Our eternal destiny
It is a common belief among Christians that when a person dies he immediately goes either to Heaven or to Hell and remains there for all eternity. A careful study of the Bible shows that this is not correct, although it is very close to the truth.
When someone who has been forgiven thru faith in Christ dies he immediately goes to be with Christ, and Christ is now in Heaven.
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
One day Christ will return to reign over the earth, and when this happens all the believers will reign with him. In Revelation 20:1-4 we learn that God will create a new earth for people to live in.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
God created humans to live on this earth. Because of sin we leave earth thru dying and if we are Christians we then go to Heaven. But this is only a temporary dwelling place until God restores the earth to what he intended it to be. The new earth will be inhabited by new humans, who have been born again by faith in Jesus Christ.
All those whose sins have not been forgiven will be condemned to spend eternity in Hell, but if you read Revelation 20:11-15 you will find that they will not go there until after the final rebellion at the end of the millennium.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.
This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
So where are they until then? In Luke 16 Jesus tells of a rich man who died and went to a place called Hades.
The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
This is a temporary place for the unsaved to stay until their final judgment. When Jesus spoke of Hell in other places he used the word Gehenna, not Hades. Unfortunately some Bible translators have used the word “Hell” for both of these places and this has caused some confusion about this subject.
In one sense, the popular belief is correct. Those who are saved go immediately to a state of eternal happiness and the unsaved go to a place of eternal torment. But when studying the Bible it is important to study all the details.