SHEOL/HADES: In the Old Testament, it was understood that when anyone died they went to Sheol. It was not a pleasant place since it was also the home of evil spirits, but it wasn’t Hell. Many think the idea of Sheol went away in the New Testament, but it didn’t. Rather, as the Hebrews found themselves in Greek culture, they began to refer to “Sheol” as “Hades”—the closest Greek equivalent of Sheol. We are usually told that Hades is another word for Hell, but it is not. Hell is something different.
SPIRITUAL HEAVEN: Along with Jesus came the understanding that when Christians die they go to Heaven, not Sheol/Hades. Martyred Christians are viewed as inside an altar in Heaven throughout Revelation (Rev 6:9). Jesus tells the thief on the cross that when he dies, He’ll be with Him in paradise (Luke 23:43). Jesus points out to the Sadducees that Abraham, Isaac and Moses are still considered “alive” and not dead (Mark 12:27)—also evidenced when Moses and Elijah appear in glory and visit Jesus on a mountain (Luke 9:31).
NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH: At the end of the Bible, Christians are seen coming back to the earth as God makes it new and gives His people new resurrected immortal bodies to live in (1 Corinthians 15). The end game is not going to Heaven when we die—the end game is eventually leaving Heaven and coming back to earth as God hits the reset button and makes the earth even better than it was. Both Eden and God’s Kingdom permeate all of creation and we get to see how things would have been had we never sinned—and more.
HELL: Before the new heaven and the new earth is established, all of Hades is emptied out before God (Rev 20:13). Those who have chosen to follow Jesus and live out his love are given new perfect resurrected bodies that can live on in eternal life, while those who have chosen not to follow Jesus (and have therefore aligned themselves with Satan who holds the power of death (Hebrews 2:14)) do not receive those bodies and are sentenced to a fire of eternal death that was prepared specifically for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41). This fire will rid even the false gods of their immortality and they will die like men (Psalm 82:6-7). Humans, too, will “perish” there as John 3:16 has so popularly stated. Jesus spent so much time talking about Hell because he wanted all humans to avoid it. In His incredible love, God wishes that no one “should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Hell is not here yet, but is beyond us at the end of all things. And in my understanding of the Bible, the eternality of suffering that comes with Hell is to eventually cease to exist eternally.There’s a lot here to digest.
In case it sounds like I’m shooting off the cuff here, here’s a few sources to look over:
“Theology in the Raw Podcast” by Preston Sprinkle. Episodes 772, 773, 778.
“Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism” by Christopher M. Date, et al.
“The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment” by Edward Fudge.”
The Geography of Hell in the Teaching of Jesus” by Kim Papaioannou.