I have found hundreds of Bible verses with heaven or heavens in them. But none of them said we "go to heaven".

We pray for the kingdom to come here. Revelation has the new Jerusalem descending to earth. (Rev 21)

Why does anybody think we go to heaven? What is the Biblical Basis for this idea?


4 Answers 4


This is actually the dominant view of Christianity: the doctrine of an intermediate state after death and before the resurrection. "Going to heaven" means being with God in a non-bodied but conscious spiritual way after we die, before we experience resurrected bodily life in the New Heavens and New Earth. The main alternative view is that of Christian mortalism, often called "soul sleep", which says that we will not experience the time between our deaths and resurrections.

Many verses can be seen as indicating this view of the afterlife, including these:

Jesus now dwells in heaven:

Acts 1:11: “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Ephesians 1:19-20: ... That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

Hebrews 8:1-2: Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.

Jesus says to one of the criminals crucified with him that he will join him:

Luke 23:43: Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Paul teaches that the alternative to this earthly life is to be with Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:6-8: Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Philippians 1:21-24: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

From Revelation, the people of God serve him before his heavenly throne:

Revelation 7:9, 15: After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. ... “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

And some verses suggest that when Jesus does come again to initiate his kingdom in the New Heavens and New Earth, that Christians who have died with come with him:

Colossians 3:4: When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

1 Thessalonians 3:13: May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

1 Thessalonians 4:14: For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

But I think most Christians who teach this view would agree that saying that salvation is about "going to heaven" is incomplete and unhelpful, and that it could lead to misunderstanding that humans being with Christ out of our bodies is natural rather than temporary and unnatural, and that our great hope is to go to heaven rather than to live with Christ in resurrected bodies on a restored and perfected earth. So it's not wrong, but it can be unhelpful.

There could be one another way in which people talking about "going to heaven" - having visions of heaven in this life. After several recent and unfortunately popular books this has been coined "Heaven Tourism" by its critics who consider it dangerous false teaching or false prophecy.

  • Thanks for info that I can read and think about. Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 15:49
  • Not central to your answer, but I think '"Going to heaven" means being with God in a non-bodied but conscious spiritual way' might need a reference. I think there are many who don't hold precisely this view. I think more broadly, "going to heaven" can mean anything from an disembodied state (as you say), to any life-after-death, with or without a body, where a reward, as opposed to punishment, is received. There's a lot of pop culture that gets mixed with Christian theology, and I think a significant portion of Christians won't know if they should expect a body in heaven...
    – Flimzy
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 9:14
  • ... or how resurrection corresponds to heaven, or if they are synonymous, etc.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 9:15
  • @Flimzy Yeah that's fair, though accounting for all the syncretism would be too much for a Biblical basis question. Without the OP being more specific I thought I'd just interpret it in the most traditional way.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 11:14

First, I would quote from the Hebrew scriptures in the Tanakh:

“You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you will take me into glory.” (Psalm 73:24)

“But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.” (Psalm 49:15)

"The days of our years are threescore and ten...or if fourscore yet their strength is labour and sorrow, for it is soon cut off and away we fly." (Psalm 90:10)

“Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save. When their spirit departs they return to the ground” (Psalm 146:4)

“Remember God… before the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it… For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-14)

“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt… You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” (Daniel 12:2-13)

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes.” (Job 19:25-26)

And don’t forget Enoch, for God took him instead of allowing him to die, and Elijah, who was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind without dying either – Hebrews 11:5.

The idea of going to heaven is not developed in these texts, but belief in the resurrection of the dead certainly is mentioned, and given that all those writers took God to be in heaven, whenever they spoke of their spirits departing, and “away we fly” etc, they had God’s presence in mind, which would be heaven. However, this was intermingled with belief in a future day of resurrection and did not rule out earth as a future home either. This is complicated, but knowing what the Jews believed about this helps clarify.

Ancient Hebrew scriptures had two words, qe’ver (grave) and sheol (to which the grave was the entrance). Sheol is often translated as hell. The Rabbinic schools of Shammai and Hillel taught that sheol had two compartments, hell and ‘the Bosom of Abraham’, with a great chasm separating them. This holding place was for the departed spirits of the dead, but on the Day of the Resurrection, they would come forth to be resurrected and judged. Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, agreed with those aspects of Judaic belief as can be seen from His description of hell, and the bosom of Abraham, in the warnings He gave to lovers of money (for the rich man who died ended up in agonizing torment in hell). See Luke 16:13-31.

See “The Life And Times of Jesus The Messiah” by Alfred Edersheim (1971) Appendix XIX, On Eternal Punishment, according to the Rabbis and the New Testament” (see vol. II Book V ch. Vi) http://www.ccel.org/ccel/e “Josephus’ Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades” as in “The Works of Josephus” translated by William Whiston, 1980, page 637 http://www.ccel.org/search/fulltext/Josephus%27%20Discourse%20to%20the%20Greeks%20Concerning%20Hades http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/doctrine/hades.htm

When Jesus came, He spoke much more about heaven, and that is when the doctrine of believers going to heaven developed fully. He himself told his followers that he would return to heaven (after his resurrection) to go and prepare a place for them in his Father’s house (heaven). Then Jesus would return to fetch them so they could be with him and see his glory. That was in heaven. John 14:1-28 (“I said I go unto the Father” – who is in heaven.) Now here is a list of New Testament scriptures that assure believers in Jesus of their calling to be with Christ in heaven.

Matthew 5:12 -because great is your reward in heaven

Matthew 7:21 -those doing the will of my Father will enter the kingdom of heaven

Matthew 19:14 -the kingdom of heaven belongs to such ones

Matthew 19:21 -and you will have treasures in heaven

Luke 10:20 -your names are written in heaven

John 14:2-3 “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 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.”

John 17:24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

1 Corinthians 15:46-53 -as is the man from heaven [Jesus] so also are those who are of heaven And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven... we will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet... the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed...

2 Corinthians 5:1-2 -an eternal house in heaven, not built by hands... to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling

Romans 8:15-17 -co-heirs with Christ... in order that we may also share in his glory

Philippians 1:20-24 & 27 -I desire to depart [in death] and be with Christ, which is better by far [for he is in heaven, and so will I be once I die!]

Phil. 3:14 -I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ

Philippians 3:20 -But our citizenship is in heaven

2 Timothy 4:18 -bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom

Hebrews 11:5 – “By faith Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying: he disappeared because God took him’

Verses 10 to 16 – “Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God… But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly home.”

Hebrews 12:22 – Christians come to Mount Zion, the city of God, heavenly Jerusalem where countless angels are gathered [not earthly Jerusalem].

Verse 23 – “You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus [who is in heaven]…”

Revelation 3:21 where Jesus says, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.” The throne Jesus speaks of is in heaven – see Rev. chapter 5.

Revelation 7:9-11 where a great multitude of people who have come out of the great tribulation on Earth are standing before God and Christ sitting on the throne of heaven, worshipping.

Revelation 6:9-11 -under [heaven’s] altar I saw the souls of those who had been slain… for their testimony

Revelation 19:1 -I saw a great multitude in heaven shouting, Salvation we owe to the Lamb...

Not all of those scriptures actually say believers in the old covenant and believers in Jesus (who are in the new covenant) will be in heaven, but when you put them all together, then you see very clearly the ones that do and how the others are entirely supportive of this belief in dying then going to heaven. Please note that I will make no further comment to anyone on this answer because I am weary of individuals trying to debate points / verses and to justify their question when an answer does not entirely agree with them. You asked for "the biblical basis" and that is what I have provided.

  • 1
    I'd use the "less than sign" to make the Bible quotes stand out, see this post on meta for some options
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 15:32
  • All well and good , but I do not see anything that says we go to heaven. Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 21:56
  • @Lesley - edit -- whatever dood. that is your interpretation but I do not see them saying it so that so many people all think they are going to heaven. Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 0:52
  • @edwina oliver This is not my answer - I merely edited the answer given by Anne by highlighting all the Bible quotes.
    – Lesley
    Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 11:38
  • @Lesley - okay. I am new and that is how I read the names. sorry about the confusion. Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 18:46

The Living Bible has this to say:

7 “Woe upon the world for all its evils. Temptation to do wrong is inevitable, but woe to the man who does the tempting. 8 So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. Better to enter heaven crippled than to be in hell with both of your hands and feet. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. Better to enter heaven with one eye than to be in hell with two. (Matthew 18:7-9 TLB)

According to this translation, Jesus himself is indicating the possibility that a person will "enter heaven".

  • Logically no. It has a hypothetical example but does not say that people do/will go to heaven. There is a lot of places where such things are inferred but nothing that says it definitely happens. Why do we pray for the kingdom to come here? John 1:18 No one has ever seen God... Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 16:24

You can find biblical basis in John 14.

If you’re not sure where his Father is, see Mt 10:32 and many other verses where Jesus said ‘my Father which is in heaven’

If you’re not sure who his Father is, see Jn 8:54.

John 10:30 also will help.

  • Does not say that WE GO TO heaven. Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 4:01
  • Write your own answer @ Edwina oliver Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 20:53

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