555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

533. Does a Person Go Directly to Heaven or Hell after Death?




There is no passage that asserts it explicitly. There are, however, passages from which the inference is made. One of these is the assurance of Christ to the dying thief on the cross (Luke 23143), "This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." Another is the Parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), in which Dives is represented as being in torment and Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, while the five brothers of Dives were still alive on the earth. A third passage is Philippians 1123, in which Paul says he desires to depart and be with Christ, implying that his death would give him that felicity, but he prefers to abide in the flesh because he can do good in the world. From these passages and a few others the deduction is made that there is no interval between death and the eternal state; but some eminent Christians now and in past times have thought that there is an interval long or short, and some that it lasts till the resurrection. In Matt 22:31, 32; Mark 12:26, and Luke 20:37, 38, Christ insists that the righteous who are called "dead" are still alive. The appearance of Moses and Elijah with Christ at the transfiguration was an actual demonstration of this fact. Even at the very beginning of the Bible (Gen. 5:24), there is the implication that Enoch continued in another life the walk with God which he had begun in this. And Heb. 12 :i, including all the faith heroes mentioned in the eleventh chapter, states that they are alive and conscious now, witnessing the conflicts of the saints still on earth. Many books have been written concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection. Catholics have the doctrine of purgatory, but the early Christians held no such belief. They believed that there was a judgment immediately after death and a final judgment later, and that in the intermediate state (not "place"), every believer's soul would find a foretaste of the greater joys to come. Some non-Catholic authorities have held that the soul after leaving the body remains inert until the resurrection. The best authorities, however, hold that it retains its active powers, and is assigned to a condition which is suited to its degree of spiritual development until the final change. Dr. Tuck points out that Hades, the abode of the departed, was regarded by the Hebrews as divided into two sections: one for the good; the other for the wicked. "Both together made up the abode of the dead"; one Paradise, the other Gehenna. Paradise was to the Jewish theologians a state of future bliss with lower and higher stages; yet it is not the final stage. See also II Cor. 12 4; I Pet. 3:19 ; II Cor. 5:6-8. On the other hand, there are passages that are capable of a different construction. See Job 7:21; Dan. 12:2; I Cor. 15:51; I Thess. 4:14. In these passages, it is probable that "sleep" may refer to the body and not to the spirit.