If you accept the religious beliefs held by nearly everyone until recent years, you would answer this question by saying, “It all depends; if we have done the right thing while we live, we shall go to heaven, of course; and if not, then to —-”. Here, perhaps, you falter. You are not sure, but you think, to hell”.
Will it surprise you to be told that the answer is entirely untrue; that, in point of fact, when we die, we are DEAD, and go not anywhere, except to the grave, there to remain until the hour of resurrection arrives with the coming of Christ? It may even make you angry. But if you are of a reasonable mind, you will cool down, and ask, “Is it so?” You will enquire after the evidence, and if you search long enough, and thoroughly enough, and earnestly enough, you will find it. You will discover
1. That the body of man is man.
“God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Gen. 2:7). “The first man is of the earth, earthy” (1 Cor. 15:47). “I (Abraham) am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). “He knoweth our frame: he remembereth that we are dust” (Psa. 103:14). “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:19).
If the body of a man is man, then it follows that when the body dies, man dies, and that, consequently, it is impossible for a man at death to go to heaven or to hell.
2. That the life of man or the spirit of man is not man, but the invisible yet real energy or Power of God by which all creatures live.
“God giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). “In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10). “If he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust” (Job 34:14-15). “That which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts … Yea, they have all one breath” (Eccl. 3:19). “The spirit (at death) shall return to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7).
If the life and spirit of man are not the man, but the power of God, by which the bodily man is enabled to live, it follows that the return of that life to God when death happens, is not the going back of the man, but the going back of the life which existed before the man was made.
3. That the Scriptures testify that no man has ever gone to heaven.
“No man hath ascended up to heaven” (John 3:13). “David is not ascended into the heavens” (Acts 2:34). “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s, but the earth hath he given to the children of men” (Psa. 115:16).
If David has not ascended to heaven, how can we hope to do so?
4. That according to the Scriptures, the dead have not yet entered into a state of reward.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them” (Heb. 11:13). When the seventh angel sounds, “Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets” (Rev. 11:15-18).
If the dead are not in a state of reward, how can the popular doctrine be true which sends a man to his reward when he dies?
5. That according to the Scriptures, the dead are in a state of complete unconsciousness.
“The dead know not anything … Their love, their hatred, and their envy is now perished” (Eccl. 9:5). “In death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave, who shall give thee thanks?” (Psa. 6:5). “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence” (Psa. 115:17). “The grave cannot praise thee: death cannot celebrate thee” (Isa. 38:18).
If the dead are unconscious, and have not even any remembrance of God, they cannot be enjoying heaven, or suffering in hell, as popular theology teaches.
6. That according to the Scriptures, the time for the dead to be judged and rewarded is at the resurrection, when Christ comes again to the earth.
“Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). “The Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then shall he reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:27).
The Lord Jesus Christ “shall judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1). Jesus says the hour is coming when those that are in the graves “shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29; Dan. 12:2).
If the dead are not to be judged till Christ comes, what room is there for a doctrine that sends them straight away to be rewarded as soon as they die?
7. That the reward of the righteous, besides immortality of nature, is inheritance of the earth.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). “Such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth” (Psa. 37:22). “Those that wait upon the Lord shall inherit the earth” (verse 9). “The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth” (Prov. 11:31). “I shall give thee (that is, the Son of God, see v. 7) … the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psa. 2:8). “We shall reign upon the earth” (Rev. 5:10).
If the reward of the righteous is the inheritance of the earth, clearly that system must be wrong which teaches that their reward is to go to “mansions above the skies”. Look into the matter, and deliver yourself from tradition, and embrace the glorious truths contained in the Scriptures.