The Truth of the After Life
I have stated the truth is all that matters to me, and it is. For that reason this article was re-written on 1/30/2019 due to learning I had something wrong in what I believed.
The world has a lot of different beliefs about the afterlife. Even people of the same religions often don't know what their religion actually believes. Through my studies, I have absolutely no doubt that Christianity is in fact the one true religion of God. The problem is none of the different denominations seem to have it completely correct.
This is the absolute truth of the afterlife according to what the Bible says.
In short, currently there is nobody in hell. Not one single person. It is an empty lake of fire right now. There are many, many people in heaven right now. Those who make it to heaven will not be staying there forever.
Not exactly what you have been taught? Let me give a more in depth run down of it.
Before Jesus walked the Earth, there was nobody in heaven except Jesus. There was nobody in hell. Everyone through history who has ever died prior to Jesus dying on the cross, went to a place the Bible often refers to as Sheol. Another more common name for it is Hades. Contrary to what many believe, Hades is not hell. Also contrary to common belief, Paradise is not heaven.
Sheol (Hades) is a place that is divided into different sections and everyone went to one of those sections. Which sections would depend on the kind of person they were. Anyone who was Godly and died, went to a section of Sheol called Paradise.
13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.
Those were from the mouth of Jesus. This is the most common verse used by those who say that nobody is in heaven yet. Jesus spoke the truth, but they are wrong to use the verse as evidence of nobody being in heaven yet. Why? Because when Jesus said those words, he had not been crucified yet.
Before Jesus died on the cross, those words were accurate. Nobody had been to heaven because everyone had sinned in their life. Everyone was born into this physical world with the stain of sin on them. But when Jesus died on the cross, he descended to Sheol and fought satan and took the keys to death and Hades. He had victory over death and rose from the dead. After revealing Himself to his disciples among many others on earth, he ascended to heaven. From then on, anyone who believes on Him is washed clean of that stain and can enter heaven.
39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
When Jesus died, he did not go to heaven until he rose from the dead three days later. So if Paradise was the same place as heaven, this would be impossible and Jesus would have been lying. Jesus never lied! Paradise being a section in Sheol suddenly makes it all crystal clear. Jesus promised the thief before the sun sets he would be with Him in paradise. When they died, they both went to Paradise in Sheol. His promise was immediately fulfilled. When he raised from the dead, then ascended to Heaven, Jesus opened the gates to heaven for anyone who is washed clean of their sins. Those who did not go to heaven, are still in Sheol.
For a short time I was certain that nobody was in heaven yet due to one verse.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
If the dead in Christ will rise first, and then those who are alive during the rapture, how can they be in heaven already? I saw this as proof that the dead in Christ were still in sheol waiting to be raptured just like the living were waiting. Even though I started preaching this, the Holy Spirit was telling me it wasn't right. So I kept looking into it. Asking others and reading articles looking for what I was missing. Finally I found it. Strangely enough, I found it in verses just prior to the ones I thought were proof the dead were still in Sheol.
13 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. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
The "For this we say to you" is what first caught my eye. I had read right over the first part. He is saying the next part because of the facts in the first part. To paraphrase:
"Because God is bringing those who have died in Christ with Him, we know we will not precede those who died in Christ in the rapture."
This means Jesus will bring the souls of those who died and were saved with him and he will raise their bodies to be changed into imperishable bodies first, then he will call up those who are still alive and saved and change their bodies to imperishable.
So now we know for certain that people are already in heaven because it would be impossible for him to bring them with him if they are not already in heaven.
Now one might ask why Jesus would bring them back, just to take them back to heaven again? I would just ask in return, why would Jesus raise their bodies, make them imperishable and drag them all back to heaven to connect them back to their souls? Jesus brings those souls with him from heaven so they can receive their new imperishable bodies.
As for those who do not make it to heaven. How do we know they are still in Sheol?
4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.
Those spoken of in verse 4 are the saved who die during the tribulation of the end times. Verse 5 tells us the unsaved do not come back to life until the thousand years were completed. That is the thousand years that Christ reigns on Earth. A thousand years of peace. A few verses later it tells us of their judgment.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
As you can see, this is after the thousand years when Jesus reigns on earth with his Saints, and this is where they are thrown into hell. So if they are thrown into hell at this time, they cannot already be there.
Currently, when we die, those who are saved will go to heaven and those who are not will go to Sheol. Neither group is in the place where they will spend eternity.
As I just showed, those who are in Sheol still, will in the end be thrown into the Lake of Fire, which is the real hell. There they will be tormented forever. The good news, if such could be said about hell, is it appears there must be different levels of torment in hell. How can I know that? Because of Revelations 20:13 (above).
..and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
Ask yourself one question. IF they are all thrown into hell anyway, why bother to judge them according to their deeds? Judge them yes, but according to their deeds? Why would their deeds matter if the punishment is the same for everyone? Because its not. There are different levels of torment. There are going to be a lot of very good people in this world who will end up in hell. So many believe they will go to heaven if they are good but its not true. We do not get to heaven by doing good deeds. We get to heaven through our faith in Jesus and following His word. Accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
It is not our deeds that get us to heaven, it is our Faith in Jesus. It is our rewards in heaven that will be according to our deeds. But you only get those rewards for your deeds if you get to heaven. Just being good is not enough. There will be millions of people who were very good people who will go to hell because they never accepted Jesus as their Lord. We will all have loved ones who end up in hell. The one consolation is if they were good people, their torment will not be as bad as someone who was a lifelong criminal. Someone like Hitler? He will be in the worst part I am sure.
What about those in heaven right now? They won't stay in heaven? No.
Most of us were taught that we will spend all of eternity in heaven or hell. Hell is absolutely for all eternity, but heaven is not where the saved will spend eternity.
Revelation is clear that when Jesus returns after the tribulation, He will reign for a thousand years of peace because satan will be bound and tossed into the abyss. He will reign here on earth for that thousand years. His Saints (Those who were saved) will reign with him as judges. Those who do not take the mark of the beast or worship him or his image in the Great Tribulation and survive it all, they will stay in their regular perishable bodies until they die. Life will again be like it is on earth now but there will be peace and far fewer people. In the beginning, everyone alive will be Christian. For a thousand years they will live life, multiply and die. When they die, if they keep to their faith, they will receive their imperishable bodies and enter the city with the others. In a thousand years, there will be millions and millions of people again.
After that thousand years is up, Satan will be released for a short time. Nobody knows how long that is. Satan will once again deceive the people and turn them against the Lord and his saints and look to make war with them again. His vast army will surround the city and that is when God rains fire down on them and wipes them all out. Satan is once again caught and thrown into hell with the antichrist and the false prophet. All of the unsaved are then judges and thrown into hell with him. The saved still do not go to heaven. The Bible says that the old earth and old heaven will pass away and God will give us a new earth and a new heaven. God will then make us a New Jerusalem and that city will descend from heaven and be placed on the new earth. That New Jerusalem is where we will spend our eternity. Not in heaven.
It is quite the different story than most of us were taught by the church. I will not even begin to try to guess why the churches all taught something that actually is not in the Bible and ignored the truth. I dont know why. But what I wrote here is the truth according to the Bible. You can look up these verses yourself and you can read the last few chapters (20 - 22) of Revelation to learn about the new heaven and new earth and such.
All I know is I am looking forward to it.