The subject of heaven is often overlooked, or if it is studied, it presents errors like we all float around on insubstantial clouds playing harps.
The biblical record doesn't gush effusively about heaven, but it does offer concrete details. It is an important study to undertake, because after all, it's where the righteous dead will dwell for all eternity. More importantly, it is our home already, we are citizens of heaven.
The Bible uses different names for the place where God dwells. Heaven is a term that has come to mean a catch-all for the place where the righteous dwell. There is Abraham's Bosom, Paradise, present heaven, the Millennial Kingdom, future heaven, New Jerusalem, and the eternal state. And what are the three heavens? Paul was taken up to the Third Heaven. While some of these are nicknames, these different places are real and exist for different reasons and at different times.
The three heavens are easy to define. The First Heaven is the earth's atmosphere, where the birds fly, clouds scud, and wind blows. The Second Heaven is space. It's where the planets are, the stars, asteroids, black holes, and all the rest. The Third Heaven where Paul was taken, (2 Corinthians 12:2) is where God is.
No one knows where Third Heaven is, if it is another dimension, or some place way out there, or what. But it is definitely where God is and it is definitely a real place. God's temple is there, the altar is there, the angels come and go, His throne is there, His glory is there, prayers ascend to there, prophets have seen visions of there, and much more. It is a busy place. Read Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1, and Revelation 4. But studying actual heaven is for another day. Let's look at what the term "Abraham's Bosom" means.
Do the Terms "Abraham's Bosom" and "Paradise" Refer to Heaven or Somewhere Else? (Luke 16:22)
Abraham’s bosom. This same expression (found only here in Scripture) was used in the Talmud as a figure for heaven. The idea was that Lazarus was given a place of high honor, reclining next to Abraham at the heavenly banquet.So it's a nickname.
So what is "Paradise?"
In order to answer that I need to talk about hell a bit.
|Illustration by Fred Overton of Frank Overton Seminars|
Since time immemorial, when someone died, they were buried. They were either put into a hole in the ground, or mummified under a pyramid, or into a cave, or under rocks as a cairn. This is called "the grave" and it's where the dead body goes. Where the soul then goes is the point of the study.
Prior to the crucifixion, all the dead souls went to the same place. In Hebrew it's Sheol and in Greek it's Hades. It was a place that is referred to as "down", and was split by a great gulf, as the rich man said in Luke 16:26.
One side of this place called Sheol or Hades is where the unrighteous dead go, as the rich man unfortunately discovered. It's hot and the fire is a torment, as again the rich man said. (All this is in Luke 16).
The other side of the place is nicknamed Abraham's Bosom, or Paradise. That's where Lazarus went, the story goes. It's where all the righteous dead went (remember, this is prior to the crucifixion). All the OT saints, and people who died during the Incarnation went there. It was a pleasant place of rest and comfort. Between them is a great gulf, fixed, so no person may cross from one side to the other. You can read all this in Luke 16:19-31.
So we have the lock-up Abyss where the unholy angels are chained, (Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4), Hell/Hades where the unrighteous dead are, and Paradise. Now, after Jesus descended to the abyss and preached to the demons, then spent 40 days on earth topside teaching His apostles, then Jesus rose to heaven. As He rose, He emptied Paradise and took all the righteous dead with Him to heaven, where they still dwell. (Eph 4:8).
Now, when someone in the faith dies, they don't go to Abraham's bosom/Paradise any more which is down, as Jesus had told the thief on the cross, but they go to heaven which is up. The blood of Jesus & His resurrection made it possible.
Though be advised some disagree on the location and use of the term Paradise. MacArthur says it is an error to interpret the Luke 16 passage about the Rich Man and Lazarus being in proximity to each other with a gulf between, yet S. Lewis Johnson interprets Luke 16 as depicted in the above illustration by Fred Overton, who obviously interprets it that way too. I agree with Johnson. So you can see that it is a complicated subject.
However no one in either heaven or hell/Hades has their glorified body yet. At the rapture, the saints will get their glorified body. However the unrighteous dead will still wait for their body, not that they can complain. The unrighteous dead all be resurrected after the Millennial Kingdom, judged at the Great White Throne judgment, receive their eternal body that will for their eternal punishment, and be cast into the Lake of Fire. Death and Hell will be thrown in there too. The eternal state will begin. (There is no such thing as soul sleep at any time nor is there any such thing as soul annihilation. The Bible teaches neither).
Here is an excerpt from S. Lewis Johnson's sermon "Death and Afterwards".
Now with the experience of Jesus Christ, things change. With the experience of Jesus Christ we have an apparently quite an important transformation of one aspect of Sheol. Remember the Lord Jesus when he died descended into the lower parts of the earth. I'm going to ask you if you will to turn with me to Ephesians chapter 4. Now it is impossible for us to do justice to this great passage. Let me just suggest to you the things that it seems to mean. Now the apostle is speaking about the gifts of the risen Christ. He says in the 7th verse, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, (or as Weymouth renders it, ‘he led captive a host of captives) and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)”do
Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth. Apparently paradise was located in Hades as a separate compartment. When the death of Christ occurred and he went to the realm of the dead and gave his message of doom to the opponents of the gospel of Christ, he took the believers with him, and he took paradise. And now paradise is in the third heaven, as Paul says, and it is up. And so a tremendous change has taken place in paradise as a result of the ministry of the Lord Jesus. So paradise is relocated.It's a rich, full, complicated topic, this concept of Abraham's Bosom & Paradise. There was much more to it than one would think!
The bottom line is that where Christ is, is Paradise.
Where did Jesus go after He died?
THE THIEF ON THE CROSS, PARADISE and the place of the dead
Heaven part 2 Millennium Kingdom