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 that premise. First, salvation depends upon faith in the Lord, not in our own good or bad performance. And second, the Bible teaches that Hell will be done away with and the Kingdom of Heaven will actually come to the Earth.
The first words in the Bible say, “In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth”. Everything that is not earthly exists in Heaven. If you do a Bible word study on “Heaven” it is always talking about an area outside the existence of the water and land mass of our planet. Since Heaven surrounds the Earth, Heaven is always somewhere above the earth.
The real meaning of Heaven in the Bible is determined by the context. For example, the third Heaven that Paul speaks about being caught up to, is where God has His Throne, it is the same place as the Holy City. The second Heaven is where the stars are, and the first Heaven is the Earth’s atmosphere. They are all different places but all are called Heaven in the Bible.
The third Heaven Where Paul and John went, can also be called the Holy City or the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven would not make up everything that God called Heaven in Genesis 1:1. Anything beyond our physical sphere called Earth is called Heaven. In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth period. So, anything not earthly is in Heaven.
Hell is really of the Earth. Hell came into existence because sin brought about death of the human body. The disembodied spirits of sinners had to go somewhere awaiting judgment and that place is called Hell (Hades). Hell will only exist as long as man is mortal. After God sends fire down on the Earth at the final rebellion, Revelation says, “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” (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 their judgment. The temporal place of imprisoned souls under the Earth will no longer exist.
The Bible tells us that the Lake of Fire was created for the Devil and His angels, but 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. There will be a first and second resurrection, but after people are resurrected into their eternal bodies they cannot become disembodied again, so this prison of souls called Hell will never be populated again. People will eternally either exist in the Holy City, or God’s restored creation and New Earth, or they will exist in the Lake of Fire.
Revelation says that death is cast into the Lake of Fire. The Bible teaches that there will be no more physical death after that final judgment. There will be a second death, but that is not death of the physical body, it is death of the soul. Death never means non-existence. The first death brought separation of the soul from our mortal body but the second death brings eternal separation of both body and the soul from God and His perfect creation.
Mt 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell (Gehenna not Hades, I will explain Gehenna below).
Hell is cast into the Lake of Fire just like death is. This does not mean that resurrected bodies exist in Hell in the Lake of Fire. The statement really is saying that death and Hell will not exist in God’s restored creation anymore. So, 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 that certain people were in danger of Hell fire. Actually, Jesus said “Gehenna fire”, Gehenna was the garbage pit of Jerusalem, it burned continually. In other words, Jesus was saying they were in danger of going to a fowl place that most fittingly can be described as existing in 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 underworld of Hades. The Lake of Fire is never the temporary abode of the dead that is also translated as “Hell” in our English translations.
The lake of Fire seems to be a very undesirable place. Beings will be sent there because they choose rebellion against their Creator and are not found in the book of life. What cannot be redeemed by Jesus goes into God’s garbage dump because they would continue to defile His creation if they existed in it.
Some have mankind’s future eternity somewhat reversed. Humans tend to believe the eternal Kingdom of Heaven is somewhere in outer space and Hell will exist somewhere below the Earth. In reality, since the Lake of Fire is not on Earth, it actually must be somewhere under Heaven (or else it is totally outside of the created universe that God spoke into existence in Genesis 1:1.) On the other hand, the Kingdom of Heaven called the Holy City descends to be on Earth (Rev 21 2 & 10). ( Yes, there is the possibility that the Holy City will only descend far enough toward Earth to be in orbit above the New Earth.)
The Kingdom of Heaven is wherever God reigns, it is not physically on the Earth now, but it will come to the Earth one day.
Satan deceived Adam, 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 Joh 3:8). The reign of Satan on Earth will only last until man’s sinless Kinsman Redeemer (Jesus) claims His inheritance. Satan actively has tried to prevent that since the fall of Adam and Eve. Once the Kingdom of Heaven comes to earth, Jesus will reign on Earth as God. That is why Jesus taught us to pray “Thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven”.
God is now taking out a people who by faith (in what Jesus did to conquer sin and death) already allow God to reign over their lives. They will be the Bride 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 Satan on earth are destroyed with the last enemy being death. What Adam failed to achieve on Earth will be accomplished by the Second Adam and those that rule and reign with Him.
After Jesus restores all things on Earth, Satan is loosed to deceive the nations once more to rebel against His anointed. Fire comes down from Heaven and destroys all the deceived. At that time, Satan is judged and cast into the Lake of Fire. Then the final judgment takes place and all not found in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire that was made for the Devil and His angels. The Earth is then purified with fire and goes into its eternal state. It is populated with the redeemed. God will choose to dwell with men and He will rule from the eternal city called New Jerusalem with His saints and angels for eternity.
I said all that, to say this. Saying that people are going to either Heaven or Hell for eternity is not really how it will be. Those saved will live on the New Earth or they will be in the Holy City on Earth (or perhaps in stationery 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 they will eternally exist in a place that 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. Living life your way, instead of God’s way, is a fatal mistake for your body and your soul.
Don Koenig is the founder of ThePropheticYears website. He has been publishing articles on the Internet on Bible prophecy, biblical discernment and Christian worldviews since 1999. You can find well over a thousand articles and thousands of comments written by Don from the homepage of this website.