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How Many People Have Gone to

Heaven?
The greatest hope of many Christians is to go to heaven when they
die, to be with the Lord for eternity. If this belief brings you peace and
joy, please don't allow me to take that away from you by my incessant
doubts and questions. I have no intention of taking away your greatest
hope, but would you indulge me as I examine what saith the
scriptures?

My question is this, since the great hope of many Christians is to go to


heaven upon physical death, does the Bible contain any examples of
anyone going to heaven? But before we look at who went to heaven,
let's look at some often misunderstood (and sometimes misquoted)
verses and words.

heaven, the heavens, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of


God

The first time the heavens appear in scripture is Genesis 1:1 - In the
beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. This tells us that
the heavens refers to anything that is not the earth. Something that is
from heaven, or of heaven, can be present on the earth, but its origin
is from above. A careful study of Jesus' use of the Kingdom of Heaven
will reveal that it is something which Jesus plans to establish on earth.
It's a complicated topic, but one thing is sure - nowhere in scripture is
heaven described as a place where anyone goes upon death.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to
Abraham's side. (Lk. 16:22)

This is from the story of the rich man and Lazarus. After Lazarus dies,
the rich man also dies and finds himself in hell (hades). The rich man
lifts up his eyes in hell - and what does he see? Abraham and Lazarus.
They were separated only by a great chasm (deep, but not very wide,
which we know because they had a conversation back and forth). This
means that Abraham and Lazarus were also in hell, not heaven! The
"nice side" of hell doesn't sounds very heavenly. If heaven means you
get to sit on Abraham's chest for eternity while listening to the
screams of the damned as they beg for water, then count me out.
What if it were your son, your mother, or your spouse on the other
side? Does that sound like heaven to you? Taken literally, this story
proves that everyone goes to hell (hades) upon death, not heaven.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes
in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in
me will never die. Do you believe this?" (Jn. 11:25-26)

"Never die" in this verse is misleading. Young's Literal Translation is


more accurate: and every one who is living and believing in me shall
not die to the age. This probably refers to the yet future Kingdom
age which Jesus will establish on earth.

In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have
told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go
and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with
me that you also may be where I am. (Jn. 14:2-3)

The key to this verse is when Jesus says, "I will come back and take
you...." Not "you will come to me when you die" There is nothing at all
about death here.

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body
and at home with the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:8)

I've often heard this verse misquoted as "to be absent from the body
is to be present with the Lord" It does not say that. Paul was adamant
that there is no hope without the resurrection of the dead. If everyone
went immediately to heaven or hell upon death then the resurrection
of the dead would be totally meaningless. Read 1 Corinthians, chapter
15 and you'll see how the resurrection is about raising the dead, not
animating zombies with disembodied spirits or souls.

Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in
paradise." (Lk. 23:43)

This was the promise Jesus made to the thief on the cross. If we take
this to mean that the thief will go to heaven with Jesus on that very
day, we have a problem. When Jesus rose from the dead, he explicitly
stated that he had not yet ascended to his Father. When Jesus died, he
went to hell (hades), not heaven. So what does it mean? "Today" is a
used as a figure of speech for emphasis, much like "verily, verily". The
comma should be placed after today, not before: I tell you truth today,
you will be with me in paradise. (There is no punctuation in the
original manuscripts. All punctuation is supplied by the translators at
their discretion)

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of
those who had been slain because of the word of God and the
testimony they had maintained. (Rev. 6:9)

The souls were under the alter, not in heaven. This verse appears in
the highly symbolic Book of Revelation and should not be taken
literally.

So what do the scriptures say about going to heaven? Who has gone
to heaven? I found these examples:
Elijah
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of
fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and
Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. (2 Kings 2:11)

Jesus
After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into
heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. (Mk. 16:19)

John
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in
heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet
said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after
this. (Rev. 4:1)

That's three people. Who else went to heaven? No one! These are
the only examples of anyone going to heaven in the entire
Bible. Since I'm reluctant to take the accounts of Elijah and John
literally, that leaves only Jesus who went to heaven. And did you
notice that none of these three were dead? So if I change the question
to how many people died and went to heaven in the Bible, the answer
would be zero!
Consider these passages as well:
No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from
heaven - the Son of Man. (Jn. 3:13)

Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and
was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. For David did not
ascend to heaven.... (Acts 2:29, 34)

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them
received what had been promised. God had planned something
better for us so that only together with us would they be made
perfect. (Heb. 11:39-40)

What does this all mean? Does it really matter if you go to heaven at
death or if you have to wait until the resurrection? If you are truly
dead, then even if ten million years passes before you are made alive,
it will be no different than if you had been dead for only five minutes.
It's as if God presses your "pause" button until the time comes for the
resurrection. But if you want to continue to believe in an immediate
afterlife, then that's your choice. The important thing is that you put
your hope in Christ, and it matters not how or when he will save us, or
how and when he will make us alive. It matters only that God will keep
his promises - all of them.

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:22)