Your response to where does the spirit of a human go after death was that it goes immediately to heaven (thief on the cross…”be with me in paradise”); however, how does the Resurrection play into this? Are we not to be judged on the Resurrection?
The moment that we die, our decisions in life are sealed for all of eternity. Either a person by faith received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, or he/she did not. That will determine heaven, or hell, for that person. Luke 16:19-31 says, “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” After death, there is no way to change a person’s decision, and the comfort, or torment, are immediate.
Then what is the purpose of the resurrection? At the resurrection, the bodies of the saved, and of the lost will be resurrected, and the exact degree of reward for the Christian (determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ) will take place; and for the lost, the exact degree of punishment (determined at the Great White Throne Judgment) will take place. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” John 5:28, 29 says, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” At both judgments, the works of the saved, and the works of the lost, are the basis. The reason is that it is NOT salvation that is being determined, but REWARDS and DEGREES of PUNISHMENT that are being decided. For those matters, works (good or evil), are the determining factor. Sometimes people accuse God of not giving people what they really deserve (either good, or bad). At the resurrection, God will give people exactly what they deserve for all of eternity.
After the resurrection, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Christian will receive exactly what he deserves for all of eternity. 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 says, “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; EVERY MAN’S WORK SHALL BE MADE MANIFEST: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. IF ANY MAN’S WORK ABIDE WHICH HE HATH BUILT THEREUPON, HE SHALL RECEIVE A REWARD. IF ANY MAN’S WORK SHALL BE BURNED, HE SHALL SUFFER LOSS: BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire.” We are not talking about the gain or loss of salvation, but the gain or loss of eternal rewards. Stop and think about the great loss for those Christians who are not serving the Lord faithfully.
After the resurrection, at the Great White Throne Judgment, the unsaved will receive the exact degree of punishment that they deserve for all of eternity. Remember Luke 16? They are in torment right now, but they will receive the EXACT DEGREE of torment that they deserve at the Great White Throne Judgment. Revelation 20:11-15 says, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and THEY WERE JUDGED EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
A person is not saved by works. Titus 3:5-7 says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” So when these lost people are judged according to their works at the Great White Throne Judgment, it is to determine the EXACT DEGREE of PUNISHMENT that they deserve for all of eternity. Revelation 18:5-7 says, “For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and DOUBLE UNTO HER DOUBLE ACCORDING TO HER WORKS: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, SO MUCH TORMENT AND SORROW GIVE HER: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.”
Some people from certain cities were warned that their judgment would be worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Matthew 10:12-15 says, “And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be MORE TOLERABLE FOR THE LAND OF SODOM AND GOMORRHA in the day of judgment, than for that city.” Matthew 11:21-24 says, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, IT SHALL BE MORE TOLERABLE FOR TYRE AND SIDON AT THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, THAN FOR YOU. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That IT SHALL BE MORE TOLERABLE FOR THE LAND OF SODOM IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, THAN FOR THEE.”
How could that be (that it is more tolerable for one person over another), if they are both going to hell? Everyone in hell is tormented, but there are different degrees of torment there. How can that be? How can there be differences in fire? Light a candle. That flame is hot enough to hurt you, but not hot enough to soldier your plumbing pipes. Light a propane torch. That flame is hot enough to hurt you, but is not hot enough to braze metal. Light an oxygen and acetylene torch. That flame is hot enough to hurt you, and hot enough to cut right through steel. All fire will bring you pain, but the intensity of certain fire will bring you more degrees of pain and injury.
Remember, the bodies of unsaved people are going to be resurrected for the Great White Throne Judgment. That is why it is called the SECOND DEATH for them when they are bodily cast into the Lake of Fire. Notice Revelation 20:11-15 again, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And DEATH AND HELL WERE CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE. THIS IS THE SECOND DEATH. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” It says that “death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.” This is the second death, when those in hell are resurrected and then cast into the lake of fire. They will have bodies, and will suffer the exact degree of punishment that they deserve for all of eternity.
Some people think that it is not fair that some go to hell, who never heard the gospel. But, like Cornelius, all people have a certain amount of “light” in life. How they respond to that light, is a factor in whether God gives them more light (that is, makes sure that someone does come and give them the gospel). The witness of creation is part of that light given to all men. Psalm 19:1-3 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” The stars are so exact in their courses, that ships used them for hundreds of years to tell exactly where they were out on the ocean. To try and say that the stars are a product of chance evolution, is absolutely ridiculous. Even so it is with our bodies, and the complex nature of them. Psalm 139:13, 14 says, “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” What are chances of evolution creating a seeing eye? Impossible. And even more impossible with making two seeing eyes in the body. It is things like those, and many more, that God gives to man to show him “light,” that is, to who him that there is a Creator. If man begins to honestly acknowledge that there is a God, God will show that man how to learn of Him, and how to reach Him. That is what happened in the case of Cornelius.
Acts 10:1-6 says, “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.” Cornelius prayed, but he was not saved. Cornelius gave money to good causes, but he was not saved. Cornelius feared God, but he was not saved. He was sincere, but he was lost. But he was responding the best way that he knew how, to the light he had, and so God made sure that he got to hear the gospel.
Acts 10:36-44 says, “The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. TO HIM GIVE ALL THE PROPHETS WITNESS, THAT THROUGH HIS NAME WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM SHALL RECEIVE REMISSION OF SINS. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.”
So the Lord is exactly fair with all of His creation. Those who have not heard the gospel, because they had not responded to the light that they have been given, will go to hell, but they will not be tormented as bas as those who have heard the gospel, and rejected it. Luke 12:47, 48 says, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Once again, remember Matthew 11:21-24, which says, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, IT SHALL BE MORE TOLERABLE FOR TYRE AND SIDON AT THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, THAN FOR YOU. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That IT SHALL BE MORE TOLERABLE FOR THE LAND OF SODOM IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, THAN FOR THEE.”
That is a frightening thing for Americans and the people of other lands where the gospel is freely preached, who have rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. At the resurrection they will be subject to more punishment in the lake of fire than will the people of lands where the gospel is not preached.
It is the resurrection where Christians receive the exact degree of rewards that they deserve; and it is the resurrection where the lost receive the exact degree of punishment that they deserve.