Tagged: heaven and hell

Afterlife: Now on Audible

The Missouri Baptist Convention’s publishing imprint, High Street Press, has just released an audio version of its popular printed resource, What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife

Published in 2017 in print and ebook editions, Afterlife is now available through Audible, the premiere audio-book platform, which may be accessed at Audible.com

The book explores key words and phrases used in Scripture to describe life beyond the grave, with an emphasis on how to know one’s eternal destiny.

In 13 short lessons, the book addresses what the Bible says about death, judgment, heaven, hell, and more. Each chapter concludes with probing questions, making this an ideal resource for personal or group study.

What Everyone Should Know About the Afterlife features lessons on:

  • Ten biblical truths about the afterlife
  • Hades and the afterlife
  • Gehenna and the afterlife
  • Your future resurrection
  • Everyone’s day of reckoning
  • Is heaven our final home?
  • Should you believe in ghosts?
  • Where are you spending eternity?
  • And other topics related to the afterlife

The book continues to be available in print and e-book formats at Amazon.com and other retailers.




Heaven can’t wait; more on purgatory

Save us from the fire

This is the seventh in a series of articles on biblical terms that describe the afterlife and the unseen world.

In the last column we defined the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory and argued that this long-held teaching finds no support in Scripture.

Perhaps the strongest argument against the doctrine of purgatory is that it undermines the sufficiency of Christ. Just before His death on the cross, Jesus declares triumphantly, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Among other things, this means the work of redemption is complete and that no more sacrifice for sins is required.

The wrath of God has been satisfied as the One who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).

The writer of Hebrews echoes this truth: “After making purification for sins, He [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3b). Further, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified” (10:14).

Continue reading

Will only a few be saved?

Ninth in a series of short answers to questions about the New Testament.

Consider Matt. 7:13-14: Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

So, will only a few be saved? And if so, how few? Clearly, the Bible does not teach universal salvation. And Jesus takes great pains to inform us that many will spend eternity apart from Him. Just how many will receive eternal life and how many will perish is not for us to know. The claim of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that only 144,000 will reign with Jesus in heaven is based on a distortion of Scripture. Equally disturbing is the Mormon possibility of “exaltation,” or godhood, and the virtually assured life in some level of heaven for almost everyone else.

But there are some important things Jesus and the New Testament writers taught about salvation and want us to know, among them:

  • Salvation is an everlasting relationship provided by Holy God for sinful man through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (John 3:16-18).
  • Jesus is the only way a person may receive forgiveness of sins and find eternal life (John 14:6). He is the narrow gate — the door (John 10:9).
  • All people are sinners and invite the wrath of God (Rom. 3:23, 6:23). No one deserves heaven, nor can they earn it (Rom. 4:4-5).
  • Christ died for sinners and rose from the dead to conquer sin and death for us (Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3-4).
  • Not hearing the gospel is no excuse (Rom. 1:18-23).
  • Many will be in heaven (Rev. 5:9) and many will not (Rev. 20:11-15).
  • All people will be raised from the dead and judged one day (John 5:28-29).
  • Your eternal destiny is based on how you answer the question Jesus asked in Matt. 16:15: “Whom do you say that I am?”
  • The correct answer is: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16).
  • We should be less concerned with how many will be in heaven than we are with whether we are headed there.
  • Jesus came to give us life and offers it freely, if we will receive Him (John 10:10).

Isaiah 26: We Remember Your Name

Isaiah 26: Listen to an audio file

Isaiah 26: Download a worksheet for further study


Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapters 24-27 of Isaiah form a single prophecy. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the time in which it is given, it seems best to place it a short time before the attack by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Jerusalem in 701 B.C.

Key verse:

Isa. 26:13 – Lord, our God, other lords than You have ruled over us, but we remember Your name alone.

Quick summary:

In the context of chapters 24-27, Isaiah uses an analogy of the future destruction of all God’s enemies (chaps. 24-25) to urge the people of Judah to trust Him now (chaps. 26-27). Although God is using the Assyrians as the rod of His judgment against Judah, those who place their faith in the Lord and endure the childbirth-like pains of His correction (vv. 17-18) will rejoice in His salvation: “Yes, Lord, we wait for You in the path of Your judgments. Our desire is for Your name and renown” (v. 8).

Take note:

Some would argue there’s a contradiction in chapter 26. In verse 14 Isaiah declares that “the dead do not live, departed spirits do not rise up.” Then, in verse 19, he states that “your dead will live; their bodies will rise.” How can both be true? The Apologetics Study Bible explains: “This apparent conflict vanishes when the statements are placed in context. He [Isaiah] referred to past oppressors of Israel, the ‘wicked’ who act ‘unjustly’ (v. 10), the ‘other lords’ who had ruled over God’s people and whom God had already ‘visited and destroyed’ (vv. 13-14). These oppressors could no longer attack God’s people. The situation changed with verse 19; in the future God’s people who die will live … a person can have life after death. The fact that Elijah and Elisha brought to life two boys who had died (1 Kg 17:17-24; 2 Kg 4:18-37), and that a dead man came back to life when his body touched the bones of Elisha (2 Kg 13:20-21), indicates that individual resurrection from the dead was known and experienced long before the time of Isaiah” (pp 1024-25).

The Song of Judah (Isa. 26:1-6)

Although Jerusalem will be surrounded in Isaiah’s day, and vanquished a century later by the Babylonians, the day is coming when Israel’s remnant will sing of their glorious reversal of fortune as they enter the impregnable New Jerusalem. The humble will be exalted and the oppressors crushed. Because of Messiah’s presence there, the city figuratively is said to have salvation as its walls and ramparts (v. 1). While other nations will have places in the kingdom, believers in Israel will hold special positions.

The Lord promises perfect (genuine, complete) peace to those who trust Him – now, as well as in the Millennium (v. 3). The apostle Paul reminds us of this great truth in Phil. 4:7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck write, “This availability of inner tranquility encourages believers to continue trusting the Lord (Isa. 26:4) because He is firm like a Rock … and He is eternal” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1074). For other Scriptures that describe the Lord as a Rock, see Ps. 73:26 (“strength” literally means rock); Isa. 17:10, 30:29, and 44:8.

“The Hebrew word for ‘peace’ (shalom) means much more than a cessation of war. It includes blessings such as wholeness, health, quietness of soul, preservation, and completeness. ‘What is your peace?’ is the way Jews often greet one another; and Isaiah’s reply would be, ‘My peace is from the Lord, for I trust wholly in Him!’ Paul’s counsel in Philippians 4:6-9 is based on Isaiah 26:3″ (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted, S. Is 26:1).

In contrast with the righteous who enter the city are the arrogant who “live in lofty places” (v. 5); the Lord will bring them down. Those who used their wealth and privilege to oppress the poor will be on the business end of God’s rod of justice. This does not mean that poverty itself is a virtue. Isaiah simply repeats an oft-repeated message that God has special concern for the poor who seek Him (Isa. 25:4; Matt. 11:5; Luke 4:18).

The Long Night of Waiting (Isa. 26:7-18)

Isaiah describes a level and straight path for the righteous, cleared by God Himself. “In the Yukon of old, one man was often sent ahead to ‘break trail’ for others or a dog sled. This passage reminds us that a righteous God has already broken trail for those who follow Him because they are committed to righteousness too” (Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Readers Companion, electronic ed., S. 424). As a result, God’s redeemed “wait” for Him, “desire” His name and renown, “long” for Him in the night, and diligently “seek” Him in order to “learn righteousness” (vv. 8-9). What a dramatic change occurs in the hearts of men and women when they learn to trust God above all else.

The struggles of Judah returning to God are like the pains of childbirth. Isaiah writes that the nation is writhing in anguish beneath the punishing hand of God. Like a pregnant woman giving birth to wind, Judah experiences emptiness and defeat through its sinful acts. The Hebrew verb in verse 13 translated “ruled over” gives us the noun baal, the Canaanite storm god whose worship caused so much trouble in Israel. But the word also means “husband,” so the message is that God’s people were not faithful to Him, preferring to pursue their lust for idols. The same image is given in James 4:4: “Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.” Even so, the Lord graciously carries His people through and keeps His covenant. For other comparisons of spiritual struggle to childbirth, see Isa. 13:8, 42:14; John 16:21; Gal. 4:19.
Isaiah’s comment about the dead tyrants who have troubled Judah (v. 14) do not contradict the doctrine of universal resurrection supplied in verse 19 and elsewhere in Scripture (see, for example, Job 19:25-27; Ps. 17:15; Dan. 12:1-3; John 5:28-29, 1 Cor. 15:50-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:11-15). The prophet simply is emphasizing that the rulers who wrought so much terror and destruction on God’s people can no longer do them harm. Lawrence O. Richards comments in The Bible Readers Companion: “Storms of judgment may sweep over our earth. Wars may devastate, and disease may ravage. Famines may decimate the land, while starvation stalks our families. There are indeed dread fates that are to be feared. But these are not history’s last words! At the end of history – both the history of nations and the personal history of each individual – the shout of God’s promise echoes. ‘Your dead will live; their bodies will rise!’ What a truth to hold fast in troubled times” (S. 424).

Resurrection and Judgment (Isa. 26:19-21)

This is a most revealing Old Testament passage on future resurrection and judgment. While these verses focus on the resurrection of the just – the “first resurrection” of which John wrote in Rev. 20:5-6 – Daniel adds that the unjust also will be raised and that all people will experience eternal life or eternal shame (Dan. 12:2). What a comfort these words are to those experiencing warfare, captivity, injustice, and even death. The promise that God will raise all people one day and pronounce final judgment with absolute justice should spur fear in the hearts of the wicked as it does hope in the hearts of the righteous.

Although views differ on the order of events, the New Testament clearly teaches future resurrection and final judgment for all people:

  • Jesus often speaks of His return and final judgment. For example, in John 5:28-29 He says all people will be raised from the dead and experience either everlasting life or condemnation.
  • The apostle Paul writes in detail about the rapture (“catching up” / “snatching away”) of the church in 1 Cor. 15:50-58 and 1 Thess. 4:13-18, as well as judgment and reward for all believers (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10).
  • The apostle John refers several times to resurrection and final judgment in the book of Revelation. He alludes to the rapture by not mentioning the church from Rev. 4-18, chapters depicting the tribulation. He also speaks of the “first resurrection,” or resurrection of the just, in Rev. 20:5-6. And he writes in some detail about the raising of the wicked to stand before the great white throne, from which they are cast into hell (Rev. 20:11-15).

Verse 20 urges God’s people to “hide for a little while until the wrath has passed.” “When God is about to take vengeance on the ungodly, the saints shall be shut in by Him in a place of safety, as Noah and his family were in the days of the flood (Ge 7:16), and as Israel was commanded not to go out of doors on the night of the slaying of the Egyptian first-born (Ex 12:22, 23; Ps 31:20; 83:3). The saints are calmly and confidently to await the issue (Ex 14:13, 14)” (Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments,  S. Is 26:20).

Finally, verse 21 gives Judah the assurance that God will deal with her oppressors – Assyria in the near term and Babylon in the long term. Even more, this verse previews the glorious appearing of the Messiah one day to execute judgment upon the earth’s wicked (see Rev. 19:11-21).

Closing Thought

Commenting on the phrase in verse 21, “The earth will reveal the blood shed on it and will no longer conceal her slain,” Matthew Henry writes: “Secret murders, and other secret wickednesses, shall be discovered, sooner or later. And the slain which the earth has long covered she shall no longer cover, but they shall be produced as evidence against the murderers. The voice of Abel’s blood cries from the earth, Gen. 9:10, 11; Job 20:27. Those sins which seemed to be buried in oblivion will be called to mind, and called over again, when the day of reckoning comes. Let God’s people therefore wait awhile with patience, for behold the Judge stands before the door” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 26:20).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Four Reasons to Reject Mormon Salvation

Joseph SmithHere are notes from a recent apologetics workshop I was privileged to lead in Oklahoma. Our love of Mormons — and more importantly God’s love of members of the LDS Church — should compel us to share the following truths with those who sincerely, even passionately, defend the teachings of Joseph Smith.

Every Christian should reject the Mormon doctrine of salvation for four important reasons:

  1. It minimizes Christ’s work on the cross
  2. It is universal in scope
  3. It is works based
  4. It makes godhood the goal

1.  It minimizes Christ’s work on the cross.

What Mormons teach:

  • Mormonism emphasizes Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane rather than the cross; perhaps that is one reason Moroni, not a cross, stands atop Mormon temples.
  • “Forgiveness is available because Christ the Lord sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane as he bore the incalculable weight of the sins of all who ever had or ever would repent” (Apostle Bruce McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 337).
  • Mormon leaders have taught that Christ’s atoning sacrifice began in the Garden of Gethsemane. They have drawn this teaching from two passages: Mosiah 3:7 in the Book of Mormon, and D&C 19:15-19.
  • President Ezra Taft Benson: “It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 14).
  • “… it was in Gethsemane that ‘he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come to him’” (Bruce McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 127-28, 224).
  • “Where and under what circumstances was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made? Was it on the Cross of Calvary or in the Garden of Gethsemane? … In reality the pain and suffering, the triumph and grandeur, of the atonement took place primarily in Gethsemane” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 774).

What the Bible says:

  • The New Testament mentions Gethsemane only twice (Matt. 26:36; Mark 14:32) and never attaches  Christ’s anguish there as having anything to do with atonement.
  • Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson write in Mormonism 101: “By emphasizing the Garden of Gethsemane, LDS leaders miss a significant point regarding the atonement. The expiation of sin (making amends for wrongdoing) was not based on the substitute’s perspiration, it was based on his expiration” (p. 145).
  • See Rom. 5:8, 10; 1 Cor. 1:18; Heb. 9:22.

2.  It is universal is scope.

What Mormons teach:

  • Mormon leaders have taught that the atonement of Jesus Christ releases the “human family” from the consequences of Adam’s fall and allows a general resurrection from the dead. It also makes available the forgiveness of personal sins on the condition of repentance.
  • “Everyone, from the most righteous to the most wretched, will be resurrected and will live forever in the next life…. By breaking the bands of death, Jesus Christ overcame death, and all will live again. In this respect, we are saved by grace unconditionally” (What do Mormons Believe, 38).
  • Bruce McConkie explains: “Salvation in its true and full meaning is synonymous with exaltation or eternal life and consists in gaining an inheritance in the highest of the three heavens within the celestial kingdom…. Salvation in the celestial kingdom of God, however, is not salvation by grace alone. Rather, it is salvation by grace coupled with obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (Mormon Doctrine, 670-71).

What the Bible says:

  • The Bible teaches that not all will be saved (Matt. 7:13-14, 21-23; Rev. 20:11-15), although all will be resurrected and stand in judgment (John 5:28-9; Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:11-15).

3.  It is works based.

What Mormons teach:

  • “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation” (President Spencer Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 206).
  • “Resurrection” is how the LDS Church defines “general salvation.”
  • Bruce McConkie said that salvation by grace alone is the second greatest heresy on Christianity … a “soul-destroying doctrine [that] has the obvious effect of lessening the determination of an individual to conform to all of the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (Mormon Doctrine, 670-71).
  • Apostle James Talmage said “redemption from personal sins can only be obtained through obedience to the requirements of the gospel, and a life of good works….The sectarian dogma of justification by faith alone has exercised an influence for evil” and is a “pernicious doctrine” (The Articles of Faith, 478-80).
  • Brigham Young: “Who will be saved in the celestial kingdom, and go into the presence of the Father and Son? Those only who observe the whole law, who keep the commandments of God – those who walk in the newness of life, observe all his precepts and do his will” (Journal of Discourses, 14:133).

What the Bible says:

  • The Bible clearly teaches that forgiveness of sins and everlasting life are gifts of God, given by grace and received by faith (John 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

4.  It makes godhood the goal.

What Mormons teach:

  • “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become” (Lorenzo Snow, 5th LDS president).
  • Every person is destined for one of six places: 1) outer darkness – for those who did not receive mortal bodies, and for apostate Mormons and other extremely wicked people; 2) telestial kingdom, where the wicked will spend eternity; 3) terrestrial kingdom, where honorable people go, including “lukewarm” Mormons; 4-6) celestial kingdom, consisting of three separate levels, with the top level reserved for Mormon exaltation.
  • Scripture passages misused to prove this point: 1 Cor. 15:40; 2 Cor. 12:2-4).
  • Doctrine & Covenants 131:1, 4 makes reference to the highest level of celestial glory, where Mormon progress may continue. Faithful Mormons reside here eternally with their families, and Mormon males become gods of their newly inherited worlds.
  • The highest level of the celestial kingdom is known as the Church of the Firstborn. Here a Mormon may experience exaltation or godhood.
  • Those in the celestial kingdom not found worthy of godhood will become angels and serve in a subservient role.
  • “Eternal increase” includes the ability to procreate throughout eternity. Just as the Mormon god continually populates his earth, so it is taught that Mormon males and their goddess wives will have the ability to populate the worlds they will inherit.

What the Bible says:

  • Heaven and hell are the only two destinations that await humanity (Matt. 25:46; John 14:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 14:9-11; 19:11-16; 20:10-15; 21-22).
  • In heaven the family of God spends eternity praising Him and dwelling in His glory (not ours).
  • Those who reject God’s gift of salvation are condemned (John 3:18; Rev. 20:15).


The Mormon doctrine of salvation:

  • Minimizes Christ’s work on the cross and emphasizes His suffering in the garden.
  • Is universal in that “general salvation” means resurrection.
  • Is works-based, meaning the level of heaven one achieves is based on his or her works as judged by Mormonism.
  • Has godhood as its goal.

The Biblical doctrine of salvation:

  • Emphasizes Christ’s work on the cross. The “One who did not know sin” became sin for us  (2 Cor. 5:21).
  • Involves the “whole man” (body, soul, spirit) but not all men.
  • Is granted by God’s grace through faith, apart from human effort.
  • Has Christlikeness – not godhood – as its goal.

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips