THE DEAD IN CHRIST
We hear at funerals, "Your loved ones are in heaven now with Jesus and God the Father looking over the balcony of heaven down on us from above". From the pulpit we hear, "That your loved ones who are now dead are either in heaven with Jesus or burning in hell".
If this is true, where is it in the scriptures? Does it really say in the Bible that when you die you go to heaven?
There is no specific scripture that says that but those that believe the Bible teaches it use several scriptures to illustrate their point. Let us look at these scriptures and see what they really say.
Luke 23:43, "Verily I say unto thee, to day shalt thou be with me in paradise."
Here they tell us, when we die we go immediately to heaven to be with Jesus, just as the thief on the cross next to Him did. The problem is, Jesus died and went to hell on that day and for three days. Matthew 12:40, "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
Matthew 26:61, "And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days."
Matthew 27:62-64, "Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first."
Mark 8:31, "And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again."
Mark 14:58, "We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands."
Mark 15:29, "And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,"
John 2:19, "Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
John 2:19-21, "Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body."
Well what if they say that it was just his body that would be raised in three days and before that he was in heaven? The answer to that is here in John 20:1-18, "The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. (remember this is the third day) Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God."
It is at this point, at the end of the "third day", that Jesus first goes to heaven after his resurrection. Out of his own mouth he says he has " not yet ascended" yet there are those that still teach the opposite. Then again there are those that say that that heaven is not the same as "paradise" and that Jesus and the thief were in paradise that same day they died. Of coarse they undo their own argument when they try to claim that when a believer dies they go to heaven. Is this "paradise" a different place than heaven? Let us see what the scriptures say. There are only two other scriptures that contain the word "paradise" in the Bible.
2 Corinthians 12:4, "How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."
Revelation 2:7, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."
If it still isn't clear to the reader that this place "paradise" is in heaven than there is another reference as to it's location because there is a landmark in paradise we can use to locate it accurately. This landmark is the "tree of life" because we know it is in the middle of "paradise".
Revelation 22:1-3, "And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:"
Revelation 22:12-14, "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."
Again it is clear that "paradise" and "the tree of life" are where the throne of God is. It is in the Heavenly City, the City of God in heaven, which will come to Earth after the resurrection. Some actually claim that "paradise" is some kind of "Purgatory" where the dead wait. This is just a fabrication on their part to bolster a doctrine that has no scriptural foundation.
There is no Biblical basis to assume that Jesus went to heaven (paradise) the day He died, for we know that He bore the sins of the world and was not raised from the dead until the third day. Besides, this statement we have from Jesus to the thief is in direct response to a statement made by the thief, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom" (Luke 23:42). The theif said this, hoping that when Jesus came into His kingdom, he might be considered at that time. But Jesus was telling him that He had already considered him for His kingdom and that he would have a part in it.
"Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise": This is the way this scripture should read in the King James Version. Or else we must twist scripture to believe He was in heaven three days earlier than the other scriptures say.
While Jesus was in the heart of the earth, Matthew 12:40, He stayed and preached the gospel to the Old Testament dead: 1 Peter 3:19-20. "By which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient in the days of Noah."
He also defeated Satan while he was there. Colossians 2:15, "And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it." A "spoil" is something valuable that belonged to your enemy. You cannot take a spoil unless you fight and win.
Revelation 1:18, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." The keys of hell and death is a great spoil. So are the souls of the disobedient who would have been subject to the second death except they confess Christ. And Christ gave them that choice.
Lets move on to the next so called proof of the die and go to heaven teachings. "For to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord". Again we are told that when we die we go immediately to heaven. Again the Bible does not say this. Paul in this scripture says that now we are to operate in faith, but when we are resurrected we will be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, verse 10 saying, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ", referring to an event after the resurrection. The scripture does not say "For to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord". Words are added to the scripture to make it sound like it is saying something it does not say. Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:8, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." Well, wouldn't we all! Then he states that we will see Jesus at the judgment seat, which is after the resurrection, not at each individual's death. Conveniently they leave out the next verses, 2 Corinthians 5:10 .."For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" which establishes what Paul is really saying.
Paul knew very well what happened to someone who died. He explained it to the believers in Thessalonica. 1 Thess. 4:13 "But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep,". Paul went on to explain that they would be raised at Jesus' return, the resurrection, not at death.
Throughout the New Testament Jesus explained that the dead are asleep, not in heaven. Matt. 9:24, Mark 5:39, Luke 8:52, John 11:11. And also by the Apostles in ; Acts 7:60, 1Co. 15:18 & 51, 1 Th. 4:15, 1 Cor. 11:30, 1 Cor. 15:51.
Matthew 9:24 "He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn."
Mark 5:39 " And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth."
Luke 8:52 "And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth."
John 11:11 "These things said he: and after that saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well."
Paul also confirms this.
Acts 7:60 "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".
Acts 13:36 "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:"
1 Corinthians 11:30 "For this cause many [are] weak and sickly among you, and many sleep."
1 Corinthians 15:6 "After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep."
1 Corinthians 15:18 "Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished."
1 Corinthians 15:51 " Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,"
Ephesians 5:14 "Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 " 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. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 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."
2 Peter 3:4 "And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep,"
When is it then that those who are asleep are awakened ?
We have been told that there are at least two more resurrections of the dead. One at the "Rapture" and another when Jesus returns after the tribulation. Some even teach that there is yet a third after a thousand years at the "final judgment". There is however, only one more resurrection to come according to the scriptures.
John 6:39 " And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."
John 6:44 " No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."
John 6:54 " Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
This resurrection is at Jesus return "at the last day", His only future return.
The Bible teaches us that the "dead in Christ" sleep awaiting the resurrection and judgment that is yet to come. The Bible also says that the sinners that are not redeemed will not be judged until Jesus returns. They will not be cast into the furnace of fire until after they are judged.
We hear them tell us that when Jesus comes to take us out in the "Rapture" we go with Him to heaven to receive our rewards at the judgment in heaven for believers. That is not what the Bible says. Jesus says that when He returns, He is bringing His rewards with Him. These are rewards and treasures we have stored up ourselves and have earned by our works.
Revelations 22:12, "And behold I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according to his work shall be."
You have heard that when the Lambs Book of Life is opened in heaven that if your name is in it you can enter in. We picture ourselves standing at the "Pearly Gates" while Gabriel calls out our names, and when we hear our name we can walk in. Where is that in the scriptures? The Bible does not say this. Instead, it tells us that at the resurrection on Earth, at Jesus return, all are judged and whosoevers name is not found written in the Book of Life is cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:13-15).
We are told that heaven and earth shall pass away and there will be a "new heaven" and a "new earth". They say that Earth is completely destroyed, burned into bits, or it explodes and God makes us a new one while we wait in heaven and watch. But the Bible says that Heaven and Earth becomes changed in the same way as you become changed when Jesus returns. The Bible says that heaven and earth take on a new nature, a divine nature ... where "the wolf and the lamb shall feed together" and dust shall be the serpents meat (Isaiah 65:25) "There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Because "God himself shall be with them" (Rev. 21:3 & 4). This is the new order, an Earth without sin, filled with the presence of Gods glory and inhabited by His saints forever, a return to a "Garden of Eden" like place, Heaven on Earth (Joel 2:3).
The dead are asleep in the grave awaiting one special occasion their resurrection. R.I.P. on tombstones means rest in peace, this fits. Check out old gravestone and you'll find inscriptions speaking of sleep. Death is called "sleep" at least 50 times in the Bible. We are to regard it as a sound, dreamless, painless, unaware sleep. A person may have been in the tomb 1,000 years, but when raised in the resurrection it will seem to him that he only dozed off for a moment. Jesus told us where the dead are -- John 5:28, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,". They all wait in their graves for the resurrection. Death is not life in heaven, hell, limbo, or purgatory. It is not life of any kind. In death the soul does not live it sleeps, the spirit does not live it returns to God from whence it came, the body does not live it turns to dust. The words "soul" and "spirit" are used over 1,600 times in the Bible, but not one time are either given any life or personality or wisdom or knowledge when separated from the living body. Body plus Breath equals "a living soul", aware of its own existence. Breath is not referring to one's common breathing, but breath as the "divine unique spark of life," and when someone dies, the spirit (or breath) returns to God, not the disembodied soul. When a man dies, "his breath goeth forth, he returneth to earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." Psalms 146:4, "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish."
Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, "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 9:10, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." And in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6,10 tells it very clearly: "the living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything." Zilch. Zero. Nada. Nothing. So, if a man's thoughts perish at the moment he dies, how could he be "alive and well in heaven?" And if it's true that "the dead know not any thing," how is it that the dead can be in heaven in the presence of God? No, death is a sleep, and there are many proof texts in the Bible that supports this view.
JOB 7:21 "For now shall I sleep in the dust, and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be." Job 14:10-12, "But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep." Man dieth... and where is he? Both the Old Testament AND the New Testament are in total harmony about "death" being a sleep. 1 COR 15:6, 18, 20 They stoned Stephen... and... he fell asleep." ACTS 7:59-60 "They... which are fallen asleep in Christ." DUET 31:16 "And the Lord said unto Moses, behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers." 1 KINGS 2:10 "So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David." 1 KINGS 11:43 "And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father." ACTS 13:36 "For David... fell asleep, and was laid unto his fathers..." 2 PETER 3:4"Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep..." And also see (just some more for fun): 1 KINGS 11:21; 14:20; 14:31; 15:8; 15:24; 16:6; 16:28; 22:40; 22:50 2 KINGS 8:24; 10:35; 13:9; 13:13; 14:16; 14:22; 14:29; 15:7; 15:22; 15:38; 16:20; 20:21; 21:18; 24:6 2 CHRON 9:31; 12:16; 14:1; 16:13; 21:1; 26:2; 26:23; 27:9; 28:27; 32:33; PSA 13:3 "...lest I sleep the sleep of death." In John 11:11 we have the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead -- Jesus said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep." The disciples MISUNDERSTOOD him, so Jesus CLARIFIED: "Lazarus is dead." in JOHN 11:14. Also: when Lazarus came out of the grave, if he had been called back from heaven, don't you think he would've said something about it? But Lazarus said "nothing." And he certainly would have had lots to say to everyone if he'd been called out of hell. It's so simple: Lazarus said nothing because he knew nothing -- not a single thing. For four days Lazarus had truly been "asleep in the grave." Jesus knew what the Old Testament said about those in the grave... ECC 9:10 "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Why? Because "death" is sleep. Here's another important "sleep" text. PSA 115:17 "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." If people went straight to heaven at their death, they would be praising the Lord. But the dead rest in the silence of sleep, and they don't awake until the resurrection. "For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth." ISA 38:18; PSA 88:10-12 Even David waits in his grave. ACTS 2:29, 34 "He is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day... for David is not ascended into the heavens." Why? Because he too awaits his resurrection.
In the only specific Biblical teaching on the subject is done by the Apostle Paul in: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15-16, "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. 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:"
No matter how you see this scripture, the "dead in Christ" are not "resurrected" until after the last trump at Christ return.
Now, in the face of all these "Proofs", one must revisit any doctrines that in one or two questionable impressions of out of context scripture, try to insist the righteous dead "go to heaven" and the unrighteous dead "go to hellfire" when they die.
"A house divided against itself cannot stand"