Vol. 11 No. 7 July 2009
That section of Scripture describing the great Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46) ends with, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (46). Every man’s reward will be consistent with his respective works (Matthew 16:27). Our Lord revealed that “there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12:2). Further, no man will be exempt from his day before the throne of God (2 Corinthians 5:10; Acts 17:31). In our brief study of the eternal state of the dead, we shall consider the two possibilities in the order that our Lord used them in Matthew 25:46: (1) everlasting punishment (Hell) and (2) eternal life (Heaven).
Seemingly inconsistent with His reputation as, no doubt, the most loving man history is the frequency of His mention and description of Hell. In eleven texts Jesus used the word Gehenna, rightly translated “hell.” It is only used by one other New Testament writer, James, half brother of Jesus. Undeniably, the most loving man of all time said more about hell than any other New Testament writer. Gary Workman commented:
The original and predominant New Testament term for “hell” is the Greek word geena. It represents the Aramaic expression ge hinnom, meaning “valley of Hinnom” (Neh. 11:30; cf. Josh. 15:8), and for this reason the word is commonly transliterated in English as Gehenna. This was a valley on the south side of Jerusalem where, during idolatrous periods under Ahaz and Manasseh, the Jews had caused their children to be burned as sacrifices to the god Molech or Moloch (II Chr. 28:3; 33:6). …the area became known as a place to be abhorred…It was renamed by Jeremiah as “the valley of Slaughter” in a prophecy that associated it with punishment to be brought upon Jerusalem (Jer. 7:31; 19:6)…the name Gehenna began to appear in Jewish literature as a term for the place of final punishment (Workman, Is There An Eternal Hell?, 30).
Additionally, the Lord’s description of this eternal abode of the wicked is more terrifying and more vivid than any other inspired person’s description of Hell. Some, said He, would be resurrected unto “condemnation” (John 5:29). Many of His parables were occupied with descriptions of this place of condemnation. In His Parable of the Dragnet, Jesus concluded, “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:49-50).
Jesus described Hell as the place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-44). These words are a quotation from the last verse in the Book of Isaiah. The thought conveyed is that under normal circumstances, the flesh of the dead would be eaten by worms and when the flesh had been consumed completely, the worms would die. In that the worms do not die, the flesh is never completely consumed, hence an eternal punishment in an unquenchable fire.
In His teaching regarding Hell, seven times Jesus stated that those in Hell would experience “the weeping and gnashing of teeth” (cf. Luke 13:28) being “cast out into outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). To be “cast out” means to be eternally separated from the presence of God and all of the blessing that He bestows (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Matthew 7:23; 25:41). Perhaps an example of this “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is seen in the hopeless pleading of the rich man of Luke Sixteen. Those in Hell will forever be exiled from God and continually weeping and gnashing their teeth in their eternal reward. For such, “it would be good if he had never been born” (Mark 14:21).
Though the road to Hell is busily traveled upon by the majority of mankind, there are many who will receive a reward far beyond our finite comprehension, an eternal home with God in Heaven. One of the premiere and perhaps most loved and quoted passages is the one of our Lord’s comforting words to His apostles in John Fourteen. Truly, among the sweetest words Jesus ever spoke most have been—“I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The worst thing about Hell is one of the greatest things about Heaven, namely, its eternality. Whereas the fires of Hell are never quenched, the happiness of Heaven never ceases. Peter revealed that the child of God would receive “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).
That place is a place where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Paul wrote, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). In the last chapter of the Book of Hebrews, Paul stated, “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
In our feeble efforts to explore this grand topic, we have noticed, according to God’s inspired Word, the three states of man’s conscious existence: (1) fleshly, (2) intermediate and (3) eternal. Without a knowledge of the eternal punishment of sin and the eternal reward for those covered by the blood of the sinless Son of God, one could scarcely appreciate how terrible his sin must be and how truly glorious and loving our Savior is. Our Lord came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He was “made to be sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), “once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). The eternal destinies of men are fixed only after death or the Second Coming of Christ. In our sometimes-incapable hands is laid the opportunity to decide upon the fate that will be ours for all of eternity (Joshua 2415). Choose wisely!