Do Christians go to heaven when they die?

 

A dream or a vision I do not know But one month after my Mom’s passing I had an amazing experience were during my sleep I have witnessed the exact events of my Mom’s funeral with two distinctive differences. The music played was a wedding procession instead of the actual funeral song, and her standing next to the coffin looking at me as she departed into heaven. I knew then as I know now nothing can be the truth if not confirmed by the word of God completely. Lately I have been overwhelmed by the fact that I cannot let go of this issue without a complete settlement in my Spirit and a biblical confirmation to what I thought to be the truth by the written word of God.

Jesus promised in John 11:25-26 “…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…” for He hold the keys of death Rev 1:18 “ I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” The Christian will never die.

The work of redemption of Jesus is for the whole person; spirit soul and body. My Spirit is born again at the moment of the confession of faith in Jesus, Rom 10:9 “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. Though my consciousness, my mental realm has to be renewed daily by the word of God as in Rom 12:2 “…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” John 17:17 “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth”. Salvation will be applied to my body at the time of the resurrection, when we receive the glorified body.

So my spirit is born again at confession of faith, my soul is renewed / sanctified daily by the word and my body will be saved and the day of his appearing, when glorification will take place which is [1]the final step in the application of redemption, Rom 8:30 & 1 Cor 15:54-55.

There is some multidimensional work which involves both the perfecting of the spiritual and of the physical, from the moment the believer passes to the moment of the resurrection into glorification, and that where my confusion starts. Do we go to heaven when we are glorified at the resurrection or when we fall asleep (die).

Before the resurrection! OT era at the cross Jesus said to the thief in Luke 23:43 “And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Jesus dies and goes to Hell and three days later on Sunday He rose victorious with the keys of death and Hades in his hands. After the resurrection NT era that very day He says to Mary; do not touch me because I have not been to my father yet. Did Jesus tell the thief on the cross that they would be together in Paradise that very day, or did he say on that day, that they would be together in Paradise? It has been argued that the Greek text is ambiguous on this point, and that the position of the comma (before or after the word “today”) determines the sense of Christ’s statement, but the [2]Arabic and Hebrew bible insists on the understanding that the thief went to Paradise that day.

My questioning comes in two fold. If we go to be with the Lord at the moment of physical death where is the need for the resurrection accept for glorification. So we go to be with him in spirit then we come back to claim our new bodies. Then why does it say in 1 Cor 15:51-52 “Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed” that we will fall asleep then we will rise and be changed.

Then I look in 1 Thess4:14 “14Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus”. And in verse 16 says “…and the dead in Christ will rise first.” So far the body falls to sleep then, is it the Spirit of man or the Soul of man or both go to be with the Lord then return with Him to claims their body later, and this belief is confirmed in the gospel of John chapter 5 and 6 by Jesus.

This Paper caused me to study deeper into the word, as professor Shrum encouraged us to always study the word of God there always treasure awaiting us. It is amazing how if we are willing to spend more time in studying deeper into God’s word, the spirit of God will reveal the truth to us, if we are willing to open our hearts to Him without any pre-conceived ideas. I decided to look into our study book Grudem, and in Chapter 42 on Glorification it all downed on me, the resurrection is all about the body[3]. In Rom 8:11 “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you”.

In Phil 3:20-21 “but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself”. So again it is all about the physical transformation, for our spirit is already has been transformed through regeneration and when the body goes to sleep it awaits the Lord’s appearing at a later date.

The believer’s spirit resides in heaven Rev 6:9-11 speaks of the souls of those who were slain and [4]John saw under the altar; “at the foot of the altar of incense, in the most holy place; he saw them in heaven. Even the spirits of just men made perfect retain a proper resentment of the wrong they have sustained by their cruel enemies” Those Christians who gave their life for the gospel even though their body was destroyed but their soul and spirit are in heaven in the presence of God awaiting their complete salvation through glorification.

Going back to my confusion it seems that the OT and NT eras were intermingled. Did Jesus and the thief go to Paradise on that day? In order to answer the question, we need to be reminded that some Jews believed in the resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6, 8). If a Pharisee were asked how the dead are raised, 1 Cor. 15:35, he would have said that, when righteous people die, they go to a special place where they await their resurrection. This place is called by various names. One name is “Paradise.” Another is “the Bosom of Abraham.” In Jesus’s parable of Lazarus and the rich man, it was Lazarus who found himself in the special place (the Bosom of Abraham). To say that a dead person was in that place was the same as saying that he was righteous, because only the righteous went to Paradise to wait with Abraham.

Did God create Paradise for the OT righteous people to go to awaiting the resurrection, I can truly say I do not know, but one thing I am sure of in Matt 27: 52-53 I see the first resurrection, Jesus the first then the Old Testament saints, these saints actual bodies were raised to life those who are centuries old their bodies were glorified like Christ our Lord, and the same will happened to us. But we will not await our glorification in Paradise we will be in the presence of Christ in heaven.

At the rapture, the dead in Christ will return with Him and their bodies are raised so that their souls and spirits are joined with their resurrected, glorified bodies. At the same time, those who are alive when Christ returns are simply transformed into their glorified bodies like that of the Savior’s. There is no intermediate place or condition of soul sleep. Rather, believers are in heaven with the Lord and very much aware of His presence, it is their bodies that are asleep.

 

[1] Systematic Theology Grudem, Chapter 42 glorification

[2] Translated directly from the Greek

[3] Systematic Theology Grudem, Chapter 42 glorification Page 830

[4] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Revelation 6:9. Page 1145