", between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot..." Luke 16:20

Heaven and Hell

The Ben Hinnom Valley, Jerusalem - looks nice now but in Bible times it was Gei Hinnom, a place of such awful things that Yeshua used it as a picture of Hell. (Gehenna when rendered into Greek)

The Ben Hinnom Valley, Jerusalem - looks nice now but in Bible times it was Gei Hinnom, a place of such awful things that Yeshua used it as a picture of Hell. (Gehenna when rendered into Greek)

There are many popular misconceptions about Heaven and Hell.    People are comforted to believe they will go to a better place of light and sweetness when they die, but all the people they believe to be bad will go to Hell, a place of fire and torment.

This is not what the scriptures teach!

Heaven - Heavens - Shamayim (Hebrew)

The realm where God dwells and operates, where Yeshua the Massiah is now seated in glory and where the angels minister.   The heavens is also used of the visible sky by day and by night  ( Genesis account ).

Paul spoke of his revelation experience; being caught up in the third heaven.  This comes from the Jewish view of the order of things.   (1) the Earth's atmosphere,  (2) Outer Space and the stars,  (3) the presence of God.

The references to Heaven in the New Testament are mostly to "the Kingdom of Heaven"

Matthew 5 v19 Entering the Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 16 v19 The keys to the Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 19 v16 Kingdom of God / Heaven - synonymous with eternal life, salvation

There are other references

Acts 1 v11 Jesus taken up into Heaven
Revelation 11 v12 the two witnesses taken up in a cloud
Revelation 21 v1 a new Heaven

Clearly, for the believer, the kingdom of heaven is entered by an act of will; of commitment and submission to the kingship of God (Father, Son and indwelling Holy Spirit)   This decision to surrender the rule of our lives to God, which is usually referred to as repentance and/or salvation is a voluntary entrance to the Kingdom (or kingship) of God.   We become citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven; but living outside Heaven.   We are like ambassadors for the Kingdom of Heaven in an alien land.   But the Kingdom Heaven is not a geographical location - it is the presence and ruling of God. "The Kingdom of Heaven" is a term for "the kingship of God" but one that avoids pronouncing the name of God, out of reverence for the Name.

The problem with Heaven is that those who refuse to accept the kingdom of heaven in this life have no grounds to expect to find themselves included in Heaven when they die.   God respects our free will and a decision not to accept His offer.   Also Heaven (the presence of our holy God) is perfect and we can only enter without spoiling it if we have put off our sinful nature and taken on the nature of Jesus. 

Heaven - not our final situation !

This may surprise you, but the Bible does not end with us Christians sitting on fluffy clouds in Heaven, playing harps. Read Revelation 21 and you will notice that John saw a new heaven and a new earth (v1) (new in the sense of being made new) with a new Jerusalem coming down from heaven (v2) Verse 3 says, "...God's sh'kinah is with mankind and he will live with them......"

In the Garden of Eden - the world that God created (before mankind fell and death entered in) God delighted to walk in the garden - to be with the man and woman He had created. When Creation perfection is restored at the end of the story we read of God coming down to earth (the new earth) to be with his children. Revelation 21

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

and continuing at v22 - - - I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

This is when we will need our resurrection bodies, to live on the new earth with our God and with Jesus. If we were to spend eternity sitting in the clouds playing harps, we would not need resurrection bodies, and Jesus would not need his resurrection body. But Jesus' resurrection body is the firstfruits - our reason to look forward to resurrection bodies. Job appreciated this long ago... Job 19 v25-27

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

All the doctrines of spending eternity in Heaven, sitting on clouds and playing harps, come from Greek theology, not the Bible.

The Greek expectation (and oriental religions) was of escape from the physical to the spiritual. (Body = bad - spirit = good)

The concept of a physical resurrection is exclusively Jewish and biblical. The Christian adoption of Greek thought is to blame for much confusion.

Dwight Prior gave a very helpful teaching on the resurrections at the 2007 Feast of Tabernacles, entitled, "When the Last Trump shall Sound" www.icej.org/resources

He also explained the Greek origins of many ideas about Heaven in his teaching on Hannukah and "Between the Resurrections", both available from CFI or www.jcstudies.com

 

Paradise

Paradise is a Persian word for pleasure gardens.  In terms of prophecy, it is the state of bliss or delight which will exist when God restores us to fellowship with Himself.   The Song of Songs is in these terms.

Pictures taken in Gan HaShalosha, northern Israel - a beautiful place; a paradise?.In Luke 23 v 43 Jesus promises the penitent thief who was dying alongside Him that "this afternoon you will be with me in Paradise."    

In David Stearn's Complete Jewish Bible  this reference is rendered as "in Gan Eden"  the Garden of Eden - restored as it was before mankind's fall.

Pictures taken in Gan HaShalosha, northern Israel - a beautiful place; a paradise?.

 

In Revelation chapter 2 Paradise is where the Tree of Life grows.   In 2 Corinthians v12, Paradise is synonymous with the Third Heaven; where God dwells.

In the Talmud  (Jewish commentaries on scripture), Paradise is the home of the righteous, a place of blessedness to which the righteous go to await future vindication.

Since Jesus promised to meet the penitent thief in Paradise before He was resurrected, it seems clear that Paradise is the place where our spirits will go to await our physical resurrection (new physical bodies) (See "Heaven" above)

It can be perplexing that Jesus gave us this insight into Paradise, while Paul spoke of those who had died as having fallen asleep. Are they conscious and with Jesus or asleep? The author's considered opinion is that those who have died in Christ are alive in Paradise (as Jesus said) but appear to be asleep from our perspective as those who remain behind.

It should be realised that the Koranic concept of Paradise is of a place of earthly pleasures that the faithful may have been denied during life. The presence of Allah is not promised.

This concept of waiting brings us to the Old Testament concept of  . . . 

She'ol

The Hebrew word, She'ol is not used in the NIV but translations such as "the grave" or "the pit" are used.   She'ol is the realm of the dead, the nether world where departed spirits live.   (Job 3 v16 ponders the possibility of having been stillborn and going straight to Sheol   (ponder the issue of abortion in this context) )  In Psalm 30  David cries "out of the depths"  (She'ol, Hades, grave, pit) with all the associations of silence, darkness, destruction, corruption and dust.    The writer of the Proverbs (ch2 v18)  speaks of the deceased being in She'ol, the chambers of death.    The Greek word Hades is equivalent, and is personified in Revelation 6 v8 as the pale horse; having the ashen appearance of the dead.   In Matthew 16 v18 Sheol / Hades, the Gates of Hades, the power of Death are all forces opposed to Jesus the Messiah.

She'ol appears in Old Testament writing, to be a neutral waiting place for the departed.  With the coming of Jesus, announcing the Kingdom of God, the destination of departing souls appears to be strongly polarized. 

In Luke Jesus speaks of the place to which the wicked go to await final judgment.   The torment is evident from the plight of the rich man who found himself separate from Lazarus the beggar who, in life, had sat at his gate.  It is possible that Jesus was looking at Sh'ol and Hell at the same time - knowing that Hell awaited the rich man after the resurrection of the dead (from Sh'ol) and Judgment. Luke 16 v19

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.   At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.   "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried.   In hell where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.   So he called to him, `Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'  "But Abraham replied, `Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.   And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

See Paradise (Luke 23 above) and Hell below.

Hell   

There appears to be an overlap in the terminology concerning Hell and Sh'ol, even though Hell is distinct from She'ol / Hades. Most references to Hell are in the New Testament.

Picture of Tofet in the Ben Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem, by Nehemia Gordon - Hell,  is associated with the Hinnom Valley outside Jerusalem. where children had been sacrificed in fire to the heathen god Molech.  

Picture of Tofet in the Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem, by Nehemia Gordon -

Judaism and Christianity both adopted the “valley of the son of Hinnom” (Gei ben Hinnom or Gei Hinnom in Hebrew - which became Gehenna in Greek) - as a metaphor for hell.

The reason is confirmed by extra-biblical sources from the first and 12th centuries documenting the human sacrifice rituals of the Canaanites.

The downloadable MP3 Bible study by Nehemia Gordon and Keith Johnson is really helpful for understanding what a vivid picture this place gives of Hell, and a discussion on sacrifice in general. www.nehemiaswall.com/prophet-pearls-25

References to Hell are in terms of Fire (Rev 20),  Agony (Rev 14 v11)  and Separation (Matthew 8 v12).

Notice the lake of Fire / sulphur, that appears in Revelation 20 v10 and 14 is not Satan's emporium - it is God's punishment waiting for Satan, and for Death and Hades!    This is the final, eternal Hell.    References to Hell are in terms of Fire (Rev 20),  Agony (Rev 14 v11)  and Separation (Matthew 8 v12).

Separation appears to be a key concept in thinking about Hell.    Hell is the place which man goes by default if he refuses the offer of Heaven.   Hell offers eternity to regret that decision to refuse the kingdom of God.

Remember, Hell is not just something for Christians to threaten non Christians with.   Most Bible warnings about Hell are addressed to Christians.  (the exceptions being addressed to Pharisees)   Christians need to keep trusting in order to keep clear of Hell.   "Once saved - always saved" is not found in the Bible.

"Hell" is occasionally used of the presence or powers of evil in a comparable manner to the use of "Heaven" or the "Kingdom of Heaven" referring to the presence, rule, authority of God. James 3 v6 speaks of "the tongue set on fire by Hell",  and Jesus said to Peter ".....and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades RSV and Greek (or Sh'ol CJB or Hell NIV) will not overcome it." (Matthew 16 v18)

You might find this perspective on Hell worth watching

 

Updated 30/03/15

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