Someone asked in Yahoo Answers this question: “Do you believe in hell?” The following is a very good answer that is based on sound Biblical interpretation and historical research.
‘Hell’ was a borrowed term from pagan tradition by Roman Catholic Church during the reign of Constantine.
In the Bible, the term ‘hell’ was mistranslated by the translators. So yes, it is an invention of the Church empire for the purpose of controlling of masses.
As for ‘heaven’, the apostle Paul stated it in Ephesians 2:6 that the entire Human race has been raised to heavenly places IN Christ Jesus. As in Adam all die, so in Christ ALL and the entire human race will be made alive as they come to knowledge of Christ. And it is my conviction that hell or heaven is in one’s consciousness. When the apostle John mentioned heaven in Rev 21:1, “a new heaven and a new earth” is not referring to terrestrial or celestial bodies, etc. Rather he was talking about ‘covenantal transition’ – the ending of the Old Covenant Mosaic world of sin and sacrifice and the coming in of the endless New Covenant age of mercy and GRACE – the ages to come, a “world without end” Eph 3:21; Isa 9:7; Isa 54:17.
I encourage everyone (NOT ONLY YOU) to not buy into the popular Church idea that “If you believe in Jesus you will go to heaven, and if you don’t believe in Jesus you will go to hell” — it is the most ridiculous idea that has been sold to us by the man behind the Curtain. The Bible says that when we die, the body returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). We don’t go to heaven or hell. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life and there is nothing spiritual about it. It is all Pagan. The Christian religion set back history at least by 2000 years. We think the way people in Old Testament time thought because of the lie that we have been told all our lives.
You know what is the negative side of it all? Hell is nothing but ignorance or the absence of the love of God. Jesus said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of HADES (most translations say ‘hell’) will not overcome it”. So, what is ‘hell’ in this context? Ignorance, living in the absence of love and grace and darkness is ‘hell”, so Jesus was telling Simon, “Son of Jonah, I tell you, you are Peter, son of God, upon this rock (UPON THIS UNDERSTANDING OF WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST) I will build My church.” (petros = a portion of rock from petra = a mass of rock) A chip of the old block! The ekklesia is the expression of the fact that the son of man is the son of God, the fact that man began in God, and His image and likeness is redeemed in human form! So, hell is nothing but “Identity crisis”. In my opinion. Be Free!!=:)
(Adapted from Yahoo Answers)