Question: “What does it mean that hell is eternal separation from God?”

Question: “What does it mean that hell is  eternal separation from God?”

Answer: The Bible is clear that  there are two possible destinations for every human soul following physical  death: heaven or hell (Matthew  25:34, 41, 46; Luke 16:22–23). Only the  righteous inherit eternal life, and the only way to be declared righteous before  God is through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 3:16–18; Romans 10:9). The souls of the righteous go directly into  the presence of God (Luke 23:432  Corinthians 5:8; Philippians  1:23).

For those who do not receive Jesus Christ as Savior, death  means everlasting punishment (2  Thessalonians 1:8–9). This punishment is described in a variety of ways: a  lake of fire (Luke 16:24Revelation 20:14–15), outer darkness (Matthew 8:12), and a prison  (1 Peter  3:19), for example. This place of punishment is eternal (Jude 1:13; Matthew  25:46). There is no biblical support for the notion that after death people  get another chance to repent. Hebrews  9:27 makes it clear that everyone dies physically and, after that, comes the  judgment. Christians have already been judged and sentenced. Jesus took that  sentence upon Himself. Our sin becomes His and His righteousness becomes ours  when we believe in Him. Because He took our just punishment, we need not fear  ever being separated from Him again (Romans  8:29–30). The judgment for unbelievers is still to come.

Second Thessalonians 1:8–9 says, “He will punish those  who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be  punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord  and from the glory of his might.” The misery of hell will consist of not only  physical torture, but the agony of being cut off from every avenue of happiness.  God is the source of all good things (James 1:17).  To be cut off from God is to forfeit all exposure to anything good. Hell will be  a state of perpetual sin; yet those suffering there will possess full  understanding of sin’s horrors. Remorse, guilt, and shame will be unending, yet  accompanied by the conviction that the punishment is just.

There will no  longer be any deception about the “goodness of man.” To be separated from God is  to be forever shut off from light (1 John 1:5),  love (1 John 4:8),  joy (Matthew  25:23), and peace (Ephesians  2:14) because God is the source of all those good things. Any good we  observe in humanity is merely a reflection of the character of God, in whose  image we were created (Genesis  1:27).

While the spirits of those regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit  will abide forever with God in a perfected state (1 John 3:2),  the opposite is true of those in hell. None of the goodness of God will exist in  them. Whatever good they may have thought they represented on earth will be  shown for the selfish, lustful, idolatrous thing it was (Isaiah 64:6). Man’s ideas of goodness will be measured  against the perfection of God’s holiness and be found severely lacking. Those in  hell have forever lost the chance to see God’s face, hear His voice, experience  His forgiveness, or enjoy His fellowship. To be forever separated from God is  the ultimate punishment.

Recommended Resources: Logos Bible  Software and  Four Views on Hell edited by John Walvoord.

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