I just finished reading the book 10 Mistakes People Make About Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife by Mike Fabarez. Fabarez holds the popular view that hell is eternal conscious torment. He referenced Revelation 20:14 (“Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire”), saying that the last term the Bible uses for hell is “the lake of fire.” I was sorry that he didn’t continue to the rest of the verse, which truly contains the last term the Bible uses for hell: “This is the second death.”

Fabarez went on to say that “the lost will be consigned permanently, physically, and consciously to experience a kind of living that is described as death.” I had to read it again: “A kind of living that is described as death.” That is mighty strange.

This is why it’s important to understand what the Bible teaches about death if we are to understand what it teaches about hell. Hell is “the second death.” In fact, the Hebrew and Greek words that are sometimes translated as “hell” are sometimes translated as “grave.” According to the Bible, hell is the grave.

Just as the first death is nonexistence, the second death is nonexistence. It’s not “a kind of living.” That’s what the devil wants us to believe. As he told Eve, “You surely will not die! … Your eyes will be opened.” Only in that deceitful paradigm is death “a kind of living.”

Two Vastly Different Paradigms

It’s critical to understand the differences between the two worldviews. Let’s look at the distinctions in two important areas that relate to death and hell.

Spirit vs. Soul

  • Pagan paradigm: “You have a soul that is immortal.”
  • Biblical paradigm: “You are a soul that depends on the immortal spirit (breath) of God because God alone has immortality.” (See Genesis 2:7, and notice the Hebrew words.)

Eternal Status

  • Pagan paradigm: “What matters is where you spend eternity — hell or heaven.”
  • Biblical paradigm: “What matters is how you spend eternity — dead or alive.” (See John 3:16.)

Wrapping Up

All of that being said, I appreciate Fabarez’s sincere effort to understand and share what the Bible teaches. A love of truth is paramount, and I think he has that. None of us gets it all right. But, if we love truth more than we love our current beliefs, we’ll be fine.

You might want to read 10 Mistakes People Make About Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife and decide for yourself. I’d like to hear your observations.

Most of us have wondered what hell is like. One of the best clues we have about the nature of hell is what happened with Jesus on the cross and in the grave.

Jesus laid down His life to atone for sin. He died to atone for sin. He went to the grave to atone for sin. With His death, He fully paid the wages of sin for those who trust Him with their salvation.

Those who do not trust Jesus with their salvation will pay the wages themselves. They will atone for their own sins. How? The same way Jesus did—by dying the second death. This is the death from which there’s no resurrection (unless you’re God—unless you are the life force yourself).

Jesus is not suffering eternal torment to atone for sin. Those who trust themselves for their own salvation will not suffer eternal torment to atone for their sin. They will go to the grave, as Jesus did. It’s no surprise, then, that the word usually translated as “hell” in English Bible translations means “grave.”

Hell Is the Grave

So, when we ask what hell is like, we ask what the grave is like—basically, what it’s like to be dead. After Jesus’ resurrection, He had no experience to report. After Lazarus’s resurrection, He had no experience to report. In the Bible, people whom God raised from the dead had nothing to report. God resurrected them from nothingness: “The dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

Just as God brought Adam into existence from nonexistence (Genesis 2:7), we return to nonexistence when we die (Ecclesiastes 12:7). That’s why the word usually translated as “hell” in English Bible translations means “grave.” That’s why the Bible refers to the destruction of the lost as “the second death” (Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8).

When we seek to understand what hell is like, we can take clues from Dante’s Inferno (still good for literary value), Far Side cartoons (still good for a laugh), or the Bible. (If you’re thinking that the story of the rich man and Lazarus is the model, please read this).

“It Is Finished”

It comes down to this: Why would the lost receive a different consequence for sin than Jesus did? Why would Jesus pay a different price for sin than the lost will? The old covenant atonement system required the death—not the eternal suffering—of an innocent lamb. The wages of sin is death.

Regarding Jesus’ atonement act, “it is finished” and complete. Regarding the atonement for the lost, it will be finished and complete. There will be an end to suffering. “’There shall be no more death.’ Neither shall there be any more sorrow nor crying nor pain” (Revelation 21:4).

The debate about what happens when we die essentially comes down to two opposing views: non-existence vs. a new form and/or place of existence. Either death is the cessation of life (and therefore existence), or death involves a journey to “the other side” or “a better place” where life goes on. Which is it? How can we know?

How Do We Know What’s True?

We can consult three sources as we seek to understand what happens when we die: scripture, experience, and observation. Let’s take a look at each.

The best source of information about what happens when we die is the Bible. That’s because it’s the Creator’s word that has been well-validated over the millennia. No other scripture passes the tests that the Bible passes when it comes to trustworthiness.

Experience and observation are helpful sources of information about what happens when we die only in this sense: They provide nothing substantive. Althought it records a few resurrections from the dead, the Bible records zero accounts of experiences people had while they were dead. Lazarus had no stories to tell (John 11-12). Jesus said only that He had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17).

(By the way, you might wonder about the Lazarus who features in the story Jesus told in Luke 16. Rather than a literal account, it’s a parable that Jesus told to teach the concept that your economic status doesn’t determine your salvation. Learn more about that story.)

To follow is a bit more on what the Bible says about the two schools of thought about what happens when we die.

What Happens When We Die: View #1

View #1 is non-existence—that death is the cessation of life. Here are just a couple of representative Bible texts that support this position:

  • “The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
  • “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence” (Psalm 115:17).

According to the Bible, death is non-existence. Just as a body infused with God’s spirit (breath) comes into existence (Genesis 2:7), a person ceases to exist when God’s spirit (breath) leaves the body (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

The Bible uses the term “soul” to denote a living person (Genesis 2:7, 1 Peter 3:20, etc.). The concept of “soul” is completely distinct from “spirit,” which is the immortal breath of God or the life force (Genesis 2:7, Job 33:4, etc.). A person does not have a soul; a person is a soul. A soul is a combination of body and spirit; it depends on both to exist.

What Happens When We Die: View #2

View #2 about what happens when we die is a new form and/or place of existence—that death involves a journey to “the other side” or “a better place” where life goes on. Here’s what the Bible has to say on the matter:

“The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that, on the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God’“ (Genesis 3:4-5).

God had told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate from the tree of knowledge (Genesis 2:17). In direct opposition to God’s word, the devil told Eve that she wouldn’t die. Instead, she would be elevated to a higher plane of existence.

View #2 is a lie perpetrated by the devil. In the third and fourth centuries, the lie entered mainstream Christian theology by way of Greek philosophers who adopted the idea from Egyptian pagans. Here’s what a few historians have to say on the matter:

  • “The notion of the soul going to heaven when you die and the body being left behind on earth: That’s a notion that is widespread in the Christian tradition nowadays. It comes from Plato, and I worry that there’s a spirituality attached to that, which is specifically Platonic and not Christian” (Phillip Cary, Philosophy and Religion in the West).
  • “Many early Christians had a deep respect for Pythagoras. … Jerome (c. 347 – 420) praises Pythagoras … and credits Pythagoras for his belief in the immortality of the soul, which he suggests Christians inherited from him. … Pythagoras studied with the Egyptian priests at Thebes” (”Pythagoras,” Wikipedia).
  • Some ancient writers claimed that Pythagoras learned the doctrine of metempsychosis (the transmigration of souls) from the Egyptians (see Pythagoras: His Life, Teachings, and Influence by Christoph Riedweg and Life of Pythagoras by Porphyry).

Historians know that the concept of an immortal soul (life after life) isn’t biblical; many theologians do not. Most Christians aren’t aware of the concept’s origin and geneology.

Good News for the Redeemed

On the surface, without its origin revealed, it might seem that View #2 about what happens when we die is preferable. Life on a higher plane or in a better place certainly sounds better than non-existence. But, as always, God knows what He’s doing. Just as He created human beings to begin with, He can revive people who died.

The Bible tells about a few of these instances and promises mass resurrections in the future. The dead will live again. When the redeemed are resurrected, they will be raised to eternal life. Eternal life for the saved will begin, not one at a time, but all together (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Hebrews 11:39-40, etc.).

We don’t have to worry about our deceased loved ones building new lives in eternity without us. Those who have lost a child will get to pick up right where they left off and raise that child themselves. Eternity will begin when we all can experience it together. We can content ourselves about our loved ones who rest in peace—those who are asleep in Jesus (Daniel 12:2, 1 Corinthians 15:51, etc.). The next thing they know, they will join the Lord in the air with all of the redeemed (1 Thessalonians 4:17). We will put on God’s immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53), and we all will gather together for the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).

Good News for the Lost (and the Universe)

After God resurrects the lost and reveals His judgments, the lost will experience the second death (Revelation 20:11-15, etc.). The second death is like the first death in this way: it is non-existence. The second death is unlike the first death in this way: it’s not followed by a resurrection. The lost, along with the devil, will cease to exist forever (Ezekiel 28:19, Malachi 4:1,3, etc.).

After the second death, “‘There shall be no more death.’ Neither shall there be any more sorrow nor crying nor pain, for the former things have passed away ” (Revelation 21:4). This promise isn’t just for the redeemed; it’s for the universe. The lost will not suffer forever; they will cease to exist forever. The loving God will mercifully put them out of their misery. The redeemed will not be enjoying eternity while the lost suffer in torment in some corner of the world. The lost will be ashes under our feet (Malachi 4:3).

Non-existence is preferable to eternal suffering. This concept is biblical, reasonable, and fair. And, it’s consistent with a loving God.

Wrapping Up

What I’ve shared here is what the Bible has to say in a teeny-tiny nutshell. It says much, much more about what happens when we die. Be sure to subscribe to the blog and YouTube channel to learn more. Also, check out my course on Death & Hell: What Does the Bible Say? If you have questions or comments, please drop me a line or use the comments below.

The mind vs. brain debate fascinates me. It raises quite a few intriguing questions. Are the mind and the brain the same thing? If not, what’s the difference? Can the mind and brain exist independently of each other? Can we experience consciousness without a brain? Are out-of-body experiences possible?

3 Mind vs. Brain Theories

I’m aware of three different theories in the mind vs. brain debate. Here’s a synopsis of each.

Theory #1

Matter is all there is. We have a material brain but not an immaterial mind. Things such as thoughts, memories, hopes, and personality are simply brain chemicals and electrical signals.

Theory #2

We have a material brain and an immaterial mind. The mind accounts for things such as thoughts, memories, hopes, and personality. The mind and the brain are independent of each other.

Theory #3

We have a material brain and an immaterial mind. The mind accounts for things such as thoughts, memories, hopes, and personality. The mind is dependent on the brain to function.

Comparing Theories #2 & #3

The mind vs. brain question is an intriguing one. But, I find the difference between Theories #2 and #3 most interesting. While each one states that we have both a material brain and an immaterial mind, they diverge at a critical point.

Theory 2 states that the mind and the brain are independent of each other. So, if this theory were true, we could have consciousness without a brain or a body. This would make out-of-body experiences and disembodied souls possible. When the body dies, the mind (consciousness) could go on living without it.

Theory 3 states that the mind is dependent on the brain to function. So, if this theory were true, we couldn’t have consciousness without a body. When the body dies, the mind (consciousness) dies with it.

Which Theory Is Likely to Be True?

How do we figure out which mind vs. brain theory is true? Some people claim to have experienced consciousness without a body (out-of-body experiences and many “near death” experiences), suggesting that Theory #2 is valid. But, at least so far, science doesn’t seem to back this up. Reason tells us that there’s reasonable doubt; several other possible explanations exist. Sometimes people make the stories up. Sometimes they’ve simply experienced natural phenomena such as dreams, memories, vivid brain activity, or misperceptions of sensory input.

That leaves us with the possibilities of Theory 1 and Theory 3. Science has yet to provide a definitive answer. It’s worth considering what the Bible has to say. It says quite a bit, and good evidence points to its validity as a source. So, let’s look at a few passages that provide insight into the mind vs. brain debate.

  • “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [Hebrew nᵊšāmâ = spirit], and man became a living being [Hebrew nep̄eš = soul].” (Genesis 2:7)
  • “The dust returns to the earth where it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
  • “He, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will reveal at the proper time. He alone has immortality.” (1 Timothy 6:15-16)
  • “The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5)

These passages are quick representations of what the Bible, as a whole, teaches about life and death, our material and immaterial components, and how those components relate to each other. (If you’d like to see more passages to be sure these are representative, hang around my blog, my Facebook page, my Twitter profile, and my YouTube channel, because I talk about this stuff a lot. I also encourage you to study for yourself with the help of Bible Gateway and Blue Letter Bible or whatever tools you find helpful.)

Let’s bring together what these four passages tell us. A living person (a soul) is a combination of a material body made from dust and an immaterial spirit that is the breath of life from God. In other words, Body + Spirit = Soul. At death, the material separates from the immaterial (the dust and the spirit/breath return). It is indeed the spirit (God’s breath) and not the soul (a living person) that returns to God and continues to exist because God alone has immortality. (People will not “put on immortality” until the resurrection that happens when Jesus returns. See 1 Corinthians 15:53-54.) When a person dies, their consciousness also ceases (“the dead know nothing”).

God loves to create interdependent systems. A human being is a remarkable system of matter and spirit dependent on each other in order for the human being to exist, to be alive. Beautifully, earth and heaven come together to form a soul, a living person. God wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mind vs. brain Theory #3 is the only one of these three theories that’s consistent with what the Bible teaches. The notions of out-of-body experiences and disembodied souls aren’t biblical. Any such experiences that people believe they have are better explained otherwise.

There’s much more to say on these matters, so stick around. This simply serves as an introduction to stimulate our minds—those marvelous combinations of matter and spirit.

I’m famous (not at all) for pointing out that the Bible teaches that people don’t have immortal souls. That, when we die, our souls don’t just live on and go to heaven. It helps if we first understand the simple formulas for life and death that the Bible provides:

life = body + spirit

death = body – spirit

The formula for life first appears in Genesis 2:7, which says that “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” The breath of life is spirit. A living being is a soul. You can see this in the original language and the ways those words are used elsewhere. Body + Spirit = Soul (a living being).

The formula for death is easy to see in Ecclesiastes 12:7, which says that “the dust returns to the earth where it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Body – Spirit = Nothing. The death process is the reverse of the life process.

According to the Bible, “spirit” does not equal “soul”; Genesis 2:7 makes a clear distinction between them. The soul does not return to God upon death; the spirit does (because it’s God’s breath, the life force). The soul (living being) ceases to exist until the resurrection—when the spirit (life force) reenters a body.

I posted something about this on my Facebook page recently. Someone asked a really good question in response: “What do we do with the imagery in Revelation 6 that depicts a bowl of souls, which are crying out for God’s justice?”

The referenced passage is Revelation 6:9-10. “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony they had held. They cried out with a loud voice … .”

Here’s my answer.

3 Possible Interpretations

When the meaning of a passage isn’t immediately and obviously understood, we must first identify the possible interpretations. I can think of three for this passage:

  1. This is literal language referring to disembodied souls of dead martyrs.
  2. This is literal language referring to martyrs who died and were resurrected.
  3. This is symbolic language.

Next, we must consider each possibile interpretation.

Possibility #1

Possibility #1 is that this is literal language referring to disembodied souls of dead martyrs.

This isn’t consistent with what the Bible teaches about life (a soul is a living person that is a combination of body and spirit) or death (death is like sleep, the dead know nothing, and the dead are silent).

This possibility doesn’t make sense considering that the souls were given robes (verse 11). What would a disembodied soul do with a robe?

Similarly, it doesn’t make sense that disembodied souls would be in a certain location. There’s no matter to occupy space. Even if they were embodied, being under an altar—literally rather than symbolically—is mighty strange. But, then, the rest of the passage is mighty strange if it’s literal.

That leads to the last point for Possibility #1. The rest of the passage is replete with elements that make more sense as symbols than they do as literal things (e.g., animals of symbolic colors, a pair of scales, and a rider named Death who is followed by Hades). Why would this one part be literal when it’s surrounded by symbols?

Possibility #2

Possibility #2 is that this is literal language referring to martyrs who died and were resurrected.

The Bible certainly teaches that the dead will be resurrected, so we’re okay there; it’s more a question of timing. After martyrs died in Bible times, they “did not receive the promise. For God provided something better for us, so that with us they would be made perfect” (see Hebrews 11:35,37,39-40). It’s fair to say that this references the resurrection of the dead in Christ at the second coming. It certainly indicates that, at the time of the writing of Hebrews, they had not been resurrected. Were they resurrected between the writing of Hebrews and the writing of Revelation? It’s highly unlikely, and there’s nothing to indicate that.

That being said, it’s possible that this is a representative selection of martyrs who were resurrected and ascended to heaven. But, I’m not aware of any mention in the Bible of a special ascension other than Moses, Elijah, and Enoch. Plus, this would leave us with that mighty strange notion of people literally being under an altar.

Possibility #3

Possibility #3 is that this is symbolic language.

As I’ve mentioned, a literal interpretation doesn’t make sense in a few ways. The entire passage makes more sense if it’s taken as symbolism.

What’s happening in the Revelation 6 passage is strongly reminiscent of what the Bible says about Abel, the first martyr (who happened to be murdered in relation to a sacrifice on an altar). After his murder, God said to Cain, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to Me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). Hebrews 11:4 says that Abel “still speaks through his faith, though he is dead.” Hebrews 12:24 references “the sprinkled blood that speaks better than that of Abel.”

These references to Abel indicate that, metaphorically, he communicates. The symbolism is a good match for Revelation 6:9-10. The same thing is being communicated: martyrs must be avenged. The next seal (the sixth, beginning in verse 12) introduces that vengeance (God’s justice).

The passage also connects to something Jesus says in Luke 18:6—“‘Shall not God avenge His own elect and be patient with them, who cry day and night to Him?’”


Possibility #3—that this is symbolic language—makes the most sense of the three possibilities, and it’s the only one that’s consistent with the rest of scripture. As always, the Bible provides a coherent message.

For several weeks, many people thought the investigation into the University of Idaho murders was nowhere. Some thought that the investigators were inept or not working hard enough. It appeared that they didn’t even have any suspects.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, we hear they’ve arrested someone for the murders. Now, we’re starting to see what was going on behind the scenes, and it appears that the investigators have been doing a fine job all along.

Michael Caine once said, “Be a duck. Remain calm on the surface, and paddle like hell underneath.” That’s great advice, and it reminds us that we rarely see the whole picture. Not only should we be ducks, but we should remember that we’re looking at ducks. There’s more than meets the eye.

Hold Out for the Whole Picture

If you think that God isn’t there, please think again. If you think that God is indifferent, think again. If you think that God is weak, think again. If you don’t see God doing anything in this world or in your life, please don’t assume that you see and know and understand everything there is to see and know and understand.

Behind the scenes, God is doing wondrous things. The Bible lets us in on some of them; others we’ll learn as time unfolds. God will reveal all of His activities. He will unveil all of His interventions. He will share all of His reasons. Some of them will make us gasp in wonder. Others will make us breathe a sigh of relief. All of them will make us bow down.

The knowledge of good and evil is maturing, day by day. One of these days, our knowledge will come to full maturity. All of the evidence about good and evil will be in, and the case can be closed. In the meantime, we can trust that God is not absent. He is not silent. He’s even more interested, invested, and involved than we hope He is.

Hold out for the whole picture. Everything will be revealed. God will be vindicated. All will be well.

Mainstream Christian theology teaches that hell is eternal conscious torment. I contend that the Bible doesn’t teach that. A few passages in the Bible do seem to refer to eternal conscious torment. One of them is the story about the rich man and Lazarus.

Jesus told this story, and it’s recorded in Luke 16:19-31. A beggar named Lazarus and a rich man died. The beggar “was carried by the angels to Abraham’s presence.” The rich man was in torment in Hades. He saw Abraham and Lazarus from afar, and he begged for Abraham to “send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool [his] tongue.” Abraham told the rich man that he got all of his good stuff during his lifetime. Besides, people can’t go from paradise to Hades.

As was the case with other parables, this is a story that Jesus told to make a point. It’s important to understand, from the context, what point He was making. The context is not the afterlife and eternal destiny; it’s how we treat people and live our lives. Also, because it’s presented as a parable and not typical biblical narrative, it’s likely a metaphor rather than a literal happening. Still, let’s put each point to the test:

  • Do the saved go to be with Abraham? The Bible says this nowhere. It says something else.
  • Are people conscious after they die? The Bible says this nowhere, unless it’s in the context of resurrected people.
  • Can people in hell see people in heaven? The Bible says this nowhere.
  • Can people in hell talk with people in heaven? The Bible says this nowhere.
  • If you were suffering in hell and had the chance to ask something of heaven, what would you ask for? Common sense tells us that we would ask to be rescued — certainly more than a drop of water.
  • Would God send a dead person to talk to the living? The Bible says this nowhere, nor does it make sense. (Some might think this happened with Samuel and Saul after Samuel’s death, but that interpretation isn’t consistent within the story or with the Bible as a whole.)
  • Is hell a place where people are hanging out? The Bible says this nowhere.

The afterlife elements of this story are so inconsistent with the rest of the Bible, it seems pretty clear that it was simply a fable Jesus used to make a point about how we should treat people and live our lives. It certainly doesn’t seem that He was explaining heaven and hell, because it’s a complete disconnect from the rest of the Bible’s teaching on death and the final destiny of the lost.

“Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

How would you put this into your own words? Would you say, “Faith without works goes to heaven“? Might you say, “Faith without works returns to God“? Surely you wouldn’t say, “Faith without works will burn in hell forever.” Surely.

It’s more likely that you would say something such as, “Faith without works is nothing.” That makes more sense, right? That seems to be the point that James is making in James 2:14-26.

James understood that death was nothingness. Afterall, that’s what the whole of scripture tells us. So, how did death come to mean “going to heaven” or “returning to God” or “eternal torment”?

The Spirit versus the Soul

Some interpret the spirit returning to God as the person returning to God. However, the creation account tells us that the spirit is the breath of God, the animating life force that makes a body a living person, or soul (Genesis 2:7). At death, the spirit (breath) returns to God who gave it. But the breath is not the person; it is what animates a body, resulting in a living person (soul). On the cross, Jesus said to the Father, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). At that point, He stopped breathing and died; He didn’t go to heaven (John 20:17). He went to heaven later, after His resurrection (Acts 1:9-11).

The Notion of an Immortal Soul

Another explanation is that the notion of an immortal soul entered mainstream Christian theology by way of Greek philosophy. The philosophers got it from pagans, not scripture. The Bible teaches that God alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16).

The Good News about Death

James tells us that works animate faith. Just as the spirit (God’s breath) brings a body to life, works bring faith to life. “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

James makes a fantastic point with a brilliant analogy. Usually, we pay attention only to the point. But, it’s also worth noting what he understood about death. He did not see it the same way most Christians do today.

According to the Bible, death is nothingness. It implies a lifeless body that returns to dust, resting in peace. It is good news that, for those who trust God, there will be a resurrection to eternal life when Jesus comes again (1 Thessalonians 4:16). But, there is also good news in the fact that death is nothingness. It means that those who do not trust God will be sentenced to eternal nothingness rather than eternal suffering. Not only is that good news, it is consistent with the Bible and its broadest theme—that God is love.

Today I was about 10 feet away from three bald eagles. My camera was within reach, but I chose not to take a photo.

I was driving through the Northwoods of Wisconsin when I saw an eagle swoop down and land alongside the road just ahead. As I got closer, I could see three eagles on the roadside. I pulled over.

At once, I was thrilled and disgusted. Thrilled, because I was so close to three magnificent bald eagles. Disgusted, because they were feeding on a deer carcass.

Eagles gotta eat, y’all.

As an animal lover, I hate to see this sort of thing. But I know it’s a matter of survival. I also know that it’s a matter of time before it won’t be this way anymore.

In the Bible, Revelation 21:4 tells us about the future:

“There will be no more death.”

Death will be a thing of the past. No one and nothing will die ever again. I’ll get that bald eagle close-up shot—and a million more.

Is the Bible true?

I ridiculously talk to animals when I’m trying to take their picture. “A little to the right.” “Don’t move.” “You’re so cute!” “Stay.”

I don’t have the best camera, so I like to get as close as possible to get a good shot. Of course, the closer I get, the more the animal moves away. Too often, it skedaddles completely.

Sadly, wildlife photography is difficult because animals are afraid of us. They’re constantly on alert for predators. They can never fully relax. I hate this. Not only would I love to get close enough for great photos (and cuddles), I would love for these precious creatures to live without fear.

In the Bible, Isaiah 11:6-9 describes the future, after God creates a new earth:

In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
and a little child will lead them all.
The cow will graze near the bear.
The cub and the calf will lie down together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra.
Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
Nothing will hurt or destroy.

This description is so far out from our reality, it’s hard to imagine. But, this is exactly what God intended in the first place. This is how everything began.

Sin affected all of creation, not just people. But there is good news. When God destroys sin and evil for good, all creatures great and small will enjoy peace, joy, and freedom from fear. Forever and ever. And ever.

It’s easier to endure a pandemic when we believe that it will come to an end. When we’re in the middle of something, it’s difficult to know how everything will play out. Things could get worse before they get better. But generally we believe that COVID-19 will pass, just as the Black Death, the Spanish flu, and SARS did.

This is true for anything. Imagine that you break your ankle. How would you feel, experiencing that pain and inconvenience? Now imagine how you would feel if you knew you’d never heal. Think of how it would feel to lose your job. It probably would be scary, but you would have the expectation that you would find another job. Now imagine if you didn’t have that prospect — if you believed that you would never work again.

What we believe about tomorrow impacts how we feel and act today.

Things will get better, or they won’t. We can hope, or we can despair. When we believe that things will get better, hardship is much easier to endure, isn’t it? The light at the end of the tunnel pulls us forward. Here’s the best example of this:

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Let us look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,
who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself,
lest you become weary and your hearts give up.
— Hebrews 12:1-3 —

Jesus endured the cross — the greatest suffering ever experienced — because of the joy that was set before Him. The Father gave Jesus a vision of the future — a new earth, where God and people are utterly together, where there is no sorrow or pain or death. This shining light got Jesus through the darkest night.

Each one of us lives in the midst of a dark night of one sort or another, to one degree or another. The night might get even darker. But that doesn’t have to be how it ends. We can choose hope. We can choose to pursue the light at the end of the tunnel. We can trust that there will be an end to suffering one of these very days.

There are far, far better things ahead
than any we leave behind.

C. S. Lewis

“All the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.”

“All the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died.“

“All the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years, and he died.“

“All the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years, and he died.“

“All the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years, and he died.“

“All the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years, and he died.“

“All the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God, and then he was no more because God took him.“

“All the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died.“

“All the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years, and he died.“

What’s so special about Enoch?

These verses are from Genesis 5. While it’s easy to get distracted by the whopping lifespans of these guys, I hope you notice something else. One of these things is not like the others — and it’s not just the bold type. It doesn’t say that Enoch died; it says that God took him.

Hebrews 11:5 sheds some light on what happened: “By faith Enoch was taken to heaven so that he would not see death.”

Out of all of these people, only Enoch went to heaven at the end of his life on earth. Enoch’s case was clearly an exception, not the rule.

What’s the point?

The point is this: Many people — and most Christians believe that people go to heaven when they die. This belief is not supported by scripture. Instead, it came into mainstream Christian theology by way of mythology and philosophy.

Particularly, it is the notion of the immortal soul that was popularized by Plato. This philosophy purports that a disembodied soul originates in heaven, comes down to earth to inhabit a body for a time, and eventually escapes from the body and returns to heaven.

It is important to know where our beliefs come from and what the Bible actually says. This isn’t the only passage that tells us about death and heaven. Read the Bible from beginning to end, and you will see a clear, consistent, coherent message.

Wondering why the Bible should be trusted?

Good news

Those eight men who died might go to heaven and receive eternal life at some point in the future. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, and He offers Himself to everyone. What can we look forward to?

“The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall be forever with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

I hope you do find comfort in these words. The Lord knows we need it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these ideas in the comments below. Also, if you don’t already subscribe, I invite you to stay connected and stay tuned for more stuff ‘n’ things where theology, science, and philosophy intersect.