"Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." This means that when Jesus ascended to heaven he led captivity captive, The “captivity” were those in paradise. When Christ ascended to heaven after his resurrection, he brought with him the righteous dead. Again, some theologians and denominations believe that, because of God’s mercy and desire that none should perish, Christ also brought to heaven with Him any previously wicked who might have accepted the message He proclaimed in the three days He was in Sheol after His resurrection). The idea is that maybe for some reason, these people may have never had a chance to hear about God’s deliverance or the gospel. But, personally, this argument does not hold water with me. First off, “And just as it is appointed for [all] men once to die, and after that the [certain] judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27 AMP) Then, Romans 1:20, “For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification],” (AMP) Furthermore, God predestines His elect according to His omniscience of who received or will receive Christ (Jehovah’s deliverer, the Messiah)while they were or are alive. “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:29 AMP
I know some disagree with me. They believe that there are those who were and have and will not be given the chance to hear the gospel, so they will at some point be given a second chance after they die. Of course, it almost needn’t be said I’m not talking about babies or children who have not yet reached their unique age of accountability. I believe they shall surely be with the Lord even if they have never heard the gospel message.
As we move ahead toward the second coming of Christ, His millennial age and judgment day, we observe a seemingly new phenomenon called the lake of fire. Jesus says in Matthew 25:41 that it is an everlasting fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. We know there will only be one everlasting fire after judgment. This most definitely refers to the “lake” of fire. Why a lake? Why not continue to call it an abyss or pit? It is quite possible that the lake of fire and Sheol (hades) are one and the same. The only difference is that the abyss may “erupt” to the point of being visible at the surface of the earth. Some scriptural evidence of this can be found in Jude 1:5,6, where the fallen angels “He has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” Notice the words “everlasting chains”. They have also been kept in “everlasting darkness”. They aren’t going anywhere, and never have changed location. However, I also believe that not all fallen angels were bound. They have become what we call demons.
Also, another striking scripture is hard to overlook. “Then another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a mighty voice, Whoever pays homage to the beast and his statue and permits the [beast’s] stamp (mark, inscription) to be put on his forehead or on his hand, He too shall [have to] drink of the wine of God’s indignation and wrath, poured undiluted into the cup of His anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” Rev 14:9,10 AMP) The word “presence” here seems to be literal. “The [unyieldingly] righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.” Psalm 58:10 (AMP) When the saints, angels and the Lamb see the vengeance of judgment upon the wicked, they will rejoice! It is possible the surface of the lake of fire will be actually visible in proximity to the dwelling place of the saints. This could serve two very important purposes. First, it would serve as a constant reminder to the righteous that Christ saved them from such a destiny so as to continually give glory to Him. And it would also provide the necessary torment for those who are in the lake as they can actually get a faint glimpse of the glory they are missing out on.
As I mentioned in Part One, I believe there is scriptural evidence that there will be different levels of punishment in the second death, just as I believe there were different levels of punishment pre-crucifixion and resurrection. They are as follows:
“And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.” Matthew 11:23,24
(At sending out the seventy disciples two by two) “But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Luke 10:10-12
(At Christ’s return and judgment) “And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” Luke 12:47,48
“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk about in long robes and love to be saluted [with honor] in places where people congregate and love the front and best seats in the synagogues and places of distinction at feasts, who make away with and devour widows’ houses, and [to cover it up] with pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation (the heavier sentence, the severer punishment). Luke 20:46,47
(Jesus before Pilate concerning Judas) Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” John 19:11
(Talking about those converts who escaped the teachings of false prophets (and Judaizers and went back to observing the law), turning their backs on the grace of the cross.) And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life.” 2nd Peter 2:20,21
Next month, we will examine the different schools of thought and modern opinions about what hell is.