[22]    Last Things: Life after Death

73.    What happens to man after death? What should our attitude toward death be?

a. Definition: Death is the termination of physical life by the separation of body and soul.

b. Intermediate state (between termination of physical life and final judgment):

c. Meaning of death for Christians: d. Attitude toward our own death: e. Attitude toward death of Christian friends and relatives: f. Attitude toward death of unbelievers: 74.    What is heaven? a. Definition: Heaven is generally referred to as the place where God dwells (Isa 66:1; Mt 6:9; 1Pe 3:22). However, because God is present everywhere, a more accurate definition is that heaven is the place where God makes His presence most fully known and where His blessings fill.

b. It is a place, not just a state of mind.

(1) When Jesus ascended into heaven, He went to a place and He will come again from that place (Ac 1:11).

(2) Jesus said that He is going to prepare for us a place with many rooms (Jn 14:2-3).

(3) Stephen saw heaven at his death (Ac 7:55-56). It seems that his eyes were opened to see a spiritual dimension of reality which God has hidden from us in this present age.
 

c. Location:
75.    What is hell? Does hell mean eternal conscious torment? a. Traditional teaching: Traditionally, hell or eternal punishment is explained as eternal conscious torment in a lake of fire.
 
b. Annihilationism: There is a possibility that eternal punishment may mean that the impenitent will be reduced to non-existence after the Final Judgment, that is, they (body and soul) will be completely annihilated. This is supported by some wellknown evangelical theologists including Warfield, John Stott, and Clark Pinnock. Based on the support from the Bible, this should be regarded as a legitimate view.
 
c. Meaning of eternal punishment: The term "eternal punishment" (Mt 25:46) may mean unending torment. Yet it may also mean ultimate or final punishment (termination of existence) that has an eternal effect and can never be reversed. Here, Jesus only said that the punishment would be eternal, nothing about continuous.
 
d. Reasons supporting annihilationism: (1) Eternal torment is contrary to Godís love. Objection: God loves but also fulfils His justice.

(2) Eternal torment is disproportional to the sins committed by non-believers in temporal time. The Bible says that God will judge people "according to what they have done" (Rev 20:12) which implies that the penalty inflicted will be proportional to the evil done. Objection: The immensity of the evil done when sinners rebel against God may be greater than what we can imagine.

(3) Eternal existence of the impenitent in hell would be hard to reconcile with the promises of Godís final victory over evil, such as: God will bring every knee to bow to Christ and every tongue to confess His lordship (Php 2:10-11); God will unite all things under Christís leadership (Eph 1:10).

Objection: Those who support eternal torment have no good objection to this reason. (4) The words used in the Bible to describe hell point to annihilation, such as "second death" (Rev 20:14, as death is termination of life and consciousness), and "to perish" (Lk 13:3; Ro 2:12, it is difficult to imagine a perpetually inconclusive process of perishing). Objection: These may only refer to the harmful and destructive effects. (5) It is difficult to imagine that Christians can fully enjoy their eternal life with the knowledge that some of their closest relatives and friends are suffering unbearable torment at the same time. Objection: Our inability to understand something should never be a reason for rejecting it.
 
e. Reasons against annihilationism: (1) Human soul is indestructible and eternal. Response: The immortality of soul is a Greek concept not a biblical concept. Only God possesses immortality in Himself (1Ti 6:16); He gives immortality to us through the gospel (2Ti 1:10).

(2) There are many Bible verses that seem to describe eternal torment. Response: All of them can be satisfactorily explained from the viewpoint of annihilationism. For example, the torment described in Rev 14:10-11; 20:10 is never referred to eternal torment of unbelievers. As for the association of fire with hell, the main function of fire is not to cause pain, but to secure destruction, such as "burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Mt 3:12; Lk 3:17).