About Heaven, Paradise and Sheol

1. Heaven and Paradise

From the beginning heaven is the sphere above us. So we call heaven the sphere in which birds fly, clouds float and the sphere of the stars and the planets. God and His angels live also in heaven. The word 'heaven' occurs very often in the plural, 'heavens'. According to Jewish traditional believe (Talmud and the later Kabbala) is heaven seven 'stories' high. Paul received the special privilege to have a look in the heavenly paradise. He wrote that he was inside or outside his body he did not know - in the third heaven, (2 Corinthians 12:3). Paradise could be localized in the third heaven, (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). The throne of God is in the highest heaven and Jesus went at His ascension through the heavens, (Hebrews 4:14, Greek is plural) and sat at the right hand of God in His throne, (Revelation 3:21). When Stephen died as a martyr he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of almighty God, (Acts 7:54). Revelation 2:7 supports the view that there is an heavenly Paradise, for in this verse the believer that conquers is promised that he will eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God. Because Jesus is God, He is omnipresent, that is He is present everywhere. When a believer dies Jesus gives him a welcome in Paradise and makes his presence very real to him, though He sits on the throne in the highest heaven. We must not forget that heavenly locations are not subjected to physical forces and laws as they are here on earth. This reality of spiritual, heavenly, nonphysical dimensions and realities is very difficult to understand or grasp for us.

We are used to speak about the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 and 3 as Paradise. But this word is not originally Hebrew, it came in use after the Jews had come into contact with the Persian culture. Paradise is originally a Persian word, which meant a beautiful, private garden, surrounded by a wall. Rich Persian people and kings had usually such a paradise. When a Persian king received a special guest or friend he gave him as an honour an invitation to walk with him in his garden, his paradise. Immediately you will now understand the meaning of this promise to the crucified criminal beside Jesus when He said to him: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise, ( Luke 23:43, RSV). Jesus promised him a very special honour after death. So we can be sure about it that there is in the heavens a very beautiful location, called Paradise.

We believe that born again Christians are after their death in Paradise, and meet Jesus there, (Revelations3 :21). They wil be judged, not to be condemned but to be rewarded according to their work for the Lord for their eternal position in the eternal Kingdom of the Lord, (1 Corinthians 3:9-9; 2 Corinthians  5:10).

2. Sheol, the grave and the underworld

Sheol is an old Hebrew word, Sometimes it meant in the old Hebrew scriptures the grave of the body - there are many Old Testament  Scripture references to support this and sometimes it meant the abode in the low regions of the earth, where all the dead are awaiting the judgement. In the Greek language in which the New Testament was written Sheol was translated 'Hades.' In Luke 16:19-30 Jesus told the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus. The Greek word translated in many old translation is 'hell,' but that is not really correct for the word is 'Hades,' which can better be translated as'realm of the dead.' To think of Sheol or Hades as under us in the earth is really an old idea, for since the N. T. we realize that these regions are in a spiritual world, which we visualize 'above' us., for Jesus is not in a world below us but above us, in the highest heaven.

Gehennah is the Greek name of the place of destruction of rubbish at the south of Jerusalem. The fire was kept burning. Sometimes, in days of the Old Testament children were burned there in worship to idols. Jesus used the word in Matthew 23:33. We have the word 'hell,' the place of painful remorse, torture and eternal fire. As I wrote above, hades should really not be translated as 'hell,' as is sometimes done in old Bible Translations.

3. In closing

It is interesting to add to what I said above about Jesus welcoming deceased believers in Paradise, to point to testimonies of people that experienced a near death experience. For instance, a person died on the operation table and surgeons observed that the heart stopped beating, but they were able to make the heart beat again. Some people that experienced this saw themselves floating outside their body in the operation room and when that lasted several minutes, floated further away from the body. Some even saw a bright light and Jesus. Some even were in paradise, where they saw beautiful flowers and birds. Saints have also seen Jesus and Paradise in heavenly visions.

4.  Invitation

Dear reader, in case you have had a vision in which you saw paradise or had a near death experience and saw it, I would be most interested to read your testimony, and if you might have questions I will do my best to answer them. Please write me, preferable per e-mail:

info.tjderuiter@telfort.nl  or info@tjderuiter.nll

  Pastor T. J. de Ruiter
Site 'Inspiration & Insight' (Global Ministries), since 1997 / published 7 November 2011 / update 7  November 2011 / Pastor T. J. de Ruiter / The Netherlands