Most of us were taught that we go right to heaven when we die. That seems comforting, because no one wants to die. No one wants those they love to die. We would all like to believe that death is not the end, that instead we go someplace that doesn?t have the strife and conflict we are used to, a place where everyone lives in peace and harmony.
After all, if God is love, He understands our hearts. Maybe we didn?t do everything right. Who does? He knows we are not really bad. Why would He want any of us to die? Why wouldn?t He have a place for all of us to go and be together? It just makes sense, doesn?t it?
God is Love
To us this may make perfect sense. But then, again, who are we? Are we the ones that created the heavens and earth, that put the stars in the sky, that populated the earth with plants and flowers and every living thing? Are we the ones that designed our amazing bodies, with all their versatility, and their amazing ability to heal themselves?
God is love. He is perfect love. When we look around we see evidence of that every single day. When we see the blue sky, the green grasses, the majestic trees. When we hear the sounds of birds singing, the wind rustling through the trees, the waves breaking on a beach.
When we smell the flowers, the scent of the earth as we work it, the clean air smell of approaching rain. When we touch another person, whether it is a handshake or a hug, there is a sense of amity, harmony, and goodwill. This is all the goodness of God, all part of His design.
A Simple Law
Some may think it would be love to have everything you wanted in life handed to you on a silver platter. But, that is not the case, is it? God built a law into the universe where you reap as you sow, as you give you receive.
It?s a simple law, really. If you don?t like what you are getting out of life, change what you are giving. Where you have been critical and derisive, try being kind and forgiving. Where you have always sought your own interests, try helping others with their concerns. Those that do are amazed at the difference a small change can make.
When you think about it, the notion of people dying and either going to heaven, where they enjoy all the good things for ever and ever, or to hell where they are tortured for ever and ever, seems na?ve and simplistic. How could all the nuances of life be boiled down to such a simple formula?
God, in His great wisdom, has a plan to reward everyone for their labor. It is similar to the law that you reap what you sow, but on a much grander scale. This will be accomplished in four stages.
Only one person has died and been risen from among the dead, never to taste death again. That is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the firstfruits. Everyone else who has died will stay dead until raised up in one of the big three.
When the Dead will be Raised
The Gathering Together
Those of us that believed on the Lord Jesus and afterward fell asleep are called ?the dead in Christ?. They will be raised at the gathering together, also called the rapture. They will be joined by those of us that believe in Christ and are still alive.
I Thessalonians 4:16-17
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
All those that accepted Christ before this epic event will be gathered together to be with their Lord. The gathering together is separate from the two resurrections. These believers from the Church age will not be judged. They have been judged already in the person of Jesus Christ. He was their substitute, he bore all their sins and shortcomings.
The Two Resurrections
All those outside of those that accepted Christ during the Church age will be raised at either the resurrection of the just or the resurrection of the unjust. They will be judged by their works.
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
This is all part of God’s master plan. You may think this is unfair, but that is simply not true. Life is not fair. But God is just. He is the heart-searcher, He sees all and knows all. He will insure that everyone receives their due.
What else does the Bible say about the dead?
The idea that those that die go to heaven right away is very popular today. If that were true, who are ?all those that are in the graves? that will hear the Lord?s voice?
There are a few verses that are interpreted, and quoted, to support the belief that the dead are alive even today. There are many more verses that say the dead are not alive. These are seldom quoted, but they were spoken by some great men of the Bible.
As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.
He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.
As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up:
So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!
If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
Job is considered by many to be the first book of Scripture that was written. It states plainly that the dead rise no more, but must wait. They wait for their change. This change will not occur until the resurrection of the just or the unjust.
David and Solomon likewise proclaimed these truths.
Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah.
Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?
Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
In the grave there is no remembrance, no memory, it is ?the land of forgetfulness.?
Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased;
For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him.
Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.
He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
All are the same in death. All go to the same place ? called the grave, but more accurately, the state of the dead, where there is no glory, no blessing, no praise, no wisdom, no knowledge. The reason is because here is no consciousness, none at all. That is why the Scriptures figuratively say the dead are asleep. Only the living can praise God and make known His great love.
Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.
For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.
The common notions of heaven and hell are just that ? vague and imperfect conceptions of how things ?ought? to be. They bear no resemblance to reality. They certainly have no strength or power to affect reality, either. Believing does not make it so.
Only one person has been raised from among the dead, never to die again. That is the Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone else who has died will stay dead until raised up by the Lord, either at the return of Christ, or at one of the two resurrections. Like Job, we will wait until our change comes.