Do We Go Straight to Heaven After We Die?

Question from a Site Viewer
I read this passage this morning and I am confused. I thought that when we die we are either present with God or in hell. This passage says to me that when we die we will be stuck in our grave waiting to be called. Can you help me understand?  Don’t we go straight to heaven after we die?  This is what I read:

25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out — those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me . . .
John 5:25-30

Tim’s Answer
Thank you for your question concerning John 5:25-30. You raise the question about whether this passage teaches that we will be stuck in the grave after we die until the resurrection or if we will go straight to heaven. If so, what of the teaching that when we die we go to be with Christ? Based on this and other passages, some groups including the Seventh-Day Adventists teach that believers, when they die, are in an unconscious state until the resurrection. Most of Christianity, however, does not agree with this teaching for the following reasons.

First, in Christ’s teaching on the rich man and Lazarus, both the rich man and Lazarus were fully conscious immediately after their death (Luke 16:19-31). Abraham also was very much conscious in the words of Jesus. Some may take this account as a parable, which I do not. But even if taken as a parable, Jesus is not known to give parables of matters that may convey bad theology. In my view, we must understand Jesus as contemplating the dead as being conscious. Second, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah openly appeared and spoke with Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8). These two individuals clearly were not in some unconscious state awaiting a future resurrection. And though we might account for Elijah on the basis that he was caught up to heaven without dying (2 Kings 2:11-18), we cannot so account for Moses because Scripture tells us of his death and burial (Deuteronomy 34:5-6). Third, Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 that if our body dies we have a body from God that is immortal and that we are well pleased to be absent from our present body and to be present with the Lord. There is no sense of some intermediate state of unconsciousness in Paul’s view. Fourth, in Philippians 1:21-24, Paul expresses his great desire to depart from this life and be with Christ which is “far better.” Again, this statement does not make sense if Paul thought that he would be for an indeterminate time in an unconscious state. Fifth, in Revelation 6:9-11, we find souls of those who had been slain in heaven crying out to God. These are conscious, living beings. Sixth, in 1 Samuel 27:14-20, we find Samuel returning from the dead and talking to King Saul. We know that this was not merely an apparition, because Scripture tells us that it was Samuel who spoke with Saul and Saul was dreadfully afraid of Samuel’s words. Samuel was very much conscious. Seventh, in Hebrews 12:18-24, we are told that in heaven, at the present time, there is the general assembly and church of the firstborn and there are the spirits of just men made perfect. These individuals are not lying in some grave awaiting the resurrection, but are seen to be in heaven.

What then do we do with passages such as John 5:25-30 or Daniel 12:2? I think the best explanation for these is found in an understanding of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. In that passage, Paul is addressing the troubles that some believers had with the concept that certain of their fellow believers had died before the coming of Christ. Paul tells them not to be troubled. Paul tells us that Jesus “will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Paul also tells them that when Jesus comes, the dead will be the first to rise (1 Thessalonians 4:16). How is it possible for those who have died both to come down from heaven with Jesus and be raised from the earth to meet Jesus? I believe that Solomon has given us the answer. In Ecclesiastes 12:7, we are told that when we die the dust returns to the earth and the spirit goes to God. Death is a separation of the body of man from the spirit of man. This is also what we find in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 and Philippians 1:21-24. But we also know that this separation is not an eternal affair. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that our bodies will be preserved blameless at Christ’s coming. We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 that the dead bodies will be raised and changed. Our bodies are important to God and form an integral part of us. Often, in the Old Testament, when people died, we find the words that they rested or were buried with their fathers (see for example 1 Kings 2:10; 1 Kings 14:20, 31; 15:8, 24; 16:28; 22:50; 2 Kings 8:24). There is a real sense that their bodies were as much them as were their spirits. When the angel appeared to the women at the tomb after the resurrection of Jesus, they told the women to see where “they laid Him” (Mark 16:6). In the Matthew account, the angels stated that the “Lord” had laid there (Matthew 28:6). Though Jesus was dead when He was buried, that body was still Him. We are not of those who make some false separation of the physical from the spiritual and glorify the spiritual and disdain the physical. In Christianity, physical life is an important part of our humanity and of spirituality. This is why I see Paul praying in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 that God will sanctify our spirits, souls, and bodies.

Thus, when we presently die, we who trust in Christ go to be with Him in a conscious state. At that moment, we are not disembodied beings. Rather, as Paul states, we have a spiritual body, eternal in the heavens. But our physical bodies remain on this earth. In the resurrection, our physical bodies are raised, changed and rejoined with our spiritual bodies and we then live forever after with Christ. So, in John 5:25-30, what I see is the resurrection of the bodies, which are as much a part of people as are the spirits. The bodies are raised, the spirits rejoined with the bodies, and the judgment pronounced.

I trust this provides some assistance to you as you think through this passage and these matters.

May the Lord Jesus continue to guide you and be the the center of your love.

a fellow pilgrim,

tim

18 thoughts on “Do We Go Straight to Heaven After We Die?”

    1. The Lord Jesus also told the thief on the cross next to Him that “you will be with me in paradise today” no delay, only the body until the day of redemption 💙💚

  1. I believe when you die your spirit. Is with God you are with Jesus. Amen that is how I Believe I am with Billy Graham

    1. there is biblical evidence of that. when God created man He breathed His breath into man.
      when man dies that breath goes back to Him who gave it, if there is any holiness in that breath,
      then it means that any person, regardless of their believes/religion goes to heaven? Who goes to hell then?
      So if every person who dies go to heaven, who is resurrected when the 7th trumpet blows?
      Who are the sheep and goats that will be separated ?

  2. so he lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, people will not awake or be roused from their sleep.
    JOB14:12

  3. I have studied the contrasting arguments on this and have yet to see the reference of the thief who was crucified with our Lord. Jesus told him that he would be with him in paradise that day. That, to me, is as plain as day and should answer any questions about where we go when we die. Hallelujah, I will be with my Lord and Saviour!

  4. Well it seems that you, like many others, have taken much of your reasons out of context. Answer me one thing. If we are all in heaven with Jesus, other then the present living people, then why would he have to come back for the dead at his 2nd resurrection like Paul says? The dead will rise first and then the living will be caught up with them. If everyone is in heaven He has no reason to come back for the dead.

    1. My question as well. Ecclesiastes says “ the living know that they will die but the dead no not anything or have any further reward. 9:5. I believe our spirit is with the Lord and nothing can take it away and will be reunited with our bodies when the Lord comes. My question, is it a conscious spirit? How would we find joy watching our loved ones suffer while we are in heaven waiting to be reunited with them. So this is all in God’s hand and I choose to trust him for he knows what’s best for us. Isaiah 26:3-4. Romans 15:13❤️☝️✝️

    2. The point is for God to create a new Heaven and new earth when the Father tells the Son, it’s time. The remnant will fill the New Jerusalem, Gods kingdom come down to earth.

  5. I just wanted to point out that when a person dies they have no knowledge of the passing of time in the physical sense. The end result is, we will be resurrected in the first resurrection and be with Christ for eternity. In that sense we are immediately with the Lord as Paul said. It could be just seconds, minutes, hours, days or a thousand years, the dead person would not know the difference. Either way it’s immediate to that person.

  6. If you believe Luke 16 literally as you say, then you are believing that people in Hell can talk to people in Heaven. It is a parable to teach a principle. There are many verses in God’s word that clearly state that we sleep. For those willing to study here are a few:
    1 Thes 4:13-14,16. John 11:11-14. John 3:13. Gen 2:7. Eccl 3:20. Eccl 12:7. Eccl 9:5-6. Acts 2:29,34. 1 Cor 15 (entire). Col. 1:18.
    When taken as a WHOLE view on the subject of our earthly death it is clear that we sleep(grave,dust). Until the last trumpet sound! Let’s remember the point of view of death is Jewish. Jesus as a man was Jew as were the writers of the NT.

  7. If we go directly to heaven after we die there is no reason for Jesus to come back at the second coming and raise all the dead bodies and bring them to heaven to be judged. If we are in heaven when we die what are we doing in heaven until judgment day comes. Besides no one has ascended to heaven except the one who has descended from heaven. Get back to me on this please, thank you

    1. Andrew, so are you saying you don’t think we go to heaven when we die? If so, then where do you think we go? (if not sorry, i misunderstood) I’m assuming this is a question?: If we are in heaven when we die what are we doing in heaven until judgment day comes – The answer to that question is that we will be worshipping Jesus

  8. If someone died in a fire, blown up by an explosion or cremated, how does what you are saying work, if there isn’t a body to bury?

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