Question: Where do the dead go? Where does the soul go when the silver chord breaks?
Answer: First, let me give you a true story of someone who went to heaven and then after you read that I will give you a true story of two people, one who went to heaven (Paradise) the other who went to hell (Hades).
There are many people who have claimed they died and went to heaven, but this is one of the first times I have believed that their experience was really authentic. That is, of course, except for Paul’s experience in this passage. He said it was just such an experience, words would not do it justice. Don Piper in this true testimony would tell you the same thing, but he does the best he can to put into words and shows us a little taste of what it is like to be in heaven. Don is a Baptist pastor and he was prayed for by a Baptist pastor.
“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)
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
“Then he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.
“Then he said, I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment. Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent. But he said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” ( Luke 16:19-27)
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
“Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
“And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.
“Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
“The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
“But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 21:1 -22:5)
You might want to look at our article on hell as well.
I hope this helps,
Gary T. Panell
For more information email me.