Question / Comment - Do Christians go straight to Heaven when they die?
I believe born again Christians go to heaven upon death. I have a friend who is not sure. Could you give me some scriptures to study and give to him.
 
JPN Reply:

Hi,

thanks for the email and the question. Here are a few scriptures for you to study that should help show that born again Christians do go to be with the Lord when they die.

Luke 23:43 - The promise of Jesus that the thief who repented would be in Paradise with Him that same day.

2 Cor 5:8 - Paul clearly says that to be absent from the body (ie death) means being present with the Lord.

Phil 1:23 - Paul desired to depart (from this life through death) and be with Christ in Heaven.

1 Thes 4:13-17 - note vs 14.Jesus, when he returns from Heaven will bring the Christians with Him that have died. ie Believers that have died are currently in Heaven with Jesus and He will bring them when He returns

Heb 12:23 - specifically says that the spirits of righteous men are in the New Jerusalem (Heaven) already.

Rev 6:9-10, 7:9-14 - We see that those who have died during the tribulation are then seen to be in Heaven before the throne.

Hope this helps.
 
A different readers reply

Hello!


I saw your "Do we go to Heaven when we die?" question, and I heard from a friend of mine an explanation as to why your answer isn't true. I'd like to hear your thoughts on it.

So his explanation referenced Genesis 1:1. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The way it was explained was that God created heaven"s", plural. The First Heaven is outer space. The Third Heaven is where God is. And the Second Heaven is where Christians go when they die. In regards to your scripture verses, he said that in Luke 23:43, the actual Greek says "Today I tell you, you will be with me in paradise." (Exact wording may vary; I heard this a while ago and don't know Greek.) This changes the meaning of the verse.

I can't remember the explanation for the verse of 2 Cor. 5:8.

In Philippians 1:20, I think my friend said that Paul is wishing to be with Christ. Christ does sit at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1), but that is where he sits. Scripture doesn't say he still doesn't move.

My friend's explanation focused on 1 Thessalonians 4:17. "Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever." What he said was "Then, together with them...will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." The "them" here is the dead in Christ a.k.a dead Christians. This implies that dead Christians haven't actually met the Lord yet.

My friend said approximately this regarding Hebrews 12:23: Which heaven? God made multiple heavens. So which one? Well, Scripture says here "You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things." So it'd be the Third Heaven in regards to the Gen. 1:1 note. My friend continued, saying: "God in this instance is called the Judge. Will judging take place in the Third Heaven?" I didn't have an answer for him. He continued: "So if not, could you still come to God without actually being in the Third Heaven?" Well, yes. But then God is there as well, because that is where He will judge. One still would've met the Lord. "Has judgement happened?" I don't believe so. He rested his case.

In regards to Rev. 6:9-10, he mentioned that they were "under the altar". Under the altar.

About Rev. 7:9-14, he said that those (the ones which you mentioned) were the ones killed in "the great tribulation". Not the ones before that.

So that's all I remember. What are your thoughts?

JPN Response

Hi,

thanks for the email. Is your friend a Seventh Day Adventist? It is normally, but not always, people from that denomination that try to argue for Soul Sleep. Although some of the arguments below are different from that so maybe not. You asked at the end what I think. I think you should be careful and wary in listening to your friend on this topic. It's not just that what they have said is wrong. It's that some of the arguments used seem to be pulling anything out of left field on purpose just to try muddy the waters. I'll include your email below in blue, and write my response under it.

I saw your "Do we go to Heaven when we die?" question, and I heard from a friend of mine an explanation as to why your answer isn't true. I'd like to hear your thoughts on it.

So his explanation referenced Genesis 1:1. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The way it was explained was that God created heaven"s", plural. The First Heaven is outer space. The Third Heaven is where God is. And the Second Heaven is where Christians go when they die.

There is a pretty consistent belief among both Jews and Christians based on scripture concerning the 'three heavens' and it isn't what is described above. The first heavens speaks of the immediate atmosphere surrounding earth. The second heavens is that of space with the stars and planets. The third heaven is the domain and throne of God. If your friend thinks Christians go to the second heaven when they die then they would be floating around out in space! Maybe they should provide a scripture for that to back up their claim believers go to the 2nd heaven? No, it isn't complicated. Have a look at the following link that provides example scriptures for each of these 'heavens'.

http://carm.org/what-does-it-mean-when-bible-refers-third-heaven

From now on when I speak of 'Heaven' I mean the third heaven where God is. I'm not talking about the earth's atmosphere or the stars.

In regards to your scripture verses, he said that in Luke 23:43, the actual Greek says "Today I tell you, you will be with me in paradise." (Exact wording may vary; I heard this a while ago and don't know Greek.) This changes the meaning of the verse.

No, the actual Greek doesn't say that. The only real argument is where to place the comma in the phrase. So is it:

"Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." or
"Truly I say to you today, you shall be with Me in Paradise."

There are good reasons why Bible translators, who are Greek scholars, use the first phrase. Among there are:

1. Saying "Truly I say to you today...' would make the use of the word 'Today' redundant. Of course Jesus is speaking to the thief 'Today'. Anytime anyone speaks to someone it is in the present. Not tomorrow or yesterday!

2. This phrase translated 'truly I say unto you' was commonly used by Jesus when He wished to stress the point and never did He tack 'today' onto the end of it. For example, even in the same book of Luke we have:

Luk 4:24 And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.
Luk 9:27 "But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."
Luk 12:37 "Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.
Luk 12:44 "Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
Luk 18:17 "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."
Luk 18:29 And He said to them, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God,
Luk 21:3 And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them;

You will see that in all cases Jesus never said 'Truly I say to you today...' The phrase is always 'Truly I say to you' and then He makes His statement. So in the case of the thief it is 'Truly I say unto you, today you shall be with me in paradise.'

3. Finally this fits with the context (instead of being redundant). The thief is asking Jesus that he will be remembered in the future, when Jesus returns in His kingdom. The thief is thinking of some future hope but He knows not when that will be. Jesus gives him immediate hope and certainty right for this very day and not just some unknown future day - 'Today you will be with me in Paradise!' What comfort that wold have given this thief.

I can't remember the explanation for the verse of 2 Cor. 5:8.
In Philippians 1:20, I think my friend said that Paul is wishing to be with Christ. Christ does sit at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1), but that is where he sits. Scripture doesn't say he still doesn't move.

I'm not wanting to be harsh but this is not an argument. All Christians know that the Lord Jesus has gone back to Heaven. That is where He is. Whether he moves around in Heaven is irrelevant. No one reading 2 Cor 5:8 or Phil 1:21 would think that Jesus has moved somewhere else or left Heaven! It is quite clear where Paul hoped to be. I can only think that your friend in trying to make things confusing. Obfuscation is the word. We know that Jesus is in Heaven and that Paul desired to depart and be with Him there from scripture. And scripture DOES tell us that it is in heaven that He must remain until the time of the end when all things must be restored:

Acts 3:19-21 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, (20) and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you--even Jesus. (21) He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

So Heaven is where Jesus is until His return and that is where Paul desired to depart from this life and be... which is better by far!

My friend's explanation focused on 1 Thessalonians 4:17. "Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever." What he said was "Then, together with them...will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." The "them" here is the dead in Christ a.k.a dead Christians. This implies that dead Christians haven't actually met the Lord yet.

Yes, the 'them' is the dead in Christ. But just because they are part of body of Christ that rises and meets the coming Lord in the air has no relevance on whether they have been in Heaven before this. You can't say from the text, like your friend has tried to, that this is the first meeting! It doesn't say that. If I said to you that I am going into town and will meet Brian at the bus stop, would you conclude from that that we have never met before? Of course not. You would just conclude that is where we are meeting this time. The passage in 1 The 4 just describes where believers will meet at Christ's return. The fact is that in 1 Thes 4:14 it says that when Jesus returns, He will actually bring with Him from heaven those that have died in Him. ie They are with Him now in heaven and He brings them... so they have already been with Him.

My friend said approximately this regarding Hebrews 12:23: Which heaven? God made multiple heavens. So which one?

Obfuscation. Classic example of muddying the waters and trying to make cloudy that which is quite clear. No one reading the passage has any problem understanding where the writer of Hebrews is talking about.

Well, Scripture says here "You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things." So it'd be the Third Heaven in regards to the Gen. 1:1 note. My friend continued, saying: "God in this instance is called the Judge. Will judging take place in the Third Heaven?" I didn't have an answer for him. He continued: "So if not, could you still come to God without actually being in the Third Heaven?" Well, yes. But then God is there as well, because that is where He will judge. One still would've met the Lord. "Has judgement happened?" I don't believe so. He rested his case.

The text is so clear this is terrible quite frankly. If he rested his case on that in a court of law it would be a quick case! ; )

Hebrews 12:22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, (23) to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, (24) to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

The writer of Hebrews in context was contrasting the earthly Mount Sinai (represent the law) with the Heavenly Mount Zion (representing grace). If you are in any doubt about where he is talking about just ask yourself these simple questions to determine where He is describing:

Where is the Heavenly Jerusalem? In Heaven.
Where is the city of the living God? In Heaven.
Where are the thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly? In Heaven.
Where is God? In Heaven.
Where is Jesus? In Heaven.
Where are the spirits of righteous men? In Heaven.

Where God judges and when God judges is totally irrelevant to this passage! It just says that you have come to God (and He is in Heaven) who is the judge of all men. It doesn't say judging is taking place at this very time. It is just saying that God is the judge of all men. Now, as a side, but related, issue, there are different judgements to come. Most believe that the Judgment seat of Christ for believers DOES take place in Heaven as opposed to say the judgement of the nations (the sheep and the goats) which takes place on earth. So there is a judgement in Heaven that takes place. But again, this is irrelevant to the text in Hebrews because it is just saying that God is the judge of all. The writer of Hebrews says nothing about the when or where of the judgement.

So the fact remains that the writer was INCREDIBLY clear as to where He was talking about and it is Heaven where God is, where Jesus is, where the Heavenly Jerusalem is... where the saints who have died ARE now. If that can't be seen from the passage I'm probably wasting my time writing any more! : )

In regards to Rev. 6:9-10, he mentioned that they were "under the altar". Under the altar.

Ok... and??? Where is this altar? Is there an earthly altar that they could be under? No, there is no earthly altar. It is an altar in Heaven. The earthly temple that existed was just a copy of the Heavenly one according to Heb 9:23-24. Jesus entered into the heavenly one. All the commentaries I have read state that this passage in Rev 6:9-10 is a Heavenly scene and the altar is Heavenly. It is picturing the martyrs in Heaven, speaking, being given the robes of righteousness. That is where they are. In Heaven with God.

About Rev. 7:9-14, he said that those (the ones which you mentioned) were the ones killed in "the great tribulation". Not the ones before that.

So according to your friends theory, believers who die before the tribulation don't go straight to be with God, but believers who die in the tribulation do go straight to heaven??? My question: If that were so, why would God change the rules and treat them differently and that theory is based on what passages exactly?

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Apologies if I sounded a little frustrated at times writing that... It's just that the so called arguments were mostly smoke and mirrors, trying to twist and force the text to say something it doesn't. And I never like it when people do that. Some people have their own agendas and barrows they like to push but when it means purposefully making texts that are clear, muddy, it is not good.

I trust you are genuine in your desire for the truth.

All the best.