By Brian Holda (2005)
(much material adapted from Derek Prince)
In this Bible study, we are dealing with subjects that are neither visible, temporary, nor exist in the present, but rather the doctrine of eternal judgment touches upon the invisible, the eternal, and those things that exist in the future. In light of this, the only knowledge we have on the subject is that which the Bible mentions. There are many things we may want to know about this topic that are simply not mentioned in the Scriptures. Whatever is not mentioned, we must be content to leave alone and trust that the Holy Spirit had a reason for not writing. In other cases, there are passages of Scripture that have had many different interpretations in the history of the church, or passages that give us room to infer certain things without saying them directly. We have tried to indicate where these things are so and ask for you to keep in mind that this is our most humble and honest attempt to get at the truth of the matter. As always, if the reader is persuaded by the Scriptures that what we have written here does not line up with God’s Word it is paramount that he or she rejects these writings and holds fast to the Scriptures. With all this in mind we hope you enjoy the supremely important and amazing doctrine of eternal judgment.
ETERNAL JUDGMENT TEACHING.
In Hebrews 6:1-2 we have six foundations for our Christian walk. Eternal judgment is the last foundation that needs be secure to build a mighty house before The LORD.
Let’s look now at Hebrews 12. First we are asking, What is God’s nature? To answer this, we must back up to see the full picture of God. At the beginning of Hebrews 12, the writer talks of a cloud of witnesses and running the race for The LORD. He continues with this analogy and says that, in fact, as Christians, “you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” (Heb. 12:22-24).
The key to discerning these verses is the number three. Three main things are mentioned: 1) The description of God’s dwelling place. 2) Then, those who dwell there with God. 3) And God Himself. And all of these three things break down into three more things.
Let’s first look at the description of God’s dwelling place as noted in verse 22. It is called: 1) Mount Zion, 2) The city of the living God, 3) The heavenly Jerusalem. So we see there are three descriptions of where God dwells.
And in the center of this all is God the JUDGE (see v. 23). Now who are those who are dwelling there with God? Beginning with the end of verse 22 we see there are: 1) myriads of angels, 2) the church of the firstborn (those who were saints after Christ came to earth), and 3) the spirits of the righteous made perfect (those saints who died before Christ ever came). These are three groups of people all surrounding God the JUDGE.
Now we must ask ourselves, if we have a Holy God here, how is it possible for sinful men to dwell in His presence, in the presence of God the JUDGE? I believe that if it were only God the JUDGE mentioned here, it would not be possible, because no one can match up to the holiness of God Almighty. However, we are given further details about God. In verse 24, we see that there stands a mediator, Jesus Christ. And His method of mediating is seen in the picture of “the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel”. This is the only means by which men can stand in the presence of the Truly Just Judge, God Himself.
So in these verses we have a picture of God as Judge, yet showing mercy. As the Bible says in another place, “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Throughout the Bible we see God as Judge, but his truest nature is not of judgment. Isaiah 28:21 says that judgment is a “strange” and “alien” act to God. Judgment is strange to God because his truest nature is mercy, mercy, mercy.
We can see this in Jesus’ coming. The day of the LORD’s coming to earth was spoken of as a terrible day in Malachi. Yet, the terror and judgment of that day fell on God’s Son, not upon the people who truly deserved it. This again shows us that God longs to give mercy over judgment.
Even the way that God chose to judge shows His mercy. We must not forget that although God prefers mercy, He still must be a Perfect Judge. 1 Peter 1:17 tells us that God the Father must impartially judge. For sure, the Father does have this role of Judge, but look also at John 5:22. In this verse Jesus explains that the Father does have a responsibility to judge, however, He has deferred all of His judgments to the Son. In this verse I believe you can see the mercy of God. It is as if God was exceedingly joyful to not have to exercise his role as judge, and delegate it to His Son instead.
Jesus also has a peculiar way of enacting his judgments. In John 12:47, Jesus explains that He did not come to judge the world, but to save it, even though just chapters earlier He explained that He would judge the world. So how can this be? Judgments must be enacted, but they will not be handled by the Father or the Son, instead, Jesus says, “the word I spoke is what will judge him on the last day” (John 12:48). Jesus, then, defers His judgment to the Word. This is the picture given in the book of Revelation of Jesus’ returning. Revelation 19 explains that Jesus will come back with a double-edged sword out of His mouth. This shows that the judgment of Jesus will come forth from his mouth just as the sword came out of his mouth. It is the very words from Jesus’ mouth that will judge ALL when He returns. And, in fact, Hebrews 4:12 and Ephesians 6:17 explains that the sword is that mighty Word of God. Jesus will therefore come back with a sword, which is the Word of God, and deliberate His judgments through this means. This is the way we will all be judged – how you line up with the Word.
It is paramount, then, that we study what the Scriptures say regarding how the Word of God will judge us. In Romans 2:1-16 we see 4 different ways that people will be judged by the Word of God:
- TRUTH. Romans 2:2 shows us that God judges by truth. It is interesting to note that Jesus says in John 17:17 that God’s Word is Truth. The ultimate standard of truth is the Word of God. Every person is going to be asked to give an account of how much their life lined up with the Truth of the Bible. You will be judged by how much you have gone astray from the truth of this Word. You will judged by how much you lived in line with the truth of this Word. This is how you will be judged.
- DEEDS. Romans 2:3-5 shows that God will judge every person according to the deeds they have done. Romans 2:16 shows clearly that it is not only the external deeds, but also the things that are “secret” that will be judged as well. Judgment is not limited to what is seen, but extends to what is done in secret as well.
- “NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS” (Romans 2:11, KJV). This phrase is used 16 times in the Bible. For us, we always look at what people are like. We may judge by races, by sex, by positions, or whatever, but these things do not matter to God at all. He is “no respecter of persons”. This is a solemn attribute about God. So we must see that it is all about what you have done and how you lined up with the truth, and never about who you are in any visible sense.
- AMOUNT OF LIGHT YOU HAVE. Romans 2:12 shows that God will judge people by the amount of light that they have received. This is confirmed in many other places in the Scriptures. For those who had the Law with them, the Jews, they will be judged by a harsher standard. But even Gentiles have light by which they will be judged. For instance, they can see creation itself and the moral law within as measures of light that God has given them. By the amount of revelation, of light you have, you will be judged by this standard. America sits as a place that has received an abundance of light. There are so many opportunities here, and based on these Scriptures, we should expect to incur a stricter judgment than other nations perhaps.
We must next address the issue of the two types of judgment in Scripture. There are judgments that take place in history. For instance, in some places in the Bible it is noted that what you do will affect your children and your children’s children, and so on all the way down. Yet there is also the issue of eternal judgment. This is the issue that we are presently studying – what happens after you die and for the rest of eternity.
Exodus 20:4-6 gives an example where God says He will punish even the third and fourth generation (see verse 5). And we see similar phrases throughout the Bible. Even today there are judgments of God that occur in our history. Sodom and Gomorrah give another example of a judgment that took place in history.
However, in Ezekiel 18:1-4 God shows a picture of a different judgment taking place. Do you see here what the Israelites are actually saying to God to justify their immoral behavior? They had a proverb that was apparently commonly spoken, speaking of their fathers eating sour grapes which cause their own teeth to be set on edge. In other words, they blamed their moral bankruptcy on the sins of their fathers. But God rejects this type of reasoning, and later says that each person is responsible for their own sins (see verse 20). The most important principle that God is showing us here is that in eternal judgment you stand alone before God. You cannot go before God and say, “Well my dad did this,” or, “well, my parents…” No. It all falls upon you. There will be no room for excuses, nor favoritism either. You may have heard the expression that God does not have grandchildren. This speaks of a true principle. You cannot say, “My parents were children of God, therefore I get in”. No. God says it all falls upon you.
So in eternal judgment, the question that will be asked is “What have YOU done?” What have you done? You cannot say what your fathers have done. This explains these contrasting scriptures of Exodus and Ezekiel. There are other instances of this as well. For instance, in Ecclesiastes we read that some things we may not see judged on earth, but those people have what is coming for them. Solomon writes that though there may be some things that are hidden, God yet knows those. And in 1 Timothy 5:24-25, a similar thing is uttered.
When studying eternal judgment, then, we must ask what will happen when we exit the realm of time and history and enter the realm of eternity, before Christ returns. (This question, of course, will not discuss historical judgment, as it is outside the scope of this study to do so). At death, in this present age, our body returns to the earth and our soul and spirit will ascend up to God the Father where He will consign you to either a place of torment and torture or you will be allowed to stay in the presence of God. This is what takes place today whenever someone dies. As we have seen already, the fifth foundation listed in Hebrews 6:1-2 is the resurrection of the dead, and the sixth foundation is eternal judgment. This is the order – resurrection, then eternal judgment. This is the theme throughout Scripture – resurrection, then eternal judgment. Even in the pattern of Jesus we see that He came and received His new, resurrected body after He was dead for three days, but it was yet to happen that He would ascend to the Father where He received all of His glory and rewards (see Philippians 2), and He was called “The King of Kings”. The example, then, set before us shows there to be a resurrection that is yet future, where we will all inherit a body that will last forever, and in that body there will be a judgment.
In 2 Corinthians 5:10 we see why there must be a resurrected body before there can be a judgment. First, notice that Paul uses the word “we” in describing the judgment. This is not a judgment confined to only non-believers. That word “we” shows this to be a judgment that encompasses Paul and the church at Corinth, and by extension, all people as well. Next, we can see that we will be before the judgment seat of Christ to receive judgment for deeds done in the body. These are all of the actions we have done while living in this body. This is the reason we must appear before God in our whole personality: spirit, soul, and body. We must be present in our new body because we will be held accountable for what we have done in “the body”.
We must now study more thoroughly what will happen when Christ returns. For light on this subject, we will look at Matthew 25. In verses 31-33, we see that there is a clear order of events in the end times. First, the Son of Man will come in His glory to the earth with all the angels with him. Then, He will sit down on His throne to gather the nations. And next, He will separate all the nations, putting the sheep on His right hand and the goats on the left. The righteous are shown in the sheep who are at his left hand, and the unrighteous in the goats at his left. Before going further into this teaching, we must see that the first thing Christ will do when He returns is a mighty work of separation.
After this separation, there is given an order of this eternal judgment. In verse 34, we see that Jesus will first speak to the believers, the sheep on His right side. Peter affirms this truth when he writes that judgment is to begin with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).
It is now important that we distinguish between those who merely think and say they are in the household of God, and those who truly do belong to this household. Christ says that He will come back for those who are His (1 Corinthians 15:23, 2 Timothy 2:19). He knows who are His, and for these He will return. He does not say He will come back for those who make a profession of faith, or for those who prayed a certain prayer. He only promises to come back for those who are truly His. So what happens to those people who say they belong to Christ, but truthfully don’t (i.e. Matt. 7:21)?
In Matthew 13:24-30 we are given another parable that helps explain dealings in the kingdom of heaven. In this parable, there is first a farmer who comes and plants good seeds of wheat. But while he is gone, the tares (or weeds) grow simultaneously with wheat. So we are clear, a tare is a weed that looks almost identical to true wheat, but is in actuality worthless and harmful to the farmer. Only those with the discerning eyes of the farmer can tell the difference between the wheat and the tares. This parable shows us that there will be two kinds of people who will raise up in the world (and seemingly in the church) – the wheat and the tares. In fact, Jesus instructs us to not try to uproot those that we think are false, for we may make a mistake and accidentally uproot true wheat (v. 29). It is only the job of God to judge those who are His and those who are false. Instead, we are told to wait until the Lord’s returning and then He will judge between the two. First, he will gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, then, he will gather the wheat into his barn (v. 30). This is a great separation that occurs when Christ returns, as is explained in verses 36 through 43. In these explanatory verses we find out that all over the world Satan is doing a dreadful work of planting people in assemblies who look like they are truly Christians, but in fact are not Christians. This is not wrong to state this fact, for Our LORD already said the same thing. We must remember, though, that it is not our job to figure out if they are Christians or if they are not. That job belongs solely to The LORD, lest you accidentally make a wrong decision. We should take this warning not to be too quick to label someone a believer or a non-believer, for it is only God who truly knows these things, and at the end of the age this great sifting out will occur.
At this point, we are inclined to wonder what the true order of events of judgment at Christ’s return will be. I believe that two possibilities emerge when studying these parables from Matt. 13 and 25. The first possibility is that Jesus will first bundle the unrighteous, but later they will be burned. This theory is realized when we see that Jesus merely mentions that the tares will be bundled before the wheat, but relegates the burning of the tares to a later time period. The other possibility is that in Matt. 25, when Jesus refers to the separation of the sheep and the goat, there may also be a separation not mentioned that occurs between those who look like sheep and those who are actually sheep (like the wheat and the tares). Therefore, the statement that Peter makes concerning judgment beginning with the house of God would include both those people who are truly in the house of God, and those who are only appear to be in the true house of God. I believe that both interpretations have merit in light of the rest of the Scriptures.
Regardless of the actual order of judgment, we can see that there will be a division between the righteous and the unrighteous, and God will pronounce judgment upon the deeds of Christians. To this end, we turn now to Romans 14:10-12 to observe the main features of Christian judgment. In this passage we can clearly see that every Christian will also have to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Notice also the words used in verse 12 – “each of us will give an account”. This confirms the words of Ezekiel 18:4 in which God says that each man will be judged by what he alone has done, without attention paid to anyone else. Every individual person will appear alone before The LORD at that time. Your parents will not be there. Your pastor won’t be there. Your friends won’t be there. You will stand alone before the throne of Christ (Greek, Bema Seat) and God will ask you what you have done with the Word He has given you.
Turn also to 2 Corinthians 5:10. We have already seen in this verse that we will appear in our resurrected bodies at the judgment seat of Christ, to receive the judgment of deeds we have done in our body on earth. But notice also the last four words of this verse: “whether good or bad”. There are only two categories of deeds we have committed, those that are good and those that are bad. We have no category for deeds that are neutral, for they simply do not exist. There is no such thing. Everything you have done is going to be considered either good or bad. And the bad deeds, of course, will be those things that will burn in the fire, whereas the good deeds will inherit rewards. Romans 14:23 says that anything not done in faith is sin, so anything you do that is not done in faith for The LORD is considered sin. This helps us see that there are truly only 2 categories: good and bad. Or we could say, those things done out of faithfulness to The LORD, and those things which were faithless before God.
There is another issue towards the judgment of Christians that is seen in John 3:18. In this verse, Jesus says with absolute certainty that Christian judgment has nothing to do with condemnation. I believe this fact should give way to much praise to God, for in the presence of God the JUDGE we deserve hell. This is the truth, yet this is why we need the Mediator, Jesus. And when you believe in Him you will not be judged. You will not receive condemnation. What, then, does Christian judgment involve?
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 explains that the judgment of Christians is based on rewards, instead of condemnation. The start of this passage points to Christ as the foundation of the works, showing us that this, too, describes judgment befalling Christians, not non-believers. Therefore we do not see a judgment of condemnation here, for every soul that rests in Jesus Christ is absolutely secure. Christ has been made our righteousness to the glory of God, that no condemnation can touch us. It cannot be a judgment, then, based on righteousness, because believers have the righteousness of Jesus in us. This is not a judgment based on who you are, but on what you have done now that Jesus is your foundation – How have you built on your spiritual house?
The means, though, by which our works will be judged, is through fire. Look at 1 Corinthians 3:12 and pay specific attention to the material mentioned. The first three materials are the good materials, and the last three are the bad materials. We know that gold, silver, and precious stones are refined, purified, and survive through fire. However straw, hay, and wood are burned up and destroyed in the flames. So we see that fire is the single test for the kind of material you are using.
It is also worth mentioning that quality is far more value in God’s eyes than quantity. Gold, silver, and precious stones are things that are not found in great quantities. However, straw, hay, and wood are usually found in exceedingly large quantities. This is a sobering truth here. It would appear that many may perhaps go to the judgment seat of Christ with very large quantities of stuff that will be instantly devoured by the flames, because the material was not of pure quality. We must be absolutely clear on this fact. It is NOT about quantity. Today, a lot of people think they are not doing enough for God, but in reality, many people are actually doing too many things that will be completely burned up.
This naturally prompts us to wonder, What things will withstand the flames? We can say with certainty that only true and enduring value will survive and be purified and refined by the fire.
The first thing to consider is motive – why are you doing things? 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” For us, eating and drinking would appear to be neutral activities, yet God only sees good or bad. We must ask ourselves, are we doing things for the glory of God?
Next, we must look at our obedience. Are you doing things according to what the Word has said? In Matthew 7, Jesus explains that some people will come to Him and they will say, in essence, “Lord, Lord, we are ready to be with You. We have done all of these cool things for You. We did miracles, cast out demons, and prophesied in your name.” And Jesus is going to look at them and say, “I never knew you. Depart from my presence.” This is a very tough word, and we might well ask how it is possible that they could do such mighty works and yet be rejected. But no, Jesus explains that it will be “those who hear and do what I have said” that will have something that will last. That is the test here, your obedience, according to God’s Word. Jesus is The Word made flesh, and He says that all of the Word is the revealer of whether your works will last the fire. Many people are doing Christian works that have nothing to do with the Scriptures. And in actuality, many of them are contrary to the Scriptures. This only leads to flames.
The last material we will consider is power. Specifically, the Holy Spirit is the power referred to in the Bible. One person talked about a vision they had of the judgment seat of Christ. She explained that when she was before God, He revealed all of her life and showed what lasted through the flames. This young woman did not become a believer until the age of 15, and she told how she saw God incinerate all of those first 15 years of her service because she did not do one thing out of the power of the Holy Spirit. Those years vanished in a twinkle of an eye in the presence of God. I believe this vision confirms the witness of Scripture, and it shows how meaningless our works are outside of the power of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 15:18-19, Paul says that he will not even speak of the things he has done without the power of the Spirit. It is, quite frankly, useless to even speak of such things. Instead, he confines himself to speak of only what happened with the Spirit – the miracles, people receiving salvation, etc. – all of the things that had been accomplished through the power of the Spirit. We must ask ourselves if we are doing activities through our own power or the power from above.
These three things – motive, obedience, power – are three things that can be seen consistently throughout the Scriptures as work that will be eternal. They are the workings that will last the flames.
Many are familiar with the picture of Christ seen in Revelation 1:12-16. Among other things, Christ is pictured with eyes like flames of fire and feet like “burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace”. In light of the fact that fire is the ultimate tester of our works, the works of both Christians and non-Christians, it seems that the feet of Christ will judge the non-believers and His eyes will judge the believers. This brings light to the great focus in the Song of Songs of the eyes, specifically, the eyes of the groom staring at the eyes of the bride. This is the great romance we have with Christ. He will test our work by looking into our eyes with his eyes of fire. Our staring into his eyes will quickly show us what will last and what will be burned up.
This does give us a true picture of judgment upon Christian works that will not last, however, we must also look at the great glory and celebration surrounding Christian works that are built upon pure and costly foundations. In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus compares his coming with a man distributing different amounts of talents for his servants to steward until he returns. In verse 15, we see that each man was given talents “according to his own abilities”. He never gave more than they could handle. He gave to everyone according to their abilities. It is the same with us. God gives us resources as He knows what our abilities are.
The man with five talents ended up doubling what he had. His faithfulness produced life in this, and he received a hundred percent increase. The man with two also doubled what he had. Now compare verse 21 with verse 23. The master spoke the exact same words to each servant. It did not matter how many talents they produced in terms of number, but rather he was concerned with what had been done with the talents they had. For this reason, I plead with everybody to stop comparing your number of talents with someone else’s. Stop saying, “If I only had what they had. If I could only do what they do.” This is very wrong in The LORD’s sight. The men with more things will actually incur a stricter judgment because they were given more and more will be expected of them. He has placed every member in the Body exactly where He wants them to be. Everyone has a purpose of where they are and what they have. He truly does give each according to their ability, and He asks us to be faithful with what we have.
Now the third servant hid his single talent. He kept it to himself and never used it. Matt. 25:26 says that his master called him a “wicked, lazy servant”. He has been called wicked because he never did anything. This is contrary to how we commonly think of wickedness. We assume wickedness is always doing something wrong. But according to Jesus, wickedness is also not doing right. “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17). Wicked and lazy are put side-by-side here. This is an interesting juxtaposition: wicked and lazy. Yet according to Jesus, these are the same thing. Not doing anything with what He has given you is wickedness, it is sin.
There is another parable in Luke 19 that speaks of very similar things. In this parable, however, instead of 3 people receiving differing amounts of money, 10 people receive the exact same amount of money: ten minas. One person gained five minas, another gained two minas, and another person did nothing with the minas he had been given. It resulted that the person who gained a greater percentage of what he was given, received more rewards from the Master. He was given the chance to have authorities in heaven over kingdoms.
After studying both of these parables, we may safely say that not to use is to lose. Jesus said that even that which you have will be taken from you if you do not use it. We also see that if you do not do good when you can, this is sin. And perhaps the most sobering truth we find is that all who did nothing were totally rejected. To be honest, this is a very tough word. Matthew 25:14 says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered the goods to them.” (NKJV). According to this parable, all three of these people were his servants, at least at one time. So why is it that a servant who did nothing was thrown into hell (Matt. 25:30)? This is a very tough word that must be taken seriously. I do not claim to have all of the answers to this, although I have my own ideas of what this might mean. But regardless, we must see truly how serious a matter this is to Jesus, and remember that it is by His Words that we will be judged. Not doing anything with what He has given you, not using the talents you have, these are detrimental things, and should be very serious warnings for us.
The last thing we should look at in this study of eternal judgment is Revelation 20:11-15, for it shows what will be the judgment of non-Christians. The first image we are drawn to here is the book of life (see v. 12). If your name is in this book of life you are saved from the lake of fire, and from other Scriptures, it seems that the names written in this book are all those who have repented and believe in Jesus in their hearts, thus giving ownership of their lives over to God. There are also other books mentioned here as well. These books record all of the deeds you have done. They will judge us by those things mentioned in Romans 2 – by truth, by deeds, by the light you have received, and so forth. All of these other books show your deeds.
To understand all of the vision presented in Revelation 20, it is helpful to grasp the two deaths and two resurrections mentioned in this chapter and other places as well. The first death is your spiritual death. Everyone takes part in this death, because every person born is spiritually dead at birth, as a descendant of Adam. This is why salvation is described as going from death into life. Death is the state we are in before we become Christians. The first resurrection, then, is being born again. This is a spiritual resurrection. The second resurrection is the resurrection of the dead, in which you receive your new bodies. And the second death is the lake of fire – the eternal punishment that will never end. A punishment that occurs after you have been given your eternal bodies. The Christians, though, do not take part in this second death, because they took part in the first resurrection. It is interesting to note that your physical death is not of primary concern to God. It is the spiritual death and the eternal damnation that are far more consequential.
With this in mind, look now at Rev. 20:13: “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them” (NKJV). The sea is spoken of in Rev. 17:15 as symbolic of the world, and could be inferred to be specifically the Gentiles. So the sea spoken of in Rev. 20:13 is probably referring to the people who were living when Christ returns. If they are living, then, how can the Bible refer to them as dead? This is the spiritual death we alluded to earlier. This verse explains that people here who are spiritually dead will be given up to Christ. Then, we also see Death and Hades giving up their dead. This is where those who will have died before Christ’s return will reside. You may have heard it referred to as the underworld perhaps. Though Death and Hades are the temporary residence of the deceased, places no doubt filled with torture of the caliber of Luke 16, these places also will receive the judgment prescribed by Our LORD. In this passage, they are personified and seem to be almost creatures in themselves. Regardless of what their personalities may entail, we see that they, too, will be thrown in the lake of fire, never to rise again. It can be clearly seen that these verses refer to non-believers as opposed to those who will not receive condemnation. These were the ones who did not have their names written in the book of life, and they were cast into the lake of fire. It should be noted that the place of torture and anguish that the rich man received when he sinned against God and Lazarus, this place that Jesus mentions, a place that was so hot that the rich man begged for one drop of water to cool his tongue, this place is actually only a temporary place (Luke 16). When non-believers die today, they will go to this place of torture. But the harsh reality is that this place is not even the worst yet. The lake of fire is still a future destination of all who suffer in Death and Hades today. This is the seriousness of the gospel for all of us and for all the people we know who don’t have the gospel. There will truthfully be people who will come from this temporary place of torture – where their souls and spirits inhabit without bodies – and later they will receive new resurrected bodies that cannot perish. However, it is most awful that many will receive these new bodies only to be cast into the lake of fire. It is beyond our comprehension to imagine such torture without relief that will take place in these bodies that cannot die. The best way we can perhaps describe it is by thinking of the burning bush in Exodus 3. The bush is described as burning without being consumed. This is the picture of this most serious and dreadful reality.
We can sum up then by saying that Christian judgment will be a day of celebration and rewards, and non-Christian judgment will be a time of torture that should break all of our hearts. I honestly believe that if The LORD revealed even a small bit of it, our hearts would be completely broken.
To close, I want to look at 1 Corinthians 11:31-32: “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the LORD, that we may not be condemned with the world.” (NKJV). These verses tell us that it is far better to receive the chastening of The LORD now, then to reject this chastening and wait for the judgment that will have eternal repercussions.
May we all move in the fear of the LORD and the power of His Spirit to the glory of God. Amen.