Where is the dead before Christ? Are they in heaven or hell?

The Bible reveals that no human beings have yet ascended into heaven (John 3:13). People do not go either to heaven or hell at death. They sleep in their graves to await the Resurrection Day “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” (John 5:28, 29). The Bible speaks of death as a state of sleep (1 Thess. 4:13; 1 Cor. 15:18,20; John 11:11-14). If the dead were in heaven or in hell, would it be fitting to represent them thus?

Was Lazarus, whom Jesus loved, in heaven when the Savior said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth”? (John 11:11). If Lazarus was not sleeping, then calling him to life was really robbing him of the bliss of heaven that rightly belonged to him.

The Bible is clear. After death a person: returns to dust (Psalms 104:29), knows nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5), possesses no mental powers (Psalms 146:4), has nothing to do with anything on earth (Ecclesiastes 9:6), does not live (2 Kings 20:1), waits in the grave (Job 17:13), and continues not (Job 14:1, 2) until the Day of the Resurrection.

The apostle Peter plainly stated that David the prophet is dead and buried–not alive in heaven “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre [tomb] is with us unto this day… For David is not ascended into the heavens” (Acts 2:29,34).

Also, Paul wrote that the dead in Christ would be resurrected when Christ returns a second time to this earth “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” (1 Thess. 4:16). “We shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, … and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-51).

Jesus declared that rewards and punishments are given at the resurrection (second coming) and not at death. “…thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). This means that none of the righteous dead have gone to heaven so far. All he dead are waiting in their graves for the judgment at the end of the world. “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matthew 16:27).

For more Bible support on this topic, check the following link:

112. The Intermediate State

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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