steady-whispers asked: Hey Unka. Where do people go when they die, if they are a follower of Jesus? I am a bit confused - the Bible talks about the dead being raised in 1 Corinthians 15, and again in 1 Thessalonians 4. Does that mean that believers do not go directly to heaven when they die? It sounds a bit like they do not enter heaven until Jesus’ coming. Where do they go?
Unka Glen answered: Not only can I answer this one, I can even give you multiple answers, and you can pick any one you like.
Answer #1 I dunno. Neither does anyone else, really. I mean, we can pretend that we can describe all this, but in truth, I think it’s all pretty impossible to picture. If I may use a nerd reference, I could describe the movie Star Wars, to someone who has never seen it, as the story of a farm boy, who meets a wizard, who helps him rescue a princess, who turns out to be his sister, and then he faces a bad guy who turns out to be his father.
If I then asked that person to tell me how they have that movie pictured in their head, and then compared it with the movie itself, it would probably bear almost no resemblance. That doesn’t mean that my description was wrong, just that, in many ways, you have to see it for yourself to get it.
Answer #2 When we read John 3:16, it promises eternal life to those who accept the sacrifice of Jesus for their sins. As previously mentioned here, the Greek word we translate as “eternal” is the word aionios. Helps Word-studies defines aionios as “simultaneously outside of time, inside of time, and beyond time…it is time-independent.”
Now, I know what you’re saying, that from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, time is more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey… stuff. And that may be so, but still, it makes it darn hard to talk about a timeline of heavenly events.
Answer #3 The way I look at all this stuff comes down to one simple and incredibly profound moment: a thief is dying on the cross next to Jesus, and he asks Jesus to remember about him. And Jesus says, “today you will be with me in paradise”.
Now, I don’t know exactly what Jesus meant by “today”, and I don’t know exactly what He meant by “paradise”, but it doesn’t sound like I’ll be waiting around bored, or haunting my relatives (who, in some cases, would really deserve it). What I do know for sure, is that paradise sounds good to me, and it’s way more than I’ll ever deserve.
One final thought on paradise: the Greek word for paradise is actually…paradise, or “paradises” to be precise. It’s a word the ancients used to describe a shady, well-watered garden, set aside for pleasure. Ya know, like the Garden of Eden.