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.
Eschatology means the study of the
last things. It can be subdivided into Individual Eschatology (about human
eventuality) and General Eschatology (about eventuality of the world).
b. Intermediate state (between termination
of physical life and final judgment):
c. Meaning of death for Christians:
Death is not an end of human consciousness
Sheol (OT) or Hades (NT) is a place
for departed spirits of both the believer and the unbeliever (Gen 37:35;
Dt 32:22; Job 21:13; Ps 9:17; 16:10; Isa 38:10).
Hades includes a place for the unbeliever
called Gehenna or Hell (Mt 5:22,29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33) and a place
for the believer called Paradise or Heaven (Lk 23:43). The two are separated
by a chasm but conversation between the two parts is possible (Lk 16:19-31).
The soul of a believer goes immediately
to heaven, a place of blessing and with joyous fellowship with the Lord
(2Co 5:6-9; Php 1:23-24; Lk 23:43). The soul of an unbeliever go
immediately to hell, a place of torment (Lk 16:24-26).
d. Attitude toward our own death:
Death is not a punishment (Ro 8:1).
Death is the final outcome of living
in a fallen world which we still live in. God has chosen not to remove
all evil from the world immediately. Death is the last enemy to be destroyed
Death is a door through which we approach
the presence of God. Our experience with death completes our union with
Christ (Ro 8:17; 1Pe 2:21).
e. Attitude toward death of Christian
friends and relatives:
not with fear but with joy at the prospect
of going to be with Christ (2Co 5:8; Php 1:21-23).
It is a rest from the labours in this
life (Rev 14:13).
Not even death will separate us from
the love of God (Ro 8:38-39).
Christiansí lack of the fear of death
will provide a strong witness to the world in an age that tries to avoid
talking about death and has no answer to it.
f. Attitude toward death of unbelievers:
genuine sorrow but mixed with joy,
mourning mixed with worship of God and thanksgiving for the life of the
loved one who has died.
real sorrow at the loss of fellowship
and also for the suffering and hardship prior to death (Ac 8:2;
Jn 11:35; Ac 20:37-38).
mingled with joy because of the assurance
that they have gone to be with the Lord (1Th 4:13; Rev 14:13).
74. What is
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.
sorrow not mingled with joy; their
death should cause us to reflect on our own life and destiny.
But we can still be thankful about
the good qualities of the person (common grace given by God).
Also, we need to be reminded that there
is no absolute certainty that the person has persisted in refusal to salvation.
b. It is a place, not just a state
(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.
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.
Heaven is a dimension which really
does exist in our space/time universe, and within which Jesus now lives
in His physical resurrection body. It may even be not very far from us
but is in a dimension unable to be perceived by our natural senses.
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
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).