Heaven or Hell?

I happened to turn to a talk radio program and the guest had just written a book. Apparently he had been diagnosed as being dead for more than an hour. He stated that he could personally confirm that there was no Hell. He said, in fact, that the Old or New Testament could not prove there was a Hell. I knew that was not true. He could believe whatever he wanted but the Bible could not be more clear in explaining what occurs once we die.

A recent survey stated that 10% of Americans did not believe there was life after death and 9% were not sure. It shouldn’t surprise us to know that there are thousands of false teachers who are continually trying to persuade those who have never studied the Bible that they are teaching the truth. But are they? The Bible states that when a person dies they will either go to Heaven or Hell. However, that has not always been the case.

We are told in I John 3:10 – “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” We know that to go to heaven we must be a child of God. We are told the children of the devil will go to Hell. One of my favorite verses! I John 3:24 – “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

In the Hebrew text Hell was called Sheol. When Sheol is translated into English it describes Hell or Hades. Sheol, a place where the dead exist – Proverbs 9:19 KJV, Sheol, a place for the wicked and those who forgot God – Psalms 9:18 KJV, A godly Jacob expected to go to Sheol – Gen. 44:29 – Amplified O.T., All men will go to Sheol, the realm of the dead – Psalm 89:48 Amplified O.T.

Prior to the resurrection of Christ, when a person died under the Old Covenant, both believers and non-believers went to Sheol (Hell or Hades). It was a temporary dwelling place for the soul. Luke describes a story that Jesus told in Luke 16:19 -26. The story concerned a rich man and Lazarus a beggar. They both died and went to Sheol. However, one went to Abraham’s bosom or Paradise and the other went to a “place of torment”. The rich man who was in agony saw Lazarus standing beside Abraham. He called out to Abraham and asked that he have pity on him and have Lazarus dip the tip of his finger in water and cool the rich man’s tongue. Abraham stated there was a great chasm between them and that he could not get to the place of torment from Paradise. Meaning once you are in the place of torment you could not cross over. Many believe the chasm between them was the Abyss or the Bottomless Pit where the most evil spirits are housed until the Antichrist will come.

When Christ was crucified He went from the cross to Sheol or Hell. Matthew 12:40 – “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Those who died under the Old Covenant could not enter Heaven because the sacrificed blood of animals could not forgive their sins. Sinners, not having been forgiven, could not enter the presence of God. Christ, taking the thief on the cross beside Him went to Paradise where God’s people were being held. All those who had been waiting temporarily in Paradise were forgiven of their sins by Christ and then ascended to Heaven. Acts 2:34 – “For David did not ascend to heaven” John 3:13 – “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.” Ephesians4:8 & 9 – “This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?” Paradise is no longer in Hell and the Old Testament saints were sent to Heaven by Christ. We believe Scripture says that Jesus descended into Hell to release those saints who were waiting to enter God’s presence. He then gave the gift of salvation to those still alive by grace through faith. After Pentecost those having received the Holy Spirit, at death, go to join those Old Testament saints in Heaven where Christ remains until His second coming.