A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 52

Final State

In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the concepts of hell and heaven from a Christian perspective. Hell is described as a place of punishment prepared for those who reject Jesus, including Satan and demon worshippers. Various views on hell, including annihilationism and temporary conscious punishment, are explored. In contrast, heaven is depicted as being with Jesus and participating in activities aligned with His desires. Believers hope to spend eternity on a renewed Earth in an intimate, sin-free relationship with Jesus. The lesson encourages thoughtful consideration of these concepts and their alignment with scripture while respecting differing viewpoints.

Gerry Breshears
A Guide to Christian Theology
Lesson 52
Watching Now
Final State

I. Hell

A. Nature of Hell

1. Hell is prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41)

2. Various descriptions of hell

B. Hell in Revelation

1. Lake of fire (Revelation 20)

2. Exclusion from relationship with God

C. Views on Hell

1. Annihilationism

2. Christian universalism

3. Extinctionism

4. Executionism

5. Temporary conscious punishment

D. Continuation of Sin After Death

1. Sin does not stop at death

2. Revelation 22: Let him who's filthy be filthy still

E. Degrees of Punishment

1. Degrees of punishment in hell

II. Heaven

A. Nature of Heaven

1. Being with Jesus

2. Renewed earth as the eternal dwelling place

B. Eternity with Jesus

1. Resurrection of the body

C. Joy in Doing God's Will

1. Participation in God's work

D. Questions About Heaven

1. Recognition of loved ones

2. Age in the new earth

3. The beatific vision

4. Location of heaven

III. Conclusion

A. Reflecting on Beliefs

B. Focus on Common Ground

C. Fulfilling the Mission of Spreading the Gospel

IV. Question and Answer Session

A. Clarification on Christian Universalism

B. Interpretation of Hell as Fire and Darkness

C. Understanding Destruction in the Context of Luke 15

D. Continuation of Sin After Death and Its Implications

E. Degrees of Punishment in Hell

V. Final Thoughts

A. Encouragement to Reflect and Respect Different Views

B. Focus on the Mission to Spread the Gospel and Form Community Disciples

C. The Ultimate Goal: Worshiping Jesus Now and Forever

  • In this lesson, explore the significance of systematic theology, blending academic insight with personal devotion. Learn to interpret biblical texts, understand how theology shapes beliefs, and fortify your faith against deception. This study fosters personal, biblical, and responsible theological growth, vital for spiritual development and discipleship.
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  • In this lesson you will gain insight into the Bible's clarity, sufficiency, and authority, and the Canon.
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  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
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Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.

A Guide to Christian Theology
Dr. Gerry Breshears
Final State
Lesson Transcript

We want to finish up on the final state, hell and heaven, north in that order. I don't leave you in hell. When I think about hell who likes hell? And the answer is, I hope nobody. Matthew 25:41 says, "Depart from me you who are cursed into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

Matthew 25:41 is talking about what hell is prepared for. It's prepared for the devil, that each serpent and his angels, which would be demons and those who worship them, that's what hell is for. And there are various descriptions of it. It's a place of utter destruction. It's a place of fire. It's a place of outer darkness. It's a place of intense loneliness. There's a lot of different descriptions of that.

But the thing of it is we talk about hell. This is a place that's prepared particularly for the punishment of Satan and his crowd. And those who worship him, worship Satan and the demon gods will be there with him because they've rejected Jesus, the Messiah. We get various pictures of it. It's a lake of fire.

In Revelation 20, Jesus talks about it often as departing to everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. And that's the picture. It's the exclusion from relationship with God. Just as Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden in Revelation chapter 20, we are driven out of his presence into this place.

When you look at Revelation 20, starts in verse 10, verse 11. "Saw the great white throne and him that seated, are earth and heaven fled for him and there were no presence. I saw the dead, great and small standing before the throne. The book was open book of life. The dead were judged according to what they'd done. The sea gave us dead, death in Hades, give the dead during them and each person judged according to what they've done. And death in Hades was on the lake of fire. The lake of fire is second death. Anyone whose name is not found in the written book of life is thrown in the lake of fire along with the devil, the beast and the false prophet and are torment day and night, forever and ever." That's hell.

First the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet tormented day and night, forever and ever. This is Revelation 20, starting verse 10. And then Hades, death in Hades, the place of the dead is also thrown in the lake of fire, second death and not a happy picture.

In Revelation 21, 22 is talked about being outside the city gates. Different metaphor of it, but clearly there's a spot of there's separation between the sheep and the goats. Matthew 25. "And what we've done shows the life that's in us." Sheep care for the worthless to me person. Goats don't care about the worthless to me person, and that's the test of the life in you.

A question that comes up there, and it's a big question, is the question that annihilationism versus eternal conscious punishment. And there's a lot to be done here. There's one view on the annihilation side of things is there is a... One view is hell be empty because everybody will eventually accept Jesus. This is called Christian universalism or I'll just call it Christian universalism.

This is a view that Rob Bell had in his book, Love Wins. Though he didn't believe it then and certainly doesn't believe it now, is that everybody will accept Jesus eventually because love wins. There's another view called extinction, my view, is that at death, everybody ceases to exist and that's the end of it.

There's another view that I call executionism. It'll be resurrected and we're painfully executed. The punishment is brief and tense, but when it's done, it's done. And the word destroyed means that you're destroyed and do not exist anymore.

Then in another view, which I would call temporary conscious punishment, which is everybody is punished after death in accordance with the amount and degree of their sin. You pay the penalty of punishment, but your sin is finite, so your punishment is finite. And after that has been paid, then you cease to exist. Those are all annihilation views.

They do believe there's a separation. There's an after death torment of some sort. The only one that doesn't have it is the extinctionism, and that's a view I think is not tenable from an evangelical perspective because of biblical pictures of punishment are so strong. To say you decease to exist at death, to me is deny fundamental things about judgment and scripture and all the creeds have a judgment picture in there. And extinctionism just avoids all of that.

Christian universalism, I would love to have that be true. I just can't square it with scripture. Temporary conscious punishment is a view that not many hold, but I think it could be done. Sin is finite, therefore punishment is finite. And when your penalty's paid, you are burned up and ceased to exist.

When I look at the rich man and Lazarus, the thing I find there that Luke 16, so you can take a look at that. Luke 16, starting at verse 19, the beggar died. He goes to Abraham's side, the rich man died, is buried in Hades where he was in torment. He looks up and he says, "Father Abraham, have pity on me," said Lazarus. Dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue because I'm in agony in this fire." What I see happening there is he's still sinning. Sin does not stop death. The rich man still sees Lazarus as an instrument to comfort him. He says no regard for Lazarus as a person. Sin does not stop at death. The idea that there's finite sin with finite punishment fails if sin continues after death, and I think it does.

In Revelation 22, it talks about let him who's filthy be filthy still. I think sin does not stop at death. That's part of the reason that I don't come out on the idea that there's a short term punishment. When I look at... Again, I'll just look at one passage here because there's a lot more that could be done.

Matthew 25:41 talks about departing the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. In 46, where it talks about the sheep. He says that, "They will go away to eternal punishment," the goats, "But the righteous to eternal life." Now everybody believes eternal life means being with Jesus forever.

And I think eternal punishment means that there's conscious torment. I think there are degrees of punishment in hell. More serious sin is punished more severely. Less serious sin is punished less severely. I think there's eternal conscious punishment, but it's with degrees of punishment just like there's eternal life.

That's where I come out on the hell side. I don't even like it. But I think Matthew 11:20 and the following talks about worse than the day of judgment for Sodom then for Capernaum talks about degrees of punishment after death. That's in your handout, in your student guide. I think that's true.

What about heaven? That I like to talk about. Heaven is being with Jesus. I like that. I'm with Jesus now and I'm with Jesus forever. Heaven is being with Jesus, doing the cool things he likes to do. Now here's the thing, we don't spend eternity in heaven. That's what we call the intermediate state. At death we go to be with Jesus in heaven in a probably without a body state there in 1st Corinthians, chapter four. But when Jesus comes back, we come with him, our bodies are resurrected, 1st Corinthians chapter 15. And then we'll be in some sort of resurrected body and we'll be with him forever. It'll be on the new heaven, new earth. We do not spend eternity in the God space. We spend eternity in a renewed earth.

And so. I think we spend... And the key thing is in my definition of heaven, thing of new earth, we spend eternity with Jesus doing the cool things he likes to do and we'll be having great joy doing it with him. And when I think about the people that don't like to be with Jesus now, they would hate to be with Jesus forever. And that's the thing is they're doing self-exiting behavior now and forever. That's what we call sin.

And I think people are apart from Jesus because they want to be at one level. Another level, they don't want to be in hell, but they certainly don't want to be doing what Jesus wants them to do. I think we're face-to-face presence with God, with a complete end to sin. Lord hasten the day. I'm so sick of sin and its impact.

The time of service and life for God's glory summarized in Revelation 21, 22. And that's the hope that we have is being with Jesus forever. Doing the things that he likes to do, whatever that is. And we have no picture of what that's like, but it's going to be way cool. It's going to be incredible. The beatific vision as it's called, the beautiful vision of seeing God face-to-face in that deepest intimacy, whatever that involves.

Where will that be? I think it'll be a renewed earth. What kind of body will we have? I don't know. I don't know. It's like... Well, I just don't know. Will we recognize our loved ones? I think we will because we recognize Elijah and Moses. I think we'll recognize our loved ones.

And if you want to end up on a really, really important question, what age will I be on the new earth? What age will I be? Will I be an old man like I am now with white hair? Or will I be a 32-year old the way I was when I first came to Western way back when? And don't worry about it, whether it'll be the right age and we'll love it.

But see, that's the hope we have is being with Jesus now, working with him in this evil age, bringing life and hope into this place of despair and destruction. And what we're doing on the new earth will be participating in that incredible things that he does. And that's our hope is with resurrected whole person being, we'd be with him forever. That's the believer's hope and that's where we end. Question.

I hate to pull you back to hell after that, but you seem to classify universalism as part of annihilationism.

Christian universalism. Hell ends up empty.

Okay. Oh, that's why you put it as part of it.

Yeah. There's a standard universal, is in heaven because God is nice. That is not even vaguely Christian. There's a Christian universal. And everybody accepts Jesus eventually, so hell ends up empty. It's not elation of a person, but it's the emptiness of hell.

Are they saying that there's a second chance after death?

Oh, yeah. Not a second chance, but a certainty that everybody will eventually accept Jesus.

All right. All right.

I don't think there's a shred of hope of that in scripture, but it'd sure make me happy if it were true.

It'd be great, wouldn't it?


Yeah. The other thing, you referenced to hell as being a place of utter destruction.


Versus eternal conscious punishment. Jesus refers to hell as fire and darkness. And they seem mutually exclusive. Metaphors or not. What do you do with all that?

The fire and darkness are both scary things, painful things. I was briefly in utter darkness in Carlsbad Caverns way back when. I was amazed how quickly that total darkness became incredibly oppressive. And then we had it off and anybody could at any point they said, "If this is too much, you can let us know." I lasted longer than other people did but it wasn't long before somebody, "Turn the lights on."

It's just so what is totally dark. That's what that picture is. The picture of destruction, that's the biggest argument for annihilation is destruction means destroyed. I mean that's what it is. You are destroyed in hell. Don't fear him to destroy body and soul in hell. And the word there is apollumi is the verbal form. And what I look at as I say, "Yeah." But when I look at the use of that word and look it up in the dictionary in Luke 15 is an example of this.

You know the prodigal. He heads out and he's dead. He's away from his father. And he comes to his senses and comes back and the older brother is ticked because of celebration. He complains, the father comes and validates his... "Everything I have is yours." "But when the son of yours who squandered the properties come home, you killed a fatted calf." Then 31 is critical. "My son, you're always with me. Everything I have is yours." He validates his son, "It's yours."

Then he says this, "We had to celebrate and be glad because his brother was dead and his life again was lost and is found." Now dead, clearly there nekros is not physical death because the brother's in far country doing his thing. It's dead to life. I think that's spiritual death because he's separated from the Father and then is restored to the father. But it says he's lost. That's the word that's destruction, apollumi. It doesn't mean he ceased to exist consciously, but he's ruined for his purpose.

Wine skins that you put new wine in are destroyed. They don't cease to exist. They won't hold wine anymore. In every case, the word apollumi means ruined for its original purpose. In the case of death, I think it means ruined for original purpose. But original purpose is to be with God serving and loving him. And when somebody is lost, separated from God, they're ruined for the original purpose.

Now this is a real debate and this is the exegetical basis for annihilationism is the destruction means destroyed and ceases to exist. But when I look at in the key there is that Luke 15:32, dead is alive, lost is found. And that very clearly apollumi is not cessation of existence, it's ruined for the purpose. You cannot serve your father on the estate and it pairs it with death.

That's my reason for coming back and saying no destruction doesn't mean cessation of personal existence. It means cessation of life with God. And so I separate spiritual life and physical life. I think you can have conscious existence in spiritual death and I think that's an eternal state of people. You get that they're punished eternally and such where I come out unhappily to an eternal conscious torment with levels of punishment.

Well, if you're here, you've been around a long time. And I just want to say thanks for sticking with this. We've had a good survey of my view and at least a glimpse of other major views. And the whole idea is to get you into thinking carefully about what is it we believe? Why do you believe it? And most important of all, how does that relate to scripture?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of my view? And how to be respectful of people come to different views. But most of all focus on things we all agree on to accomplish wisely and well the mission Jesus gave us to take the gospel to the world and form community disciples that are an intimate relation with him and righteous relationship with each other. Go form community of Jesus to worship Jesus now and forever.


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