There are many ideas about what happens when we die. Some say we are all annihilated, some that we all go to heaven. Others believe in a place where sinful souls are prepared for heaven. But nothing in the Bible supports any of these ideas.
Instead, we read this: man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement (Hebrews 9:27). Those in a right relationship with God will then be welcomed into heaven, to spend eternity in his glorious presence. All others will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:9). The Bible’s most common word for this is ‘hell’. Here are four important truths about it:
Hell is factual. It is not something ‘invented by the church’. The Bible says more about hell than it does about heaven and leaves no doubt about its reality. It speaks of people being condemned to hell and thrown into hell (Matthew 23:33; Matthew 5:29).
Hell is fearful. It is described in the Bible as a place of torment; a fiery furnace; a place of everlasting burning and unquenchable fire (Luke 16:28; Matthew 13:42; Isaiah 33:14; Matthew 3:12). It is a place of suffering, with weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 22:13) and in which there is no rest day or night (Revelation 14:11). These are terrible words, but they are true. Those in hell are cut off from all good, cursed by God and banished from even the smallest help or comfort that his presence brings.
Hell is final. All the roads to hell are one way streets. There is no exit. Between hell and heaven a great chasm has been fixed (Luke 16:26). The horror, loneliness and agony of hell are not in order to purify but to punish — for ever!
Hell is fair. The Bible tells us that God will judge the world with justice (Acts 17:31), and he is perfectly just in sending sinners to hell. After all, he is giving them what they have chosen. They reject God here; he rejects them there. They choose to live ungodly lives; he confirms their choice — for ever. God can hardly be accused of injustice or unfairness!
In the light of these terrible truths, you need to think very carefully about a question once put to a group of people in the New Testament: How will you escape belong condemned to hell (Matthew 23:33)?