When Christians die, are they in heaven immediately? If this is the case, lots of people are already there! Or do we have to wait for the Second Coming of Christ, at which time the dead will rise (1 Thessalonians 4:16). That would mean no one is there yet. When Lazarus returned from the dead in John 11, had he already been in heaven, or was he just dead and waiting? -- David Griffith (Los Angeles)

Great question. To answer it fully, to satisfy your interest and mine, would require a few hours! So here you get the "short answer." As I have written in Genesis, Science & History, and recorded in What Happens After We Die?, no one is in heaven yet. Lazarus was presumably in the abode of the dead. In the Old Testament this is called Sheol; in the New Testament, Hades. Not until we are resurrected from the dead will any of us ascend to heaven. This is the view the early church taught, although it was lost after a few centuries.

For three hours of audio lessons on the topic, please listen to my What Happens After We Die? 

This article is copyrighted and is for private use and study only. © 2005. Reprints or public distribution is prohibited without the express consent of Douglas Jacoby.