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What Happens When I Die? Part 3
The Death of the Unsaved
We looked last time at what happens to the Christian at death. They are immediately absent from the body and present with the Lord. One day, at the Rapture of the Church, Christ will bring them back with him, and their resurrected, glorified bodies will be caught up into the air, and will be reunited with their spirits. They, together with the living believers of that time, who also receive glorified bodies and are caught up, will forever be with the Lord. They will face the judgement seat of Christ, which will result in rewards for service and loss of rewards for things not done for the Lord. And their final destination is the New Heaven and New Earth, where all will be as God intended. There will be no mourning or crying or pain. It will truly be a paradise.
Unfortunately, for those who do not accept the sacrifice of Christ, the future will bring no hope of ever seeing heaven. Sin, or disobedience to God, keeps them from ever being able to stand before a God who hates sin. John 3:36 says: "He that believes on the Son has everlasting life. And he who does not believe the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him." The unbelievers have chosen to reject the only way God has given to be reconciled with Him. Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). So what happens to the unbeliever at death?
I. Their Destiny Immediately Upon Death
Our Lord in Luke 16 tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In this story, the rich man is an unbeliever and goes immediately to Hell or Hades after death (16:23). There are four words for Hell used in the Bible. The first, Hades, which is used here, seems to be a temporary abode where the unsaved go at death. There they await the final judgement. The Hebrew equivalent of Hades is Sheol. This is the word used in the Old Testament. However, before Christ's resurrection, Sheol was the place of all the dead, whether they were God's people or not. It was believed to be compartmentalized, with the saved on one side and the lost on the other. Luke 16 suggests this as well when it talks about Lazarus going to Abraham's bosom. But now, since those who trust Christ go to be with the Lord, Sheol or Hades is , at this present time, just the place of the unsaved.
Tartaro is another word for Hell and is used once in II Peter 2:4. This passage talks about the place where some fallen angels were sent. It is never referred to as the place where man goes in the afterlife.
Ghenna, is the fourth word. Literally, it referred to the Valley of Hinnom, which was the garbage dump for Jerusalem. There trash was burned. A place of continuous burning and decay is a very vivid and ugly picture of what eternity will be like without Chirst. This word is used for the final abode of the unsaved. It is a place of torment, punishment and eternal separation from God.
If we look at the story, in Luke 16, Hades is not a place that the unsaved want to be either. Even though it is a temporary holding cell until the final sentencing, it is a place of conscious torment for the unsaved. Death for non believers is not a sleeping of the soul or an annihilation, but an eternal conscious existence, where they face the consequences of their sin and the rejection of Christ's death on their behalf.
II. Their Judgement and Final Destination
The final judgement of the unsaved dead happens after the thousand year reign of Christ on the earth and after the final judgement of Satan. It is called the Great White Throne judgement (Revelation 20:11). Revelation 20:13 says that death and Hades delivered up the dead which were in them and every person was judged according to their works. Since no man is capable of standing before God on the basis of works and be saved, this is not a judgement to determine salvation, but to determine degrees of punishment. Some of the saddest words in all of Scripture are written next:
"And death and hades were cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire."
The Lake of Fire is another name for Gehenna, and is the final abode of the unsaved.
Thanks to the amazing grace of God, in sending His Son to earth to be the ultimate sacrifice for all of our sins, no man has to spend eternity separated from God in the Lake of Fire. But the choice is yours. I like what C.S. Lewis has to say:
"There are only two kinds of people in the end: Those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice there can be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened."
It is my prayer that all who read this series on death will seek he Lord while He may be found. Accept Christ before you reach the point of death. After death it will be too late. God has made it possible for every person to enter heaven. It is a free gift. But, like all gifts, it has to be accepted. I urge you to take that gift right now. You will never be disappointed that you did.