"In your presence [O God] there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11)
Question 38: What shall be done to the wicked at their death?
Answer: The souls of the wicked shall at their death be cast into the torments of hell, (Lk 16:22-24) and their bodies lie in their graves till the resurrection, and judgment of the great day. (Ps 49:14)
When we talk about what happens to unbelievers at death, it is important to note that hell is not eternal separation from God. First, God is omnipresent. Thus, there cannot be a place where God is not. Second, separation from God would not be hell for the unbeliever but heaven. Being separated from God would not be torment for the depraved soul but bliss. This is because the unbelieving heart despises God and would love nothing more than to be rid of God and away from him. This will not change in eternity. It is because of our sin and wickedness that the unbelieving creature despises and fears God. We see this throughout biblical history. In Isaiah 6, when the prophet is given a glimpse of the majesty of God, he cries out, “Woe is me for I am undone! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips!” When Peter recognizes who Jesus is, he exclaims, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Lk. 5:8). And when two demon possessed men recognize who Jesus is they cry out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matt. 8:29). To be in the presence of a holy God is what sinful creatures fear most. Thus, hell is not the absence of God, but the unmitigated fullness of the holiness of God. That which unbelievers despise and fear most is the very thing which they will be immersed in with no means of escape and no where to hide. They will be completely immersed and surrounded by the full glory and holiness of God and it will torment them. What is interesting to note is that for the believer, heaven is the same. Except that which torments the unbeliever will be pure bliss and joy for the believer. For those whose sin has been atoned for by the blood of Christ and who are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, we will enter into the full blazing glory of God’s presence and will bask in his holiness and experience unspeakable joy and peace. Not because of anything in us or because of what we have done, but because of Christ has done for us.
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