This chapter covers the important subjects of heaven and hell, reward and judgment, the saved and the lost. This prophecy from Psalms 68:18b is certified as an authentic Messianic prophecy by the Hebrew scholar; Paul of Tarsus. There was no greater teacher in Israel during the time that Jesus appeared and began to fulfill all of the words of the prophets.
David writes that when the Messiah is crucified and raised from the dead, He will take back to heaven, all those who had died waiting for His salvation.
Psalms 68:18b You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, Even from the rebellious, That the LORD God might dwell there.
Confirmation as a Messianic Prophecy:
Paul: Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) Ephesians 4:8-10
Peter: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.” 1 Peter 3:18-20
Matthew: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Matthew 27:50-53
Life, After Life
The certainty that this prophecy from Psalms 68:18, was written and intended for Jesus Christ as the Messiah; is confirmed by Paul’s statement in Ephesians 4:8-10. Paul asks the question: What does it mean? In other words, what was the intention and purpose of Psalms 68:18? Paul believed that the text of this Psalm was a description of Jesus’ death and resurrection; when He would descend into the lower parts of the earth. In Luke Chapter 16, Jesus described two compartments at the center of the earth. One, a place of torment, for those who do not obey God and receive their salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice. The other, a place of comfort, reserved for those who died before Jesus made His sacrifice, separate from the place of torments, called Abraham’s Bosom.
Luke 16:22-23 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
See the chapter: Releasing Prisoners, for an Illustrated drawing of the two chambers in the center of the earth that Jesus descended into, after He was crucified.
Jesus described for us what would happen to Him after He was crucified: He would descend into the lower parts of the earth and remain there until He was resurrected three days later.
Matthew 12:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Paul confirms the meaning of Jesus’ words, in Ephesians 4, by stating that Jesus did in fact descend into the lower parts of the earth. Jesus did this to preach to those who had died before He had completed His sacrifice on the cross, confirming that all God had promised concerning the Messiah, would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. When Jesus was resurrected, all of the Old Testament believers who had died waiting for the coming of the Messiah were taken back to heaven, where they remain today. After Jesus’ resurrection, Abraham’s Bosom was closed and is no longer used to hold those who have died, believing in Jesus for their salvation.
The Saved and the Lost
Today, when anyone dies, who has trusted in Jesus as their Savior, they are immediately taken to heaven to be with the Lord. These are the saved who will remain in heaven with the Lord until the moment arrives for Him to return to the earth, at the Rapture. At this time, these individuals will be reunited with their new resurrected body and dwell forever with the Lord.
The place of torments described by Jesus, remains, to the present day, at the center of the earth. When anyone dies without receiving Jesus sacrifice for their sins, they descend into this place that was describe by Jesus in Luke Chapter 16, as Hell.
Luke 16:23 And being in torments in Hell…
The unsaved will remain in this place of torments until the Lord resurrects their body at the end of His 1,000-year reign upon the earth. At that time these persons will stand before the Great White Throne Judgement and be found guilty of rejecting the only plan of salvation that God has provided for mankind. The unsaved will suffer a second death that will last for eternity in the Lake of Fire.
Revelation 21:8 Those afraid to follow Jesus, the unbelievers, the corrupt, the murderers, the immoral, and those who practice witchcraft, as well as the idol worshipers, and all liars, will be thrown alive into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death. (RCR)
Jesus describes the two compartments at the center of the earth; one a place of comfort, the other a place of torments.
Before the Messiah completed His sacrifice, both the saved and the unsaved were kept in one of two chambers at the center of the earth.
Luke 16:19-31 (Jesus Speaking) “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hell he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then 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.’ ”
Jesus describes both men, alive and conscious: one in Paradise, one in Hell. The unsaved feel pain and are fully conscious, being aware and regretful of their decision to reject Jesus as their Savior, which placed them in this eternal despair. The saved are seen in a place of comfort, waiting for the arrival of the Messiah—who will complete His sacrifice for their sins and set them free upon His resurrection.
The rich man is not in Hell for being rich, but for his apparent rejection of the requirement that God has made; that all men must receive a pardon for their sins by the coming Messiah.
The poor man is not in Paradise, Abraham’s Bosom, because he was poor, but as result of the pardon he received for his sin; as he trusted in the coming Messiah and the sacrifice He would make for all sins.
What happens when we die?
What we learn from this story about Heaven and Hell and life after death, is that all men have an eternal soul that lives on past the moment of their physical death. Where our soul resides, is determined by our personal decision to either receive God’s Savior, or to reject Him.
Acts 17:30-31 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
We learn from Luke Chapter 16:19-31, that when a person died during the period of time before Jesus came as the Messiah, they descended into the lower parts of the earth—into a holding place where they were comforted. Ephesians Chapter 4 tells us that when Jesus died and then descended into the lower parts of the earth; He freed all those who were waiting in Abraham’s bosom and took them with Him when He ascended back to heaven.
Ephesians 4:8-10 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
Today, when a person dies, believing that Jesus is his Savior; they immediately ascend into heaven. The saved do not remain on earth as a spirit, nor do they descend into the center of the earth, as in former days before Jesus made His sacrifice for sins. Paul described the death of the believer in Jesus Christ, by the words: to be absent from the body (death) is to be present with the Lord (in Heaven). These two are instantaneous.
2 Corinthians 5:8 “…to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”
Those who refuse God’s offer of forgiveness for their sins, upon their death, they will be taken to wait in Hell for their final judgment. At the end of the one thousand-year reign of Jesus on the earth as the Messiah, the unsaved will be resurrected, to face judgement. Having no acceptable method to remove their sins, they remain under the wrath of God and are sentenced to an eternal separation from God.
The judgement of the unsaved, takes place after the one thousand-year reign of Jesus on the earth:
Revelation 20:5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.
They stand before God at the Great White Throne, to be judged for their sins.
Revelation 20:11-13 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
All those who appear before the Great White Throne will be found insufficient to inherit eternal life, because their sins remain. John describes the people who have rejected Jesus as their Savior, as having no other place for them. The Book of Life will be opened and every person who has rejected Jesus as their Savior will be found absent from the pages of this book. They will be cast alive into the Lake of Fire, where they will remain for eternity.
Revelation 20:15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
The reward for obedience to God’s command to repent and believe in Jesus for their salvation—is eternal.
The punishment for disobedience to God’s command to repent and believe in Jesus for their salvation—is also eternal.
Both the reward and the punishment, are equal in eternal duration. The consequences of these actions, remains under the control of each individual person. God does not send anyone to hell; they send themselves there by their unwillingness to obey the gospel and be saved. If we reject the only plan of salvation that God has provided for us to be saved, then there remains no other place for us.
No future judgement of sins for those who receive Jesus
Every person who has received Jesus as their Savior, has no future judgment awaiting them. All of their sins have been judged at the cross where Jesus died and fully paid. There remains no future judgment for anyone who has taken God’s pardon for their sins by Jesus’ Sacrifice.
Romans 5:9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath (judgment for our sins) through Him.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus….
Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross..
When a person dies, today, without receiving God’s offer of a full pardon for their sins, there is no second chance for redemption, after death. These individuals will face their final judgement as described by the Book of Revelation, Chapter 20.
Revelation 20:11-13 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them (the unsaved). And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
The unsaved are judged according to their works, while the saved are judged according to the works of Jesus. Human works, although they may at times as “good,” they are never perfect. God requires perfection; works which have no moral failure. In order for God to accept us based upon our works, all of our actions must be perfect. Those who come to Jesus for salvation, understand their imperfections, and instead—rely upon Jesus perfect sacrifice for their sins, as the basis for their salvation.
The testimony of God’s word, confirms that He will accept any person who comes to Him based on what Jesus has accomplished. The unsaved of Revelation chapter 20, have demanded that they be judged, based on their own works. Verse 12 describes these people as arriving at the Great White Throne, because there was: “no place for them.” In other words, there is no other place for these individuals to be brought, since they have rejected the only method by which God would accept them, Jesus death.
All those who appear before the Great White Throne judgement, their names do not appear in Jesus’ Book of Life. For this reason, they are lost and have no hope of eternal life with God.
Revelation 20:15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
This does not have to happen. God has done everything that is necessary to make certain that no one is lost. The only barrier to Heaven is the will of a person to surrender themselves to Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We cannot blame God if we do not make it to heaven. He has told us what we must do; the decision is ours.
Everyone is saved in the same way
Those who were alive, before Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, were saved by looking forward to His coming. Those who live, after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, are saved by looking back to His completed sacrifice. All people are saved in the same way—whether by looking forward or backward, they are saved by Jesus sacrifice for their sins. All who look to Jesus for their salvation will be saved.
Hebrews 12:2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
In this prophecy from Psalms 68:18b; You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive, every believer in Jesus has the same guarantee of resurrection that all those from the Old Testament had. These believers were assured resurrection by the promise of God—through a Messiah who would come at an appointed time, and make their entrance into heaven a reality. As those who believed in the promise of a coming Messiah, before His arrival, were taken with Him to heaven, at his ascension; so also will all of us who have believed in Him, after His resurrection. Whether we are alive at His return, or we have already died—we will all rise to meet the Lord in the air.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 … First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words. (NLT)
See the book: “Dead or Alive, The Return of Jesus,” by Robert Clifton Robinson, at Amazon, for the details of events that will take place in the last days before Jesus return; and immediately thereafter.
 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
 Romans 3:10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;
Romans 3:12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
 Matthew 5:48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
 Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
 Romans 10:13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”