On Hell and death

God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment… 2 Peter 2:4

Hell is a scary place, and if there is a chance that it is a real place, then you certainly want to avoid it.  The bible says that we should fear this place, and that we should fear the judgment of God (Mt 10:28). God is a God of love and He is very good, but look at what the bible says:

“Behold the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness: otherwise you also shall be cut off.” Romans 11:22

God is good, but He is also very severe.  He isn’t the pansy, squishy Jesus that some people picture Him as.  He’s not afraid to pour out His wrath on those that forge on against Him.  He hates evil and will punish those who continue in it hardheartedly.  But, of course, He is forgiving to those who repent and turn from evil.

Hell is the reality of God’s severity.  It’s a place where eternal souls are tormented and reserved until the day of Judgment when ‘death and hell [will deliver] up the dead which are in them.’  And they shall be judged.  And then ‘death and hell and whoever was not found written in the book of life [will be] cast into the lake of fire.’  That is the same lake of fire where Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet will be (Rev 20:12-15, 10).

Hell may not be pleasant to think about, but it is a necessary place.  It is a place that seems to be originally created for the devil and his angels, but now is also used for evil men.  Matthew 25:41 says, “Then [God] will also say to those on the left hand (those who refused to help the needy), ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels…”  Also, our title scripture (2 Peter 2:4) talks about Hell holding the angels that sinned.

Even though God desires that ‘none should perish,’ the stubborn hearts of men force Him to carry out righteous judgment. He takes no pleasure in carrying out judgment (Ez 33:11), He would much rather us turn from our ways and live.

Personally, I use the reality of Hell as a motivator.  Sometimes, when I’m tempted to do I evil, I begin to think about hell.  I don’t think the fear of hell should be our primary sin deterrent, but more as a finally resort when our other defenses have failed us.  When the temptation to sin is strong, I say, “No devil, I don’t want to go swimming with you in the lake of fire. No thanks!”

Hell is the place where the ungodly will be tormented with fire. They will have no rest day or night and the smoke of their torments will rise for ever and ever (Rev. 14:11).  Hell is the place where the fire is not quenched and the worm does not die (Mk 9:44).  Herod’s flesh was eaten by worms and he died – and the worms died (Acts 12:23), but in hell neither you nor the worms die.  The torment is forever and ever.

Hell is the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt 13:41-42).  You’ll gnash your teeth in anger, but you’ll weep in remorse as you think of how it’s your own stubbornness that brought you to that place.

The lake of fire is an eternal punishment, just like heaven is an eternal reward and rest.  Daniel says about the resurrections: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2)  The same eternalness applies to both. We want to be a part of the first resurrection. The bible says ‘Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power.” (Rev 20:6)  But the second death DOES have power over those who are a part of the second resurrection: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Rev 20:14)

Some people mistake the word ‘death’ for annihilation.  But death does not mean annihilation, but separation.  God told Adam that he would die if he ate of the fruit of the tree.  But when Adam ate it, he didn’t fall over dead and cease to exist. No, Adam died spiritually. His spirit was separated from God.  The same is true with spiritually dead people today. They have no union with God. But we as Christians are one with the Lord (1 co 6:17).

Even so, when we die physically, we are not annihilated, but separated from our bodies. Look at what James said, “as the body without the spirit is dead…” (James 2:26)  The body is dead because the spirit has been separated from it.  When Stephen died he said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit (Acts 7:59),” thus indicating that he was leaving his body and his spirit was departing to heaven.  Paul also said, “knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord,” and, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (2 Co 5:6,8).”

So when you die, your body and spirit separate and your spirit departs to either heaven or hell.  The story of the rich man and Lazarus lay this out clearly.

“So it was that the beggar (Lazarus) died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried . And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes…” Luke 16:22-23.  Notice that the rich man’s body was buried, but that he also was in Hades (Hell).  His body went to the ground. His spirit went to Hell.  All of this lines up perfectly with the rest of the bible.

Some people teach that our spirit sleeps with our body in the ground rather then departing to heaven or hell, but I don’t see that in the bible.  There are biblical references to people ‘falling asleep,’ but it is really just another word for dieing.  Look at what Jesus said about the other Lazarus in Jn 11:11, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.”  When the disciples mistook this for regular sleep He made it plain for them: “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead (v.14).”

The reason bible refers to people ‘sleeping’ when referring to death is because people who sleep eventually wake up.  This is a reference to the bodily resurrections that I have already spoke about.  It means that eventually our bodies will rise up again.  This makes sense when you compare it to all the scriptures that talk about the body and the spirit being separated at death.  Paul talked about it in 1 Thessalonians 4:

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”

When you marry this scripture with the others, it’s easy to see that Paul is talking about the bodily resurrection.

One last scripture about this subject should help understand this. Look at the story of when Elijah raised a boy from the dead:

“And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.’ Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.” 1 Kings 17:21-22.

The boy’s soul left, and then it returned.

I said all that to say that when we die, we instantly depart to heaven or to hell.  Our body sleeps until the resurrection.

So lets be like Paul and say, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.” – Phil 1