In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. In previous weeks we’ve seen that Christians share glory with Christ in this life and after they die, in what is known as the intermediate state (before the new heavens and the new earth are created). But what about people who don’t believe in Christ? What happens to unbelievers at their death?
The catechism gives this answer: ‘The souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgement of the great day.’
This terrible truth is plainly taught by Jesus when he speaks of the rich man and Lazarus:
‘19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 ” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead'”’ (Luke 16:19-31).
Jesus is quite clear. Those who live for themselves in this life are tormented from the moment of their death. Therefore, it is of vital importance that they heed this truth while there is still time.
So, friend, have you repented of your sins and trusted in God for eternal life? Do you live for his glory now?
And if you are a believer, do you tell people the truth about hell so that they may come to repentance? Or do you keep it from them, as though it were a dirty secret of your faith?