The last judgment will be administered by a perfectly just and righteous Judge, so there will be nothing arbitrary or unjust about it. For those who belong to Christ, there will be reward, but for those who do not, there will be punishment.
Many people hope for a second chance after death, yet nothing in Scripture gives the slightest hope of that. The Bible says that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO NEVER HEARD ABOUT JESUS?
In the last judgment, people who have never heard of Jesus will not be punished for rejecting Jesus. God judges according to the light that each one has (Romans 1:18-32), and it would be unjust for Him to hold people responsible for rejecting Jesus if they have never heard of Him.
Jesus came to people who were already under God’s indictment – not for rejecting Jesus, whom they did not know, but for rejecting the Father, whom they did know by the revelation He had given in nature. Even if we did not have the Bible, the heavens declare God’s glory (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20). Indeed, our very consciences bear witness that we know who God is and that we have violated His law (Romans 2:15).
The NT speaks of hell as darkness, as a lake of fire, and as a prison (Revelation 20:9-15). Some think this description of hell is symbolic. If it is symbolic, the reality must be worse than the symbol. A symbol is always exceeded in intensity by the reality to which it points. Whatever hell is, those who are in hell would give everything they had and do everything they could not to be there. Hell is separation from the grace, care, and love of God, but not from God Himself. God is in hell, actively punishing the wicked.
The NT also teaches that there are degrees of punishment in hell, just as degrees of reward are distributed to people in heaven. Jesus made a frequent distinction between those whose reward will be great (Matthew 5:12) and those whose reward will be small (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).
In recent years, there has been a revival within evangelical circles of the heretical doctrine called annihilationism, which holds that the wicked are merely annihilated. Their punishment is that they cease to exist. But the Bible is very clear that the punishment of hell is conscious and unending – a place where “the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44), a place of “wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42). The wicked “will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life” (Matthew 25:46).