The orthodox Christian teachings about Heaven and Hell are unscriptural in every respect. It’s more than time for an awareness of what the following terms and concepts actually mean:
1. Souls and spirits…
There is no such thing as a disembodied soul. The only post-mortem existence that humans have is what may be called a “memory” in the mind of God. Hence Paul’s third heaven where the just live in the memory of God awaiting the resurrection. An 'immortal soul' is a Platonic Greek concept. In the Hebrew mind, such 'immortality' of soul was unknown because there was no such thing as a body without a soul. If there was a body, it had to be animated by a “living being” (nephesh). It is unfortunate that the “living being” (nephesh) is commonly rendered “soul”, which introduced Hellenist ideas about the separation of soul and body.
It is the 'spirit' (ruach) which differentiates us from the animals, who also have bodies and souls. It is the spirit of God in man that is the 'imago dei.' Without this 'spirit' we would be unable to communicate with God, as we see in I Corinthians 2:14.
"But the natural (psuchikos) man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him: nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
This 'spirit' returns to God upon death and does not exist outside of God. The only post-mortem 'life' that man has is in the 'mind' of God.
When the Bible talks about those 'sleeping in the dust of the earth' awakening, it posits a re-embodiment of man's spirit on this earth.
2. Immortality, eternity…
God alone has ‘immortality.’ The Greek words aion denoting an “age" or "ages," and aionios means "age-lasting," are usually translated into English with words like “eternal.” The idea of "eternity" or "endlessness" was not conveyed by these Greek words until theologians assigned such meanings to them centuries after the New Testament was written. Humans live, die, sleep in the dust of the earth and then, hopefully, are resurrected in new bodies. The concepts of immortality, eternal bliss in some disembodied soul heaven, eternal torments in hell and so on are all concepts borrowed from Hellenist philosophy.
The phrase "eternal life" actually means "life in the age to come."
3. Salvation (Heaven)
"Salvation" is the term the New Testament uses to describe entry into the coming Kingdom of God on earth (Heaven). Hell is it’s opposite. To be barred from entry into the Kingdom is such a dreadful fate that it is likened to the torments Jesus described.
Jesus is described as a "saviour" because he showed us the "way" by which we may save ourselves and gain entry into the Kingdom. Thus he is described as the "way, the truth and the life."
In his own words, Jesus demonstrates that "Salvation" is life in the Kingdom of God:
"But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." [Matt.7:14]
In answer to the question "Are many saved?" Jesus replied, "Strive to enter in [to the Kingdom of God/Heaven].” (Luke 13:24).
4. Fire (Hell)
Biblical 'fire' has nothing to do with literal fire - it is symbolic for the Word of God.
"...I will make my words in your mouth fire, and this people as wood, and it shall consume them." (Jer. 5:14)
“His Word burns in my heart like a fire…” (Jer. 20:9)
“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (1 Cor.3:13, Ps.19:6)
In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist said: “I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance: but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire . . .”
Ergo 'baptism with fire' , 'refiner's fire', ‘unquenchable fire’, and the like, are analogous to the pure, cleansing fire of the Word of God that burns up the stubble of mankind’s false values leaving nothing behind.
Finally, how has it escaped attention that the three days dead Lazarus should have already been condemned to eternal punishment, or be singing in a heavenly choir somewhere before Jesus arrived? If the doctrinal position is true that is!