Most religious people think that after death those that did enough good works will go up to Heaven for eternity and people who did too many bad works will go down to Hell for eternity. They might be surprised that the Bible does not agree with their premise. First, salvation depends upon faith in the Lord, not in our own good or bad performance. Second, the Bible teaches that Hell will be done away with. It is thrown in the Lake of Fire. Third, the Bible teaches that the Kingdom of Heaven will actually at least partly exist on the Earth.
Since Heaven surrounds the Earth, Heaven is always somewhere above the landmass of the Earth. The real meaning of Heaven in the Bible is determined by the narrative. For example, the Third Heaven that Paul speaks about being caught up to, is the Holy City where God has His Throne. The Second Heaven is Space where the stars are. The First Heaven is the Earth’s atmosphere. They are all different places but all are in Heaven.
Hell is really of the Earth. Hell came into existence because sin brought about death of the human body. The sin laden disembodied spirits of humans could not ascend to Heaven so they descended to become prisoners of the planet. That place is called Hell (Hades). Hell really is a place of incarceration for human souls.
Hell will only exist until the great judgment of those souls takes place. Revelation says, “death and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. Then death and Hell were cast into the Lake of Fire” (Rev 20: 13-14).
Since the souls within Hell are delivered up for judgment, and death and Hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire, it is not possible that anyone will ever again descend to Hell after the judgment. The temporal place of imprisoned souls will no longer exist under the Earth.
After the great judgment all people will either eternally exist somewhere in God’s restorated creation or in the special creation called the Lake of Fire. The Bible tells us that the Lake of Fire was created for the Devil and His angels; all that are not found in the Book of Life also go there (Rev 20: 15). The scriptures do not say that the Lake of Fire becomes Hell.
The Bible teaches that there will be no more physical death after the final judgment. There will be a second death, but that is not death of the physical body, it is death of the soul. Death in the Bible never means non-existence, it means separation. The first death brought separation of the soul from the mortal body but the second death brings eternal separation of both body and the soul from God and the redeemed people in His creation.
Nobody is going to Hell for eternity, but some will be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity. The Lake of Fire might be Hell in one sense of the word to the beings that exist there, but it is not literally the place that most religious people call Hell.
Some of the confusion comes from Jesus statements in the Gospels. The English translations have Jesus saying Hell in various passages. In most of these cases Jesus actually said “Gehenna” not Hades. Gehenna was the garbage pit of Jerusalem, it burned continually. In other words, Jesus was saying they were in danger of going to a foul place that most fittingly could be described to mankind as existing within a burning garbage dump.
When Jesus references “Gehenna fire” He is always actually referring to the same Lake of Fire that Revelation speaks of. It is never the temporary underworld of Hades. The Lake of Fire is a special creation made for beings that are in rebellion against God. There is no getting out for them.
The Lake of Fire is a very undesirable place. Beings will be sent there because they are not found in the Book of Life. What will not be redeemed by Jesus goes into God’s garbage dump because they are like eternal viruses. They would continue to infect God’s creation with evil eternally if they were allowed to exist in it.
Most believe Hell will continue to exist somewhere below the Earth and the eternal Kingdom of Heaven is somewhere up their in outer space or beyond. In reality the Lake of Fire is a separate special creation not of this creation at all. God created the Lake of Fire for the Devil and his angels after creation of Heaven and Earth. It was created for beings that rebelled. The Kingdom of Heaven on the other hand, comes to Earth. The Kingdom of Heaven is wherever God reigns, it is not physically reigning on the Earth yet, but the Kingdom of Heaven will come to the Earth one day. Jesus taught us to pray “Thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven”. The Kingdom of God is not yet on earth but that prayer will be answered.
Satan deceived Eve, and Adam sinned in rebellion against God. A Holy God could not reign over the sons of Adam on Earth that had a fleshly sin nature that is in rebellion against Him. God could not reign over sin and death, so that was a fitting job to give to the highest created being that sinned from the beginning (Satan – 1 John 3:8). In a sense, Satan became the God of sinners. The reign of Satan on Earth will only last until mankind’s sinless Kinsman Redeemer (Jesus) claims His inheritance. Satan actively has tried to prevent that since the fall of Adam.
God is now taking out a people who by faith (in what Jesus did to conquer sin and death) already allow God to reign in their lives. They will be the Bride of Christ and will reign with Him in the Kingdom of Christ.
The Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the Devil. After the Bride of Christ is complete, Satan will be cast out of Heaven unto the Earth and will no longer have access to the Second or Third Heaven. Satan will then go out to deceive the nations to war against the God of Heaven. Satan will lose the war and will be bound. Jesus then reigns on earth until the works of the Devil on earth are destroyed and paradise lost is restored.
After Jesus restores all things on Earth, Satan is loosed to deceive the nations once more to test human kind. He deceives them to rebel, proving that mankind’s flesh nature has a fatal flaw and cannot be allowed to inherit the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. Fire comes down from Heaven and destroys all on earth. At that time, Satan is judged and cast into the Lake of Fire. Then the final judgment of all living souls takes place and all not found in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire made for the Devil and His angels. The Earth is purified with fire and goes into its eternal state as do the redeemed in God’s Book of Life. God will choose to dwell with men and He will rule from the eternal city called New Jerusalem for eternity with His saints and angels.
I said all that, to say this. Saying that people are going to either Heaven or Hell for eternity does not really explain it very well. Those saved will live on the New Earth or else they will be in the Holy City on Earth (or perhaps in orbit above Earth). Those not redeemed will not be in Hell, they will be in the Lake of Fire created for the Devil and his angels.
Telling unrepentant sinners that they will be going to Hell does not get the real message across to them anymore. The message has been distorted by the media that mock everything that the Bible says. Thanks to the mockers, most now think that Hell is some place where they can just continue living their life their way instead of God’s way. You might convey to them, that those that do not come to Jesus for salvation will eternally exist in a place Jesus compared to a burning garbage dump. They will have no hope of ever getting out of this burning garbage pit, and they never will be visited by the redeemed that eternally dwell with God. Rejecting Jesus is rejecting God. Those that reject God are certainly living their best life now.
Editor note: This article was originally posted on my old blog. The title is changed and much of the text is rewritten.