Questions About Heaven, Hell and Eternity People are Really Asking: The TOP Most Frequently Asked Questions About Heaven, Hell and Eternity
Have Questions, Find Answers on Otakada.org – About Heaven, Hell and Eternity people are really asking – Daily, people turn to the Internet to find answers to their questions about spiritual matters. Topics related to spirituality are the second-most searched subjects online. Sadly, websites that present false teachings far outnumber those that proclaim the truth of God’s Word. We will provide answers as the Holy Spirit leads us from a biblical perspective. You will also need to pray to secure answers to any question you may have because one of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth – John 16:13. Today, we look at Questions About Heaven, Hell and Eternity people are really asking and questions that relate to this with biblical answers.. Enjoy
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But before we answer questions about Heaven, Hell and Eternity, hereunder is the most important question that has to do with your eternal destiny with answer for your necessary action:
Question: What does it mean to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?
Answer: Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? To properly understand this question, you must first understand the terms “Jesus Christ,” “personal,” and “Savior.”
Who is Jesus Christ? Many people will acknowledge Jesus Christ as a good man, a great teacher, or even a prophet of God. These things are definitely true of Jesus, but they do not fully define who He truly is. The Bible tells us that Jesus is God in the flesh, God in human form (see John 1:1, 14). God came to earth to teach us, heal us, correct us, forgive us—and die for us! Jesus Christ is God, the Creator, the sovereign Lord. Have you accepted this Jesus?
What is a Savior, and why do we need a Savior? The Bible tells us that we have all sinned; we have all committed evil acts (Romans 3:10-18). As a result of our sin, we deserve God’s anger and judgment. The only just punishment for sins committed against an infinite and eternal God is an infinite punishment (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:11-15). That is why we need a Savior!
Jesus Christ came to earth and died in our place. Jesus’ death was an infinite payment for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins (Romans 5:8). Jesus paid the price so that we would not have to. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proved that His death was sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. That is why Jesus is the one and only Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12)! Are you trusting in Jesus as your Savior?
Is Jesus your “personal” Savior? Many people view Christianity as attending church, performing rituals, and/or not committing certain sins. That is not Christianity. True Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Accepting Jesus as your personal Savior means placing your own personal faith and trust in Him. No one is saved by the faith of others. No one is forgiven by doing certain deeds. The only way to be saved is to personally accept Jesus as your Savior, trusting in His death as the payment for your sins and His resurrection as your guarantee of eternal life (John 3:16). Is Jesus personally your Savior?
If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, say the following words to God. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. Only believing in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross for you can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith
in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. “God, I know that I have sinned against You and deserve punishment. But I believe Jesus Christ took the punishment I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I receive Your offer of forgiveness and place my trust in You for salvation. I accept Jesus as my personal Savior! Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness— the gift of eternal life! Amen!”
Now, Top Questions About Heaven, Hell and Eternity People are Really Asking:
Is there life after death?
What happens after death?
Can people in heaven look down and see us?
Will we be able to see and know our friends and family members in heaven? What are the new heavens and the new earth?
Is hell real? Is hell eternal?
How is eternity in hell a fair punishment for sin?
What is the judgment seat of Christ?
What is the great white throne judgment?
Do pets/animals go to heaven? Do pets/animals have souls?
Is heaven real?
What is heaven like?
Are there different levels of heaven?
Are there different levels of punishment in hell?
What does the Bible say about soul sleep?
Question: Is there life after death?
Answer: The existence of life after death is a universal question. Job speaks for all of us by stating, “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure….If a man dies, will he live again?” (Job 14:1-2, 14). Like Job, all of us have been challenged by this question. Exactly what happens to us after we die? Do we simply cease to exist? Is life a revolving door of departing and returning to earth in order to eventually achieve personal greatness? Does everyone go to the same place, or do we go to different places? Is there really a heaven and hell?
The Bible tells us that there is not only life after death, but eternal life so glorious that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to the earth to give us this gift of eternal life. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus took on the punishment that all of us deserve and sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for our sin. Three days later, He proved Himself victorious over death by rising from the grave. He remained on the earth for forty days and was witnessed by thousands before ascending to heaven. Romans 4:25 says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
The resurrection of the Christ is a well-documented event. The apostle Paul challenged people to question eyewitnesses for its validity, and no one was able to contest its truth. The resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Because Christ was raised from the dead, we can have faith that we, too, will be resurrected. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ultimate proof of life after death. Christ was only the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again. Physical death came through one man, Adam, to whom we are all related. But all who have been adopted into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ will be given new life (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). Just as God raised up Jesus’ body, so will our bodies be resurrected upon Jesus’ return (1 Corinthians 6:14).
Although we will all be eventually resurrected, not everyone will go to heaven. A choice must be made by each person in this life, and this choice will determine one’s eternal destination. The Bible says that it is appointed for us to die only once, and after that will come judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Those who have been made righteous by faith in Christ will go into eternal life in heaven,
but those who reject Christ as Savior will be sent to eternal punishment in hell (Matthew 25:46). Hell, like heaven, is not simply a state of existence, but a literal place. It is a place where the unrighteous will experience never-ending, eternal wrath from God. Hell is described as a bottomless pit (Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1) and a lake of fire, burning with sulfur, where the inhabitants will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). In hell, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, indicating intense grief and anger (Matthew 13:42).
God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desires them to turn from their wicked ways so that they can live (Ezekiel 33:11). But He will not force us into submission; if we choose to reject Him, He accepts our decision to live eternally apart from Him. Life on earth is a test, a preparation for what is to come. For believers, life after death is eternal life in heaven with God. For unbelievers, life after death is eternity in the lake of fire. How can we receive eternal life after death and avoid an eternity in the lake of fire? There is only one way—through faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die…” (John 11:25-26).
The free gift of eternal life is available to all. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36). We will not be given the opportunity to accept God’s gift of salvation after death. Our eternal destination is determined in our earthly lifetimes by our reception or rejection of Jesus Christ. “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). If we trust the death of Jesus Christ as the full payment for our sin against God, we are guaranteed not only a meaningful life on earth, but also eternal life after death, in the glorious presence of Christ.
Question: What happens after death?
Answer: Within the Christian faith, there is a significant amount of confusion regarding what happens after death. Some hold that after death, everyone “sleeps” until the final judgment, after which everyone will be sent to heaven or hell. Others believe that at the moment of death, people are instantly judged and sent to their eternal destinations. Still others claim that when people die, their souls/spirits are sent to a “temporary” heaven or hell, to await the final resurrection, the final judgment, and then the finality of their eternal destination.
So, what exactly does the Bible say happens after death?
First, for the believer in Jesus Christ, the Bible tells us that after death believers’ souls/spirits are taken to heaven, because their sins are forgiven by having received Christ as Savior (John 3:16, 18, 36). For believers, death is to be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). However, passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 describe believers being resurrected and given glorified bodies. If believers go to be with Christ immediately after death, what is the purpose of this resurrection? It seems that while the souls/spirits of believers go to be with Christ immediately after death, the physical body remains in the grave “sleeping.” At the resurrection of believers, the physical body is resurrected, glorified, and then reunited with the soul/spirit. This reunited and glorified body- soul-spirit will be the possession of believers for eternity in the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21-22).
Second, for those who do not receive Jesus Christ as Savior, death means everlasting punishment. However, similar to the destiny of believers, unbelievers also seem to be sent immediately to a temporary holding place, to await their final resurrection, judgment, and eternal destiny. Luke 16:22-23 describes a rich man being tormented immediately after death. Revelation 20:11-15 describes all the unbelieving dead being resurrected, judged at the great white throne, and then being cast into the lake of fire. Unbelievers, then, are not sent to hell (the lake of fire) immediately after death, but rather are in a temporary realm of judgment and condemnation. However, even though unbelievers are not instantly sent to the lake of fire, their immediate fate after death is not a pleasant one. The rich man cried out, “I am in agony in this fire” (Luke 16:24).
Therefore, after death, a person resides in a “temporary” heaven or hell. After this temporary realm, at the final resurrection, a person’s eternal destiny will not change. The precise “location” of that eternal destiny is what changes. Believers will ultimately be granted entrance into the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1). Unbelievers will ultimately be sent to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). These are the final, eternal destinations of all people— based entirely on whether or not they had trusted Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Matthew 25:46; John 3:36).
Question: Can people in heaven look down and see us?
Answer: Hebrews 12:1 states, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” Some understand the “cloud of witnesses” to be people looking down on us from heaven. That is not the correct interpretation. Hebrews chapter 11 records many people whom God commended for their faith.
It is these people who are the “cloud of witnesses.” They are “witnesses” not in that they are watching us, but rather in that they have set an example for us. They are witnesses for Christ and God and truth. Hebrews 12:1 continues, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Because of the faith and diligence of Christians who went before us, we should be inspired to follow their example.
The Bible does not specifically say whether or not people in heaven can look down on us who are still on the earth. It is highly unlikely that they can. Why? First, they would sometimes see things that would cause them grief or pain, namely, acts of sin and evil. Since there is no grief, tears, or unhappiness in heaven (Revelation 21:4), it does not seem that observing earthly events would be possible. Second, people in heaven are so preoccupied with worshipping God and enjoying the glories of heaven that it does not seem they would have significant interest in what is happening here on earth. The very fact that they are free from sin and experiencing God’s presence in heaven surely is more than enough to captivate their attention. While it is possible that God allows people in heaven to look down upon their loved ones, the Bible gives us no reason to believe this actually occurs.
Question: Will we be able to see and know our friends and family members in heaven?
Answer: Many people say that the first thing they want to do when they arrive in heaven is see all their friends and loved ones who have passed on before them. In eternity, there will be plenty of time to see, know, and spend time with our friends and family members. However, that will not be our primary focus in heaven. We will be far more occupied with worshipping God and enjoying the wonders of heaven. Our reunions with loved ones are more likely to be filled with recounting the grace and glory of God in our lives, His wondrous love, and His mighty works. We will rejoice all the more because we can praise and worship the Lord in the company of other believers, especially those we loved on earth.
What does the Bible say about whether we will be able to recognize people in the afterlife? King Saul recognized Samuel when the witch of Endor summoned Samuel from the realm of the dead (1 Samuel 28:8-17). When David’s infant son died, David declared, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel
12:23). David assumed that he would be able to recognize his son in heaven, despite the fact that he died as a baby. In Luke 16:19-31, Abraham, Lazarus, and the rich man were all recognizable after death. At the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah were recognizable (Matthew 17:3-4). In these examples, the Bible does seem to indicate that we will be recognizable after death.
The Bible declares that when we arrive in heaven, we will “be like him [Jesus]; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Just as our earthly bodies were of the first man Adam, so will our resurrection bodies be just like Christ’s (1 Corinthians 15:47). “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:49, 53). Many people recognized Jesus after His resurrection (John 20:16, 20; 21:12; 1 Corinthians 15:4-7). If Jesus was recognizable in His glorified body, we also will be recognizable in our glorified bodies. Being able to see our loved ones is a glorious aspect of heaven, but heaven is far more about God, and far less about us. What a pleasure it will be to be reunited with our loved ones and worship God with them for all eternity.
Question: What are the new heavens and the new earth?
Answer: Many people have a misconception of what heaven is truly like. Revelation chapters 21-22 gives us a detailed picture of the new heavens and the new earth. After the events of the end times, the current heavens and earth will be done away with and replaced by the new heavens and new earth. The eternal dwelling place of believers will be the new earth. The new earth is the “heaven” on which we will spend eternity. It is the new earth where the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, will be located. It is on the new earth that the pearly gates and streets of gold will be.
Heaven—the new earth—is a physical place where we will dwell with glorified physical bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). The concept that heaven is “in the clouds” is unbiblical. The concept that we will be “spirits floating around in heaven” is also unbiblical. The heaven that believers will experience will be a new and perfect planet on which we will dwell. The new earth will be free from sin, evil, sickness, suffering, and death. It will likely be similar to our current earth, or perhaps even a recreation of our current earth, but without the curse of sin.
What about the new heavens? It is important to remember that in the ancient mind, “heavens” referred to the skies and outer space, as well as the realm in which God dwells. So, when Revelation 21:1 refers to the new heavens, it is likely indicating that the entire universe will be created—a new earth, new skies, a new outer space. It seems as if God’s heaven will be recreated as well, to give everything in the universe a “fresh start,” whether physical or spiritual. Will we have access to the new heavens in eternity? Possibly, but we will have to wait to find out. May we all allow God’s Word to shape our understanding of heaven.
Question: Is hell real? Is hell eternal?
Answer: It is interesting that a much higher percentage of people believe in the existence of heaven than believe in the existence of hell. According to the Bible, though, hell is just as real as heaven. The Bible clearly and explicitly teaches that hell is a real place to which the wicked/unbelieving are sent after death. We have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23). The just punishment for that sin is death (Romans 6:23). Since all of our sin is ultimately against God (Psalm 51:4), and since God is an infinite and eternal Being, the punishment for sin, death, must also be infinite and eternal. Hell is this infinite and eternal death which we have earned because of our sin.
The punishment of the wicked dead in hell is described throughout Scripture as “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41), “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12), “shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2), a place where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44-49), a place of “torment” and “fire” (Luke 16:23-24), “everlasting destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9), a place where “the smoke of torment rises forever and ever” (Revelation 14:10-11), and a “lake of burning sulfur” where the wicked are “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
The punishment of the wicked in hell is as never ending as the bliss of the righteous in heaven. Jesus Himself indicates that punishment in hell is just as everlasting as life in heaven (Matthew 25:46). The wicked are forever subject to the fury and the wrath of God. Those in hell will acknowledge the perfect justice of God (Psalm 76:10). Those who are in hell will know that their punishment is just and that they alone are to blame (Deuteronomy 32:3-5). Yes, hell is real. Yes, hell is a place of torment and punishment that lasts forever and ever, with no end. Praise God that, through Jesus, we can escape this eternal fate (John 3:16, 18, 36).
Question: How is eternity in hell a fair punishment for sin?
Answer: This is an issue that bothers many people who have an incomplete understanding of three things: the nature of God, the nature of man, and the nature of sin. As fallen, sinful human beings, the nature of God is a difficult concept for us to grasp. We tend to see God as a kind, merciful Being whose love for us overrides and overshadows all His other attributes. Of course God is loving, kind, and merciful, but He is first and foremost a holy and righteous God. So holy is He that He cannot tolerate sin. He is a God whose anger burns against the wicked and disobedient (Isaiah 5:25; Hosea 8:5; Zechariah 10:3). He is not
only a loving God—He is love itself! But the Bible also tells us that He hates all manner of sin (Proverbs 6:16-19). And while He is merciful, there are limits to His mercy. “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).
Humanity is corrupted by sin, and that sin is always directly against God. When David sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba and having Uriah murdered, he responded with an interesting prayer: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4). Since David had sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, how could he claim to have only sinned against God? David understood that all sin is ultimately against God. God is an eternal and infinite Being (Psalm 90:2). As a result, all sin requires an eternal punishment. God’s holy, perfect, and infinite character has been offended by our sin. Although to our finite minds our sin is limited in time, to God—who is outside of time—the sin He hates goes on and on. Our sin is eternally before Him and must be eternally punished in order to satisfy His holy justice.
No one understands this better than someone in hell. A perfect example is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Both died, and the rich man went to hell while Lazarus went to paradise (Luke 16). Of course, the rich man was aware that his sins were only committed during his lifetime. But, interestingly, he never says, “How did I end up here?” That question is never asked in hell. He does not say, “Did I really deserve this? Don’t you think this is a little extreme? A little over the top?” He only asks that someone go to his brothers who are still alive and warn them against his fate.
Like the rich man, every sinner in hell has a full realization that he deserves to be there. Each sinner has a fully informed, acutely aware, and sensitive conscience which, in hell, becomes his own tormenter. This is the experience of torture in hell—a person fully aware of his or her sin with a relentlessly accusing conscience, without relief for even one moment. The guilt of sin will produce shame and everlasting self-hatred. The rich man knew that eternal punishment for a lifetime of sins is justified and deserved. That is why he never protested or questioned being in hell.
The realities of eternal damnation, eternal hell, and eternal punishment are frightening and disturbing. But it is good that we might, indeed, be terrified. While this may sound grim, there is good news. God loves us (John 3:16) and wants us to be saved from hell (2 Peter 3:9). But because God is also just and righteous, He cannot allow our sin to go unpunished. Someone has to pay for it. In His great mercy and love, God provided His own payment for our sin. He sent
His Son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross for us. Jesus’ death was an infinite death because He is the infinite God/man, paying our infinite sin debt, so that we would not have to pay it in hell for eternity (2 Corinthians 5:21). If we confess our sin and place our faith in Christ, asking for God’s forgiveness based on Christ’s sacrifice, we are saved, forgiven, cleansed, and promised an eternal home in heaven. God loved us so much that He provided the means for our salvation, but if we reject His gift of eternal life, we will face the eternal consequences of that decision.
Question: What is the judgment seat of Christ?
Answer: Romans 14:10-12 says, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…so then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Second Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” In the context, it is clear that both scriptures are referring to Christians, not unbelievers. The judgment seat of Christ, therefore, involves believers giving an account of their lives to Christ. The judgment seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (1 John 2:2) and our faith in Him (John 3:16). All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them (Romans 8:1). We should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives. Yes, as the Bible says, we will have to give an account of ourselves. Part of this is surely answering for the sins we committed. However, that is not going to be the primary focus of the judgment seat of Christ.
At the judgment seat of Christ, believers are rewarded based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5). Some of the things we might be judged on are how well we obeyed the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), how victorious we were over sin (Romans 6:1-4), and how well we controlled our tongues (James 3:1-9). The Bible speaks of believers receiving crowns for different things based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5). The various crowns are described in 2 Timothy 2:5, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, and Revelation 2:10. James 1:12 is a good summary of how we should think about the judgment seat of Christ: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
Question: What is the great white throne judgment?
Answer: The great white throne judgment is described in Revelation 20:11-15 and is the final judgment prior to the lost being cast into the lake of fire. We know from Revelation 20:7-15 that this judgment will take place after the millennium and after Satan, the beast, and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10). The books that are opened (Revelation 20:12) contain records of everyone’s deeds, whether they are good or evil, because God knows everything that has ever been said, done, or even thought, and He will reward or punish each one accordingly (Psalm 28:4; 62:12; Romans 2:6; Revelation 2:23; 18:6; 22:12).
Also at this time, another book is opened, called the “book of life” (Revelation 20:12). It is this book that determines whether a person will inherit eternal life with God or receive everlasting punishment in the lake of fire. Although Christians are held accountable for their actions, they are forgiven in Christ and their names were written in the “book of life from the creation of the world” (Revelation 17:8). We also know from Scripture that it is at this judgment when the dead will be “judged according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12) and that “anyone’s name” that is not “found written in the book of life” will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
The fact that there is going to be a final judgment for all men, both believers and unbelievers, is clearly confirmed in many passages of Scripture. Every person will one day stand before Christ and be judged for his or her deeds. While it is very clear that the great white throne judgment is the final judgment, Christians disagree on how it relates to the other judgments mentioned in the Bible, specifically, who will be judged at the great white throne judgment.
Some Christians believe that the Scriptures reveal three different judgments to come. The first is the judgment of the sheep and the goats or a judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-36). This takes place after the tribulation period but prior to the millennium; its purpose is to determine who will enter the millennial kingdom. The second is a judgment of believers’ works, often referred to as the “judgment seat [bema] of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). At this judgment, Christians will receive degrees of reward for their works or service to God. The third is the great white throne judgment at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:11-15). This is the judgment of unbelievers in which they are judged according to their works and sentenced to everlasting punishment in the lake of fire.
Other Christians believe that all three of these judgments speak of the same final judgment, not of three separate judgments. In other words, the great white throne judgment in Revelation 20:11-15 will be the time that believers and unbelievers alike are judged. Those whose names are found in the book of life will be judged for their deeds in order to determine the rewards they will receive or lose. Those whose names are not in the book of life will be judged according to their deeds to determine the degree of punishment they will receive in the lake of fire. Those who hold this view believe that Matthew 25:31-46 is another description of what takes place at the great white throne judgment. They point to the fact that the result of this judgment is the same as what is seen after the great white throne judgment in Revelation 20:11-15. The sheep (believers) enter into eternal life, while the goats (unbelievers) are cast into “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46).
Whichever view one holds of the great white throne judgment, it is important to never lose sight of the facts concerning the coming judgment(s). First, Jesus Christ will be the judge, all unbelievers will be judged by Christ, and they will be punished according to the works they have done. The Bible is very clear that unbelievers are storing up wrath against themselves (Romans 2:5) and that God will “give to each person according to what he has done” (Romans 2:6). Believers will also be judged by Christ, but since Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us and our names are written in the book of life, we will be rewarded, but not punished, according to our deeds. Romans 14:10-12 says that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and that each one of us will give an account to God.
Question: Do pets/animals go to heaven? Do pets/animals have souls?
Answer: The Bible does not give any explicit teaching on whether pets/animals have “souls” or whether pets/animals will be in heaven. However, we can use general biblical principles to develop some clarity on the subject. The Bible states that both man (Genesis 2:7) and animals (Genesis 1:30; 6:17; 7:15, 22) have the breath of life. The primary difference between human beings and animals is that humanity is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), while animals are not. Being made in the image and likeness of God means that human beings are like God, capable of spirituality, with mind, emotion, and will, and they have a part of their being that continues after death. If pets/animals do have a “soul” or immaterial aspect, it must therefore be of a different and lesser “quality.” This difference possibly means that pet/animal “souls” do not continue in existence after death.
Another factor to consider is that animals are a part of God’s creative process in Genesis. God created the animals and said they were good (Genesis 1:25). Therefore, there is no reason why there could not be animals on the new earth (Revelation 21:1). There will most definitely be animals during the millennial kingdom (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25). It is impossible to say definitively whether some of these animals might be the pets we had while here on earth. We do know that God is just and that when we get to heaven we will find ourselves in complete agreement with His decision on this issue, whatever it may be.
Question: Is heaven real?
Answer: Heaven is indeed a real place. The Bible tells us that heaven is God’s throne (Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:48-49; Matthew 5:34-35). After Jesus’ resurrection and appearance on earth to His disciples, “He was taken up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19; Acts 7:55-56). “Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence” (Hebrews 9:24). Jesus not only went before us, entering on our behalf, but He is alive and has a present ministry in heaven, serving as our high priest in the true tabernacle made by God (Hebrews 6:19-20; 8:1-2).
We are also told by Jesus Himself that there are many rooms in God’s house and that He has gone before us to prepare a place for us. We have the assurance of His word that He will one day come back to earth and take us to where He is in heaven (John 14:1-4). Our belief in an eternal home in heaven is based on an explicit promise of Jesus. Heaven is most definitely a real place. Heaven truly does exist.
When people deny the existence of heaven, they deny not only the written Word of God, but they also deny the innermost longings of their own hearts. Paul addressed this issue in his letter to the Corinthians, encouraging them to cling to the hope of heaven so that they would not lose heart. Although we “groan and sigh” in our earthly state, we have the hope of heaven always before us and are eager to get there (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). Paul urged the Corinthians to look forward to their eternal home in heaven, a perspective that would enable them to endure hardships and disappointments in this life. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Just as God has put in men’s hearts the knowledge that He exists (Romans 1:19-20), so are we “programmed” to desire heaven. It is the theme of countless books, songs, and works of art. Unfortunately, our sin has barred the way to heaven. Since heaven is the abode of a holy and perfect God, sin has no place there, nor can it be tolerated. Fortunately, God has provided for us the key to open the doors of heaven—Jesus Christ (John 14:6). All who believe in Him and seek forgiveness for sin will find the doors of heaven swung wide open for them. May the future glory of our eternal home motivate us all to serve God faithfully and wholeheartedly. “Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart full of assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
Question: What is heaven like?
Answer: Heaven is a real place described in the Bible. The word “heaven” is found 276 times in the New Testament alone. Scripture refers to three heavens. The apostle Paul was “caught up to the third heaven,” but he was prohibited from revealing what he experienced there (2 Corinthians 12:1-9).
If a third heaven exists, there must also be two other heavens. The first is most frequently referred to in the Old Testament as the “sky” or the “firmament.” This is the heaven that contains clouds, the area that birds fly through. The second heaven is interstellar/outer space, which is the abode of the stars, planets, and other celestial objects (Genesis 1:14-18).
The third heaven, the location of which is not revealed, is the dwelling place of God. Jesus promised to prepare a place for true Christians in heaven (John 14:2). Heaven is also the destination of Old Testament saints who died trusting God’s promise of the Redeemer (Ephesians 4:8). Whoever believes in Christ shall never perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
The apostle John was privileged to see and report on the heavenly city (Revelation 21:10-27). John witnessed that heaven (the new earth) possesses the “glory of God” (Revelation 21:11), the very presence of God. Because heaven has no night and the Lord Himself is the light, the sun and moon are no longer needed (Revelation 22:5).
The city is filled with the brilliance of costly stones and crystal clear jasper. Heaven has twelve gates (Revelation 21:12) and twelve foundations (Revelation 21:14). The paradise of the Garden of Eden is restored: the river of the water of life flows freely and the tree of life is available once again, yielding fruit monthly with leaves that “heal the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2). However eloquent John was in his description of heaven, the reality of heaven is beyond the ability of finite man to describe (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Heaven is a place of “no mores.” There will be no more tears, no more pain, and no more sorrow (Revelation 21:4). There will be no more separation, because death will be conquered (Revelation 20:6). The best thing about heaven is the presence of our Lord and Savior (1 John 3:2). We will be face to face with the Lamb of God who loved us and sacrificed Himself so that we can enjoy His presence in heaven for eternity.
Question: Are there different levels of heaven?
Answer: The closest thing Scripture says to there being different levels of heaven is found in 2 Corinthians 12:2, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.” Some interpret this as indicating that there are three different levels of heaven, a level for “super-committed Christians” or Christians who have obtained a high level of spirituality, a level for “ordinary” Christians, and a level for Christians who did not serve God faithfully. This view has no basis in Scripture.
Paul is not saying that there are three heavens or even three levels of heaven. In many ancient cultures, people used the term “heaven” to describe three different “realms”—the sky, outer space, and then a spiritual heaven. Although the terms are not specifically biblical, these are commonly known as the terrestrial, telestial, and celestial heavens. Paul was saying that God took him to the “celestial” heavens, as in the realm in which God dwells. The concept of different levels of heaven may have come in part from Dante’s Divine Comedy in which the poet describes both heaven and hell as having nine different levels. The Divine Comedy, however, is a fictional work. The idea of different levels of heaven is foreign to Scripture.
Scripture does speak of different rewards in heaven. Jesus said regarding rewards, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12). Jesus said that when He comes He will have with Him rewards to give to people on the basis of what they have done. This shows us that there will be a time of reward for believers. In 2 Timothy 4:7-8, we read the words of Paul as he closes out his ministry: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Only those works that survive God’s refining fire have eternal value and will be worthy of reward. Those valuable works are referred to as “gold, silver, and costly stones” (1 Corinthians 3:12) and are those things that are built upon the foundation of faith in Christ. Those works that will not be rewarded are called “wood, hay, and stubble”; these are not evil deeds but shallow activities with no eternal value. Rewards will be distributed at the “judgment seat of Christ,” a place where believers’ lives will be evaluated for the purpose of rewards. “Judgment” of believers never refers to punishment for sin. Jesus Christ was punished for our sin when He died on the cross, and God said about us: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). What a glorious thought! The Christian need never fear punishment, but can look forward to crowns of reward that he can cast at the feet of the Savior. In conclusion, there are not different levels of heaven, but there are different levels of reward in heaven.
Question: Are there different levels of punishment in hell?
Answer: The idea that there are different levels of punishment in hell derives primarily from the Divine Comedy written by Dante Alighieri between 1308 and 1321. In it, the Roman poet Virgil guides Dante through the nine circles of hell. The circles are concentric, representing a gradual increase in wickedness, and culminating at the center of the earth, where Satan is held in bondage. Each circle’s sinners are punished in a fashion befitting their crimes. Each sinner is afflicted for all of eternity by the chief sin he committed. According to Dante, the circles range from the first circle, where dwell the unbaptized and virtuous pagans, to the very center of hell reserved for those who have committed the ultimate sin—treachery against God.
Although it does not specifically say so, the Bible might seem to indicate that there are different levels of punishment in hell. In Revelation 20:11-15, the people are judged “according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Revelation 20:12). All the people at this judgment, though, are thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13-15). So, perhaps, the purpose of the judgment is to determine how severe the punishment in hell will be. Whatever the case, being thrown into a slightly less hot portion of the lake of fire is no consolation to those who are still doomed for eternity. Whatever degrees of punishment hell contains, it is clear that hell is a place to be avoided.
Unfortunately, the Bible states that most people will wind up in hell. “…For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). The question one must ask is “which road am I on?” The “many” on the broad road have one thing in common—they have all rejected Christ as the one and only way to heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). When He said He is the only way, that is precisely what He meant. Everyone following another “way” beside Jesus Christ is on the broad road to destruction, and whether or not there are different levels of punishment in hell, the suffering is hideous, dreadful, eternal, and avoidable.
Question: What does the Bible say about soul sleep?
Answer: “Soul sleep” is a belief that after a person dies, his/her soul “sleeps” until the resurrection and final judgment. The concept of “soul sleep” is not biblical. When the Bible describes a person “sleeping” in relation to death (Luke 8:52; 1 Corinthians 15:6), it does not mean literal sleep. Sleeping is just a way to describe death because a dead body appears to be asleep. The moment we die, we face the judgment of God (Hebrews 9:27). For believers, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). For unbelievers, death means everlasting punishment in hell (Luke 16:22-23).
Until the final resurrection, though, there is a temporary heaven—paradise (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4) and a temporary hell—Hades (Revelation 1:18; 20:13-14). As can be clearly seen in Luke 16:19-31, neither in paradise nor in Hades are people sleeping. It could be said, though, that a person’s body is “sleeping” while his soul is in paradise or Hades. At the resurrection, this body is “awakened” and transformed into the everlasting body a person will possess for eternity, whether in heaven or hell. Those who were in paradise will be sent to the new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21:1). Those who were in Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). These are the final, eternal destinations of all people—based entirely on whether or not a person trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation.
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