Do Christians go to heaven immediately after they die?

Scripture: Acts 2:29, Luke 23:43, John 20:17
If you're generally a good person, when you die do you go directly and immediately to heaven? What does the Bible say?
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Co-Host: Let's talk with Judy in Lakeland, Florida. Hi Judy.

Caller: Hi there.

Pastor Doug: Hi - thanks for waiting.

Caller: Well that's ok. Thank you for taking my call. I have a - kind of a question here - the first part of I think it was Peggy that you were talking to about the dead being...

Pastor Doug: The resurrection.

Caller: Yes. I'm very confused on the first part where it says the dead in Christ will be raised first but I was also told that when you die as a Christian, you take your last breath here on earth and your next breath in Heaven with Jesus. Now if you do that, how come the dead in Christ is raised first?

Pastor Doug: All right. First of all, can you show me the Scripture that says what you just stated?

Caller: I don't know - that's where I'm confused.

Pastor Doug: Well there's a very popular misconception that's floating around Judy. Let me see if I could explain: There's a couple of Scriptures that people have misunderstood. One Scripture is where Paul says, 'to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord'. People understand that to mean that as soon as you die, you, that next moment, are transported to Heaven before the Resurrection. Paul - understanding that when you're dead and asleep, you have no consciousness of time - he knew that his next conscious thought would be the presence of the Lord. And you can use several Bible heroes as examples.

For instance, King David. The Bible says in Acts chapter 2 that he's dead and buried - now this is after the Resurrection of Jesus. David is a good man he's going to Heaven. The Bible says he's dead, he's buried, he's not yet ascended to Heaven. Well when David died, Nathan the Prophet said 'you'll sleep with your fathers'. David is sleeping. He died a thousand years before Christ but for him it'll be a moment, the twinkling of an eye, his next breath will be when Jesus descends and he breathes in with a glorified lung, a new body. So we get confused because you and I are confined to time. We live in this element of time, this dimension that the dead do not feel right now. Their next conscious thought is the Resurrection because Jesus said the dead in Christ rise when He comes. If they're already in Heaven, why rise them?

Caller: True.

Pastor Doug: What good is the Resurrection if they're already up there?

Caller: I know - that's what I was - you know I was so confused and I was going through the Bible and I was trying to find the answer and I couldn't. And then a couple of the family members would ask me and I said I really don't know. I don't know the answer.

Pastor Doug: Can I send you an additional study? We have a study on death and Dick is looking it up for me. I'm pretty sure it's called Are The Dead Really Dead? Here's the phone number. Call our resource number - and this is for anyone listening. It's 800-835-6747. Tell them you're listening to Amazing Facts and you'd like that free Bible study guide called Are The Dead Really Dead? That will give you an ogle of Scriptures on this subject. You will have no doubts anymore after you read that Judy.

Caller: Oh great! I really appreciate it. Then one more question. It's still on the same thing. Well when Jesus was hanging on the Cross - and He said to the thief today you will in paradise with me. So that thief then just went up into Heaven right? - Because Jesus told him today you will be in paradise with Me?

Pastor Doug: No. That was the other Scripture. Remember I said there are a couple of Scriptures that are misunderstood? That's the other one.

Caller: Ok.

Pastor Doug: Let me see if I can explain this very quickly. There is no punctuation in the original Greek. The Bible translators in every different language have to figure out where they put the punctuation. The way that word reads - and matter of fact, some translators translate it this way - Jesus turned to the thief. The thief said 'Lord remember me when you come into your Kingdom.' Then Jesus turns to the thief - King James Version says, 'Verily I say unto you comma, you will be with Me today in paradise.' The way that it should read is, 'Verily I say unto you today COMMA, you will be with Me in paradise. Now you see what a big difference that makes?

Caller: Yes.

Pastor Doug: Jesus is saying I don't look like a King today. I don't look like I'm a Lord today. Everyone around here is mocking Me but I'm telling you today, even though I look defeated, you're going to be there with Me. The emphasis is today - when the moment looks the darkest and the valley is the deepest - I'm making a promise to you that you and I will be in the Kingdom together because you believe in Me.

He wasn't saying today you're going to be there with Me. Now let me prove that. You go to the Gospel of John when Jesus rose from the dead Mary grabs Him from the feet - and this is two days later - He says, 'Do not detain me' or 'do not cling to me for I've not yet ascended to My Father'. That's John chapter 20 verse 17. Well that's two days later. Christ hasn't gone to the Father yet. The Bible says the Father is in paradise. How could Christ be with the thief in paradise on Friday if He still hadn't gotten there by Sunday?

Caller: True. Well you're making a lot of sense to me now.

Pastor Doug: When you call that number, get that lesson, and I think you'll really appreciate it. When I first learned these things the light came on and it was just a real joy.

Caller: Well I really appreciate it. I mean I was just so confused. I said I've got to call and find out the truth here.

Co-Host: Judy, that phone number again is 800-835-6747.

Pastor Doug: All right God bless - good questions.

Caller: Thank you!

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