There is one eternal destiny for the unrighteous – those who have rejected Christ or never heard and responded to the Gospel. There is a very different eternal destiny for the righteous – those made righteous through faith in Christ (Eph 2:8,9), receiving the free gift of salvation made possible by His payment for sin.
1) Eternity for the Unrighteous
The eternity appointed for those who die unsaved (the unrighteous):
- complete separation from God (Luke 13:25,28);
- everlasting punishment (Matt 25:46; 2 Thess 1:9);
- everlasting contempt (Dan 12:2);
- unquenchable fire (Matt 9:43,45; Jude 7; Rev 20:10);
- a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 13:42,50);
- consignment to outer darkness (Matt 8:12; 22:13; 2 Pet 2:17; Jude 13);
- the wrath of God (Rom 2:5,8-9; 1 Thess 1:10);
- everlasting torment (Rev 14:10,11);
- punishment in accordance to their works (2 Cor 11:14,15; 2 Tim 4:14; Rev 22:12);
- eternal destruction or ruin (2 Thess 1:8,9; 2 Pet 3:7);
- the second death (Rev 20:14; 21:8).
An eternity without Christ would be a terrible destiny indeed. We must heed Paul’s exhortation when he declares, “Him [Jesus Christ] we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect [complete] in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col 1:28,29). And to Timothy, “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2).
Though all people have sinned (Rom 3:23) and deserve eternal punishment; God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). Thank God for His indescribable free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ! (Rom 6:23). By God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice, we are saved from eternal damnation and have been given this message of salvation and reconciliation to give to the world (2 Cor 5:19,20).
2) Eternity for the Righteous
For the believer in Christ Jesus, eternity is radically different than it is for the unbeliever.
The eternity appointed for those who die saved (the righteous):
- upon the moment of death, the believer is present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:6-8; Phil 1:21,23);
- eternal life (1 John 5:11,12);
- the mortal shall put on immortality, and death shall be no more (1 Cor 15:50-58);
- full transformation into the image of Jesus (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18; 1 John 3:2);
- the end of suffering, pain, sorrow and death (Rev 21:4);
- continuance of our personal identity in Heaven:
- Our names, which fire written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, signify personal identity (Luke 10:20; Phil 4:3);
- Our bodies will be resurrected or raptured, signifying God’s redemption of the whole person — body, soul and spirit (1 Thess 4:16,17);
- We will be recognizable in Heaven, only without sin’s presence to warp Christ’s image in us (1 John 3:2).
With such a glorious future ahead for the believer, let us follow the admonition of the Scriptures: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58). Hallelujah!