Where Do Christians Really Go When We Die?


----- Original Message -----
From: Name Withheld
To: Paul Stringini
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2012 4:33 PM
Subject: death

It is a common belief by many that when a Christian passes away, they go "to be with the Lord".

II Thessalonians states that the "dead in Christ will rise out of the grave and then go to be with the Lord."

But according to the common belief, they are already WITH the Lord.

So...where do Christians really go when we die?

 Name Withheld

My Response:

For an Extensive look at this subject see my lengthy article: "I Believe in Death and in the Resurrection of the Dead." Available in audio or text.
----- Original Message -----
From: Paul Stringini
To: Name Withheld
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 8:51 PM
Subject: Re: death
We go to where Jesus Christ went when he died, that is, "to hell." 
Acts 2:29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day... 31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
Hell, which is to say the grave, which is to say that we don't really "go" anywhere.  We "sleep," as the Apostle Paul and Christ often called it, which is merely a delicate way of indicating the unconsciousness of death. 
John 11:11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep... 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
I never find the terminology "go to be with the Lord"  or "go to heaven" in the bible. Certainly not in reference to death.  In 1Thess 4 Paul says "and so shall we ever be with the Lord." But this passage is referring to the resurrection.  And that is the only means by which the dead return to consciousness.  The Old Testament also declares that the dead "know not anything" and that at death our "thoughts perish."
Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing,
The Old testament also intimates this:
Psalm 146:3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
Psalm 146:4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
This is really what everyone knows instinctively about death but people like to deny this and so to this day a great many Christians believe an heresy that is explicitly condemned in the bible.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
2 Timothy 2:17 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
2 Timothy 2:18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
It is odd, but it took a great many years for this to sink in for me.  But it seems that is basically what many people believe.  They believe that when people die they are immediately raised from death and continue conscious life on another plane of existence.  This is not a Christian doctrine, it is an heresy crept in from paganism and also from the teaching of the Pharisees.  "Past already,"  could be better translated "already to have come"  meaning that they were teaching that the resurrection was not a yet future hoped for event.   They teach that the dead have already ascended into heaven, which the Apostle John denies:
John 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
No one except Christ has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven.  NO ONE.
Now this is a very clear teaching in the New Testament, but there are a few scriptures which people point out that seem to indicate a contrary view.  It must be noted though, that the nature and context of these passages make them highly suspect as sources for truth concerning the facts about death.
There are principally four passages which are used to  oppose the consistent teaching of the Old Testament and of Christ and his Apostles.  I did not go to every passage that supports the idea of unconscious death here, (but I do in my article)  I do wish to note the fact that all the passages which I would use to support the true Christian teaching of the resurrection of the dead have as their subject and context the same subject: the resurrection of the dead.  What I mean is that the passages I would use in support of the truth are passages that are clearly trying to communicate to the reader what the facts are concerning death and resurrection.  The contrary passages I am about to cover are very different.
1.  The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man:  the parable of Lazarus and the rich man portrays the dead as having a conscious existence, but it must be noted the purpose of the parable is not to teach about death but rather to show how the Pharisees would not listen even though someone rose from the dead, because they would not listen to Moses and the prophets.  The prophets were clear on their view of death and resurrection. It is worth noting that the terms "Abraham's bosom"  is taken directly from the teaching of the Pharisees.  Also, it must be noted that the setting of the parable is HELL, not heaven.  It is worth noting that all the dead are in the same place in this parable, they are not in heaven, they are dead,  it may be assumed that the conversations are completely fictional and were intended to be seen as fictional by Christ.  I have written a longer paper on this particular subject and would be happy to forward it to you if you were interested.
2. The Penitent Thief: Jesus turned to the one who is referred to as the "penitent thief" and said "Verily I say to you today you shall be with me in paradise"  Again, it is not apparent that the purpose of this statement was to overthrow everything else the bible says about death but rather we may have been misled by bad punctuation.  Many bibles punctuate this passage this way:

"Verily I say too you,  Today you shall be with me in paradise." 

But there was no punctuation in the original bible. So in light of all the other teaching on the subject, it would perhaps be better to punctuate this passage thus: 

"Verily, I say to you today,  You shall be with me in Paradise."  

It seems hard for me to accept that Jesus would overturn the doctrine of the resurrection with such a comment.  This was a promise to remember this penetent thief in the resurrection.
3. "To be absent from the body is to be present with the lord."   This is a case of what I call "conditioning."  They basically take a passage out of context and give it a meaning that is not intended in the passage.  The lie is repeated so often that our minds become conditioned to see something inn this passage that is not even said.
2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
All Paul is saying is that we are "willing"  to be absent from the body that we may be present with the Lord, Note: He is not saying that "TO BE DEAD IS TO BE WITH THE LORD."   Because there is nothing to indicate Paul is speaking of death here. And also there is nothing in the bible to indicate that by the term "to be absent from the body" Paul meant "death."  Paul spoke of visions "whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell"  and he was not talking about being dead.   So, whatever Paul is saying here,  he is not overturning the doctrine of the resurrection.  To be absent from the body may refer to the resurrection or to transfiguration, because it is in the resurrection that our mortal bodies are changed into immortal spiritual bodies and that we come into the presence of Christ.  But death is never defined as "absence from the body."
4. "The Souls under the Altar":  This passage is in Revelation 6, when the fifth seal is opened,  John sees the souls of them that were slain for the word of God & etc.  They cry out and appear to be in conscious agony.  (I add that because I would not want to be stuck under that altar crying "How long, How long!!!") Here we have a passage that is in the context of a prophetic vision. So it is at once questionable whether this passage is trying to communicate to us a new doctrine about what happens when we die, or whether it is a vision that has a prophetic meaning in itself, and not a literal situation that exists in a real time-space plane of existence beyond our perception.  In my opinion, this passage has to be interpreted as visionary and prophetic, and is not intended to teach us that John was lying when he said that no one has ascended into heaven except Christ.
5. (I almost forgot the fifth one) Elijah and Enoch,  Elijah and enough were said to have had extraordinary and exceptional things happen to them.  It is said of one or the other that they were "transfigured"  or "went up to heaven" by flaming chariots.  But here is the point about these exceptional occurrences. They are exceptional.  If everyone is transfigured into a spiritual body at death then what happened to Enoch was not remarkable.  If all are carried away to heaven, then Elijah was nothing special.  The exceptions prove the rule or they are not exceptional. It can not overturn what John said about Christ, because we do not know for sure the exact nature of the experiences of Elijah and Enoch, whether or not they were transfigured and may have returned to earth to die and be buried by angels.  We know that Isaiah had a vision of the throne and it may be said that other prophets have been taken to heaven at least in vision, but none have risen from the dead as Christ did, in victory and to die no more. John 3 :13 must be true, and it is very clear.
This is also clear:
John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
John 5:29 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. 
They are in their graves and it is from thence that they will hear him and he will raise them up.
This is one of the foundational doctrines of Christianity and it has been hijacked by pagan beliefs and ancient heresies about transfers  of the soul from one plane of existence to another.  The spirit is not the soul, the spirit of life returns to God that Gave it, but the person is always spoken of as being in the ground or in the sea, wherever, but they are not in heaven, by any means.  let no one deceive you.  These beliefs are popular because people are impatient and death troubles them, but our hope is in Christ and the promised resurrection of the dead.  The rapture doctrine is another one that steals truth from the resurrection and corrupts it, the rapture is just a corrupt splinter from the doctrine of the resurrection.
If I can be of any further assistance or if you feel I did not illuminate any particular point sufficiently, you need only ask and I will be at your service.
Paul Stringini