Question: After a person dies does his/her soul go to heaven right away or does it sleep until Christ comes again. Also, does the person remember what he/she was on earth while in heaven?
Answer: Yes, they go right to heaven, Paul taught that the moment our spirit left the body it went to heaven. “ We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) Then too, he said under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” (Philippians 1:23, 24)
Some Christians have confused body sleep with soul sleep. There is no such thing as soul sleep. Jesus did talk often about the body sleeping. Also, the Apostle Paul said our bodies will sleep if we die. But when Jesus comes for us in the Rapture, our bodies will be resurrected also. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 1:14-18)
Our spirit goes to be with the Lord immediately when we die, but our body sleeps until the Rapture takes place. As this passage in 1 Thessalonians points out, those who died will be resurrected a split second before us who are alive. Jesus will bring their spirit back from heaven put it into their new resurrected body, and then we who are alive will meet them in the air with our new resurrected body. Praise the Lord! This could happen any second, be ready!
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:50-55)
‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
Yes, also, we will remember what we were on earth; our senses will be enhanced to a degree you cannot imagine. We will be better off there, not worse. Please check out this true story that we give in 2 Corinthians. “On the way home from a conference, Don Piper’s car was crushed by a semi that crossed into his lane. Medical personnel said he died instantly. While his body lay lifeless inside the ruins of his car, Piper experienced the glories of heaven, awed by its beauty and music.
“When I died, I didn’t flow through a long, dark tunnel. I had no sense of fading away or of coming back. I never felt my body being transported into the light. I heard no voices calling to me or anything else.
“Simultaneous with my last recollection of seeing the bridge and the rain, a light enveloped me, with a brilliance beyond earthly comprehension or description. Only that. In my next moment of awareness, I was standing in heaven.
“Joy pulsated through me as I looked around, and at that moment I became aware of a large crowd of people. They stood in front of a brilliant, ornate gate. I have no idea how far away they were; such things as distance didn’t matter.
“As the crowd rushed toward me, I didn’t see Jesus, but I did see people I had known. As they surged toward me, I knew instantly that all of them had died during my lifetime. Their presence seemed absolutely natural.
“They rushed toward me, and every person was smiling, shouting, and praising God. Although no one said so, intuitively I knew they were my celestial welcoming committee. It was as if they had all gathered just outside heaven’s gate, waiting for me.
“The first person I recognized was Joe Kulbeth, my grandfather. He looked exactly as I remembered him, with his shock of white hair and what I called a big banana nose. He stopped momentarily and stood in front of me. A grin covered his face. I may have called his name, but I’m not sure.
“Donnie!” (That’s what my grandfather always called me.) His eyes lit up, and he held out his arms as he took the last steps toward me. He embraced me, holding me tightly. He was once again the robust, strong grandfather I had remembered as a child.
“After being hugged by my grandfather, I don’t remember who was second or third. The crowd surrounded me. Some hugged me and a few kissed my check, while others pumped my hand. Never had I felt more loved.
“More and more people reached for me and called me by name. I felt overwhelmed by the number of people who had come to welcome me to heaven. There were so many of them, and I had never imagined anyone being as happy as they all were. Their faces radiated a serenity I had never seen on earth. All were full of life and expressed radiant joy.
“Time had no meaning. However, for clarity, I’ll relate this experience in terms that refer to time. I saw my great-grandfather, heard his voice, and felt his embrace as he told me how excited he was that I had come to join them. I saw Barry Wilson, who had been my classmate in high school but later drowned in a lake. Barry hugged me, and his smile radiated a happiness I didn’t know was possible.
“He and everyone who followed praised God and told me how excited they were to see me and to welcome me to heaven and to the fellowship they enjoyed. Just then, I spotted two teachers who had loved me and often talked to me about Jesus Christ.
“As I walked among them, I became aware of the wide variety of ages-old and young and every age in between. Many of them hadn’t known each other on earth, but each had influenced my life in some way. Even though they hadn’t met on earth, they seemed to know each other now.
“As I try to explain this, my words seem weak and hardly adequate, because I have to use earthly terms to refer to unimaginable joy, excitement, warmth, and total happiness. Everyone continually embraced me, touched me, spoke to me, laughed, and praised God. This seemed to go on for a long time, but I didn’t tire of it.
“My father is one of eleven children. Some of his brothers and sisters had as many as thirteen children. When I was a kid, our family reunions were so huge we rented an entire city park in Monticello, Arkansas. We Pipers are affectionate, with a lot of hugging and kissing whenever we come together.
“None of those earthly family reunions, however, prepared me for the sublime gathering of saints I experienced at the gates of heaven. Those who had gathered at Monticello were some of the same people waiting for me at the gates of heaven. Heaven was many things, but without a doubt, it was the greatest family reunion of all.
“Everything I experienced was like a first-class buffet for the senses. I had never felt such powerful embraces or feasted my eyes on such beauty. Heaven’s light and texture defy earthly eyes or explanation. Warm, radiant light engulfed me. As I looked around, I could hardly grasp the vivid, dazzling colors. Every hue and tone surpassed anything I had ever seen.
“With all the heightened awareness of my senses, I felt as if I had never seen, heard, or felt anything so real before. I don’t recall that I tasted anything, yet I knew that if I had, that too would have been more glorious than anything I had eaten or drunk on earth.
“The best way I can explain it is to say that I felt as if I were in another dimension. Never, even in my happiest moments, had I ever felt so fully alive. I stood speechless in front of the crowd of loved ones, still trying to take in everything.
“Over and over I heard how overjoyed they were to see me and how excited they were to have me among them. I’m not sure if they actually said the words or not, but I knew they had been waiting and expecting me, yet I also knew that in heaven there is no sense of time passing.
“I wasn’t conscious of anything I’d left behind and felt no regrets about leaving family or possessions. It was as if God had removed anything negative or worrisome from my consciousness, and I could only rejoice at being together with these wonderful people.
“They looked exactly as I once knew them-although they were more radiant and joyful than they’d ever been on earth.
“My great-grandmother, Hattie Mann, was Native American. As a child I saw her only after she had developed osteoporosis. Her head and shoulders were bent forward, giving her a humped appearance. I especially remember her extremely wrinkled face. The other thing that stands out in my memory is that she had false teeth-which she didn’t wear often.
“Yet when she smiled at me in heaven, her teeth sparkled. I knew they were her own, and when she smiled, it was the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.
“Then I notice something else-she wasn’t slumped over. She stood strong and upright, and the wrinkles had been erased from her face. I have no idea what age she was, and I didn’t even think about that. As I stared at her beaming face, I sensed that age has no meaning in heaven.
“Age expresses time passing, and there is no time there. All of the people I encountered were the same age they had been the last time I had seen them-except that all the ravages of living on earth had vanished. Even though some of their features may not have been considered attractive on earth, in heaven every feature was perfect, beautiful, and wonderful to gaze at.
“I felt loved-more loved than ever before in my life. They didn’t say they loved me. I don’t remember what word they spoke. When they gazed at me, I knew what the Bible means by perfect love. It emanated from every person who surrounded me.
“I stared at them, and as I did I felt as if I absorbed their love for me. At some point, I looked around and the sight overwhelmed me. Everything was brilliantly intense. Coming out from the gate-a short distance ahead-was a brilliance that was brighter than the light that surrounded us, utterly luminous. As soon as I stopped gazing at the people’s faces, I realized that everything around me glowed with a dazzling intensity.
“In trying to describe the scene, words are totally inadequate, because human words can’t express the feelings of awe and wonder at what I beheld. Everything I saw glowed with intense brightness. The best I can describe it is that we began to move toward that light.
“No one said it was time to do so, and yet we all started forward at the same time. As I stared ahead, everything seemed to grow taller-like a gentle hill that kept going upward and never stopped. I had expected to see some darkness behind the gate, but as far ahead as I could see, there was absolutely nothing but intense, radiant light.
“A holy awe came over me as I stepped forward. I had no idea what lay ahead, but I sensed that with each step I took, it would grow more wondrous. Then I heard the music. As a young boy I spent a lot of time out in the country and woods. When walking through waist-high dried grass, I often surprised a covey of birds and flushed them out of their nests on the ground.
“A whooshing sound accompanied their wings as they flew away. My most vivid memory of heaven is what I heard. I can only describe it as a holy swoosh of wings. But I’d have to magnify that thousands of times to explain the effect of the sound in heaven.
“It was the most beautiful and pleasant sound I’ve ever heard, and it didn’t stop. It was like a song that goes on forever. I felt awestruck, wanting only to listen. I didn’t just hear music. It seemed as if I were part of the music-and it played in and through my body. I stood still, and yet I felt embraced by the sounds.
“As aware as I became of the joyous sounds and melodies that filled the air, I wasn’t distracted. I felt as if the heavenly concert permeated every part of my being, and at the same time I focused on everything else around me.
“A second sound remains, even today, the single most vivid memory I have of my entire heavenly experience. I call it music, but it differed from anything I had ever heard or ever expect to hear on the earth. The melodies of praise filled the atmosphere. The nonstop intensity and endless variety overwhelmed me.
“The praise was unending, but the most remarkable thing to me was that hundreds of songs were being sung at the same time-all of them worshiping God. As I approached the large, magnificent gate, I heard them from every direction and realized that each voice praised God.
“I write voice, but it was more than that. Some sounded instrumental, but I wasn’t sure-and I wasn’t concerned. Praise was everywhere, and all of it was musical, yet comprised of melodies and tones I’d never experienced before.
“Hallelujah!” “Praise!” “Glory to God!” “Praise to the King!” Such words rang out in the midst of all the music. I don’t know if angels were singing them or if they came from humans. I felt so awestruck and caught up in the heavenly mood that I didn’t look around.
“My heart filled with the deepest joy I’ve ever experienced. I wasn’t a participant in the worship, yet I felt as if my heart ran out with the same kind of joy and exuberance.
“If we played three CDs of praise at the same time, we’d have a cacophony of noise that would drive us crazy. This was totally different. Every sound blended, and each voice or instrument enhanced the others.
“As strange as it may seem, I could clearly distinguish each song. It sounded as if each hymn of praise was meant for me to hear as I moved inside the gates.
“Many of the old hymns and choruses I had sung at various times in my life were part of the music-along with hundreds of songs I had never heard before. Hymns of praise, modern sounding choruses, and ancient chants filled my ears and brought not only a deep peace but the greatest feeling of joy I’ve ever experienced.
“The celestial tunes surpassed any I had ever heard. I couldn’t calculate the number of songs-perhaps thousands-offered up simultaneously, and yet there was no chaos, because I had the capacity to hear each on and discern the lyrics and melody.
“Obviously, I can’t really know how God feels, but I find joy and comfort in thinking that He must be pleased and blessed by the continuous sounds of praise.” I will leave the book right there because I don’t want to spoil it for you. Please get it and read the rest, it will truly encourage your soul! (90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN by Don Piper, Revell Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Thanks for the questions,
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