Ask Your Preacher
HEAVEN & HELL
When Jesus died on the cross, what happened to Him? Was He just dead, or did His spirit go heaven for some time and then return to His body once He was resurrected? Sorry if this is a stupid question.
Where’d He Go?
Dear Where’d He Go,
It isn’t a stupid at all – many people have the same question. Jesus went to Paradise when He died – He said so. Jesus told the thief on the cross that they were both going to Paradise after they died (Lk 23:43). Some say that Jesus went to hell when He died. That argument refers to the verse where it states Jesus would spend three days and three nights in “the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40). However, that verse is simply stating that Jesus’ body would be buried for three days. Jesus’ spirit was separated from His body at death (Jas 2:26). Jesus’ body went into the ground, and His spirit went into Paradise.
My wife’s grandmother passed away a few months ago. They were very close. My wife came from a Baptist family. When we met, I was able to show her the truth, and now she is a member of the Church; my heart was broken when she looked at me and asked me, "Is it wrong for me (my wife) to think my grandmother is in heaven?” I didn't know what to say. We both know what the Bible says, and we know that no matter what, what we would like to believe is irrelevant. The Bible still says we must be baptized. How can I answer a question my wife already knows the answer to? Does that make any sense? What would you recommend the best way to word this answer? It's much harder than I thought.
Dear Compassionate Husband,
Mourning is such a difficult process because grief isn’t logical; it is emotional. The fact is that you don’t have to give your wife an answer at this time; sometimes the best comfort is what Job’s friends provided him with – quiet companionship (Job 2:13). Sometimes all you need to say is, “I can’t imagine how much you are hurting at this time” and leave it at that.
However, if your wife looks for a more in-depth answer, God says that He finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 33:11). That tells you that God will not send anyone to hell by accident, from spite, or out of malicious intent. Anyone who ends up in hell really, truly belongs there, and all those who are meant to be in heaven will be there. When your wife’s grandmother faces God on the Day of Judgment, God will make the right decision concerning her fate. There is some comfort in knowing that God will not make any mistakes.
In the Old Testament, what did they believe would happen when they died? Did they go to heaven, or was there some other view?
What About Them?
Dear What About Them?,
The faithful of the Old Testament believed in heaven just as much as the faithful in the New Testament do. In Job 14:14, Job stated that when he died, he would change. King David, had a son die in infancy, and David said that he would see his son again on the other side of death (2 Sam 12:23). Heb 11:16 says that the faithful of the Old Testament sought a heavenly country. The Old Testament doesn’t talk a lot about heaven, but it says enough to show us that they believed in it and anxiously awaited it.
The fact that many people are going to hell each day keeps me awake at night, and I cannot stop thinking about it. Can I have some answers?
No one has thought more about those perishing in hell than God has. God thought about it so much He sent His own Son to try and save us from hell (Jhn 3:16). God doesn’t desire anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3:9).
Take comfort in the fact that God won’t make any mistakes on the Day of Judgment, and no one will accidentally end up in heaven or hell. He is compassionate, loving, and ready to show mercy (Ps. 86:5). If someone goes to hell, it is because the most faithful and loving Being in existence judged properly.
So, I have a question about hell. A preacher at a congregation is saying that through his studies, he is starting to believe that hell is not the traditional "fire and brimstone" that Christians think, but instead, it might just be "death of the person's spirit". I haven't gotten a chance to ask him for the verses that he says support his belief (he did mention Isaiah). He believes people have been leaving out these verses over the years. I am pretty sure what I believe about hell – that there is an eternal punishment – considering I have been praying over the subject and studying; also, I thought that Matthew 25 and the parable of the sheep and goats was a very good answer to the question of what hell is. Anyways, I was wondering if you have heard this argument before and might know what verses he is referencing; also, I would love to hear your opinion and any other verses concerning hell that you might have.
Hesitant About Heat
Dear Hesitant About Heat,
There are several very clear texts that deal with what happens to lost souls when they die. Mk 9:47-49 says that hell is a place where “the worm never dies, and the fire is not quenched” – the exact opposite of annihilation. Jesus also told the story of a rich man that died and went to torments (Lk 16:22-23). In torments, the rich man was in constant burning anguish without relief (Lk 16:24). Abraham told the rich man that he would remain in anguish and that there was a great gulf eternally fixed between those in Paradise and those in torments (Lk 16:25-26). Four times in the book of Matthew, hell is described as a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 8:12, Matt 22:13, Matt 24:51, and Matt 25:30).
In order to take an annihilation point of view, you would have to take every verse that deals with the torment, suffering, and pain associated with hell and somehow explain how they are all figurative… this includes the story of the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16. If the rich man didn’t literally descend into torments, then we must also say that faithful Lazarus wasn’t literally escorted into Paradise. Taking that story as figurative cuts both directions.
The verses in Isaiah that are often referred to as “proof” of annihilation of the wicked are verses like Isa 26:14 and Isa 43:17. However, these verses are taken out of context and deal with physical death (in which case, the person’s body does cease to have life – our physical bodies aren’t eternal). The fact is that nobody talked about hell more than Jesus, and Jesus always talked about it as a physical place that was reserved for the wicked (Jude 1:13). Yes, the wicked will be destroyed – their souls will forever be separated from God in a place of burning and pain. Though some good brethren believe that hell is not an eternal location and that the wicked are destroyed at death, we don’t believe that this holds up to biblical scrutiny.