What happens to us after we die? This is a common question we start to ask in childhood and continue to ponder throughout our lives. Unfortunately, there are so many different views on heaven and hell while some question if there is life after death at all.
After reading the Bible, God’s infallible word, and consulting other biblical research, I can definitively conclude that hell is for real. With this conclusion grounded in truth, I cannot remain silent on the real implications hell has on real people around us, even ourselves.
As we consider the real implications hell has on our destinies, we must consider three truths Jesus explained in the New Testament:
- “Hell is a place of punishment after judgment
- Hell is described in imagery of fire and darkness, where people lament
- Hell is a place of annihilation or never ending punishment” (Chan & Sprinkle, p.74).
The most clear and detailed example of judgment is found in Matthew 25:31-46. When you read this section of scripture it reveals that judgment day happens when Jesus Christ returns. Jesus will separate the believers from the non-believers just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The believers will receive eternal life and the non-believers will receive eternal punishment (Matt 25:46). Knowing there is a pending judgment day for each of our souls should influence how we live today. Jesus is a loving God who spoke strongly and explicitly about hell. I believe that he spoke so strongly about hell because of His love for us. He is lovingly warning us of the coming judgment and punishment.
Eternal punishment is hell. Jesus described hell using the imagery of fire and darkness (Chan & Sprinkle, p. 76). Often, He referred to hell as a fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For instance, Jesus speaks these words in Matthew 13:49-50, “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 fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The imagery describing hell is found in several areas of scripture. Two things in particular are obvious, there will be a separation between the righteous and the wicked and there is a real destination for both of those groups.
Once we accept that hell is a real destination, many wonder “How long will it last?” Hell is everlasting. Forever. Eternal.
Matthew 25:41 explains, “Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” In verse 46, Jesus says, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (emphasis mine).
As Jesus refers to “hell” or “the fiery furnace” or “everlasting fire,” He refers to a place of retribution, a place where sinners will be punished for their sins (Chan & Sprinkle, p. 84).
The good news is we have a choice. God sent Jesus to rescue us from ourselves, our sin, and eternal punishment. Jesus received our retribution for sin through His death on the cross. When we follow Jesus our hearts are changed and our debt is paid. Really, this leaves all of us at a decision point. Will we chose to follow Jesus, the loving God that warns us of our punishment and even pays that debt, or not?
Sprinkle, P. & Chan, F. (2011). Erasing Hell: what God said about eternity, and the things we’ve made up. Colorado Springs: Co, David C Cook.