucified. They were wolves in sheep’s clothing. What Jesus said about them describes the heart of the best moral man who has not trusted Christ (Matt. 23:13,27-28).

Those who have not had a change of heart may appear to us moral or clean or good, but they are only so outwardly. God, who knows the hearts of men, knows of the unsaved hearts of people. It was for this reason that the Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus, one of the unsaved religious leaders of Israel, that he must be born again (John. 3:3). Jesus gave a very clear explanation why sinners must turn and believe in Him if they wish to avert eternal condemnation (John 3:19-20). The best proof of any man’s wicked heart is the fact that he has not turned to Christ. The only honest reason any man could ever give for not coming to Jesus is that he loves sin and will not come to Christ, the Light, lest his sin should be reproved. People without God may be cultured, may be pleasant, may be courteous and refined, but they certainly are not good. They are bad by choice.

The lost person’s heart is deliberately wicked, wicked enough to hate Christ, the Light of the world. Men reject Christ purposely, loving sin. Without being converted such wicked sinners must go to hell. The Lord Jesus said that it is a futile effort to love God and the world, as no one can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). The man who does not hold to Christ despises Him.

The rich man did not go to hell because he led a bad life outwardly. The Bible does not say that he committed adultery, or murder, that he gambled, or drank, or swore. His trouble was inside. Like unsaved men, women, and children everywhere, he had a wicked heart. In his secret heart, he was against God. People who are outwardly moral and upright go to hell by the thousands. Be sure to remember, too, that the rich man did not go to hell because he was rich. Hell has more poor people than rich people, we may be sure. He knew that he was in hell because he was unsaved (Luke 16:30). God does not want that any sinner will be lost (John 3:17; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; Ezek. 33:11; John 3:16). Repent to the Lord Jesus today and make sure that you will escape the torments of hell. (Many of the statements in this section were derived from the booklet: Hell – what the Bible says about it, by Dr. John Rice).

Personal commitment

My consciousness of the eternal heavenly bliss that awaits the saved, as well as the everlasting punishment of the unsaved, has been strengthened. The narrow way leads to heaven while the broad way inevitably leads to the lake of fire. I commit myself anew to the Great Commission to proclaim the message of Christ’s saving grace to lost humanity so that more people may come over from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. So many people only have a form of godliness as their lives have been built on false foundations. They must also seriously heed the warning to Nicodemus that no person will see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (John 3:3). If we do not warn the wicked to turn from their ways they will be lost, but the Lord will require their blood at our hands (Ezek. 33:7-9). Let us proclaim the Word of the Lord in such a way that people will realise what awaits them in eternity. It is unthinkable why sinners would prefer to spend eternity in the lake of fire while the saving grace of the Lord Jesus is offered to all of us.

Questions

1.    To how many heavens does the Bible refer?

2.    Who are the people who can be sure that they have a home in heaven?

3.    What kind of punishment will sinners suffer in hell, and for how long will it last?

4.    Why will a loving God condemn people to hell?

5.    How can people be kept from hell?