I was Wrong about the Afterlife, Heaven, and Hell

Sarah's Thoughts

Until recently, I lazily accepted what I’d just ‘heard through the grapevine’ about death. I believed that good people go straight to heaven, and bad people go straight to hell. When my father died, I was consoled with “he’s in a better place“, and when my grandmother died, I heard “well, at least we’re in a better place“- at the time, I thought one had gone to heaven, and another to hell. I was wrong. They’re both still in the ground, waiting for judgement day.

I had heard criticisms before, that the church I had attended for so many years, had left out inconvenient truths. I didn’t believe those people though, I just assumed they were negative or nitpicky. It wasn’t until recently that I started doing my digging into scriptures that I realized just how much I didn’t know. And how much my church had avoided sharing. I’d heard all the “love your neighbors“, “we must ask forgiveness of our sins“, and the “Jesus can be disguised as the needy“. But death? Heaven and Hell? They really weren’t spoke of unless there were funerals, and then it was a simple “a time to live, a time to die… they’re in a better place now“.

I also noticed that very few people seemed to similarly interpret what the Bible says happens in after death. Now, I don’t have all the answers, but this is what I’ve been gathering, and what I hope can help you kick start your own reading and interpretations.


Nothing Happens to the Dead until Judgement Day

  • When we die, we are dead until Judgement Day, knowing nothing of what’s going on with the living. The dead are not watching over us, and they are not feeling anything- they’re simply dead. Ecclesiastes 9:5 says “The dead know nothing” and Ecclesiastes 9:10 says “because there is no work, device, or knowledge, or wisdom in the grave“.
  • We also know that no one has yet gone to Heaven, as John 3:13 plainly says “No one has ascended to heaven, but He who came down from Heaven that is the Son of Man.”
  • Even those people who knew, loved, and served Jesus when He was on Earth, are in their graves. In Acts 2:29, The Apostle Peter preached “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” and as Acts 2:34 says “For David did not ascend into the Heavens“.

On Judgement Day, we all will rise from the Dead

  • All of us will rise, regardless of if we were believers, sinners, or even if we didn’t know about God. John 5:28-29 claims “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
  • Our bodies will be put back together, and we will go to meet our Maker. Luke 14:14 says “Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Mark 9:43 also says “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell ...”. This also very strongly suggests that our bodies will remain intact with our souls if we are sent to Hell.
  • Daniel 12:2 very plainly says “They who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” 

Everyone will be Judged

  • Jesus said “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” as found in Revelation 22:12.
  • Matthew 16:27 tells us that Jesus will be present on Judgement Day For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”. John 5:22 also tells us that God himself does not do the judging, it is Jesus who does that. “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son”. 

The Great White Throne Judgement

  • This Judgement is for everyone, and it is solely based on if you believed in Jesus, and whether or not you trusted in Him for your salvation. Revelation 20:11-12 says “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from His presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” Luke 10:20 further explains this as “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
  • Believers are saved. To be a believer, you need to say “Jesus is Lord”, and truly believe that God brought Jesus back to life, and that He can do the same for you. This is shown in Romans 10:9-10 as it says: ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.'”
  • Its simple, if you are not in the Book of Life, you will not be granted everlasting life, Revelation 20:15 says “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” and John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”.
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The Judgement Seat of Christ

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the Word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord Himself, with a shout, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

  • All believers will all be judged, and all will be rewarded at this Judgement. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Matthew 16:27 says “For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done.
  • Personally, I think this Judgement is an evaluation meeting with Jesus himself. Will this be public, or private? I don’t know. But, we will be shown our pasts, and we will be praised for our good works at the end of this meeting. This is what 1 Corinthians 4:5 says about this: “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”.
  • I don’t believe that we will be shamed or condemned in this meeting either, because Romans 8:1 says “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.“. And 1 John 2:28 is reassuring in this Judgement because it reads “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”
  • If that’s not reassuring enough for you, Psalm 103:10-12 tells us that “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
  • God has given each of us a foundation, that foundation being Him. We can build anything on that foundation- we can work and build for God (making a building out of Gold, Silver, Precious Stones) or we can build for ourselves (wood, hay, straw). During the Judgement Seat of Christ, our works will be tested with fire. If your work is made of Gold, Silver, or precious metal, it will stand, and it you’ll be rewarded with a “Well done, good and faithful servant” as told in Matthew 25:23. If your works do not stand the test, you’ll see your wasted opportunities on earth, a loss- but you’ll be saved and praised regardless. 1 Corinthians 3:10, 12, and 13 says “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it . . . Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and fire will try each one’s work, of what sort it is.”. 1 Corinthians 3:15 builds on that by saying “If anyone’s work is burned, they will suffer loss; but they themselves will be saved, yet so as through fire”. 
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Only the Saved are granted a Second and Eternal Life

  • When we die, we stay in our graves, dead, and not knowing about life going on above or around us. Again, remember that Ecclesiastes 9:5 says “The dead know nothing” and Ecclesiastes 9:10 says “because there is no work, device, or knowledge, or wisdom in the grave”.  This is our first death.
  • We stay dead until the Lord comes back, and orders us to rise, and we are judged. This is our second life. John 5:28- 29 tells us that “the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 says “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words”. 
  • Non-believers, and those who don’t accept Jesus as their lord and savior, go to Hell, where they die a second death, to never be resuscitated, reanimated, or live a third life.  Believers who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior are granted eternal life, and are changed forever (more on this later). Matthew 25:46 says “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (more on this later as well).

Those who go to Hell, don’t burn Forever

If you go to Hell, you will eternally be punished with this placement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will suffer for eternity. It simply means that your placement doesn’t ever change, and it’s irreversible. Once you go to Hell, you (your body and soul) burn up into nothing, and you cease to exist. Your lack of existence (lack of eternal life) is your eternal punishment. I believe this because of the following scriptures: Malachi 4:1 and 3 “For behold the day is coming burning like and oven, and all the proud, yes allude wickedly shall be as stubble. And the day that is coming shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts,that shall leave them neither root nor branch. . . You shall trample the wicked for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.”.  Psalms 37:10 and 11 tells us “For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look diligently for his place, but it shall be no more.” and lastly, Nahum 1:9 says “he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time”.

Misconceptions that lead to the belief that Hell will burn Eternally

  • Matthew 25:41 reads as: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.‘”. I believe that this particular verse has been interpreted wrongly, because of the way the word “eternal” is translated. There have been 57 individual instances that the word “forever” was used, but that forever no longer exists. For instance, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were said to have burned forever as punishment for their wickedness. However, we know that these two cities do not burn to this day, because they are under the Dead Sea, obviously, no longer burning. What we can gather from this though, is that Sodom and Gomorrha’s fates are permanent, and irreversible- burned to nothingness, and completely destroyed. This is an accurate representation of what Hell will be like, burning until nothing is left, and then extinguished, the end result being permanent and everlasting.
  • Mark 9:43-44 reads as: And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for the to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” To fully understand this verse you need to understand it’s back story. Ghenna was a literal heaping, burning trash pile outside of the walls of Jerusalem. Criminals’ carcasses, dead animals, and trash all burned at this site. As items and bodies from the top of the pile occasionally rolled out of the fire, maggots and worms got to work consuming that too. When Jesus referred to Hell while talking to residents of Jerusalem, He was actually referring to Ghenna, a respresention of Hell. The fire of Ghenna was unquenchable- it couldn’t be put out by anyone. But, it did eventually, after all the contents burned out, and only ashes were left. The worms kept laying eggs, growing, breeding, and thriving around Ghenna, until the fuel (bodies and trash) stopped coming, and the fire burned out. Only then, did the worms and maggots die. I believe this represents that the fires and destruction of Hell will burn, unable to be put out, until everything within it is completely gone.
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Hell won’t burn forever

  • “Hell” is to take place on Earth, and the Earth is to be given to the Meek. It cannot burn forever if the Meek are to take it over. Isaiah 34:8-9 says “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.” And “Blessed are the meek: For they shall inherit the earth” as told by Matthew 5:5.
  • We will one day walk over the ashes of the old Earth, and all the wicked who burned inside it. Malachi 4:1-3 is clear in that: “For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch … And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.”  This wouldn’t be possible if the fires actually literally burned eternally.

The Fires of Hell will Cleanse the Earth, and Heaven will be on Earth

After Hell burns, the Earth will be made new again, and so will the people who now live there eternally. Revelation 21:1-5 says this about the Earth being new: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away…Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”

Isaiah 65:17 comforts us by adding “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” The ability to forget the wickedness, sadness, hatered, and impurities from before is so reassuring.

Heaven will also be on Earth

Revelation 21:1-11 “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.

They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”