The Expository Files

Is Heaven and Hell Real?

Most human beings believe in life after death. In fact, most people not only believe in a heaven, but also feel sure that they are going there after death. However, very few people believe in a hell, statistically speaking. Moreover, it would be hard to find many people who truly believe they are going to hell.

The Bible teaches that there is a literal heaven and a literal hell. Heaven is the spiritual dwelling place of God, and it is where all true Christians will go after death, provided they remain faithful throughout life. Hell is the place of eternal separation from God, prepared for the devil and his angels. It is a place of eternal torment. Please click on the links below to learn more about heaven and hell.

When you think of heaven, do you imagine fat little angels sitting around on clouds playing harps? If so, you are not alone in this thought. However, with all due respect, you could not be more in error. The Bible does not present heaven as a physical place on the clouds in the sky where people will spend time trying to amuse themselves for all of eternity. Rather, it presents heaven as the spiritual dwelling place of God where Christians will reside for all of eternity, worshipping Him and enjoying the glory and joy of God's presence. Heaven will be the fulfillment of all of the desires and wishes of the heart of man. There will be no pain or suffering, and it will be an eternal morning where Christians bask in the illuminated glory of God.

The images of heaven in the Bible only hint at how wonderful it will be for Christians. Revelation 21:1-4 reads: "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.'"

In the same manner that people imagine heaven as a crowd of harp-players lounging on clouds trying to pass the time, so do many people imagine hell as a little cave where a red man with a tail and horns pokes people in their backs with a pitchfork. This little devil character can sometimes be downright cute. It is sad that the world has popularized this version of hell and Satan, and that it is used to mock the concept of hell.

The Bible clearly teaches that hell is a literal place of eternal torment where all non-Christians go after death. Granted, this biblical teaching on hell is not a popular one, as many people -- even professing Christians -- try to minimize it in many ways. But the Bible is very clear on the existence of hell. Christ described the plight of the wicked in Matthew 25:46 in this manner: "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Jesus used different images to describe hell. He used the images of torment (Matthew 25:46), a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12), a place of outer darkness (Matthew 8:12), and a place of fire (Matthew 3:12). Revelation 21:8 describes it as "the lake which burns with fire and brimstone..." To demonstrate that hell is a place of continual, eternal torment, Revelation 14:11 states: "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." This is the biblical teaching on hell. Those who try to dilute it are only hurting people; hell is real, and everyone who does not submit to the gospel of Christ will go there.

By Matthew R. Miller.
From Expository Files 7.4; April 2000