Where are the “righteous dead?”
by John Accomando
Many pastors popularly teach that we’re whisked away to Heaven at the moment of death. While this certainly isn’t a salvation issue, and I don’t believe in “soul sleep”, I wanted to offer Scripture to definitively determine whether that popular teaching is true or not, because after all, truth really does matter, and Scripture is the final arbiter.
Luke 23:43- “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
As “paradise” indeed refers to the 3rd Heaven, it sure would seem as if the thief would be going to Heaven in that literal 24-hour day. However, as I’ll show, comma placement changes the meaning completely, and other Scripture determines how it should read. I should preface this by saying I’m not the least but superstitious about punctuation which interpreters added long after the Greek manuscripts were written. It is hardly an issue of God’s ability or inability to “preserve His Word”. His Word was given perfectly in the Hebrew and Greek. What fallible man decides to arbitrarily place as punctuation (even if with good intentions), or red lettering (circa 1899 A.D. by Louis Klopsch), has to be weighed against what context determines. In any case, where does Scripture say that the Lord was between the time of His death and resurrection?
I- Matthew 12:40- “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
The Lord was unambiguous about where He would be for those three days and three nights: in the heart of the Earth. Not Heaven.
II- John 20:17- “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”
After His resurrection, the Lord was clear that He had not yet ascended to the Father. That would have been anticlimactic at best, and misleading or even deceitful at worst, if He had just returned from Heaven, only to tell Mary that He had not yet ascended. However, again, from Matthew 12:40, we already know that He wasn’t there.
III- In 1Peter 3:18-22 , [18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.] Peter gives the Lord’s itinerary that week:
His death–>preaching to the spirits in “prison” who were once disobedient in the days of Noah–>resurrection–> ascension.
IV- 1 Corinthians 15:17- “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.”
This is the cornerstone of our faith. Had He only died, we’d still be dead in our sins. While His death was “finished” on the cross, our redemption was in no way complete until He was raised from the dead. Yet the modern teaching says that the thief was whisked away to Heaven before he (and we) were even justified.
V- Acts 2:31- “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption”
Not only was the Lord’s body in the tomb, but His soul was in hell (preaching, as Peter told us in 1 Peter 3), just like He told us in Matthew 12:40.
VI- John 3:13- “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.”
Despite how red letter editions read, this was John narrating, just as he did John 1:1-37 as well as several other passages in that Gospel account. How do we know? Because, first of all, there is an unmistakable shift in the description of the Lord, from first person singular in verse 12 (“I”), to 3rd person singular (“he”; “him”) in verses 13-21.
Secondly, at the time the Lord was speaking to Nicodemus, He was here; not Heaven. Yet John 3:13 speaks of the Lord as having ascended to Heaven (in the perfect active indicative) as well as being in Heaven (present participle). The only way that verse is grammatically true is if the Lord had already ascended. The Gospel of John was written ~90 A.D., so John was definitively telling us that no one other than the Lord had ascended even at the time that he was writing his Gospel account.
VII- John 14:3- “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Where is the Lord? Preparing a place for us. When do we see those mansions? Not until after He comes again (not thousands of believers each day in some piecemeal fashion while He’s still “preparing” it).
VIII- Acts 2:34- “For David is NOT ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,”
Peter was clear that David had not ascended in ANY capacity.
IX- The Lord NEVER described returning from Heaven with anyone other than His angels:
Matthew 16:27- “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his ANGELS; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
Matthew 25:31- “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the HOLY ANGELS with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:”
Mark 8:38- “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the HOLY ANGELS.”
Luke 9:26- “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the HOLY ANGELS.”
It is beyond the realm of credulity for anyone to suggest that the Lord would have failed to mention us returning with Him from Heaven if we really do return with Him from Heaven. It wasn’t an oversight. He didn’t forget. He told us precisely who He returns with.
Paul reiterated this, in the ONLY set of verses in which he SPECIFICALLY describes who returns with the Lord from Heaven:
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8: “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from HEAVEN with his mighty ANGELS, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:”
Again, no indication that believers come back with the Lord from Heaven. It should also be noted that in both 1 Thess 3:13 and Jude 14 (as well as Zechariah 14:5 in the Septuagint), the word which the KJV renders as “saints” is actually the Greek “hagios”:
1 Thessalonians 3:13- “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints (Gk. “hagios”).”
Jude 1:14- “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints (Gk. “hagios”),”
Zechariah 14:5- “And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints (Gk. “hagios”) with thee.”
1)The word “hagios” is the same word which the Lord used in Matthew 25:31 to describe the angels who come back with Him:
Matthew 25:31- “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels (Gk. “hagios aggelos”) with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:”
Additionally, by using the Greek Septuagint which the Lord and apostles would have had, even in the OT, we read how “hagios” can and does indeed also refer to angels:
Daniel 4:13,14- “I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one (Gk. “hagios”) came down from heaven; 14 He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit:let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches:”
So Daniel 4:13 uses the same Greek “hagios” as does Zechariah 14:5, Matthew 25:31, Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26, 1 Thess 3:13, and Jude 14.
Therefore, in all likelihood, Zechariah 14:5, 1 Thess 3:13, and Jude 14 are actually referring to the angels who return with the Lord.
Another way to tell is by looking at 2 Thess 1:7-10 again, including the Greek:
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8: “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:”
There is no question who Paul says that the Lord comes back with at His second coming: His “mighty angels”. This is clearly a description of the Lord’s second coming, as it’s very descriptive of Him destroying His enemies swiftly (it parallels Revelation 19:14-21). Another point to note is that the word for “revealed” there is the Greek “apokalypsis”. It’s the literal apocalypse (His literal second coming). Yet Paul has us here at the time of the “apokalypsis”, when the Lord comes with His “mighty angels”. Notice also when Paul says that the Lord comes to be “glorified in His saints”: it’s “in that day”. In the “day” that the Lord returns to exact vengeance on His enemies, he comes to be glorified in His saints.
Who else speaks of the “apokalyptos”?
1 Peter 1:7- “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”
The word “appearing” there is the same Greek “apokalypsis” which I just showed Paul using in 2 Thess 1:7-10 when he described the Lord’s literal, visible second coming. Now look at what Peter is saying. He’s praying that the “trial” of our faith is found “unto praise and honour and glory” when? “At the appearing of Jesus Christ”. Again, “at the apokalyptos of Jesus Christ”. So in 2 Thess 1:7-10, Paul tells us that the Lord “shall” come to be glorified in His saints “in that day” (the day of the “apokalyptos”). Now here, Peter is confirming this by praying that the trial of our faith is found to be worthy at His “appearing” (“apokalyptos”), so they’re saying the same thing, and both describing the Lord’s posttrib second coming. Even more, Paul confirms this yet again somewhere else:
1 Thessalonians 3:12,13- “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”
Once again, we see the word “hagios” being used to describe who the Lord comes back with, but we need to always refer back to Matthew 25:31 and who the Lord Himself said the “hagios” are who return with Him from Heaven: His “hagios aggelos” (“holy angels”). Aside from that most important point, there’s another way to contextually know that Paul was emphasizing the angels as being the ones who come back with the Lord. Here is the reason: Why would Paul be praying for our hearts to be made “unblameable” at His literal second coming? If we’re the “hagios” who come back with Him, weren’t our hearts made “unblameable” seven years prior (at a pretrib rapture)?
Again, if we refer to the definition of “hagios” in the context of coming back with the Lord as He described in Matthew 25:31, then it makes perfect sense for Paul to be praying that our hearts are made unblameable at the return of the Lord with His “hagios” (“hagios aggelos”/”holy angels” in Matthew 25:31), because we’re here when He comes back (then we’re “gathered together” unto Him at the moment He first appears (Matthew 24:31; John 14:3; 1 Thess 4:17; 2 Thess 2:1).
2) Neither Zechariah 14:5, 1 Thess 3:13, nor Jude 14 specify that the “hagios” are coming with the Lord from Heaven. So even if “hagios” is referring to the elect there, it would be an assumption to assert that we’re coming back with Him from Heaven. According to Paul in 1 Thess 4:17, we “meet the Lord in the air”. In John 14:1-3, the Lord describes coming to “receive” us unto Himself. In neither set of verses are we told that the Lord takes us back to Heaven after He receives us unto Himself. Only that we’ll be with the Lord from that point on. If He’s here for 1,000 years after His coming, we’ll be here right along with Him. Revelation 21 describes the “New Jerusalem” coming to US after the millennium and Great White Throne Judgment. It should also be noted that in the OT, no verses describe the Lord coming at the DOTL, only to turn around and leave again. That’s an addition to Scripture.
Some assume that Paul is telling us in 1 Thess 4:14 that the Lord brings the righteous dead with Him from Heaven:
1 Thessalonians 4:14- “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”
However, Paul clarifies in verses 15-17 that the Lord descends out of Heaven first:
1 Thessalonians 4:16- “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:”
Again, the Lord descends out of Heaven FIRST, and THEN the dead in Christ are raised. Paul does not explicitly describe any of the dead in Christ emerging out of Heaven with the Lord. The first mention of the dead in Christ is that they’re raised at the trump/voice/shout. It would be taking unwarranted liberties for anyone to suggest that by “dead in Christ shall rise first”, Paul meant only that the dead bodies arise at that point. Paul didn’t say “their bodies arise”; He said “the dead in Christ” do. Yet telling us that it’s only the bodies which arise is precisely what modern teachers do. One would also have to ask what the purpose of the resurrection is if saints are already in Heaven, immortal, and worshipping around the throne. It would be anticlimactic, to say the least.
In any case, according to Paul, What happens after the dead in Christ arise?
1 Thessalonians 4:17- “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
So Paul meant that we come with the Lord from the sky in verse 14; not Heaven. And again, the Lord’s words can’t be swept under the carpet. He never described returning from Heaven at His second coming with anyone other than His angels.
X- Who is worshipping around the throne in Revelation 5:11? Not us:
Revelation 5:11- “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many ANGELS round about the throne and the BEASTS and the ELDERS: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;”
There is neither hide nor hair of any “church saints” worshipping around the throne when all of Heaven is. Only thousands upon thousands of angels, the 4 beasts, and the 24 elders (angelic beings by context).
XI- Some assert that we’re the “armies” of Revelation 19:14, again, ignoring who the Lord and Paul specifically described returning with the Lord from Heaven. Why? Because the armies are wearing white linen, and it’s assumed that the armies must be the same as the saints described in verse 8, because they’re wearing the same attire:
Revelation 19:8- “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in FINE LINEN, CLEAN AND WHITE: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
Revelation 19:14- “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in FINE LINEN, WHITE AND CLEAN.”
First of all, angels also wear white:
Revelation 15:6- “And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in PURE AND WHITE LINEN, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.”
Secondly, for all of the hullabaloo about the similarities between Revelation 19:8 and verse 14, in the Greek, different words are being used:
Revelation 19:8- “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen (“byssinos”), clean (“KATHAROS”) and (“kai”) white (“lampros”): for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
Revelation 19:14- “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen (“byssinos”), white (“LEUKOS”) and (“kai”) clean (“lampros”).”
And again, What are the angels wearing?
Revelation 15:6- “And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure (“KATHAROS”) and (“kai”) white (“lampros”) linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.”
So both the angels of Revelation 15:6 as well as the bride of Revelation 19:8 are wearing “katharos kai lampros”, whereas the “armies” of Revelation 19:14 are wearing “leukos kai lampros”. So attire doesn’t decide who the armies are; the Lord decides.
Lastly, what is the first description of any wedding? Revelation 19:
Revelation 19:7-8: “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
Really examine this: “the marriage of the Lamb IS come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” So there is a wedding announcement in Revelation 19:7-10, saying that the marriage of the Lamb “is come”, and the very next scene is a vivid description of the Lord’s return at Armageddon (verses 11-21). Not a single verse describes any marriage, wedding, or “marriage supper” happening in Heaven prior to the Lord’s return. Only a wedding announcement, followed immediately by a clear description of the Lord’s return. This should come as no surprise, as wedding announcements precede weddings, in every culture.
Additionally, those announcing the wedding are describing the wife/bride (Gk. “gyne) in 3rd person singular (“herself”, “her”, “she”), so there isn’t even any contextual proof that the bride was ever in Heaven to begin with.
To reiterate, the Lord described only the angels returning with the Him from Heaven at His post-70th week return. The Lord is coming for His bride at that time.
XII- The issue at hand is comma placement. There was/is no punctuation in Koine Greek. Look at Luke 23:43 again:
Luke 23:43- “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Now remove the punctuation:
Luke 23:43- “And Jesus said unto him verily I say unto thee today shalt thou be with me in paradise”
Move the comma over one word:
Luke 23:43- “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.”
Comma placement makes a world of difference, doesn’t it? Punctuation was rather arbitrarily placed by the translators, but context and hermeneutics actually determines comma placement. Taken this way, the Lord was simply assuring the thief that the thief’s faith had saved him, and he would indeed be in Heaven at some point. It would be the same as someone saying:
“Let me tell you, right now we’re going to the mall.”
As opposed to:
“Let me tell you right now, we’re going to the mall.”
Are we going to the mall right now, or am I only telling you right now that we’re assuredly going to the mall at some point?
Again, according to every reason previously given, the thief was not taken to Heaven during that literal 24-hr day.
XIII- Who did Paul say ascended? The Lord:
Ephesians 4:8-10: “Wherefore he saith, When HE ascended up on high, HE led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that HE ascended, what is it but that HE also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? HE that descended is the SAME also that ascended up far above all heavens, that HE might fill all things.)”
Did “they” ascend? No. Paul was clear that “He” ascended. And according to Scripture already cited, we can’t take unwarranted liberties with “led captivity captive” when hermeneutically, it cannot mean what the popular teaching purports it to mean.
XIV- Regarding 2 Cor 5, some selectively quote verses 6-8 to argue that we go to Heaven immediately at death. What do they day?
2 Corinthians 5:6-8: “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.”
However, look carefully at Paul’s wording in the preceding verses:
2 Corinthians 5:4,5- “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that MORTALITY MIGHT BE SWALLOWED UP OF LIFE. 5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”
Where do we read similar words from Paul?
1 Corinthians 15:53-55: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this MORTAL SHALL PUT ON IMMORTALITY, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
What is Paul quoting?
Isaiah 25:8- “He will SWALLOW UP DEATH IN VICTORY; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.”
When is death “swallowed up in victory”? After the heavenly signs:
Isaiah 13:10- “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.”
Isaiah 24:23- “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.”
When do those heavenly signs happen? After the tribulation:
Matthew 24:29- “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:”
So what is Paul saying that we “groan” for? That mortality/death might be “swallowed up of life”. When does that happen? After the tribulation and heavenly signs, at the Lord’s second coming. That’s what he’s saying we’re “confident” (2 Cor 5:6,7) of. So while Paul is saying that we are “willing rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord”, Paul is not saying that we go to Heaven immediately at death. He was speaking about the resurrection, when we leave our earthly bodies, and get our “heavenly” bodies, and are in the Lord’s presence:
1 Corinthians 15:49- “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”
When is that? At His second coming. Paul was talking to living believers about getting our resurrected bodies and THEN being “present with the Lord”. Remember, Paul was hoping that the Lord would return in his own lifetime.
After all, what had Paul just been talking about? Our affliction, and how it was/is only temporary:
2 Corinthians 4:7-12: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus ‘sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”
2 Corinthians 4:14- “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus SHALL RAISE UP US ALSO BY JESUS, and shall present us with you.”
When are we raised up? On “the last day”:
John 6:40- “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will RAISE HIM UP at the last day.”
Which is “at His coming” (1 Cor 15:22-24):
1 Corinthians 15:22-24: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end…”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Again, Paul had the resurrection in sight in 2 Cor 5:4-8 [not individual believers being whisked away to Heaven at physical death while the Lord is still "preparing a place" (John 14:1-3) for us].
What about Philippians 1?
Philippians 1:21-26: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 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: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this CONFIDENCE, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”
What “confidence”? The same confidence he was talking about in 2 Cor 5: the resurrection at the Lord’s second coming. So he had a desire to depart (I interpret that to mean “Abraham’s bosom” based on several key verses) AND to be with Christ. “depart” and “and to be with Christ” aren’t necessarily talking about the same thing. Paul could just as easily be arguing that he would like to be comforted in Abraham’s bosom AND also desire to be “with Christ” (which he explained in 2 Cor 5:4-8 as being a future post-trib event known as the “resurrection”). So nothing in Philippians 1:22-26 necessitates that Paul’s notion of being “with Christ” was something which would be immediate. Yet at the very least, his “departure” would have to offer something beneficial, in order to contemplate dying. I believe that benefit is summarized by the Lord in His description of Lazarus going to Abraham’s Bosom.
And again, neither the Lord nor Paul ever described the Lord returning from Heaven at His second coming with anyone other than His angels.
XV- While Scripture can be our only arbiter, it is a matter of historical fact that the men who were taught by the disciples of the apostles NEVER taught the modern church’s notion that we get whisked away to Heaven immediately at death. On the contrary, they called it “heresy”:
Justin Martyr, A.D. 160 Discourse with Trypho- “Moreover, I pointed out to you that some who are called Christians, but are godless, impious heretics, teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, atheistical, and foolish…For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians…’”
Why did he call it heresy? Because the early church fathers knew that the notion of the soul going to heaven without the simultaneous bodily resurrection was a pagan, Greek, gnostic teaching. The Lord was resurrected body, soul, and spirit, all at once. His soul didn’t go to Heaven first, only to wait for His body to “catch up”.
Irenaeus, A.D. 180 Book 5 Against Heresies- “For as the Lord ‘went away…where the souls of the dead were, yet afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up…’ it is manifest that the souls of His disciples also…shall go away INTO THE INVISIBLE PLACE allotted to them by God, and there REMAIN until the resurrection, AWAITING that event; then receiving their bodies, and rising in their entirety, that is bodily, just as the Lord arose,”
Tertullian- “Plato…dispatches at once to heaven such souls as he pleases…. To the question, whither the soul is withdrawn [at death] we now give the answer…. The Stoics place only their own souls, that is, the souls of the wise, in the mansions above. Plato, it is true, does not allow this destination to all the souls, indiscriminately, of even all the philosophers, but only those who have cultivated their philosophy out of love to boys…[homosexuals].. In this system, then, the souls of the wise are carried up on high into the ether…. All other souls they thrust down to Hades.
“By ourselves the lower regions of Hades are not supposed to be a bare cavity, nor some subterranean sewer of the world, but a vast deep space in the interior of the earth, and a concealed recess in its very bowels; inasmuch as we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth, that is, in the secret inner recess which is hidden in the earth, and enclosed by the earth, and superimposed on the abysmal depths which lie still lower down. Now although Christ is God, yet, being also man, “He died according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3) and “according to the same Scriptures was buried.” With the same law of His being He fully complied, by remaining in Hades in the form and condition of a dead man; nor did He ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth, that He might there make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself. [Nothing is said in the Bible about Jesus altering the condition of the Patriarchs while he was in Hades] This being the case you must suppose Hades to be a subterranean region and keep at arm’s length those who are too proud to believe that the souls of the faithful deserve a place in the lower regions. These persons who are “servants above their Lord, and disciples above their Master,” would no doubt spurn to receive the comfort of the resurrection, if they must expect it in Abraham’s bosom. But it was for this purpose, say they, that Christ descended into hell, that we might not ourselves have to descend thither. Well, then [they say], what difference is there between heathens and Christians, if the same prison awaits them all when dead? [But I say], How, indeed, shall the soul mount up to heaven, where Christ is already sitting at the Father’s right hand, when as yet the archangel’s trumpet has not been heard by the command of God. When as yet those whom the coming of the Lord is to find on the earth, have not been caught up into the air to meet Him at His coming, in company with the dead in Christ, who shall be the first to arise? [I Thess 4:13ff.] To no one is heaven opened. When the world, indeed, shall pass away, then the kingdom of heaven shall be opened….” (Treatise on the Soul, Ch. 55):
Tertullian, A. D. 190 A treatise on the soul- “All souls, therefore; are shut up within Hades: do you admit this? (it is true, whether) you say yes or no: moreover, there are already experienced there punishments and consolations; and THERE YOU HAVE A POOR MAN AND A RICH.”
Hippolytus A.D. 205- “But now we must speak of Hades, in which the souls both of the righteous and the unrighteous are DETAINED…But the righteous shall obtain the incorruptible and un-fading kingdom, WHO INDEED ARE AT PRESENT DETAINED IN HADES, but not in the same place with the unrighteous”
Novatian A.D. 235- “And truly, what lies beneath the earth is not itself void of distributed and arranged powers. For there is a place whither the souls of the just and the unjust are taken, conscious of the anticipated dooms of fixture judgment;”
Methodius A.D. 290- “But the rich man in torment, and the poor man who was comforted in the bosom of Abraham, are said, the one to be punished in Hades, and the other to be comforted in Abraham’s bosom, before the appearing of the Saviour, and before the end of the world, and therefore before the resurrection;”
Victorinus, around 304 AD- “And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain.”] He relates that he saw under the altar of God, that is, under the earth, the souls of them that were slain. For both heaven and earth are called God’s altar, as saith the law, commanding in the symbolical form of the truth two altars to be made,—a golden one within, and a brazen one without. But we perceive that the golden altar is thus called heaven, by the testimony that our Lord bears to it; for He says, “When thou bringest thy gift to the altar” (assuredly our gifts are the prayers which we offer), “and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar.” (Matt. 5:23, 34) Assuredly prayers ascend to heaven. Therefore heaven is understood to be the golden altar which was within; for the priests also were accustomed to enter once in the year—as they who had the anointing—to the golden altar, the Holy Spirit signifying that Christ should do this once for all. As the golden altar is acknowledged to be heaven, so also by the brazen altar is understood the earth, under which is the Hades,—a region withdrawn from punishments and fires, and a place of repose for the saints, wherein indeed the righteous are seen and heard by the wicked, but they cannot be carried across to them. He who sees all things would have us to know that these saints, therefore—that is, the souls of the slain—are asking for vengeance for their blood, that is, of their body, from those that dwell upon the earth; but because in the last time, moreover, the reward of the saints will be perpetual, and the condemnation of the wicked shall come, it was told them to wait. And for a solace to their body, there were given unto each of them white robes. They received, says he, white robes, that is, the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
These men had the Gospel accounts. They had the epistles (including 2 Cor 5 and Philippians 1). Yet they never taught what the modern church teaches. I would submit to you that if you re-read John 3:13, John 14:1-3, and Acts 2:34; and if you really research who the Lord and Paul said returns with the Lord from HEAVEN, you’ll see why they believed as they did.
XVI- Last, but not least, one would have to wonder what the purpose of the resurrection is if we’re (righteous dead) already immortal and worshipping around the throne. The Lord’s repeated assertions in John 6 would take on a trivial meaning, as would 1 Cor 15:22-24.
The bottom line is that, as a father, the Lord has given me the responsibility of teaching my wife and children what Scripture really does or doesn’t say about any given topic. That’s a tall responsibility, but we have an obligation to dig deep to see whether something is true or not, and popularity of a teaching does not equate to truth:
1 Thessalonians 5:21- “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
2 Timothy 3:16- “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
Grace to you,
Where are the “righteous dead?”
- Changed - Steven Straub
- Jakes Story (So you don't want to go to church anymore) - Wayne Jacobsen
- Bethany - The Lord's Desire for His Church - Frank Viola
- Rethinking the Will of God - Frank Viola
- Straight Talk To Pastors - Frank Viola
- Should the Church Teach Tithing - Russ Kelly
- The Tithe that Binds - Rory Moore
- Tithing: Low Realm, Obsolete, and Defunct - Matthew Narramore
- Eating Sacred Cows - Graeme Carle
- Revelation 2.0 - J.K. Kelly
- The Coming Epiphany - William Frederick
- Revelation of the Christ - Francisco Gonzales
- Hidden Manna for the End Times - David Eells
- The Two Babylons - Alexander Hislop
- The Temple - Alfred Edersheim
- How to Enjoy the Bible - E.W. Bullinger
- Number in Scripture - E.W. Bullinger
- The Apocaplypse - E.W. Bullinger
- The Witness of the Stars - E.W. Bullinger
- The Pursuit of God - A.W. Tozer
- A Little Leaven
- Answers In Revelation
- Bible Studying.net
- End Time (Irvin Baxter)
- End Time Pilgrim
- Frank Dimora
- Grace Thru Faith
- Joels Trumpet
- Pearl Of Great Value
- Post-Trib Studies
- Post-Trib Studies (Mirror)
- Post-Trib Study
- Prepare His Way
- Shofar Ministries
- Thief In The Night
- Tribulation Central
- Watchmen Guide
- Watchmen Resources