Monday, July 12, 2010

Q&A: when do we get to heaven?

This is a post designed to answer deeper theological questions. I've asked Facebook friends to post questions for discussion. I'll make a humble attempt to explore these questions from a biblical perspective.

Q: Based on what I have read and what I think I understand to be correct, those that are saved but have died are not in Heaven now. They aren't whisked to Heaven after death. They will not go to Heaven till the second coming. There's always talk about Grandma being in Heaven watching but I don't understand it that way. --Debbra Ledbetter

A: This question is an interesting one because it challenges simple presuppositions that many of us have held for a lifetime with the facts of the Bible that sometimes suggest otherwise. Before I go further, let me assure the reader that, if Grandma is a Christian, she is safe at her death. The question is exactly where does Grandma go at the moment of her death?

Using the process mentioned two posts ago, I start my decision-making process by stating what I know for certain:

1. I know that to be absent from the body is to be in the presence of the Lord [2 Corinthians 5:8]. This is written from a distinctively Christian point of view.
2. Jesus assured on thief that "Today, you will be with me in paradise" [Luke 23:43].

3. Christian will not receive their final, glorified body until the Second Coming of Jesus in the future [1 Corinthians 15:50-58]. It is this renewed body that will enable us to enjoy and appreciate heaven and the presence of God unencumbered.

4. Human beings are a unity of body and soul [Genesis 2:7]. The soul does not live in a disembodied way from the tent of our physical self. Neither does the body live apart from the soul.

These four certainties enable me to set the boundaries of my theological conclusion. Thus, I believe that when a Christian dies, they enter into some kind of presence of God [this is not purgatory as Catholics teach from another point of view]. It is not a "holding place" for Paul believed that to depart this life would be "far better" [Philippians 1:23]. However, because Christ has not returned yet, our new bodies will not be reunited with our souls and, therefore, our heavenly experience will not be complete until then. These principles have led theologians to posit the idea of an "intermediate state"--in the presence of God, but not fully. So Grandma is on her way to her full inheritance...much better off than her life on earth, but not yet fully enjoying all of God's best which is yet to come.

[NOTE: Someone has suggested that, because heaven is outside of time, the moment a person dies is the return of Christ and, therefore. each person does receive a glorified body and enter fully into the presence of God. However, this is a bit too "fourth dimensional" for me.]

1 comment:

Tanja Helms said...

Well put. Didn't mean to "send" email. Oops.