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During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said

"It is better for you to lose one member of your body that causes you to sin than have your whole body thrown into hell" (Matt 5:30b)

From the above it can be concluded that it is the body that receives life (enters heaven) or is condemned to hell.

Then the preacher Ecclesiastes said that

"who knows whether the soul of an animal goes down into the earth when it dies or the soul of a man goes upwards into the heavens when he dies" (Eccl 3:21)

Then there is the narrative of the thief on the right at the crucifixion who was told by Jesus that

"Believe me I tell you, you shall be with me in paradise today" (Luke 23:43)

Because the body of the thief was left on the cross, it is evident that it is the soul of the thief that met Jesus in paradise in addition to what was written by Ecclesiastes.

Is it the body or the soul that enters into heaven or hell?

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    Questions such as this one ought to ask for a specific denomination's view on the topic. That being said, any person can go dig up a graveyard and see it must be the soul that goes anywhere. Now if you wanted to ask about the second coming and what that looks like, you may get a variety of answers.
    – Luke Hill
    Dec 15, 2022 at 5:00
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    Most Christians believe that after death the soul goes to heaven if the person has been reconciled to God, or to a waiting place if not, but this is only temporary. On judgement day everyone will experience full bodily resurrection. Then people will be judged, and either go to the new earth or to hell in their bodies.
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 15, 2022 at 5:01
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    @curiousdannii, wow so the soul goes to a temporary place awaiting the resurrection of the flesh, that makes sense. Dec 15, 2022 at 5:35
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    This needs two separate questions : 1. Regarding 'soul sleep' and burial, pending the general resurrection 2. Regarding the resurrection of the body unto glory or the lake of fire (gehenna). Both subjects are well covered by other questions and answers in the archives. Have you tried searching the archives ? ('Search Christianity' at the top of the page.)
    – Nigel J
    Dec 15, 2022 at 7:41
  • I don't believe that this question needs to ask for a particular denomination. It can be understood to be asking for the mainstream Christian view, which is common among Orthodox, Catholics, and creed-professing Protestants.
    – jaredad7
    Dec 15, 2022 at 14:40

2 Answers 2

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The confusion here lies in an equivocation on the terms "heaven" and "hell." That is, the term heaven is used at different times to signify different states of affairs.

In mainstream Christian theology, there is a belief that there will be a resurrection of the dead at the end of time. I say this is mainstream Christian theology because it is contained within the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed, which all Catholics and Orthodox Christians and many Protestant denominations profess as the general statements of their faith. There is also contained in these same creeds a belief that the Holy Dead, or Saints, are in heaven right now (and as you point out regarding the theif on the cross, Scripture also attests to this).

Now, on one understanding of heaven, we understand the Saints to be in paradise right now, and since their bodies (most of them, anyway) are still here on earth, and not in any way animated by the soul, we must logically conclude that they are in paradise soul-only, and this is the first meaning of "heaven" in this question. However, as we believe in the "resurrection of the dead" as stated in the two creeds, we believe that these Holy Dead will be raised up on the last day, reunited to their bodies, and live in their bodies in a heavenly state forever, and this is the second meaning of "heaven" in this question. So, when you ask whether the body or the soul will go to heaven, the mainstream answer is both, though at different times.

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  • Thanks for that answer, it was what I was looking for, the soul either goes to heaven as a waiting place awaiting the body to be resurrected for a permanent place after judgment Dec 16, 2022 at 17:02
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Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-30 single out adulterers, persons who lust after what is not theirs. When he says “If your right eye causes you to sin” he means looking lustfully after a woman. When he says “if your right hand causes you to sin” Jesus is still talking about committing adultery, which is a sin.

Outside of Jerusalem was the valley of Hinnom where the bodies of murderers and criminals were thrown to be consumed by the flames.

The word gehenna is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew ge-hinnom, meaning “Valley of [the sons of] Hinnom.” In later years, Gehenna continued to be an unclean place used for burning trash from the city of Jerusalem. Jesus used Gehenna as an illustration of hell. The Gehenna Valley was a place of burning sewage, burning flesh, and garbage. Maggots and worms crawled through the waste, and the smoke smelled strong and sickening (Isaiah 30:33). It was a place utterly filthy, disgusting, and repulsive to the nose and eyes. Gehenna presented such a vivid image that Christ used it as a symbolic depiction of hell: a place of eternal torment and constant uncleanness, where the fires never ceased burning and the worms never stopped crawling (Matthew 10:28; Mark 9:47–48). https://www.gotquestions.org/Gehenna.html

In Matthew 10:28 Jesus went on to say that we should not fear those who are capable of killing the body, but to be afraid of Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Gehennah). As for the human soul, Ecclesiastes 12:7 says that our dead bodies return to dust, there to remain in the earth, but the spirit returns to God. https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-verses-about-the-soul.html

After Jesus died, it was His body that was buried in the tomb. However, Jesus’ spirit/soul was not in the tomb. Jesus’ spirit was in the Father’s presence (Luke 23:46; Ephesians 4:8).

When Jesus was dying on the cross and one of the thieves being crucified with Him asked Him for mercy, Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus knew that His death was imminent and that He would soon be in heaven with His Father. Therefore, Jesus used “paradise” as a synonym for “heaven.” The apostle Paul wrote of someone (probably himself) who “was caught up to paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:3). In this context, paradise obviously refers to heaven.

Both paradise [heaven] and hell are “temporary holding places” until the day when Jesus Christ comes back to judge the world based on whether or not individuals have believed in Him. The first resurrection is of believers who will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to receive rewards based on meritorious service to Him. The second resurrection will be that of unbelievers who will stand before the Great White Throne Judgment of God. At that point, all will be sent to their eternal destination—the wicked to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15), and the righteous to a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21—22). https://www.gotquestions.org/paradise.html

You ask if it is the body or the soul that enters into heaven or hell. According to mainstream Christianity, the body goes into the ground and returns to dust. The human soul awaits the resurrection when those whose names are written in the book of life are clothed with glorified bodies, bodies fit to spend eternity in heaven. Our example is Christ Jesus, who was resurrected with a glorified body and ascended into heaven and even now is seated at the right hand of God.

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  • Jesus was also resurrected with his earthly body because they came and sought his body in the tomb and did not find it because his earthly body had been resurrected and that's exactly what will happen at the end of time, the souls will go back to their respective bodies for judgment Dec 16, 2022 at 16:59
  • Do you mean that every person who is resurrected (the righteous and the unrighteous) will find their soul back in the imperfect, carbon-based body of flesh, blood and bones that they were born with?
    – Lesley
    Dec 16, 2022 at 17:16
  • okay, where did Jesus' crucified body go? because he is the first born from the dead means exactly what happened to him will happen to every human, the resurrection of the dead to life or to hell Dec 16, 2022 at 17:37
  • Jesus was resurrected with a glorified body, fit for heaven. I agree that the soul continues to exist after the physical body dies and awaits the resurrection when all whose names are found in the book of life are clothed in glorified bodies fit for eternity in heaven.
    – Lesley
    Dec 16, 2022 at 17:40
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    you have put it correctly. So immediately someone dies they know if they will go to heaven or hell based on the temporal home the soul will be held. if the soul goes to paradise like Lazarus at the rich man's table then you know your going to the Father, the eternal home of God. Dec 17, 2022 at 9:49

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