Bible Basics Lesson #8 "The Hereafter"
Introduction. Some words in the English language which actively suggest warmth are mother, father, home, and heaven. The word heaven (ouranos) is found 284 times in the Greek New Testament. Jesus taught the reality and beauty of heaven when he said, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven" (Matt. 5: 12).
At the same time, Jesus was just as plain about the reality and the horror of hell when he described it as "outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 22:13); "everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:" (Matt. 25:41), and "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." (Mark 9:44).
Jesus went to prepare heaven. Jesus consoled his dejected disciples by telling them, "in my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14: 2, 3). Some believe this is an instance in which Jesus contradicted himself. Jesus did say, "…come…inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25: 34). I suggest that when Jesus speaks to his disciples of "preparing a place," he means in the sense of fulfilling all the requisites, his death, resurrection, and ascension, for instance.
The Christian's inheritance is in heaven. "To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you," Peter stated (1 Pet. 1: 4). We learn of heaven, the one hope, in the gospel or scriptures (Col. 1: 5, 23, Eph. 4: 4). Eternal life is presented as present and yet future (1 John 5: 11, Tit. 1: 2). Exactly speaking, eternal life is in heaven, the Christian's inheritance, but it is so certain (if we do our part) it is spoken of as an actual, present possession (by the figure of prolepsis).
"For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel....If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister" (Col. 1: 5, 23).
The security of the treasures in heaven. The Christian's real treasures are not on this earth (Matt. 6: 19). All that pertains to this earth is perishable and uncertain. Hear Jesus: "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (vss. 20, 21). Remember Peter's descriptive terms regarding heaven, "incorruptible," "undefiled," and "fadeth not away."
Heaven shall be a place ideally suited for the saved. Heaven will be a spiritual place. "…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God," Paul wrote (1 Cor. 15: 50). There will be a sweeping change from the physical to the spiritual (1 Cor. 15: 51-58, 2 Cor. 5: 1 ff). This physical earth (present habitation) will be totally destroyed and there will be a new heavens and earth (spiritual habitation, 2 Pet. 3: 1-14).
Heaven will be a prepared place for a prepared people. "Blessed are they that do his commandment," wrote John, "that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Rev. 22: 14, KJV). Heaven is not for the quitters but "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (Rev. 21: 7).
Heaven will be a place free of death, tears, sorrows, and pain. "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. 21: 4).
Perpetual life and beautiful, indescribable bliss will be enjoyed in heaven. Jesus promises, "…I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely" (Rev. 21: 6). The tree of life will be in heaven (Rev. 22: 2). All that is undesirable will be nonexistent in heaven, "And there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it…" (Rev. 22: 3). The beauty of heaven is described in physical terms, I am convinced, for man's benefit (Rev. 21: 10 ff).
The wicked shall not be in heaven. "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21: 27, see vs. 8). Only the saved along with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and all the majestic angels of God shall be in heaven (Rev. 4, 5, 21, 22). The saved will enjoy a direct relationship with God and the palatial light, grandeur, and bliss of heaven for an eternity (Rev. 21, 22).
There is too little concern about hell and too few preachers who ever mention the biblical doctrine of hell. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul," Jesus warns, "but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10: 28). Jesus appealed to the horror of hell as motivation for doing right. Hear him: "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, that having two hands to go into hell…" (Mk. 9: 43 ff).
Hell is a real place. Geenna (Greek word for hell) is found twelve times in the vocabulary of the Greek New Testament. In the just mentioned reading (Mk. 9: 43 ff), Jesus proceeded to say, "…where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Jesus is referring to a valley on the south side of Jerusalem known as the Valley of Hinnom. This valley had a reprehensible history (2 Kg. 16, 2 Chroni. 28), mostly pertaining to the worship of Moloch. The valley was especially held in contempt after the return of the Jews from captivity in that it became the garbage dump for the city. Into this valley all the filth of the city including the human carcasses of criminals was thrown. The odor and presence of perpetual fires were repulsive, I am told. Jesus "borrowed" from the physical reality and properties of the Valley of Hinnom to teach regarding the spiritual place of the souls of the wicked.
Hell is a place of eternal punishment. Modern man has an antipathy for punishment. However, hell shall be a place of punishment. Not just punishment, but "everlasting punishment," "and these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal, " Jesus said (Matt. 25: 46). The punishment of the wicked shall be just as long as the bliss of the saved - "everlasting" is from aionios and is applied to both the punishment of the wicked and the life ("eternal") of the righteous. John wrote, "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever" (Rev. 14: 11). Jesus said, "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 25: 30). Jesus said it would be better to be maimed or have a millstone hanged about one's neck and cast into the sea than to experience hell (Mk. 9: 42-50).
"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thes. 1: 7-9).
Hell is a place of outer darkness. Darkness is often used to indicate ignorance, pride, and rebellion (John 3). God, by contrast, is light and Christians are to walk in the light (1 John 1: 5-7). Darkness is symbolic of despair, uncertainty, and fear. Jesus said hell will be not just a place of darkness, but "outer darkness" (Matt. 25: 30). Some question how hell can be a place of perpetual fires and, at the same time, outer darkness. If God can make fire burn a bush and the bush not be consumed, He can have outer darkness and perpetual fire (cf. Ex. 3).
Hell will be a place of ultimate failure and regret. Heaven will be a place of triumph and victory (Rev. 21: 7). Hell, almost point by point, antithetically will be a place of failure (Matt. 25: 14-30). In the intermediate place of hades, the rich man certainly had many regrets (Luke 16: 19-31).
Hell will be a place of a repulsive population. The abominable, murderers, and whoremongers will be in hell (Rev. 21: 8). Paul wrote that fornicators, thieves, drunkards, and homosexuals will also make up the population of hell ( 1 Cor. 6: 9-11). Also, those who simply failed to have availed themselves of the privilege of serving God in this life will be in hell with the Hitlers, Mansons, and moral reprobates (Matt. 25: 14-30).
Conclusion. Beloved, heaven shall be a place of being with God and enjoying the grandeur associated with God; hell, on the other hand, will be a place of separation from the presence of God and all the associated agony in the absence of God (2 Thes. 1: 7-9). Hell is so terrible that it was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25: 41). Heaven or hell, we determine which by the choices we make and the way we live in this life!
For additional study material from our archives, see the following:
- "A" for "After-life"
- "E" for "Eternal Life"
- "H" for "Hades", "Heaven", and "Hell"
- "J" for "Judgment"
- "S" for "Second Coming"