Yep, here's another post dealing with heaven/hell, and I can't promise you this wont be the last one.
Another response I hear regularly during a discussion on hell is that there can not be a heaven without a hell (I've heard this numerous times). I understand why that could be a scary thing, especially since, for so many, heaven serves as the reward for believing in Jesus. (So if there's no heaven, and especially if there is no hell, then what's the point of following Jesus, I hear that way more than I wish I did)
Why is this so? Why does there have to be a hell for there to be a heaven? And why do we need a reward system in order to follow Jesus?
I would argue that hell is, in some sense, the absence of heaven... As darkness is the absence of light. It's not that one can't exist without the other, but rather one doesn't exist in the presence of the other.
This seems to be one aspect Jesus conveys in the parables such as "The Rich Man and Lazarus".
In the first half, Lazarus is living in misery, hungry and begging for crumbs, and covered in sores. Could one argue that Lazarus is living in hell?
And where is this hell? For Lazarus, its right outside the gate of a certain rich man who is living in luxury and obviously has the resources to deliver Lazarus out of his hell by bringing, what would be considered heaven to Lazarus.
However, the rich man refuses and so we see the situation gets reversed, and now Lazarus is living in luxury and the rich man is out side his gate (chasm) begging for a drop of water.
This Parable seems to be much more about how one is living "here and now" than about what the afterlife is going to be like.
Now I am not saying that heaven and hell, and even parables like this one are ONLY dealing with present realities and have no eschatological properties to them. I am merely pointing out the possibility that Jesus uses such language and parables to convey truth about the present and expose how we are currently living.
I like how Jesus puts it speaking of the church... and The gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Are we more concerned with what heaven and hell are like after this life, as well as, making sure we get "in" the right "place", than we are concerned about bringing heaven to those living in hell right outside our gated communities?