Death: What Happens to Unbelievers?

Editor’s note: I realize it may seem odd to you that we are exploring the topic of evil and Satan the same month we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Odd as it may be, it is actually quite relevant to the celebration of Jesus’ birth. He had to come into the world in order to defeat Satan (1 John 3:8). Without Christ’s death on the cross we would have no escape from the grip of Satan and would, because of our sinful state, spend eternity in hell. I mentioned this before, as Christians we are thankful that God has chosen us and has saved us. Amen! 

Death: What Happens to Unbelievers?


There are beliefs in the world which say there will be no eternal punishment for the wicked. There are even those who believe that all will receive the gift of salvation. But is this what the Bible says about life after death?

When it comes to the destiny of the unsaved there are three popular views. Eternal punishment holds that there is an “endless duration”[1] of punishment for “whoever rejects the Son” (John 3:36, NIV). Annihilationism believes that some or all of mankind will simply cease to exist after death. This may mean all of humankind, or only those who are not redeemed.[2] A third popular view is known as universalism, which states that “all men will eventually be reconciled to God”.[3]
While some may try to explain away what happens to our souls after death, there is no doubt that there is a place that our souls go after death. Upon death, all souls go to Sheol (Hebrew) or in the greek, Hades, which is an intermediate state, the grave. The wicked and righteous will be here after death (Gen. 37:35) but the righteous do not remain (Ps. 16:10; 49:15; 86:13). The ultimate destination of the wicked soul is Gehenna (Matt. 25:41; 2 Thess. 1:8). This is the “final and everlasting place of punishment for the wicked following the last judgment”.[4]
This author holds to the view of eternal punishment. The Bible is very clear sin will be

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punished (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 10:15; John 5:28-29; Rom. 5:12-21). It is also clear that those who do not “believe…Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31, ESV) their punishment is eternal (Matt. 25:46). In Matthew 25:46, Jesus states that the punishment of the wicked is eternal, as is the reward for the righteous. This word, “eternal,” conveys the idea of an “endless duration”[5] that is given to those who go into “punishment” and “life” (v. 46).
There are two common objections to the view that this author holds to. A universalist will use 1 Tim. 2:4 or 2 Pet. 3:9 to say that God wants all people to be saved. They will also use John 12:32 to say that Jesus’ death on the cross “will draw all people to [himself].” An annihilationist will use 1 Tim. 1:17 and 6:16 to say that only God has immortality, not man. 
To the universalist, this author would say it is important to understand that while God may “[desire] all people to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4), and while the benefits of the death of Christ on the cross are available to all who will believe (John 1:12), God has said, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Rom. 9:15 cf. Ex. 33:19).
To the annihilationist: Scripture is clear that upon death God will “give” (Rom. 2:7b) either eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46; John 5:29) or eternal life (Matt. 25:46; Rom. 2:7; 5:21). In other words: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23, emphasis added).
Some may ask how a loving God can allow eternal punishment. The answer is simple: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life…Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16, 18). While God does choose to “[harden] whomever he wills” (Rom. 9:18; [John 6:65]) all have the choice to receive eternal life if they make the decision to believe. This is how it can be said that it is “fair” for God to allow people to suffer in hell. Just as Eve and Adam chose to disobey God in the garden (Gen. 3:6), so is all of mankind responsible for choosing whether or not to believe in Christ.
When it comes to evangelism, the view of hell as a real place of eternal punishment must be emphasized. People try to downplay the existence, or severity, of hell because no one wants to believe that God would allow eternal punishment to take place. The reality, as shown above, is that God does allow it but that he also offers a “free gift of…eternal life” (Rom. 6:23) to those who believe. While this should not be the only part of an evangelistic conversation, it must be a part.
Points to Remember 


  • Sheol is Hebrew, Hades is Greek, for grave.

  • Gehenna is the ultimate destination of the wicked soul, the unbelieving.

  • While God may desire all to be saved, this is not in his plan. Those who reject him will suffer.

Questions to Promote Bible Study and Learning 


  • What are the three views concerning life after death? What do they believe? Of these three, which do you believe?

  • Who is present in Hades?

  • Is Gehenna eternal or temporary?

  • Do you think it is “fair” for people to suffer eternally for rejecting Christ? Why or why not? What Scripture supports your view?

  • How does your view of hell and eternal punishment effect your evangelism?


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Satan: His Origin, Limited Power, and Eternal Position

Editor’s note: I realize it may seem odd to you that we are exploring the topic of evil and Satan the same month we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Odd as it may be, it is actually quite relevant to the celebration of Jesus’ birth. He had to come into the world in order to defeat Satan (1 John 3:8). Without Christ’s death on the cross we would have no escape from the grip of Satan and would, because of our sinful state, spend eternity in hell (more on this next Friday). I mentioned this last week, as Christians we are thankful that God has chosen us and has saved us. Amen! 

Satan - His Origin, Limited Power, and Eternal Position


God and Satan are two beings that humans, believers and nonbelievers alike, are subject to in one form or another. Because of this, it is wise for the individual to know exactly who these two are and what they can and cannot do, particularly Satan.

There is a belief that says there are two “[mutual]…forces or beings”.[1] One has created, and is, good, and the other has created, and is, evil. This belief teaches that the universe is the “battleground for these opposing beings”[2] and is known as religious dualism.
This belief of God and Satan as mutual beings is quite contrary to what Scripture teaches. Scripture is very clear that one of the beings was before the other: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, ESV). Since God was before Satan, the two are not mutual, and since they are not mutual one will defeat the other (Gen. 3:15).
There are two other passages that clearly speak against this belief of eternal conflict between God and Satan. On the day that Lucifer was created, (Ezekiel 28:13) he was the “signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (v. 12). He was even blameless in his ways (v. 15). Because his “heart was proud” (v. 17), God cast him to the ground (vv. 16-17; Is. 14:12; Luke 10:18). The destiny of Satan is stated in Genesis 3:15, and is carried out through the death of Christ on the cross (John 12:31-33).

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A common objection to using Isaiah 14:12-17 and Ezekiel 28 as reference to Satan’s origin and destiny, is that they are not speaking to or are about Satan, but instead are about their respective earthly kings and kingdoms. This is simply not the case. As seen in Matthew 16:21-23 when Peter is rebuked by Jesus for being under control of Satan, Satan is able to use people to accomplish his goals. This being understood, the passages at hand speak to both Satan and those he is using as his earthly pawns.
It is easy to fall into the trap that God created evil through his creation of Lucifer. Again, it is observed that Lucifer was created (Ezekiel 28:15) by God (Gen. 1:1) as a blameless (Ezekiel 28:15) “guardian cherub” (v. 14). He was also created with free will, as can be witnessed in verse 17: “you corrupted”. If he was created without a free will he would not have been able to alter the blameless state of which he was created.
It is beneficial to observe what Satan is not to further demonstrate that he is, as a created being, subservient to God. First, he is not omniscient. Satan believed that Job would curse God if he lost all that he had (Job 1:11). If Satan was omniscient he would have known what Job would or would not do. Second, Satan is not omnipotent. If he was, he would have been able to do two things. First, he would have been able to go against God’s command to not take the life of Job (2:6). Second, Satan would have been able to push Job to the point of cursing God. Finally, Satan is not omnipresent. Using Job as an example, Satan is seen to be wandering the face of the earth (1:7; 2:2). His presence does not fill the earth, but he is left to having the presence like that of a human being, which is limited.
God is all three things that Satan is not (Omniscient – Ps. 147:5; omnipotent – Matt. 19:26; omnipresent – Ps. 139:7-10). This alone makes Satan subservient to Him (because he is thus not equal with God). Also, it is obvious to note that Satan was not allowed to touch Job or his processions without permission from God to do so (Job 1:12; 2:6). 
If someone is tempted, they can place the blame on Satan who tempts them. It is when an individual yields to temptation and commits sin that they cannot blame Satan. Eve took the fruit with her own hands, and Adam with his (Gen. 3:6). The serpent did not force the fruit into their stomachs, they took and ate of their own will. It is the same for every human since the Fall (Rom. 3:23).
It is fitting to conclude with an encouragement. Although the tempter “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), those in Christ have One who is ready at their defense and who is greater than the one who tempts them, and if they call on Him (v. 7), He will deliver them (v. 10).
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Seek After Him

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Psalm 121:2,7 “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth…The Lord will keep you from all evil, he will keep your life.”

As humans we are naturally inclined to do two things: 1) try to do things without God and 2) turn towards evil. Both of these faults are met head on with verses 2 and 7 of Pslam 121.  But they require more than just seeing them written out, they require action from us.

We have to proactively give everything to the Lord, especially if you want it to succeed or having lasting effects. If we go through life and do not give things “in our control” over to Him, we are going to fall down so many ties that it will begin to hurt. And if we are blind to what is going on, may turn away from God for letting us fall so many times. This is when you will fall the hardest. It will be a huge fall (followed by a big bounce, thanks to the Lord) to bring you back to Him and to relying on Him.  If we give things in our lives up to him first, it will not take a huge fall, but a trip or a stubbed toe to get us to realize that we took it back again (the control) or did not seek him out.

The other side of the coin, or set of verses, is that God can keep us from evil. Key word is GOD. Try it on your own and you will fail miserably. Try it without trusting God to deliver you, without asking him to keep Satan and his forces away from you, and you will get no where. If you ask God to protect you, ask God to keep Satan from you, and ask God to deliver you from temptation, He will do it. But YOU play a large role in that equation. He wants to see you come to Him.

Go to Him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Only He can keep you from evil and help you.

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