There are a surprising number of misconceptions the general population of the US has about Heaven and Hell that are simply not found anywhere in scripture. Many of these are due to medieval ideas that are far removed from early Christianity's Jewish roots. Writings such as Dante's Inferno have not helped this. Unfortunately, a number of Christians get these things wrong too. Here are 6 common misconceptions about Heaven and Hell.
Interested in watching the video? Click here
1. People turn into angels when they die
I can't tell you how many funerals I have heard this at, "such and such person got their wings". It is a nice thought but there is no scriptural evidence for it. Angels are the messengers of God, some seem to have authority type positions over the world and things that happen but they are simply delegates of God (Daniel 10:13). The bible seems to point to them being created before humans, but distinct from humans. Interestingly, humans have the Image of God but angels do not! Humans and angels are two very distinct sets of creations. The bible doesn't have much to say about where souls of Christians (or non-Christians for that matter) are between death and Resurrection. There are a few scriptures that point to Christians being with Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:6, Philippians 1:23, Luke 23:43) and the old and new testaments point to being a place called Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek) as a place of the dead (Luke 16:22-23) but thats about it.
2. Hell will be a party
Many non-Christians seem to have this idea that if Hell is real then it will be a party with all of their friends since none of them know Jesus. They may be with their friends but unfortunately for them Satan is not in charge of Hell. Jesus seems to describe hell a few times as "the outer darkness" or a" fiery furnace" where there is "weeping" and "gnashing of teeth"(Matthew 22:13, Luke 13:23-30). Revelation 20:7-15 describes Hell as a "lake of fire" where they will be "tormented day and night". There won't be any party.Hell also wasn't initially created for evil people but for Satan and his demons, the unrighteous do however end up there will them (Matthew 25:31).
3. If you're a good person you can get to heaven
Here is my question for you, how good is good enough? What is your standard for goodness? Jesus said "For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20 CSB) the scribes and Pharisees made it their job to follow every law in the Old Testament and make sure that everyone else was also following these laws. Not even the scribes and Pharisees will be getting into Heaven (unless they began following Jesus). Fortunately for Christians, if you have faith in Jesus then He has become our righteousness (Philippians 3:9). Jesus is the only path to know and be known by God, to enter into eternal life.
4. All paths lead to heaven
On what basis? I ask this question to everyone that tells me this. Where are you getting this from? Your feelings? The bible is clear the Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). In fact through Jesus God has come to us, but only through Jesus. Most people that espouse this belief only know surface level theology about other world religions, they claim that all religions are essentially the same. In reality the deeper you dig into each world religion, the farther apart they are. Let's take Islam and Christianity for example, on the surface sure there are similarities. Both believe in one all powerful God, both talk about Abraham, both come from the middle east... Thats about where the similarities end. The God of the bible is a relational God, the God of Islam is anything but, in fact to claim relationship with Allah is blasphemous. Jesus commands us to love each other, including our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), Muhammad commands in Sura 9 to "Fight those of the People of the Book who do not [truly] believe in God and the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, who do not obey the rule of justice, until they pay the tax promptly and agree to submit" (9:29) These are obviously quite different religions.
5. Heaven will be an eternal bethel, passion or even hymn sing worship session
There was a period early in my committed faith that I had this idea that when I get to heaven all we will do is sing worship songs to Him for all eternity. That idea was not very appealing, praise God it is not true (see what I did there?;). While we absolutely will worship God in Heaven and in the Resurrection, it will not be an eternal worship session. While we can only speculate as to what life will be like in the Resurrection, various scriptures seem to point to a renewal of the vocation in the garden of Eden. Jesus tells the dying thief on the cross that "Today you will be with my in Paradise" That greek word paradise is παράδεισος (paradeisos) means garden or park. For more reading on this click here
6. Heaven is the end goal of every Christian
How many times have you heard a pastor ask "Where will you go when you die?" or "If you die tonight, where will you wake up?" This emphasis on heaven, in my opinion is at times misplaced. While Heaven is a reality and a glorious one at that, there are two problems with this being the main way of evangelism. 1. It makes Christ out to be a ticket to heaven rather than the Lord of your life. 2. You just don't see it in the bible. As N.T. Wright says (paraphrase) Heaven is not the end goal but simply the holding pattern before the second coming of Christ and the Resurrection of the dead. The Resurrection and the new heavens, new earth is our true hope. That God will right every wrong and make all things new!
For further reading on the topics of Heaven and Hell first read Revelation 20+21, then look for:
How God Became King by N.T. Wright: https://amzn.to/2LyN5VY
Futureville by Skye Jethani: https://amzn.to/2Y94gPG
Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle: https://amzn.to/2Y8QVqC
These are Amazon Affiliate links, should you buy a book I will receive a small commission.
Cover photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Subscribe to Theology Café
Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox