Old Belief [held for decades]

After a person dies, the person sleeps until Judgment day, and is then awakened and goes into either heaven or hell.

New Belief (realized only yesterday)

Immediately after a person dies,

  • the soul separates from the body
  • the soul goes to either heaven or hell (A)
  • at final judgment, soul + body are united, then the person either goes into heaven or hell (same place as in [A])

This new belief is backed by:

In particular, the Lazarus / Abraham story was literal, and not fiction -- after one dies, one can "see" everyone else who has died (and whether they belong in heaven and hell.)


I think my Old Belief is wrong, and the New Belief is correct. Is New Belief inline with mainstream Christianity? [I suspect Yes, but want to double check.]


2 Answers 2


The Athanasian Creed, which is accepted by most christian, (esp. catholic, orthodox, anglican, Lutheran, etc.) reads thus:

...He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

But then, also, in Luke, Jesus says quite clearly:

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Luke 23:14

Jesus doesn't imply any form of waiting here. (though there is an interesting discrepancy here because Jesus descends into the place of the dead, and rises again on the third day).

Anyways, most christians hold that:

  • Sin causes separation: Man from God, will from actuation (we must work, and strive to survive cf. Gen 3:17-19), and Body from Soul
  • Jesus's sacrifice 'tears the Vail' between us and God (bridges the separation) (cf Matthew 27:51) and allows us to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
  • Because of bullet 2, at the end of our earthly lives (or, in catholic doctrine, after the refining of our souls in purgatory, the souls of the faithful go to heaven where they await the coming of the end of time, where they will 'give an account for their own works', and see God create 'a new Heaven, and new Earth..."

    "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." (Rev 21:1)

  • 1
    @JoelDaniels Good answer! But I've always wondered if it makes sense to go into heaven and then wait till the end of time to give account of oneself. Aug 8, 2012 at 14:16
  • @MonikaMichael I agree, its confusing, but after giving it some thought, i think it would make sense that the 'account' we give isn't so much defending, or telling about our decisions, but relaying a story of the awesome ways God worked through us while we were on earth, and then hearing every other persons story of how God did amazing things in their hearts, like a family at a dinner table shares stories of how their day went. :) Aug 8, 2012 at 19:31
  • @Monika: If the account is given on arrival into heaven rather than at the end of time; those who enter later will not hear of the accounts of those who enter earlier.
    – user1694
    Aug 8, 2012 at 20:01
  • @JoeDaniels "like a family at a dinner table shares stories" Are you serious? :) Do they really need fire and brimstone, and the stars and moon falling away to do that? Aug 9, 2012 at 4:33
  • @user1311390 "will not hear of the accounts" I'm thinking that perhaps we should rename it from Judgement Day to Discussion Day. Aug 9, 2012 at 4:34

If mainstream Christianity did not believe ‘Option B – your new belief’ (I beleive it does) then it would logically have to change its view as that’s the Bible’s.


We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (NIV 2 Corinthians 5:8).


Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (NIV Luke 23:43)

I think when the Bible says the dead are 'sleeping' it is referring to the body as sure of waking up one day. It does not mean that our soul loses our conscious state but rather we should expect to be more alert as soon as we die, That that there is no harm in death for the Christian and that the body is just taking a nap and will be joined to the soul later on is what it means to say the dead are only sleeping. Sleep also means various other things in the Bible besides death, such as being lazy or spiritual laziness, etc. In each case the idea is that you can awake.

By the way, paradise and hell are seen in a sense as 'temporary places' where the bodiless souls of the living and the damned are placed  until the final judgment. After, the souls (wicked and righteous) are united into resurrected bodies, the wicked in their new bodies will be thrown into the lake of fire and the righteous will live on a new earth.  Hell itself (death and hades) will be thrown into the lake of fire which is the permanent place for the damned.

The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (NIV Revelation 20:13-15)

Those righteous souls will live in their resurrected bodies on a new transformed earth.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (NIV Revelation 21:1)

  • 1
    1. The Corinthians verse does not set a time frame. If the dead are unconscious the coming of judgement would seem like only a moment to them. 2. Maybe the thief went to paradise that day itself but that doesn't prove it's the same for everyone. Aug 8, 2012 at 14:21
  • 1
    @MonikaMichael - Moses and Elijah visited Jesus and they were very much alive and not unconscious. also all the 'souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God' in Revelation 'called out in a loud voice, How long, Sovereign Lord' That's, Enoch, Elijah, Moses, a thief, the souls that have been slain - seems like a 'whole group' is starting to form. Besides what Bible verse would ever warrant us in thinking that God treats people differently buy some unknown random rule?
    – Mike
    Aug 8, 2012 at 15:06
  • Revelation is merely symbolic. Would you also argue that the lady in revelation is an actual woman? And that unknown random rule could be walking with God. Gen 5:24 "Enoch walked with God ... God took him away." Happened also with Elijah but doesn't happen to the rest of us. Aug 9, 2012 at 4:28