If you ask me (and this is the least confusing and most rewarding vision I've come across), the whole hell 'n heaven-thing is a metaphor. What they're really saying, is: you may think that because life is relatively short, you should live it all for yourself, see to it that you get what you want and if that means hurting or killing other people, bad luck for them. But you can't be sure that life as you know it is the only life you'll get. Enter the soul - an eternal essence, or energy, or whatever, that keeps a record of good and evil deeds, and will serve as checklist whenever a new life is in order. Heaven and hell are the manifestation of an exemplary situation where your soul would get picked apart.
Jesus only went further into this - he didn't so much point out the consequences of leading an evil life, he showed how nice it is to lead a good one.
This is of course the biggest problem with most any religion nowadays. Holy books are interpreted as dogma's instead of allegories, because it's always easier if you have someone tell you exactly what to do than to consider your own actions. No wonder fear and terror play such major roles in religious conflicts.