Heaven and Hell Talk
November 14, 2010
Heaven will be better and grander than anything we can imagine and anything we have ever seen before.
It is important for us to talk about heaven for two reasons: first most people have questions about it like “hey I am a Christian, but I still fear death”. The second reason is since we will be spending a lot of time there if we are followers of Jesus; we need to know a little bit about it.
There are a lot of misconceptions about heaven and I hope to help clarify some of those today. Let’s read 1 Corinthians 2:9. The verse says you can’t even imagine. So you say, “Well, why even try?” We actually need to be thinking about it everyday because it will impact everything else we do in life.
The message of heaven will & should give us hope. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. This passage tells us we are to have hope.
The next part of the talk is the theology of this place called Heaven. Scripture gives us a lot of insight to form our own biblically founded ideas or opinions about heaven. I encourage you when you leave here today to study this topic for yourselves.
A Theology of Heaven
The word heaven has interesting rootswhen you do a word study on it. In the Hebrew it is the word “shamayim” meaning “heights”. The Greek word for heaven is the word “ouranos” meaning “to raise up and lofty”. So we know that heaven is a place that is high and lifted up or lofty.
Let’s look at what Isaiah chapter 14 tells us about where heaven is located. This is the story of the fall of Lucifer or Satan. So we know from this passage that in order to get to heaven we need to ascend to it and that it is higher than the stars & clouds. We also know what direction we need to travel: north. An interesting side note about this northern location is that when astronomers look into space through their telescopes that when they point it in a northerly direction that there is a vast and enormous void with nothing there. They can not see where it ends. Could it be it is because that is the entry way into heaven? Just something to speculate on. We now know that heaven is beyond outer space since it is above the height of the stars & clouds.
The next question is how many heavens are there; is there only one? Well there are actually three heavens! First let’s look at 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. The first heaven is the sky that we can see with our eyes. We find this told to us in passages like Psalm 147:8. The second heaven is space where the sun, moon, stars and galaxies are located. We find this told to us in Genesis 1:14-17. And then we have Paul’s description to us of the third heaven. This is where God’s throne is and where He dwells in the heavenly temple.
Next let’s talk about how we get there? The first way we can get there is if we die. Like I said in the opening one of the most frequent questions asked about heaven, even by believers, is “even though I am a believer in Christ, I still fear death”. Let me tell you there is nothing to fear! Let’s look first at 2 Corinthians 5:5-9.
We have a guarantee from God Himself. That if we are absent from the body then we are present with the Lord. Jesus has won the victory over death. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 tells us of this victory by Christ.
The second way we can go to heaven now is through an event called the Rapture. Let’s look at the event itself in Scripture quickly in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. This event is called the Rapture. When this event occurs believers in Christ alive here on earth will bodily meet the Lord in the air to go be with Him in heaven forever. Those who are already with the Lord will be reunited with their bodies.
We know we go to be with Jesus in this event since He tells us in John 14:1-2. He tells us He went back to the Father to prepare a place for us and that if He went to prepare a place for us that He will come back for us so we can be with Him forever.
What do we look like when we are in heaven for eternity? This is a harder question to answer but let me tell you what we know: 1 Corinthians 15: 51-53 tells us. So we will be changed in a twinkling of an eye. We will put in an imperishable, immortal body to live in for all eternity. Your next question will then be: okay so we have these immortal, indestructible or glorified bodies, but what do they look like and will we know each other. Let me tell you what we do know, we will be recognizable, these bodies will have flesh and bones still. How do I know that? Let’s look at the following passage in Luke 24 where Jesus provides us with a glimpse of what our future bodies will look like. Let’s look at Luke 24:36-43. So what do we see here: Jesus was recognizable by His disciples, He looked somewhat different because they thought He was ghost, He had hands and feet still, He had flesh and bones still and He also ate food with them. So this is what we know for sure about what our bodies will look like.
The last thing we need to cover from a theological perspective is that the present heaven & earth are not the final ones where we will spend eternity. Scripture tells us the following from 2 Peter 3 beginning in verse 10-13. So Peter is telling us that the old heavens will disappear with a roar and the earth will be destroyed by fire. But we should be looking forward to God keeping His promise to us of a new heaven and a new earth being created.
John is given the privilege of then describing to us what the new heaven and earth will look like. Let’s look at Revelation 21:1-4. John sees a new heaven and new earth replacing the old. He sees the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven and a voice tells him that now God is dwelling with man again and that He will live with us. We will be His people for eternity. There will be no more tears, no more death or mourning or crying for all the old has passed and we are with Him forever in perfect bliss.
The dictionary says that hell is “the place where wicked people are punished after death.” There are many people today who do not believe in a real hell. They might say something like this: “I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT A LOVING AND KIND GOD WOULD EVER PUNISH PEOPLE IN HELL!”
God is very loving and God is very kind, but God is also very HOLY and JUST and RIGHTEOUS. Let’s look at Psalm 5:4-5. Now let’s look at Psalm 7:11-12. We must never forget that God is holy and He hates sin.
God is the perfect judge. Let’s read Nahum 1:3. This means that the LORD will not let the guilty go unpunished. He must punish the guilty ones! How many people are guilty before God (Romans 3:19-20, 23) and (Romans 3:10-12)? So what do you think do you deserve to be punished? Everyone deserves to go to hell, but the amazing thing is that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16) that everyone who believes on His Son will not perish in hell. God has provided a way for sinful men to be saved from hell’s punishment! He sent His Son to be punished for us!
What Did Jesus Teach About Hell?
Did the Lord Jesus Christ believe in a real hell (read Mark 9:43-48). Did Jesus Christ believe that there will be a real place of fire and punishment (Matthew 25:41, 46)?
Yes, Jesus Christ believed in a real hell. In fact, Jesus said more about hell than any other person in the Bible. He warned men about the dangers of hell and about the dangers of future punishment.
The Lord Jesus really loves us and that is why He has warned us about hell. What are you going to do with the warning? Think again of the people in the burning house. Suppose that you shout to them: “FIRE! FIRE IN THE BASEMENT! WAKE UP! GET OUT OF THE HOUSE BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE! HURRY UP! FIRE!” What will, these people do? They can believe your warning and believe that there really is a fire and run out of the house or they can say, “WE DON’T BELIEVE YOU! YOU ARE JUST PLAYING A JOKE ON US! WE ARE GOING BACK TO SLEEP!”
They can believe and be saved or they can refuse to believe and perish. The same is true with Jesus warnings about hell.
The Place Called Hades
In Luke 16:19-31 we learn about a poor man who was saved (Lazarus) and a rich man who was not saved (his name is not given). When Lazarus died he was carried by the angels to a place of comfort and happiness where Abraham and the other saved people were (Luke 16:22, 23, 25). But when the unsaved rich man died, what place did he find himself in (Luke 16:22-23)? Was he happy or miserable in this place (Luke 16:24)? Was he comfortable there (Luke 16:25)? Did he want his 5 brothers to come to this same place of suffering (Luke 16:27-28)?
The word hell in Luke 16:23 is the Greek word Hades. Hades is the place where this unsaved rich man went when he died. Jesus called Hades a “place of torture” (Luke 16:28). We are also told that it is a place where people suffer in some kind of fire (see Luke 16:28–“flame”). Jesus described Hades as a terrible place of suffering and misery. It is also a place where people can get no relief from their suffering (Luke 16:24-26). The rich man wanted just one drop of water (the amount of water that a tip of a person’s finger would hold–Luke 16:24), but he did not get what he asked for.
Actually Hades was the place where the dead went and it included both the place of torment (Luke 16:23-24) and also the place of comfort where Lazarus and Abraham were (also called “Abraham’s bosom”).
Where Do People Go When They Die?
In the days before the cross, people would go to Hades when they died. In Hades there would be a place for the saved and a place for the unsaved:
|PLACE FOR SAVED Abraham’s bosom
LAZARUS and ABRAHAM
|PLACE FOR UNSAVEDPlace of Fire
Place of Torment
Now that Christ has died and rose again and ascended into heaven, things are different. Today when people die, they go straight to heaven (Philippians 1:21, 23; 2 Corinthians 5:8; 12:2, 4). When Christ ascended up to heaven he took Lazarus and Abraham and all the saved people with Him (compare Ephesians 4:8-10). But when unsaved people die today, they still go to the same place. They still go to Hades, the same place the rich man went in Luke chapter 16.
The Place Called Gehenna
There is another word for hell which is found in the New Testament. This is the word that is found in Mark 9:43-48. It is the Greek word “GEHENNA.”
In Old Testament times Gehenna was a place located outside the city walls of Jerusalem. It was also called the Valley of Hinnom. It was at this place that children were sometimes sacrificed and burned in flames. Children would be passed through the flames (see 2 Chronicles 28:3). This wicked practice took place at Gehenna. In Old Testament times when people thought of this place they thought of bodies being burned in fire!
Years later Gehenna became the city dump! The Jews living in Jerusalem would throw their garbage and worthless things into this valley. Even the bodies of dead animals would be thrown into this place to be devoured by the maggots and the flames. Sometimes the bodies of unburied criminals were thrown into Gehenna after they were executed or crucified. A fire was kept burning in this valley in order to consume the waste and rubbish and dead bodies that were thrown there. It seemed that the fires in this valley never went out. The place even came to be called THE GEHENNA OF FIRE.
Jesus used the word Gehenna to describe hell (THE PLACE OF EVERLASTING FIRE–see Matthew 25:41). In Matthew 5:29 this word is used (the word hell is the word Gehenna). Do the fires of Gehenna ever go out (Mark 9:43-44)?
Down through the centuries many Christians have been put to death by being burned at the stake. These Christians knew that the fire that they had to go through would only hurt them for a brief moment. But their enemies who put them to death would someday have to suffer in flames that would last forever! Polycarp was a Christian who lived a long time ago (in the second century A.D.). His enemies wanted to burn him at the stake unless he would deny Christ. One of these men said, “I will have you consumed with fire unless you change your mind.” Polycarp replied, “You threaten fire which burns for an hour and is soon quenched; for you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment reserved for the wicked” (see Matthew 25:41,46). The fire that Polycarp suffered through was nothing compared to the fire that the unsaved must suffer through forever!
The Temporary Prison and the Final Prison
When an unsaved person dies, he goes to Hades (as we saw in Luke chapter 16). Hades is like a temporary prison. Unsaved people will not be in Hades forever. They will only be there until the Great White Throne Judgment. After the Great White Throne Judgment they will be cast into the final prison which is called the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:14-15. This is the place that Jesus meant when he used the word hell or Gehenna. It is the place where the fire never stops burning.
The lake of fire is the final place where the unsaved will be for all eternity. Those who go into the lake of fire never come out! They will suffer there forever! The fire will never go out. They must stay in this prison forever! The lake of fire is also called the second death. (Revelation 20:14 and see 21:8). Death means separation. The second death is when a person is separated from God forever. Someone has once said, “Those who are born twice (that is, born again) die once; those who are born once die twice” This means that those who are born again only have to die once (they die physically). Those who are not born again will not only die physically but they will also be cast into the lake of fire which is the second death. The second death is for all that have never been born again into God’s family.
Why Do People Deny the Reality of Hell?
Hell is a terrible reality and we don’t like to think about it. But God’s Word, which is absolute truth (John 17:17) tells us about hell and God wants us to understand it and Christ died to save us from it. People deny hell for two main reasons: 1) They don’t understand the terribleness of sin in God’s sight; 2) They don’t understand the awesome holiness of God. If we really understood these twin truths, we would not have a problem understanding why the wicked must suffer in hell forever.
What Is Hell?
When you think of HELL you should always think of two things: 1) Separation from God; 2) Punishment by God.
||Hell is called “THE SECOND DEATH” and this reminds us of separation.
||Hell is called “THE LAKE OF FIRE” and this reminds us of punishment.
Jesus Suffered Hell For Us!
What happened to Jesus when He died on the cross? Read Matthew 27:46. Was He separated from God? Read Isaiah 53:4, 5,6,10 and 1 Peter 3:18. Was He punished by God? Indeed, this is the good news found in the Bible! Jesus Christ was separated from God so that we would never have to be separated from God! Jesus Christ was punished by God so that we would never have to be punished by God! Jesus Christ died so that we would never have to be hurt by the second death (Revelation 2:11)! Christ died to save us and deliver us from so great a death (2 Corinthians 1:10)!
You are VERY REAL. Are you REALLY saved or are you REALLY separated from God?
Heaven is REAL. Hell is REAL. Your choice is REAL.