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Heaven and the Souls of the Redeemed

  • Heaven is the dwelling place of God, his angels, and the souls of the redeemed.
  • The souls of the righteous go directly to heaven, when they die in the flesh.
  • Many souls in the Old Testament were redeemed from hell, and received into heaven.

The Lord has been redeeming all of his servants back to him in heaven, from the beginning.

The third heaven, or Paradise (see ch.3 Three Heavens), is the dwelling place of God and the angels. It is also the place where the souls of the redeemed go immediately when they die. This is confirmed by a number of verses, which make clear that the overcomers of this world go to a far better place when they pass on.

Jesus tells the malefactor on the cross, that that day he would be with him in Paradise, "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23.43 KJV bible). In Acts 7, Stephen asks the Lord to receive his spirit, so that he may dwell with him in heaven, "[Stephen] looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God...And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7.55,59 KJV bible). Clearly, the assumption is that after life in the flesh, he may be allowed to dwell with Christ in spiritual heaven.

Paul tells us plainly that the souls of the saints go to heaven when he says, "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" (2nd Corinthians 5.6-8 KJV bible). He describes that upon death, he and his fellow servants would return to the Lord absent their bodies. Paul reaffirms this knowledge in his letter to the Philippians, "But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better" (Philippians 1.22-23 KJV bible). He wants to continue serving God in the world, but recognizes departing to be with Christ as far better than life in the flesh.

If the souls of the redeemed don't go to heaven when they die, then how would one account for the following scene in Revelation 6, "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled" (Revelation 6.9-11 KJV bible). How could God's servants be depicted as crying out in the temple of the Lord, unless they are present with him in heaven?

The souls of the upright went to heaven in the Old Testament as well, and there are many examples of God redeeming individuals from the power of Sheol. The first account is of Enoch, who disappears because he is taken by the Lord, "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Genesis 5.24 KJV bible). Later, Elijah is taken to heaven, being lifted up both physically and spiritually in a whirlwind, "Behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2nd Kings 2.11 KJV bible). These accounts show us, beyond a doubt, that some individuals in the Old Testament were redeemed into heaven.

Later, David speaks of his own redemption from the power of Sheol, so that he might be received by the Lord, "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave [Sheol]: for he shall receive me" (Psalm 49.15 KJV bible). Likewise, Job describes returning to the Lord at the end of his campaign or service, "If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time [Hebrew: tsebawaw - campaign or service] will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands" (Job 14.14-15 KJV bible). While not as dramatic as Enoch and Elijah, both David and Job speak of the potential that their souls will dwell in heaven after they pass away. Also, Isaiah testifies to the redemption of Abraham, implying that he had gone to heaven, "Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob" (Isaiah 29.22 KJV bible). If Abraham was justified by faith, being a father to those who walk by it (Romans 4), then how could he not be dwelling with the Lord in Paradise?

We also know that it wasn't necessary for someone in the Old Testament to be physically taken up or translated as Enoch and Elijah were, in order to go to heaven. For example, Genesis 25.9 says that Abraham died and was buried, and Acts 2.29 tells us that David died in the flesh and was also buried, "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day" (Acts 2.29 KJV bible). So we know that God had redeemed their souls from the hand of Sheol, and received them into heaven.

There is much evidence in the New Testament that the patriarchs and prophets from the Old Testament had previously gone to heaven. For example, Moses appears with Elijah, talking to Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration, "[Jesus] was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him" (Matthew 17.2-3 KJV bible). Now if we know for a fact that Elijah went to heaven, then apparently after Moses died he also went to heaven (which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone), otherwise how does one account for his appearance on the mountain with Elijah?

Also in the New Testament, Jesus describes to us how a beggar named Lazarus dies, and is taken by the angels into Abraham's bosom, "And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16.22 KJV bible). If the angels came and carried Lazarus away, then the place they brought him to must have been heaven. Therefore, Abraham's soul was already in Paradise, in order to receive Lazarus there. So we come to understand that spiritual heaven or Paradise is not only the dwelling place of God and his angels, but all of the faithful souls who have been redeemed from the power of death, even from the beginning.

But if the souls of the righteous went to heaven in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, then that raises a number of issues. For example, what shall we conclude about John 3.13 and Acts 2.34, which say, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3.13 KJV bible), "For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: "The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"" (Acts 2.34 NASB bible). How could David (or anyone else) have gone to heaven if it specifically says that no man has ascended into heaven, but the Son of Man who is in heaven? These verses seem to indicate that none, not even Enoch and Elijah, went to heaven before Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

However, if we fully analyze these verses we realize that they are not talking not about simply going to heaven, but specifically ascending into heaven. So what's the difference? An ascension implies that one is found worthy and justified to leave behind this world and enter into heaven. In contrast, all of the souls (both before and since Jesus) who have gone to heaven, have been received or taken there by God and his angels. They have not been given entry according to their own righteousness, but rather they have redemption through the Lord's mercy and forgiveness.

In contrast, Jesus not only first descended into Hades as he suffered for the sins of the world (Acts 2.31 and Ephesians 4.9), but then on account of his righteousness he was raised up from death and ascended to heaven in glory. He was not ransomed by God from the power of Hades, because he was not guilty of any transgression. Instead, he became the ransom and redemption of many through his crucifixion, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10.45 NASB bible).

How was pre-Christian redemption possible?

It is sometimes construed from studying the New Testament, that no one could have gone to heaven prior to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, because there was no redemption for sin in the world. Indeed, if Jesus brought the remission of sins into the world through the cross, then how could anyone partake of these things before him?

The key to understanding this discrepancy is that Christ didn't necessarily bring redemption into the world, but rather he fulfilled his work of becoming the way and path of it. If we understand that all men are sinners, and all sins are transgressions against God, then we also understand that it has always been God's rightful power and authority to forgive sin. This was the nature of redemption before Christ; that God, according to his own mercy and apart from the law, pardoned the sins of a precious few to receive them back to him.

David speaks specifically of the Lord's mercy and forgiveness upon those that love him, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered...I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32.1,5 KJV bible), "For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103.11-12 KJV bible). Solomon also speaks of the Lord's willingness to pardon the sins of those that fear his name, "Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)" (1st Kings 8.39 KJV bible). Notice how in the New Testament, and before his crucifixion, Christ exercises this same authority as his Father to forgive sin, "And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee...But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house" (Luke 5.20,24 KJV bible). Clearly, remission of sin was in the world before the time of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.

However, this conclusion raises another issue. Why was the crucifixion necessary if pre-Christian redemption was already possible? The answer is that it was God's plan from the beginning to establish Christ as the Author of all salvation, and to complete him through sufferings, "For it became him [Christ], for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect (or complete) through sufferings...Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2.10,14 KJV bible). It is an insight into the righteousness of God, that through the sufferings of the cross, Christ has obtained perfect victory over the one who has the power of death. And so in fulfilling this plan, Christ has become the captain of all salvation, and man's desire to circumvent or annul so great a victory is nothing more than vanity and wickedness.

Generally, kings do not offer up themselves on behalf of their people, but rather they ask their subjects to sacrifice on behalf of them. Yet, the Lord of both heaven and Earth was willing to be humbled to the point of suffering the treachery, betrayal, and shame of the cross. He did this as an enduring expression of his love and compassion for us, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly...But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5.6,8 KJV bible), "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15.13 KJV bible). So we know that God is just, but also compassionate, even to the point of taking our stripes so that we may be delivered.


Robert      09 Aug 2009, 14:03

Hi Doug, This is my first time here. I would like some clarification about heaven and paradise.

“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23.43 KJV bible).

John 20:17 (King James Version)
17Jesus 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.

I came to your website for passages about the eternal torment and it helped me a lot. It seems every one reads and uses only one line in Revalations 20 "tormented day and night for ever and ever" and they think it applies to the unredeemed sinner. The other passages I found one your website will help me alot.


Doug Buckley      10 Aug 2009, 17:04

Thank you Robert, good to hear from you. The bigger context is so important when studying the bible.

I'm not really sure of what your question is about Paradise or heaven. I assume you're wondering why Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with him that day in heaven, if in fact Jesus' ascension would take place 3.5 days later.

The expression "today", means literally on this day, as in this 24 hour period. However, it is sometimes used more generally to mean "at this time", as opposed to some future time. The criminal says to Jesus, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom" (Luke 23.42 NASB). Then Jesus says, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23.43 NASB). Jesus is saying to the man that he would not have to wait until some future dispensation to be with him. The criminal was redeemed in the last moments of his life, and so would be with Jesus in heaven, at that general time.

Robert      10 Aug 2009, 17:35

Thanks Doug,

Yes that is what I was asking, did the criminal go straight to Paradise, or did he have to wait for Jesus to ascend?

I will have to say, this is a discussion that stirs up a lot of emotion. I have to say for myself it is strictly for information. As long as my final destination is Heaven, I am not to concerned with the logistics.

Roger      14 Aug 2009, 00:12

Hi Doug. This is my first post on your great looking website.

Wayne Blank of teaches about a punctuation error in Luke 23.43. He says the verse should read;

(Luke 23:43) And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.

Can you tell me also what the 'dead in Christ' really means? It appears to me to describe those who lived in Christ but have since passed away.

(1Th 4:16) 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:

Doug Buckley      15 Aug 2009, 05:52

Hi Roger, Good to have you here. The sites been a work in progress, but it's shaping up.

To my knowledge there are no commas in the original Greek manuscripts, so the reality is that you can put the comma in either place. Obviously, this is a problem because the positioning of the comma changes the meaning of the sentence.

So either Jesus is saying "Today I'm telling you that you will be with me in Paradise", or "I'm telling you that you will be with me in Paradise today".

The key is to look at all the other times that Jesus uses this same expression, "today" ("saymeron" in the Greek), and see how he uses it. It turns out that Jesus often speaks of something happening or being fulfilled "today", as in Luke 4.21 and Luke 19.9. However, I don't know of any places where he says, "today I am telling you...". So while its possible that Jesus means in Luke 23.43, "Today I'm telling you that you will be with me in Paradise", it's very unlikely.

The "dead in Christ", are Christians who have passed on. Though their flesh is dead, they are alive spiritually, because they are with Christ. Ch.6 deals more with this subject, and also ch.13.

Roger      19 Aug 2009, 14:31

Hi Doug, thanks for your reply. I take your point concerning the likelihood of what Jesus said re: 'today'.

I'm still confused regarding your last paragraph in relation to 1Th 4:16. We both agree the past Christian's flesh is dead, but 'the dead in Christ' it is said, 'shall RISE first'.

What is it then that is yet to rise? Is it their flesh? If so, of what significance is this dead Christian flesh to God?

Doug Buckley      19 Aug 2009, 20:02

Hi Roger,
The dead in Christ have died in the flesh, but they are "alive" spiritually, because they are with Christ in heaven. However, the ones in heaven are not yet complete. In the first resurrection, they will be "raised up" and completed in Christ. This raising up has to do with them receiving eternal spiritual bodies, and being fully reconciled back to the Lord as the "purchased possession". Ch.15 goes into more detail about this.

So in my opinion the dead flesh is of no significance, because whether on earth or in heaven, the saints will be raised up spiritually. They are raised to life in the sense that they are fully completed and received as the eternal bride of Christ.

James Bullock      27 Sep 2010, 11:59

This is excellent material that I did not get in seminary. The Old Testament men and women of faith going to Heaven at death is made very clear by your exposition of the scriptures.

Thank you so much for clearing up a great misconception among many of God's people.

James Bullock

Doug Buckley      28 Sep 2010, 23:01

Hi James, I struggled with this question for a while, and I can certainly see why people would assume that no one went to heaven in the Old Testament. One thing that really struck me is that Jesus (being part of the Godhead) forgives people's sins before the crucifixion, which supports that they did.

Bill Reinhardt      01 Oct 2010, 13:55

I just found this by googling and I agree on OT saints going directly to heaven, but Luke 23:43 is hard to justify "today" as being a general time. I can't find another verse where Jesus uses it in general.
We know the other 2 uses of paradise are in heaven, not in Sheol, so that is pretty easy to defend. Is there any biblical use of today as being general?
Thank you! Bill Reinhardt

Doug Buckley      02 Oct 2010, 20:05

Hi Bill, thanks for your question. The souls of the OT saints going to heaven isn't commonly accepted, but the evidence does seem to point to it. It was certainly through grace and not the law.

"Saymeron" does generally mean this literal 24 hour day, but a couple places that it might be bending the 24 hour time constraint are Matthew 27.8 and 28.15, and especially Luke 4.21, where Jesus describes a prophecy referring to his work being fulfilled "this day".

zowie      27 Nov 2010, 17:41

Hi Doug

Thanks for sharing these bible studies with everyone. However i believe that Sheol was divided into two sections with a great gulf fixed between. Abraham's bossom was where paradise was situated until the ascesion of our Lord Jesus and the lower part was a section of torment (Luke 16). Thats why Jesus preached in John 14- in my fathers house are many mansions, i go and prepare a place for u, i will come again and receive you to myself that where iam you may be also. Paradise was then prepared through Christ in third heaven 2 corinthians 12 vs 2-4. Luke 23 vs 43- Jesus was going to be with the thief in the former paradise, Abraham's bossom which was in Sheol. In the old testament both the believers and un believers went to Sheol but there was a gulf fixed between the saints and the wicked. John 3 vs 13 no-one has ever gone to heaven ( that was before the death and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus). Ephesians 4 vs 9- Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth, 1 Peter 3 vs 18- for Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit by whom also He went and preached to spirits in prison who formerly were disobedient when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared. Now all believers have the assurance of being with Jesus in Heaven which was not possible before His death and ressurection. Therefore all the old testament saints were moved to paradise in third Heaven, it was made possible after His ascesion when He sat at the right hand of the Father and was given authority in Heaven, on earth and under the earth. He holds the key of death and hades. He prepared a place for all of us who believe in Him. To Him be Glory and Honour forever and ever.

Doug Buckley      28 Nov 2010, 09:19

Hi Zowie, I am very familiar with the "gulf of Hades" interpretation of Paradise because that's what I used to believe. It is a respectable position, but it presupposes that people could not be redeemed, and therefore, could not go to heaven before the resurrection of Christ. This doesn't appear to be the case.

Jesus did proclaim (in the Greek) to the spirits in prison, but nowhere does it say he led them to heaven. Also, "preparing a place" I interpret as being the place or inheritance in God's Kingdom that believers will receive in the first resurrection (see ch.15). John 3.13 says no one has "ascended" to heaven, not "gone to heaven", so there is a difference. I am pretty confident that Abraham's bosom is just Paradise or heaven where the angels are, but I know a case can certainly be made for the gulf of Hades (for more on this see the question on the gulf of Hades in the bible questions).

Zowie      04 Dec 2010, 16:11

Hi, Doug

If u don't mind please can u google and read a testimony called The Divine Revelation of Hell by Mary k Baxter. You will see what Jesus said himself concerning hades and what actually happened to the old testament saints. I pray that God will open your eyes to this truth. God bless u.

Doug Buckley      04 Dec 2010, 20:23

Hi Zowie, if something claims to be revelation from God, and is not scripture, I really have no use for it. It's flies in the ointment.

Zowie      05 Dec 2010, 10:15

Hi Doug

Doug if u have the Spirit of God in u, u will be able to discern what is right or wrong. And if u dont belive in testimonies which are backed by scripture then u are pointing God to be a liar. 1 corinthians 2 vs 14 But the natural man does not recieve the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

U might not have revelations from God but others have. There is a Nigerian man, who a few years ago died and spent 3 days in mortuary, then came back to life. he saw the horrors of hell and he gave a testimony. If u would call that flies in the ointment the u have a serious problem. Otherwise one day u might find yourself covered with worms of hell for misinterpretting the Holy word of God. U need the Holy Spirit to lead u not to use your own Logic. U certainly can't know everything and its acceptable to say u don't know certain things.

I can tell, u have the zeal for the word of God which i have as well. But as much as i agree with u on many things, i don't agree with u on your interpretation of John 14, Abraham's bossom and a few more. Check this out: Genesis 37 vs 35 Jacob was mourning for Joseph and he said 'for i shall go down to Sheol to my son in mourning'. If Abraham's bossom was in Heaven, he wouldn't have thought of going down to Sheol to be with his son. Ecclesiastes 9 vs 10-sheol, job 7 vs 9, the righteous went to Sheol which is located down below the earth. The unrighteous went to Sheol as well, proverbs 7 vs 27, proverbs 5 vs 5, isaiah 5 vs 14, isaiah 14 vs 9. This is the picture of Luke 16. Point of correction John 3 vs 13 Jesus said no-one has ascended to heaven (other translations say no-one has ever gone to heaven eg NIV). Please note, the spirits in prison whom Jesus preached to in hades/ sheol are only those who lived in the days of Noah 1 Peter 3 vs 18-20. Remember these people lived before the law was given to Moses.
Am not going to argue with u anymore on this one, i know that deep down in your heart u know this is true, even if u deny it. God bless u and your ministry.

Doug Buckley      05 Dec 2010, 12:35

Zowie, you're demonstrating bitterness because someone disagrees with you, and that's not from the Holy Spirit, but your own ego. I told you my opinion, and have backed it up in scriptures. If you have to resort to false prophets and man's teachings to back up what you believe, then maybe you should take some time and consider what you believe, before you get angry.

There are plenty of people supposedly having things revealed to them from God, and they usually disagree with eachother and the bible. The tiny minority who are for real have the humility to test and back up what they believe in the Word of God, since if it is of God, it will be supported by the bible anyways, and that's what real Christians trust.

Sheol is the place of the dead, always has been. Some went to heaven though, like Enoch and Elijah. The Greek word in John 3.13 is "anabaheeno" which means to go up or ascend. Moses met God on the mountain, but Jesus journeyed into heaven to commune with God. No man has done this before or since Jesus, and this verse has nothing to do with the state of the dead. 2nd Peter 1.21 says that the prophets spoke of the Holy Spirit. How could they receive the sanctification of the Holy Spirit and then go to Sheol which is a place of spiritual death? Besides that, why would Abraham's bosom, where Lazarus went, be called "prison" by Peter.

All things considered some or all of the Old Testament saints went to heaven, and Abraham's bosom is a depiction or part of heaven.

Doug Buckley      05 Dec 2010, 12:49

Zowie, and besides all that, we are debating a minor point. Why don't you go after some of these false teachers who deny the existence of two hells and Judgment Day, and tell people that all nonbelievers go to hell forever and ever?

Zowie      06 Dec 2010, 16:42

Hi Doug

Am really sorry if i sounded like i was bitter, i wasn't. I still understand that Sheol had two divisions based on old testament scriptures. The lower part of Sheol was and still is a place of spiritual death. U cannot understand 1 Peter 3 vs 18-20 unless u read scriptures that talks of different chambers in Sheol/hades. To say Abraham's bossom is a part of heaven does not agree
with Luke 16 vs 26 which says between us and u there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us. I dont think there was a need for a great gulf between the two places to stop anyone from crossing if the other part was heaven. Besides heaven is above the earth not below. Old testament saints spoke of going down to Sheol upon their death. John 20 vs 17 Jesus told Mary Magdalene, he had not yet gone to the Father who is in heaven. Yet he went to paradise/ Abraham's bossom Luke 23 vs 43. Acts 2 vs 27 Jesus was in hades/sheol. I believe only Enoch and Elijar went to heaven before Christ ressurrection based on scripture.

Anyway, one thing is certain only God is the ultimate judge, he knows who is right and the truth is found in Him because He alone is the truth. Also i will do as u said, go after false teachers who deny the the existence of two hells and judgement day. I guess thats what u are doing as well.

stay blessed

Doug Buckley      07 Dec 2010, 10:20

Hi Zowie, I consider heaven and Hades to be spiritual places, and that the sky and earth are gateways to them (ch.8). You've made some good points, and like I said before, the gulf of Hades view is a respectable and biblically informed position. I wouldn't have a problem going to a church that taught that. I do have a problem with alot of what's being taught in churches about heaven and hell. I do want to spread the truth about what the bible says; how the dead in Hades will be resurrected and judged by their works (Revelation 20). The more of us who are doing that the better. Peace and God bless.

Zowie      08 Dec 2010, 05:28

Hi Doug

I get your point Doug, and i thank God for all what you are doing. Keep up with the good work of the kingdom of God. I pray that God gives u strength and courage to spread the good news and that u may find favour in His eyes.
God bless always.

Julie Puckett      15 Jan 2011, 00:58

I have a question. If the final judgement does not happen until Jesus' second coming, then how can Christians be in heaven when they die? It isn't until Judgement Day that Christ will determine who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, right? So do Christians go directly to heaven upon their death, or are they in Paradise (or are they one and the same?)

Doug Buckley      15 Jan 2011, 11:44

Hi Julie, good question. Christians go directly to heaven (aka Paradise) when they die, and nonbelievers go directly to Hades when they die. At the end of the age, Christians will return to earth from heaven with Christ. Then, after the millennium there will be a final judgment of all nonbelievers from all generations (Revelation 20). Only the ones whos names are in the book of life will go on to eternal heaven.

Mark      17 Mar 2011, 04:40

I am studying Revelations. I read something that is truly bothering me. In Revelations 20:5 it states
“But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.”
I am a believer and a follower of Jesus for three years now. Is this passage talking about me? It saddens me to think I will need to wait 1000 years to be with Jesus. That’s too long. Who are the rest of the dead this passage is talking about? It sounds like the rest of the dead will live again so I don’t think this passage is talking about the sinners in hell.
I look forward to your responds. God bless your good works.

Doug Buckley      17 Mar 2011, 13:15

Hi Mark, the "rest of the dead" are sinners in Hades, which is the first hell (see chapter 2). They are resurrected after the thousand years. When it says "this is the first resurrection" it's not referring to them but back to the saints reigning with Christ (Revelation 20.4). So Revelation 20.4-5 is best read as one big sentence.

cecilia gadian sundberg      13 Apr 2011, 14:17

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james c      19 Apr 2011, 15:38


Doug Buckley      20 Apr 2011, 15:52

Hi James, believers will remain in heaven until the Day of the Lord, when Christ returns to reign forever. When Christ returns from heaven there will be the a spiritual receiving and rewarding of his elect (see ch.15 about the first resurrection). At this time Christ will also reject the false servants (see also my series on the millennium in the articles section). So there will be judgment with each of the two resurrections, but the white throne judgment is much larger.

JAMES C      10 May 2011, 14:03

Thank you Doug. Hardly it becomes possible for me to come to internet cafe. sorry for delay. I am interested in knowing the truth about the reveletion book. how it would be possible for me?
my english is also not very good. please gide me.
with thanks,
c james

c james      11 May 2011, 04:35

Thankyou Doug,
I will do it.
james c.

Christo      24 May 2011, 18:16

I dont agree, the bible states clearly that when we die we die, we do not go to heaven, Jesus also said that no one has gone to heaven but Him. Its only with the Judgement that we can either go to Heaven or hell for that matter.

Lynda      21 Oct 2011, 17:16

Hi Christo, Oct.21, 2011

I just happened upon your post. There are a few scriptures you mignt want to read concerning where we go at death.
The bible clearly states absent from the body present with the Lord.
And who are these ?
Rev. 4:10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that livth for ever and ever, and cast thier crowns before the throne, saying
11 Thou art worthy , O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for thou has created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
They are at the throne of God.

There really are a lot of scriptures if youwant to doa in debt study on where the dead are. It's pretty exciting. I love the Word. I wish I could study all day. As it is I study at least three hours a day.
I'm sure Doug might do a study one day on the subject.

bye, Lynda

Kendi      16 Dec 2011, 04:38

Point 1
The devil and his angels were kicked out of heaven and now reside here on earth. It says it in Genesis. He is here tempting us and when Jesus comes, he will be thrown in a bottomless pit for 1,000 years. Then he will be done away with. For now, he is still on earth.
Point 2
The Bible says that the dead know nothing and that when Jesus comes again the righteous dead shall rise and meet Him in the air. When you die you stay in the ground and wait for Jesus' return.
If you believe that you go straight to heaven when you die, please answer this. If you are already in heaven, when Jesus comes which righteous will He resurrect to take with Him to heaven? They would all already be there...

Doug Buckley      16 Dec 2011, 05:02

Hi Kendi, I moved your comment over here since it was off subject. As far as the devil being kicked out of heaven in Genesis, read Job 1, where the devil is in heaven talking to God. (see ch.5 on the right).

The bible clearly tells us that the saints go to heaven immediately when they die. In Philippians 1.22-23 Paul clearly says he prefers to leave his flesh and be with Christ. Revelation describes the souls of martyrs in heaven before Jesus comes back. Jesus tells the thief on the cross that that day he would be with him in heaven. There are many other examples.

This is why Paul says in 1st Thessalonians 4.14 that the souls in heaven will return here with Jesus. This is why in Matthew 24.31 says Jesus will gather his elect from the ends of heaven, because that's where they are.

The problem is that people assume that the saints will literally come out of their graves in the resurrection of the dead, like Christ did after his crucifixion. As Paul explains in 1st Corinthians 15.44, that's not the real meaning of the resurrection of the dead, but that the saints will receive eternal spiritual bodies. Souls do not stay in heaven forever, but they are made immortal like the angels in the resurrection, which is when Jesus returns (1st Corinthians 15.52).

Jon      23 Mar 2012, 14:12

Paul never states, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." There is no greater misread, misused, and misunderstood passage than that Corinthians passage. True, Paul states he would rather be absent from the body and with the Lord (2 Co. 5:8), however, he is speaking eschatologically as noted by the immediate subsequent statement when Paul states "we must all appear before the Lord at the Judgement seat and receive the things done in his (her) body....(in 5:10).

Doug Buckley      23 Mar 2012, 14:37

Hi Jon, I moved your comment here. You might be right, I have. 1st Cor 5.1-10 seems to be more about the first resurrection of the dead than about people going to heaven the moment they die. I'll keep it in mind.

Jon      23 Mar 2012, 16:56

Consider too the most often used passage regarding the rapture. In that discourse, Paul notes it is "them which are asleep..." (in 1 Thess 4:13, cf 14). Indeed, the main purpose of that passage is to point out eternal safety for those who have perished. Not that they are already in heaven, but rather to be comforted that one day (future) they will be. This notion is furthered by Paul's subsequent words: "...whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him" (in 5:10). The passage is speaking to being comforted for those who have lost loved ones, but again, it is a future, rather than current, event.

Doug Buckley      23 Mar 2012, 23:02

Hi Jon, correction, I should have said 2nd Corinthians 5.1-10. This is a difficult passage. The subject is really that the saints should look forward to being clothed with eternal bodies from heaven. Paul writes that in this clothing, the saints shall "not be found naked", which speaks to the possibility of a naked disembodied state. As verse 4 says, they groan in the flesh not to be naked (ie disembodied), but to be clothed.

As far as verses 6-10, idk, but if Paul is addressing the living saints in their expectation of the first resurrection, then this doesn't teach against souls going to heaven, but shouldn't be used to support it either.

Jon      25 Mar 2012, 11:33

Hi Doug,
It is a difficult subject. However, I see no textual support for the notion the concern is over the saints being physically naked.

You are correct, the 6-10 passage does not speak against souls going to heaven, clearly it states they will. However, vs. 10 cannot be removed from vs. 8; thus, those who use this passage to support the view believers go straight to heaven immediately subsequent to death are stretching the clear intended meaning.

I would offer that the Phil. passage offers the strongest support for individuals going immediately to heaven. However, while the evidence lends strength to the argument Paul is speaking to the afterlife, I am not convinced. One can easily hold the view that Paul is simply speaking of his physical presence, which is the crux of the discussion. However, if Paul is speaking of the afterlife, here, he is speaking of himself and not all believers. In the Corinth and Thessalonian letters, he is speaking of all believers.

For me, the strongest case against souls going immediately to heaven is what occurred at the time of Christ's death. We read: "...And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." (In Matt. 27:52-52). The notion these souls came down from heaven and took on their former earthly bodies goes beyond stretching the scriptures and into doing them injustice. That view--that believers will come down from heaven and take earthly bodies--in general just has no support. I note you used the 1 thess. passage to support that view, but again, consider the passages in literary context. Paul is speaking in regards to the rapture, when those dead in Christ will rise. Paul is simply stating God will bring the dead with Him up to heaven. For me, it is a difficult stretch to suggest Paul is stating believers will come back with the Lord, gather their bodies, and then return to heaven. It just does not have support in my view. I also hold the view that the Matt 24:1 and Rev. passages are speaking to events subsequent to the rapture, when indeed believers are in heaven.

Now, with all of that said, I do hold the view, as noted in my first bit, that the Lord can pull whom He desires to heaven for His purposes. But we must be very careful when speaking of the Scriptures without first understanding their context, and their meaning to the original audience. Not doing so is often what creates widespread distortions within Christendom. That every person who dies goes immediately to heaven is one of those distortions that most people base, most often, on a single misused passage.

Very good discussion Doug and I appreciate you letting me offer my views.

Doug Buckley      27 Mar 2012, 04:51

Hi Jon, I agree that 2nd Cor 5.6-10 is certainly not making some blanket statement that all people go to heaven when they die, and such a reading is a distortion. However, a close reading shows that it can be interpreted in two distinct ways. Its often the case that a single passage by itself is not conslusive on a certain issue.

Paul maybe talking about Christ's return, and the resurrection of the dead, when believers are home with the Lord.

However, Paul could also be talking about the immediate afterlife of believers in heaven. Paul starts a new thought in verse 6, that being in the body makes one absent from God. Then, he says in verse 9 that believers should seek to be pleasing to God whether home or away (from the body). This naturally connects with the thought of verse 10, that all men must appear before Christ, for the deeds they've done in the body. So verse 10 does not have to be a chronological context, since Paul maybe just reminding believers that they should seek to please God because they will (ultimately) answer to Christ, on account of the body.

Also I don't find it strange, or unscriptural, that the souls of the saints returned to their bodies from some other place, such as heaven. In Luke 16.19-26, Jesus describes the afterlife to us, in which two people depart from the flesh, and go to two different places. One goes to an hell like place called Hades, and another to a heaven like place identified as Abraham's bosom. One is in a place of torment and the other paradise.

This is what Paul means in 2nd Cor 5.3-4, that the soul can exist without the body, but is naked, and desires to clothe itself with the glorious form of the new body in the resurrection of the dead, (1st Corinthians 15.44). This bodiless state before the resurrection is sometimes called the intermediate state, which there is alot of debate. Christ himself left his flesh and went to the "heart of the earth" (Matthew 12.40), then in this spiritual realm he proclaimed unto "spirits" in prison, "in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison" (1st Peter 3.19 KJV bible).

So I do believe that people have souls that leave their bodies. In the case of the saints coming to life in Matthew 27.52, the soul must have returned to the flesh from the spiritual realm, of either heaven or hades, according to the will and purposes of God. In 1st Kings 17.21-22 it says the child's soul or "self" returned to his him. In the case of the two witnesses in Revelation 11.11 we both must accept that their souls will come from heaven to return to their flesh bodies.

As far as 1st Thess 4, I believe this passage is about the Resurrection of the dead, which is when Christ returns. As you, I also find it a little strange to have souls coming from heaven to enter spiritual bodies, to then meet Christ. imo people take the image of the new body rising from the old corpse more literally than Paul intends us to in the scriptures. Good to hear from, you've made some solid points.

Walex      11 May 2012, 20:28


thanks boug you have inpact something into me,thanks, but i have a question to ask,but i thought the bible says that jesus when he die that when he rose he rose from the dead with thousand of saint,what is the bible talking about,please help.

Misty      14 May 2012, 15:36

I was wondering if you have thought of the "Paradise" you mention as the third heaven being something entirly different all together. Have you heard of it mentioned Abraham's Bosom? That Paradise was a second part of Hades and that is where Jesus went to when he gave his soul. Then in Ephesians 4:8 it says "when he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." So Jesus then took Moses and the others that had died before His death and took them up to heaven...GOD's throne heaven...with him. Like when Jesus told the thief on the cross next to him that he would be with him in paradise tomorrow.

Doug Buckley      14 May 2012, 16:27

Hi Walex, sorry I didn't answer your question earlier. There isn't a verse about Jesus rising with a thousand saints. I believe your talking about the same thing Misty is talking about so I'll answer your questions together.

Hi Misty, I am famililiar with Abraham's bosom from Luke 16. The doctrine your describing is part of the "harrowing of hell", that Jesus went into hell, and then led the souls of the saints to heaven. When it comes to heaven and hell, this teaching is much closer to the truth than alot of what's out there.

Jesus certainly did descend into hades and did "proclaim" unto the dead (1st Peter 3.19). However, I believe that the old testament saints were already in heaven. So Jesus didn't lead them to heaven. There really is no scripture that says Jesus set anyone free and led them to heaven. Ephesians 4.18 has been very wrongly translated, because the word "train" isn't there, it actually says Jesus "led captivity captive" when he ascended to heaven.

So imo Paradise and Abraham's bosom and the third heaven were and are the same thing, the place that the saints go till they come back. You can read more about this in this chapter, and also I write about this in the bible questions section under Gulf of Hades.

joanie      29 May 2012, 15:00

Hi, Thanks for your forum.

Re: Jesus' ascention into Heaven:
Most Christians are in agreement that Jesus did ascend to the 3rd Heaven 40 days after His resurrection....

But, some of us, (including me), believe Jesus had 2 other ascensions, (3rd day, 8th day), before the final ascension on the 40th day? What is your viewpoint?

I have a difficult time understanding how others can only think that there could of only been 1 ascension to Heaven. Since I actively seek and believe that all the gifts are present in the church today, would that make a difference in understanding how logical it would be that Jesus would spend 40 days on earth in human form; visible to His disciples; even after He had ascended to Heaven, (even though He had not yet ascended to the Father until after 8 days)?

A Few References:
(not verbadum Scriptures; but surely you follow me..)

1. On this day your will be with me in Paradise
2. A man's spirit goes to Heaven when He dies
3. When Jesus leaves He will leave us with the His Holy Spirit
4. To Mary Madelene, do not touch/cling to me...yet Thomas was instucted to touch the side of Jesus
5. Other Scriptures in Revelation
6. Many more Scripture references available.

Your thoughts are very much appreciated since I have 2 wonderful, and very loved family members who do not believe all the gifts are active today, but were before Pentecost. Since I have seen and acted in the gifts personally; it can be somewhat challenging to understand their perspectives.

Thank for your time and God bless you!

Doug Buckley      29 May 2012, 16:51

Hi Joanie, thanks for your question. I don't know off hand how many times Jesus goes to heaven after the crucifixion. Also some might not consider going to heaven a full "ascension". You are basically right that Jesus ascends to heaven many times.

First we know that Jesus doesn't go to heaven when he is crucified, but to Hades because he bore our sins (Acts 2.31, 1st Peter 3.19). When Jesus says to the thief he shall see him in heaven "this day", he likely means at that time, as the expression "this day" doesn't have to be a literal 24 hour day".

The first ascension is after Jesus comes forth from the tomb, when he says not to touch him. This is because he must go to heaven to present his body as a living sacrifice unto God and cleanse the temple in heaven (Hebrews 9.12). After this he appears to the apostles on a number of different occasions, mostly recorded in John 20-21. Luke 24.51 indicates the he returns to heaven in the time between these different appearances.

The second main ascension is in Acts 1.11. This is what most people call the ascension. I believe this is the last time that he appears to the apostles and this is when he takes his place of power in heaven at the right hand of God. So Jesus ascends to heaven several times after the crucifixion.

Freddie      21 Jun 2012, 04:21

Hi Doug, thanks for the site, a lot of good info here as I'm wading through it all.

You said in the OT after people die they either go to Sheol or Paradise. I tend to think that Sheol has 2 parts as previously mentioned, have a look at some of these scriptures:

Ps 49:17: But God 430 will redeem 6299 my soul 5315 from the power 3027 of the grave7585: for he shall receive 3947 me. Selah

I believe David is saying the in the future judgement God will redeem him from Sheol (Heaven part) to go the a new heaven or NT Paradise

Ps 86:13 For great 1419 [is] thy mercy 2617 toward me: and thou hast delivered 5337 my soul 5315 from the lowest 8482 hell7585.

Here David might mean that even though he is not in the NT heaven yet but in present Sheol (Heaven part) he is thanking God that he is not in the lowest hell (tartarus/abyss).

But then again he does say in ps 139:8: If I ascend up 5266 into heaven 8064, thou [art] there: if I make my bed 3331 in hell7585, behold, thou [art there]. So it seems that maybe he had access to heaven then?

Acts 2:27 Because 3754 thou wilt 1459 0 not 3756 leave 1459 my 3450 soul 5590 in 1519 hell86, neither 3761 wilt thou suffer 1325 thine 4675 Holy One 3741 to see 1492 corruption 1312.

Perhaps David is saying that while he was in the heaven part of Hades (Hebrew Sheol right) he was waiting for Jesus' redemptive power to restore him to Paradise?

Can you please explain? Thanks in advance

Doug Buckley      23 Jun 2012, 06:23

Hi Freddie, see my answer above to Walex and Misty, about the idea that Paradise was a section of Hades where the OT dead went. The scriptures you quote are important ones, but they can also be interpreted in all kinds of ways. Psalm 49 doesn't tell us when David would be redeemed into heaven, some suggest at his death, others at the crucifixion, and others on judgment day. I believe he was redeemed at his death.

The two Psalms you quote are examples were (imo) Sheol and Heaven are being used in a non-literal sense. David compares God lifting him from his despair to being taken out of Sheol. Its metaphorical like someone saying that their life is a hell, or that God lifts them up to heaven. Lastly, Acts 2.27 is quoting an OT prophecy about Jesus's crucifixion, that Messiah would descend and then be raised from Hades and that his flesh would not see corruption. David's flesh did see corruption and so its not about him.

Doug Buckley      23 Jun 2012, 07:03

btw, good to hear from you

James Maxey      17 Nov 2012, 08:52

Explain to me John 3:13 and Acts 2:29, 34. John 3:13 says "And no one gone up into heaven except He who came down from the heaven- the Son of Adam. and Acts 2: 29 Men and brothers, let me speak bodly to you of the ancestor Dawid, that he died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Acts 2:34 For Dawid did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself said, Yah(lord) said to my Master, "Sit ay My right hand.

shiny diamond      02 Dec 2012, 08:17

I prayed for a site to show me the answer to a very intriguing question:....I have a family member that on two occasions when we were talking about God/Bible that the only one in the Old Testament that made it to heaven was Job?...this is hard to believe and me somone out there understand this please and if you know the scripture that points to an answer please post that too!!....God Bless Everyone!!

Doug Buckley      03 Dec 2012, 12:40

hi SD, Job 14.14-15 suggests that Job may have gone to heaven. Whether or not people went to heaven before Jesus is an interesting question, and also a difficult one to answer. There are clearly examples of people going to heaven in the old testament, such as Elijah, but how exactly this works is the issue. Maybe because they were part of the overall plan of Christ they received forgiveness on credit. Part of the problem is that so much attention is paid to going to heaven as the ultimate goal, and its not. Heaven is just an intermediate state of the saints until the first resurrection.

Doug Buckley      20 Jan 2013, 14:19

deleting previous comments (rules 1 and 3). Please follow the posting rules.

Roshana Phillips      09 Feb 2013, 18:09

Is hades a part of paradise

Doug Buckley      09 Feb 2013, 18:10

Hi Roshana, I moved your question here. No, some people, think Paradise was a part of Hades, but I believe it is and always was a part of heaven.

Stan Burton      11 Apr 2013, 20:15

You say that some Old Testament people were redeemed to the third Heaven. With what were they redeemed? Remember what "Redemption" means - to pay a price to get something back. But that price had not been paid, that blood had not been spilled, at that time.

Doug Buckley      12 Apr 2013, 14:46

Hi Stan, I don't say they went to heaven, the bible does. I don't know exactly how this was possible, but God did take some to heaven. I've thought about this alot, even since I originally wrote this. One of the problems is that Christians place way too much emphasis on going to heaven. Going to heaven isn't the be all and end all of being a Christian, and Jesus rarely even speaks of going to heaven. Being a Son of God and having an inheritance in the Kingdom is, and these things are only possible in Christ. So redemption in the Old testament may have been more like God overlooked their sins, and allowed them in Paradise, but certainly the Old Testament saints can only be complete and right with God through Christ's crucifixion.

Stan Burton      12 Apr 2013, 16:03

It seems like you've taken a few verses and interpretted them in a particular way and now when you encounter other verses that conflict with your view you just say "I don't know" and dismiss them. At some point don't you need to look at the pile of dismissed verses and re-assess.

Here are some verses from 2 Corinthians 12. Was Paul being pointlessly redundant or does he know something you don't

2. I knew a man in The Messiah more than 14 years ago, whether in the body or without the body, I do not know, God himself knows, who was snatched up unto the third Heaven.
3. And I knew this man, if in a body or if without the body, I do not know, God himself knows,
4. Who was snatched up to Paradise and heard words that are unspeakable, because it is not authorized for a man to speak them.
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