Heaven & Hell: Do these places exist?
It has been said that there is much more about hell than heaven in the Bible. Unfortunately, most people do not seem to spend much time thinking about either place. Their focus is primarily on the “here and now.” Many do not seem to believe there is an afterlife of any kind. But what does God tell us about all this? We are informed by God’s Word that there will be three eternal dwelling places for man: the new heavens, the new earth and the lake of fire. Each of us will spend eternity in one of the three, all being dependent upon decisions we make during our lifetime here on earth. Although they are all mentioned in various places of the Bible, there is one passage of Scripture that mentions all three.
Revelation 20:15; 21:1
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. [Emphasis added]
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. [Emphasis added]
From the time of the creation God provided earth for His people. And for a time, man had complete dominion over the earth.
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. [Emphasis added]
However, when Adam, the first man, sinned, he lost control of the earth. But that will change in the coming earthly kingdom God will provide. If Israel had accepted Jesus as her Messiah during His earthly ministry, it would have happened in the first century. Jesus clearly stated that the kingdom He had come to provide was “at hand.” But because Israel rejected Him as her Messiah, it has been put off to a future day. So far around 2,000 years have elapsed since that time. Nevertheless, there will be a day when a portion of God’s people will “inherit the earth.”
The Earthly Hope
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
That day is surely coming! No one knows when, but we can be assured that the day will come when this promise will be fulfilled. What this means is that a portion of God’s people will dwell in an earthly kingdom. At the time Christ spoke these words, they were even told to pray for it.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come
,. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
This new earthly kingdom is not promised for today, but for regenerate Israel in a future day. For us, God has provided a “heavenly hope.”
The Heavenly Hope
To the church called the Body of Christ, God has promised a heavenly hope. Jesus Christ is already there! As believers today, even though we will someday dwell there physically, we are told that positionally we’re there with Him right now because of our union with Him. A believer gains that union and that status today the moment they are saved, having accepted the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as the basis for their salvation.
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: [Emphasis added]
It is what is called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, a dry baptism, that positionally put us there with Him now. Anytime anyone today accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior, they are immediately identified with Him forever. That identification is one of the baptisms spoken of in Scripture.
I Corinthians 12:12-13
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
The Apostle Paul tells us that although we still reside here on earth, we are now citizens of heaven.
20 For our conversation [our citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. [Emphasis added]
The day will come when suddenly we will be transformed, gaining a resurrection body like that of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We have the opportunity to encourage and comfort others with this truth.
I Thessalonians 4:16-18
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
What you have just read is a description of what is called the Rapture. It is the occasion when we as believers in this which is called the Dispensation of Grace will receive a resurrection body. We will then get to reside in that body in heaven forever. What a wonderful source of confidence that is! All others will end up in a place where there is no hope at all.
The Place of No Hope
The one who does not accept God’s provision for his salvation has nothing to look forward to in eternity. He will know only extreme suffering forever. He will spend eternity in “the lake of fire,” also referred to as “hell.”
The word Jesus used to describe it was Gehenna which literally means “the valley of Hinnom.” This was a valley located right outside the walls of Jerusalem. It was the location of the city garbage dump. The fires burned there constantly.
44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
Our Lord used this place as a visual to help people see something of what hell would look like. Originally hell was created for Satan, the devil.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: [Emphasis added.]
This place is also spoken of in the book of Revelation. In the context, it is speaking of those unbelievers who received “the mark of the beast” during the time of what is called “the tribulation,” a seven–year period before Jesus Christ comes back to the earth.
11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. [Emphasis added.]
However, as the Apostle Paul comforts the Thessalonian believers, we too should be comforted by his words.
II Thessalonians 1:7-9
7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; [Emphasis added.]
All this is to serve as a warning to those who would turn from God and His grace, refusing to accept His provision for their salvation. That provision rests in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Accept it today and you will never have to worry about ever entering such a place as the lake of fire. Heaven will be your new home forever.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added.]
I pray you will accept by faith this message today so that you will get to spend all eternity in a wonderful place called heaven.
Resurrection: Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead?