This is a topic filled with conflict. I have read only four books which handle the subject honestly from the Bible, and will do my best to teach what I know from the Word of God on this subject. I loved how Jesus addresses tradition in Matthew 15; and Mark 7, where we will read:
Mark 7:13 (NIV)
Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
We cannot place tradition over the Truth. That is in part, what Jesus was saying, to those who were saying his disciples were wrong, because they were not following the traditions of the Elders. Many of us get stuck in this area. Most Christians say: YES! We go to heaven when we die! Well I will take you to the Bible and let it speak for its self on the subject. I want you to understand I will not answer all your questions in this one article, and that is why this is only: Part 1.
We are going to start in an unlikely topic in the Bible, and you may wonder, where is he going with this. Just follow along and open up your Bible and read for yourself. In this series, we will answer many of your questions, as we work through this amazing topic. As we work through this subject there may be times, where I cut may across the theology you have believed your whole life. Remember the source is, and always will be, the Bible! Now I want you to know, I once believed that when you die, your next conscious thought would be seeing Jesus in heaven and living there forever. I found out from the Bible, I was wrong. Was that easy for me? No! It was very hard to swallow, until I searched the Scriptures, and found all the Truth on this topic. Please give God’s Word a chance to speak for itself! I could use any version of the Bible, but I will stick with the New International Version (1984), for this teaching.1
Several years ago, after I had learned what I am about to teach, my Father died! I was asked to do the memorial service at his funeral. Before the service, a family member said the following: “Isn’t it comforting to know that when you die, you go to heaven?” I thought: “Well it would be if it were true!” Some of this article is what I shared at my Dad’s memorial service. By the end of this series you will read all I taught.
There are 82 times in the Christians Scriptures [New Testament, as many refer to them] where Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man.” Many times, he called himself the “Son of Man.” Here are some from the gospel of Matthew, see: 8:20, 9:6, 10:23, 11:19, 12:8, and 32, 13:37, and 41, 16:13, 27, and 28. Hey, look them up, and read the context surrounding them. There are more in Mark, Luke, John, and Revelation, and all are referring to Jesus as the “Son of Man.” In Acts 7:56, Steven referred to Jesus as the “Son of Man.” Again, read the context!
Acts 7:56 (NIV)
“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
I will print out a few for you to see, where Jesus was speaking, and referring to himself as the “Son of Man.” These three verses are about his death.
Matthew 12:40 (NIV)
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Mark 8:31 (NIV)
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.
Mark 9:9 (NIV)
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So what we have seen is that the “Son of Man” in these sections of Scripture, is Jesus! So Bob, what does that have to do with “Do You Go to Heaven When You Die?” I will show you, in just a minute, but first, I had to prove Jesus was the “Son of Man” in order, for the next set of Scriptures to live for you. One last thing, if you asked most Christian’s, “what is the most important Scripture in the Bible,” you will get three answers; (1) The Lord’s Prayer, (2) The 23rd Psalm, and (3) John 3:16 from the King James Version. Most football fans would say John 3:16, because it is hanging somewhere at every NFL® football game. BUT have you ever read John 3:13? Take a look at it below and remember who the “Son of Man” is in this section of Scripture:
John 3:13 (NIV)
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
No one has ever gone to heaven, except Jesus, the Son of Man! Not Noah, Abraham, Moses, or David? No, none of them! But Enoch, in Hebrews 11:5 went to heaven and did not experience death! If that is True, then what about verse 13 below?
Hebrews 11:13 (NIV)
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.
The Greek reads “All these people…died. The problem is verse 5 in the NIV:
Hebrews 11:5 (NIV)
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.
The word “experience” is the problem. The Greek reads: ὁράω which transliterated into English is horao and means: to see, perceive. So where did the NIV translators get “experience?” I have worked this and looked at many English translations and here are my results. It is translated: “see” in the RSV, KJV, ASV, BBE, DBY, DRA, ERV, ESV, GNV, KJG, NAB, NASB (all versions), NET, NKJV, PNT, RWB, TNT, WEB, YLT, and in both Greek text, we use for translation work. That is over 20 places it reads “see.” I will show you more, it is translated: “instead of” in the GWN, “seeing” in the CJB, “experience” in the NIV, CSB, NJB, NRSV, “not taste” in the MRD, and “without” in the NLT. I still have more places I could check, but the context of the Greek and the 20+ English versions tell us, Enoch did not “see” death which fits with Hebrews 11:13 and other places in God’s Word. Many people go through life and never “see” someone actually die, and die in their sleep, so they too never “saw” death. Check out verse 5 again:
Hebrews 11:5 (NIV)
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience [should say “see”] death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.
This section of the verse reads: “…because God had taken him away…” This: “taken him away” can mean many things. It is the Greek word: μετάθεσις and it is transliterated into the English: metathesis it means: a change, removal. The King James Version says “translated.” It is translated “brought back” in Acts 7:16 NIV, and “carried over” KJV. In Galatians 1:6 NIV it is translated “deserting,” and “removed” in KJV. In Hebrews 7: 12 in both the NIV and KJV, where it is used twice in the verse, it is actually translated “a change,” in the NIV both times, and “changed” the first time and “a change” the second. I prefer the Nestle-Aland Greek text [many scholars think this is the best Greek text, and we agree] and the Liddel-Scott Lexicon2 for Greek, as these men are Jews and were only doing the Lexicon to get the most accurate Greek Lexicon, without any denominational bias. Each of them say the meaning is: a change [changed], removal. Every other translation is squeezing the text, but if it reads: a change [changed], removal; we are not putting someone in heaven that is not there. Now look again at John:
John 3:13 (NIV)
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
Even without a red letter Bible, we can see in the context this is Jesus. Only God, spiritual beings and Jesus are there now. Hey, I did not write the Book! No one, you have even known, who died, is in heaven. Not my grandparents, my dad, many uncles, and many aunts, and all the people I have ever known, who have died. I want you to see some other verses, which will tell you we are not in heaven, after we die. Now understand this: you cannot pick and choose what verses you will believe or will not believe. I want you to understand this “if many verses give you a clear picture, and only a few say something contrary, you had best believe what the majority says.” If you go to court, and have a bunch of evidence proving you are not guilty, and only a few things which say otherwise, what will the outcome be? Not guilty! But this is God’s Word, and if the evidence shows you are not in heaven after you die, then who is right? Are some theologians right, because they have said so, a million times? Or perhaps it is the Bible? You have to choose based on the evidence. Take a good look at Job:
Job 14:10–12 (NIV)
10 But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more. 11 As water disappears from the sea or a riverbed becomes parched and dry, 12 so man lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from their sleep.
Oh I have heard the argument sleep is not death! Then we must consider, what the Bible says about it. Okay! Let us look, at another section of Scripture. We will read most of the record on Lazarus from John 11:
John 11:1–14 (NIV)
1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. 7 Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. 10 It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,
This we refer to as the “sleep” Metaphor! As we work through this topic, we will find sleep and death used interchangeably, many times. Here Jesus had to explain it, but later on the disciples get it. We will study this more, as we work this subject, because it is throughout the Bible. I want you to see more verses on this subject of dying. How about these verses in Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes 9:5 (NIV)
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
So when we die, it is like sleeping! You just “sleep” and do not know anything going on around you. Bob, that is not comforting! You think sleep is not comforting? You rest for the next thing you are going to do! Right? You are not planning or working, as this verse says! And in natural sleep, even, there is no knowledge or wisdom! So what is the difference? When you go to bed at night you are only sleeping, and when you die, you are sleeping, until the Lord wakes you. You do not mind going to sleep at night, so if I die, what am I supposed to be afraid of? It is just like sleep, because when you are out cold, you do nothing, and plan nothing. Hey, remember this verse in Genesis 3?
Genesis 3:19 (NIV)
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Our heavenly Father told the Man and the Woman in the Garden of Eden, right before He gave them the boot; you are going to heaven when you die! NO! He told them you were taken from the ground and you are going back there. But people do not want to believe God, they want to believe the Serpent, and throw out God’s Word. They want to believe Satan’s lie from 15 verses earlier:
Genesis 3:4 (NIV)
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.
There is the lie! “You will not surely die,” your body will die, but when you open your eyes you will be in heaven! Does that agree with: John 3:13? How about the verses above, Job 14:10–12; Ecclesiastes 9:5 and 10? We are not finished yet, consider this next verse.
Psalm 6:5 (NIV)
No one remembers you [God, see verse 4] when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave?
Hey, David, who wrote this Psalm, knew when you were dead, you would not remember God anymore, nor could you praise him from the grave. Then it is no big jump, to believe David knew he was not going to heaven. If he thought you went to heaven, he would not have said, we will not remember Him when we are dead, nor would he say, we could not praise Him. Dead, we do as the verse says; if we will be in heaven then the Bible is a lie, and full of myths! I think as John 3 says, only the “Son of Man” has ever gone there! Next another Psalm of David.
Psalm 30:9 (NIV)
“What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit [another word for grave]? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
David knew, when he turned to dust, he could not praise God, or proclaim God’s faithfulness. Why? Cause you would be sleeping! Next is another Psalm of David.
Psalm 39:13 (NIV)
Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.”
The context is when he dies, he will be no more. So he knew heaven was not where he was going to be. How about another Psalm:
Psalm 115:17 (NIV)
It is not the dead who praise the LORD,3 those who go down to silence;
This verse speaks for itself. Obviously a dead person cannot praise the LORD!
Psalm 146:4 (NIV)
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.
They return to the ground! These are God’s Words, not mine. Bottom line here is when you die you are sleeping. You do not do anymore in death, than you do when you sleep. Now, we are going to the gospel of John. This is Jesus teaching, so why would he have to raise people in the last day, if they were already up in heaven?
John 6:44 (NIV)
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
I want to look at a few verses in 1 Corinthians 15, which I think will help wrap this Part 1 up until next time, and it is packed. Paul will use the “sleep” Metaphor again.
1 Corinthians 15:20–23 (NIV)
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man [Adam], the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man [Jesus Christ]. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
Verse 22 reads: “will be made alive” which indicates they are not yet alive! Verse 23 reads: “…each in his own turn…” Christ, the firstfruits [cause he was already raised]; then [WHEN? Then!] when he comes [that is referred to as the Rapture], those who belong to him [that is all Christians]. I want you to understand one thing while we are still here in 1 Corinthians 15. Death is not going home, or as one Theologian recently said “graduating.” It is not “passing over.” I have been to funerals where wonderful Christian ministers have said “God called her home,” or “God needed another rose in heaven,” so “He called her home.” Then why would the Word of God refer to death as an enemy for us Christians, and that death will one day be destroyed? Look at 1 Corinthians 15:26:
1 Corinthians 15:26 (NIV)
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
That is the Bible, and it calls death an enemy, yet I have even heard it called a “friend.” I have had heated discussion with others ministers, who say it is “precious” to God when someone dies! My heart hurts when wonderful ministers say stuff like that, and I am sure it does not bless our heavenly Father. How can this be, when it is contrary to the Bible? Our God is “love” [1 John 4:8 and 16]. Also God is “light” and in Him is no darkness at all [1 John 1:5]. With God being “love” and “loving,” and with Him being “light” which has no darkness! Then why would He kill you, because that is an act of darkness, and he has no darkness at all? Also it would not be an act of someone who does not only love, but who is “LOVE!” We will consider one more miss handled verse. We will see both the NIV and KJV here, and they read the same.
Psalm 116:15 (NIV)
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
Psalm 116:15 (KJV)
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
The problem here is an error in understanding. We need to understand many of our Christian belief systems, which we believe, and have become tradition in the Christian Church is influenced by two things. The first being 1400 years of the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church. The second is the one causing this problem. That being the King James Version of the Bible became the standard for much of Christian understanding for the last 400 years. Today many translation problems stem from the KJV. In many places it is one of the best translations, even with the old English. This verse has been translated with “Precious” in it, in the 1611 KJV, and in 21 English translations, maybe more. What is the problem? The word “precious” in the Hebrew is יָקָר and is transliterated in the English as yaqar. The meaning in 1611 is not the same as we usually would use it today. It means: valuable, prized, weighty, precious, rare, splendid, and costly. The only way it fits our understanding is precious gems or costly gems! So here it should say in Psalm 116:15: “Costly in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Saints are believers; we will cover that in a future article.
But it cost God every time a believer dies! Why? Look back, at some of the verses in this article: If you are dead—you are asleep and cannot do anything for God, and He wants you to do stuff for Him. You “know nothing; and have no further reward” [Eccles 9:5]. For you “there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” [Eccles 9:10]. You do not remember God, nor do you praise Him [Ps. 6:5]. You will not praise God, nor will you proclaim His faithfulness [Ps. 30:9]. Again you will not “praise” God [Ps. 115:17]. Your “plans come to nothing” [Ps. 146:4]. There are more things you cannot do, but we have not covered them yet.
I want to close Part 1 with this, if your happy with a God who kills, steals, and destroys then stick with the lies you have been taught, because Jesus says that is what the “thief” does, which is the Devil. Jesus came to give us life, a life to the full! Consider this:
John 10:10 (NIV)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Would you, or could you ever conceive of Jesus killing you, well God will not either. They have a plan and we will learn more in future parts! Hey, it is not living forever in heaven! God has a really great plan! These Truths, in this article, give new meaning to “Rest in Peace!”