Those who have chosen Satan as their leader are not prepared to enter the presence of God. Pride, deception, immorality, cruelty, have become established in their characters. Can they enter heaven to live forever with those whom they hated on earth? Truth will never be agreeable to a liar. Meekness will not satisfy self-esteem. Purity is not acceptable to the corrupt. Unselfish love does not appear attractive to the selfish. What enjoyment could heaven offer those who are focused on selfish interests?
Will those whose hearts are filled with hatred of God, of truth and holiness, be able to mingle with the inhabitants of heaven and join their songs of praise? God granted them years of grace to prepare for eternity with Him, but they never trained the mind to love purity. They never learned the language of heaven. Now it is too late.
A life of rebellion against God has made them unfit for heaven. Its purity and peace would be torture to them; the glory of God would be a consuming fire. They would long to escape from that holy place and would welcome destruction, just to be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them. It is their own choice that decides the destiny of the wicked.
They voluntarily exclude themselves from heaven, and God is just and merciful in ratifying their choice. Like the waters of the Flood, the fires of the great day declare God’s verdict that the wicked are incurable. They have exercised their will in revolt. When life is over, it is too late to turn their thoughts from law-breaking to obedience, from hatred to love.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Life is the inheritance of the righteous, and death is the destiny of the wicked. The Bible places “the second death” in contrast with everlasting life (see Revelation 20:14).
Because of Adam’s sin, death came upon the whole human race. Everyone goes down into the grave. And through the plan of salvation, all will be brought up from their graves: “There will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust,” “for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” But the Bible makes a distinction between the two classes that are resurrected: “All who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth— those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (Acts 24:15; 1 Corinthians 15:22; John 5:28, 29.)
The End of Suffering
They who have been “counted worthy” of the resurrection of life are “blessed and holy.” “Over such the second death has no power.” (Luke 20:35; Revelation 20:6.) But those who have not received pardon through repentance and faith must receive “the wages of sin,” punishment “according to their works,” which ends in the “second death.”
Since it is impossible for God to save sinners in their sins, He deprives them of their existence, which their transgressions have forfeited and of which they have proven themselves unworthy. “Yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more.” “They shall be as though they had never been.” (Psalm 37:10; Obadiah 16.) They sink into hopeless, eternal oblivion.
And so God will make an end of sin. “You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever. O enemy, destructions are finished forever!” (Psalm 9:5, 6). In the Book of Revelation, John hears a universal anthem of praise without one note of discord. No lost souls blaspheme God as they writhe in never-ending torment. No wretched beings in hell will mingle their shrieks with the songs of the saved.
The error of natural immortality is the basis for the doctrine of consciousness in death. Like eternal torment, this doctrine is opposed to Scripture, to reason, and to our feelings of humanity.
According to popular belief, the redeemed in heaven know everything that takes place on earth. But how could the dead be happy in knowing the troubles of the living, in seeing them endure the sorrows, disappointments, and anguish of life? And how revolting is the belief that as soon as the breath leaves the body, the soul of the unrepentant is sent to the flames of hell!
What do the Scriptures say? Humanity is not conscious in death: “When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.” “The living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing…. Their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.” “Sheol [the grave] cannot thank You, death cannot praise You; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth.
The living, the living man, he shall praise You, as I do this day.” “In death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks?” (Psalm 146:4, NRSV; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6; Isaiah 38:18, 19; Psalm 6:5.)
On the day of Pentecost Peter declared that David “is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day…. For David did not ascend into the heavens” (Acts 2:29, 34). The fact that David remains in the grave until the resurrection proves that the righteous do not go to heaven when they die.