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HEAVEN & HELL
What is soul mortalism or soul sleep?
Dear Soul Searching,
Soul mortalism is the belief that human souls are not naturally immortal and that during the time between one’s physical death and the Judgment Day resurrection, the human soul is left in an uncomprehending state or “sleep”. This does not at all match the Bible’s teachings.
The Bible teaches that human souls, both good and bad, wait in Hades for the Judgment. Hades (also known as Sheol) is the place of the dead, both the good dead and the bad dead. The word ‘Hades’ literally means ‘the unseen place’. Within Hades, there are two areas where people wait for the final judgment. All of the faithful who die wait in the good part of Hades called ‘Paradise’ (2 Cor 12:4, Lk 23:43). All of the wicked who die wait in a part of Hades known only as ‘torments’ (Lk 16:23). The story of the rich man and Lazarus found in Lk 16:19-31 shows us that both groups are fully comprehending and aware in Hades.
What happens to us between death and resurrection? Our minister spoke about this tonight; he used Luke 16:19-31. He said this was a true story and not a parable. Do we know we are saved before Judgment Day? I thought we were in a state of sleep, but he said this is wrong. Please help me to understand if you can; thank you.
Dear Light Sleeper,
The story of Lazarus and the rich man found in Luke 16 isn't a parable; Jesus tells it as a true story (Lk 16:1). The Day of Judgment will only happen once, and then all of mankind will be divided between heaven and hell (Rev 20:12-15). However, until that time, all the dead will wait in Hades. Hades (also known as Sheol) is the place of the dead, both the good dead and the bad dead. The word ‘Hades’ literally means ‘the unseen place’. Within Hades, there are two areas where people wait for the final judgment. All of the faithful who die wait in the good part of Hades called ‘Paradise’ (2 Cor 12:4, Lk 23:43). All of the wicked who die wait in a part of Hades known only as ‘torments’ (Lk 16:23).
When we die and go to heaven or hell, will there be different degrees of reward or punishment depending on our degree and length of service to our Lord? Or in the case of those who refused to serve but rebelled against God, for their degree or length of disobedience? I am part of a ladies’ Bible study group that picks topics or questions to research each week. We asked this question and could find nothing in our study of the Bible that showed such a thing but have heard it taught that we store up our treasure in heaven. The assumption being that one who stores for a long time and with great diligence will have more stored than, let’s say, the thief on the cross who had but a few minutes to serve Christ. Can you give us some Bible verses to consider that might help tell us what God thinks on this question?
Delving Into Degrees
Dear Delving Into Degrees,
Yes, some will have a greater reward in heaven than others – though we don’t want you to misconstrue this as meaning heaven won’t be entirely perfect for everyone there. The most important verse on this topic is Matt 6:20. The implication is that heaven uses more than just a pass/fail entry system, but that there is a way to ‘invest’ in heavenly rewards. Jesus reiterates this idea of storing treasures for yourself in heaven when He talks to the rich young ruler (Mk 10:21).
The idea of heaven having various rewards shouldn’t be too foreign to us because God is clear that its counterpart, hell, certainly does. Heb 10:28-29 makes it plain that there is an especially dark corner of hell for those who were christians and rejected Christ later. False teachers also are condemned under a heavier judgment than the average unbeliever (Jas 3:1). Probably the clearest verse on the subject of hell's degrees of punishment is Lk 12:46-48 which teaches that someone who knows the truth and rejects it will suffer a worse punishment than the servant that did not know.
The verses do say that heaven and hell have varying degrees of reward and punishment, but the problem is envisioning how that works. If everyone will be completely happy in heaven (Rev 21:4), how can some have more rewards than others? At this point, we must accept our weakness in envisioning spiritual concepts. Any analogy we make is purely an attempt in our feeble minds to explain a realm too glorious for us to grasp. So take the following analogy with a grain of salt.
The example we use to explain the varying degrees of heaven uses two men with buckets. Two men go down to a river with buckets; one man has a five-gallon bucket, and the other has a one-gallon bucket. They both dip their buckets in the river… whose bucket is fuller? Both buckets are equally full, are they not? We liken heaven to filling our buckets. Everyone’s bucket will be full. The only question is: how big will your bucket be?
Are we judging fallen angels? Jesus said we will judge the angels. Also, are we to be angels (I read we will be as angels)?
Ready For Wings
Dear Ready For Wings,
Yes, christians will judge angels – the same way the Queen of the South judges spiritually lazy people. The verse in question is 1 Cor 6:3. We have to keep in mind that there are many ways to bring judgment on others. In our case, we will bring judgment on others through our example. God uses people’s examples to condemn others in similar circumstances.
- The Queen of the South condemns those who won’t seek the truth (Matt 12:42).
- The citizens of Nineveh will condemn those who won’t repent of their sins after hearing the gospel (Matt 12:42).
- Christians will condemn those who have excuses for why they didn’t serve God (1 Cor 6:2).
Angels that denied God and went to serve Satan (Rev 12:9) will have no excuse for not having served God. All christians will stand as a living example and condemnation against the angels that chose to deny God and turn to evil. I f we, having not seen God (Ex 33:20), can still serve Him… the angels who are ever before Him (Matt 18:10) are without excuse.
The Bible never says we will become angels when we get to heaven, but we will be like the angels in that we won’t marry (Matt 22:30). That is the only similarity between the angels and us that the Bible ever gives us. As far as we know, we will continue to be distinctly different creatures from them.
I know this sounds odd, but I watched a show, and I felt bad, so I jokingly thought, “If I watch it again, I will go to hell.” I was twelve or thirteen when I thought that. Well, I’m fourteen now, and I flipped through the channels and saw it again. Am I going to hell? Please help me; it really is stressing me out. I’m nervous.
Scared For My Soul
Dear Scared For My Soul,
Saying that you will go to hell for watching a show won’t guarantee your eternal destiny any more than saying, “I’ll go to heaven if do watch this show.” We aren’t the final judge of our eternal home – Christ is (2 Tim 4:1). If you have done what Christ teaches you must do to be saved, you will go to heaven (read “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” for specifics on the steps of salvation), and if you turn away from Christ, you will be lost (Acts 4:12). Everyone deserves to go to hell because of their sins (Rom 6:23), but Christ offers to save us if we love and obey Him (Jhn 14:15). What you did in the past doesn’t matter; what you do now is what counts (2 Cor 6:1-2).