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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 47



Heaven immediately upon death?

Not only do most people seem to think that everyone is going to heaven, but the most popular current idea of when one gets to heaven is that we do so immediately after death.

Wright says that the three passages in the New Testament, quoted above, are not speaking of heaven, but of a temporary state or location. He says the same thing about these verses:

Luke 23:43 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Philippians 1:23 But I am in a dilemma between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

Wright also says that John 14 is speaking of a temporary state or location:

John 14:2 In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also.

I am not a Greek scholar, so can’t comment with authority on Luke 23:43 and Philippians 1:23, but Wright’s interpretation of John 14:2-3 makes sense. Jesus seemed to say that the final state or location was not ready yet, but that it needed to be prepared, and that even His disciples would enter that place or state as a part of the Second Coming events, rather than immediately. However, not all scholars agree with what Wright thinks these verses say. Some believe that Jesus is talking about heaven, in its final state, in these verses.

As to Luke 23:43, scholars are divided. Some agree with Wright, believing that “paradise” as used here, is an intermediate, and temporary state. Some don’t, but believe that the word indicates the final heavenly state or place.

Another scriptural evidence that people don’t go to heaven upon death is the use of “asleep” for death, as if deceased believers were in some intermediate unconscious state, until the resurrection. Here’s a search for the word “asleep” in the New Testament, using the English Standard Version. (“sleep” and/or “slept” would give additional instances of use.)

1 Thessalonians is one place where Paul uses “asleep”:

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, so that you don’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, 17 then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

The use of “rise first” seems to indicate that dead believers have not been in heaven, and won’t be, until Christ comes back.


The above material is an excerpt from my self-published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series, on the topic of the idea of going to heaven, is here. God willing, the next post in this series will continue this topic. Thanks for reading.

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