Heaven and hell both exist and we know this because Scripture tells us so. The Bible speaks on the reality of hell in the same terms as the reality of heaven. Revelation 20:14 says, “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” The truth is Jesus spent more time warning people about the dangers of hell than He did in comforting them with the hope of heaven. The concept of real, conscious, forever-and-ever existence in hell is just as biblical as a real, conscious, forever-and-ever existence in heaven. Trying to separate them is simply not possible from a biblical standpoint.
Despite the Bible’s clear teaching of both heaven and hell, it is not unusual for people, including some Christians, to believe in the reality of heaven while rejecting the reality of hell. A lot of this has to do with wishful thinking. It’s easier to accept the idea of a happy and comfortable afterlife, but damnation isn’t quite so appealing. This is very similar to the mistake so many people often make when it comes to substance abuse, dangerous behaviors and so on. The assumption that we will get what we want overrides the unpleasant but rational view that things might not end well.
The Bible gives many particulars about heaven. One of the greatest things that we have to look forward to is that the struggle over sin will finally be over. We all struggle with sin every day. We know that in the kingdom of heaven “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). This is only possible because of Jesus. We have no fear of being judged for our sin because it was already judged and taken away at the cross by Christ. We will have heavenly bodies, free from sin. We will no longer face the challenges and limitations we face one earth.
We also know from Scripture that God is preparing a place for us now. A common sentiment heard at funerals, spoken in an effort to bring peace to the hearts of those left behind, is that the departed loved has gone on to be with Jesus and is now enjoying the afterlife in the heavenly paradise, looking down upon us. When the person presiding over the funeral uses Scripture to support this claim of immediate life after death, they often reference John 14. Jesus did, indeed, promise that He left the earth to go and prepare a place for those who would eventually follow Him to heaven. On that point, the Bible is unmistakably clear. As Christians, we are right to find comfort in that promise.
We are supposed to long for heaven. The Bible tells us, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). As God’s people, we should long for heaven. When we do, this pleases our Lord who has prepared a place there for us. We should be ever-motivated by the anticipation of heaven. Heaven and all that it represents should be a central object of our attention in this life. Our hearts and minds are to be continuously set on these “things above” where Christ is in heaven, not on “earthly things.”
On the flip side, the Bible actually gives very few particulars about hell. We know that it was originally intended for demonic spiritual beings, not people. The Bible tells us, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;'” (Matthew 25:41). The experience of being in hell is compared to burning. The Bible says, “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43). We are also told in Luke 16:24, “And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame’” (Luke 16:24).
We are also told in Scripture that hell is like darkness. The Bible says, “Then th4e kind said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 22:13). Hell is also associated with intense grief and horror.
Comfort and belief in the existence of heaven, but rejection of the existence of hell can be blamed on inaccurate assumptions about what hell is. Hell is frequently imagined as a burning wasteland, a dungeon of cauldrons and pitchforks, or an underground city filled with ghosts and goblins. These popular depictions of hell often involve a flaming torture chamber or a spiritual jail where evil things reside – and where goof things travel to battle evil. But these popular depictions don’t capture what hell is. In fact, this version of hell does not exist. The details about hell that are given in the Bible don’t match popular myths.
The Bible does not explicitly what hell is or how exactly it functions. However, what the Bible does make clear is that hell is real, eternal and should be avoided at all costs. We know from Scripture that heaven is not only a real place, but also a dwelling place of God. His throne is there, the angels are there, and the Lord Jesus Christ is there. What greater place do we have to look forward to?