Understanding Eternity, Heaven, and Hell

What is eternity?

The Bible teaches there are two different realms of reality: time and eternity (2 Corinthians 4:18). Time is the realm we all understand because it’s all we’ve known all of our lives. Eternity; however, is a realm beyond time, and so it’s difficult for us to know and understand it. In fact, the only way for us to know anything about eternity is for someone from outside of time to communicate eternal realities to us (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God, who lives in eternity, did this for us by revealing truths about eternity to us through His Word, the Bible (Isaiah 46:10). As those confined to time, what we know about eternity comes to us from the Bible, which is why it will be our reference point for all things eternal.

What is eternity like? 

For starters, we need to know that eternity is a realm of existence independent of all that exists in the realm of time (Matthew 12:32). That means the laws of time and the way we measure time doesn’t apply in eternity (2 Peter 3:8). Time separates everything into three categories: past, present, and future. Eternity; however, works differently. Everything is always in the now without beginning or ending. To put it another way, time is like a line with beginning and end points, while eternity is like a circle without any beginning or end. In time, everything eventually comes to an end, but in eternity, there’s no end as we know it.       

Why care about eternity?

While our lives begin here in time, the Bible tells us that we’ll all enter eternity at some point and exist there forever (2 Corinthians 4:17). This transition from time to eternity happens when our natural bodies die. At that point, the other parts of who we are, our soul and our spirit, will leave time and enter eternity (2 Corinthians 5:8). Eternity is important because there will be no end to it and it’s where we’re all headed, regardless of age, ethnicity, income, or any other earthly factor.

What are the eternal options?

It’s impossible for anyone to “opt out” of eternity, but there is an option when it comes to our experience there. The Bible tells us everyone will face a judgment once they physically die (Hebrews 9:27). A judgment always serves the purpose of determining an outcome, and God’s Word reveals two possible outcomes for our eternal existence: we will either experience eternity in heaven or hell.

What is heaven like?

The Bible gives us several descriptions of heaven to help paint a picture of it for us. It’s described as a city (Hebrews 12:22), a holy city (Revelation 21:2), an inheritance (Hebrews 9:15), a house (John 14:2), glory (Psalm 73:24), a kingdom (Ephesians 5:5), a kingdom of light (Colossians 1:12), a mountain (Hebrews 12:22), a place without death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4), and a paradise (Revelation 2:7). All of these descriptions are earthly examples that give us a sense of what heaven will be like, a place more amazing than anything we’ve ever known!

Who’s in heaven?

As amazing as heaven is, the most amazing thing about it is the One Who’s there, God (Matthew 6:9)! The thought of seeing God face to face might sound frightening at first, but seeing God in heaven won’t be a fearful experience, whatsoever. That’s because everyone who goes to heaven will also know God as their loving Father who sent His Son to die on the cross to forgive the cost of their sins. Anyone who simply believes that God did this for them is promised entrance into heaven (John 3:16). In addition to God and everyone who has put their faith in Him being in heaven, angels will also be in heaven (Revelation 5:11).   

Why should we want heaven?

The answer to this question might seem like a “no brainer,” but here are just a few of the benefits of heaven the Bible tells us about: There’s no death (1 Corinthians 15:54), people are perfect (1 John 3:2), there’s no sin (Revelation 21:27), there’s endless provision (Revelation 22:2), everyone has indestructible bodies (Philippians 3:21), everyone has a perfect relationship with God (1 Thessalonians 4:17), there’s joy (Psalm 16:11), and there’s perfect knowledge (1 Corinthians 13:12). And these are only a few reasons why we should make it our goal here on the earth to spend our eternity in heaven.   

What will happen in heaven?

Contrary to many misconceptions, heaven isn’t a place where people just sit on a cloud mindlessly strumming a harp forever. God’s Word reveals there will be a lot of activity in heaven, and we’re going to be a part of it. People in heaven will play an important role in serving God (Revelation 22:3), and they’ll also be given a part in ruling on His behalf (Revelation 2:27). There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding what serving and ruling will exactly look like. But more than anything else, the one act we see those in heaven doing more than anything else is worshipping God (Revelation 7:9–10). Imagine the most amazing concert you’ve ever experienced. Everyone is screaming at the top of their lungs. It’s absolutely electric! But eventually the music ends, the singer leaves the stage, and you realize it was a passing moment with another human being. But now, put God in place of that person and there’s no end to the eternal song about how perfect, good, and awesome He is. That’s just a small glimpse of what’s going to be happening in heaven!      

What is hell?

The only eternal option apart from heaven is a place called hell. It’s important we allow the Bible to answer our questions about hell because there’s a lot of ideas about it we can assume to be true, but aren’t. For starters, it’s important to know God is the one who originally prepared hell as a place of punishment for Satan and the demons who follow him (Matthew 25:41). It’s also the place where sin, which is anything that falls short of God’s standard of perfect holiness, is punished (2 Corinthians 5:10). It’s essentially where everything that’s contrary to the nature and will of God is judged.    

What is hell like?

There are three dominant features when it comes to hell: It’s eternal (Mark 9:47–48), it’s absent of God’s presence (2 Thessalonians 1:9), and it’s a place of great suffering (Matthew 8:12). Here are some other descriptions of hell God gives us in His Word: It’s a place of blazing fire (2 Thessalonians 1:7–8), everlasting burning (Isaiah 33:14), raging fire (Hebrews 10:26), darkness (Jude 1:13), destruction (Matthew 7:13), eternal fire (Jude 1:7), and unquenchable fire (Luke 3:16–17). It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how horrific hell is, which is why God gives us so many warnings about it.    

Who’s in hell?

Hell was originally created for Satan and his demons, so they will eventually be confined to hell for all eternity (Matthew 25:41). It will also be the eternal destination for a future prophetic figure the Bible identifies as the Anti-Christ, as well as his spokesman known as the False Prophet (Revelation 19:20). But the Bible also teaches that those who die without believing in what God did for them by sending His Son to die on the cross will also enter hell (John 3:18). This is because they haven’t accepted God’s provision for their sin and must suffer the consequences, as their sin must be judged for all eternity (John 3:36). For this reason, God has gone to the greatest lengths to save people from spending eternity in hell by sacrificing His Son as a gift that leads to their forgiveness (Romans 6:23).

About the Author

Pastor Dan Hickling

Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.