There are many misconceptions about death. Some believe that good people go immediately to heaven at death and that the bad people go to hell and burn forever in torment and torture. Both are not true according to the Bible. The penalty of sin is death and we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Christ has been charged by many religious leaders with teaching a falsehood on this subject. They have accused Him of teaching that an immortal soul flies away from the body at death to either heaven or hell. This is not what Jesus taught at all. He never gave the least intimation that some disembodied soul separates from the body at the time of death. And surely He did not ever give the impression that the wicked suffer an eternal torment as soon as they die. The dead are saved in the grave until the day of judgement.
2nd Peter 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
John 5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 5:26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 5:27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 5:29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. 5:31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.
All the dead (body and soul) to date are reserved in the graves until the second coming of Jesus. They have not gone to heaven or hell. When all the dead (good and evil) are raised when Jesus comes again it will seem to everyone raised that they have only been in the grave for a twinkling of an eye (just an extremely short period of time). The dead in the graves for 5000 years, it will seem to them that they have only been dead for seconds.
Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Jesus Second Coming
Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Can there be any doubt where the wicked are reserved before facing resurrection, judgment, and punishment? We have the testimony of Peter, Daniel, Job and the Master Himself. There is no room to quibble. They are reserved in the grave.
Now we come to the second great fact about hell: None of the unsaved will be cast into hell-fire until after the second coming of Jesus at the end of the world. Although we have already seen substantial evidence on this point, let's look even more. Describing the punishment of the wicked, John wrote: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." Revelation 21:8.
In a lot of people's minds the lost (evil) are pictured in the fires of hell, suffering the punishment for their sins. And what does the Bible say is that punishment? "The second death," says John. Do you see what this proves about the wicked? It proves they will not be cast into the lake of fire until after the resurrection takes place. These people die the second death in the fire, but they cannot suffer a second death until they get a second life. They lived the first life in this world and died the first death, going into the grave. Before they can die a second death they must be resurrected-they must be given a second life. This, of course, is what happens at the end of the world. Jesus said, "All that are in the graves shall come forth."
Meeting Jesus in the Air
Now after getting that second life in the resurrection, the wicked will be punished for their sins in hell-fire, "which is the second death." By the way, that second death is the final, eternal death from which there will be no resurrection. But the point to be noted is the time of this hell-fire punishment-it is after the resurrection at the end of the world. It does not take place at the time of the first death as so many have been led to believe.
It would be good at this point to show the time line of events on earth from Creation so that we know where we are now relative to the Bible's time frame. Go to the following links to see the history of our world.
Creation to the Flood http://www.bibleworldhistory.com/Create.htm
The Flood to The Arrival in Egypt http://www.bibleworldhistory.com/BEgypt.htm
The Exodus & The Judges http://www.bibleworldhistory.com/ExJudg.htm
The Kings of Israel http://www.bibleworldhistory.com/Israel.htm
The Kings of Judah http://www.bibleworldhistory.com/Judah.htm
Babylonian and Persian Empires http://www.bibleworldhistory.com/BabPer.htm
Greece: Alexander the Great http://www.bibleworldhistory.com/Greece.htm
Greece: Early Hellenism http://www.bibleworldhistory.com/Helln1.htm
Greece: Late Hellenism http://www.bibleworldhistory.com/Helln2.htm
Early Christianity http://www.bibleworldhistory.com/Jesus.htm
The charts show that the time from Creation to Christ to be about 4,225 years. We are now in the year 2,009 Ad so the years to date from Creation seem to be approximately 6,234. Our week is 7 days as established by God at Creation. The Bible God says that one day is a thousand years with the Lord. We are very near the second coming of Jesus when the righteous will be taken to heaven for one thousand years and the wicked and the contents of earth will be burnt up. This will bind the Devil on this burnt up earth for one thousand years with no humans to deceive and cause evil.
2nd Peter 3:7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 3:8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Someone may raise this question: What about the unquenchable fire that burns the wicked? Doesn't that mean it will never go out? Of course, it doesn't. To quench means to extinguish or put out. No one will be able to put out the fire of hell. That is the strange fire of God. No one will be able to escape from it by extinguishing it. Isaiah says of that fire, "Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor a fire to sit before it." Isaiah 47:14. After it has accomplished its work of destruction, that fire will go out. No one can deliver themselves from its flame by putting it out, but finally not a coal will be left. So say the Scriptures.
Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would burn with a fire that could not be quenched (Jeremiah 17:27), but it burned down to ashes (2 Chronicles 36:19-21). Read those verses and see how the Bible uses the word "quench." It does not mean fire that will never go out. It only means what it says, "unquenchable." It can't be quenched.
And what can we say about the expressions "eternal" "everlasting" which are used to describe the fires of hell? There is absolutely no confusion or contradiction when we allow the Bible to supply its own definition of terms. The fact is that eternal fire does not mean a fire that will never go out. The same expression is used in Jude 7 concerning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."
It is quite obvious that Sodom is not still burning today. The Dead Sea rolls over the place where those ancient cities once stood. Yet they burned with "eternal fire," and we are told that it was an example of something. What is it an example of? "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly." 2 Peter 2:6.
There it is! That eternal fire which brought Sodom to ashes is an example of what will finally happen to the wicked. If this text is true, the same kind of fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah will also burn the wicked in the lake of fire. It will have to be eternal fire. Does that mean it will also burn the wicked to ashes? The Bible says Yes. "For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch ... And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts." Malachi 4:1, 3.
This brings us to the final fact concerning the fate of the wicked. After the unsaved are punished according to their sins, they will be wiped out of existence, both body and soul. Jesus states it very simply, "And fear not them which kill the body ... but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28.
There will be no eternal fire that will torture the evil for ever. Evil people will be done away with and cease to exist after they are consumed by the fire. In some cases living on this earth now, under certain conditions, is a lot worse than eternal death. We did not volunteer to be created, so God, being a loving and fair God, would never have an eternal burning torture chamber to contaminate the New Earth that he will create for the righteous who were saved by their belief in Jesus.
Revelation 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.