Should I have a funeral?

Funerals seem to be decreasing in popularity. Instead of a funeral families are frequently opting to not have a service of any kind, to limit the service to a brief time at the graveside, to hold a family gathering to scatter the ashes or to have a “celebration of life”. Are funerals important? Does the Bible teach that people should have funerals?

The Bible does not depict any funeral service as we would know it today. Scripture does describe various aspects of the rituals and ceremonies observed during times of death. A summary of the Biblical data reveals that the deceased were generally treated with respect. The body was buried relatively quickly. The New Testament describes the first century practice of wrapping the body and covering it in spices. Acts 9 tells of Dorcas’ body being laid out in an upper chamber prior to her burial. These rituals followed the practices of the culture, not the instructions of the Bible. The Bible does not command the observance of any specific ritual or the holding of special services when someone dies.

Death is a recurring theme in the Bible. Though the Bible does not give any specific instructions regarding what kind of service should be held after someone’s decease it does give many principles that should guide the Christian’s thinking about funerals.

Most important is the Biblical truth that every person is an immortal being comprised of a body and soul. Though the body has died, the spirit remains. The person is an eternal being who has entered into an eternal existence. Only the Word of God can teach man what happens in eternity. The funeral provides an opportunity to share the truths of Scripture. The funeral interrupts the daily barrage of the fleshly and the worldly to remind people of the spiritual and heavenly.

The Bible also says that the wise man considers the short span of life. I suspect the tendency to do away with funerals is a part of the culture’s tendency to avoid anything that is painful or negative. Most people do not like to consider the end of life so they do away with those things which remind them of it. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4) Psalm 90 says “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” (Psalm 90:10, 12)

Funerals remind us that mourning and weeping are fine. Grief is painful and sorrow is unpleasant but they are not wrong. Tears bring healing to the wounded heart. The wise man recognizes there is profit to be found in grief. The wise man learns wisdom by considering how short life is. A funeral is not required by the Bible yet most times a funeral is to be preferred. The funeral offers a chance to somberly consider the realities of life and death. By grieving together, remembering together and being comforted together with the truths of God’s Word a good funeral can give lasting benefit to those left behind.

Why is the resurrection so important?

Christianity stands unique among all the religions of the world. Only Christianity claims that it’s God became human, died and then returned to life. The claim that Jesus rose from the dead is one celebrated and remembered every Sunday of the year by Christian churches all across the world. The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in all human history. The resurrection of Jesus is the seminal moment in all Christianity. That event changed everything. The New Testament is filled with declarations that Jesus died and then rose again. The resurrection is explained in all four gospels and the book of Acts. Jesus’ resurrection is expressly taught in many of the epistles and in the book of Revelation. The resurrection of Jesus is a crucial truth on which Biblical Christianity is built. Without the resurrection there is no Biblical Christianity. Without the resurrection there is no forgiveness of sin. Without the resurrection there is no eternal life. Without the resurrection, God is a liar, Jesus is a fraud and every gospel preacher is a charlatan.

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the gospel is a lie. “And if Christ be not dead, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian life is pointless and worthless. “What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian has no hope of eternal life. “And if Christ be not raised, then they which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-18)

The resurrection is important because it is the ultimate display of the power of God that is now at work in the believer. (“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.” Ephesians 1:19-20)

The resurrection is important because it is the evidence that Jesus is God the Son and Savior just as He claimed and as the Bible declares. “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.” (John 2:18-22)

The resurrection is important because it is the powerful declaration that Jesus is God. “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead:” (Romans 1:3-4)

The resurrection is important because if it is untrue, God’s Word is a lie. “We are false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:15)

The resurrection is the lynchpin on which all the gospel hangs, the certification that all the gospel promises are true and the certainty that God is true. Rejoice every Sunday in the remembrance of the risen Savior.

Are the people in heaven watching us?

A popular country song from the 80’s says there are holes in the floor of heaven. Our loved ones in heaven are peering down through heaven’s (apparently) half rotten flooring to see what we are doing on the earth. (By the way, I can say with absolute certainty that no one in heaven is wishing she could be here on earth with us.) What does the Bible teach about those in heaven? Do they know what is happening on the earth? Are they watching their friends and family?

The people in heaven appear to be aware of some events that happen on earth. In Luke 15:10 Jesus tells the Pharisees that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.” It seems like Jesus is saying that believers who have died rejoice when someone on earth is saved. If so, then they are aware of some of what is going on in the earth.

This does not mean our loved ones in heaven spend a great amount of time watching us. Deceased Christians do not become guardian angels for their loved ones. That notion is more spiritistic than Biblical. The Bible has very few references to believers in heaven now. In Luke 16 Jesus tells of a man who died and went to heaven. In heaven he was receiving comfort and would not return to the earth.

The book of Revelation says the most about Christians in heaven. Everything it says describes believers as surrounding the throne of God worshiping Him. It seems that those in heaven are focused entirely on the glory of God.

Hymn writer Fanny Crosby described the focus of all in heaven with her hymn “My Savior First of All”.

Oh, the dear ones in glory, how they beckon me to come,
And our parting at the river I recall;
To the sweet vales of Eden they will sing my welcome home;
But I long to meet my Savior first of all.

Oh, the soul-thrilling rapture when I view His blessed face,
And the luster of His kindly beaming eye;
How my full heart will praise Him for the mercy, love and grace,
That prepare for me a mansion in the sky.

Aside from rejoicing at the salvation of souls nothing in the Bible indicates deceased believers are watching or are even deeply interested in what is going on in the lives of family and friends on earth.

 

Is Annihilationism Biblical?

In May National Geographic published an article entitled “The Campaign to Eliminate Hell”. The tagline reads, “A new generation of evangelical scholars are challenging the idea that sinners are doomed to eternal torment—but traditionalists are pushing back.” Annihilationism is the teaching that sometime in the future the condemned will be completely destroyed, body and soul. The historic evangelical doctrine has been that those who die without having received Jesus for salvation will suffer forever physical and spiritual torment in the lake of fire. Annihiliationism teaches that the unsaved will not suffer forever, but at some time will entirely cease from existing. Though some well known evangelical leaders have held to annihilationism, very few evangelical Christians believe the teachings of annihilationism.

The Bible states that those who suffer in hell will do so forever. Jesus describes hell as a place where, “The worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Those who have rejected Jesus will, “go away unto everlasting punishment”. (Matthew 25:46) Reading these statements would lead one naturally to believe the suffering of the lost has no end. Annihilationists seek to explain these passages as metaphorical descriptions of the greatness of the suffering of the unsaved or as teaching that the result of God’s judgment are eternal effects but the punishment itself is not eternal. The biggest problem with reading these passages in this way is the significant similarity between the warnings of eternal suffering and the promises of eternal joy. If the lost in hell will not suffer everlasting torment, then why should anyone believe the saved in heaven will enjoy everlasting bliss. The annihilationists cannot consistently define words like eternal and everlasting. They must define them one way when describing punishment and another when decscribing salvation.

Some arguments for annihilation are based on a misdefinition of death. Most people view death as a ending of life. Medically speaking life is over, death occurs, when the heart stops and the brain ceases to function. The Bible does not define death according to that modern, medical perspective. Death as used in the Bible is a separation. When Adam and Eve sinned they died. They died on the day of their sin just as God had warned. They suffered the first death in being physically and spiritually separated from God, the author and sustainer of life. The end result of the first death, separation from God, was physical death, separation from physical life. The person dies when the spirit and body are separated. This is why the Bible often speaks of death as “giving up the ghost”. When the spirit and the body are separated the person is physically dead. The eternal punishment for sin is called the second death. The condemned dead in the modern sense of ceasing to have existence, they are dead in the Biblical sense of separated from the presence of God. (2 Thes. 1:9) The unsaved are eternally separated from God and thus they are eternally dead.

Annihilation is emotionally easier to accept than eternal torment. The idea that God would remove His offending creature from existence is easier to accept than the idea that God would punish them forever. Appealing or not, the Biblical doctrine is that the unsaved will suffer God’s wrath, actively and consciously, for all eternity. Annihilationism is not a Biblical doctrine. Historically this doctrine has had very few defenders and discerning Christians today should reject it as contrary to the plain meaning of Scriptures.

Should Christians cremate their loved ones?

Europeans and Americans have long placed great importance on burying the bodies of their dead. Even in times of war or great poverty the energy was invested to inter the body. Rich and poor alike sought to give their loved ones a proper burial. America’s west in the late 1800’s illustrates the importance that was placed on interring the body. A man could be gunned down in the streets of a western town, unknown to any one, but someone would dig him a grave. Boot Hill may have been filled with anonymous cowboys, but even the most despised were given a “decent burial”.

Over the last several decades America has seen a steady increase of the number of cremations. Some statistics show that nearly half of all deceased are cremated. For Christians considering what to do with the body of their loved ones this can be a difficult decision at a very difficult time. To make this matter even more challlenging the Bible does not give any commands for or against burning the bodies of the dead.

This does not mean the Bible is silent on death and burial. The Bible consistently shows burial as the standard practice of the people of God. Multiple examples of this could be given, starting with Abraham and ending with Jesus. Clearly burial was the normal practice of all those in the Bible. Burning of bodies is only mentioned a few times in the Old Testament and is always associated with judgment. Achan was burned after being stoned to death for his disobedience to God’s command to not take anything from the city of Jericho. The book of Leviticus prescribed two cases when a person’s body was to be burned and both were commanded as part of punishment for specific sins.

The example of the Old Testament must be considered by the Christian. Burial was the normal practice of the Old and New Testaments saints but that does not necessarily mean the Bible teaches burial is the only permissible treatment of a dead body. Generally those who oppose cremation offer theological reasons as the basis for burying the dead. Two of those theological reasons are the resurrection of the body and the dignity of the person.

Often funeral practices are a reflection of the beliefs of the culture. Much unconscious symbolism can be found in the modern tendency to have no funeral or to replace the funeral with a party. Burial points to the future resurrection of the believers. A Christian burial reflects the teachings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 that the body is sown in the ground and will spring up again as something greater. The sown seed will spring up into a full, greater existence and the Christian, like that seed, looks forward to springing up again with a glorified body into eternal life. (This does not at all imply that the resurrection of the body is in any way dependent on a proper burial.) Burial points to the Christian’s expectation of resurrection.

Burial respects the dignity of the person who is created in the image of God. While Christian burial does not attempt to keep the body in a pristine a condition for as long as possible (though modern embalming and entombing practice seem to have that effect) it does seek to treat with respect the person who has died. Genesis 1:26-27 states that God created mankind in His own image. Though sin has marred this image Genesis 9:6 and 1 Corinthians 11:7 indicate that man still bears the image of God. That which is a reflection of the image and glory of God is worthy of respect. Cremation intentionally destroys the body and has been seen by many cultures as a sign of contempt. The apparent disrespect in burning a body is not in keeping with the respect due one who is the image of God.

The Christian should give careful thought to the Biblical teachings regarding death, resurrection and the dignity of the person. However, when all things are considered the Bible gives no direct instructions regarding the disposal of dead bodies. The Bible nowhere forbids burning a body after death, nor does it command burial. Crematiòn is a matter of liberty in which each Christian and each family must seek to reach a Biblical conclusion as best as they are able. Each Christian must be careful to not bring an extra measure of suffering on those mourning the loss of a loved one.

How is an eternal hell just?

Some view eternal suffering in the lake of fire to be as reasonable as shooting a puppy for wetting the carpet. A good, loving God would never be party to such an extreme injustice. Yet Christian teaching declares that eternal hell is just, good and necessary. How could eternal punishment in torment of flames and darkness be justice?

Justice is the legal response to wrong that brings punishment in proportion with the severity of the crime committed. Conrary to justice is revenge. Revenge is the personal, illegal act of making another endure the same pain that the injured person feels. Justice is not motivated by a desire to get even but by a recognition of the true damage done by a crime. The Old Testament law of “an eye for an eye” was not a prescription for personal revenge but a description of legitimate justice which responded to wrong based upon the extent of harm done. Similar principles of justice are still seen in courts today. The accidental causing of another’s death is treated differently from negligently contributing to the death of a person which is treated differently from suddenly striking down a person which is treated differently from planning and executing the murder of another. Premeditated murder of an adult is treated differently from the intentional murder of an infant. The intent of the crime and the innocence of the victim legitimately affect the response to that crime. Along with murder treason usually brings the severest of punishments. Though treason does not always take another’s life, such a harsh response is generally recognized as just because treason offend the dignity of the ruling power and it threatens the safety of many others within the country. Treason is a repudiation of ones former allegiances that seeks the harm of ones own country, including friends and neigbors, and thus merits stern penalties.

What does treason have to do with the justice of hell? To understand the justice of hell one must understand the true horribleness of sin. Sin is no mere accident. Sin is unintentionally committed by someone unaware that his deed is wrong. Sin is first and foremost a willful act of rebellion against the God of heaven. God is Creator of all things and sole Ruler over all creation. Sin is therefore an act of treason far greater than any national treachery. Sin is mutiny against the perfect Creator. Sin is a repudiation of God, self and fellow man. Disobedience against God is an act of treason that wrongs God, injures self and wounds others. Disobedience against God is worse than mere treason. Disobedience against God is the attempt to overthrow God as ruler of your life and to inaugurate your own self as lord of your own destiny. This treachery is not only treason it is attempt to seize power from the Divine.

Since sin is the rejection of God as God and rebellion against His rule sin causes uncalculable harm to the individual and others around. Sin has wreaked havoc across the world. Sin is responsible for the death of billions and for the anguish felt in every part of creation. Every person born on the planet is complicit with sin. How can such evil against one’s Creator, Sovereign and God not require the greatest of punishments? Because sin is the rebellion of creature against the infinite, eternal Creator the scope of sin is limitless. A just response is measured to be appropriate to the scope of crime committed. A limitless crime requires a limitless payment. No finite creature is able to satisfy justice through any punishment of limited duration. The only appropriate judgment for a crime of infinite severity is an infinite punishment. Hell is just.

What happens to those who die without ever hearing about Jesus?

Possibly one of the most difficult questions for a caring Christian to consider and answer is the fate of those who have never had the chance to hear the gospel. To many it seems an unthinkable unfairness that God would send people to hell who never had the chance to be saved. Walking carefully through the Bible’s teaching is not always easy. Despite the great emotional tensions associated with this question it can only be answered by a thorough consideration of what God has said about man, sin and salvation.

The Bible’s answer can be summed up in a very straightforward fashion. Those who die without turning to Jesus for forgiveness of sin are not forgiven and remain under the judgment of God. Only when one starts with a Biblical perspective can this answer begin to make sense. Many imagine that condemnation happens after death based upon one’s sin or refusal to believe Jesus.

Condemnation does not happen after death. Men are not sentenced to hell for rejecting Jesus or for committing an excessive number of bad deeds. Men are sentenced to hell because they are born sinners who are already condemned by God. “He that believeth not is condemned already.” (John 3:18) “You were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) The first chapter of Colossians describes all men as separated from God and enemies against Him. The third chapter of Romans describes all men as wicked, refusing to seek after God, having no good in them and filled with all manner of wickedness. The Bible consistently teaches that all people are currently guilty before God. Romans 3:19 says all the world is guilty before God. Everyone is already condemned for sin. Men are not waiting for judgment to find out if they are guilty or not. The conviction has been handed down. Sentencing is delayed to give opportunity for salvation.

The fate of those who die in their guilt is eternal separation from God in hell. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9 says Jesus will exact vengeance on those that do not know God and have not obeyed the gospel. Jesus’ vengeance will be unending destruction apart from the presence of God and His glory. In other places in the Bible this everlasting destruction is described as a place of fire and intense suffering. Those who do not know God will be sentenced to eternal hell.

Wrong ideas about Divine judgment are abundant. Most seem to believe that if they are better people than a lot of others then they will make it to heaven. Some believe there is no hell. A growing number believe that God will not send anyone to hell (or maybe only send the really, really bad people to hell). The Biblical truth is that hell is real and only those who have turned to Jesus for forgiveness will escape hell. Those who do not do so, whether it be because of stubbornness, rebellion, ignorance or some other reason will be punished with everlasting destruction. Into this bleak assessment shines the good news of the gospel. Salvation from hell has been purchased by Jesus and is freely given to those who will turn to Him for forgiveness.

What will we be like in heaven?

Death is the terrible reality of life. People cope with the death of a loved one and the reality of their own impending death in many different ways. The Christian perspective of death gives abundant Biblical comfort to those who are saved. True Biblical comfort does not seek to minimize the pain of death, nor does it attempt to ignore the reality of death’s sorrows. True Biblical comfort places death in its proper perspective. Death is a defeated enemy. For the child of God, death is the end of this life and the beginning of life eternal. At death the saved enter directly into heaven. This is a great, and Biblical, source of comfort. The words of the Apostle Paul reflect the believers conviction, “We are willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Since the deceased believer goes directly into heaven, what will he be like? What form will the believer have in heaven?

When a person dies his spirit is separated from his body. The spirit is the indefinable, non-material part of the man. Though there is a theological distinction between the spirit and the soul, this article will use the terms interchangeably. The spirit is not currently apparent to human senses but it is nonetheless a very real component of the human make-up.

The death of the body does not eliminate the conscious existence of the person. The death of the body does not end the distinct identity of the person. Human identity is not wrapped up in the physical form, nor is it contained in the material brain. The identity of a person is connected with the spirit. At death the spirit of the believer consciously enters into heaven. Luke 16 gives the clearest description of what happens after death. Lazarus, the child of God, entered directly into heaven and received conscious comfort. Lazarus’ identity remained distinct from the others in heaven and remained aware of what was happening to him.

At death the Christian’s spirit leaves the body behind to enter the joys of heaven. This separation from the body is not a loss for the person. Though the spirit is immaterial, it is not inferior to the physical. The believer is not somehow less in heaven than on earth because he is without a physical body. The spiritual body will be far greater than this earthly body could ever be. Consider angels as an example. Angels are spiritual beings. (Hebrews 1:14) They are given the ability to manifest themselves in human form, but they are not physical creatures. The lack of a physical body does not make them less than human. In fact, the Bible says that humans are a little lower than angels. (Psalm 8:5) Angels are powerful creatures and the absence of a physical body is no defect or hindrance to them. Likewise, the believers spiritual body will not be inferior in any way to the earthly body. The Christian will be more real and alive than ever before. At death all that is left behind is the sin broken body and the corruptions of the cursed flesh.

Though the Bible does not speak directly to identity, it seems the spiritual form will retain recognizable characteristics of the individual’s identity. I doubt the spiritual body will have the same features as the earthly body, but it seems that believers in heaven will be distinguishable as the individuals they were on earth. In Luke 16 Abraham is recognizable to the rich man. When the three disciples saw Moses and Elijah at Jesus transfiguration (Matthew 17), they recognized them for who they were.

We are not given much information about the activities of the souls of the just in heaven. In Revelation 4 and 5 the Bible describes a group of 24 elders. Who they are is unknown, but it is evident they are deceased believers given a special place in heaven. They surround the throne of God singing His praises. Revelation 5 tells of a huge host of saints who sing praise to God. Whatever else the souls of the deceased will do in heaven the Bible makes clear they will be praising God and rejoicing in His glorious presence. Believers look forward to the rapture when the spiritual body will be reunited with the physical body. Believers will then live forever with body and soul joined together in a glorified physical body.

Will we know our loved ones in heaven?

One question that weighs on the hearts of many who have lost ones who were very close to them is whether we will recognize those loved ones in heaven. The Bible does not specifically address this question, but it does offer some hints to help us answer this question. One such clue is from when Jesus was transfigured (Mark 9). When Peter, James and John saw a glimpse of Jesus’ glory they also saw two men standing with Him. These two men were Moses and Elijah. Though the disciples had never seen either of those men they recognized them for who they were. The text seems to indicate that they just knew, by some unknown means, who the men were. Though it is possible that Jesus later told the three men who was standing with Him and that part of the conversation was just not recorded for us. Another passage that gives some help in answering this question is Luke 16. Jesus recounts the tale of the rich man and Lazarus. After death, the rich man in hell was able to look across to heaven. He recognized Abraham, whom he had never known in life, and Lazarus whom he had seen in life. This passage is a pretty clear indication that though we will have been given glorified bodies Christians will still be able to recognize one another in eternity.

I do not think we will recognize one another because of similarities to our current physical appearance. In 1 Corinthians 15 we are told that the earthly body will be replaced with a glorified body. The glorified body will be free from the corruption of sin and delivered from all the infirmities of the earthly body. The glorified body will be as unlike the earthly body as a stalk of wheat is unlike the seed. Whatever the physical appearance will be, it seems that we will be able to identify one another in heaven.

Many who ask this question do so seeking comfort that they will be reunited with loved ones. The certainty of seeing loved ones again in heaven is very comforting, but the Biblical description of interactions in heaven all revolve around our relationship with God the Father and Jesus. The relationships between believers in eternity are going to be very different from our earthly ones. The joy of a spouse or beloved child will be replaced by much greater joys. The relationships will be unlike what they were in life, but that difference does not mean they will be inferior. The relationships in heaven will be greatly superior to any and all relationships on this earth. All believers will rejoice together in perfection, harmony and eternal praise to God.

Is Hell really eternal?

One of the most difficult doctrine in Christianity is the Biblical teaching about hell. The classic teachings on hell describe a place of intense pain and suffering, a place of fiery torment and a place of unending judgment. The hell described in the Bible is a horrific place. Any right thinking person recoils at the thought of anyone undergoing such horrible torture. For many, the worst part of hell is the unending nature of it’s torments. The doctrine of an eternal hell has prompted people throughout history to search for other ways of explaining hell that won’t be so terrible. Some have taught that God will not really send anyone to hell. Many teach that God will only send the worst of the worst to hell. A number of groups teach that most of those who suffer in hell will only do so for a limited amount of time. Still others deny any thing like hell even exists. Unfortunately, for those who claim to believe the Bible, hell is described in such a way that its realities cannot be denied. Consider a few passages.

Revelation 14:9-11
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Revelation 20:10
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

2 Thessalonians 1:9
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power

Matthew 25:41
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Matthew 25:46
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

For those who believe in an eternal heaven of bliss, the doctrine of eternal hell is a necessity. The Bible could not be more plain. Hell is eternal. The same words are used to describe the length of heaven’s joy as are used to describe the length of hell’s suffering. Both are said to be “everlasting”, “eternal” and “forever”. One cannot change the meaning of these words as descriptors of hell without also changing their meaning in relation as descriptors of heaven. The righteous will enjoy heavenly bliss for the same eternity that the lost endure hell’s torment. Scriptures offer no hint that the souls of the condemned cease to exist at some point in the future. All the Bible says about hell declares that it is a place of unending, eternal torment in which the condemned will consciously endure physical and spiritual agony.

Despite the horrors of hell, God is not cruel and pitiless. In His mercy God has provided a means of salvation. He has promised those who trust Jesus alone for salvation from sin will be forgiven of all guilt and made righteous. Hell is a place of judgment, first built for Satan and the demons that follow him, and into which all those who refuse to obey the gospel will be cast. Those who do not believe are already condemned, but if any turn to Jesus for salvation he will escape condemnation and be given eternal life.