By Nathan Jones
Do those who die in continued rebellion against God go right to Hell?
A lot of confusion exists concerning Hell. Some just dismiss Hell as a real place entirely. Some think it's a party stop where we're reunited with old friends to dance eternity away in the tropical heat. Still others believe Hell is a place of pitchfork wielding demons who rule the vast underworld under their crushing hooves, tormenting people with manic glee.
Dr. David Reagan in his newest book, Eternity: Heaven or Hell?, shows that Christians as well are very confused about Hell. He says what the Bible teaches about Hell would shock us, for despite what we've been taught, there is nobody living there right now. I recently interviewed Dr. Reagan to find out why he's come to that conclusion. Here now is the third question in this interview series concerning what to expect in the afterlife.
Dr. Reagan: Most people believe that in the moment you die, you either go to Heaven or Hell. Most people would be surprised to find out that there is nobody in Hell right now. People are going to be consigned to Hell in the future.
Let me put it to you this way, before the cross things worked differently than the way they do today. We know this very definitely from the Bible, particularly the story that Jesus told about Lazarus and the Rich Man over in Luke 16. Before the cross, when a person died regardless if they were saved or lost, their spirits went to the same place. Their spirits went to a place called Hades.
Now, Hades is not the same place as Hell. Hades is a temporary holding place for the spirits of the dead. Both believers and unbelievers alike went there. There were two compartments in Hades, one was called "Paradise" or "Abraham's Bosom," the other was called "Torments." There was a gulf between them that could not be crossed.
When Lazarus and the Rich Man died, Lazarus went to Paradise and the Rich Man went to Torments. They could see each other. They could talk to each other. But, they could not cross the chasm. So, that's where all the spirits of the dead went. That's the way it was until the time of the cross.
People immediately ask, "Well, why is it that people who died before the cross didn't go directly to Heaven?" The reason is that their sins were covered by their faith, but their sins were not forgiven by their faith, because there is no forgiveness of sins apart from the shedding of blood. The Bible teaches that over and over. The blood of bulls and goats is not sufficient. There had to be a perfect man who did not deserve to die, yet who would die for your sins and my sins. So, they had to wait there until their sins were not only covered, but their sins were forgiven.
When Jesus died on the cross, we are told that He descended into Hades. Some of the ancient confessions of the church say, "He descended into Hell," but no, it was Hades. He descended into Hades and the Bible says, "He made a proclamation." We are told that over in 1 Peter 3, but it doesn't tell us what the proclamation was, but I can pretty well guess: "The blood has been shed!" I would imagine there was tremendous "Hallelujah" on the part of those that were in that compartment called Paradise.
And then, we're told in Ephesians 4 that when Jesus ascended into Heaven, He took with Him those who had been in bondage. He took, it said "with Him captives." Well, the very idea of that is He emptied Paradise and took Paradise to Heaven with Him. We're told over in 2 Corinthians 12 that is what happened, because Paul says there that He was taken up to the third heaven. The first heaven is the atmosphere of this planet, the second heaven being space, and the third heaven being where God resides. He says he was taken up to the Third Heaven, which is Paradise. So, Paradise was moved at the Ascension from Hades to Heaven.
And so, today, when a believer dies his spirit goes immediately to Heaven to be with the Lord, and the spirit of the unbeliever still goes to that place called Torments which is in Hades.
Nathan Jones: That's huge theologically, because a lot of people think, "Heaven or Hell" only.
Dr. Reagan: Everyone needs to rethink about what we've been taught concerning this, and probably read over this more than once, or get the book and read it in detail.
Read on for an answer to Question #4 on a myth concerning the believer's destination!
Eternity: Heaven or Hell? Book