Questions & Answers About Heaven
With Randy Alcorn
Do we go to heaven (or hell) immediately
or do we sleep until the resurrection?
At death, the human spirit leaves the body (Ec. 12:7) and goes either to heaven or hell. As demonstrated by the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22.) and affirmed by Christ when he tells the thief he will be with him in paradise "today" (Luke 23:43) there is immediate conscious existence after death, both in heaven and hell (2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 6:9-11; Phil. 1:23).
There is no "soul sleep" or period of unawareness preceding heaven. Some Old Testament passages do not reflect the fullness of New Testament revelation concerning immediate consciousness upon death. "Fallen asleep" in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 and similar passages is a euphemism for death, describing the outward appearance as seen from this side, not the other. The spirit's departure from the body ends our existence on earth. This "sleep" refers to the outward inanimate appearance of the body that is buried in the earth. The physical part of us "sleeps" until the resurrection, while the spiritual part of us relocates to a conscious existence in heaven (Dan. 12:2-3; 2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 6:9-11). Every reference in Revelation to human beings talking and worshipping in heaven prior to the resurrection (Rev. 20) refutes the notion of soul sleep.
“Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7
"Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.” Luke 16:22
“And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’" Luke 23:43
“We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8
“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.” Revelation 6:9-11
“But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” Philippians 1:23
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13
"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:2-3