Does God Promise Heaven Or Hell Or What?
By Mike Edwards
We can only speculate what happens after death, but it makes sense to explore if God gave the biblical writers special insights about the afterlife. That means talking about heaven and hell. One must admit Hell makes no moral sense — a loving God a sadistic torturer? Imperfect humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their enemies. A loving God couldn’t possibly torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose. I am convinced the Bible agrees.
The Old Testament says nothing about the traditional understanding of Hell
Adam and Eve weren’t warned of Hell if eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Noah warned of a global destructive flood, but he was silent on Hell as a consequence for behaviors here on earth. So were the OT prophets. The Hebrew word Sheol in the Old Testament, translated into the English word Hell, described a place of darkness occupied by the dead regardless of beliefs — not a torture chamber for unbelievers (Job 10:18–22). Some Bibles translate Sheol as Sheol.
What does the New Testament say about Hell?
The Greek word Gehenna is translated into the English world Hell. In ancient times children were sacrificed in fire at Gehenna, a valley outside Jerusalem. Many scholars consider Gehenna a metaphor used by Jesus to describe how an evil life leads to destruction, not a fiery place where sinners go for never-ending punishment. Also, it is odd that the main writer of the NT, the Apostle Paul, never mentioned Hell. Finally, the Lake of Fire in the Book of Revelation is likely figurative, unless dragons with seven heads and ten horns really exist (Rev. 12:3).
What did Jesus say about heaven or eternal life?
The word “heaven” appears the most in the Gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t a place to go after life on earth. Jesus sought to bring heavenly love to earth — “on earth as in heaven.” Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life. He simply said to love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25–37) — loving God is loving your neighbor. Jesus didn’t speak on quantity of life after death but about the quality of life living here on earth — kingdom living.
How might God handle justice after death?
Punishment doesn’t bring back a victim’s robbed memories of the future due to the murder of a loved one. Real justice is understanding your victim’s pain and accepting the harmfulness of your actions. After death God may bring to memory every unrepented action of betrayal and how it felt to their victims. The cleansing and educative effect may take longer for some than others. We can have less concerns about justice in the future by accepting God’s influence in our life here on earth.
What would a good God promise?
The Bible suggests God seeks to influence us to do all the good we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as we can. Make sense if a good God exists. Isn’t such a legacy your deep-down desire? Belief in an invisible God takes faith. The advantage of a relationship with a loving God is that there is a voice outside imperfect beings — a God who inspires, forgives, encourages. I have faith that a God who can create can provide life after death.
Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org