(See Also Question on Paradise being used now and Clarification on Heaven and Paradise)
Subject: Re: Dead in Christ
Date: Wed, 10 Apr 2002 14:02:45 -0500
From: Jack Barr <email@example.com>
On Easter Sunday, I heard a sermon on the resurrection of the dead in Christ shall be taken to Heaven first. How is this congruous with the fact that we are told that, if we are saved, when we die, we go immediately to heaven. I can't reconcile these two accounts of what happens to the dead in Christ. I am hopeful you will be able to scripturally solve this quandary I have. Do we go straight to heaven, or do we lie dead in a grave until Christ comes again and raises us to heaven?
Without having heard this sermon, I am unable to know for sure just what was said, or claimed, and the context setting that it was given. I will attempt to give you an answer from scripture on your questions, as I understand the questions.
> I heard a sermon on the resurrection of the dead in Christ shall be taken to Heaven first <
This puts me in mind of 1Thes 4:13-18 "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. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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. 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: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
While this tells us that the dead (in Christ) will rise first, it is speaking of the time of the great catching away of the saints, what we call the Rapture, where all Christians and their bodies are called to join with Jesus in the clouds. That will be a time before Jesus returns to the earth to set up his kingdom for his 1000 year reign on this earth. It is not speaking of the souls, but is speaking of our bodies, as shown in 1 Cor.:
1 Cor 15:51-53 "Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."
Which tells us that not all of us will sleep (die), but that both those who have had their earthen bodies die, will have their earthen bodies come out of the graves and join Jesus in the air, then all of us Christians who are still alive at that time will join Jesus also in the air. Then all of us, those believers who died over the last several thousand years, and all of us that are still alive will have our bodies changed to have a glorified incorruptible body just as Jesus has.
These verses do tell us that the dead will go first, that is, the dead will be first in the rapture. But these verses do not address what happens to the soul when you die on this earth, with your body being placed in a grave. These verses do not say where the souls of the dead have been while they are in the grave, some for thousands of years. For that we need to go elsewhere in the Bible.
I can see how there can be a confusion here, if you do not know all of God's Word, the Bible. It is also very easy to become confused when some one has preached a twisted message, giving meanings to verses which is wrong. I do not mean to say or to imply that this has happened here. Far from it, I believe that the message was preached correctly but is being misunderstood. This is easy for it to happen, and I applaud your search for the truth of God's Word.
There is a scripture which addresses this issue. It is the story told by Jesus about the Beggar Lazarus and the rich man. There are many who believe that this is a story told about an actual happening, because it gives a name, and no other parable in the bible gives a name. However this story tells us what happens as soon as we die.
Luke 16:19-26 "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, and being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his boson. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame; But Abraham said, son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and thou art tormented: And beside all this between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence."
In this story we are shown that our reward in the after life is instant upon death. The rich man went into Hell, and the Beggar into Paradise.
Heb 9:27 "And so it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement:"
Hebrews tells us that there is an instant judgement upon our death. There is no delay in receiving either rewards or punishment, Heaven or hell. This is the fate of the soul upon death. And this is different than the raising of bodies and souls at the rapture.
Ah, but this raises another question. We see in the story of Lazareth and the rich man that both the place of torments and Paradise which is Abraham's Bosom, are in hell, with an unbreakable division between them. Why? Why is Paradise not in heaven? The answer is also in the bible.
Acts 4:10, 12 "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 12. Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Mat. 26:28 "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Until the death of Jesus on the cross, there was no remission of sins. Without the remission of sin which comes with the acceptance of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for us, there is no entrance into heaven. Therefore, all of the saints who died before Jesus died for them on the cross could not enter heaven, so they were held instead as prisoners in a part of hell called Paradise, or Abraham's Bosom. For it is only through Jesus that anyone can enter heaven and have salvation from hell. The Old Testament saints could not enter heaven until Jesus died on the cross for them.
So how then were they able to enter heaven? On the death of Jesus on the cross, the bible tells us the following sequence happened.
It is only since the time that Jesus died for us on the cross that any saint can enter heaven, for they have accepted Jesus, and it is only through Jesus that anyone can be saved. Jesus did not preach to those in hell who were being tormented, their fate was sealed. It is the Saints being held prisoner that Jesus preached to when he went into hell. Paradise, in hell, is closed at that point. All saints now go direct to heaven, and sinners direct to hell. That is, their souls. There bodies remain in the grave until the rapture for the saints, and the great white throne Judgement for all of the rest of mankind. (Rev 20:11-12)
>Do we go straight to heaven, or do we lie dead in a grave until Christ comes again and raises us to heaven?<
I believe that we have shown by the bible that for the saints, Our soul goes straight to heaven, and our body waits until Christ comes and reunites our body with our soul, which both now enter heaven.
I hope that this will clear up any confusion that you are having.
May Jesus lead you into All His Truth
With the Love of Jesus
Rev Jack Barr