By Marshall "Rusty" Entrekin
is eschatology? The word eschatology comes from the Greek
words eschatos, meaning “last,” and logia,
meaning a “collection” of teachings. Thus, eschatology is
the study of the biblical doctrines of the last days.
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines eschatology as “a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the
history of the world or of mankind.”
Eschatology is Important
Typically, when we think of
eschatology, we think of the various positions regarding the
1000 year reign of Christ described in Revelation chapter
20, such as premillennialism, amillennialism and
there is much more to eschatology than the millennium, and
it is some of the other aspects of eschatology –
particularly those that are basic or foundational to the
Christian faith - that I invite you to consider with me.
Eschatology concerns the ultimate
purpose and direction of all of human life.
As such, it has the power to invoke confidence and
hope in those who love and serve God, but fear of impending
judgment in those living in rebellion against Him. Let us
make no mistake: hope and fear are powerful states of the
soul that can profoundly influence our actions.
Eschatology is Important Because it Inspires Hope
The scriptures confirm this
observation, for they lay great stress upon the importance
of hope in the lives of those who have placed their faith in
Christ. Hebrews 6:11-20, in fact, teaches us that our hope
is something that we must diligently keep. Lets take a few
minutes to examine this passage, because it has great
relevance to Christian Eschatology. Verse 11 begins,
11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence
to the full assurance of hope until the end,
In this verse, we are told that we
should exhibit diligence in maintaining our hope. We
are to maintain our hope in two ways:
By being fully assured of what
we hope for,
By keeping that full assurance
until the end, that is, until the end of our
Verse 12 goes on to say,
12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who
through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Hope prevents us from becoming
sluggish and despondent through discouragement.
Through faith and patience, we will inherit God’s promises.
Abraham is an example of this, the next verse teaches us:
13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could
swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,
14 saying, "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I
will multiply you."
15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the
Do you see the importance that hope
played in Abraham’s life? Because he kept his hope, he was
able to patiently endure until he obtained God’s promise.
God had sworn an oath to Abraham, and Abraham believed God.
As verse 16 tells us,
16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for
confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.
When men need to trust firmly in the
words of another, such as when a witness bears testimony in
a court of law, we swear an oath. And we likewise should
trust in God’s promises to us, our inspired writer goes on
to say, not only because it is impossible for God to lie,
but because God has confirmed His promises to us with an
oath. As we read in verse 17,
17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs
of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it
by an oath,
18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for
God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have
fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
The word immutable means unchangeable.
We have as our strong consolation two things:
1. God’s counsel or plans, which are
immutable, or unchangeable, and
2. The fact that he has confirmed
his plans with an oath.
And so our hope rests upon the
trustworthiness of God and His words.
We should not be surprised then, to
discover that almost invariably, those who embrace doctrines
of despair, such as denial of the bodily resurrection or the
visible return of Christ, do not completely trust in some of
the promises of God found in the scriptures.
Notice the imagery in verse 18. It
tells us that we have fled for
refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
Many commentators believe that the Old Testament cities of
refuge are being alluded to here. If a man had accidentally
killed someone, and was being pursued by someone who wanted
to avenge that death, he could flee to a city of refuge and
take hold of the horns of the altar. Likewise, this verse
tells us, we have fled for refuge from death and
destruction, to take hold of the hope that is set before us.
As we read on, we see that this hope
that is set before us is an anchor for the soul.
19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both
sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind
20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having
become High Priest forever according to the order of
An anchor, we know, is something that
keeps a boat from drifting away. The “hope that is set
before us” is a “sure and steadfast” anchor, one that holds
us securely and does not give loose during the storms of
life. The hope of being present with the Lord at death, of a
future resurrection, and of rewards for faithful service,
helps to sustain us not only during times of trial and
suffering, but also during the tedium of our everyday lives.
Now you may be wondering, what is the
oath by which God has confirmed His promises to us? We find
it in chapter seven verse 20:
20 And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath
21 (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with
an oath by Him who said to Him: "The LORD has sworn And will
not relent, ‘You are a priest forever According to the order
22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better
23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by
death from continuing.
24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable
25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who
come to God through Him, since He always lives to make
intercession for them.
Interestingly, the oath that our hope
is confirmed by is not what we might expect. It is the one
that God the Father swore to God the Son: “You are a priest
forever according to the order of Melchizedek!”
The word Melchizedek means “King of
Righteousness.” This brings to mind the the words of the
hope is built on nothing less then Jesus blood and
And so it is through the oath that God
the Father swore to Jesus, that He will be a priest forever,
that we are assured of the hope that is set before us!
Our salvation, past present and
future, is in Christ and his priesthood!
Now we are able to see why eschatology
is so important. It is because hope is a vital
ingredient of the Christian life. The promises
of God that we hope for, which sustain us, and not only
enable us to patiently endure, but to work with
enthusiasm for God, are the most basic teachings of
eschatology. And so we must not neglect to teach them! What
are they? Read on to find out.
Eschatology is Important Because it Evokes
Fear of Eternal Punishment
But eschatology isn't just important
for the believer. It is important for the unbeliever as
well. Those who disobey God need to be warned of the future
consequences of their actions, in hope that this will lead
them to repent and thereby escape destruction. Peter issued
just such a warning when he told the Jews and Jewish
proselytes who had come to Jerusalem for the feast of
Pentecost, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation.”
Likewise, those who are on the verge
of falling away also need to be warned of the consequences
of this, just as the writer to the Hebrews warned here in
chapter Six. I am not going to discuss in this article the
question of whether or not those who fall away were saved or
not saved. But suffice it to say that fear plays a role in
the life of the believer, too, because however we classify
those who fall away, one thing is certain: we don’t want to
be one of them!
modern times it seems popular to consider men who preach
on the dangers of God’s judgment as harsh and unloving.
But how can it be unloving to warn a man that he is headed
for destruction? It is unloving not to warn him!
Fear of destruction has caused many a person to turn and
accept Christ. Likewise, the promise of eternal life can
be a powerful motivator to the unbeliever as well.
Our hope even has an effect on those
who reject the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 2: 15-16, the
apostle Paul wrote, “For
we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are
being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we
are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other
the aroma of life leading to life.”
And so we see that two aspects of
Christian eschatology – hope and fear of judgment – play
vital – and I do mean vital - roles in the hearts of men.
Perhaps this helps us to understand why Hebrews 6:1-2
teaches us that two eschatological doctrines, the
resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment, are
foundational doctrines of the faith. Please have a look with
me at these two important verses:
6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of
Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the
foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and
of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
When our inspired writer speaks of
“leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ,” He does
not mean that we should abandon these beliefs, as some have
just like a builder leaves working on the foundation of a
building to work on the structure built on it, or a math
teacher leaves addition and subtraction to teach on
multiplication, the writer to the Hebrews wanted them to go
on to maturity, so that they would not need to have the
basic doctrines of Christianity taught to them all over
again. In the verses above this passage, he said that they
were still spiritual babes, only able to handle milk: the
basic principles of the doctrine of Christ. He wanted them
to grow up so that they could handle meat: more advanced
The word translated “principles” in
verse 1 means the first thing in a series, and refers to the
basics of a teaching. Notice that these are not principles
of the Old Testament, or principles of the law. Instead,
they are principles of the doctrine or word of Christ. In
other words, these are basic, elementary doctrines of
Christianity that the writer is speaking of.
Not only are they basic, but the
writer tells us that they are foundational. The other
doctrines of Christianity are built upon them. Since they
are foundational, it follows that if these foundations are
eroded or destroyed in our minds by false teaching, error or
doubt, then the structures built on them are in danger of
collapsing. We will discuss this more later.
says, “If the foundations
be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
Notice that two of these 6 basic
doctrines of the Christian Faith are eschatological: The
resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
And so we see that eschatology is not
only important, but foundational to the Christian faith. It
we neglect to teach the resurrection of the dead and eternal
judgment, then we are failing to teach two basic, essential
doctrines of the Christian faith!
Resurrection of The Dead
In Hebrews 6:2, the word translated
“dead” here, nekron, is plural in the Greek, and
literally means, “the resurrection of dead ones.” Thus, not
only is the resurrection of Christ a foundational doctrine
of the faith, but so is the resurrection of mankind.
There are two kinds of resurrections
that apply to believers: the resurrection of the spirit, and
the resurrection of the body. When we read about the
resurrection of the dead in scripture, it is important to
distinguish which of these two kinds of resurrection is
being referred to. Let’s look at the resurrection of the
The Resurrection of
To understand the resurrection of the
spirit, we need to understand the nature of spiritual death.
In the scriptures, death involves separation.
tells us, “And the LORD God
formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into
his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living
When God first formed man out of the
dust of the earth, he was lifeless. But when God breathed
the spirit of life into him, be became a living soul.
teaches us that at death, “Then
shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the
spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”
see here that death involves the separation of the body from
the spirit. This is why we read in Luke
when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father,
into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said
thus, he gave up the ghost.
Likewise at his death, Acts 7:59 tells us regarding Stephen:
they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying,
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
And so we see that physical death
involves the separation of the spirit from the body.
Likewise, spiritual death involves the separation of God
from the spirit of man.
Genesis 2:17 we read,
"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou
shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest
thereof thou shalt surely die."
In the day that Adam and Eve ate of
the forbidden fruit, they did not die physically, but they
must have died in some way.
Concerning this verse, a footnote in
the 1599 Geneva Bible, which contains commentary by
prominent Protestant scholars such as John Calvin, John
Knox, and Miles Coverdale reads, “By death he means the
separation of man from God, who is our life and chief
happiness: and also that our disobedience is the cause of
In the day that they ate of the
forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve died inwardly, in their
spirits, for they became separated from God as a result of
And so it follows that when the spirit
of man is resurrected, he is no longer separated from God.
Scripture teaches us that the resurrection of the spirit
occurs when we place our faith in Christ. It is at this time
that we receive eternal spiritual life:
that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:
and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but
the wrath of God abideth on him.
verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath
whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
Believest thou this?
Likewise, the scriptures speak of
believers as having already been resurrected:
God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith
he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together
with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised us up together, and made us
sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7 That in the ages
to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in
his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with
him through the faith of the operation of God, who
hath raised him from the dead.
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of
your flesh, hath he quickened together with him,
having forgiven you all trespasses;
The resurrection passage in John
chapter 5 is particularly important to our study,
because it speaks of both the resurrection of the Spirit and
the future resurrection of the body. Beginning in verse 24
verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and
believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life,
and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from
death unto life.
Notice in this passage, Jesus says
that the person who believes “has” or now possesses
everlasting life. He has already, past tense, passed
from death into life, and will not come into
25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now
is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God:
and they that hear shall live.
Notice that Jesus spoke of two hours
here; one which had already come, and of another which is
coming. When Jesus said “now is,” he was speaking of the
hour which had already come, in which men were being raised
spiritually from the dead upon belief in Him.
But a few verses later, he speaks of the hour which
is to come:
26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to
the Son to have life in himself;
27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also,
because he is the Son of man.
28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all
that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the
resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto
the resurrection of damnation.
This regards the resurrection of the
body, for in verse 28, the word translated grave is the
Greek word mnemeion . In all of the 42 places in the
NT in which this word occurs, it literally means a grave, a
tomb or a grave monument. Not once in the NT is this word
used to refer to the spiritual abode of the dead. In the AV,
it is translated sepulchre 29 times, grave 8 times, and tomb
This is the same word that is used in
Luke 24:2, where we read,
“And they found the stone
rolled away from the sepulcher.”
It is the same word used in John
12:17, where we also read, “The
people therefore that were with him when he called Lazarus
out of his grave and raised him from the dead, bare
And so when Jesus says here that
“all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and
shall come forth,” he can be speaking of nothing
else but resurrected bodies coming forth from the graves.
The scriptures therefore speak of a
physical resurrection of the body. What do the scriptures
teach us regarding this resurrection of the body?
First of all, since the passage that
we have just looked at undeniably teaches that our bodies
will be raised, we know that there will be some continuity
between our mortal bodies and our resurrection bodies.
new resurrection bodies will be our old ones raised and
completely transformed, like the body of a butterfly is
actually the body of a caterpillar that has been
transformed. You will still be you, but you will be a
glorious and transformed you !
Secondly, our resurrection will be a
simultaneous corporate resurrection, not a “one at a time”
not only they, but ourselves also, which have the
firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within
ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the
redemption of our body.
The Greek word translated “Body” here
is singular. The apostle Paul did not say, “the redemption
of our bodies.” Rather, he said “the redemption of our body”
referring to the simultaneous resurrection of all of those
in the body of Christ.
has similar language:
shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like
unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby
he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
Here again, the word translated “body”
Secondly, our resurrection will be
patterned after Christ’s glorious resurrection body. The
verse that we just read teaches, “Who shall change our vile
body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body”
Corinthians 15:49 And
as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also
bear the image of the heavenly.
8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to
be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the
firstborn among many brethren.
John 3:2 Beloved,
now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear
what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear,
we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
What was His glorious body like
following His resurrection? It was tangible, and could be
touched, for John 20:27 reads,
saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my
hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my
side: and be not faithless, but believing.
It was not an incorporeal spirit. It
contained flesh and bones, for Luke 24:36 -39 reads,
36 And as they thus spoke, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of
them and said unto them, "Peace be unto you."
37 But they were terrified and afraid, and supposed that they
had seen a spirit.
38 And He said unto them, "Why are ye troubled, and why do
thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me
and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see
Me to have."
But although the resurrection body of
Christ contained flesh, it was a different kind of flesh, an
incorruptible kind, for 1 Corinthians 15:50
this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit
the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit
Likewise 1 Cor 14: 42 tells us,
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in
corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
Christ’s resurrection body did not
have the limitations ours does, for he appeared suddenly in
a room with closed doors:
after eight days again his disciples were within, and
Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut,
and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Our resurrection body will be glorious
43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in
weakness; it is raised in power:
It will also be a spiritual body:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
What does the term spiritual body
mean? As we have already seen, this does not indicate that
it will be intangible. This refers to the different nature
of the resurrection body, which distinguishes it from
corruptible flesh. One aspect of this, pointed out by the
Church Father Irenaeus, is that our resurrection bodies will
be completely subject to our spirits. Our current bodies
lust and make war against our spirits; they try to dominate
us. But our new bodies will be in complete harmony with our
There will be no more pain, no more
sorrow, no more death. No more weakness, no more sickness.
No more struggles with sin; no more thoughts to bring under
subjection; no more unruly minds to be conformed; no more
bad habits to overcome! Oh, how glorious it will be!
Brothers and sisters,
“Eye hath not
seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart
of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that
love him”! (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Now let’s look at the other
basic doctrine of the Christian faith mentioned in Hebrews
6:2 which is eschatological, eternal judgment. There are
several important observations regarding God’s judgment
that we can make:
of all, eternal judgment does not
mean that the process of God judging will last forever,
but rather that the consequences of his judgment will
The Greek word translated
"eternal" here is the word aioniou (ahee -o’
-nee-ou), and according to Thayer’s Lexicon, means
"without end, never to cease, everlasting."
This same word is used twice in
Matthew 25:46, in the account of the sheep and the goats:
25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting
<Strong’s 166> punishment: but the righteous
into life eternal <Strong’s 166>.
If the everlasting punishment
described in Matthew 25:46 will have an end, then the
eternal life mentioned in the last half of this verse
would also have an end, for the very same Greek word is
used. The implications of this for Hebrews 6:2 are
unmistakable: The term "eternal judgment" means that the
consequences of God’s judgment will be everlasting.
In a human court of law there is
always the possibility that a conviction may be vacated,
appealed or reversed because of human error. But when God
will judge each who stands before Him, there will be no
possibility of error with Him. His judgment will be
will it be eternal?
We could not expect that a God
of love, holiness and righteousness would be willing to
endure evil forever.
Genesis 6:3 indicates that God
is in fact unwilling to strive with each man for more than
a limited period of time, for it records:
the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive
with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days
shall be an hundred and twenty years.
Later, Psalms 90:10 records that
this time limit was reduced, for most men, by a further 50
days of our years are threescore years and ten; and
if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is
soon cut off, and we fly away.
70- 80 years is the average
lifespan of most men and women. I recently read that even
if most of the diseases that kill men and women in their
old age could be prevented, the absolute upper genetic
limit of the human lifespan is regarded to be around 120
years. A Frenchwoman named Jeanne Calment is the only
documented case of a modern human living beyond 120 years.
She did not live far beyond it at all. She died in 1997 at
122 years. So we find that both of these scriptural
figures are true.
men are resolute and stubborn in their sins and rebellion
against God. The scripture speaks of these men: it
describes them variously as men who are "brute beasts,"
whose consciences have been "seared with a hot iron," who
have been given over to "reprobate minds." There comes a
point at which God gives up on such men, to leave them
forever in the reprobate mental state that they so
stubbornly cling to. One of the last verses in the New
Testament, Revelation 22:11, indicates that the wicked
will be left in this state for all eternity:
that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he
which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he
that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and
he that is holy, let him be holy still.
In this sense, as CS Lewis wrote
in his book, The Problem of Pain, "the doors of
hell are locked from the inside."
observation that we
can make regarding God’s Eternal Judgment is that it
will include all of mankind.
John 5: 28- 29, which we looked
at earlier, tells us that "…ALL
that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall
come forth; they that have done good, unto the
resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto
the resurrection of damnation."
Jude 1:14-15 likewise teaches:
Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of
these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten
thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon ALL,
and to convince ALL that are ungodly among
them of all their ungodly deeds which they have
ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches
which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
12:23 To the general assembly and church of the
firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God
the Judge of ALL, and to the spirits of just
men made perfect,
Peter 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without
respect of persons judgeth according to EVERY
man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in
20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it;
and death and hell delivered up the dead which were
in them: and they were judged EVERY man
according to their works.
observation we can make regarding eternal judgment
is that like the resurrection, God’s judgment of
mankind will take place in one great "day" that
immediately follows the resurrection.
The scriptures speak of an hour
or day in which God will judge the world:
5:28-29: Marvel not at this: for the hour is
coming, in the which all that are in the graves
shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they
that have done good, unto the resurrection of life;
and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection
17:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in
the which he will judge the world in righteousness
by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath
given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised
him from the dead.
2:16 In the day when God shall judge the
secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my
Peter 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly
out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto
the day of judgment to be punished:
If the premillennial position is
correct, then we must make room for two resurrections and
judgments, one to take place at Christ’s coming, and
another to take place before the eternal age begins, for 2
Timothy 4:1 reads,
charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus
Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at
his appearing and his kingdom;
Revelation 11:18 likewise says,
the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and
the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy
servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them
that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest
destroy them which destroy the earth.
Most premillennialists believe
that Christians will undergo a simultaneous, corporate
physical resurrection and judgment before the beginning of
the millennium. This is based on Revelation 20:4-6:
I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment
was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them
that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for
the word of God, and which had not worshipped the
beast, neither his image, neither had received his
mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and
they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
the rest of the dead lived not again until the
thousand years were finished. This is the first
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first
resurrection: on such the second death hath no
power, but they shall be priests of God and of
Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Many who are not millennialists
hold that this first resurrection is a resurrection of the
spirit, the spiritual rebirth that occurs at salvation.
Premillennialists, on the other hand, hold that this is a
physical resurrection of the body. However,
premillennialists still believe that there will be a
universal resurrection and judgment of the remaining dead
following the millennium.
All of the major orthodox
millennial views hold to a universal resurrection of all
of the unresurrected dead before the eternal age begins.
observation that we can make regarding
God’s eternal judgment, is that it will result in all
of mankind being divided into two great camps: those who
receive everlasting life, and those who receive
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the
which all that are in the graves shall hear his
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto
the resurrection of life; and they that have
done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Matthew 25:46 also teaches:
these shall go away into everlasting punishment:
but the righteous into life
happens to the Dead prior to the Judgment Day?
There are three terms in
scripture which are used to describe the places where the
wicked are kept until the day of judgment. Two of these,
the Abyss and Tartarus, are where fallen
angels are kept.
Hades, the New Testament
equivalent of the Old Testament term Sheol, is
where the spirits of men are kept until the Day of
Judgment. This word occurs 11 times in the New Testament.
10 times it is translated "hell," and once it is
In the account of the rich man
and Lazarus, Jesus agrees with the rabbinical teaching of
his time that Sheol or Hades contained two regions: a
place of torment where the wicked are kept until the Day
of Judgment, and a paradise where the righteous await the
resurrection, called "Abraham’s Bosom."
That this was not just a
parable, and that the spirit of Abraham was alive and
living in this paradise, is evident by Jesus’ words in
Mark 12:27-28, in which he rebuked the Pharisees for
disbelieving in the Resurrection:
And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye
not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God
spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?
is not the God of the dead, but the God of the
living: ye therefore do greatly err.
Fate of those Who will Receive Everlasting
Unlike Hades, the other
word most commonly translated "hell" in the New Testament,
Gehenna, is not a neutral term. It clearly
designates the final destination of the wicked.
This word refers to the "Valley
of Hinnom." This valley lies just outside
Jerusalem's walls. In New Testament times, it was used as
a trash dump. It is said that even dead bodies were
sometimes dumped there. The worms had a continual feast
there, and fires were constantly burning. It is therefore
no wonder that Jesus used this term to describe the final
destination of the wicked. The word Gehenna (Strong's
1067) is used 12 times in the New Testament. It may
surprise you to realize that in all but one of
those occurrences, the word was used by Jesus himself! No
one can deny that Jesus warned repeatedly of the
existence of such a place:
5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry
with his brother without a cause shall be in danger
of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his
brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council:
but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in
danger of hell <1067> fire.
5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out,
and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee
that one of thy members should perish, and not that
thy whole body should be cast into hell
5:30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off,
and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee
that one of thy members should perish, and not that
thy whole body should be cast into hell
10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are
not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which
is able to destroy both soul and body in hell
18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and
cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter
into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes
to be cast into hell <1067> fire.
23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one
proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold
more the child of hell <1067> than yourselves.
23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can
ye escape the damnation of hell <1067>?
9:43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is
better for thee to enter into life maimed, than
having two hands to go into hell <1067>, into
the fire that never shall be quenched:
9:45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is
better for thee to enter halt into life, than having
two feet to be cast into hell <1067>, into the
fire that never shall be quenched:
9:47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it
is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God
with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into
hell <1067> fire:
12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear:
Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to
cast into hell <1067>; yea, I say unto you,
The scriptures teach us that
Gehenna is a place of torment. Matthew 25:46, which I
quoted earlier, reads,
these shall go away into everlasting <166>
punishment: but the righteous into life eternal
The word translated "punishment"
here is used only one other time in the New Testament,
where it means torment:
John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love
casteth out fear: because fear hath torment
<2851>. He that feareth is not made perfect in
This makes it very clear that by
"eternal punishment," torment, or conscious anguish, is
the idea being expressed.
We would expect that if the
wicked will suffer the fate of eternal torment, then love
would compel Jesus and the apostles to frequently warn of
this. In fact we do find many more warnings than the ones
we have already mentioned. The metaphor of fire is often
3:12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly
purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the
garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable
5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry
with his brother without a cause shall be in danger
of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his
brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council:
but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in
danger of hell fire.
13:40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned
in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this
41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and
they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that
offend, and them which do iniquity;
42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire:
there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
13:47-50: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto
a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of
48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and
sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but
cast the bad away.
49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the
angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from
among the just,
50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire:
there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
9:45-46: And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it
is better for thee to enter halt into life, than
having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire
that never shall be quenched: 46 Where their worm
dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about
them in like manner, giving themselves over to
fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set
forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of
14:9 And the third angel followed them, saying with
a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his
image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in
10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of
God, which is poured out without mixture into the
cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented
with fire and brimstone in the presence of
the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth
up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day
nor night, who worship the beast and his
image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into
the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and
the false prophet are, and shall be tormented
day and night for ever and ever.
20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the
book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Since those who will be thrown
into this fire will wail and gnash their teeth, it would
be very difficult to deny that they are experiencing
Another term, darkness,
is also used to refer to the eternal state of the wicked
in the New Testament.
8:12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast
out into outer darkness: there shall be
weeping and gnashing of teeth.
25:30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into
outer darkness: there shall be weeping and
gnashing of teeth.
Peter 2:17 These are wells without water, clouds
that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of
darkness is reserved for ever.
1:13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own
shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the
blackness of darkness for ever.
Lastly, Gehenna is spoken of in
the scriptures as a place of destruction:
Thessalonians 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting
destruction from the presence of the Lord, and
from the glory of his power;
10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints,
and to be admired in all them that believe (because
our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
Peter 2:3 And through covetousness they will use you
for gain with well-turned words; for whom
judgment from of old does not linger, and their
destruction does not sleep.
There is more to the terms
"outer darkness" and "lake of fire" than mere
descriptions of a place. The phrase "outer darkness,"
conveys to us the loneliness and isolation of eternal
separation from God and His people. Likewise, the words
"lake of fire" communicate to us the conscious torment
and destruction that will accompany that separation.
Eternal Destiny of the Righteous
After considering the gloomy
subject of the eternal judgment of the wicked, we now have
a much brighter one to look at, God’s judgment of the
righteous. The scriptures teach that after death, those
who have placed their faith in Christ will not be judged
in the sense of being condemned.
5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth
my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath
everlasting life, and shall not come into
condemnation; but is passed from death unto
However, severe judgments
leading even to mortal sickness may occur prior to
John 5:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which
is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give
him life for them that sin not unto death. There is
a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall
pray for it.
2:22 "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed,
and those who commit adultery with her into great
tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.
The scriptures teach that this
severe discipline is given so that the soul of an erring
Christian will be saved.
Corinthians 5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan
for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit
may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and
scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
But the Bible does plainly teach
that after death or the rapture, we will all be judged for
the deeds done in the body.
14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why
dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all
stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear
before the judgment seat of Christ; that every
one may receive the things done in his body,
according to that he hath done, whether it be good
Christians will not be exempt
from this. Although they will not be condemned, they may
suffer a loss of reward:
1 Corinthians 3:13 For other
foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold,
silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the
day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by
fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what
sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built
thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer
loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by
are the rewards that Christians will receive for their
Every good deed that we do with
good motives will be rewarded:
10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of
these little ones a cup of cold water only in the
name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall
in no wise lose his reward.
10:41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a
prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he
that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a
righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s
6:35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and
lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward
shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the
Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to
The scriptures speak of various
crowns that we will be rewarded with:
soul winner's crown:
Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or
crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence
of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
crown of righteousness promised to all who
love His appearing:
Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a
crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the
righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not
to me only, but unto all them also that love his
crown of life for those who endure
1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation:
for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of
life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love
faithful pastor’s crown
Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort,
who am also an elder, and a witness of the
sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the
glory that shall be revealed:
2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking
the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but
willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready
3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but
being ensamples to the flock.
4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall
receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
The book of Revelation promises
many rewards to him that overcomes:
2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the
Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh
shall not be hurt of the second death.
2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the
Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that
overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna,
and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a
new name written, which no man knoweth saving he
that receiveth it.
2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works
unto the end, to him will I give power over the
27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the
vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers:
even as I received of my Father.
By the way, I am a
premillennialist, and this last verse (Rev 2:27) is a
powerful indicator, I believe, that there will be literal
millennium. What need will there be for us to rule the
nations with a rod of iron and "break them to shivers" if
there is no millenium, and our rule over the nations takes
place in the final eternal state, where all men will be
sinless? Instead, I believe that verse 27 will be
fulfilled prior to that, when we Christians will be
resurrected and living in our new sinless, immortal
bodies, ruling over nations of mortal men who will still
be capable of sinning.
3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in
white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out
of the book of life, but I will confess his name
before my Father, and before his angels.
3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the
temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I
will write upon him the name of my God, and the name
of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which
cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will
write upon him my new name.
3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with
me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set
down with my Father in his throne.
21:7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things;
and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is
with me, to give every man according as his work
What an incentive we have to
work faithfully for our Lord! The things that we do now
will bear fruit for all eternity for us.
Lastly, the greatest reward will
be had by all: enjoying and fellowshipping with the Lord.
22:1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life,
clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of
God and of the Lamb.
the midst of the street of it, and on either side of
the river, was there the tree of life, which bare
twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every
month: and the leaves of the tree were for the
healing of the nations.
there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God
and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants
shall serve him:
they shall see his face; and his name shall be in
there shall be no night there; and they need no
candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God
giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and
And so we see that the
scriptures are very clear regarding these two
eschatological doctrines that scripture calls foundational
and basic doctrines of the faith, the resurrection of the
dead and eternal judgment.
Testimony of the Early Creeds and Church
Fathers Concerning the Resurrection of the Body
and Eternal Judgment
Some of the teach that the early
Christians did not believe in the resurrection of the dead
or eternal judgment. However, It is plain from the
early councils of the church that both were regarded as
essential elements of orthodoxy or sound doctrine.
Each of the doctrines found in
the Apostle’s Creed can be traced to statements
often taught in the apostolic period. This important creed
states "He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand
of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge
the living and the dead, I believe in the Holy
Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the
body, and life everlasting."
The Nicean Creed written
in AD 325, states that Jesus will come "again with glory
to judge living and dead, of whose kingdom there
shall be no end," and "We look for a resurrection of
the dead, and the life of the age to come."
The Creed of the Council of
Constantinople, written in AD 381, states that Jesus
"is coming again with glory to judge living and dead;
or whose Kingdom there will be no end," and it also
states, "We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the age to come."
There are many statements in the
Father’s affirming these two doctrines:
Clement, writing about AD 100,
Let us consider, beloved,
how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall
be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the
Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from
the dead. (Chapter 24)
In The Epistle of Barnabus,
written in AD 100, we read:
this account there will be a resurrection, on this
account a retribution." Justin Martyr In the first
apology of Justin Martyr, written between AD 110 and
165, we read that He was looking forward to a future
Resurrection: "...we expect to receive again our own
bodies, though they be dead and cast into the earth,
for we maintain that with God nothing is impossible."
In the Dialogue of
Justin Martyr with the Jew Trypho, also written
between AD 110 and 165, it is evident that he contended
with some who denied the bodily resurrection, claiming
that souls only go to heaven:
For if you have fallen in
with some who are called Christians, but who do not
admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God
of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of
Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead,
and that their souls, when they die, are taken to
heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians...
Justin Martyr also wrote an
entire book concerning the resurrection. Only portions of
it have survived the ravages of time. In it, he goes to
great lengths to prove the resurrection of the flesh from
the grave. Here are some quotes from the fragments:
They who maintain the wrong
opinion say that there is no resurrection of the
flesh; giving as their reason that it is impossible
that what is corrupted and dissolved should be
restored to the same as it had been. ...By these and
such like arguments, they attempt to distract men from
the faith.(Chapter 2)
And shall not God be able to
collect again the decomposed members of the flesh, and
make the same body as was formerly produced by Him?
But the proof of the
possibility of the resurrection of the flesh I have
sufficiently demonstrated, in answer to men of the
world. And if the resurrection of the flesh is not
found impossible on the principles even of
unbelievers, how much more will it be found in
accordance with the mind of believers! (Chapter 7)
The resurrection is a
resurrection of the flesh which died. For the spirit
dies not; the soul is in the body, and without a soul
it cannot live. The body, when the soul forsakes it,
is not. For the body is the house of the soul; and the
soul the house of the spirit. These three, in all
those who cherish a sincere hope and unquestioning
faith in God, will be saved. (Chapter 10)
Irenaeus, a fighter for the
faith, writing around 180 AD, stated in Against
And then the doctrine
concerning the resurrection of bodies which we
believe, will emerge true and certain since, God, when
He resuscitates our mortal bodies which preserved
righteousness, will render them incorruptible and
immortal. (Book 3, Chapter 29)
Regarding Eternal judgment,
Justin Martyr wrote,
…each man goes to
everlasting punishment or salvation according to the
value of his actions. For if all men knew this, no one
would choose wickedness even for a little, knowing
that he goes to the everlasting punishment of fire;
but would by all means restrain himself, and adorn
himself with virtue, that he might obtain the good
gifts of God, and escape the punishments. (Chap XII.
Irenaeus wrote in Against
Heresies Book 4:
It is therefore one and
the same God the Father who has prepared good things
with Himself for those who desire His fellowship,
and who remain in subjection to Him; and who has the
eternal fire for the ringleader of the apostasy, the
devil, and those who revolted with him, into which
[fire] the Lord(5) has declared those men shall be
sent who have been set apart by themselves on His
In The Epistle Concerning
the Martyrdom of Polycarp, we read regarding the
And, looking to the grace
of Christ, they despised all the torments of this
world, redeeming themselves from eternal punishment
by [the suffering of] a single hour.
Satan, our enemy and accuser, is well aware of the
importance of belief in the resurrection of the dead and
eternal judgment. For this reason, he and the fallen
angels who follow him have historically employed the
following threefold strategy against us. They have