Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,I think it is likely that the righteous were taken from Hades to heaven following Christ's resurrection. We do know that those who die as Christians, that is after the resurrection, go to heaven:
"The Lord said to my Lord,/
Sit at my right hand,/
until I make your enemies your footstool." (Acts 2:33-35 ESV)
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 ESV)Paul also makes the comment:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:21-24, ESV).This makes sense if Paul thought that he would go to heaven to be with Jesus when he died. This would be nonsensical if Paul thought he went to Hades or that his soul slept while he waited for the judgment.
The unrighteous remain in the pit in Sheol. Those who don't know Jesus go to Sheol at their death. Both await the judgment. This is possibly what Peter is alluding to in the following passage:
...then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,... (2 Peter 2:9 ESV)though I concede that this verse is difficult to translate. At the end of the age all will be resurrected and face the judgment. It is at this time men and angels who have rejected Jesus are cast into hell.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 ESV)And the most straightforward understanding is that it is everlasting, conscious and unpleasant.
...and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10 ESV)Hell was not made for men but for angels. In choosing to disobey God it became a possibility for humans. But for those who have chosen to follow Jesus our punishment in laid on him and he promises eternity with the Father.
To summarise more fully:
- Hell was created for the fallen angels.
- Hades (Sheol) was created for man because of the fall and the subsequent pending death.
- Man goes to Hades at death, the righteous to Paradise and the wicked to the Abyss (pit).
- Some fallen angels are in Tartarus which is the deepest part of the Abyss.
- Inhabitants of Hades are conscious
- Jesus descended to Hades at his death then rose on the third day and did not go to heaven during that time.
- Jesus subsequently ascended to heaven.
- Christians go to heaven at their death.
- Judgment happens at the end of the age.
- Fallen angels and men who have rejected Christ are cast into hell.