Physical Death: Most of us are not keen to die, yet the bible tells us that for the believer ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Phil1v21). At death, the body of a Christian ‘sleeps’ (returns to the dust), awaiting resurrection. The spirit of the believer goes immediately into the presence of Jesus in Paradise.
What about Unbelievers? When they die their spirit goes to Hades, a place of conscience waiting, (Jude 1:6). Presumably they are enduring torment as they anticipate their judgment.
Second Coming: The Bible teaches that Jesus is coming back. This sudden, personal, visible, bodily return of Christ, heralds the moment when the church will be snatched up to meet Jesus in the air (1Thess4v16-17). Believers (their spirit) will be united with their bodies, which have now been transformed, ready for the eternal age to come. These glorified bodies will be ‘very good’ in that they will be imperishable and untainted by sin’s effect.
Unbelievers (their spirit) will be united with their bodies, which have also been transformed, in that they are now eternal in nature, but corrupted. All will now be gathered before the Great White Throne where Jesus will sit to make His Judgments.
Judgment: No-one who has ever lived can avoid the judgment of God.
Believers are judged but found righteous through their faith in Jesus. He will also makes an assessment, a judgment, of each believer’s works. (2Cor5v10). God is Just and will reward each Believer in accordance to how they have lived. Christians need to understand their lives will be assessed; the result of which will lead to accruing/not accruing reward, but NEVER loss of salvation.
Unbelievers will also stand before Christ for judgment. This judgment will not be a second chance at salvation but a judgment defining their punishment. God is Just and will apportion a just and appropriate punishment in accordance to how they lived.
Eternal Age For Believers, this is where the good stuff gets much, much better. The renewed Heaven & Earth is a physical place, where God will forever dwell with His people, of reunions and beauty beyond imagination. In a sense it is easier to say what won’t be there: no Sin, Satan, no Death; No sorrow, pain or sacrifice; No separation, faith or doubt; No longer any curse. No evangelism.
For Unbelievers, this is where bad stuff gets much, much worse. They are sentenced to Hell, a place of eternal, conscious punishment, with no parole. Hell is a place of separation from God & His restraining Grace. Hell is a place of misery & torment. The companions of Hell will be the fallen angels (Satan and his demons) who have now been called to account and sentenced to degrees of eternal punishment. Hell will be a fixed final state from which there is no removal or return or escape.
Will I lose my salvation? When you are in Christ, your salvation is assured, you will not, can not lose it (Rom 8v1, Jn 5v24). However, our faith is not about a moment. Because we are saved, we continue to follow Christ. And because we continue to follow Christ, we are saved.
Should I work for greater rewards? Accruing reward should be a great stimulus for how we live our lives following Jesus. It may seem more spiritual to be determined to work hard without the motivation of accruing rewards but we shouldn’t try to improve on the bible.
Is Hell really that bad? We must first acknowledge that we have little or no real understanding as to the sinfulness of Sin and the holiness of God. Then we must acknowledge we dare not call God to account regarding our understanding of justice and apparent fairness. Jesus was emphatic (Matt 25v30, 41, 46), Hell is a place that is required, appropriate and Hellish.
What will you do now? Salvation is not an entitlement; it is an unmerited gift. Because of Gods great compassion and mercy, He has made a way for people to be saved. Over next few weeks let this teaching seep into your hearts. Let it motivate you to live a holy life; to run in such a way to gain the prize. Undoubtedly this must include calling others to put their faith in Jesus; to cross over from eternal conscious suffering to eternal life with God.
Richard has written a short paper that he has posted onto his blog, it is well worth a read.