According to Luke 16: 19-31, when we die, the soul and spirit of those who are saved in Jesus Christ will go to heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1–8; Philippians 1:21). Those who didn’t make a decision for the Lord are not going to heaven.
There is no turning back after death. According to Luke 16:26 there is a great “chasm” is fixed between heaven and hell. “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” Once in eternity, destinies are sealed. The rich man regretted his decisions in life. But nothing could change that once he had crossed from life to death. During our lives we make choices that will affect our eternal destiny. This life is not a test, it is for real. It is for this reason that life matters. There is a sure certainty, eternity is real.
The reality of heaven has been experienced by a few people who after death experienced heaven. We find their descriptions of that reality in a few books, which correspond with many of the descriptions we find in the Bible about heaven. Indeed heaven is for real.
There are two very different realities after death. I would like to blog about heaven in a few days, but for now lets focus on the other reality: Hell. In Luke 16:23 the word for “hell” is “hades.” That was a term used to refer to the unseen world of the dead. It could mean anything from “grave, death, or hell” depending on the context. Here it clearly means the place of punishment reserved for the wicked, or hell.
The Bible uses many other images to describe this reality: lake of fire, burning furnace, outer darkness, bottomless pit – all intended to describe unimaginable torment and punishment! Some of these terms are mutually exclusive – outer darkness and lake of fire. It is an attempt to picture in human language the worst possible experience and destination you can imagine. The language may be symbolic but the picture is real!
C.S. Lewis was told about a gravestone inscription that read: “Here lies an atheist – all dressed up and no place to go.” Lewis quietly replied, “I bet he wishes that were so!”
People ask, “How can a loving God even let such a place as hell exists, let alone send people there?” But in asking that question, they show that they do not understand either the love of God or the wickedness of sin. God’s love is a holy love (“God is light,” 1 John 1:5), not a shallow sentiment, and sin is rebellion against a holy and loving God. God does not “send people to hell.” They send themselves there by refusing to heed His call and believe in Jesus Christ. The “unbelieving” are named second on the list of the people who go to hell, even before the murderers and the liars (Revelation 21:8; John 3:18–21, 36).
Believing will make all the difference. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The realities of the after life should give us a new zeal being a saved, share the gospel, and a new determination to live for Christ. The reality of hell created in the rich man of the parable (Luke 16:27-28) a desire to spare his brothers his fate. Many despise those who talk about hell. We must never speak of hell, but with great remorse for the souls who will spend eternity there.
The Word of God is essential. The rich man wants a heavenly messenger to warn his brothers of what’s ahead. Abraham turns down the request and said: (Luke 16:31) “If they do not believe Moses and the prophets they will not believe even if someone returns from the dead.” At that stage the Bible consisted out of the books of Moses (considered as the first 5 books of the Bible) and the prophets. So Abraham referred to the Word of God in Luke 16:31.
God’s Word supplies all we need to know to avoid eternal damnation. A person who doesn’t believe God’s Word will not believe a special revelation. If you are waiting for a miracle or some supernatural sign from heaven before you believe, you are wasting your time. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing from the word of God” (Rom 10:17).
There are three choices you don’t get to make in life. You didn’t get to choose to be born, to die, or whether you exist after death or not. But there is one choice you do get to make. You get to choose where you will spend eternity. You make that choice when you choose to follow Jesus Christ. John 1:12 “Yet to all who received Him (accepted Jesus as Saviour), to those who believed in his name (Jesus), he (Jesus) gave the right to become children of God (saved – going to heaven). If you did not make the choice yet, it is not too late. Those who made the choice for Jesus Christ and said it to him in a small prayer (“Jesus I give my life into your hands”) we will see each other some time in heaven.