Destination: Heaven?

I was recently at a funeral where the preacher boldly declared the dead person was going home to heaven. But is heaven really our destination after death?

“It’s a home-going service!” shouted the charismatic preacher to the overflowing church. He assured the grieving family that their loved one was at home with the Lord in heaven. These words and the emotionally charged music sung during the service were comforting to the family. However, there was a major problem with his message and the songs: they all promoted a belief that is unbiblical. To understand what happens after death, we have to go to the Bible for answers.

Based on a false premise

One of the most important questions we can ask in life is, What happens after death? The belief in the immortality of the soul is a concept found in almost all religions, cultures and societies. But it is not a biblical concept.

The Creator God proclaims, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The soul is not immortal because God clearly said it can die!

Furthermore, 1 Timothy 6:16 declares that only God inherently has immortality. We’re told that Adam became a soul; he didn’t have one (Genesis 2:7). To learn more, read “Did God Give Adam an Immortal Soul?

Human beings not in heaven

Are the souls of good people in heaven? For the answer, we should go to the words of the One who dwells in heaven.

Jesus Christ said this: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13). I realize that this may be a startling statement. It may contradict a sincerely held belief that has been in your family for generations. But what is more precious? Sincerely held beliefs or the words of Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ said this: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”King David was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22). He was a faithful and loyal servant. Surely such a godly man would be in heaven! Yet the apostle Peter, in his sermon to the Jews on Pentecost, said: “Brothers, I may confidently and freely say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:29, Amplified Bible). A few verses later, Peter states what he had learned from his teacher, Jesus Christ: “For David did not ascend into the heavens” (verse 34).

Notice these statements in the book of Psalms (a book largely written by King David):

  • Psalm 6:5: “For in death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who will give You thanks?”
  • Psalm 146:4: “His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish.”

King Solomon, David’s son and the wisest man who ever lived (other than Jesus Christ), understood the state of the dead. In Ecclesiastes 9:10, Solomon wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”

Arise to what?

Though the Bible doesn’t talk about people going to heaven at death, it does talk a lot about rising from the dead later. The apostle Paul explains when the righteous will rise: “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” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

At the sound of the seventh trumpet, when Jesus Christ returns to earth, the saints will be resurrected and transformed into immortal spirit beings. They will be endowed with amazing and awesome intellect and powers far beyond even that of angels! Matthew 13:43 boldly declares, “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

Revelation 5:10 tells us that the risen saints will be made kings (rulers) and priests (teachers) and they will reign on earth, not in heaven. Jesus Christ, assisted by the saints, will rule from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3, 4).

The subject of life after death is a big topic, and this blog post just covered a small sampling of the many scriptures that give us a full picture of what happens after we die. To learn more about life after death, visit this helpful resource page filled with answers about what happens after death.

About the Author

Leon Leonard

Leon Leonard was a member of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association's Cleveland, Ohio, congregation. He was an entrepreneur and writer until his death in 2021.


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