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What happens when unbelievers die? Are they already in hell or waiting for the final judgment?

If we look at the framework of Scripture, we would say that they are in hell now; yet there is the final judgment to come.

They’re certainly not in a state of soul-sleep, not in a state of limbo, not in purgatory (which, of course, if they were going to hell they wouldn’t be in purgatory, even in a Roman Catholic system).

They are in hell reserved for judgment, as we see in the case of some of the fallen angels under judgment until the final judgment (Jude 6).


Lightly edited for readability, this is a transcript of William VanDoodewaard’s answer given at our 2016 National Conference. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit or message us on Facebook or Twitter.