(Some of the many Q&A's and Bible articles on the "Wielding the Sword of the Spirit" web site at www.matthewmcgee.org)
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Bible Questions and Answers: Hell

Matthew McGee

Q: How will Christians be able to be happy in heaven, while knowing some of their loved ones are suffering in hell?

A: I quite often feel happy right here on earth, even though I know that vast numbers of the dead are in flames of torment right now. If I can feel happiness here today, I will most certainly be happy when I receive my immortal body and get to spend all eternity with my Lord.

Besides, I know that God is just. He is the one in the position to make the judgments on people's eternal destinies, not me. He had made it quite clear in the Bible what He intends to do on this issue. I trust His judgments to be correct and right. We may have some things that we wonder about in this present life, but I suspect it will all be made clear to us one day. In any case, we should trust our just God to do that which is just.

Q: Regarding Hades and the resurrections, if no one is in the lake of fire yet, then why is the rich man, described by Jesus Christ in Luke 16:19-31, being burned?

A: That rich man was and still is in Hades burning in flames of torment, much like the lake of fire. But the key difference is that right now, he does not have his body. He is only in soul and spirit form. At the end of the 1000 years the rich man and the rest of the lost will be resurrected in their bodies, and will then be cast body, soul, and spirit into the lake of fire to be tormented for all eternity. Hades has two halves, one side for comfort and one side for torment, separated by an impassable gulf. The comfort side was vacated when Christ was resurrected, while the torment side is still occupied and will not be vacated until the end of the 1000 year kingdom. The lake of fire is presently empty and has no comfort side. For further study of this and related questions, see the article called Hell Part 2: The Differences between Hades and the Lake of Fire.

Q: Will the lost have different degrees of eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire?

A: Matthew 11:20-24 says, "Then began he (Jesus) to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee."

Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were cities in Galilee region of northern Israel where Jesus had taught and performed many mighty miracles. Sodom was a wicked city that God destroyed back in the time of Abraham (Genesis 19). Tyre and Sidon are ancient Phoenician cities on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Lebanon. These are the cities of which God spoke in Joel 3:4-8 saying, "Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon (Sidon), and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head; Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things: The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border. Behold, I will raise them out of the place whither ye have sold them, and will return your recompence upon your own head: And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken it."

The repeated statements in Matthew 11:20-24 that "it shall be more tolerable" for certain cities in "the day of judgment" than for other cities, seems to imply that the eternal punishment for some will be worse than for others. Notice that this passage also demonstrates God's infinite foreknowledge, since He knows what the people of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom would have done if mighty miracles had been done in their cities.

Chapter 10 of Luke presents a similar situation as the one above. Luke 10:1 says, "After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come." Continuing down a few verses to Luke 10:8-12 Jesus says, "And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day (the day of judgment) for Sodom, than for that city." From there, the Luke account continues and repeats much of what we just read in Matthew 11:20-24.

In a parable about a steward and his servants, Jesus said in Luke 12:47-48, "... that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." Even those receiving the lesser sentence will receive a punishment that will last for all eternity. So it will no doubt be horrible beyond anything that we can conceive, but this passage does seem to indicate different degrees of eternal punishment for the lost.

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