Sunday, December 20, 2020

What is biblical heaven and what is biblical hell?

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” -
Revelation 22:1-5 ESV 

Today we address our final question of our God Questions, Real Answers series. The question was this: “What is biblical heaven and what is biblical hell?”

There are many common misconceptions about heaven and hell in our world today. Many think of hell as some sort of party, where it’s gonna be awesome, and people think of heaven as angels floating on clouds playing harps. People think hell isn’t real. Others think heaven isn’t real. Some think all people will go to heaven no matter what, others believe that there is no heaven or hell and when we die we simply disappear.

Well let’s push past these stereotypes and false conclusions and see if we can understand these issues from an objective biblical perspective.

For us as humans born on the planet Earth, we have two possible destinations after we die. And our lives are very short on this Earth. Most of us will only live 70 or 80 years. But that’s a very short time compared to how long we will spend in the next life.

There are only two destinations available to us. On the one hand, you have paradise, a perfect city of joy, love, and eternal happiness. In communion with God and others, where this is no more death or pain or sorrow. Best possible future imaginable to end up there.

The other option is the worst possible fate. The worst possible place to end up in. Hell, a place described as underneath the Earth, locked away, in pain, sorrow, isolation, and constant pain. No connections with others. No presence of God. Simply flames, and regret, and pain.

I will tell you that both these places are 100% real. You will live in one of them forever. Once you land in one of these places, there is no way to switch between them. Heaven is permanent and hell is permanent.

You will still be you. You’ll be conscious. You’ll have your senses. And you will either experience eternal connection with God in paradise, or eternal disconnection from God in constant suffering. The stakes right now are very high.

The Bible has a lot to say about heaven and hell. Let’s look at heaven first.

Revelation 21:1-5 ESV Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

So when we talk about this idea of quote “heaven” what we’re really talking about is the new heavens and new Earth. This current Earth is a broken mess, God will remove and replace it with the new Earth. And a new city will be there, created by God, called “the new Jerusalem.” It’s a huge city. The bible actually lists the dimensions of the city. It’s about the size of 1/3rd of the united states, if you were to look at a map of the USA, it would be from Florida, up to Ohio, across to Iowa and down to Texas. That’s a pretty big city. And it actually has many levels, because it’s 1,500 miles across, and wide, but also 1500 miles high. Hard to imagine just how amazing this city will be.

If you follow Jesus, have faith in Christ, and have repented and turned away from past sins, you are headed to that city.

But if you don’t believe in Jesus, if you don’t follow Jesus’ lifestyle, and if you are living in your sins, then you are not headed to the new Jerusalem. You are headed to the other place, called hell.

And I would add, if you are a Christian who is living in sin, still getting drunk, using drugs, lying, cheating, stealing, swearing, not tithing, which is stealing from God, etc, you are also not headed to new Jerusalem. You are also headed to hell.

So, let’s take a look at the other place.

And this is what Jesus said about hell, warning all people not to go there, he said, “Mark 9:43-48 “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

Jesus warns us very severely, don’t go to hell, if your are in sin, cut it off, get rid of it.

Now let’s look briefly at a parable Jesus taught. He said this, from Luke 16:19-25 “19 Jesus said, “There was a rich man who always dressed in the finest clothes. 20 There was also a very poor man named Lazarus. Lazarus’ body was covered with sores. He was often put by the rich man’s gate. 21 Lazarus wanted only to eat the scraps of food left on the floor under the rich man’s table.

22 “Later, Lazarus died. The angels took him and placed him in the arms of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 He was sent to the place of death and was in great pain. He saw Abraham far away with Lazarus in his arms. 24 He called, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me! Send Lazarus to me so that he can dip his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am suffering in this fire!’

25 “But Abraham said, ‘My child, remember when you lived? You had all the good things in life. But Lazarus had nothing but problems. Now he is comforted here, and you are suffering. 26 Also, there is a big pit between you and us. No one can cross over to help you, and no one can come here from there.”

So we see that this rich man who cared nothing about poor Lazarus died, and went to hell. And he was in fire, and in torment, and in hell there is no water, yet he still had his senses and desire of thirst. So he’s calling out for just a drop of water, but it’s too late for him. He’s conscious, he’s aware, and he’s in fire, he’s in total suffering. He lived a lavish, rich life, and cared nothing for the poor, or for God, and so he went to the place of outer darkness.

Hell is like a place to quarantine those who refuse faith in Christ. A place to quarantine those who refuse to leave their sins. There is no place for sin in the new heavens and new earth. So those humans who refuse the free offer of salvation found in Jesus, must be quarantined, away from the holy city, in this place of darkness.

In conclusion today, that is a very brief look at biblical heaven and biblical hell. But there are dozens and dozens of scriptures that give us hints and clues about heaven and hell. Do more research on your own.

So today brothers and sisters, please, put your faith in Christ, and set aside your past sins. All you have to do is believe in Jesus, and repent, and you will have eternal life.

Come be part of God’s new heavens and new Earth. In the new city of God. It’s the place I long to be, forever. Consider it’s beauty:

Revelation 21:21-25 ESV And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.