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Do unbelievers immediately go to hell when they die?

translate immediately go to hell

Of all the topics found in the pages of Scriptures, none is so loathsome and dreadful as the subject of hell, yet we dare not be blinded by ignorance, repulsion, or unbelief, for hell is a frightening reality that ought not be dismissed on the grounds of fear or unpleasantness. Despite the objections of some, the flames of hell will not be extinguished by clever Scripture twisting or wishful thinking. The Bible has much to say about hell, and neither ignorance nor denial will cause this grim reality to go away.

We should understand the distinctions Scripture makes between Sheol and the eternal lake of fire. For purposes of this article, we will speak of “hell” as commonly understood: a place of torment after death. The Bible says that the unrepentant who die are immediately ushered into a dreadful holding place called Hades. In the following passage, Jesus details the horrid fate of an unregenerate sinner:

There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” And he said, “Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” And he said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:19–31, ESV).

Hades (called “hell” in the KJV) is described as a place of “torment” and “anguish” (Luke 16:23–24). The rich man went there immediately upon his death. Scripture’s teaching is that all who die in their sins will immediately go to hell/Hades, where they will remain, conscious of their misery and despair, until summoned before God at the Great White Throne Judgment. These, who rejected God’s mercy, must face His wrath, and they are eventually judged and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11–15).

The lake of fire, the place of eternal punishment, was never intended for man; God ordained the lake of fire as the final stop for Satan and his army of fallen angels (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 20:10). Regrettably, legions of unrepentant people will, by their own volition, spend eternity with Satan and the demons who joined his unholy rebellion (Matthew 10:28; 25:46). The poet Milton described the damned as those who prefer ruling in hell over serving in heaven. Indeed, those who choose hell are rebels to the very end.

God does not delight in the suffering of unredeemed man. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and would rather see them turn from their evil ways and live (Ezekiel 33:11). Hell is a necessary reality. Imagine a man who spent his entire life avoiding God. Regarding the Scriptures as fanciful myths, he had no use for Bible reading. He considered prayer a one-sided conversation with a nonexistent being. He maligned sincere Christian believers with unsavory labels and mocked their adherence to biblical morality. From reaching the age of accountability until his dying breath, he distanced himself from his Creator. How, then, could such a man be happy in heaven? How could he tolerate the presence of Jesus Christ and His followers throughout the endless ages to come? For such a man, heaven would be a hell. It is God’s will that none perish, but for those insistent rebels who reject His mercy, there is only justice. No third option exists.

Upon death, the lost are immediately sent to the place of their choosing, Hades (hell), where they will remain until the judgment convened at the close of our Lord’s millennial kingdom. At that time, they will be consigned to the lake of fire along with Satan and his demonic forces. Forever, they will remain fixed in this diabolical state of being.

To think anyone would choose never-ending misery over God’s everlasting joy is unfathomable, yet it is true.

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Do unbelievers immediately go to hell when they die?
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This page last updated: October 27, 2022