FRIENDS>> You've made a big deal about the fact that Hell and the Lake of Fire are not the same place. You have also raised a lot of other questions that I never thought about before. Why?
ME>> That is an excellent question. We Christians make many mistakes. One mistake we make is failing to ask questions and working hard to seek answers. Perhaps we are afraid of the unknown and so hold even more tightly to our traditions. A second mistake is that we fail to introduce the questions to others and point them to the answers. Perhaps we are afraid of rejection. The worst case of this scenario is that the blind are leading the blind. We sell people answers, and they buy it, with neither party knowing what the truth is. We warn people about the judgment to come, but we have no practical knowledge of the invisible world around us and the future appointments and destinies explained in Scripture. So let's briefly consider the who, what, where, why, and how of salvation.
Who needs to be saved and from whom?
Transgressors need mercy from the Judge or they will continue to suffer the consequences of transgression and finally die eternally. We sinners, that is all mankind, need mercy from Jesus or we will be ruined by our sinful choices and eventually damned, Romans 6 and Revelation 22.
How can we be saved and how did Jesus do it?
How can we be saved from sin's consequences and from eternal death? Salvation for a transgressor requires repentance. A transgressor can only be saved from sin by ceasing to sin. If our head hurts from hitting it against a wall, if we stop hitting the wall, then we will get immediate relief. The problem is we transgressors transgress because we love transgression. We must repent, but our hearts are so hard that we will only repent when God places his seed of change in our life, I John 3. More importantly pain isn't the only consequence of sin, but also eternal death, that is damnation. There is no erasing our transgression. We are guilty and damnation is required without exception. The good news is that Jesus Christ became a man and took our penalty for us, dying on the cross. Now there is a new exception. There is absolutely nothing the elect of God can do through our own effort or failure to activate or deactivate this wonderful gift from God. Instead the work of Christ stands completely finished for all God's people and is already freely given to us. But only through the new birth will individuals receive this good news and find true joy.
Where are the possible habitats and destinies of living beings?
God is. He is spirit and does not live in space time, Exodus 3 and I Timothy 6. Created beings came into existence in the beginning of creation and we live in space time creation. Humans and animals live on the earth, Genesis 1. Angels and demons (fallen angels) are everywhere, though invisibly, 2 Kings 6. Jesus, God the Son, took on flesh in 4 A.D., lived and died on the Earth, was raised to life, and now is at God the Father's right hand in Heaven, Hebrews 1. Some of the fallen angels may have actually lived and sinned on the Earth, Genesis 6 and Jude 6, but now are imprisoned in Tartarus (Thalassa), 2 Peter 4 and Revelation 20:13. Other fallen angels are also restricted from God's presence in Heaven at some point in history, Revelation 12. Paradise or Hades is the place people go after they die, Hades being a temporary place of punishment for unbelievers. The rich man and other unbelievers like him are punished in Hades immediately after they die, Luke 16. Abraham and other believers like him are rewarded in Paradise (Abraham's Bosom) immediately after they die, Luke 16. There is a Gulf in Hades between Hades and Paradise. The Beast and The False Prophet are the first to be thrown into the Lake of Fire in Revelation 19. Satan is temporarily chained in The Abyss, Revelation 20. Satan is then released from The Abyss for God's final demonstration of God's grace and then Satan is finally thrown into the Lake of Fire for The Ages of The Ages, Revelation 20. The abode of the dead has the compartments of Paradise and Hades which is eventually emptied of all humans and angels and thrown into the Lake of Fire, empty! Hades is only a temporary holding area. Tartarus, the temporary holding place for some fallen angels, is also emptied and will be no more, Revelation 21:1. The New Heavens and New Earth is then revealed as the final dwelling place for redeemed humanity and the righteous angels to fellowship eternally with God, Revelation 21. The Lake of Fire is the destiny of Satan and his fallen angels for The Ages of The Ages, Matthew 25:41. So the places living beings have been or will be found include:
- Outside space time - God
- Inside space time - Creation
- Earth - here
- Heaven - up there
- Third heaven mentioned in 2 Corinthians 2:12
- The Abode of the Dead - temporary holding place for deceased humanity
- Hades / Hell - punishment for unbelieving humans
- Paradise / Abraham's Bosom - reward for believing humans
- Tartarus / Thalassa - temporary prison or retreat for some fallen angels
- The Abyss - special temporary punishment for Satan
- The Lake of Fire - destiny of the non-elect, the fallen angels
- The New Heavens and Earth - eternal destiny of the elect, mankind
Why did sin enter the world and why did Jesus give us grace?
The key verse of my thesis answers that question easily. Romans 11:32 (WEB), "For God has bound all to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all." Ephesians 2:7 (WEB), an often overlooked verse, also explains the reasons for God's decision to extend grace, "that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Simply put, God decreed the existence of sin in order to show off his grace. Boy did He hit a homer!
What is next?
You or I may be overwhelmed with the truth about God's grace. Our questions resulted in answers that resulted in even greater questions! Our minds could easily be blown away by God's amazing grace. The original disciples, no doubt, felt the same way as Jesus gave them the Great Commission and left them as he ascended into Heaven right before their eyes. So Jesus sent angels to provide simple instruction while they stood there with their mouths hanging open.
'You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky, will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky.'
Acts 1:11b (WEB)
Translation, get to work making disciples and keep an eye peeled toward the sky.