Books and movies about Christians going to heaven as soon as they die are quite in vogue. And why not? They titillate imaginations. They comfort the bereaved. And they rake in millions of dollars. One such popular film is titled: “Heaven Is Real.” To that I must add, but going there before the resurrection is a big fat lie.
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, of course, is, “No!”
The original manuscripts are not punctuated. Punctuation was added by translators. Luke 23:43, without punctuation says: “And Jesus said to him Truly I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Sadly, translators have placed a comma before the word today, causing the sentence to contradict the rest of Scripture. When the 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 is in keeping with what the Scriptures teach about death and the resurrection. But for those of you still not convinced, allow me to point out that Yeshua himself was not in Paradise that day. Had he told that to the thief, it would have been a lie. Yeshua was in the grave for the next three days and three nights (Matt 12:39-40), proving the Messiah could not have meant that on the day of his death the thief would be in paradise with him. Yeshua was simply, on the day of his crucifixion, promising the thief he would (eventually, at the resurrection as Scripture teaches) be in paradise.
The only other major argument promoting the false 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, not a teaching on heaven and hell. If it were, it would contradict everything Scripture teaches about death and resurrection, teaching instead that:
- The righteous dead go to live in Abraham’s bosom.
- Those in hell can speak to those in heaven.
- A drop of water is expected to relieve their torments in hell.
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 (Ruach/ Spirit) 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 44:2 …therefore I will give man for thee and people for thy life (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.
This is what the Scriptures teach 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 do not know anything;
The dead do not praise God. They are in silence.
Psalms 115:17 The dying do not praise Jehovah, nor all those who go down into silence;
The dead person’s thoughts perish in the day he dies.
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.”
IN SCRIPTURE SLEEP AS A METAPHOR FOR DEATH APPEARS SOME 66 TIMES.
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, 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.
Now for 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.”
SO WHEN DOES SCRIPTURE SAY THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD WILL HAPPEN?
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.
So did the writer of Thessalonians.
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.