|image by: Graceway Media|
Is there really a place called hell?
I want to start with the subject of hell. The word 'hell' may bring a host of thoughts into a person's mind. Especially if you've been raised a Christian, in one way, shape, or form, you've been taught that if you love and obey Jesus you go to heaven and if you don't you go to hell. But when do we go to hell? Immediately after we die? If so then the question of what happens at death arises.
Space and time doesn't allow me to fully develop and answer every question regarding this subject matter. Yet I will try and be as clear as I can be and as straight forward as I can be. Then leave it open for our community here at Bathos and those who want to jump in to ask any questions or post a comment below.
Death and Hell:
Let me tell you out front what I believe the bible teaches and then tell you why:
1. I believe the bible teaches that when we die, we neither go to heaven or hell. We are in a state of what the bible calls 'sleep' or unconsciousness.
2. We do not have 'immortal' souls, we are 'mortal'.
3. People will burn in what is called hell, but not for 'eternity'
Most evangelical Christians believe that when we die we immediately go to heaven or hell. If a person goes to hell they will burn forever. Now if those who go to hell burn forever then that would make them 'immortal' and the problem with that is at least two fold: 1. It will mean sin will continue to exist forever. 2. We humans are immortal.
No where in the bible does it say or imply that the we have an 'immortal soul.' As a matter of fact there is only one place in which the bible speaks of it and this is what it says, "...He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality..." (1 Tim. 6:15,16) Only God is immortal! Enough said, humans do not have immortality.
The bible also states very clearly that sin will not go on forever. From the beginning, when Adam and Eve sinned they were taken out of Eden so they would not eat of the tree of life, resulting in sin lasting forever (make sure you read Genesis 3: 22-24) Also Revelation 21: 1-5 states that God is making all things new, there will be no more pain, suffering and no more death! If we believe these texts then those who believe that hell is an 'eternal' punishment must explain them, because it seems really hard for me to believe that God would still have some folks burning 'eternally', folks that you and I know may know, while we are walking on the streets of gold. Not only would this go against the words of Revelation (and the bible as a whole) but would this really show God's justice? (more on God's justice in a later post)
Now, if the bible says that when we die we don't immediately go to heaven or hell then what happens? I ask you to read Acts 2. This chapter states an interesting fact about king David. It tells us that he didn't go immediately to heaven when he died (vv. 29, 34) yet the implication is that David will be in heaven! It can be said that king David was the most beloved king of ancient Israel. A man after God's heart, though he clearly made some horrible sinful choices, God forgave Him. In short if any king of Israel would be in heaven it would be king David, YET the bible tells us he's not.
In John 11 we have the famous story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus. Again please read the story for yourself. There are several things this story brings out, but we've already gone long on this post so I'll go straight to it. First, we must take note of Martha's words when she is talking with Jesus. She says, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." (v. 24) and before that Jesus speaks of Lazarus being 'asleep' (v. 11). These text, the story and the bible as a whole let us know that when people die they do not immediately go to heaven or hell. They sleep, unconsciously. Listen to what Ecclesiastes 9:5 says, "For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything..." and also listen to suffering Job, "But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he? As water evaporates from the sea, And a river becomes parched and dried up, So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens be no more, He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep." (vv. 10-12)
Much has been said, thus far but lets summarize everything here concerning what the Bible teaches:
1. We've shown that when one dies they do not go immediately to heaven or hell.
2. Hell is not forever. The implications of the statements above is, there will be a hell, people will burn, but it won't be 'eternally' (see Revelation 20)
3. Death in the bible is often compared to 'unconscious sleep', the dead wait until the resurrection.
The bible is clear that 'sin' will not last forever, it will come to a complete end! Complete meaning that there won't be some place in the universe where people who decided not to follow the Spirit's call in their lives will burn forever. Again, this would make sin last forever in some part of the universe and would not necessarily make 'all things new' as the bible promises.
I know there are many text that are going through people's minds, especially regarding the bible truth that when we die we neither go to heaven or hell, but we wait until the resurrection. This is where you can email me or leave a comment below and I can answer some of the questions/comments.
In part 3 we will cover: Heaven and Salvation!