The passage reads: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” This seems very confusing for the lay person; Jesus states the above, Lazarus (dead for 4 days) said nothing about Heaven, others that were raised from the dead by Jesus said nothing about Heaven. Take Abraham, the great patriarch, for instance. He spoke to God on multiple occasions and had a strong relationship with Him. If anyone were to be taken up right after death and be whisked away to Heaven, you’d think it’d be Abraham. But the book of Genesis doesn’t say anything about God taking Abraham up to heaven. The only reference that I have found is that the Bible speaks of two men that were translated to heaven without dying- Enoch and Elijah. Where do the church leaders and teachers find this information that you can go to Heaven right after death?
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I believe we get the idea that the redeemed go to wherever Jesus is, after this life is over, from scriptures like John 14:3. "I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." Some of us don't believe Jesus is talking about a grand event when all the season ticket holders for paradise are loaded up and taken to a heretofore empty place. We think He means He (His emissaries) will come for us individually when our bed is turned back for us. Then there's Psalm 16:10 where the psalmist says, 'You will not abandon my soul to Sheol.' He's talking about not being left waiting in a tomb to be redeemed. Colossians 1:13 states, "He has rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." I know this is written to living people, but it doesn't make sense if after you're no longer alive you're still, thousands of years later, waiting in a cold dark grave to see that kingdom. And if your soul (the real you) aren't there then where are you? If the people of the first century who were redeemed from death (saved) aren't somewhere with God, why not? Where are they, and why have they not been given their gift of eternal life with Jesus? That doesn't make sense to me! Hebrews 4 says there's a rest for the people of God. Is the writer talking about a tomb? Dying and waiting for who knows how long to go and be with the Lord needs a lot of explaining.
Genesis 5:24: "And Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him." I see this as a reminder that there is life after death in God's presence. Believers will live with Jesus in God's heaven. 2 Kings 2:11: "Then it happened as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Luke 23:24: Jesus promised, while on the cross, that the thief next to Him, would be in paradise with Him. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8: "So, we are always confident knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes well pleased rather, to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." 2 Corinthians 12:3,4: Paul had a vision of paradise. "And I know such a man (speaking of himself, probably) whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows - how he was caught up in paradise and heard inexpressable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." Philippians 1:21,23: "But to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better." Paul would experience gain in His own death, because he would be with Christ. He may even have had confidence that God since his imprisonment had furthered the Gospel, God might use his death to further His kingdom. Remember, Paul by trade was a tent maker. He saw death as packing up and moving to a better place. Paul, a persecutor of believers, the Apostle appointed to the gentiles, desired to go and leave this life, because he knew about the next life. What a testimony! Revelation 2:7 speaks of the restitution of the Edenic paradise, an everlasting home for believers. Compare with Genesis chapter 2.
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