Promises and Secrets

Promises and SecretsPromises and Secrets

A website for those not afraid to examine their beliefs, compare them to the real world, and make sure they fit.



Heaven

VIEWPOINT



God dwells in Heaven, we will live with God only when "Heaven" comes to earth.

FACT



Heaven is where God dwells.


BLUE VIEWPOINT



Despite all the rhetoric, the Bible never says we are going to Heaven to be with Jesus or live with God in Heaven forever. In fact, Jesus Himself said that no one has ever gone into heaven or has been to see the Father except the One who came down from heaven (John 3:13):

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.

Even more, the Bible says the opposite of what most Christians believe - God will come down here and live with us! After the Holy City comes down from Heaven to the New Earth, you read this (Rev 21:3):

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Read it for what it says, not what we want

Yeah, yeah. With that statement, nearly every Christian and Jewish person in the world is alienated by this site. But, please hear me out. Find one verse or series of verses in any legitimate version of the Bible (NIV, KJV, NAS, ASB, etc.) that directly says that we go to Heaven when we die. (The distinction of a legitimate version is because there are some, like the Clear Word Bible, that are not only paraphrased, but they are worded with clear opinions that are not even implied in the original manuscripts from which they were supposedly translated.)

Sure, there are a lot of passages in valid versions of the Bible that say we will live with God or Jesus, or both, forever, but none of them say that it will be in Heaven. Go ahead, find one statement where you do not have to translate or interpret in such a way that only you or your church must explain how it "really means" that we will live forever in Heaven. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Back already? O.K., let me explain this statement, with examples.

Families in Heaven?

To be honest, there is at least one passage that has caused me to do more investigation regarding people going right to Heaven when they die - Ephesians 3:15
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

. The standard interpretation of this seems to indicate that there are families in heaven, but this interpretation does not fit with the rest of scripture.

There is a good explanation of the translation of the Greek for this passage of Ephesians 3:15
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

at " target="_blank">Bible Hub. They go into the controversy about the actual translation, explaining that the phrase rendered "family" may have been better translated as "fatherhood", giving the passage a more patriarchal meaning attributing all created beings to God.

The NIV correctly translates the phrase in Ephesians as "every family in heaven", not the "whole family" as in other translations. Especially when Jesus is incorrectly quoted as saying that people in heaven are not given in marriage (Matt 22:30
At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

).

Actually, He said that in the resurrection people are not given in marriage, therefore have no "families". Where are people going to be during the thousand years of the Millennium? Right here on terra firma. The families in Heaven are not identified as human people, and God has created many beings in His family (angels, cherubim, the four creatures, twenty-four elders, etc). In fact, I'm sure you have heard of the "family of God", which includes every being that abides by His will.

The site at Christadelphia.org refers to this as "The whole family in heaven and earth" in Ephesians 3:15
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

, and claims that this is a direct reference to God's family and does not mean humans whether deceased or alive. I am checking further, but doubt that it means there are now human families in Heaven at this time, and am fairly certain that there will never be. In fact, have you ever wondered why John never mentioned Moses, Abraham, and other OT saints as walking around in Heaven in his vision for the book of Revelation? Could it be because they are not there?

Don't worry, our mansions are still coming

Now, this is not saying that we believers will not live forever in a mansion created especially for us - just that it will not be in Heaven but right here on earth - sort of. And I know that we will live with God and Jesus forever, just not in the third Heaven where God "lives" today. OK, like the LORD himself says in the word:

"Come now, and let us reason together." (Isaiah 1:18)

1 Thes 4:13-18
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

is often used as a "proof" that we will go to Heaven immediately when we die (or Hell, if you are not paying attention). This is also the "rapture" passage that supposedly "proves" that we are going to be snatched out of the world before the Tribulation begins and will live in Heaven with Christ, and then return with Him as part of his army when He comes back to earth. Well, there are some questions about that very tentative idea.

Where are the dead now?

Another verse that pushed me to do some more reasearch on what happens when we die is Philippians 1:23
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

. This one is popular with those who insist that we go immediately to Heaven. Paul says that his desire is to depart and be with Christ, and this is a true statement since Paul is not a liar. But did he insist that the result was immediate? How does the "popular" interpretation square with other statements made by Paul?

What else did Paul say?

My first question is - according to Paul, Silas, and Timothy (the senders of 1 Thessalonians), where are the believers who have gone before us ("who sleep in death" (1 Thes 4:13
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

)? We know that "sleep" in Paul's words is a euphemism for death, so why would he use this word instead of, say, "gone to Heaven" or "now live with Christ"? If the believers of the time thought that the dead went to Heaven, why would Paul have to calm their fears that the living would get there before those who died in Christ (1 Thes 4:15
According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

)?

Also, if they went to Heaven when they died, why must they then be resurrected at Christ's return? If they are in Heaven, why does Paul say that the living "will not precede" the dead (note the future tense "will") at the return of Christ, an event happening later than this writing of Paul's? Are they "rising" from Heaven to come to earth with Christ? This is the same event that is described in Revelation 20:4-6
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

, and is called the first resurrection. There can be only one first anything. Finally, if you combine this thought with the statements in 1 Cor 15:51-54
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed - 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

, this resurrection will not happen until the second coming of Christ ("at the last trumpet"). We are still looking for the phrase confirming that we/they are going to "Heaven", whether it is when we die or any time later.

And, in his letter to Timothy...

While doing this research, a site at The Restored Church of God explained it quite well. Their gist was that Paul has written other words about this very subject and he was looking forward to "that day" when he would get his reward along with others who "long for His appearing" (see 2 Tim 4:7-8
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

). If you add this to the phrase in Philippians 1:23
I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

, instead of cherry-picking isolated verses, you will have a better picture of what Paul was saying.

The Resurrection events

Second question - what happens immediatley after Christ comes and resurrects the dead? They/We reign with Him for a thousand years. Where will we reign with Him? Right here on terra firma. Zechariah says so very clearly in chapter 14, verse 4
4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.

. Christ will come, stand on the Mount of Olives (that would be here on earth), conquer a bunch of bad guys, toss them into a Lake of Fire, and set up some rules that require everyone left to go to Jerusalem to worship Him and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Now, if everyone is either dead or in Heaven during the thousand years, who are these people and nations who are required to go to Jerusalem and worship Jesus? In fact, for the nations of anyone who does not do so, no rain will fall on their lands. Still looking for that phrase that says we are going to Heaven.

After the Millennium

Third question - after fast forwarding 1000 years, what happens then? After a short, one-sided battle, more bad guys (including the main one) are tossed into that Lake of Fire. The earth and sky are just gone, and the rest of the dead, and the living, are brought before the great white throne for final judgment. After that judgment, the unworthy are tossed into the same lake as the bad guys from the first attack. Is there somewhere in here that we sneak up to Heaven when no one is looking?

Why a new earth?

Fourth question - what happens next? Well, some sort of creation or renewal had to happen because now there is a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

). Now, why would we need a new earth if everyone who is left alive after the judgment will supposedly be in Heaven, and the bad guys are gone to a painful existence? Revelation 21 is full of facts that most people ignore because the book is supposedly too "symbolic" for anyone to understand without some kind of "Doctorate in Brilliance" given only to bearded professors and ancient priests. The next event explains why the new earth was delivered.

Here come the mansions

John then sees the Holy City coming down out of Heaven from God, and God dwells with men in the City while it sits on earth. Now, wait just a minute. If God made these mansions for us and kept them in Heaven for us, and if no one went to Heaven when they died (the first resurrection brought them to life to reign on earth with Christ), and we reigned on earth with Him for 1000 years, then the non-believers were resurrected, then judged, then the Holy City came down - just when is it that we go to Heaven to live with Jesus and God forever?

What does the Bible say?

Now, thinking plainly about this issue, if you went to Heaven to be with God and Jesus, wouldn't you think you would see them, at least occasionally? Especially if you lived in their neighborhood. Adam walked with God in the garden and carried on conversations with Him. But what does John 6:46 say?

No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.

Of course, John could be mistaken or misquoted I suppose, but the words there are those of Jesus - the final authority. So how can this be true if Adam walked with God? Well, Jesus was speaking to a group of Jews (verse 41
At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven."

), and His reference was likely to demonstrate that none of them had any personal foundation for the accusations they were bringing. But does this mean that everyone who died has gone to either Heaven or Hell immediately? Doesn't that mean their judgment is final shortly after their death? If that is true, then where is the need for the final judgment John speaks about in Revelation?

The one thing people rarely do when they hear something that challenges their own beliefs is to check to see if the awful "blasphemy" actually matches the flow of the rest of the word of God. Based only on the very simple reasoning in this page, how do you stand on this issue? If you do more honest research in the Bible, it is certain that you will find the narrative above and the facts in the Bible match real life culture, history, and language and will bring you to the same conclusion.

Yep, there is a Heaven

There are many mentions of Heaven in the Bible. They refer to things that are in Heaven waiting to be given to us, and say that God is in Heaven, and that Jesus went to the Father in Heaven, but nothing says that we will go there or live there - ever.

Where is the thief on the cross?

This discussion almost always brings up the thief on the cross, so we cannot just ignore that passage. The average Christian uses Luke 23:39-43 to "prove" beyond a doubt that we go to Heaven immediately when we die:

Luke 23:39-43

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

42 Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

43 Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

OK, that seems to be pretty straight forward, right? I mean, this clearly says that the thief and Jesus would be together in Paradise on Friday ("this day"), or, considering that the day was coming to an end, early Sabbath evening at the latest. If this is so, is this really the only place in the Bible that says we will go to Heaven right away at death? How can anyone claim that the thief did not go to Heaven that day, essentially making Jesus out to be a liar? Right? However, why would there be only one "reference" to something that everyone believes?

Wait a minute. What does John 20:15-18
15 He asked her, "Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

16 Jesus said to her, "Mary."

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means "Teacher").

17 Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'?"
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

say happened on Resurrection day, Sunday morning? When Mary went to the tomb, she met Jesus, and He told her something that no one seems to include in their thought processes. He said not to touch Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father. Where is the Father? In Heaven. If Jesus had not yet returned to Heaven as of Sunday morning, then where is the thief? Unless he was moved to somewhere else and lived, he obviously died on Friday (or maybe early on the Sabbath) after they broke his legs so that he could not support his weight to keep breathing. If Jesus had not yet returned to Heaven, what about the "promise" in Luke 23:43 about being in paradise "this day" and "with Me"?

Try this instead

Here is another possible explanation, and it may not be the only one possible, but it shows that people do not always really think about what they read or hear. There is no punctuation in the Greek, so the comma after the word "truth" is not even in the original text to be "translated". So, why would the translator put it after the word "truth"? For our benefit in bringing this phrase into English, the well-meaning translator(s) added the comma so the sentence would be gramatically correct to our ears and eyes when we read the passage in English. The translator(s) obviously believed that something would happen that day, and his placement of the comma was likely biased by that belief. But whether he thought the place was to be Heaven or a place to wait for the resurrection is not clear.

My question is, "Who determined where the comma would go, and why?" What would happen if the comma was added after the word "today"? With that simple difference, Jesus' statement is still true and the rest of the Bible is still valid. With this change, the passage says that the thief is now within the salvation plan and Jesus is assuring him of his place in Paradise, without an inference that he (or we) will go to Heaven immediately at his death. The statement of Christ promised Paradise to the thief, but not necessarily that day, and He never promised residence in Heaven. Another thing, even the thief asked to be remembered "when you come into your kingdom". According to many real passage interpretations, that will happen at the second coming of Christ, and not at his (the thief's) death or even some mythical pre-tribulation Rapture.

Now it matches the rest of the Bible

An informative explanation can be found at Grace Communion International, where the author of the page presents the possibility that Christ and the thief went to Paradise to wait for the resurrection. My question for those who hold this view is: "What if Paradise is actually the Holy City - after it comes down to us from Heaven?". Wouldn't this match everything else in the Word of God without having to concoct some convoluted story to match what we "need to happen"? Oops, still looking for any passage that states or even implies that we go to Heaven for eternity, or even a short time.

Where do we even get this stuff?

Most of our impressions about Heaven as our final destination come from relatively modern writers. These imaginative, and sometimes brilliant, authors put their ideas into words and those of us who are not good with words take these ideas in and make them our own without evaluating them in relation to what the Bible says.

Trying hard to make something fit that doesn't

One powerful example of this is Randy Alcorn's Heaven (2004). The book has praising commments from such noted Christian apologists as Rick Warren, Hank Hanegraaff, and popular authors like Jerry Jenkins and Angela Hunt. In my admittedly amateur opinion, this work is thoroughly researched and well-written, and is a great source of information about what that particular author believes is planned for Christians after they die. However, like most works on Christian subjects, it is apparent that he leans on personal interpretations of scripture that must add foreign concepts, plus include some creativity in order to communicate his view. Now, there is nothing wrong with this tactic - this site sometimes use imagination to communicate an idea - unless one is trying to pass off concepts that are either not supported by scripture or are outright contradictory to it.

Not being a noted author, the burden of proof for such comments is heavier for me, so I ask your indulgence in this attempt to defend the outrageous statements made above. Unlike many others, the aim is not to put forth complicated fabricated theories of defense, but to offer a common sense approach that depends on the logic of the statements, agreement with the Bible, and the fair reasoning of the reader.

O.K., let me explain by using an example

On a recent visit to a website at Got Questions?, a reader asked:

Question: "Does John 3:13 mean that no one went to Heaven before Jesus?"
Answer: In John 3:13 Jesus says to Nicodemus, "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven-the Son of Man." This verse is somewhat difficult to interpret and is often misunderstood. It is also frequently used by those who want to find contradictions in the Bible.

We must keep the verse in context. In verses 10-12, especially, we see that Jesus is talking about His authority and the validity of His teaching. Jesus tells Nicodemus that He has been teaching what He knew firsthand: "We speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen" (verse 11). Then, in verse 13 Jesus explains why He is uniquely qualified to teach of the kingdom of God-namely, because He alone came down from heaven and possesses the knowledge to teach people about heaven. Jesus alone has seen the Father, and He alone is qualified to declare God and make Him known (John 1:18).

The gist of John 3:13 is this: "None of your earthly teachers can really teach you about heaven, because none of them have actually been there. However, I have been there. In fact, it is My home. I have come to you from heaven, and I have brought with Me experiential knowledge of that place. My testimony carries weight; I can tell you the truth about salvation." The NLT brings out the meaning well: "No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven."

In claiming a heavenly abode, Jesus was claiming deity. Nicodemus himself had already admitted that Jesus was extraordinary when he said, "We know you are a teacher who has come from God". (verse 2)

Jesus was not teaching that no one had ever gone to heaven before. Obviously, the Old Testament saints had gone to heaven (or paradise) when they died (Mark 12:26-27), and Enoch and Elijah had been taken there without dying (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5; 2 Kings 2:11). Rather, He was teaching that, of all rabbis, He had the best credentials. Jesus has direct contact with heaven; He is an expert on the subject.

Looking at this answer from the Got Questions? representative, (s)he seems to immediately assure the questioner that the question about "no one has ever gone into heaven" is indeed a difficult question to interpret, assures them that (s)he is quite qualified to clear up the confusion, as (s)he is not the dunce that Nicodemus appears to be in the passage. (S)he also points the accusing finger at those who would use the passage to incorrectly find contradictions in the Bible. When I got past the overwhelmingly satisfying (tongue-in-cheek, please) relief that we have someone out there who will save us from these unfortunate misunderstandings, the question popped up, "Where is (s)he coming from?"

Rising of the dead

First, the answer from this supposed "expert" includes a reference to Mark 12:26-27
26 Now about the dead rising-have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob"? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!"

that somehow "proves" that the OT saints have gone to Heaven. O.K. The first few words of this statement from One Who knows declares the subject matter - "the rising of the dead". As of this writing, I have never heard of any Biblical source referring to the rising from the dead as "going to Heaven". The ultimate rising of the dead happens twice; once when Jesus returns to resurrect the dead in Christ (Rev. 20:4-6
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

), and again when the rest of the dead are brought up to stand before the great White Throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-14
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

). Neither of these provide for people being in Heaven now.

Several other references to rising from the dead include the stories of Lazarus (John 11), Eutychus (Acts 20), and Samuel (1 Samuel 28). None of these refer to going to Heaven.

Jesus thought Nicodemus would know from reading the Old Testament

If you read the passages from John chapter 3 in the Bible for what they actually say, you find that Jesus is surprised that Nicodemus doesn't already know the answer to the "reborn" question. If that is the case, then clearly Jesus is not merely explaining why "He is uniquely qualified to teach of the kingdom of God". He is stating that Nicodemus, one who is supposed to be a teacher of Israel, should already understand how a man can be reborn. The reference He is making is that this is one of the "things of heaven" that Jesus has been trying to explain to everyone, but no one believes Him (John 3:12
I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

). When Jesus said that "no one has gone up to heaven", He did not lie, as would be the case if Elijah or Enoch had gone up to the third heaven (more on this "blasphemy" of mine later in this page).

Even referring to this, Dr. Alcorn, in his book, quotes a version of the Bible (NLT) that is a poor translation of the Greek


which never says "No one has ever gone to heaven and returned (emphasis mine).", but actually says "No one has ever gone up into heaven." As of that time, no one had gone up to the third heaven where the Father resides. So far, only one had come down from heaven, and Nicodemus was speaking to Him.

"Adding" to the Word to make your "story" better

Another thing I noticed on this site at Got Questions?, the one reference for further research was to the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. In his book, Dr. Alcorn puts forth an idea that is different from most views out there regarding Heaven. He speaks of an "intermediate Heaven". Now, while Dr. Alcorn is recognized as one of the foremost authorities on Heaven, and we agree on many major issues, we disagree on several points that he makes in his book. In general, we are together on his view that we will not dwell with God in the third Heaven where He now lives, but that God will join man down here on a renewed earth. However, to maintain his view that we must, for some unexplained reason, go to Heaven or Hell immediately upon our death, Dr. Alcorn has derived an "intermediate" Heaven (think "Paradise") to which we go after we die, but before the Holy City comes down from the third heaven at the end.

Dr. Alcorn does give some Biblical references to illustrate his points, but none of them are supportive of his concept, only "un-condemning" of it. One example is his reference to 1 Cor 2:9
However, as it is written: "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived" -- the things God has prepared for those who love him--

(page 19 in his book). This reference reminds us that "no eye has seen" what God has prepared for "those who love Him", but "God has revealed it to us by His Spirit". Dr. Alcorn's references and explanations that follow seem to be based on the concept that "this verse does not keep me from saying this, so it must be OK to say".

We are also prepared for flights of fancy by being told on page 16 to "fire up our imagination" so we can see his points. This imagination theme is continued later on pages 21 and 22, supported in Dr. Alcorn's text by other authors but, not by the Bible. He also uses Paul's comment to Timothy (2 Tim 2:7
Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

), and Psalm 119:18
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

(on page 17), since we are already in the right frame of mind, to imply Biblical "agreement" with this approach. I guess that "the Lord will give you insight into all this" means "you should see that I (Dr. Alcorn) am right". So, nothing in the Bible actually mentions an "intermediate" Heaven, but since we are not told it does not exist, evidently we are allowed to suggest one to fit our other concepts.

Oops, he agrees with me, sort of

Again, the main idea that Dr. Alcorn puts forth is reiterated on page 42 of his book, in the middle of the page in italics:

When we die, believers in Christ will not go to Heaven where we'll live forever. (emphasis added)

For most of the other issues with his concepts, and their un-Biblical stance, they are addressed in the other places on the pages of this site. The largest of these objections is the "musical graves" game that must be played in order to get the saints in the right place to make the scriptural statements of events happen as God said they would according to John, Matthew, and other references to the end times. Dr. Alcorn addresses these concerns only as far as suggesting that when we die, we receive a temporary "form" in order to have something to resurrect after another new concept - the "first judgment" (page 47), or the judgment of faith.

More "added" stuff

We are warned by the doctor not to confuse this with the "final judgment" - the judgment of works. This would be especially true, says Dr. Alcorn, for those who died before Christ sacrificed Himself (think Old Testament dead) on the cross because they could not go to "Heaven" before that time, so they would have to go to intermediate Hell otherwise. These souls would be subject to a judgment (faith) to determine whether they are going to the intermediate "Heaven" (think Paradise, but not Heaven) or the intermediate Hell, evidently the same one we are going to today when we die if we are not in Christ.

Of course, according to Dr. Alcorn, the final judgment (works) will happen for everyone (both believers and unbelievers), just not necessarily at the same time as the faith judgment. The believers' judgment of works will evidently happen either: 1) right after the judgment of faith, 2) in intermediate Heaven between death and the return of Christ, or 3) between the Rapture and the return of Christ. Imagine my disappointment if I find myself in the intermediate Heaven and after a few hundred years of bliss, am called up for works judgment and fail to qualify for the real heaven?

Why the additions?

What is the point of an after-judgment judgment unless there is a possibility that the second judgment will be different than the first? Oh, and the unbelievers' judgment of works will wait until the Great White Throne judgment, so they will have to wait in the intermediate Hell until they are judged. This means they will only have to stay in Hell for at least 1000 years to find out if they can go to the New Jerusalem if they do pass the works judgment. And if they do pass the final judgment, are they somehow going to forget the time they spend in intermediate Hell?

One casualty of this intermediate Heaven concept is Paul's discussion of those who have fallen asleep (1 Thes 4:13-18
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

) in Christ. This is an extension of the "musical graves" discussion because , according to Alcorn's theory, every one who has died is now either in Hell or Heaven (intermediates, that is). According to Dr. Alcorn, when Christ comes again He will raise the dead in Christ from Heaven (?), then the living in Christ from earth, and all those people will reign on earth with Christ for 1000 years. To use some reasoning similar to that Dr. Alcorn uses in his book: isn't being "resurrected" from Heaven back to life on the old "pre-new" earth for 1000 years, considered a sort of demotion?

Elijah and Enoch

If you really want to spice things up, what about those who were taken to Heaven without dying? Maybe you can convince me we go to heaven through those passages.

I do not deny that there are passages in the Bible that indicate that two people were "taken" by God. The references in 2 Kings 2:11
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.

and Genesis 5:24
Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

are clear statements. Whether Enoch went to Heaven is not clear, but Elijah was clearly said to have been taken "up to heaven in a whirlwind" according to many translations.

New information

After publishing this page, I have since done some more research into the language used in 2 Kings to describe the taking of Elijah. Rather than go into it here, the page Elijah and Heaven in the menu in the center of this page explains it in detail. Don't worry, the explanation adds to the same understanding I have tried to impart here, but does so with more facts.

Continuing from above...

Well, and here I go again, the Greek does not say "up to heaven in a whirlwind", but actually says "and up went Elijah in a tempest to the heavens". Anyone who has studied the Bible much at all remembers that there are three heavens. Whether this is the third Heaven where God resides, we are not told. Granted, this is not solid as concrete, but the translation and interpretation must stay in line with the context of the entire word of God, and it must do so on its own right, not requiring some fanciful explanation to get it tortured enough to fit.

Are we to accept this as typical?

However, even if by some chance this does refer to the third heaven, which I doubt for reasons to follow, to intimate that this means that everyone will have the same fate as Elijah when we die, is further than I am willing to go. We must investigate the very flimsy evidence that he did not go somewhere else at the time of his taking (2 Chronicles 21:12
Jehoram received a letter from Elijah the prophet, which said: "This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: 'You have not followed the ways of your father Jehoshaphat or of Asa king of Judah.' "

, see mention below) that would prevent him from writing a letter to king Jehoram. Unless, of course, he wrote the letter prophetically to be delivered when the proper time came. To be fair, there are many well-known commentaries (see Bible Hub for some examples) with various explanations as to how this could have been:

1) a different king Jehoram (see 4Jehovah),

2) that Elijah wrote the letter in advance for Jehoram (Matthew Poole, Ellicott, Benson, Matthew Henry, Gill),

3) that this was a different Elijah (Matthew Poole, Benson, Pulpit),

4) that the time line would allow Elijah to be still on earth to write the letter,

5) that Elijah sent the letter from Heaven (a writer mentioned in Gill),

6) even that one of Elijah's students (perhaps even Elisha) had sent the letter (Matthew Poole, Ellicott, Benson)

7) a transcriber mistake (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown)

8) a forgery by someone else entirely (Cambridge)

as well as other suggestions. All but one of these possibilities are listed on the site above (all but the first one, honest) by reputable commentary sources, but all these require adding some "missing" information or an opinion that requires speculation to make the facts fit. I'm sure they will also explain how they know this while they have no evidence, because they are very studied on the matter. The bottom line is that all of the actual facts have to fit with the rest of the Bible, not just the single episode for one theory. That requires that you ignore other verses, or add "facts" not in evidence. Besides that, you still have to handle John's statements:

John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

- and -

1 John 4:12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

- and -

John 3:13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.

Where are those to be resurrected?

For those of you who hold that after Jesus' death, "He opened the gates to Heaven (and Hell, by the way), and therefore everyone who dies goes immediately to their final resting place in Heaven or Hell", these verses from John were written well after Jesus died. If everyone who dies is already in Heaven or Hell, then their judgment must be complete and sentence or blessing has been assigned. If that is the case, who is to be resurrected, and what is the point of a resurrection if people are already in their final resting places?

It can't be that way if you read the Bible and read what it actually says (and by simple logic realize what it doesn't say) instead of what you want it to say. The resurrection after the Second Coming of Christ will require some musical graves and snatching from Heaven and Hell if people are already in their "semi-final" places immediately after death.

Another thought

After writing the passages above, my wife and I found another reference to something that might give a better explanation than any we have seen to date that explains why Enoch and Elijah never tasted death. Now, don't think I am claiming here to have found the answer to life, the universe and everything, but am offering a line of thought that fits with the rest of the Bible. In the whole Bible, we see only two men who did not die in the normal way men are destined to go - Enoch and Elijah. Combining this thought with Hebrews 9:27:

27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

We get a connection that seems made to order. Keep in mind that there are some who actually died more than once, like Lazarus (John 11:43-44)
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

and Eutychus (Acts 20:9-10)
9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "He's alive!"

, but the purpose of these events is evident from the text. Without claiming to know the mind of God, what could be the possible purpose for these other two men to "skip" death? Here is a thought: maybe God had in mind to use these two righteous men as "witnesses" in the future.

There are many people who put out a lot of speculation as to the identity of the two witnesses of Rev 11, and many of them suggest Elijah is one, but the other one varies from Moses to Aaron to one even representing a symbol of the church. The Adventists even remove the possibility of them being human at all, suggesting that they are really the Old and New Testaments (see Kenneth Cox's series Give Me The Bible, Part 1, which you can find online at Cox 01), though it is hard to see how they can be killed, revived 3 1/2 days later, and told to "Come up here" (Rev 11:12), if they are merely books.

Of course, others have considered this, like the site at End Time Ministries, and they discount this idea of the witnesses being Elijah and Enoch as impossible. Their explanation uses an equally impossible reason - they claim that since the Rapture will remove all the believers, no one will be left on earth to qualify to be the two witnesses, so God must be using another way. The author of that site also uses 1 Cor 15:51-54
51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

to prove that we will be raptured, but that only works if Jesus comes back to do that before the tribulation, which conflicts with the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John (Rev 19:19 - 20:6). (For my reasoning, see my page called The Rapture.)

What about the Rapture?

The Rapture does happen, it just happens when Christ returns after the tribulation, immediately before the millennium in order to give the Antichrist time to persecute the saints (Dan 7:20-25
20 and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts and which was larger in appearance than its associates. 21 "I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22 until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.

23 "Thus he said: 'The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. 24 'As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. 25 'He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.'"

, Rev 13:4-7
4 they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?" 5 There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.
7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.

). Otherwise, we have to ignore some passages in the Bible to make other theories work, or as some do, change the timeline to fit what we want to happen instead of what we are told in the Word of God.

One vague or mis-translated statement is "proof"?

Too many well-meaning people will use a single instance of an event in the Bible and try to twist it into a secret justification for a regular practice. An example is the way that nearly every Sunday-keeping Christian points to Acts 20:7
7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.

as a clear justification to break the fourth commandment, or at least keep a different day. There is no evidence that any regular practice, other than eating, had been established for a new practice of worship on the first day of the week. Also, this is the very time that Jews would be praticing Havdalah, a Sabbath-ending ceremony to create a clear division between the holy Sabbath and the rest of the week. In fact, this was not even a worship session, per se - it was Paul talking to the group. Even the reason for their being there so late is given as Paul's intent to leave the next day. The point of this passage is to show the power of God in bringing a dead man back to life (Eutychus), but no one seems to remember that small, "insignificant" fact.

Money or food?

Or how about using 1 Cor 16:2
On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. (NIV)

to justify the passing of the plate every Sunday to collect money and claim this as another reason for Sabbath-breaking? That collection was to get food for the saints in Jerusalem because the famine was starving them, not a command to gather money on Sunday worship services (notice that they were not told to collect on the Sabbath, suggesting this was a labor task, not a financial one).

This collection passage in the Greek Interlinear Bible
never uses the term "money". Money would do them no good in Jerusalem if there was no food to buy (there was a famine, not a shortage of money), and how long would it take to ask for a collection of money in a Sunday service? Especially if they were told the previous week to have it ready for them rather than have to go home, figure out how much to give, collect it and come back? But it would take a while to gather food if they waited until after Paul came.

Is it typical?

In the same way, is it honest to say that Elijah's taking up was the same as the Ascension of Jesus, at least with regard to proof that we go to Heaven when we die? We also have 2 Chronicles 21:12-15
12 Jehoram received a letter from Elijah the prophet, which said:
"This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: 'You have not followed the ways of your father Jehoshaphat or of Asa king of Judah. 13 But you have followed the ways of the kings of Israel, and you have led Judah and the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves, just as the house of Ahab did. You have also murdered your own brothers, members of your own family, men who were better than you. 14 So now the Lord is about to strike your people, your sons, your wives and everything that is yours, with a heavy blow. 15 You yourself will be very ill with a lingering disease of the bowels, until the disease causes your bowels to come out.'?"

to explain. How did Elijah, if he was in Heaven, send a letter to king Jehoram who succeeded Jehoshaphat? Remember, at the time of the writing of the New Testament books, according to John, no one has seen God or gone to Heaven except Jesus. It seems more reasonable to believe that Elijah was taken up and placed somewhere else for some other purpose determined by God.

And one more thought...if Elijah is in Heaven with God, will he stay there or will he be coming down with the New Jerusalem, since no one else is up there? Why would God do this? We have no clue, either way, and it is not necessary to know that for this discussion. This is not a proof, just a curiosity without explanation to show alternate views that make more sense than those that contradict the word of God.

What about...

Just to be completely honest, the statements by John that no man has seen God do not seem to acknowledge the events of Exodus 24:9,
9 Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. 11 Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank.

but there is a reference that God did not raise His hand against them, even though they saw Him. This is somewhat contrary, with one exception, but cannot really be used to contradict the word of God that normal men cannot see God and live (Exodus 33:20
"But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

). Remember that Moses spoke with God, but even he was never allowed to see His face. If Jesus was the one they saw, they really saw God, but did not die because He was not in His full glory in the same way that men did not die when they saw Jesus in the New Testament. I would call this a "not normal" event, but that is likely because we just don't know all the facts. Also, consider that these men did not go to Heaven to see God, they ate with Him on the mountain. It seems more likely that they saw Jesus in His "pre-human" form, as did Abraham, Hagar, Jacob, and others. Just sayin'.

Undisputable matter

What we do know for sure is that "Heaven" will come to us in the form of the Holy City, and we will dwell with God and Jesus forever in the New Jerusalem on the new earth. This is stated clearly and reinforced throughout the Bible by the prophets. When you don't have to make something up to make a point, it is much easier to believe without having to create qualifying conditions to make it fit.

Read John 3:13
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.

again. It kind of explains it all, and is stated by One Who Knows.


Disagree? Find an error? Contact us at glenjjr@gmail.com and give us your view.

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