When Will We Get to Heaven?

The believer's passage to heaven is a direct route. As soon as we are dead, we will be with the Lord. Jesus told the repentant thief on the cross, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Paul declared, "I desire to depart and be with Christ" (Philippians 1:23). He also affirmed, 'Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:6-8).

The moment we take our last breath on earth we take our first in heaven. We are absent from the body and immediately present with the Lord. Then in God's time we receive our glorified bodies at the Second Coming of Christ.

We will be known in our resurrection or heavenly bodies, just as Moses and Elijah were recognized when they appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Moses had been dead for more than 1,400 years and Elijah had been caught up to heaven in a whirlwind over six centuries before Jesus lived. Here's what happened all those years later: "Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John to the top of a high and lonely hill, and as they watched, his appearance changed so that his face shone like the sun and his clothing became dazzling white. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared and were talking with him. Peter blurted out, `Sir, it's wonderful that we can be here! If you want me to, I'll make three shelters, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah,'" (Matthew 17:1-4, LB).

The disciples recognized Moses and Elijah; although they did not yet have their resurrection bodies. This will be explained later. They had recognizable bodies; they were not disembodied, ghostly apparitions.

We will go to heaven immediately, and we will recognize and be recognized. Do some believers have glimpses of loved ones as they approach the gates of heaven? It is possible.

One minister's wife tells about an experience she had in China. On the station where she lived, one of the evangelistic missionaries had five sons and a daughter, a girl he deeply loved. Sometime after her death he was in the country with a Chinese Christian woman who was dying. As he knelt beside her bed; the old woman's face lit up and she said to the missionary, "I see heaven, and Jesus is on the right hand of God, and your daughter is with him." At that moment the room was filled with heavenly music and the Chinese woman was dead.

One elderly woman who was dying sat up in her bed, smiled, and said, "I see Jesus, and He has His hand outstretched to me. And there's my husband and he has both of his eyes and both of his legs!" Her husband had lost a leg and an eye at Gettysburg.

Death has two stages, first the separation of the body from the spirit of a person for a purely spiritual existence, and second, reunion with the body and a glorious resurrection at the Second Coming of Christ.

When our body ceases to function and we are dead, the spirit of the believer is not asleep. Our flesh and bones and all the intricate and wonderful parts God has made are the dwelling place of the spirit of the believer. When we leave our bodies, we depart to be with Christ (Philippians 1:23), and "wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:23). Yes, some day our bodies will be renewed and changed, like that of the resurrected body of Jesus Christ. 

Our Patient Merciful God
The Bible and the Gospel speak of God's great mercy for us ...

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