There are some confusion among Christians regarding Paradise, Heaven, Hell, lake of fire and Sheol. Already many questions are asked on these topics like; this, this,this and this.
I would like to explain what I understand about Heaven.
I believe that Paradise was a place where the Old Testament saints were waiting for Jesus to defeat Satan and bring them to Heaven. The first person to enter Paradise would be Abel and the last would possibly be the thief crucified at the right hand side of Jesus on the cross. Abraham was a notable figure there in paradise as we see in
Luke 16:19-31. Now, all OT saints and anyone who believes in Jesus are now in Heaven with Jesus Christ as we can see in
Rev 7:9-17 and more.
Heaven is not the permanent place where the believers will stay. God has a greater plan for all believers. God will create a New Earth for his holy people. Apostle John saw this future planet Earth in his vision.
Revelation 21:1-4 (NIV)
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven
and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven
from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling
place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will
be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more
death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things
has passed away.”
Thus, there are 3 places appointed for the saints.
- Paradise (past)
- Heaven (present)
- New Earth (future)
Let's talk about Hell.
Paradise and Hell (Sheol) were very close to each other as we see in Luke 16:19-31. Any one who disobeys God in the OT times were in Hell. Now everyone who rejects Jesus Christ as their savior are in Hell. We don't know the first one to enter Hell but one of the first would be Cain. After the judgment day, all the people in Hell will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Revelation 20:11-15 (NIV)
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The
earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place
for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the
throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the
book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as
recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it,
and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each
person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and
Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the
second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book
of life was thrown into the lake of fire.