In the previous THOUGHT I examined some unbiblical ideas concerning the afterlife that allow most, if not all, to reside in heaven, or some place of bliss after death. With this THOUGHT I want to examine the 2 eternal destinations that the Bible declares are the only possibilities for mankind after death.
For the believer in Jesus Christ who lives in this dispensation of time, when death occurs the soul/spirit departs from their body and is immediately with Jesus Christ in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8). There is no intermediate state such as purgatory, nor can there be. If Jesus paid for all of man’s sins with His blood on Calvary’s cross, then there is no need for any type of cleansing from any kind of sin. Either Jesus paid it all or He didn’t.
Heaven is also an actual place, not simply a state of mind or metaphysical existence. It is the place from where Jesus “came down” in His incarnation (John 3:13) and to where He ascended after His resurrection (Acts 1:11). It is there that God, while being omnipresent, perfectly manifests His presence. It is there that the departed soul/spirit of the believer will rest, awaiting the resurrection of the body. This necessitates that the believer is in a conscious state in heaven. The Apostle Paul was desirous of death which would put him in the presence of Jesus Christ, which he said was “far better” than his present experience (Philippians 1:23). In like manner, the repentant thief on the cross next to Jesus was promised paradise. How can paradise be paradise if it cannot be experienced?
For the person who is not born again, having never wholly trusted in the salvation provided by Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross, their soul/spirit immediately is transported to a place called hades (Greek) in the New Testament or sheol (Hebrew) in the Old Testament. The King James translation usually translates these words as “hell”, which should not be understood as a final destination, but a holding place until the Great White Throne judgment (which shall be addressed, Lord willing, in next week’s THOUGHT). It is a place from which there is no escape. It is also a place of torments including fire. In the same manner as the righteous who are consciously able to experience paradise, unbelievers will consciously experience suffering (Luke 16:22-26). I often hear someone say that should they end up in hell, they will at least have a bunch of friends there which, somehow, will make the experience bearable. While it may be true that many of their friends will occupy hell with them, it will be to no avail for them. In that hell is called a place of “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30), it precludes the possibility of any benefit of the fellowship of friends.
Another saying commonly heard after the death of a person who dealt with a physical affliction at the end of their life is that, “They are suffering no more.” If they had trusted Christ for salvation during their lifetime, that would be absolutely true. However, if they passed into death without Christ, their suffering increased exponentially. Our eternal destination is a matter of our choice. The one who comes to God through the salvation provided by Jesus Christ is promised heaven. The one who rejects the blood of Calvary’s cross chooses hell.