From the article I just wrote on “Ghosts and the Paranormal”, two objections have come up for people saying we go immediately to Heaven or Hell when we die, verses what scripture describes as sleep. To jog your memory, ot those coming across this on the internet, here is that excerpt…..
Familiar spirits can be summed up as the spirit world, but that’s where all this gets confusing to a lot of people, partly, by my estimation, because of what many think happens to us when we die. Let me explain. Many people profess that as soon as you die, you go immediately to Heaven or Hell immediately. There are several problems with that, one being, that for someone to do such, they have already received punishment thus it eliminates a need for the Great White Throne judgment. Remember, Paul tells us that we are appointed to death, then judgment…not judgments. God is a just God, and He will judge those without Christ and sentence them to an everlasting Hell, but He will not do it twice. Also, many will quote this verse to say we go right away…
2nd Corinthians 5:8
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
Paul is not saying what people read into this at all! He does not say as soon as we are absent from the body we are present. He is saying He would rather be out of the body and in the presence of the Lord. It’s the choice we ALL should want, as this life is temporary and Jesus is the big picture, but it in no way translates Him saying we go immediately. It is looking to the blessed hope we have in Jesus that we will be raised, and have glorified bodies, and live with Jesus forever and ever! What the Bible does tell us about the dead, is that they sleep. When Jesus went to raise Lazarus, He said he slept (John 11:12-14). Old Testament and New Testament both describe the dead as sleeping, and not knowing anything. In fact, Paul’s conversation on the rapture when Jesus returns is VERY pointed that we sleep:
13 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.
16 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:
It is crystal clear that the dead are asleep. And this is a source of information that troubles many a Christian because first, it goes against what “everybody” normally says, and it doesn’t sound as good to the ears. But I submit this to you, there is a huge reason this is called sleep. When you are asleep, think about what you remember once you wake up. Nothing, except a dream maybe, but you know what I am saying here. 8 hours of sleep would go by and you wouldn’t know it. That’s what the point of the description of sleeping is. If you are in the ground for 1 day, or 2000 years, when Christ returns for us, it would be as if you had just taken your last breath anyway, you would know absolutely no different. I want you to use one of the senses God gave you right now. It’s called common sense. If your “soul” goes immediately to be with God, why is Jesus coming to raise the dead and living bodies back? I mean, when we read all verses pertaining to our rapture, we know that He is coming for us….it’s not a case of part of us is coming with Him to get a body out of the ground and unite it back together. Scripture will not support that thought! Jesus said He would not drink from the cup again until we were with Him, and that He is coming again for us. If people are already in His presence, that statement can’t be true!
Further, I’d like you to consider one last thing and that is to ask yourself, if God would take someone from Heaven and have them live on this old world again after being there with Him, and I hope you say no. To that, I ask you to review this verse….
51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
The saints that slept arose and went into Jerusalem and talked with people! First let me say, the fact is this, if we did die and go straight to Heaven, that would be great, but I feel it is clear we do not, and this plays a big bearing on the rest of this article, because of this false belief, Christians have played into this false ghost world of friends and family, good ghosts and bad ghosts, that walk around moving things. It is because that with this false theory, Christians have imagined loved ones “looking down” smiling at them. That in itself is not a possibility either. When we are finally with Jesus, there will be no more tears. If you could see a loved one (and by the way, you couldn’t because you’re not omnipotent) and they suffered, you’d be sad.
Now for the two passages that people want to use for rebuttal…..
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.
The comma in verse 43 has been the subject of a lot of debate on where it should be placed. Some have tried to say it is right, some say it should be after the word today. In either case, people would take away different meanings for it. The fact of the matter is, the comma is grammatically incorrect. First, Jesus was speaking on the cross, and as such, we don’t have commas, semicolons, periods or anything else when we speak, so clearly, it is subjective. Next, Luke was not there, he penned it down from the oral tradition given by the disciples that were there, and would have written it as it was spoken. Next, Greek in the New Testament does not allow for commas, they are useless in the language. They are inserted by other writers to aid in what they feel should be the flow of the wording. That being the case, the plain meaning of the as-spoken text would become in today’s terms “I’m telling you right now (today) you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus did not set a time. He couldn’t set the time because He still had work to do in His resurrection. He would not have been in paradise. He also still had to go prepare a place for us and did so some 40 days after His resurrection. But then that brings up paradise. Jesus mentioned it on the cross, but is it really what you think it is? For that we look at the story of Lazarus the beggar and the rich man, which is the parable in which is the other contention.
I am not going to post the whole story here, but you can find it in Luke as well, chapter 16, starting in verse 19. Many have taken this as proof of destiny directly after death, but what they miss is Jesus teaching, as was in all His parables. The Sanhedrin was divided into to sects, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. One of the main points of contention was that the Sadducees believe once you die, that’s it, there is no resurrection. The Pharisees believed in a resurrection. Along with this belief, they described two different places where they thought people went to awaiting this resurrection. The righteous went to paradise, or as some called it, Abraham’s Bosom. The unrighteous went to Gehennah. Jesus was in the middle of railing the Pharisees at this time, and used an opportunity to show them they weren’t as righteous as they thought they were. In doing so, He showed that all the rich man’s power, influence, and wealth couldn’t help him. He was a man who was unnamed most likely so that those Pharisees could place themselves in his shoes. The beggar was named, and for good reason. Lazarus would be a well known beggar, sickly, and destitute that the Pharisees could immediately identify the type of person Jesus was using in His example. Jesus then showed that this man, who didn’t come up to snuff by the Pharisees standards, did so where it was more important….under God’s standards. Jesus did with this parable as He always did. He used some common ground they were familiar with to teach them and/or rebuke them. He never acknowledged that their precepts were right on it, the whole intent was to show them, they were unable to work their way to righteousness.
All the aspirations of going immediately might sound great, but they do NOT line up scripturally. And in the case of the first rebuttal, with the thief on the cross, even if you leave the comma in there, one can still take the same meaning from it as I am telling you. What if the comma is there simply because Jesus was short of breath and paused? He is still telling the thief that his (the thief’s) faith is counted towards righteousness; it just came out with a pause. When you line this up with the rest of scripture, it fits perfectly.
This being the case, it does not change the Bible in being correct, it is God’s Word and has been preserved. There are no errors in its teaching. Now, if you’d like to look at the overwhelming number of verses that tell us when we die we sleep, here they are:
2 Samuel 7:12
1 Kings 1:21
1 Kings 2:10
1 Kings 11:21
1 Kings 14:20
1 Kings 14:31
1 Kings 15:8
1 Kings 15:24
1 Kings 16:6
1 Kings 16:28
1 Kings 22:40
1 Kings 22:50
2 Kings 8:24
2 Kings 10:35
2 Kings 13:9
2 Kings 13:13
2 Kings 14:16, 22, 29
2 Kings 15:7, 22, 38
2 Kings 16:20
2 Kings 20:21
2 Kings 21:18
2 Kings 24:6
2 Chronicles 9:31
2 Chronicles 12:16
2 Chronicles 14:1
2 Chronicles 16:13
2 Chronicles 21:1
2 Chronicles 26:2, 23
2 Chronicles 27:9
2 Chronicles 28:27
2 Chronicles 32:33
2 Chronicles 33:20
1 Corinthians 11:30
1 Corinthians 15:6, 18, 20
1 Thessalonians 4:13-15
2 Peter 3:4
In His Grace,
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