When someone passes away, at their funeral the priest will usually say something that gives the idea that the deceased is in heaven. And a lot of people also like to give the idea that people who die are with Jesus Christ. For instance, say someone close to you passed away, chances are you've said something that gives the idea that the person is in heaven, such as, "I know you are in a better place, near Jesus Christ."

The reason I ask this question is that the when people die, I know that they go to the world of the dead till the day that Jesus Christ will return. But if people are already in heaven this means that there really isn't much reason for Jesus Christ to return, because all those that believe in Him are already in heaven.

If Jesus Christ will return and all those that have faith in Him will be raised and be priests with Him for a thousand years, why make it seem as if the deceased are already in heaven? If someone dies and goes to heaven before the Last Judgement, what need is there for him to be judged at the final judgement? Hasn't he already been judged righteous if he is in heaven?

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    Welcome to C.SE! As an aside, if this is concerning a personal event, my sympathies for your loss. Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 19:28
  • @ Affable Geek. I'm not going through any loss. @Alypius It's something I noticed. It just confuses me because when people talk in general, they like to give the idea that someone who is deceased is in heaven. This make me wonder because I thought when people die, we go to the world of the dead until judgement day. That is why I asked if we go heaven when we die. Its kind of had me confused(the way people talk). I was just explain what I know. Which could help others understand where this question comes from for me.
    – Touch
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 19:50
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    are you looking for a specific tradition's view? It seems like you're going for the catholic stance, based on your wording
    – warren
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 20:08
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    This question was fine when it was asked. However, under the current site criteria, I believe this should be closed as too broad/too opinion based since it doesn't request a specific point of view.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 19:26

9 Answers 9


That death and "sleeping," are often conflated in Scripture is perhaps a useful metaphor here. Notice how, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul likens those who have died to those who have "fallen asleep in Christ."

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

This is a useful metaphor, for when a normal person falls asleep, they are unaware of the passage of time. Whether or not there is a time lag between dying and being raised back up is, in fact, irrelevant.

  1. The person who has died is unaware of the passage of time. For that person, whether Christ tarries a thousand years or only minutes, is, to the dead, indistinguishable. There is no sensation between now and then, so it doesn't really matter.

  2. To the person who is still alive, there is no communication in any event, so that the precise location of the soul is not important. We thus do not "mourn as the Gentiles do," but rather we have a hope and a peace that passes understanding - because we know that at the end of our temporal existence, we will be reunited with our loved ones. Once we die, sensation ceases for us as well - and at that point, eternity begins.

  3. To God, who is outside of time, time and space are irrelevant. All things occur at once.

The next communication we have with our loved ones will, in fact, be in heaven - so in a sense to say they "are in heaven" - which may or may not, at that exact moment, be temporally accurate or not - is not really the question being addressed. That our next moment of contact will be in heaven is the point, and on that point, if it is not true, then everything else is vain any way.

In any event, the focus is that at some point, the promise of the Christian life is the hope that we will be resurrected - that we will be "awoken" is beyond doubt - and when we are, oh what a day of rejoicing that will be!

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Put another, the current chronology is irrelevant. The end state is the same - we will all, at some point, in an instant, be together in heaven with Christ.

  • In either way, this "sleep in Christ" is still death. If not, what is the first death? What is the second death that we must try avoid? See? And the last line you wrote the dead will be raised imperishable. To me. this means we go to the world of the dead till we are raised by Jesus Christ. So what is this idea that people give as if the deceased are in heaven. And thanks for answering. :-)
    – Touch
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 19:31
  • So, the whole "first death," "second death" thing arises from different questions. I'm trying to answer the one you asked :) If this isn't your question, then I would suggest some better editing (or a different question altogether) Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 19:35
  • Wait... you're not aware of the passage of time when you sleep?
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 20:35
  • @mason sorry, I was asleep when you wrote that. Are you aware of the passage of time while you are asleep? Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 19:54
  • @AffableGeek: Yeah. Isn't everyone? Do you just fall asleep and then immediately afterwards you're waking up with no awareness of time passing in between?
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 20:33

As you note, the Bible supports the idea that the spirits of the righteous dead rest in their own place, called "Paradise," which is distinct from "Heaven," (the home of God,) until the resurrection and the final judgment. (Compare Luke 23:39-42 with John 20:15-17 or see my answer here for further detail on the subject.)

As for why that idea doesn't get talked about accurately, most likely because it's more complicated than simply saying "he died and went to heaven," and people have a well-known tendency to oversimplify complex subjects when discussing them. You probably do that yourself all the time, in many different contexts. I know I do.

Also, circumstances are important. When someone is mourning a recent loss, family and close friends might well think that now is not the best time to get into a long, detailed discussion of Gospel principles. So instead, they give them the Theme Park Version.


The emphasis of scripture when describing exactly what happens to us when we die is placed on an instant transportation into our eternal destination. Yes there are scriptures which discuss the return of the Lord and the sleeping of our bodies in death (similar to that of Lazarus in the grave) but no that doesn't stall or prevent us from going to heaven.

Luk 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

Luk 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

During the old covenant there were two designations for people to select from based on their actions in the body. Here two people die and immediately go to Abraham's boussum or hell. Jesus tells us of no time delay between the moment of death and the entry into eternal destination.

Luk 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Again Jesus dying on the cross declares that he was going with in the same day to paradise and that the thief who declared him righteous would be guaranteed to join Him with no delay.

2Co 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

Finally for believers we are promised that when we die and leave our bodies we will be in heaven with the Lord.

Php 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Php 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

1Co 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1Co 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

The reason Jesus will return and the reason the saints will come up from the grave and we will be transfigured is because while they are in heaven they do not have glorified bodies yet. They still lack in this one essential way which Christ does not.


Yes, of course we (believers) do. Paradise was understood by the Jews as a place where the disembodied souls of the righteous go and Jesus using that notion promised it instantly upon death.

Paradise was understood at the time of Christ as place where the saints would go after dying in a disembodied state. In other words the soul would go to paradise, if you were good. The soul of the wicked would go to hell in Hades. In old Greek paradise originally referred just to a royal park. The Jews borrowed the word giving it a spiritual meaning as the 'garden of God' and then used it to refer to a restored 'garden of Eden' which was a place where righteous disembodies souls went.

For example in the Jewish writings just before Christ concerning the Messiah we find:

And he shall open the gates of paradise, And shall remove the threatening sword against Adam. And he shall give to the saints to eat from the tree of life (Testimony of Levi 18:10-11)

In Eden God put a sword to keep Adam away from the tree of life after he sinned, but in paradise man would be restored to Eden again.

Jesus would have been guilty of greatly confusing the poor thief dying on the cross of a 'promised paradise' (as the man understood it) if there was actually no actual wonderful place for disembodies souls to go until the time of the resurrection!

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43, NIV)

Clearly Jesus is telling the man that today (with reference to literal time he will enter the restored garden of Eden. There is no real logical interpretation but that paradise was where Jesus would be and that the man would go their without his body to be with him. The man would not be unconscious until the resurrection but have full clarity of mind.

The same assumption of immediacy is asserted everywhere the idea is approached. When Stephen was being stoned to death in Acts, he had a vision of heaven and called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit' insinuating an immediate sense. In Philippians 1:23 Paul compares what is better to be in the body, or be with the Lord without the body. Similarly in 2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul says to be away from the body is to be with the Lord. The idea is immediate and the idea is that in heaven we are without the body.

Both paradise and hell are considered the intermediate state where disembodied souls are waiting for the resurrection of the body. Then after the resurrection of the body the dead and the living will be judged. In Revelation Ch 20 and 21 we see these temporary places are renovated for final residence. Hell is thrown into the 'lake of fire' as the final judgement of the wicked and a new heaven and a new earth are created for the children of God. So Christ's return is not about bringing souls into heaven but raising their bodied to be united back to their souls that they might live on a new earth filled with a perfect endless heaven. They were never meant to be disembodied forever, even in the bliss of paradise. We are meant to have an eternal soul and body, bit just a soul.

With respect to the body in the grave, which will be resurrected when Christ appears means the body is only taking a nap. The idea is that when Christ returns, first those who are in heaven [those whose bodies are napping] will assume a new body and will meet him in the air. Then all the those still in the body on earth, will also have a resurrected body. Then the final judgment.

According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, NIV)

  • In reference to your explanation of the thief on the cross... your assumption of a reference to literal time doesn't stand up in regards to what happened next. Jesus went down and preached to the prisoners for the next 3 days, so he wouldn't have been in paradise that day, again assuming this is all literal. Be sure to explain that assumptions are indeed assumptions, and to back up explanations with scripture.
    – exxodus7
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 15:08
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    @exxodus7 - If I thought Jesus' soul went to hell for three days then I would agree. apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=851
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 16:09

In Your Life Is Worth Living Fulton Sheen expands this idea better, but the long and the short is that the Catholic understanding is that there is a double judgement. The first is the private judgement, from there you go to heaven, hell, or purgatory where you await the final judgement. It is at the final, public judgement that we will see the old order finally pass away and only after that will we truly enter eternity.

Basically, we'll die, if we're worthy we will find ourselves in paradise, but it is only a temporal one and there is a better one down the line.


In addition: Some notable scriptures to compliment with the previous answers (that are some of my favorites) are...

Ephesians 5: 14 Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Psalm 17: 15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

Psalm 146: 3 Put not your trust... in the son of man... 4 His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Psalm 115: 17 The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence.

A great reference on questions pertaining to activites after death is a booklet The Truth About Hell by David C. Pack.


Do people go to heaven immediately when they die?

The idea that Christians go to be with Jesus when they die can be supported by several verses.

Philippians 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

Here Paul reflects on the desirability of death and his being with Jesus.

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Here Jesus declares that everlasting life is gained by those who believe and is passed from death.

The rapture is an event where those who have died as Christians are brought back with Jesus to be joined with those Christians who are still alive.

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.

Of the two resurrections described in Revelation the first is for the Old Testament saints and those who were killed in the tribulation. The second is for those who rejected Jesus and they will be judged according to their works.

To answer your question, some do.


It's kind of a touchy subject either way and doesn't really make much of a difference. However on the cross Jesus told the thief "Tonight you will be with me in paradise" which if taken literally then it should be clear that they went to 'paradise'. However this paradise is not directly portrayed as heaven. The implication is that as the riteous we should go to paradise directly after death and that when a new heaven and a new earth are created then we will be in the new and perfected earth with God. I'm not sure if that makes much sense or if it's correct but that's what I personally get from it.

The only problem with this paradise vs. heaven theory is that in the apostles creed we state that "Jesus now sits at the right hand of God the father" and therefore how can they be separate and Jesus be both in paradise with us and in heaven with god the father.

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE! I've merged your other answer into this one because we heavily prefer that users edit their existing answer rather than post a new one. Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 3:27
  • That actually doesn't sound like a contradiction to me. If Jesus now sits at the right hand of God the Father, that doesn't mean that he couldn't have been in paradise at some earlier point...
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 3:28
  • That is true. I failed to account for the 40 days that Jesus then spent on earth again after his resurrection. So perhaps Jesus was in paradise after his death however he was then resurrected and given his perfect body and displayed our eventual rise in the same way. After all he is preparing a place for us...
    – user4271
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 3:42

Rev 6:9 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: John was in Heaven and he saw the souls of people who had died for preaching the Gospel.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

perish*Suffer death or suffer complete ruin or destruction. Synonyms-*die - pass away

everlasting Lasting forever or for a very long time. Synonyms eternal - perpetual - perennial - undying

If you believe in Jesus your soul never dies your flesh body is resurrected when Jesus returns. Believe what the Word of God says not what tradition says!

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