From “How to become a Christian”: Chapter 5 – Why should we bother to become a Christian?
You and I, and everybody else, are eternal. That is the case whether we want to be or not. The Bible says that we are made in the image of God. That has many implications, but one of them is that we are eternal. This is where we differ from the animals. Their lives come to an end and are not eternal, because they have no spirit.
But, each of us is eternal, whether we want to be or not, and whether we believe it or not. The irony is that even the most hardened atheist will one day die and discover, to his surprise and horror, that he has an eternal conscious existence. He will also realise that there is a God, whose anger and judgment he must now face. We are eternal because, uniquely amongst all God’s creation, we have been given a spirit. We are made up of:
- our body,
- our soul (which is a collective term for our mind, emotions and will) and
- our spirit.
Whereas our physical body dies, our soul and our spirit are eternal. They will live on forever and ever. We shall all do so either in Heaven or in Hell (temporarily) and then in the Lake of Fire (permanently).
Moreover, all of us, whether we are Christians or not, are going to be physically resurrected one day, as Jesus was. We will all be given resurrection bodies which will be physical but also eternal. Christians will be given resurrection bodies and will live with Jesus Christ forever.
Unrepentant unbelievers who have rejected Jesus Christ will also be given resurrection bodies which will be equally eternal. But they will then be cast into the Lake of Fire where they will suffer punishment forever. That is a terrible prospect. The eternal and indestructible nature of the resurrection body is shown by the fact that even in the Lake of Fire that body will not be burnt up or damaged in any way. As unpleasant and as unfashionable as it is, we need to reflect upon this dreadful prospect. It is valid that it should motivate us to respond to God.
This horrifying prospect of judgment is a crucial truth that the Bible clearly teaches. However, it has been covered up and ignored by much of the Western church, because it is not politically correct. They also feel that it will put people off. Yet, regardless of those things, the fact remains that it is true. I can see no alternative but to speak about it. How can I hide it when Jesus spoke openly about it?
There are various ways in which many people in the apparent church have tried to do away with or at least tone down judgment, Hell and the Lake of Fire. One way is the idea of ‘annihilation’. The people who believe in that suggest that God is too nice or too good to punish anyone eternally. They say that what He does instead is to simply end their existence, or annihilate them completely. If so, then they no longer have any conscious existence. That would be a comfort if it was true, but there is no basis whatsoever for believing in it. It is the direct opposite of what the Bible actually teaches.
Others teach an even more misguided idea, namely “universalism”. They go further and argue that God is so nice that He won’t even annihilate people. Their idea is that He will simply save and forgive everybody, no matter what they believe or do. It is remarkable how many people within the apparent church think like this. It implies that they do not need to have any concern about eternity or about the fate of unbelievers, because on this basis everybody will be saved anyway. So, nobody has anything to worry about. Again, it would be wonderful if it was true, but it is not true. It directly contradicts what Jesus has said to us out of His own mouth, let alone what the prophets and apostles have said.
Although this has been a lengthy section, I feel it has been necessary to really drive home this point about judgment. We face a terrible end if we do not repent, accept Jesus Christ and believe in Him. Thus in choosing whether to do so, we need to be very aware of the consequences of choosing not to. That prospect needs to influence us to make the right decision, and to make it now, while there is still time.