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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 48

[Continuing a discussion of whether believers go to heaven immediately after death.]
Matthew has another occurrence:

Matthew 27:52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, they entered into the holy city and appeared to many.

I’m not sure what all is going on here, but it sounds like dead believers, under the First Covenant, who had not been to heaven, were resurrected, at least temporarily. Had they been in heaven, and come back to earth? Did they go back to being “asleep” after this occurrence? We aren’t told. (The other three gospels don’t record this incident.)

Then there’s the matter of the Transfiguration:

Luke 9:28 About eight days after these sayings, he took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up onto the mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became white and dazzling. 30 Behold, two men were talking with him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory, and spoke of his departure,* which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
*The World English Bible has a text note, saying that “exodus” would be a literal translation.

It’s not clear who said what, or what Elijah and Moses knew, at this time, but it seems possible that they already knew about Christ’s coming death. If so, they must have been in a conscious state before this appearance. (The other Gospels don’t even mention the conversation between the three. Luke must have received his information from someone else, as he wasn’t there.)

I don’t consider non-Biblical sources to be as reliable as the Bible, but will mention a source that is of interest, and that seems to bear on this question. That’s the book, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. (Thomas Nelson, 2011). This book has sold well over a million copies, and made various best-seller lists**. It claims that a pre-school boy went to heaven from the operating table, and had various experiences, and saw various people, including a miscarried sister, while in heaven. It also claims that he had no knowledge of these matters previously – he didn’t know that he had a miscarried sister, for example. He came back to life, and, over a period of several months, he gradually told his parents bits and pieces of what he saw in heaven. If the Burpos are to be trusted, and what happened to Colton Burpo is normal, deceased believers go immediately into God’s presence. (See the Wikipedia article on the book, which says “It should be noted, there is much controversy and criticism with this book’s claims amongst Christians.”)

**Since the publication of this book, Burpos book, Heaven is for Real, has been made into a movie. I have not seen that.

Disclaimer: Todd Burpo is a pastor in The Wesleyan Church, my own denomination. I have never met or seen him.

In summary, there is evidence for immediate, conscious, translation to heaven, or at least into God’s presence, but there is also Biblical evidence that believers will not reach such a state until the End Times. It is more important to be a believer, showing the evidences of that referred to in Chapter Eight, than it is to be concerned about whether we will go to heaven immediately upon death, or some time after that.

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 with a related topic. Thanks for reading.

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