I am being confronted on a regular basis by people (Christian believers) who suddenly don’t believe – or don’t want to believe- that they will go directly to heaven when they die. (Let’s use the term “they” or “them” for purposes of this article. You must decide for yourself whether you are one of “them”.) Or “they” don’t believe that unbelievers will immediately go to hell when they die. Many of the arguments “they” use is that we will only be going to “sleep” or into a “state of unconscious sleep” until Jesus’ return, whereafter all the dead will be raised and only THEN be going to heaven, or hell.
My personal answer is usually: “Okay, if you die then, and you open your eyes in heaven, and you realize you immediately went to heaven after your death, just remember to tell Jesus to rather put you to sleep until His second coming, because the fact that you have immediately opened your eyes in heaven, is not in line with what you believed on earth. And also tell Him hat you don’t WANT to be with Him then, because He is upsetting your human theology by letting you open your eyes in heaven…”
Unfortunately “their” way of thinking causes grief among people because suddenly they are not so sure WHERE their deceased relatives are anymore. Are they still in the grave? Are they in an unknown “in-between” place? And exactly WHAT is in that “in between” place, their spirits, or their souls, or their bodies? Do they know what’s going on around them? Do they experience peace, fear… anything? Can they speak? Can they think? Can they praise God?
But you know what, it does not matter what “their” view, or my view, is…
Let’s see what the Bible says, exactly as it is written.
“For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end…”
(2 Corinthians 1:13)
Very clearly then, we can read the Bible just as it is written, and we can understand it just as it is written. Jesus warned us in no uncertain terms in Matthew 22:29:
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.”
So let’s see who “errs” “not knowing the scriptures”,… we who believe that we will be going to heaven or hell immediately upon our death… or “they” that only want to go to “sleep” upon their death…
Some of the Bible texts that “they” usually use to confirm their arguments are the following:
“So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.” (Job 14:12)
(These words that Job spoke in his grief and intense emotional hardship, can not be used as authoritative for this argument, because according to other texts which I will also quote herein, all the dead will stand before God’s Great White Throne one day, and only AFTER that do the new heavens and new earth appear. It also contradicts “their” view that everybody will rise at Jesus’ return. So, if they want to use these words of Job to confirm “their” view, some of the dead will then stay dead even until the new heavens and new earth have come and won’t they even rise at Jesus’ second coming. In that way this text actually contradicts “their” own argument.)
“Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah. Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?” (Psalms 88:10,11)
(No, of course no dead bodies can arise and praise God, or speak about His lovingkindness, while in the grave. But the spirits of those who have died in Christ, do praise Him before His throne, as we will see later in the book of Revelations.)
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5,6)
(Of course the dead BODIES that lie in the grave does not know anything anymore, and don’t they have any thing to do with anything that is done under the sun anymore. But have you ever considered what happened to their spirits and souls upon their death? And where do their spirits and souls go? We will see what the Bible says a little later.)
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”(Daniel 12:2)
(There is no doubt that at Jesus’ return, the dead bodies “that sleep in the dust of the earth” will awake to be re-united with their spirits and souls, to be a tri-une being before the throne, some with glorified bodies with, and like, Jesus, some with bodies that will be eaten by worms eternally.)
“These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” (John 11:11-14)
(Very clearly Jesus shows us here that “sleep” in this context = death. And we also read that at that time Lazarus had already been “asleep” = dead, for four days, and that he already started to smell. So, there is no doubt that he is dead, and not just in a state of “unconscious sleep”. His body was dead, it was busy decaying and smelling. But then Jesus goes and proves that He has power over death and life and he resurrects Lazarus, and Lazarus’ spirit and soul re-united with his decaying body in the moment that Jesus called his name, and he arose from the dead. Exactly the same thing will happen upon Jesus’ return. We also read of a dead person’s soul “returning” to him, in 1 Kings 17:21,22:
“And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.” )
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers…”
“So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.”
(1 Kings 2:10)
“And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father…”
(1 Kings 11:43) …etc…etc…etc…
That is why “they” say: – “Do you see? When you die, you go to sleep and you go into a state of sleep! The dead know nothing. There is no indication in the Bible that you go to heaven or hell immediately upon death. Especially if you look at the words of Daniel 12:2… etc…”
Okay so let us then also look at the following verses in the Bible:
Here we see our God and Great Teacher, Jesus Christ speaking:
“And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do GREATLY err.”(Mark 12:26,27)
That means, when Moses stood before that burning bush, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had all been dead for many years. If they had just been dead and “sleeping” as “they” allege, then God should actually have said: “I WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac and of Jacob.” But no, He doesn’t do so, He proclaims unambiguosly: “I AM the God of…” And then Jesus uses the words that totally shoot down the argument that we are just going to “sleep” upon our death:“God is NOT the God of the dead, BUT THE GOD OF THE LIVING.” This means that Jesus confirms that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob IS with God in that specific moment when Moses stands before the burning bush, years after they had died. And then He also confirms that people err GREATLY because they don’t want to believe that people go to be with God in heaven after they died. (Do YOU also still err “greatly” regarding this my friend?) But WHICH “part” of you LIVES with Him AFTER your death? Your spirit and soul, because your body stays behind here on earth and it decays in the grave, until Jesus’ return, after which it will rise again, as we will see a little later.
Here we see Jesus using the well-known words to the man hanging on a cross next to Him:
“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42,43)
But immediately “they” then come with arguments that the COMMA in that sentence was MOVED and that the verse in the original should read: “…I say unto thee to day, thou shalt be with me in paradise…”. Meaning of course that Jesus spoke to him that day and gave him a promise, but that the promise would only be fulfilled and that the man would only be with Jesus in paradise centuries later upon Jesus’ return. So he is still not there to this day. Strange that Jesus did not just add a few words to His sentence, if “they” are correct with “their” argument. What few words? “…upon My return.” In the first place “they” don’t have any concrete proof that the comma was moved in the original Majority Texts, and secondly you must please note that if you really want to move the comma, you will also need to change the words “…shalt thou…” to“…thou shalt…”, otherwise the sentence will not make sense at all. No, for centuries that sentence is contained in the Bible, and can be understood, JUST AS IT IS WRITTEN. But suddenly satan wants to confuse Christians and to take away their hope to be with Jesus immediately upon their death. Why? So that they can doubt their own salvation and that of their deceased loved ones.
Next we will look at the well known piece regarding the beggar Lazarus (not the one Jesus raised from death) and the rich man, as told by Jesus Himself:
“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Luke 16:19-23)
Look again, Jesus says when Lazarus died, he was IMMEDIATELY carried to“Abraham’s bosom” by the angels. And here we see that Abraham wasn’t asleep, as “they” allege, but that he was alive and awake and that he even has a discussion with the rich man. Jesus’ discussion also confirms His own words which I quoted earlier, namely that God IS the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Most Bible scholars agree that the “bosom of Abraham” refers to paradise. And the rich man? He dies and is buried. And then? “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments…” In other words he dies and immediately opens his eyes in hell, being in torments. We don’t read that Jesus says: “And after My return he will open his eyes in hell and then be in torment…”. No, the one is immediately taken to paradise by the angels, and the other one immediately opens his eyes in hell.
Just think about this, if the beggar Lazarus died and only went to “sleep”, what did the angels “carry” into Abraham’s bosom? And if the rich man also just went into a “state of sleep” until Jesus’ return, what part of him experienced torments, and also in which hell? Or are we supposed to believe that Jesus was just telling us a “story”, which actually has no real specific value, and is actually a BLATANT LIE because what He says there is not true according to “them”? If that was true, how can we believe Him about salvation or anything else, if we can’t believe Him when He tells us in so many words exactly what happens the moment when somebody dies?
You see, if we really have to believe that no believers go directly to heaven when they die, but only into a “state of sleep”, this means that we must also believe that heaven is rather empty today, and that only God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the angels, Enoch and Elijah are presently in heaven. And that will again mean that God contradicts Himself because then He is a“respecter of persons” giving two humans preference over other humans. Yet, the Bible is clear He doesn’t do that: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons…” (Acts 10:34)
And if it is true that heaven is presently empty of deceased believers, who will He be bringing WITH HIM when He returns? Please read with me:
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13,14)
These verses refer to what will happen when Jesus returns to earth. If there are no believers in heaven presently, who will He be bringing “with him”? It can’t be Enoch and Elijah, because they went to heaven while still alive as we read in the following texts, they did not die = “sleep in Jesus”.
“And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”(Genesis 5:21-24)
“And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (2 Kings 2:11)
Clearly Enoch and Elijah went to heaven while still alive, so it can’t be them who will be coming back with Jesus. So, who will He bring with Him? Nobody other than all the believers who died in Christ and who are already with Him in heaven!
But let’s have a closer look what will happen upon His return?
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
(1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)
The reason why the dead in Christ will rise first is actually quite plain as the Lord showed me. As soon as Jesus comes for the rapture (in which I personally believe), we who are still alive will change in an instant and receive a glorified body, the same as that of Jesus.
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Philippians 3:20,21)
We who are still alive at that time will still comprise of THREE “parts”, namely: spirit, soul and body.
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
And those three parts will become a glorified body in an instant.
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
On the other hand, those who have “died in Christ” will have one part – their bodies – here on earth, while their other two “parts”, their spirits and souls are with Jesus in heaven. That is why their bodies need to rise first, so that their spirits and souls can be re-united with their bodies in “the twinkling of an eye”, so that all three their “parts” can then also receive a glorified body like those of us who are still alive at that time.
Now, how do we know that our spirits AND souls will be going to heaven when we die, while our bodies remain behind? Let’s see what BOTH Jesus and Stephen (the first martyr for Christ) called out the moment they died:
“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”(Luke 23:46)
“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
From these verses we learn that the SPIRIT of any believer who dies “in Christ”, is commended into God’s hands, and is received by Christ at the moment of his death, in other words, their spirit goes directly to God and Jesus Christ. So, “sleep” = DEATH of the body. And where are their spirits? In heaven! But how do we know that our souls will be in heaven with our spirits? Firstly we must take note that our souls consist of our will, intellect and emotions. If we go back to the discussion we had about Lazarus and the rich man, we see that the rich man says: “…for I am tormented in this flame…” (Luke 16:24). “Torment” is an experience of the soul and this is one reason we know that our souls will be there with our spirits. In the same manner love is an emotional experience, an experience of the soul, which we will have in heaven. Without any doubt therefore, our bodies stay on earth upon our death – and yes that dead body surely knows NOTHING – and can’t praise God from the grave. But our spirits and souls in heaven can most definitely worship and praise Him in heaven!
Just another confirmation – if the dead had to “sleep” until Jesus returns – why would the “dead” Moses then appear with the living Elijah with Jesus on the mount of transformation? Why not the living Enoch and the living Elijah?
“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias (Elijah) talking with him.” (Matthew 17:1-3)
One thing that I learned about God the past twelve years is that He is NOT divided against Himself. If people go into a “sleep” upon their death and effective stay “dead” until Jesus’ return, and He allows the “dead” Moses to come and speak to Jesus on that mountain, then He is divided against His own word which He gave centuries earlier in Deuteronomy 18:10-12, namely:
“There shall not be found among you… a necromancer (speaking to the dead). For ALL that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD…”
So, if it is an “abomination” unto the Lord if ANYONE speaks to the dead, then Jesus Himself was doing something that is an abomination to God, and then it means Jesus was disobedient to God’s ordinances. But you see it is exactly because Moses’ spirit was NOT “asleep” and “dead” after his physical death on mount Nebo, but alive and with God, that Jesus could speak to him and Elijah on that mountain, without being disobedient to His Father’s ordinances.
Also look at a further prophecy regarding Jesus’ return and the fact that He will bring all the deceased saints with Him on that day:
“ And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south…. and the LORD my God shall come, and ALL the saints with thee.” (Zechariah 14:4,5)
Clearly we see that on that day all the saints will COME WITH HIM, it does not say He will come to find us here on earth where we have all been “sleeping” for all the years. We also read in the book of Revelation that the “armies of heaven” will “follow” Him upon His return they don’t wait for Him here on earth.
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” (Revelations 19:11-14)
And no, those “armies” AREN’T angels, because you will see they are “…clothed in fine linen…”. What does that refer to? Just read the Bible as it is written:
“And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” (Revelations 19:8)
The angels are not clothed with the righteousness of the saints. Those armies that will follow Jesus, will be none other than the believers who died before His return and who will be with Him until that day!
According to me, a final confirmation that there are – and will be – believers IN HEAVEN, BEFORE Jesus’ return, we find in the following verses:
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelations 7:9-17)
Clearly then this “multitude” which can’t even be numbered are people who died in the great tribulation PRIOR to Jesus’ return in Revelations 19 with His“armies”. So they are not “sleeping” somewhere until His return. They die in the tribulation and find themselves before the Throne immediately, clothed with white robes and carrying palm leaves, and what do they do? They PRAISE THE LORD! Most definitely their dead bodies here on earth can not praise the Lord, and their bodies know nothing under the sun anymore, but their spirits and souls that are before the Throne in that moment can do so, ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE. Also take note that this scene is played out long before the Great White Throne judgment. Dear friend, please just read what the Bible says, as it is written.
In closing I can say with all confidence that I can’t wait to stand before my Father and Jesus’ throne one day, and I believe with my whole heart that when I close my eyes on this side, that I will immediately open it in heaven. If, after everything I have shown you today, you still just wish to go and “sleep” somewhere when you die, remember to ask Jesus to “send you back” (I don’t know where) if you open your eyes in heaven.
We read in Matthew 9:29 that Jesus opens the eyes of the blind men and then He tells them:
“Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.”
Faithful Christian friend, if you want to believe that upon your death you will only be “sleeping” until Jesus’ return, then let it also be unto you “according to your faith”. But if He has opened your spiritual eyes through this article – SEE YOU IN HEAVEN, minutes after our individual deaths!
In any case, what you believe regarding going to heaven immediately or not, doesn’t really matter, this does not affect your eternal salvation. But please just ensure THAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED JESUS CHRIST in your life
Authority in Christ Ministries