How soon after death do you go to Heaven?
One of the most amazing truths about the Gospel is that it promises eternal life with God after death to those who believe in Jesus Christ.
This is truly an interesting concept to us, and considering none of us have ever died and come back, we aren’t entirely sure how it actually plays out.
For example, one of the biggest questions is how soon you actually go to heaven after you die.
There are a few different viewpoints on this issue, so let’s look at each of them and the biblical reasoning behind them.
How soon after death do you go to Heaven?
Being in Heaven immediately
One answer to this question is that when we die, our souls are immediately either sent to heaven with God or sent to hell for eternal torment.
There are many Bible verses that actually support this view well.
For example, when Jesus is hanging on the cross after He has been crucified, He is alongside two thieves who are also being crucified.
One of the thieves believes in Him and Jesus says to him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
The thought process there is if the thief was to be with him ‘today,’ then that must mean that you get sent to heaven immediately after you die.
Another backing for this view is the writings of Paul.
Paul makes many comments about being with the Lord after death.
For example, he says in Philippians that he is torn between wanting to die and be with Christ or to live and be with his brothers and sisters in the faith.
He also says in 2 Corinthians that to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord.
All of these verses seem to back up the idea that once we die, we are immediately judged and sent to our eternal destination. However, there are some problems with this view.
If we are immediately judged after we die, what is the point of the ultimate judgment after Jesus returns that Revelation speaks about?
What is the point of the resurrection of those who have died if they are already with Christ?
Also, there are other verses that support a different view – what do we do with those?
Well, let’s take a look at them.
We await heaven in a sleeping state
Another view on this issue is that when we die, we go into a state of sleep to await the time when Christ returns.
Then we will all be resurrected and judged on that final day to be sent to our eternal destination – Heaven or hell.
There are actually many verses that support this idea.
One situation that is interesting in light of this issue is that of Lazarus.
In the Gospels, we are told of a friend of Jesus named Lazarus who dies, and Jesus rises back to life.
When Jesus is speaking to His disciples about Lazarus after he has died, He says that Lazarus is simply sleeping and that He will go and wake him up.
This seems to describe death as some sort of sleeping state.
Again, in 1 Thessalonians, Paul writes about those who have fallen asleep or died, being brought back to life with Jesus when He returns.
Many other verses also talk about death as being a sort of sleeping state in which souls await the final judgment at Christ’s return.
This would mean that when you die, you are in some sort of unconscious state until Jesus returns.
When He does, all people will rise again to be judged and sent to their eternal destination.
The third view
There is another view on this issue as well that puts the first two together.
Since it is difficult to reconcile the verses that support each of these views as both being true simultaneously, many people believe that when we die, we actually are in an intermediate state where those who believed in Christ are with Him, just not necessarily in eternal heaven, and those who did not believe in Christ are in a state of temporary judgment until Christ returns.
One big passage that supports this view is the fact that in Revelation 20, we see all the unbelievers who have died being resurrected, judged at the white throne, and thrown into the lake of fire.
This must mean that before this point, these unbelievers have not been in the lake of fire. However, in Luke 16, Jesus talks about a rich man being tormented immediately after he dies.
Therefore, many believe that we are sent to temporary places of either comfort or judgment to await the final judgment when Jesus returns.
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So… which one is right?
The true answer to this question is that we each need to study the Scriptures for ourselves and see what we think God is saying about life after death.
There has been a lot of debate on this issue for a long time between biblical scholars, so don’t feel bad that it is a challenging issue!
We should be challenged by these questions, and they should spark our interest enough that we go and research ourselves as to what the Scriptures really say.
Regardless, the comfort is that no matter what the answer is, our mission in this life is still the same.
If you are a believer in Christ, you don’t have to worry either way.
Knowing that you will be with Christ for eternity should comfort you and put you at ease no matter what the answer is.
However, the opposite is also true.
Despite whether it happens right after death or when Christ returns, there are unbelievers who are dying and will be sent to judgment at some point after death.
We should take this to heart and be preaching the Gospel every chance we get!
Let us never forget that souls are important and that we have the good news that will change people’s eternal destinies.
What happens after death?
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27)
The answer is simple. Based on the Bible, once a man dies, he faces judgment.
This message is simple yet profound because certain Christian denominations believe there is still a window of opportunity for the dead to make amends for their wrongs while still on earth.
For example, the Roman Catholic Church believes in purgatory, a temporary place of purification for souls who have died in a state of grace but still have some venial (lesser) sins or temporal punishments for their sins that need to be cleansed before they can enter into the full presence of God in heaven.
It is not a place of eternal punishment like hell but a state of purification.
The idea is that after death, if a person is not perfectly holy but still in a state of grace, they go through a process of purification in purgatory to remove any remaining impurities or attachment to sin.
This purification allows the soul to become thoroughly sanctified and ready to enter heaven.
This belief cannot be traced in the Bible because God’s Word says judgment comes immediately after death, and everyone will pay for their deeds when on earth.
In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the Bible states that the rich man died, went to hell, and experienced torment and anguish.
At the same time, Lazarus found himself with Abraham, obviously in a place of peace and joy.
The rich man pleaded that Abraham allowed Lazarus to give him water to quench his taste.
He also pleaded that Lazarus be sent to earth to warn his family members about the anguish and torment that awaits those living sinful lives.
If purgatory or an opportunity to repent was available to the dead, the rich man would have gladly gone through the process. However, he ended up in hell.
What does this mean to believers today?
Live your life like you would die any moment.
No one knows when death will come knocking.
In fact, death does not knock.
It snatches souls away, especially when we least expect it.
Therefore, we must live with eternity in view because judgment awaits all, and no one will stand to defend us.
What will speak for you is your works when you were alive.
Where do sinners go immediately after death?
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
The reality about this topic is that most people already know the answer but choose to live in denial or do not want to accept this truth.
There are only two destinations for the dead: the first is heaven, and the second is hell.
Those who pleased the Lord when living on earth will be with Him in heaven, while those who walked against His will and status will go to hell.
Just as there is eternal life, an endless life of peace, joy, and happiness, there’s also eternal death, an endless life of pain, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.
“And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)
As the scripture above says, eternal death does not mean that one will die forever or will be in an unconscious state.
Instead, they will go through punishment.
The nature of punishment is not mentioned in the Bible, but we know from the scriptures that those who will spend eternity in hell will be thrown into the lake of fire.
Imagine the pain of holding a hot metal or touching a hot pot.
Now imagine what it will feel like to be inside a fire like bread in an oven.
What makes it worse is that one won’t die, not be burnt to ashes, but keep continuously feeling the same excruciating pain.
That is a glimpse of what being in hell feels like.
That is why God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from this terrible experience.
Jesus died so we won’t experience eternal death because whatever pain we feel now on earth is nothing compared to what awaits sinners at the end of times.
Is soul sleep the same as death in the Bible?
Some people believe that the soul goes to a state of hibernation or sleeps after a person dies, hoping to wake up on resurrection day.
This belief is the wrong interpretation of some Bible verses that describe death as sleep.
For example, Jesus said Jarius’s daughter was not dead but sleeping (Luke 8:54). This statement often forms the basis of their argument.
However, reading further, Jesus commanded the girl to arise, after which the Bible says, “Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately” (Luke 8:55).
For her spirit to have returned meant the spirit had already left the body but was not sleeping.
It meant the spirit had gone up to face judgment before God.
The Apostle Paul said, “Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
What this means is the soul leaves the body after death, but where the soul goes depends on who the person was on earth.
Paul and other believers were sure that their souls would be with the Lord after they had left their bodies.
The spirit is separated from the body after death.
The body remains in the grace and decays while the spirit returns to its maker.
From dust we were made to the dust we will return. However, we shall all receive a new body at the resurrection.
This body will see no corruption.
It will will remain forever.
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