Heaven and hell - How do they compare?
Perhaps one of the most daunting premises of Christianity and the Bible is the question: Do heaven and hell really exist?
Many people think of heaven and hell as places, removed from the Earth. They may see heaven as a place where "good" people go when they die. Many see hell as another place, possibly underground, where "bad" people face endless torture in burning pits of fire and brimstone.
The Bible describes a heaven where Jesus has ascended and where angels worship God. Jesus tells His disciples about heaven in John 14:2, saying, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."
The Apostle Paul tells us, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands" (2 Corinthians 5:1).
In 2 Kings 2, the Prophet Elijah is swept into heaven in a whirlwind. And in Mark 12:25, Jesus tells the Pharisees what happens when married people enter heaven, saying, "When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven."
Jesus says in Matthew 8:11-12 that people of faith will join saints and prophets from the Old Testament at the Lord's table, while others will be left outside: "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Those outside would, presumably, be sent to hell. Perhaps the most detailed story is from Luke 16:22-24, which tells of the disparate fortunes of a rich man named Lazarus and a beggar:
"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'"
Several biblical passages indicate that heaven and earth will one day, without fanfare, be destroyed to make way for the glorious return of Christ.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare (2 Peter 3:10).
Peter goes on to caution all of us to be prepared for God's judgment whenever that day comes:
"For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) - if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. (2 Peter 2:4-10).
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