We as humans are curious about the unknown and try to seek the unexplored whenever possible. Western thought has created the notion that Heaven and Hell are the immediate places to which a soul goes after death. Indeed, the Bible tells us that we will end up in Heaven or Hell after the final judgement. But the first place we go is to Sheol, or Hades.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus helps us gain a clear insight into this place. In the story from Luke 16, there is a beggar named Lazarus who longed to eat the scraps from a rich man. Later they both die, and their souls go to Sheol. The rich man’s soul is in torment and Lazarus’s is in paradise (the bosom of Abraham). Jesus does not just tell stories for fun or to prove a point; when he talks, there is truth. We can thus say for certain that after death souls end up in Sheol, one part being paradise and the other torment. You may be asking, where does Heaven and Hell fit into this?
We know that torment and paradise are temporary because Revelation tells us that one day the final judgement will come. This is when Christ will raise the righteous and those in paradise to Heaven, while the unrighteous and those in torment going to Gehenna, the eternal fire. Whether we fall into Gehenna or rise to Heaven, two things in life are certain. That we will all go to one of these places in the end, and that what we do in this life now determines that.
Our body is temporary, and it can be hard for us to grasp that what we do in this temporary life seals our fate eternally in the next. But Jesus warned us in the story of the rich man Lazarus, as God warns us throughout the Bible, that our hearts are the key: we need to give our hearts to God, not the world. We need to have confidence in where we will spend eternity and only two things can accomplish that, as the Bible tells us. We need the blood of Christ to remove our sins in baptism and we need to obey God with all our hearts. In this life only one question matters: will you choose life or death eternal?
Inspired by: Revelation 20:14, 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10, 1 Corinthians 15:50-57, Luke 16:19-31, John 5:25-29