Editor's note: This column is part 10 in a series about the biblical end of days and the book of Revelation.
Nobody wants to talk or even think about hell, for the sake of themselves or for the sake of others. But it's a major subject, in the New Testament especially.
What follows the day of judgment? The answer to this question depends on whether an individual is saved or lost. In this week's lesson we will discuss what happens to the lost after the day of judgment. Jesus answers the question with, "they will go away into eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46).
Major question number one: What will hell be like? Some teach there is no hell. But the Bible teaches otherwise. The New Testament's word for hell is "gehenna." Gehenna means the Valley of Hinnom, which is a valley just south of Jerusalem. The valley originally belonged to a family named Hinnom (Joshua 15:8; 18:16; Nehemiah 11:30). In Old Testament days, the valley became a giant garbage pit into which even human corpses of criminals and animals were thrown.
It was a place of human dread. A fire continually burned there to burn away the garbage and more. There were maggots and unceasing flames. This imagery was applied to the eternal destiny of the lost. Imagine spending eternity in great heat and the feeling of maggots crawling and gnawing on your body. There are too many scriptures referring to the heat of hell to mention here.
The bodies are to be thrown into the lake of fire. Not just souls, but bodies, also. On the day of resurrection, the wicked will receive a new kind of body.
Should we understand hell to be a literal or figurative place? Second Thessalonians 1:7-8 tells us Christ will come "in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel or our Lord Jesus." Whether eternal fire is to be taken as a symbol or figuratively, it stands for something dreadful.
Another way to describe hell is that of existing in total darkness. Jesus said, "Bind him hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." This is in contrast with the believer's final heaven where "there will be no night there" (Revelation 21:25).
Hell is to be separated from God. The worst reality is to be forevermore separated from God. "When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). See also Luke 13:25-28. Hell is a place of suffering: fire, darkness, maggots, separated from God.
Punishment in hell will last eternally. Daniel 12:2: " And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
Many New Testament scriptures support this view. In the next column we go to heaven.
Jay Craig of Shelbina, Mo., has worked with Shiloh Christian Children's Ranch for nearly 40 years. He's a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Craig attended Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Mo. He can be contacted by email to email@example.com.