Does the Bible give us a clear picture of hell.
There are so many conflicting views on what hell is and what's it's like and who goes there.
My brother recently committed suicide and I'm so afraid that he's in hell now. He professed to be a believer in Christ, but I don't even know if it's possible for a true believer to take their own life.
In any case, hell is the most horrible thing one can imagine. It's rare to hear a sermon on hell, so it's one of those subjects nobody likes to talk about.
I would really like to know the truth about hell, are there people in it now, if so are they going to continue to burn forever, do all of it's inhabitants suffer the same punishment or level of pain, do the dead go to heaven or hell as soon as they die or do they have to wait for judgement day and is it possible for anyone who has taken their own life to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
I'm absolutely devastated by the loss of my brother whom I loved dearly and I'm struggling with the thought that he might be suffering as we speak. Is it worth praying for him now, or is it too late to pray for him.
Hello again MarkWilliams,
First of all, my condolences regarding your brother. I just had a friend who committed suicide also about two weeks ago. We cannot say what happened to them, but only they themselves and God knows. Of course our hope is that they are in the presence of Christ.
Where the believer goes at the time of death
"Therefore we are always confident, although we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, then, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." - 2 Cor.5:6
To be away from the body is to be in the presence of the Lord
"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose? I do not know. I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better indeed. But it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. " - Philippians 1:22-24
So, according to the scriptures above, when the believer dies, their spirit/soul departs from the body and goes to be in the presence of the Lord. For to be absent from the body is to be in the presence of the Lord.
For information regarding what happens to those not reconciled to God, we have to go to the event of "the rich man and Lazarus" as found in Luke 16:19-31. I'm sure that you have read the story. The rich man lived luxuriously every day and Lazarus, a poor beggar, was laid at the rich man's gate desiring to eat the crumbs that fell from his table. Lazarus dies and his spirit is taken to Abrahams side. The rich man also dies and finds himself in Sheol/Hades in torment and flame.
Now, there are many who will claim the rich man and Lazarus as being a parable. Those who do so are usually those who believe in soul-sleep and annihilation and that because the event of the rich man and Lazarus destroys both of those beliefs. Therefore, they have to make the event something other than literal to protect their belief. The problem with this is that parables use symbolism to represent what is literal. For example, the field = the world, wheat = the sons of the kingdom, the weeds = the sons of the evil one, harvest = the end of the age and the harvesters = the angels, etc. That said, the event of the rich man and Lazarus uses real names, father Abraham, Lazarus, Moses, the prophets and the real place of Hades. In addition, there is nothing in the context that would lead the reader to a symbolic interpretation, but an actual event that Jesus is revealing to those reading.
A couple of truths that can be gleaned from this event is that, the two men died, yet their spirits were conscious and aware after death and in Hades. Lazarus was in a place of comfort/paradise, while the rich man was in torment in flame. There was a great chasm fixed in between the place of comfort and the place of torment, but they were in the same location. In another scripture, Jesus tells us that Hades is under the earth.
"And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day."
Every person who dies without Christ goes down into Hades where they begin their punishment for sin against a Holy, Righteous and eternal God, because as king David recognized, all sin is against God. Hades is a temporary place of torment with all of the unrighteous dead throughout all of history residing there. After the millennial kingdom, there will be a great white throne judgment where all of those spirits in Hades will be released and will receive a resurrected body and will stand before God at the great white throne to be judged for every sin they ever committed.
The Judgment of the Dead
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them
, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
We also have information regarding what happens to those who worship the beast, his image and receive his mark demonstrating that they are conscious and existing during their punishment:
"A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.”
In order for the smoke of their torment to rise up forever and ever and for them to have no rest day or night, they would have to be conscious and existing.