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Here is a question from a reader…
Scot (and the Jesus Creed Blog),
What happens to our view of hell if we shift our understanding of “heaven” to the “new heavens and new earth” to the transformed earth?
There’s been a stream of recent work re-picturing heaven, not as some postmortem location with harps and clouds, but as the sphere of God’s reign that will eventually engulf all of creation. The picture is of course captured in the last two chapters of the Bible in which God’s heaven and our world over lap and interlock in marriage, and a voice from God’s throne says, “Now the dwelling of God will be with man.”
This is heaven. And heaven’s future location will be here. Paul speaks of the reconciliation of all things, Peter of the restoration of all things, Jesus of the renewal of all things.
Which brings up a new question? If one believes in an eternal hell, where is it? If we reject a three layer world of heaven up there, hell down there, and earth in the middle, where do we put hell?
CS Lewis argues that hell is almost nothing, that its existence is less than an atom, but of course this raises a significant problem. If hell still existed somewhere in the space/time world, God would not have restored, reconciled, or renewed all things; God would not be “all in all”. There would be an outpost–no matter how seemingly tiny–in which death and dysfunction reign.
For those who believe in a traditional picture of hell, where is it? Where does it fit in your cosmology? If one rejects hell as annihilation (that is, hell is a place where souls are destroyed, and the punishment is irreversible — i.e. everlasting) or some form of universalism (in which eventually all are redeemed) — where is hell?