Q & R with Greg Albrecht – Do people go to heaven when they die? Where is it?

Question

There has been some discussion among friends about do people go to heaven as soon as they die? Also, where is heaven?

Response

A response to your questions could fill a book, or it can be brief – which, given the nature of blog, this answer will be.  That said, this is a HUGE topic. 

As soon as people die they go to God – most scholars and theologians call this “place” the intermediate state. Many people say that people who die go to heaven – and while that description is not wrong, it can be misleading depending on what people visualize as heaven.  

People who die go to an intermediate state —  intermediate in the sense that these individuals/souls are no longer alive in this flesh, and not yet resurrected – but they are still “with God.”   We can say they are “in heaven” with God since in general “heaven” is often thought of as the seat of God’s eternity.   But of course, heaven is not a “place” that can be geographically located.  Heaven is where God is, one might say – and while God is anywhere he wishes to be – the Bible paints a picture of heaven as containing his throne, the angels, etc.    

We know very little about the intermediate state.  Some think that it is a place of “soul sleep” – so that the spirits/souls of those who are dead are sleeping, unconscious.  While little biblical evidence speaks of the intermediate state, most denominations and scholars believe that those who are in this “place”  are in some way conscious, whatever that may mean. We don’t know. 

Heaven is not a place, but rather heaven is where the love, grace and mercy of God reign – heaven is the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven, as Matthew calls it.  Heaven is anywhere and everywhere, not confined to what we would think of as a geographical place. Heaven is a dimension that is, in many ways, the very opposite of the earth we inhabit – we are mortal, we are creatures of time and space, we are confined to this earth, we need air and water and food. Heaven is none of that. Having said that, I will now slightly contradict myself by pointing out that Revelation chapters 21 and 22 speak of a new heaven and a new earth, the Holy City, which at some point in time (as we measure time) will “come down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). 

So, it is really more correct to say that heaven comes to us rather than to say we “go to” heaven – though we understand what people mean in making such a statement. 

In Christ,

Greg Albrecht

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