Are Heaven and Hell real places?

The Bible speaks often enough about places called Heaven and Hell for people to have heard of them. Not everyone thinks that they are real places; some people will say that they are metaphors or picture language and other will say that they are figments of the imaginations of primitive people.

It is worth knowing that Jesus speaks about hell more than anyone else. He speaks of it as though it is a real place and as though it is a terrible place. He uses different language to describe it’s horror; for example, in Matthew 25:30 he calls it “the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”, in Matthew 25:41 he calls it “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”, and just a few verses along in v46 he calls it “eternal punishment” in contrast with “eternal life”. But just because he speaks of it using vivid, descriptive language it does not mean that hell is fictional or imaginary. It means that it is terrible; it’s likely that the reason why Jesus uses such vivid language is because it is difficult to describe how bad it will be with words alone. Is hell a real place? The answer is yes, and you don’t want to go there.

Heaven is also a real place, although it is not often called heaven. In Revelation it is called the new heavens and the new earth, meaning a new creation. Jesus and the New Testament writers more often talk about eternal life. According to the New Testament we will have real bodies (1 Cor 15), it will be like a return to the Garden of Eden but only better (Revelation 21/22), and there will be no pain or suffering or sin there. But the best part about the place heaven, is not the place at all, but the unbroken relationship with God that people will experience there.

The most penetrating question therefore is how do you avoid going to hell and go to heaven. The answer to both questions is the same, and it is surprising. Because the answer is not to be good (unless you are as perfect as God is), the answer is to put your trust and your hopes for the future in person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said so in John 3:16-18,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

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