Heaven Is Real! Living There Forever Is Not!
by Christine Egbert
Books and movies about Christians going to heaven as soon as they die are in vogue. And why not? They titillate our imaginations, comfort the bereaved, and they rake in millions, like that popular film “Heaven Is Real.” And heaven is real, but living there forever is not! For as Psalms 37:29 says: the righteous shall inherit the earth and live on it forever. Likewise, the myth, birthed first by the Roman Catholic Church in a doctrine titled “particular judgement” (catechism 1022), teaches that each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ. He is either granted entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediate sent to everlasting damnation. This, of course, is not scriptural!
What Scripture Actually Teaches
When Yeshua returns, He will rule and reign from Jerusalem for 1000 years. After that God will create a new heaven and earth, at which time the tabernacle of God will forever be with men. So, although we might (I am not certain) spend a short undefined period of time before the throne in the present Heaven, depending on your interpretation of Revelations 20:11-12, Scripture makes it clear that our everlasting life will be on earth, contrary to the Roman Catholic doctrine.
Clement, the earliest of the Apostolic Fathers, did not believe one would enter heaven immediately after death, but he expressed belief in the resurrection of the dead at the second coming of the Messiah, which is consistent with what the Bible teaches. And let’s not forget what Yeshua said about heaven: John 3:12-13 “If I tell you earthly things, and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? And no one has gone up into Heaven, except He who came down out of Heaven, the Son of Man…”
What About The Thief On The Cross?
Now some will protest, “But what about the thief on the cross. Didn’t Yeshua say he would be with him in paradise that very day?” The answer is, “No!” The original manuscripts are not punctuated. Sadly, translators placed a comma before the word today, causing the sentence to contradict what Scripture teaches about sleeping until the resurrection. However, when a comma is placed after the word today, the sentence reads: “And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
This latter punctuation is in keeping with what Scripture teaches about death and the resurrection. But for those not convinced, I must further point out that Yeshua was in the grave for the next three days and three nights, not in paradise. (Matt 12:39-40). So, He would not have implied that on the very day of his death the thief would be with Him in paradise. That would have been a lie.
WHAT ABOUT LAZARUS?
The only other major argument promoting the un-scriptural belief in an immediate heaven or hell experience comes from a literal interpretation of the parable about Lazarus and the rich man. But this is clearly a parable! It is not what Scripture teaches about death and the resurrection. The parable is about those who do not believe Moses or the Prophets! Yeshua asks if a rich man in hell would believe Lazarus if Lazarus were sent to him, if they do not believe Moses and the Prophets. Yeshua was NOT establishing some NEW doctrine!
A cool drop of water on the tongue of someone in hell cannot relieve hell’s torments any more than it can help someone in the “bosom of Abraham”. This term, “bosom of Abraham”, first appeared in Jewish literature during and after the Babylonian captivity, during the second temple period (500 BC to 70 AD). The term reflected a belief that after death Jewish martyrs would be received into the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, an idea that was adopted from the mythical Greek picture of Hades in which the righteous dead are separated from the unrighteous dead by a great river or chasm. But no where in Scripture is this taught. The righteous dead cannot and do not communicate with the unrighteous dead. Such an idea contradicts everything Scripture teaches about death.
SO WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE TEACH ABOUT DEATH?
To understand what happens at death, we must first understand about the creation of life. Genesis 2:7 says: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” The Hebrew word translated as soul is neh-fesh.
Strong’s Bible Dictionary defines nehfesh as “a breathing creature.” It has been translated throughout the Old Testament as soul, creature, and quite often as life.
Genesis 1:30 “and to every beast of the earth, and to every foul of the air, to everything that creeps upon the earth where there is life (nehfesh)…”
Exodus 21:23 “… you shall give life (nehfesh) for life (nehfesh).”
Leviticus 17:14 “…for the life (nehfesh) of all flesh is in the blood…”
Isaiah 43:4 “… I give men instead of you; and peoples instead of your soul (nehfesh)….”
The Creator formed a (lifeless) body from the dust. It wasn’t until Yahweh breathed into its nostrils that this clay-man came to life. When that man dies, expires (breathes out his last breath) the breath of life returns to God, and that man returns (eventually) to dust. Genesis 3:19 “… for out of it were you taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shall you return.” The soul, the neh-fesh, is what animates every living thing. Ecc 12:7 then the dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.
What Scripture Teaches About Death.
The dead don’t think; they don’t know anything.
Ecc 9:5 “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing…”
Psalms 115:17 “The dying do not praise Jehovah, nor all those who go down into silence…”
Psalms 146: 4 “His breath will go out, he returns to the earth; his thoughts perish in that day. The dead simply are no more.”
Job 7:21 “. . . For now shall I lie down in the dust. You will seek me diligently, but I shall not be.”
SLEEP AS A METAPHOR FOR DEATH
Sleep as a metaphor for death appears some 66 times in the Bible. Job 3: 11-13 “Why didn’t I die from the womb? Why didn’t I give up the spirit when my mother bore me? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breast, that I should nurse? For now should I have lain down and been quiet. I should have slept, then I would have been at rest . . .
Acts 7:58-60 “And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. [ Man’s spirit, his breath of life, always returns to the Lord at death, as explained in the beginning of this article.] And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Daniel 12: 1-2 “ … And there shall be a time of distress, such as has not been from the being of a nation until that time. And at that time, your people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the Book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life …”
John 11:11-13 “… He said to them, Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going that I may awaken him. Then His disciples said, Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover. But Yeshua had spoken about his death.”
1 Cor 15:51-52 “Behold, I speak a mystery to you: we shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in a glance of an eye, at the last trumpet; for a trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible…”
There are many other verses I could cite, but I’ve made the point that the Bible teaches upon death, which resembles sleep, God’s breath returns to Him and our bodies to the dust.
Scriptures About The Resurrection
Psalms 17:14-15 likens the resurrection to awakening from sleep!
“O Jehovah, from men of the world whose portion is in this life, and their belly You fill with Your treasure; they are satisfied with sons, and will leave their riches to their babes. As for me, in righteousness I will look upon Your face, when I awaken, I shall be satisfied by Your image.”
Isa 26:19 calls the dead who will be resurrected dust-dwellers.
“Your dead ones shall live, my dead body, they shall rise up. Awake and sing, dust dwellers…”
Luke 14: 13-14 says that in the resurrection we will be repaid for righteous acts.
“But when you make a banquet, call the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; and then you will be blessed, for they have nothing to repay you. For it will be repaid to you in the resurrection of the just.”
Resurrection of the Dead
When does Scripture say the resurrection of the dead will occur? The resurrection will take place on the LAST DAY, not the last day of this world, but the last day of this world system, on the day Yeshua returns . . . returns to take over.
John 6:39-40 And this is the will of the Father sending Me (Yeshua), that of all that He has given Me, I shall not lose any of it, but shall raise it up in the last day. And this is the will of the One sending Me, that everyone seeing the Son and believing into Him should have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Martha knew when it would happen! John 11:24 Martha said to Him, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection in the last day.
The author of Thessalonians also knew when it would happen. I Thes 4: 15-16 For we say this to you in the Word of the Lord, that we the living who remain to the coming of the Lord will not at all go before those who have fallen asleep. Because the Lord Himself shall come down from Heaven with a commanding shout of an archangel’s voice, and with God’s trumpet. And the dead in Messiah will rise again first.
1Co 15:16-23 “For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. But if Christ has not been raised, your faith is foolish. You are still in your sins! And then those that fell asleep in Christ were lost. If we only have hope in Christ in this life, we are of all men most miserable. But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first-fruit of those having fallen asleep. For since death is through man, also through a Man is a resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive, but each in his own order: Christ, the first-fruit, afterward those of Christ at His coming.
How Long Is Everlasting? How Long Is Forever?
“Also the sons of ones afflicting you shall come bowing, and all who despised you shall fall at the soles of your feet. They shall call you, The City of YHVH, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Instead of being forsaken and hated, so that no one passes through, I will make you for everlasting majesty, a joy of many generations. You shall also suck the milk of the nations and the breast of kings. And you shall know that I, YHVH am your Savior and your Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob (Israel)…Violence shall not be heard in your land, or wasting and ruin within your borders. But you shall call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun shall not be your light by day or the brightness of the moon give light; but YHVH shall be everlasting light to you, and your God your beauty. Your sun shall not go in any more, nor your moon be removed, for YHVH will become your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall end, and your people shall all be righteous! They shall possess the earth (not heaven) forever, a branch of My planting, a work of My hands, to beautify Myself. (Isaiah 60:14-21)
Some Closing Thoughts About Consistency
As I have shown above, Scripture teaches that upon death, man sleeps in the dust until the resurrection. Yet, some will protest, “What about II Cor 5:8?” In the KJV that verse reads: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”
This scripture should not be used to negate the totality of what Scripture teaches. For Paul, who is often hard to understand (II Peter 3:16), according to Peter, is NOT teaching an apposing doctrine. He is simply stating that all of us would much rather be out of our body and present with God. Here is that very same verse in the ERV: “So I say that we have confidence, and we really want to be away from this body and be at home with the Lord.” Stating this wish does not overrule what the bulk of Scriptue teaches us about the resurrection. So my rule of thumb is this: whenever a verse, any verse, SEEMS to contradict the bulk of Scripture, no matter how much it gives us comfort, we should NOT build a doctrine upon it. Instead we should pray and ask God for clarity. We should keep digging into His word for the right interpretation, for the Most High is not the author of confusion.