All my life I have heard that when Christians pass away, they go directly to Heaven. Recently I read John 3:13. Does this mean that only The Trinity is in Heaven? What about Elijah and Enoch?
ESV - 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
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Although some branches of Christianity subscribe to the doctrine of "soul sleep" (which I believe that previous discussions on eBible.com have called into question) until the second coming of Christ, I would say that the predominant Christian view is that the soul of the individual is judged immediately at death and sent to either heaven (based on saving faith in Christ) or hell. (Prior to Christ's resurrection, souls that had been saved through faith in God, as well as individuals such as Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) (neither of whom died), and the resurrected Moses (Jude 9), went to a temporary abode (Paradise). This was what Christ meant in John 3:13 when He said during His earthly life that no one had ascended to heaven. When Christ ascended to heaven, He took them with Him (Ephesians 4:8). The souls of the unsaved went to a temporary abode of punishment, referred to as Hades or Sheol, awaiting the final judgment at the return of Christ.) When Christ returns and the dead are physically resurrected, the glorified bodies of the redeemed will be reunited with their souls to spend eternity in heaven, while the souls and bodies of the resurrected unredeemed will be sent to Hell (Matthew 25:31-46).
I will start by addressing John 3:13. To better understand the text we must look at the context. Nicodemus came to Jesus with questions and Jesus started by addressing Nicodemus’ greatest need: must be born again spiritually. Although Nicodemus was a religion teacher, he was having difficulty grasping the concept (John 3:9). And Jesus continued with a rebuke: if you do not believe earthly things, how could you believe that what I am telling you about heavenly things? (John 3:10-12). Then the punchline: "No one has ascended into heaven except (H)e who descended from heaven, the Son of Man" - meaning that no man has gone to heaven to learn and bring down the teachings that Jesus was trying to teach Nicodemus. Jesus wasn’t saying that no one else ascended to heaven – the Bible tells about several who ascended to heaven and there are no contradictions in the Bible. Enoch, Moses, and Elijah, together with many others, are now in heaven. Enoch and Elijah represent the type who are alive at Christ’s second coming and be translated without seeing death, while Moses is type of the resurrected righteous at our Lord's return (1 Thess 4:13-18). In addition, in Matthew 27:50-53 we learn about the "first fruits" who were resurrected; they went into Jerusalem, testified about their resurrection and then ascended to heaven (Eph 4:8). Jesus took them to heaven as trophies of His victory over the grave. But how can anyone be sure these resurrected are now in God's heaven? The answer is in Revelation 5. John in a vision was taken to heaven and saw God the Father seated upon His throne with a scroll in His hand (Rev 5:1). John also saw four beasts, 24 elders, Christ the Lamb of God and the Spirits of God (Rev 5:6, 7). Here we are given the picture of God's heaven – Paradise – the place where the redeemed by Christ’s blood are (Rev 5:8-10). The redeemed men around the throne of God in Paradise - John saw them there and recorded the fact for our knowledge. Do the righteous departed ascend immediately to heaven to praise the Lord? The Bible doesn't say that - to the contrary, countless texts tells that at death, all consciousness ends. The dead does not know anything and does not do anything. "The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence" (Ps 115:17). "When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish" (Ps 146:4). "For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun" (Eccl 9;5, 6).
Justification comes through faith during the old and new covenants. Yet if you remember Enoch was justified because he walked with God. What does walking with God really mean? It means that you are for God and not against God. So can anyone be saved by faith alone?The answer is always yes. Faith is accounted unto us for justification and righteousness. God has given us a new covenant and that covenant is superior to all those that came before it. The new has come and the old has been made obsolete. A born again Jew understands that the Lord God is one. Jesus said it was finished when he died on the cross. Salvation, which is justification by faith and faith alone in Jesus Christ, has replaced the old covenant. That is why the curtain in the second temple in Jerusalem, which had to be lifted to enter the Holy of Holies, and was rent from top to bottom. God had moved his tabernacle to the heart of every man, woman or child that believed in the Son of Man, Jesus the Christ, the only begotten Son of God, Immanuel, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. The blood of Jesus has replaced the blood sacrifices of animals for the forgiveness of sins. We can not fully understand it. We just have to believe in the saving works of the blood of Jesus Christ. God is God the creator. We are just his most precicious object of all his affection because he created us to be his friend, his family and for relationship. Wow! God wants and loves us so much that he gave us his only begotten son to prove it. Could you do that with your son or daughter? Selah!
Great question, Steven Scott! God is in heaven because heaven is his dwelling place. The Lord Jesus has been in heaven ever since he ascended from the earth shortly after his resurrection (Acts 1:9-11). The Bible tells us that angels are in heaven. In fact, there are myriads of angels-uncountable numbers of heavenly beings-all of them serving the Lord in various ways. And the saints of God who died on this earth are in heaven. [Note: I mean by this that heaven includes the Old Testament Saints, who by faith trusted in God's Word and looked forward to God's redemption at Calvary (which they did not fully understand). It also includes every true believer from every continent and every denomination. Dr. Ray Pritchard] In my opinion, too, infants who have died and people with special needs who have died, as well, are in heaven. Pritchard and I think Ryrie would agree with me.
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