Where do Christians go when they die?

I was recently told by my preacher that Abrahams Side is basically the waiting room that awaits the opening of heaven on judgement day. I want to know the truth. If this is the truth I would like to know where in the Bible this is stated. If heaven is not opened yet where is everyone else from the bible?

Also he said that torment is the waiting room for hell. I'm really confused and I would like to find out.

My response is in Green:

Thanks for writing me. I think your preacher is mistaken and I will show you why I believe that. I think he was right up to the time of Christ's death and resurrection. Take a look at the story Jesus told about Lazarus and the rich man: (Luke 16:22-23 NIV) "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. {23} In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.

We see that at this time (before Jesus died) Hades has two separate compartments; one was referred to as hell and the people there were in torment, the other side was where Abraham and all the Old Testament believers were. This is also called Paradise. Remember the thief who asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom? Jesus told him; today you will be with me in Paradise.

So we can be sure that believers went to Paradise when they died and that Paradise was not in heaven. Now let's look at why believers did not go directly to heaven. As you know God is a holy being and cannot be around anything impure or sinful. We are all born into this world with a sinful nature (original sin) and we have all sinned. So we are all sinful and therefore excluded from God's presence. We further know that we would all end up in hell if it were not for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

His blood covers our sin so that God the Father no longer sees our sin, He only sees the righteousness of His Son Jesus Christ. We obtain that salvation through faith by grace. This is exactly how Abraham obtained his salvation. His faith was in the future sacrifice and ours is in the past sacrifice. This is very important. When the Old Testament believers died they were looking forward to the time when the sacrifice would be made for their sins.

I contend that once that sacrifice was made (Jesus died and shed His blood) then and only then were the Old Testament believers covered in His blood and therefore acceptable to God the Father. So up to that time Paradise had to be somewhere different then heaven.

That leaves us with the question, where do believers go now and for that matter where are the Old Testament believers now? I think the Bible gives us the answer: (Ephesians 4:8-10 NIV) This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." {9} (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions ? {10} He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

Let's look at this passage. It says that Jesus descended to the lower, earthly regions. That is where the Jews have always believed that Hades is. We get our belief that hell is down from this same thought. Anyway, Jesus would have descended to Hades, to the good side: Paradise. Then look at what the passage says, when He ascended He led captives in His train. Who would the captives be if not the Old Testament believers? They were captives of death, but Jesus defeated death when He was resurrected. This is the point where I believe He took Paradise to heaven.

We know that Jesus ascended into heaven: (Acts 7:55-56 NIV) But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. {56} "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

If Jesus is in heaven not in Hades, then this passage would show that when a believer dies now that believer goes to heaven: (2 Corinthians 5:8 NIV) We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

One last point I want to make. You said your pastor said that torment is the waiting room for hell. I believe that Hell is part of Hades, as I have shown above, one of two parts; Hell and Paradise. However, I believe that Paradise is no longer in Hades. Now sometimes the word Hades and Hell are used interchangeably, but my point remains the same. After judgment they will be thrown into the lake of fire: (Revelation 20:14 NIV) Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

I believe the Bible clearly shows that the people in Hell now are in torment, and they are awaiting their judgment and sentence from God.

I hope that helped clear it up for you. If I made it worse or did not cover something, feel free to write back and I will try again.



E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)

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