How do you explain certain passages in the Bible suggesting that we go to heaven when we die?


In the two previous Q&A’s, we explained that the Bible does not teach that we go to heaven upon death. The last Q&A began to discuss passages, which are sometimes quoted to teach the opposite. We continue to discuss additional passages in this Q&A.

Last time, we explained John 14:1-4, stating that in the Father’s house there are many mansions, and that Christ is preparing a place for us and that He will return and receive us to Him.

We showed that Christ, while in heaven, prepares individual positions of responsibility for each of His disciples, depending on their works (Revelation 22:12). But they all will be in God’s Kingdom (Matthew 25:34)—part of the Family of God and the Bride having made herself ready—born-again members of God’s spiritual Temple—the Father’s house—comparing it with the physical temple with mansions or chambers.

When Christ returns to this earth to establish God’s rule and kingdom over all of mankind, His disciples will be with Him here on earth also—in the Kingdom of God—ruling under Christ in their respective functions and positions as kings and priests over ten cities or five cities or two cities—which fact is signified by the different chambers in the Father’s house.

But there is another additional way of understanding Christ’s statement in John 14:1-3—which does not, of course, support the false concept that we go to heaven when we die.

In John 14:23, Christ said that if we love Him, we will keep His words, and the Father will love us, and both the Father and Jesus Christ will come and dwell and live in us—through the Holy Spirit. Understood this way, Christ was telling His disciples that Christ would go to the Father in heaven and prepare a place for them so that the Father and Christ would be able to dwell there. Remember, that the Church is the spiritual temple of God, and each member is part of that temple, but in addition, each and individual converted member is him-or herself a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).

When Christ returns, He will take His disciples to Him and give them their reward, because they will have allowed the Father and Christ to dwell and live IN them.

Notice that Ephesians 3:14-19 explains that through the Holy Spirit, Christ dwells in our hearts; James 4:5 confirms that the Holy Spirit dwells in converted Christians; John 14:16-18 reiterates that the Holy Spirit will abide with the Father’s and Christ’s disciples forever; and 1 John 4:12-13 tells us that God the Father dwells in us, and we in Him, when we love one another, and that we know this because He has given us of His Holy Spirit.

We also read in Romans 9:23 that God has prepared us beforehand for glory. Since God the Father created everything through Jesus Christ, and since it is Christ who is the Head of His Church, it is Christ who prepares a place for us so that the Father and He can dwell there—so that we can become glorified. Remember that the word “mansion” can also mean “abode” or “dwelling place.” Understood this way, we are the mansions or chambers or abiding places in God’s spiritual temple, which is the Church—the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16: Ephesians 2:19-22).

To summarize: in the Father’s House—God’s spiritual temple—there are many mansions or abiding places for the Holy Spirit, and Christ is preparing such a home individually for the Father and the Son, so that we can become glorified and inherit eternal life, when Christ returns with the reward, which is based on our individual works and conduct.

Another passage, which is sometimes quoted for the concept that we go to heaven when we die, is the alleged ascension by the Two Witnesses to the third heaven. We read in Revelation 11:3-12 that after the Two Witnesses have prophesied for 3 ½ years, the beast (a political military leader) will kill them, and their bodies will lie in Jerusalem for 3 ½ days. After that, they will be brought back to life and ascend to heaven in a cloud.

But this does not mean that they will ascend to the third heaven. Rather, as we explain in our free booklet, “The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation,”  their resurrection will take place when all the saints (those who died in Christ) will be resurrected from the dead, at the time of Christ’s return, and they will all meet Jesus in the clouds of the first heaven (the atmosphere) to welcome Him (1 Thessalonians 4:17), and they will all descend together to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:5).

Some quote the passage in Revelation 6:5-11, describing the fifth seal of the martyrdom of the saints, to claim that immortal souls of those who died are in heaven, before God’s throne. But as we explain in our free booklet, “Is That In the Bible? The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation,” this VISION is not to be understood literally—otherwise the fate of immortal righteous souls in heaven before God’s throne, unable to move, would be too much of a horrible fate to even consider. As we explained in the first Q&A in this series, there are no immortal souls, but the soul—the person–dies and sleeps an unconscious sleep, until he is resurrected from his sleep of death.

A similar passage, pertaining to the VISION of the great multitude in Revelation 7:9-17, does not support the concept that they are or will be in heaven (We explain this passage in great detail in our free booklet, “Is That In the Bible? The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation.”

Another passage can be found in Revelation 19:1, speaking of “voices in heaven.” But these voices do not belong to Christians who went to heaven after death, but to the multitude of heavenly angels (compare Revelation 4:8-11; 5:11-12).

Finally, some quote Revelation 19:14 for the idea that Christ will return with immortal Christians from the third heaven—claiming that therefore, Christians will have been with Christ and God the Father in the third heaven after their death and before Christ’s return.

However, Revelation 19:14 only says that the returning Christ will be seen riding a white horse, and that those who are with Him will also ride on white horses. Even if this were a reference to immortal Christians, it would refer to the time of their resurrection and their meeting with Christ in the air. The passage does not say that those who are with Christ are descending from the third heaven.

In addition, as we explain in our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World,” it is more likely that those who follow Christ on white horses are holy angelic beings (compare Matthew 25:31). The reference in Jude 14, explaining that the LORD will come with ten thousands of His saints, could refer to resurrected and immortal Christians, as well as to angels. The Greek word, “hagios,” means “holy ones” and could apply to both.

Taken all these passages together, none contradicts the very clear biblical teaching that we will not go to heaven when we die. Rather, the dead need to be and will be resurrected from their sleep of death, but this will not happen prior to Christ’s return to this earth.

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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