I am a staff writer for the website GotQuestions.org, and over the weekend I received a question that I wanted to share as well as the answer that I provided. The question has to do with “what happens after death” and I believe it is ABSOLUTELY PARAMOUNT for believers to know what does happen. It seems that this person who wrote in was given some misinformation which honestly was sad to read.
May God bless you as you continue to provide hope to those you are a witness to!
I recently moved from US to Europe to serve in a christian ministry but I didn’t know where they stood on EVERY biblical topic. What should I do if I believe (based on the Bible) that somethings are not `only` as they say? The pastor has taught his leaders that when a Christian dies, he doesn`t go directly to heaven, that he actually goes to a waiting area (based on Luke 16) to Abraham`s bosom or paradise (based on what Jesus told the criminal on the cross). But i know that Paul said something like `to be present in the body is to be absent from the presence of God` (philipians 1:22-24). Also Jesus told the criminal: `today you will be with me in Paradise`. Based on Revelations 2:17, paradise is God`s paradise, which cannot be an earthly paradise, therefore it has to be in heaven. Is this something I should approach the pastor about? I`ve always been taught that regarding the order of events in Revelations, there are a few theological views, and I`ve been taught all of them, but never have I been taught that one in particular is `the right/the only` view. For instance, the Rapture. Based on the Bible (how God extracted `the just: Lot, Noah & their families before bringing judgement on their city) I`m lead to believe & lean more towards the Rapture happening before the Tribulation & Great Tribulation. So the issue about not going to heaven directly, is it that trivial that I speak with the pastor? I`ve been thinking that as long as we preach Jesus and that we need to repent to be accepted in the kingdom of Heaven so that we can enjoy eternal life, is enough for me. Cause anyways, i don`t think we will ever be on the same page with everyone, i think we are even gonna be surprised by many things when get to heaven. Any thoughts? I`m a bit confused cause I don`t want to be looked at as the new girl with weird views. Please help. Thanks!
Thank you for writing to us. As a pastor and fellow believer, I would say that it is critical to speak with your pastor about this and ensure you are on equal footing in your understanding of this pivotal tenant of scripture. I cannot put myself in his shoes or seek to defend what he is saying, but I agree with your interpretation of Scripture that once we (Believers) close our eyes in death we wake in the presence of the One who died for us. (As info, your reference of Philippians 1:22-24 is incorrect, what you are referring to is 2 Corinthians 5:8 so please be sure you understand these two verses.)
However, to be clear, there is NO holding place after death.
When Jesus died, the veil was torn in the holy of holies (see Matthew 27:51) signifying that we have instant access to the Lord through the Son. We are no longer separated from the presence of God because of what Jesus did on the cross. This is KEY in understanding that He is truly our Savior. I agree that we cannot agree on everything because our minds work differently on somethings but there is NO “waiting area” after death.
Luke 16 refers to what happened to believers BEFORE they had a Savior, the One promised (in order) from Genesis 3:15, Genesis 12:3, Genesis 17:6-8, Genesis 49:8-10, Numbers 24:17, Deut 18:14-18, 2 Samuel 7:13-16, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6-7, and Isaiah 53.
Jesus died on the cross (recorded in all 4 Gospels), and thus, 2 Corinthians 5:8 is now our eternal hope for what happens after death. When we die, it is either a matter of instant death (for unbelievers to await the final judgment spoken of in Rev 20:15) or instant glory (for believers) in the presence of the Lord, forever.
As a witness through your own testimony you are right that telling the story of redemption is critical and you need to ensure that in speaking of the hope and that you give people REAL hope … not a false sense of an eternal waiting room where we one day will meet the Lord. Granted, no one has gone and come back to give us all the details, but in our death our eternal hope is that we will see Jesus face to face and forever be in His presence. This is the foundation of the Christian faith and must be spoken of and testified too.
Please be sure that you approach this matter with humbleness and a gentle spirit (see Proverbs 15:1) as arguing gets us nowhere and only ensures that we pull farther and farther apart. God bless you.
~ Rev TJ Conwell