What Heaven and Hell Are Like
April 1st, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
WHAT HEAVEN AND HELL ARE LIKE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-1-87 7:30 p.m.
It is a gladness for us to welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled What Heaven and Hell Are Like. I tremble as I read God’s Word and listen to the voice of revelation that brings to us the eternal destiny of our souls.
Hell; Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven. Hell was not created for us. It was created for the devil and his angels. Matthew 25:41, “These are sent away into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Who is there? Who is in hell? Revelation 20:10, “And the devil . . . was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever.” And verse 15, “And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” [Revelation 20:15]; that Book of Life in which are the names of those who have found refuge in God, as so often mentioned in the Bible.
The Book of Life mentioned in Luke 10:20; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8, Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15, Revelation 21:27. God’s Book of Life; and it is only those who are written, whose names are written in the Book of Life, who shall escape the torment and damnation of hell and be welcome into the presence of the saints of God in heaven. When I was a youth, I used to hear people sing, “Is My Name Written There?”
Lord, I care not for riches,
Neither silver nor gold.
I would make sure of heaven,
I would enter the fold.
In the Book of Thy kingdom
With its pages so fair.
Tell me, Jesus my Savior,
Is my name written there?
Lord, my sins are so many,
They’re like the sands of the sea.
But Thy blood, O my Savior
Is sufficient for me.
For Thy precious promise
Is written in bright letters that glow,
“Though your sins be as scarlet
They shall be white like the snow.”
Oh, that beautiful city
With its mansions of light,
With its glorified saints
In pure garments of white,
Where no evil thing
In it to spoil what is fair,
Where the angels are watching,
Is my name written there?
[“Is My Name Written There?” Mary A. Kidder]
What is hell like? Christ described hell as a place of fire, a place of bodily torment, a place separated from God’s presence, a place of darkness, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of degrees of punishment [Matthew 13:42]. The apostles also added to that word of the Lord. Hell is a place of indignation and wrath and tribulation and anguish; it is a place of flaming fire and everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord; is a place of eternal judgment. It is a place of fiery indignation, which will devour God’s adversaries. It is a place of the final expression of God’s judgment. It is a fiery place where the smoke of suffering will rise forever [Revelation 14:11, 19:3]. And it is a lake of fire, called “the second death” [Revelation 20:14-15].
As in heaven, there are varying degrees of punishment. In Luke 12:47-48, our Lord says they that are extremely wicked and guilty will be beaten with many stripes, and those that are not so evil and wicked, will be beaten with few stripes. In Revelation 20:12-13, “And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” And in verse 13, the next one, “And they were judged every man according to their works” [Revelation 20:13].
There are degrees of punishment in hell. Some will be vile, will be judged, will be excruciatingly tormented forever and ever; the depths of depravity reflected in the judgment God passes upon them. There are others who are in hell who will be beaten with few stripes. There are degrees in hell [Luke 12:47-48].
The question is often raised, “Is God too loving and too compassionate to send anyone to hell? Would God do that?” The answer in my humble persuasion, God never does that. We send ourselves there. God does not do it. We do it.
God said to Adam and Eve, “In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die” [Genesis 2:17]. And the judgment that fell upon our first parents [Genesis 3:16-19] was brought upon them by their transgressions [Genesis 3:1-6], and we are the children of old man Adam [2 Chronicles 6:30]. And all of the woe that has followed in the wake of the transgression of our first parents is found in our lives today [Romans 5:15-16].
God is a God of holiness and of righteousness and of purity and cannot countenance sin. He cannot look upon it. In Habakkuk 1:13, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity.” That’s why we must be under the blood. We must be under the covering of the love and grace of our Lord [Ephesians 2:7-9]. That is why we must accept the atonement of Jesus, why there must be expiation—taking away, cleansing, washing—of our sins [1 Corinthians 6:11], so that when God looks upon us He does not see our iniquity and impurity and our transgressions. But when God looks upon us, He looks upon the atoning love and grace of our Lord Jesus—hidden, covered, under the blood [1 Corinthians 1:30].
That is why the sin of rejecting the grace and the love and the atonement of Christ is so tragic, and so infinitely terrible a crime [John 3:36]. It exposes the soul to the judgment of God [Romans 3:5-6]. Without the intervention of our Lord, without the covering of His grace and His blood, our souls are naked before God, and the awful judgment against sin falls upon us [Ecclesiastes 12:14]. John 3:36, the last verse in the great third chapter of John, “He that hath the Son hath the life: he that hath not the Son hath not life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him.” John repeated that in his letter in 1 John 5:12, “He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son hath not life.”
There is no second chance. There is no other opportunity. When we forsake the grace of our Lord and are plunged out into the darkness of the forever lost and undone, there is no second chance. Lest you think that that be peculiar or different, is there another life that you hope to experience in this world when you die? Don’t you live in a world of death? Don’t you have members in your family who have died—your grandparents, your forefathers, and, of course, in my generation, my own father and my own mother? Do they come to life again or is that final? When they die, they are buried in the cemetery, and they have no second chance to live in this life. When they are raised from the dead [Revelation 20:12], they are raised to the judgment day of Almighty God [Revelation 20:13]. And in that judgment the books are open, and what is written there is eternal.
I have two options, like standing at an elevator. There are two and only two. That elevator goes up or it goes down, and that’s all. And when I face the issues of my life, I face them in just two options. I go up with my Lord or I go down in the judgment day of Almighty God [Revelation 20:15].
Heaven; what it is like to be in heaven? Language is unable to explain it or to bear the weight of its glory. In 1 Corinthians 2:9, “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, things, those wonderful things, which God hath prepared for them who love Him.” But the next verse says, “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit” [1 Corinthians 2:10]. By the Word of God, by the inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord [2 Timothy 3:16], what heaven is like is revealed unto us.
What is difficult in the revelation is this. As you know, a babe, an unborn babe, lives in a sac of water. And when the babe is born into this earth it lives in an atmosphere of air. If you were to try to explain to that unborn babe what it is like to be born, to come out of that womb and water, and to live in a world of movement, an atmosphere, you couldn’t do it. The babe could not understand. We are like that. We are so terrestrial that it is impossible for us to enter into the glories of the celestial.
Sometimes I’m amused at the illustrations by which some of these ministers try to explain what a glory it is to be in heaven. One of them said heaven is better than a mouse locked in a cheese factory. Well, that sounds good. Another one of them I read said heaven is better than a beggar inheriting a million dollars. Another one said heaven is better than a lazy tramp finding a job as a mattress tester. Another one said that heaven is better than an author receiving the Nobel Prize. There are impossible assignments to the human language and that’s one of them.
Heaven so many times is explained in a negative form, in the “no mores.” There are no more sorrow and tears and pain and death in Revelation 21:4. There’s no more night, in Revelation 21:25. There’s no more evil, in Revelation 21:27. And there’s no more curse, in Revelation 22:3.
Who will be there? Who’s going to be in heaven? First, our Lord will be there, the great God whom we worship and adore, who will be there [Revelation 21:1-7]. People sometimes think—and it is always amazing to me when I hear them express themselves—people sometimes think we’re going to see three Gods up there in heaven. Going to be God the Father and we will see Him; going to be God the Son and we are going to see Him; going to be God the Holy Spirit and we will see Him. Nothing could be farther from the truth! There is one God, just one. There is one God and only one. And that one God was incarnate in Jesus Christ, to whom attestation was made by the Holy Spirit [Romans 1:4]. The only God that there is, is God the Father [1 Corinthians 8:6]. The only God you’ll ever see is God the Son [John 1:18]. And the only God you’ll ever feel is God the Holy Spirit [John 14:17].
And when you get to heaven there will be one God, and He is incarnate. His name is Jesus [John 1:1, 14], as they sang in that beautiful hymn a moment ago. You will never see any God but Jesus. Jesus is God. And God is Jesus. There are not three Gods. There is one, and that God is the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior [John 20:28]. And when you get to heaven, He is the God you are going to see and worship and adore and bow down before and serve and love forever and ever and ever [Revelation 5:12-13].
Who else are in heaven? The Old Testament saints will be there; Moses, Abraham, David, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and John the Baptist. All the Old Testament saints will be there, and we will greet them, talk to them, have an eternity to visit with them. I cannot imagine and that’s why the Bible says it’s beyond words to bear the glory of it. I cannot imagine visiting with Abraham and Israel and all of those who followed Moses. Dear me! The Old Testament saints will be there [1 Thessalonians 4:17].
The raptured church will be there [Revelation 7:13-15]. When Jesus comes, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we all shall be changed [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]. “The dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will be caught up with them in the air, to meet our Lord in the clouds of heaven; and so ever be with the Lord” [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. God will be there, Jesus [Revelation 21:23]. The Old Testament saints will be there, resurrected. The raptured church, resurrected. And, if we are alive when He comes, the transformed, immortalized saints that live in the earth, we will all be there.
The tribulation saints will be there. After the rapture of the church, seven years of dark and tribulation [1 Thessalonians 5:4], at the end of which the tribulation saints, some of them, many of them, martyred, they will be there [Revelation 6:10]. And of course, the myriad, that’s what the Greek is, myriads upon myriads upon myriads, the myriad of angels will be there [Romans 5:11-12]. All of the angelic hosts of heaven will be there [Revelation 7:11-12]. O God, what a fellowship and what a day of triumph that will be!
Now who has ever been there to tell us about it? Are we just standing here in this sacred place fantasizing, just thinking in terms of poetry or imagery or unthinkable hope and fancy? No, I can name you three people who have been there, who come back to tell us what it is like. The first one, and the foremost one is Jesus our Lord. He came from heaven. He left heaven. How many times is that avowed in the Bible? Our Lord Jesus was in heaven, and He left heaven, John 3:13, John 6:33, 38, 50, 51, 58, repeated again and again. Our Lord came down from heaven and our Lord returned to heaven [Acts 1:9-10]. He came down from heaven, and He returned to heaven, “This same Jesus whom you have seen,” going back up into heaven. “This same Jesus, whom you have seen go away into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him leave” [Acts 1:11]. And His feet shall touch in that day the Mount of Olives [Acts 1:9-10], and it shall cleave asunder [Zechariah 14:4]. When the Lord comes back, it will be in the same way that He left. He left to return to heaven on the Mount of Olives and He is coming back in that same way. His feet will touch that sacred mount [Zechariah 14:4].
Who else has been in heaven? The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 that he was caught up into the third heaven [2 Corinthians 12:2], and he repeats that. He calls it Paradise [2 Corinthians 12:4]. “Well, what do you mean, Paul, when you say the third heaven?” What he means is very plain. The first heaven is where the birds fly, and the clouds go by. That’s the first heaven. The second heaven is the sidereal spheres, the heaven of the stars and the great universes above us. And the third heaven is where God is. That’s where Jesus is [Colossians 3:1]. That’s where Paradise is. When the Lord said to that dying thief, “Today, sēmeron, this day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43]. That’s the third heaven, up where God is.
Who else has been in heaven? John, the sainted apostle John, and John wrote more than all the others put together. Beginning at the fourth chapter of the Revelation, “I was caught up and behold, a door opened in heaven” [Revelation 4:1], and the sainted apostle John entered that door into heaven. And he described, as best language could bear, the meaning. He described the glories of the throne of God. And he described the saints who bowed down before Him, represented by the twelve of the Old Testament, and represented by the twelve of the New Testament, the four and twenty elders, and represented by the four living ones—what a shame that the King James Version translates that “beasts,” by the four living ones; all creation, God’s creation, bowing down before Him [Revelation 4:2-11].
In that final day, and in that final estate, there won’t be any burned-out stars. And there won’t be any deserts. And there won’t be any curses. And there won’t be anything, any of the things that lack. Everything will be remade—remade, rejuvenated, recreated; the whole heavens of above and all the earth beneath [Revelation 21:1-5]—that’s represented by those four living ones [Revelation 4:6-9].
Now what shall we do there in heaven? Well, I do not know of a sorrier caricature than what you see constantly: a fellow sitting on a cloud with a halo over his head, thumbing a harp. Now that is universal. And there’s not anything that I’ve ever seen that is more untrue than that. It is a cheap caricature. What of heaven? Well, first, we’re going to have glorified bodies with power and abilities like the resurrected body of Christ. First Corinthians 15:35-49 describes it; “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” [1 Corinthians 15:49]. And Philippians 3:21, “The Lord Jesus shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body.” We are going to have the powers and the abilities in our resurrected body of the Lord Jesus Christ [Philippians 3:21].
Again, we shall have perfect knowledge. First Corinthians 13:8-12, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face-to-face. . .then shall I know even as I am known”—even as God knows me. All of the secrets of God and His universe will be revealed to us, and we’ll know them. We will live in marvelous surroundings, the heaven described in Revelation 21 and 22 [Revelation 21:1-22:21]. We shall live in a prepared place for us. Our Lord said, “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go I will come again and receive you unto Myself” [John 14:2-3].
We are going to live with redeemed people of God for all times, all of those saints, all of them. They’re going to be our friends and companions throughout all ages [Hebrews 12:22]. We shall reign with Christ like kings and queens. Revelation 22:5, “And they shall reign with Him forever and ever.” And we shall serve God forever [Revelation 22:3]. There will be intense activity. Oh dear, how much God has for us to do!
Our capital city will be the New Jerusalem, described in marvelous words in Revelation 21:2-27. That beautiful city is 12,000 stadion—and the Kings James Version translated, “furlong,” an eighth of a mile [Revelation 21:16]. So, it’s 1,500 miles this way and 1,500 miles that way and 1,500 miles that way. There’s no sun, no stars, no moon. All those things are done away because our Lord is the light of it [Revelation 21:23]. And can you imagine the vastness of that city when it is in stories? One thousand five hundred miles this way, a 1,500 miles that way, and that will be the first floor. And then the second floor, a 1,500 miles that way, a 1,500 miles that way. And that’s the second floor and the third floor and the fifth floor and so on up for 1,500 miles. I cannot imagine a city that enormous. That’s the dwelling place of God’s redeemed. That’s our home. That’s our mansion [John 14:2-3]. That will be on this boulevard, or it will be down that street, and that’s where we will base our activities. All of God’s creation will be right out there before us. Our home will be in the New Jerusalem on one of those beautiful streets, in a mansion. That’s our home.
And then there will be all the universe that God has recreated, just for us [Revelation 21:1]. If you’ve ever been here to church very much, you’ve heard me say God’s going to give me one of those planets, and I’m going to put my little soapbox right there on one of those planets. And we’re not going to have any clocks. And we’re not going to have to quit at noon. And we’re not going to have to quit at 8:15, which is right now—which I ought to stop this minute. We’re just not going to have any of that. We’re going to have forever and ever, and I’m going to preach sermons. One of them will be one hundred thousand years long. That will be one sermon, be one sermon. Oh, it will be a place of intensest activity!
I have to close. Let me take a moment to say one other thing. In reading 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, I learn that we will find degrees in heaven just as we do in hell. There are degrees in heaven. Paul writes in that famous chapter in 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, on the foundation of our salvation, the goodness and grace of Christ. Some people will build gold, silver, precious stones, and some people will build wood, hay, and stubble. And in the great judgment day of Almighty God, if I have built with wood, hay, and stubble, everything that I have done in this world will be burned up—though I will be saved as if by fire, just by the skin of my teeth, that’s all. There will be no reward in heaven for me. There will be nothing of the work I have done. I am just saved and that’s all. But if I have built on that foundation gold, silver, and precious stones—some of them are called crowns: a crown of rejoicing, a crown of righteousness—these will be our rewards, what we have done in this life serving Jesus [1 Corinthians 3:11-15]. Do you remember the old song? I must close.
Must I go, [and] empty-handed?
Must I meet my Savior so?
Not one soul with which to greet Him,
Must I empty-handed go?
[from “Must I Go, and Empty-Handed?”, Charles C. Luther, 1877]
Lord, grant that when we stand in that final day, that there will be a gracious life offered in service unto Christ. “Lord, what I could do, I did do.” And the Lord replies, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . Enter thou into the joy and the rewards of thy Lord” [Matthew 25:21]. Now may we pray?
Our Lord in heaven, so full and rich are Thy revelations in Thy Holy Word. We tremble before them, Lord, when we are wrong. If we are lost, O God, save our souls from the pit of burning, and the fire and brimstone and damnation of hell. God have mercy upon us [Titus 2:3]. Save us Lord. Cover us, Lord, with the blood of atoning grace [Ephesians 2:8]. And when the Lord looks upon us, may He see Jesus and His righteousness [1 Corinthians 1:30]. Save us, Lord. And, Lord, when we come, and it will not be long, into Thy presence and stand at the judgment, at the bema of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10], O God that we could hear the warm approval of our Savior. Grant it, Lord, and we will love Thee for Thy goodnesses to us, in Thy precious and keeping and holy name, amen.
Now we are going to sing us a song. I will be standing right here. And somebody you to give your heart to the Lord Jesus tonight [Romans 10:9-13]; or a family you to come into the fellowship of our church or to answer the call of the Spirit of God in your heart; while we sing this appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come and welcome. God bless you, while we stand and while we sing.
WHAT HEAVEN AND HELL ARE LIKE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Created originally for Satan and his demons (Matthew 25:41)
B. Who is there? (Revelation
C. Book of Life (Luke
10:20, Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27)
D. What is hell like?
1. Varying degrees of judgment (Luke 12:47-48, Revelation 20:12-13)
E. Is God too loving to send anyone to hell?
1. We send ourselves (Genesis
2. God is a God of holiness; cannot countenance sin (Habakkuk 1:13)
F. Sin of rejecting Christ’s atonement (John 3:36, 1 John 5:12)
A. Language unable to explain it, bear the weight of
its glory (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)
B. The “no mores” (Revelation
21:4, 25, 27, 22:3)
C. Who will be there? (Revelation 4:1-11, 5:11-14, 7:1-17, 20:4, 21:12, 14, 22, 1
D. Who has been there to tell us about it?
1. Jesus (John
3:13, 6:33, 38, 50-51, 58, 62, Acts 1:9-11, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Revelation
19:11-16, Zechariah 14:4)
2. Paul (2 Corinthians
12:2-4, Luke 23:43)
3. John (Revelation
E. What shall we do there?
1. We will have glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-, Philippians 3:21)
2. We shall have perfect knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:8-12, Revelation 21, 22, John 14:3)
3. Reign with Christ (Revelation 22:5)
4. Our capital city will be the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2-27)