Where do we go when we die?
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them (now watch that language. Hell is going to give up those that are in it): and they were judged every man according to their works.” And then those who had been occupying hell…
“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire (do you see the difference between those two places? Death and hell is the place of the unbeliever who has died and is waiting for this Great White Throne judgment. He waiting for the resurrection out of hell, only to go to something far worse, which is of course the lake of fire. And the Bible calls this); This is the second death.” They died physically and now they die spiritually. The definition of death is: for the physical, it’s the separation of the spirit from the body. For the spirit realm, death is the separation from God. It’s an eternal separation. Now look at the difference between hell and the lake of fire.
First, we have to go back to some the scriptural descriptions of these things. Where is hell? And what is it comprised of? Let’s go back to Matthew Chapter 12. This is from the Lord’s own lips. The scribes and Pharisees are dealing with Jesus, and Jesus says:
“But he answered and said unto them, `An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:'”
There is a lot more in this verse than I have time to comment on. But I will say it refutes those who say that Jonah was an imagination, or a myth. Jesus gives perfect credit to him. Now verse 40:
“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights (where?) in the heart of the earth.”
We know that when the thief on the Cross turned to Jesus and said, “Remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom.” Jesus’ answered, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” But here Jesus saysthat in those three days and three nights, He’s going to be in the center of the earth.” He went down into what? The Apostle’s creed says that, “Jesus died, was buried and descended into hell.” I’ve had so many people say to me, “You mean Jesus actually went to hell?” Well, yes and no. And here’s the reason. We have three words in Scripture that all speak of the same place. Down in the `center of the earth’ is what Jesus’ own words were. And down there is what we call in Hebrew Sheol, In the Greek it’s called Hades. And in English it’s called hell. All three pertain to this center-most part of the earth. Go to Luke Chapter 16. The only way you can put these things together is to compare Scripture with Scripture. They are all in here, but you’ve got to look for it.
Now here in Luke 16, we have the account of the rich man and Lazarus. And we won’t take it verse by verse for sake of time. Most of you have heard sermons on this or at least you can remember when you did. How that Abraham and Lazarus were there in Paradise, but the rich man was in torment. Let’s come down to verse 22 and 23:
“And it came to pass, that the beggar (Lazarus) died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”
This is just one instance where this took place. It didn’t happen routinely, but the Lord presents this one instance for our benefit.
“And he (the rich man) cried and said, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'”
We know that he’s not there bodily, He will have that reserved body in the lake of fire, but here in hell he’s there only in the realm of the soul and spirit. But soul and spirit are so intrinsically involved with the body. And I always like to give this illustration: my wife is a nurse and she has told me (and I have read and you have heard) where an amputee comes into the hospital and experiences pain in the leg that is no longer there. They call it “phantom pain.” They have been so used to that leg, that even though it’s gone they still feel the pain that would be in it. And I bring that into this setting. The soul and spirit are so intertwined with the body of our make up, that even though the rich man’s body was in the grave upon the surface, yet the soul and spirit were suffering as if it were bodily suffering. So he was tormented and was in thirst. Abraham responds and says:
“But Abraham said, `Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.'”
“And beside all of this (even if I would want to come), between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.”
So what do we have? We’ve got hell, or hades, or however you want to define it, but Abraham defines it as a great gulf fixed. Now on one side was torment, no doubt about it. But on the other side was Paradise. We know that before the Cross, all the way from Adam, that men lived and died. Even the believers died with the two exceptions (and I’m always pointing out that God is God and He can make His exceptions). But there were only two that did not die and go down into Paradise, rather, they went up. They were Enoch and Elijah. Now those were God’s exceptions. Other than those two, the rest of the believers of the Old Testament could not go to Heaven. They had to go down to Paradise, because the atoning blood of Christ is the only thing that removes the stain of sin. Animals’ blood couldn’t. So these Old Testament believers were saved for eternity, but they were not ready for God’s presence, because their sins had not been atoned for by the blood of Christ. So they went down to Paradise.
On the other hand, the lost from Cain till even today are going down into hell as we understand it, but into the torment side. When the thief was told by Jesus, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise,” Christ was speaking of what He said in Matthew about the center part of the earth. Remember Christ said that, I didn’t. That He would be three days and three nights in the center part of the earth. Now the Apostle Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, puts his stamp of approval on all of this in the Book of Ephesians, and that is why I find it so comfortable and easy to teach. And here it comes out in such plain language. This isn’t gobbledy-gook, or something that takes a theologian’s degree to understand. Just take it for what it says;
“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”
” Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high (as he did in John Chapter 20:17. That’s when I think Christ took all of these that were in Paradise with Him), he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” Watch the term `captivity and captive.’ Now verse 9:
“(Now that he ascended (in other words He went up), what is it but that he also (what?) descended first into (where?) the lower parts of the earth? He went down into the Paradise side of hell or Hades, where Abraham and the Old Testament saints were.
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)”
Now putting it in just plain visual perspective, the following happens. From the Cross, He and the thief went down into the Paradise side of Sheol, Hades, or hell. But on the Resurrection morning, when He told Mary in John 20:17 “…Touch me not.; for I am not yet ascended to my Father:…” I think right here is where Christ emptied the Paradise side and took those Old Testament believers with Him. And where is Paradise today? It’s up in Heaven! Paul teaches in II Corinthians 5:8 “…rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” We don’t go down into the heart of the earth! We go immediately up into the presence of the Lord, because that is where Paradise is now located. The Old Testament tells us that hell, the place of torment, is enlarged. In other words, after Paradise was removed that whole area has now become then, totally the place of torment. So when an unbeliever dies today, that unbeliever still goes down to this place of torment.
Now here we are at the end of the thousand years reign and rule of Christ and we are at the Great White Throne. It’s up in space somewhere. It’s not on the earth, because the earth has fled away. So now in the resurrection of the unjust, they are brought back bodily because that’s what resurrection denotes. Now, back to Revelation 20. Here the lost stand before the Lord, Who in their case is the Judge, and not the Savior. As Judge, He shows them their record, and there will be degrees of punishment. Jesus made that so plain, when He said to the people of Capernaum in Matthew 11, the following:
“And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, `That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.'” So He makes it very plain that the people of Capernaum would suffer more in their eternal doom, than the horrible people of Sodom.
In verse 14 of Revelation Chapter 20 we find:
“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
I don’t care if people don’t like to preach this subject any more, the Book stills says it. And there are groups who try to make believe that a God of love couldn’t do this. But I’ve shown you that God’s love was so great at the Cross that there is no room for removing the eternal doom of the lost person. Now then the lake of fire, where is it? Well, who knows? We know it must be in space and not on the earth. And with the reading I do, it could even be a black hole in space, A black hole is a place where time is nothing. I also read at one time they thought that because of its tremendous specific gravity it is tremendously dense. And there is intense heat, even though it’s intense darkness, with a feeling of constantly falling. Anyway, that’s the thoughts of our people who study space. I’m just throwing that out as a possibility. I’m not saying it is, but we do know the lake of fire is eternal, without end and the lost will spend forever there. And the sad part is, they didn’t have to go there. That’s going to be awful. To think they missed glory because they didn’t believe the Gospel, as simple as it is. It’s sobering, as much as we would love to see the Lord come today, the only thing that tempers my enthusiasm is the fact that maybe today and tomorrow a few will still be saved and escape all of this. But it behooves us to be mindful that the eternal doom of the lost is something beyond our comprehension.