As many of you who have followed my posts already know, I at one time did not believe several doctrines that mainstream Christianity believes. For example, I did not believe Christmas should be celebrated by Christians. Resurrection Sunday (a.k.a. Easter) to me was a pagan holiday and therefore to be avoided. I rejected the Trinity, etc.
Once inaccuracies about my beliefs were brought to my attention, I re-evaluated them with an open mind. I did so by going back to the Bible. Then I began to “see” (understand) areas that I had overlooked or had not accepted as true. It has been a breathtaking experience, to say the least.
One doctrine or area I am still struggling with right now which is a carryover from my past religious convictions is on the subject of heaven.
I believe there is a heaven and that Jesus is there
seated at the right hand of Father. I believe the
host of angels that worship and serve God make
heaven their headquarters, if not their home.
But the question I still have is this: Is heaven the
place a Christian will immediately go if he were to
die today – BEFORE THE RETURN OF CHRIST?
It still makes more sense for me to believe that when
a person dies he has no conscious of reality whatsoever.
I cannot help but still believe that when you die, you
remain dead until Christ returns and then He raises you
up from the dead.
I realize many of you Christians are labeling this way of
understanding the state of the dead as soul sleeping, but
is this not what the Bible is indicating?
Nevertheless, something (actually Someone) is now nudging
me (spiritually speaking) to take a second look at this
subject. I have already embarked on a personal plan on
studying about it now for as long as it takes. I realize
that whatever I believe in this area is not a matter of
salvation. Any and all of my current errors of worship as a
Christian will one day be all straightened out.
Here are the top verses which have “entrenched” me at this
time to not believe in an immediate journey to heaven
(or hell, if the case may be) after death before Christ returns
1) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14…
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
Paul wrote this when he noticed the concern many of the new believers in Christ were having about their brothers and sisters who were being martyred for the faith. Others were dying of natural causes also and Christ had not yet returned. Paul was providing them hope of the resurrection of the saints who had just died. Most, if not all of the saints still alive when thy heard these words were of the first generation of the gospel at the time of the apostles. Many Christians in his day were of the first fruits that were transformed on the day of Pentecost when the church was born. Nowhere here was Paul soothing any Christian about immediately being in bliss after dying in Christ. Why didn’t Paul mention heaven as the current home of the saints who had just died?
2) Ecclesiastes 9:5 …
For the living know that they will die,
but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
and even their name is forgotten.
If a dead person does not know anything after death, how can that person also be in heaven, fully conscious, aware, and knowing even more about spiritual things than ever before?
3) Psalm 146:4 …
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Is this verse an encouraging verse about being in heaven? Does it reveal the human spirit being conscious? Is this spirit in man active and aware in heaven? The Bible does not say. This psalm of the Old Testament was written before the resurrection of Christ.
I used to believe that the spirit of man that returned
to God after death was basically like a storage device, like a
thumb drive or CD, of our personalities, experiences,
thoughts, knowledge, etc, that God would store until we
are resurrected. It would then be inserted back into us
I now have second thoughts about this and will examine
4) Job 3:11-13 …
Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb?
Why were there knees to receive me
and breasts that I might be nursed?
For now I would be lying down in peace;
I would be asleep and at rest
Come on, Job! Didn’t God tell you you will go to heaven
after you die?
5) 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 …
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
This is an important verse with me. The twinkling of an eye from unconsciousness to consciousness seems instantaneous when a person dies. Apparently, according to this verse, the resurrection of a saint will be the next moment of awareness for him after many
years having transpired being in the grave.
Why be in heaven if time does not matter for the person
who has died and will rise again, seemingly immediately
after dying, and rise to meet the returning Christ in the
6) Acts 2:29 …
“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.
This verse does not say that David is in heaven. Why didn’t Peter here say that David is now looking down at him rejoicing that he (Peter) has received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost?
7) John 11:11 …
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
This verse seems to indicate that Lazarus was not in
heaven while he was in the tomb for four days. Did
God hold a stop sign in front of Lazarus right after
he died and tell his spirit to go back to his body and
await further instructions from Christ?
In order to view the other side of the coin, so to speak, on this issue I must study it from the average Christian’s point of view who believes a Christian immediately goes to heaven after he dies.
At a Christian church I recently visited, I asked a fellow Christian, a brother in Christ, the following question: “If you were to die and go to heaven, why should Jesus return and raise you up from the grave or wherever you were dead? You are already in heaven, right?” Well, that Christian looked confused and did not have an answer to the question. I became alarmed at this. I quickly regretted asking him and proceeded to change the subject.
If you believe in things pertaining to God, should you not be able to explain any basic doctrine such as heaven readily and convincingly? Many Christians believe what they believe because that is what they were taught since childhood. Many have accepted Christ and believed every doctrine that was taught to them without studying them for themselves.
I suppose that is all well and good. That is God’s business. I am not suggesting that we challenge our brethren to prove what they believe. Christians, after all, are each at different levels of spiritual growth.
But I am aware of how easily a person, who believes he goes to heaven (or hell) immediately after he dies, can have his faith shaken like an earthquake – especially from atheists or religious cult groups.
Do I lack faith that God can protect His children from spiritual attacks? No. I believe God can. But I am fully aware how Christians, especially younger Christians, entering public schools and colleges are easily being swayed away from the faith by reasoning and logic that goes against the Bible. Some teachers darn well know the verses quoted above and shoot away at the unwary believer.
As an apologist, at least I can leave a trail of blog posts in cyberspace that God can use for those who also have similar questions as I do. The book,
A Place Called Heaven: 10 Surprising Truths
About Your Eternal Home
by Dr Robert Jeffress, is one of the latest books (2017)
that have been published on this subject. I have already
started reading it to see if it could shed some light on what
I am thinking about heaven.
I am not seeking knowledge about how heaven will be like. I do not care if heaven will offer fat-free donuts with coffee forever. I do not care, at this point, reading how wonderful it will be not to mow your lawn every week. Or how many angels I will shake hands all at the same time.
My goal is to find out if heaven is where the previous saints have gone and are now worshiping Christ or are they “asleep” waiting for His return. Many of you may be saying that there is a thing or two that I have overlooked or still do not understand. Well and good. I pray God will show them to me.
Here is a thought, I cannot imagine my father and mother who both passed away and were good Christians on earth, now looking down at me from heaven and seeing all of my sins and faults. I cannot fathom my mother seeing me go through various trials and pain without them affecting her emotionally. Perhaps God in some manner has shielded her from viewing the ugliness of humans like me still groveling down here on earth. Or, perhaps she is still “asleep” and waiting for her resurrection.
Do you see what I mean? Why be in heaven and be separated from your loved ones who have to endure suffering and pain as flesh and blood? Why be in heaven and see inhumane wars raging in many parts of this world?
I feel sorry for the saints who have been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church such as the Virgin Mary who is worshipped and honored as if she were a god. If I were Mary, I would be bored with the endless repetition of Hail Marys given to me by millions of Catholics around the world – 24 hours of every earth day – all offered at every moment of time.
I cannot not guarantee that I will change my understanding of the afterlife after reading this book. Time will tell. And,
Lord willing, I will post something about
what I have learned in the future. So,
because I have been sorta redundant in
this post, I will stop here.