Editor’s note: This column is part six in a series about the biblical end of days and the book of Revelation.
What happens to Christians following their death? Many Christians want to know if they go to heaven immediately after death.
One sense of heaven as the Christian tends to use the term refers to the “final heaven.” This is the place the saved person goes to live eternally. The Bible refers to it as “the new heaven and the new earth” (2 Peter 3:10-13). There, God exists seated on a throne along with the glorified Christ (Revelation 21, 22). But this is not the heaven we go to when we die. We don’t go there until after the Judgment Day.
The heaven we proceed to when we die is the angelic heaven. We reside there until the Judgment Day has ended. Then we will move to the final heaven. The angelic heaven is the place created for the angelic individuals (Colossians 1:16). Here, God makes himself visible to the angels in a spiritual appearance. Angels constantly surround him and worship him. Christ is also there, seated at God’s right hand. Until the final transfer occurs, we will exist alongside angels in God’s presence. All saved dead people are there now. At the moment we die, we will “wake up” in that world. On the other side of death, we will be conscious.
We as humans are both body and soul. When we die, our body dies, but our souls continue to exist. Some believe the soul continues to exist after our physical death, but that the soul is unconscious, asleep, or dormant until the return of Christ. Does the Bible say we fall asleep when we die? It does, but this is just an expression to describe the fact that the body, not the soul, has died.
In John 11:11, Jesus says of Lazarus, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.”
When one dies, his body appears to be asleep, this language is used figuratively to describe the body of someone who has died.
The soul, though, is wide awake as a conscious personality. Look at Revelation 6:9-10.
“I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'”
Notice, John describes these individuals as “the souls.” The souls are interacting in consciousness. They are aware of the passing of time when they ask, “how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Also read what Paul says in Philippians 1:21-23. He tells us, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”
He knows following his physical death, to be with Christ will be better than continuing to live in this world. It will be better for you and me, as well. More on this in the next article.
Jay Craig of Shelbina, Mo., has worked with Shiloh Christian Children’s Ranch for nearly 40 years. He’s a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Craig attended Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Mo. He can be contacted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.