The hope of almost all religious bodies is eternal life (that is, life after death). Very few religious bodies and individuals believe that life ends here on earth. In Christianity, eternal life is divided into two, eternal bliss in heaven and damnation in hell and this will come after God’s judgement on the deeds of man on earth. This is why the scripture states:
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
(Heb. 9:27, NKJV).
And Jesus, God’s appointed judge said,
… and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation
(John 5:27-30, NKJV).
The problem in the subject is that since no living person has ever being to or sees heaven and hell, many concepts have been developed to prove the existence, non-existence and the process of entry into these two final destinations of the soul of man. Some questioned how the dead would be punished when he has no knowledge on earth. It is necessary to state that the Bible teaches that a man is triune being that is made of body, soul and spirit.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
(1 Thess. 5:23, NKJV)
The body was made of dust and it returned to the dust at the death of man, it houses that dictates what it dust. This flesh cannot enter the Kingdom of God (I Cor. 15:50). The Bible explains,
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens
(II Cor. 5:1, NKJV)
The soul is the accounting officers of the being man, it is the image of God and lives after dead in hades. It is the soul that will face judgement.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad
(2 Cor. 5:10).
The spirit is the part of God that was given to him at creation. It works to the guide the soul (conscience) to take decisions that are in line with the word of God. It is with both believers and unbelievers that why the unbeliever will be hunted of the sins he commit. When man dies the spirit returns to God.
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it
These explanations disabuse the theory of “Man die go” and total annihilation of the unrighteous after dead and affirms the statement of Christ earlier read in John 5:27-29. It is important for us to examine other ideologies concerning heaven, hell judgement and eternal life.
Heaven is described as the final dwelling place of the righteous where there will be no more pains, sorrows or death.
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And 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
(Rev. 21:3-4, NKJV).
The scripture affirms the faithful Christian are spiritual citizens of this abode
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself
(Phil. 3:20-21, NKJV).
Hell is described as a place of eternal punishment where there will be wailing, crying and gnashing of teeth for the unrighteous. It is a place that would burn with unquenchable fire. Jesus saw it as place a person needs to dread and admonished,
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 where ‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’ 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 — where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 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 — where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’
(Mark 9:43-48, NKJV).
Paul also said;
Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 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. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
(II Thess. 1:6-9, NKJV)
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever
(Rev. 20:10, NKJV)
God is the only one that would commit people into Hell.
However, many have argued that since heaven is the throne of God, How then the scripture says that He will destroy it. Where will God be if this is true? This statement is adduced from the admonition of Peter in II Peter 3:7
“But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the Day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men”
These people advanced their argument that God will neither destroy the earth nor the heavens because they have not offended Him. They submit that God would only destroy the wicked from earth and thereby turn it to the “Edenic” paradise for the righteous. They Compare their notes with some prophetic passages like (Psalm 37:9; Matt. 5:5) etc. This assertion arose from the inability of people to study the scripture and understand the various root word that have the same interpretation.
There are three substances that have been interpreted as heaven (this followed the usages by the Jews). These are the air (firmament), sidereal (the heavenly bodies like the sky, star, sun, moon, etc.) and the abode of God. Let us see some Biblical example.
i) The air (firmament) “Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they?”(Matt. 6:26, see also 8:20; James 5:18; Acts 10:12 ASV).
Note that the King James Version used the word air in these passages.
ii) The sidereal (sky, sun, moon etc.) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35, see also 24:29; Mark 13:25; Heb. 11:12, etc).
iii) Dwelling place of God “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16 see also 12:50; Rev. 16:11 etc.).
The Hebrew and Greek words Gehenna, Tartarus, Sheol and Hades are being interpreted Hell by some translators. This has also created confusion on the existence of hell. Let see the different usages and their interpretation from the scriptures.
– Gehenna is place of eternal destruction as recorded in Matt. 10:28
– Hades is regarded and abode of departed soul “ “ Matt. 16:18 being interpreted sheol and pit. It is hell, in some passages of the Old and New Testaments which does not rhyme with root word e.g. Psalm 16:10.
– Sheol sometimes interpreted as hell or hades is grave or pit.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to Sheol, to the uttermost parts of the pit
Tartarus which is sometimes interpreted hell
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment
(II Peter 2:4).
He did not mean destroying the heaven, the throne of God, but the firmaments, the heavenly bodies and everything that the earth made up will be destroyed at the judgement day. This goes ahead to prove that heaven and hell is real.
Another misconception about the judgement of God and eternal life is the idea that selected believers will go to heaven while the rest will be on earth. This also comes from the facts that many people do not understand the symbolic writing of the book of Revelation. The 144000 people mentioned in chapter 7 represent the entire righteous and faithful Christians in the entire world. Verse 9 of the same chapter confirms this.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
It is not limited to the physical Israel as some people assumed. Let me mention at this point that the Jews consider the number 12 and it multiples as divine, this why we had the twelve tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles of Christ, the 24 elders around the throne of God, etc. The number 10 and it multiples indicate increase or exalted. The 144000 therefore means divine and exalted people. To further comprehend this chapter the roll call of the tribes of Israel mentioned excluded the tribe of Dan which is being substituted with the tribe of Manasseh, the son of Joseph.
Scriptures early read which says it appointed for man to die once after that the judgement. It equally renders doctrine of rapture.
Evangelist Emmanuel Inyang is the Minister, Church of Christ, 144 Aka Road, Uyo.
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