Picking up from last week
I closed last week with the consideration that hell is burning at least in part, because God says in Ezekiel 28 that a fire will come from within Satan to consume (dominate entirely) him. But the fires of hell are not the same as the fires of the lake of fire, as we’ll soon see, so read on…
So what is hell like, and how long will it last?
We have 1 example from Jesus’ lips telling us about a man in hell and what he was experiencing. It is found in Luke 16:19-31, and is about a beggar named Lazarus and a rich unbeliever. In the course of time both men died and the unbeliever went to hell while Lazarus went to ‘Abraham’s bosom’, which was also called ‘Paradise’.
There used to be 2 compartments in the earth; Hell and Paradise. Paradise was where the righteous dead went, awaiting the cross to pay for their sins and Jesus to be raised from the dead so their spirits could receive the life of God, that they could gain entrance to heaven. Jesus told the repentant man on the cross ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise’, and Ephesians 4:9 says Jesus ‘descended into the lower parts of the earth’.
When Jesus was resurrected He ascended to heaven to present His sacrifice to the Father, and led Captivity, that is to say those who were held captive in Paradise until His resurrection, captive to heaven. (John 20: 17, Hebrews 9: 23-25)
So now Paradise is ‘up’ in heaven. Paul said in II Corinthians 12:4 he was caught up into Paradise in the 3rd heaven. (In Judaism 1st heaven is the air, 2nd heaven is stars, 3rd heaven is where God lives)
Back to our story
So the rich unbeliever sees Abraham and Lazarus over in Paradise, Luke 16:19-31 says, and starts up a conversation with them. The first thing I notice is that though he is thirsty and hot, he is not in such pain that he cannot look around, strike up a conversation and carry on that conversation with normal tone of voice.
I know that some would think a person cannot do anything but writhe in pain; not so.
This man had full memory of his 5 brothers and their lives, he spoke, responded, reasoned clearly. A person in extreme pain cannot reason well and carry on a conversation in normal tones - (ladies think of the pain of childbirth and guys think of passing a kidney stone – how well could you carry on a conversation? - yet he does, showing us he is not in as much pain as say, childbirth or passing a kidney stone, for examples.
Hell appears to be what I’ve been sharing from the Word – a place enabling people who don’t want God to exist without Him. But what a horrible kingdom it must be – the absence of love, joy, peace – which means it is dominated by hate, hopelessness, and torment, and its king burning will all that hate!
Though once there, the unbeliever didn’t want to be there, the issue is revealed to be unbelief for he asks Abraham to send Lazarus if nothing else, back up to his 5 brothers lest they come to that place. Abraham tells him that if they don’t believe Moses and the prophets, they won’t believe it if someone is raised from the dead – a double meaning - speaking of both the beggar Lazarus and Jesus.
A holding place
Remember that Abraham’s bosom/Paradise was a holding place until Jesus’ resurrection, and so is hell. In Revelation 20: 7-15 we are told that after the 1,000 year Millennial reign of Jesus, Satan will be released and he will go out to deceive people, and these deceived people will make war against Jerusalem, and are killed.
The reason Satan is released is because the previous 1,000 years has been a time of enforced righteousness on the earth, with Satan bound up and out of the picture that whole time. People born during that time have not had the opportunity to voluntarily commit to God as a result – like Adam they must be given the chance to choose Life or death, so Satan must be released. (Read Zechariah 14 about enforced righteousness when Jesus is King on earth.)
After the war Revelation 20:10 says: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented for ever and ever.”
It goes on to say in verses 13-15, “…death and hell gave up the dead in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hell were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. (Physical death being the first death) Anyone whose name was not found in the book of the living was thrown into the lake of fire.”
So hell isn’t permanent. But we aren’t told a lot about the events I just quoted – and it leaves a lot of room open for discussion. Some believe because it says people in hell are judged on what they had done in this life, only the worst of the worst will go to the lake of fire as the Anti-Christ does in v10.
Some believe the second death is a ‘snuffing out’ of a person – that they cease to exist at the second death.
There is so much we don’t know, and though we can debate in a friendly way, Paul says not to debate things to the point of contention and strife. So rather than launching into things we don’t know, I’ll leave it with the quoted passages above, and cover the question I’ve been building to these last 4 weeks: Can a person lose their salvation?
And that friends, is the topic next week – the answer may surprise you!