One of the toughest topics in Christianity to discuss is hell. This is why so many pulpits today avoid preaching on the subject. Society has changed and people don’t want to hear bad news at church; they only want to hear about a loving God. Speaking on hell and brimstone seems to be relegated to a small minority of preachers. The trend towards building big churches many times means avoiding tough issues; we don’t want to offend anyone.
In systematic theology, hell falls under end times theology or more specifically Eschatology. As I approach this topic at times I think to myself who in the hell wants to talk about hell. And yet when we look at the Bible Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else; He thought it was important to warn people. Over the next few weeks I am going to give you a reader’s digest version of hell. In order to cover the topic I will also spend some time talking about heaven.
I was in a spiritual discussion with a Muslim many years ago. After explaining Christianity he said to me, “How can anyone believe in a God who would let a murderer who believes in Jesus go to heaven and me a good Muslim be cast into hell?” For a few moments I was perplexed, wondering to myself how am I going to answer this question. I did give him an answer which I will provide later. What would you say?
In this series I will give basic definitions, discuss who goes to heaven, look at what the Bible teaches about hell, discuss an article by Redeemed Church Pastor Tim Keller called “What’s so important about hell?” and then answer a few tough questions. My objective is to help you grow in your understanding of heaven and hell and give you content to share with others when this topic comes up.
This subject is very personal to me. I have multiple family members and friends who do not follow Jesus Christ and according to the Bible are headed for hell when they die. I don’t even want to picture what this looks like in my mind. I have been accused of being an uncaring person because I believe in hell. I write about hell because the Bible teaches it, not because I like it.
Heaven is the abode of God. It is also called the third heaven or paradise. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— 4 was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.”
Theologians consider the first heaven the earth’s atmosphere (Deut. 11:11; 1 Kings 8:35; Isa. 55:10). We read in the Scriptures how the heavens poured out rain, as the speaker is referring to the sky. The second heaven would be considered outer space (Gen. 15:5; Ps. 8:3; Isa. 13:10). The writer asks the person to look to the heavens and count the number of stars. The third heaven is God’s dwelling place; the final destiny of the righteous.
Interesting is Mormonism also teaches there are three heavens. However, these heavens have no Biblical basis. Nowhere in the Scriptures do we see the Mormon teaching of the Telestrial, Terrestrial, or Celestial heavens. Joseph Smith simply borrowed two of the names from 1 Corinthians 15 (Terrestrial “earthly” and Celestial “heavenly”) and made up the other one. The Apostle Paul was writing about the bodily resurrection and not heavens. Christianity has always taught there is one heavenly abode of God.
Hell is the place of everlasting punishment. It is reserved for those (angels and humans) who have broken God’s moral laws and have rejected Jesus Christ, the only solution to the problem.
 Norm Geisler, Systematic Theology Volume 4, Bethany House Publishing 2005, p. 294