Scriptures

Eternal Punishment And Reward

Introduction

There is life after death. This teaching is one of the foundation stones of Christianity. No man can accept the Bible without believing that there is a place of reward for the righteous and of punishment for the unrighteous. Since all must stand before the Lord in judgment, it is imperative that each conduct his life so that he will receive everlasting life instead of punishment. Jesus said,

‘What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?’ Matthew 16:26

ETERNAL PUNISHMENT

Outside Jerusalem in the time of Christ there was a valley which had been made a disposal place for the city’s refuse. Known as the Valley of Hinnom, or ‘Gehenna’ in the Greek, it burned continually. The English translation is ‘hell.’ Christ applied this term to the place of punishment in eternal fire after death.

There is another Greek word which is translated hell in the King James Version which should not be confused with Gehenna. It is ‘hades’, meaning ‘the unseen world’ in the abode of the dead. Confusion of Gehenna and hades has led some to conclude that hell is simply physical death instead of everlasting fire. In most translations hades is rendered as ‘hades’ instead of ‘hell’ and the difficulty is resolved. All uses of ‘hell’ in this lesson refer to Gehenna.

What is hell like?

Christ describes it as a furnace of fire.

‘They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth … This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 13:42, 49, 50

Hell, then, must be a place of conscious suffering rather than of annihilation as some believe. Christ emphasises this in saying, ‘If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having your two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire,

‘where their worm doesn’t die, and the fire is not quenched.’ Mark 9:43, 44

Since the fire will never go out, hell must be everlasting.

‘Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels… These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ Matthew 25:41, 46

Although a fire, it will be a place of absolute darkness.

‘But the children of the Kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 8:12

If possible, hell is described even more vividly in Revelation.

‘These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur.’ Revelation 19:20

Some reason that the fire cannot be literal and hence that hell cannot be so bad. Regardless of what may be the nature of the fire, we are told that it is a place of torture.

This is the important thing.

‘The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. They will be TORMENTED day and night forever and ever.’ Revelation 20:10

Torment denotes excruciating pain. It also implies that the one suffering will be conscious. And John further teaches that this conscious anguish will never end. Who will inhabit the place?

‘But for the cowardly, unbelieving, sinners, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their part is in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’ Revelation 21:8

Hell is here called ‘death’ to denote the eternal conscious separation from God and from everything which is good.

Some suppose that between heaven and hell there is purgatory where those whose lives are neither extremely good nor extremely evil will suffer until they have atoned for their sins at which time they will go to heaven. Pleasing as this idea may be, there is absolutely no mention of purgatory in the Bible.

ETERNAL REWARD

One of the most beautiful descriptions that can be found is that of the eternal home as portrayed in the last two chapters of Revelation. Yet it is impossible for mere words to give an adequate description of the beauties and glories of that home of the soul called heaven.

In heaven is the holy city, the New Jerusalem. It is foursquare, around which is a wall with twelve gates, three on each side. The foundations of the wall also number twelve and are of twelve kinds of precious stones. Each gate is a pearl. There is a street in the city of pure gold appearing as transparent glass.

A river proceeding out of the throne of God runs through the midst of the city. On each side of it is the tree of life which enables one to live forever and which bears twelve kinds of fruit. Since God himself is there we find no temple in that eternal home. But those who are permitted to inhabit it will be privileged to look on the face of God and worship Him.

In contrast with the earth, nothing in heaven is unpleasant or distasteful. There is no sorrow, no pain, no death. The tears shed in this life will all be taken away. It is a place of continual joy and of rest for the weary. The gates of the city are never closed since there is no night there. The New Jerusalem is lighted, not by the sun or moon, but by the glory of God and Christ. And since heaven is eternal and there is no death, there will be no need to reckon time.

Will we know our loved ones in heaven? No passage clearly answers this. Some think that Matthew 8:11 indicates that we will. It reads,

‘I tell you that many will come from the east and the west, and will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven.’

Our resurrection will be in a spiritual body rather than a physical one. 1 Corinthians 15:44

Since none of us has ever seen a spiritual body we cannot know exactly what it is like except that it is incorruptible and will not die. We do know that we will bear the image of Christ.

‘Beloved, now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. But we know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is.’ 1 John 3:2

WHICH WILL BE YOUR CHOICE?

The choice of heaven or hell for your destiny is in your hands. It is the choice of accepting or rejecting Christ. Only faithful Christians will inhabit that eternal home. All others will be consigned to the place of everlasting punishment.

It is our hope that through this series of lessons you have been led to a better understanding of God’s word and that as a result your hope of life everlasting has been made more sure.

Do you have any problems which you feel we might assist you in solving? If so, we stand ready to help you. Let us know if we may be of assistance.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."

Ephesians 3:20

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