In this lesson we want to learn what happens after death, what hell is, and what heaven is.
We first will begin with a study of hell. Read Matthew 13:37-43, “37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 “The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 “The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 “Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 “and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” This is the interpretation of the parable of the tares which is recorded earlier in Matthew 13:24-30. Notice from verse 41 the two kinds of people who will cast into hell: (1) all things that offend and (2) those who practice lawlessness. Jesus teaches us clearly that everyone who does not live by the commands of God will be cast into hell. Also notice how hell is described in verse 42 as “a furnace of fire” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Let us look at another passage where Jesus teaches us about hell. Read Matthew 22:1-14, “1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 “and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 “Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”‘ 5 “But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 “And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7 “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 ‘Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 “So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 “So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
This is the parable of the marriage feast. The first seven verses talk about the Jewish rejection of the gospel. The last seven verses talk about the rest of the world given the opportunity to come to Christ. Some questions and points that need to be noticed from this text in learning about hell:
1. What did the Jews do wrong in verses five and six? We see that the Jews made light of the invitation given by God and decided to follow after their own desires and pay more attention to worldly things. Because of this, God was greatly angered.
2. What was the man who came to the wedding without a wedding garment doing wrong? This man without a wedding garment was not prepared for the feast that the king had prepared.
3. What picture is Jesus giving us about hell in verse 13? Jesus tells us a little more about what hell is like in verse 13. Here we see not only the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” that we saw in the previous scripture, but we also see the description of “outer darkness.”
It is also important to notice from verse 14 that many (the whole world) receives the gospel call, but few are chosen because few will respond by preparing themselves properly for the occasion.
Now read Matthew 25:31-46,“31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Notice that hell was not meant to be for us, but was originally prepared for “the devil and his angels” (verse 41). We also see in this text that hell will last as long as heaven lasts…for eternity (verse 46).
Finally, read Mark 9:43-48, “43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched– 44 where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’ 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched– 46 where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’ 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire– 48 where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'”
Notice that the above passage teaches us that no matter how dear something is to us, if it causes us to stumble, we must cut it off rather than enter into hell. The word Jesus uses for hell is GEHENNA, meaning the valley of Hinnom. In Jesus’ day this valley was a virtual garbage dump south of Jerusalem. The valley had a history of child sacrifice and much uncleanness. Bodies of animals, criminals, and the poor were dumped there. Fires constantly burned and worms constantly fed on the flesh. Jesus says in this passage that hell will be a place like this but different in that the fire will not be quenched and the worm will not die. THIS CERTAINLY SHOWS THE ETERNAL NATURE OF HELL.
Contrary to popular belief, when one dies he does not go straight to heaven or straight to hell. Instead a person goes to Hades (meaning “the unseen”). The Old Testament called it Sheol. This can be seen from the following passages.
Read Luke 16:19-31. “19 There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 “But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 “desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ 27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 ‘for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 “And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'”
Notice in this story that Jesus tells us that both Lazarus and the rich man are in Hades but one is being comforted and the other is being tormented. Lazarus could not come over because there was a great gulf (vs. 26) between the two. We also notice how awful the torment is because the rich man did not want any of his family to come where he was (vs. 27-28).
Now read Acts 2:27: “For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” Also read Luke 23:43, “And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” We see that Jesus went to Hades when he died but he went to the side of comfort, called Paradise. Though when we die, the Bible teaches we will go to Hades if we have been righteous, there is some sense in which we will be with the Lord in Paradise (Philippians 1:23-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8)
Now it is important to understand more clearly what Judgment Day is since it appears that when we die we are already judged as to whether we will go to heaven or hell. Judgment Day is actually a sentencing day in which all the rewards and punishments are handed out. It does appear that there could be varying degrees of punishment in hell, though hell is still eternal for all who go there. The passages in Luke 12:47-48 and Matthew 11:23-24 show this point. Matthew 11:23-24, “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. “But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
It is difficult for us to understand exactly what heaven is like since we cannot visualize a spiritual place. From the following passage, discover for yourself a picture of heaven. Revelation 7:14-17, “And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; “for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” There are many wonderful things about heaven.
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10: “7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.”
According to this passage, those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel will be punished with everlasting destruction. We want to be obedient to all his commands to avoid this punishment and be in heaven with the Lord.