We know the universe began 13.7 billion years ago in an immensely hot dense state much smaller than a single atom. It began to expand about a million billion billion billion billionth of a second after the big bang. Gravity separated away from the other forces. The universe then underwent an exponential expansion called inflation. In about the first billionth of a second or so, the Higgs field kicked in, and the quarks, the gluons, the electrons that make us up got mass. The universe continued to expand and cool. After about a few minutes there was hydrogen and helium in the universe. That’s all. The universe was about 75% hydrogen, 25% helium. It still is today. It continued to expand about 300 million years. Then light was big enough to travel through the universe. It was big enough to be transparent to light, and that’s what we see in the cosmic microwave background. After about 400 million years, the first stars formed and that hydrogen, that helium, then began to cook into heavier elements… Stars were cooked up, exploded, and then re-collapsed into another generation of stars and planets. And on some of those planets in that first generation of stars could fuse with hydrogen to form water, liquid water on the surface… The laws of physics, the right laws of physics, they’re beautifully balanced. They couldn’t have been different. If the weak force were different then carbon and oxygen wouldn’t be stable in the hearts of stars and there would be none of that in the universe. And I think that’s a wonderful and significant story. (Brian Cox, TED2008, March 2008)
We cannot imagine what is going to come next. [God] has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to end (Ecc. 3.11). No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2.9). Stretch your mind and strain your eyes to build a sustaining hope.
HOPE is the theme to the new creation. The creation waits with eager (αποδεχομαι) longing (Rom. 8.19). αποδεχομαι [apodexomai] refers to an anxious, yet careful and patient waiting–a reservation of knowing something is coming but continuing in patience. Hope that creation will be set free from corruption to bring glory to the children of God (Rom. 8.20-21). We wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies, we groan inwardly for the hope that we were saved by (Rom. 8.23-24). The new creation is unique–hope that is seen is not hope (Rom. 8.24-25).
So, where is heaven and hell? Heaven and hell are physical and not just spiritual. There is a resurrection of believers (1 Cor. 15) and a resurrection of unbelievers (Dan. 12.2; Rev. 20). Heaven and hell continue to exist after this creation. The Bible clarifies that heaven and hell continue after the moment God commands the cosmos to be “rolled up like a scroll” (Is. 34.4), to “disappear with a roar” (2 Pt. 3.10), and to “melt in the heat” (2 Pt. 3.12). This of it this way: suppose I have a paper with the image of Dante’s universe on it. It’s two dimensional (for the analogy to work I need to remove a dimension). If I crumble up the piece of paper the external dimensions where I am do not crumble up too. I can crumble the paper with those dimensions and still not be affected by it.