Risen from the Dust
The third heaven, or Paradise (see ch.3 Three Heavens), is the dwelling place of God and the angels. It is also the place where the souls of the redeemed go immediately when they die. This is confirmed by a number of verses, which make clear that the overcomers of this world go to a far better place when they pass on.
Jesus tells the malefactor on the cross, that that day he would be with him in Paradise, "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23.43 KJV bible). In Acts 7, Stephen asks the Lord to receive his spirit, so that he may dwell with him in heaven, "[Stephen] looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God...And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7.55,59 KJV bible). Clearly, the assumption is that after life in the flesh, he may be allowed to dwell with Christ in spiritual heaven.
Paul tells us plainly that the souls of the saints go to heaven when he says, "Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" (2nd Corinthians 5.6-8 KJV bible). He describes that upon death, he and his fellow servants would return to the Lord absent their bodies. Paul reaffirms this knowledge in his letter to the Philippians, "But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better" (Philippians 1.22-23 KJV bible). He wants to continue serving God in the world, but recognizes departing to be with Christ as far better than life in the flesh.
If the souls of the redeemed don't go to heaven when they die, then how would one account for the following scene in Revelation 6, "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled" (Revelation 6.9-11 KJV bible). How could God's servants be depicted as crying out in the temple of the Lord, unless they are present with him in heaven?
The souls of the upright went to heaven in the Old Testament as well, and there are many examples of God redeeming individuals from the power of Sheol. The first account is of Enoch, who disappears because he is taken by the Lord, "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Genesis 5.24 KJV bible). Later, Elijah is taken to heaven, being lifted up both physically and spiritually in a whirlwind, "Behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2nd Kings 2.11 KJV bible). These accounts show us, beyond a doubt, that some individuals in the Old Testament were redeemed into heaven.
Later, David speaks of his own redemption from the power of Sheol, so that he might be received by the Lord, "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave [Sheol]: for he shall receive me" (Psalm 49.15 KJV bible). Likewise, Job describes returning to the Lord at the end of his campaign or service, "If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time [Hebrew: tsebawaw - campaign or service] will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands" (Job 14.14-15 KJV bible). While not as dramatic as Enoch and Elijah, both David and Job speak of the potential that their souls will dwell in heaven after they pass away. Also, Isaiah testifies to the redemption of Abraham, implying that he had gone to heaven, "Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob" (Isaiah 29.22 KJV bible). If Abraham was justified by faith, being a father to those who walk by it (Romans 4), then how could he not be dwelling with the Lord in Paradise?
We also know that it wasn't necessary for someone in the Old Testament to be physically taken up or translated as Enoch and Elijah were, in order to go to heaven. For example, Genesis 25.9 says that Abraham died and was buried, and Acts 2.29 tells us that David died in the flesh and was also buried, "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day" (Acts 2.29 KJV bible). So we know that God had redeemed their souls from the hand of Sheol, and received them into heaven.
There is much evidence in the New Testament that the patriarchs and prophets from the Old Testament had previously gone to heaven. For example, Moses appears with Elijah, talking to Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration, "[Jesus] was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him" (Matthew 17.2-3 KJV bible). Now if we know for a fact that Elijah went to heaven, then apparently after Moses died he also went to heaven (which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone), otherwise how does one account for his appearance on the mountain with Elijah?
Also in the New Testament, Jesus describes to us how a beggar named Lazarus dies, and is taken by the angels into Abraham's bosom, "And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16.22 KJV bible). If the angels came and carried Lazarus away, then the place they brought him to must have been heaven. Therefore, Abraham's soul was already in Paradise, in order to receive Lazarus there. So we come to understand that spiritual heaven or Paradise is not only the dwelling place of God and his angels, but all of the faithful souls who have been redeemed from the power of death, even from the beginning.
But if the souls of the righteous went to heaven in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, then that raises a number of issues. For example, what shall we conclude about John 3.13 and Acts 2.34, which say, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3.13 KJV bible), "For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: "The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"" (Acts 2.34 NASB bible). How could David (or anyone else) have gone to heaven if it specifically says that no man has ascended into heaven, but the Son of Man who is in heaven? These verses seem to indicate that none, not even Enoch and Elijah, went to heaven before Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.
However, if we fully analyze these verses we realize that they are not talking not about simply going to heaven, but specifically ascending into heaven. So what's the difference? An ascension implies that one is found worthy and justified to leave behind this world and enter into heaven. In contrast, all of the souls (both before and since Jesus) who have gone to heaven, have been received or taken there by God and his angels. They have not been given entry according to their own righteousness, but rather they have redemption through the Lord's mercy and forgiveness.
In contrast, Jesus not only first descended into Hades as he suffered for the sins of the world (Acts 2.31 and Ephesians 4.9), but then on account of his righteousness he was raised up from death and ascended to heaven in glory. He was not ransomed by God from the power of Hades, because he was not guilty of any transgression. Instead, he became the ransom and redemption of many through his crucifixion, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10.45 NASB bible).
It is sometimes construed from studying the New Testament, that no one could have gone to heaven prior to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, because there was no redemption for sin in the world. Indeed, if Jesus brought the remission of sins into the world through the cross, then how could anyone partake of these things before him?
The key to understanding this discrepancy is that Christ didn't necessarily bring redemption into the world, but rather he fulfilled his work of becoming the way and path of it. If we understand that all men are sinners, and all sins are transgressions against God, then we also understand that it has always been God's rightful power and authority to forgive sin. This was the nature of redemption before Christ; that God, according to his own mercy and apart from the law, pardoned the sins of a precious few to receive them back to him.
David speaks specifically of the Lord's mercy and forgiveness upon those that love him, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered...I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin" (Psalm 32.1,5 KJV bible), "For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103.11-12 KJV bible). Solomon also speaks of the Lord's willingness to pardon the sins of those that fear his name, "Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)" (1st Kings 8.39 KJV bible). Notice how in the New Testament, and before his crucifixion, Christ exercises this same authority as his Father to forgive sin, "And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee...But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house" (Luke 5.20,24 KJV bible). Clearly, remission of sin was in the world before the time of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.
However, this conclusion raises another issue. Why was the crucifixion necessary if pre-Christian redemption was already possible? The answer is that it was God's plan from the beginning to establish Christ as the Author of all salvation, and to complete him through sufferings, "For it became him [Christ], for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect (or complete) through sufferings...Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2.10,14 KJV bible). It is an insight into the righteousness of God, that through the sufferings of the cross, Christ has obtained perfect victory over the one who has the power of death. And so in fulfilling this plan, Christ has become the captain of all salvation, and man's desire to circumvent or annul so great a victory is nothing more than vanity and wickedness.
Generally, kings do not offer up themselves on behalf of their people, but rather they ask their subjects to sacrifice on behalf of them. Yet, the Lord of both heaven and Earth was willing to be humbled to the point of suffering the treachery, betrayal, and shame of the cross. He did this as an enduring expression of his love and compassion for us, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly...But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5.6,8 KJV bible), "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15.13 KJV bible). So we know that God is just, but also compassionate, even to the point of taking our stripes so that we may be delivered.
Robert 09 Aug 2009, 14:03Hi Doug, This is my first time here. I would like some clarification about heaven and paradise.
Doug Buckley 10 Aug 2009, 17:04Thank you Robert, good to hear from you. The bigger context is so important when studying the bible.
Robert 10 Aug 2009, 17:35Thanks Doug,
Roger 14 Aug 2009, 00:12Hi Doug. This is my first post on your great looking website.
Doug Buckley 15 Aug 2009, 05:52Hi Roger, Good to have you here. The sites been a work in progress, but it's shaping up.
Roger 19 Aug 2009, 14:31Hi Doug, thanks for your reply. I take your point concerning the likelihood of what Jesus said re: 'today'.
Doug Buckley 19 Aug 2009, 20:02Hi Roger,
James Bullock 27 Sep 2010, 11:59This is excellent material that I did not get in seminary. The Old Testament men and women of faith going to Heaven at death is made very clear by your exposition of the scriptures.
Doug Buckley 28 Sep 2010, 23:01Hi James, I struggled with this question for a while, and I can certainly see why people would assume that no one went to heaven in the Old Testament. One thing that really struck me is that Jesus (being part of the Godhead) forgives people's sins before the crucifixion, which supports that they did.
Bill Reinhardt 01 Oct 2010, 13:55I just found this by googling and I agree on OT saints going directly to heaven, but Luke 23:43 is hard to justify "today" as being a general time. I can't find another verse where Jesus uses it in general.
Doug Buckley 02 Oct 2010, 20:05Hi Bill, thanks for your question. The souls of the OT saints going to heaven isn't commonly accepted, but the evidence does seem to point to it. It was certainly through grace and not the law.
zowie 27 Nov 2010, 17:41Hi Doug
Doug Buckley 28 Nov 2010, 09:19Hi Zowie, I am very familiar with the "gulf of Hades" interpretation of Paradise because that's what I used to believe. It is a respectable position, but it presupposes that people could not be redeemed, and therefore, could not go to heaven before the resurrection of Christ. This doesn't appear to be the case.
Zowie 04 Dec 2010, 16:11Hi, Doug
Doug Buckley 04 Dec 2010, 20:23Hi Zowie, if something claims to be revelation from God, and is not scripture, I really have no use for it. It's flies in the ointment.
Zowie 05 Dec 2010, 10:15Hi Doug
Doug Buckley 05 Dec 2010, 12:35Zowie, you're demonstrating bitterness because someone disagrees with you, and that's not from the Holy Spirit, but your own ego. I told you my opinion, and have backed it up in scriptures. If you have to resort to false prophets and man's teachings to back up what you believe, then maybe you should take some time and consider what you believe, before you get angry.
Doug Buckley 05 Dec 2010, 12:49Zowie, and besides all that, we are debating a minor point. Why don't you go after some of these false teachers who deny the existence of two hells and Judgment Day, and tell people that all nonbelievers go to hell forever and ever?
Zowie 06 Dec 2010, 16:42Hi Doug
Doug Buckley 07 Dec 2010, 10:20Hi Zowie, I consider heaven and Hades to be spiritual places, and that the sky and earth are gateways to them (ch.8). You've made some good points, and like I said before, the gulf of Hades view is a respectable and biblically informed position. I wouldn't have a problem going to a church that taught that. I do have a problem with alot of what's being taught in churches about heaven and hell. I do want to spread the truth about what the bible says; how the dead in Hades will be resurrected and judged by their works (Revelation 20). The more of us who are doing that the better. Peace and God bless.
Zowie 08 Dec 2010, 05:28Hi Doug
Julie Puckett 15 Jan 2011, 00:58I have a question. If the final judgement does not happen until Jesus' second coming, then how can Christians be in heaven when they die? It isn't until Judgement Day that Christ will determine who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, right? So do Christians go directly to heaven upon their death, or are they in Paradise (or are they one and the same?)
Doug Buckley 15 Jan 2011, 11:44Hi Julie, good question. Christians go directly to heaven (aka Paradise) when they die, and nonbelievers go directly to Hades when they die. At the end of the age, Christians will return to earth from heaven with Christ. Then, after the millennium there will be a final judgment of all nonbelievers from all generations (Revelation 20). Only the ones whos names are in the book of life will go on to eternal heaven.
Mark 17 Mar 2011, 04:40Doug
Doug Buckley 17 Mar 2011, 13:15Hi Mark, the "rest of the dead" are sinners in Hades, which is the first hell (see chapter 2). They are resurrected after the thousand years. When it says "this is the first resurrection" it's not referring to them but back to the saints reigning with Christ (Revelation 20.4). So Revelation 20.4-5 is best read as one big sentence.
cecilia gadian sundberg 13 Apr 2011, 14:17Notify me new comments on this page .
james c 19 Apr 2011, 15:38HALLO DOUG,
Doug Buckley 20 Apr 2011, 15:52Hi James, believers will remain in heaven until the Day of the Lord, when Christ returns to reign forever. When Christ returns from heaven there will be the a spiritual receiving and rewarding of his elect (see ch.15 about the first resurrection). At this time Christ will also reject the false servants (see also my series on the millennium in the articles section). So there will be judgment with each of the two resurrections, but the white throne judgment is much larger.
JAMES C 10 May 2011, 14:03Thank you Doug. Hardly it becomes possible for me to come to internet cafe. sorry for delay. I am interested in knowing the truth about the reveletion book. how it would be possible for me?
Doug Buckley 10 May 2011, 15:33Hi James, there's a lot of information about Revelation, but alot of it is junk. Shepherdschapel.com and itiswritten.com both have good sermons on Revelation. It's also a good idea to study it first on your own, and then look for answers to questions.
c james 11 May 2011, 04:35Thankyou Doug,
Christo 24 May 2011, 18:16I dont agree, the bible states clearly that when we die we die, we do not go to heaven, Jesus also said that no one has gone to heaven but Him. Its only with the Judgement that we can either go to Heaven or hell for that matter.
Lynda 21 Oct 2011, 17:16Hi Christo, Oct.21, 2011
Kendi 16 Dec 2011, 04:38Point 1
Doug Buckley 16 Dec 2011, 05:02Hi Kendi, I moved your comment over here since it was off subject. As far as the devil being kicked out of heaven in Genesis, read Job 1, where the devil is in heaven talking to God. (see ch.5 on the right).
Jon 23 Mar 2012, 14:12Paul never states, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." There is no greater misread, misused, and misunderstood passage than that Corinthians passage. True, Paul states he would rather be absent from the body and with the Lord (2 Co. 5:8), however, he is speaking eschatologically as noted by the immediate subsequent statement when Paul states "we must all appear before the Lord at the Judgement seat and receive the things done in his (her) body....(in 5:10).
Doug Buckley 23 Mar 2012, 14:37Hi Jon, I moved your comment here. You might be right, I have. 1st Cor 5.1-10 seems to be more about the first resurrection of the dead than about people going to heaven the moment they die. I'll keep it in mind.
Jon 23 Mar 2012, 16:56Doug,
Doug Buckley 23 Mar 2012, 23:02Hi Jon, correction, I should have said 2nd Corinthians 5.1-10. This is a difficult passage. The subject is really that the saints should look forward to being clothed with eternal bodies from heaven. Paul writes that in this clothing, the saints shall "not be found naked", which speaks to the possibility of a naked disembodied state. As verse 4 says, they groan in the flesh not to be naked (ie disembodied), but to be clothed.
Jon 25 Mar 2012, 11:33Hi Doug,
Doug Buckley 27 Mar 2012, 04:51Hi Jon, I agree that 2nd Cor 5.6-10 is certainly not making some blanket statement that all people go to heaven when they die, and such a reading is a distortion. However, a close reading shows that it can be interpreted in two distinct ways. Its often the case that a single passage by itself is not conslusive on a certain issue.
Walex 11 May 2012, 20:28Hi,doug
Misty 14 May 2012, 15:36I was wondering if you have thought of the "Paradise" you mention as the third heaven being something entirly different all together. Have you heard of it mentioned Abraham's Bosom? That Paradise was a second part of Hades and that is where Jesus went to when he gave his soul. Then in Ephesians 4:8 it says "when he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." So Jesus then took Moses and the others that had died before His death and took them up to heaven...GOD's throne heaven...with him. Like when Jesus told the thief on the cross next to him that he would be with him in paradise tomorrow.
Doug Buckley 14 May 2012, 16:27Hi Walex, sorry I didn't answer your question earlier. There isn't a verse about Jesus rising with a thousand saints. I believe your talking about the same thing Misty is talking about so I'll answer your questions together.
joanie 29 May 2012, 15:00Hi, Thanks for your forum.
Doug Buckley 29 May 2012, 16:51Hi Joanie, thanks for your question. I don't know off hand how many times Jesus goes to heaven after the crucifixion. Also some might not consider going to heaven a full "ascension". You are basically right that Jesus ascends to heaven many times.
Freddie 21 Jun 2012, 04:21Hi Doug, thanks for the site, a lot of good info here as I'm wading through it all.
Doug Buckley 23 Jun 2012, 06:23Hi Freddie, see my answer above to Walex and Misty, about the idea that Paradise was a section of Hades where the OT dead went. The scriptures you quote are important ones, but they can also be interpreted in all kinds of ways. Psalm 49 doesn't tell us when David would be redeemed into heaven, some suggest at his death, others at the crucifixion, and others on judgment day. I believe he was redeemed at his death.
Doug Buckley 23 Jun 2012, 07:03btw, good to hear from you
James Maxey 17 Nov 2012, 08:52Explain to me John 3:13 and Acts 2:29, 34. John 3:13 says "And no one gone up into heaven except He who came down from the heaven- the Son of Adam. and Acts 2: 29 Men and brothers, let me speak bodly to you of the ancestor Dawid, that he died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Acts 2:34 For Dawid did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself said, Yah(lord) said to my Master, "Sit ay My right hand.
shiny diamond 02 Dec 2012, 08:17I prayed for a site to show me the answer to a very intriguing question:....I have a family member that on two occasions when we were talking about God/Bible that the only one in the Old Testament that made it to heaven was Job?...this is hard to believe and understand.....help me somone out there understand this please and if you know the scripture that points to an answer please post that too!!....God Bless Everyone!!
Doug Buckley 03 Dec 2012, 12:40hi SD, Job 14.14-15 suggests that Job may have gone to heaven. Whether or not people went to heaven before Jesus is an interesting question, and also a difficult one to answer. There are clearly examples of people going to heaven in the old testament, such as Elijah, but how exactly this works is the issue. Maybe because they were part of the overall plan of Christ they received forgiveness on credit. Part of the problem is that so much attention is paid to going to heaven as the ultimate goal, and its not. Heaven is just an intermediate state of the saints until the first resurrection.
Doug Buckley 20 Jan 2013, 14:19deleting previous comments (rules 1 and 3). Please follow the posting rules.
Roshana Phillips 09 Feb 2013, 18:09Is hades a part of paradise
Doug Buckley 09 Feb 2013, 18:10Hi Roshana, I moved your question here. No, some people, think Paradise was a part of Hades, but I believe it is and always was a part of heaven.
Stan Burton 11 Apr 2013, 20:15You say that some Old Testament people were redeemed to the third Heaven. With what were they redeemed? Remember what "Redemption" means - to pay a price to get something back. But that price had not been paid, that blood had not been spilled, at that time.
Doug Buckley 12 Apr 2013, 14:46Hi Stan, I don't say they went to heaven, the bible does. I don't know exactly how this was possible, but God did take some to heaven. I've thought about this alot, even since I originally wrote this. One of the problems is that Christians place way too much emphasis on going to heaven. Going to heaven isn't the be all and end all of being a Christian, and Jesus rarely even speaks of going to heaven. Being a Son of God and having an inheritance in the Kingdom is, and these things are only possible in Christ. So redemption in the Old testament may have been more like God overlooked their sins, and allowed them in Paradise, but certainly the Old Testament saints can only be complete and right with God through Christ's crucifixion.
Stan Burton 12 Apr 2013, 16:03It seems like you've taken a few verses and interpretted them in a particular way and now when you encounter other verses that conflict with your view you just say "I don't know" and dismiss them. At some point don't you need to look at the pile of dismissed verses and re-assess.
Doug Buckley 13 Apr 2013, 02:06I really don't feel like explaining something to someone who isn't listening, takes me out of context, and then who goes about quoting scriptures that are completely irrelevant to this discussion. If you just want to be disagreeable then go somewhere else.
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