Eternal life is life that continues without end. The idea of eternal life is nothing new. It has always been God’s plan that we, His chosen, will live with Him forever (see 1 John 1:2). He chose us through His foreknowledge that we will respond to the gospel, and believe in His Son, Jesus (see 1 Peter 1:2). The Psalmist, believing in eternal life stated, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6 NIV). Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, He comforted the disciples concerning all that was about to happen to Him, including His return to heaven. He promised He would prepare a place for them in heaven, and then He would come back and take them to be with Him (see John 14:2-3).
Like the rich young man mentioned in Matthew 19:16-30, there are people who think there are good deeds they could do to earn eternal life. However, the Bible does not teach good deeds as the way to obtain eternal life. The Bible teaches faith in Jesus who paid the penalty of our sins. Salvation is by grace alone! The gospel of John says, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3 NIV). Also, Paul emphasizes in Ephesians, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). Had salvation been through good works such as donating large sums of money to charity, where would the poor be? Instead, the playing field is level, and anyone who is willing may come, on the basis of faith, because good works do not buy salvation.
So now that we’ve addressed eternal life and how to obtain it, let us look at what happens when one does not obtain it. Anything that goes on forever is eternal, but in that eternal state, one could be with or without God. Eternal life is life that continues forever with God in heaven. The opposite of that situation is life that goes on forever, but in hell. The Bible’s description of hell is scary, to say the least. It is an eternal lake of fire, originally prepared for the devil and his angels (see Matthew 25:41). It is also known as the second death (see Revelation 20:14). Eternal fire is fire that never stops burning and never goes out (see Mark 9:43). Can you imagine falling into a campfire forever? This is not a scare tactic to get anyone to do what they prefer not to do; it is the truth. The book of Revelation says, “If any anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15 NIV). Hell can be avoided, and it should be avoided at all costs!
Jesus told a story about a rich man and a sore-covered beggar who lay at his gate. The beggar’s name was Lazarus; he was so needy that he was willing to eat crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. When these two men eventually died, Lazarus went to heaven, and the rich man went to hell. In his torment in hell, he petitioned Abraham to allow Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and come to hell long enough to cool the rich man’s tongue. The reason he gave was, “Because I am in agony in this fire” (Luke 16:24 NIV). How sad and scary! It doesn’t have to be that way. This scenario can be avoided by placing one’s faith in Jesus. In the conclusion of the story, Abraham declined the rich man’s request on two grounds: first, the rich man received good things in life, and Lazarus received nothing, and second, there is a great chasm between heaven and hell that makes it impossible to cross from one to the other. Wherever you choose to spend eternity, that’s where you stay; there’ll be no switching around.
There are people who say God is kind and cannot send anyone to hell, but they forget that He has other defining attributes like holy, just and faithful. We can be sure He will make good on His promise of hell by looking at history. He destroyed the ancient world with a flood, sparing only Noah and his family (see 2 Peter 2:5). Again, He burned Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes for their ungodliness, sparing only Lot and his family (see 2 Peter 2:6).
After this life comes eternity, which will be in one of two places: either in God’s presence or in hell. The choice is yours. Which one appeals to you? Please choose wisely.