After Christ Rose Again, Christ Went to Heaven, but Resurrection is not “Going to Heaven”

Now Christ is seated in heaven (Acts 2:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:13). None of the justified elect are now in heaven. None of the justified elect have ascended to a place from which they never descended. (John 3:13)

Psalm 110:1–”The Lord says to my Lord; Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The justified elect do not share God’s throne and do not sit at God’s right hand. The heavenly glory Christ had enjoyed in the Father’s presence before His incarnation has now been “crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death. (Hebrews 2:9)

Sitting there at the right hand, Christ does not simply wait but intercedes for the justified elect. Christ was first resurrected (the firstfruits) and then He ascended to heaven.

An ascent directly into heaven from the cross without a resurrection would be Plato’s pagan idea of death as the release of an immortal soul. Going to heaven is not resurrection.

Gnostics teach going to heaven without resurrection. Gnostics teach that the only resurrection is going to heaven. Some of these gnostics are preterists, but most of them simply do not think straight about the need for the second coming of Christ.

They also hold onto unbiblical ideas about what “soul” is. Since they do not know that the living soul is body plus breath (Genesis 2:7), they tend to think of the “immortal soul” and they cannot deal with reality of Christ the servant pouring out His soul unto death (Isaiah 53). Since they change Christ’s death into “spiritual death”, they also tend to change Christ’s bodily resurrection into “going to heaven.”

Heretics like Harold Camping go so far as to say that Christ’s “spiritual death” (which he locates before the ages of history) is the real and effective death. Then he says that the physical death is only a demonstration of that eternal real “spiritual” death. Other unthinking preachers do not go as far as Camping, but they seem to prefer talking about Christ’s “infinite soul suffering” instead of the death Christ died in history which was demanded by God’s law for the sins of the elect imputed to Christ.

Ephesians 1:20 describes God’s mighty power “which He exercised in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and enthroned Him at His right hand in the heavenlies.” See also I Peter 1:21, 3:22; Eph 4:8-10; and I Timothy 3:16 (“He was taken up into glory”)

Acts 3:15–”You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead.”

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19 Comments on “After Christ Rose Again, Christ Went to Heaven, but Resurrection is not “Going to Heaven””

  1. mark Says:

    We are citizens of heaven who are not going to heaven, because heaven is coming here. Now we are a colony of heaven, with the law of Christ FROM heaven. To paraphrase George Steiner (My Unwritten Books, p122): The Christian does well to keep a very loose relationship to any one place. If he is forced to resume his wondering, he will not regard this experience as a lamentable chastisement. It is al…so an opportunity. There is no society not worth exploring. And no nation not worth leaving if we need to. Exile means exodus, and new beginnings. Let us survive, if we survive, as guests among men. We will not kill them, but if they kill us, our hope is that the earth belongs to the Lord, and the Lord will resurrect us, even from death.

  2. Animus Says:

    Good comments, although I should question some of them.

    Did Jesus just die physically? Was there no internal suffering? Was he punished by the Father during those three hours at Calvary?

    Anyway, the link between this issue and the resurrection seems a bit tenuous and out of place here.

    My friends and I have been pursuing this subject of the resurrection, although I’m very much on my own believing that we don’t go to heaven when we die.

  3. mark Says:

    Thanks for note. I am denying suffering by the Son or the Father. Really, I don’t understand much about that. And I don’t think the Bible tells us much but clergy guys like to make rhetoric of it. My main point is to put the emphasis on the reality of Christ’s death.

    Do I know what it mean for the incarnate God-man to die? No. But I know that the incarnation was necessary for the real death. I know that Acts 2 talks about Christ dead in Hades. As for the connection between death and resurrection, if there is no real death but only a living somewhere else some other way for a while, then there is no real resurrection and no need for it. The definition of death will effect the definition of resurrection.

    You’re not on your own. There are many of us who are not the slaves of the Roman Catholic traditions and the Reformed confessions.

  4. mark Says:

    I Peter 1:11 tells us of the Spirit’s prediction of “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” I Peter 3:21 speaks of an “appeal for a good conscience, through the resurrection.”

    The gospel is not the death without the resurrection, or the resurrection without the death. The good news about one is good news about the other. Calvin “When in scripture death only is mentioned, everything peculiar to the resurrection is at the same time included, and that there is a like synecdoche in the term resurrection.” (Institutes 2:16:13,

    Ephesians 4:8 quotes Psalm 68: 18—“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men. In saying, He ascended, what does it mean but that he also descended…?” In the word ‘ascension’, the descent from heaven is implied.”

    John 3:13:“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.”


    I am reminded of these good words from Mike Horton (from his review of Rob Bell): “A lot of us were raised in backgrounds where we
    expected to be saved from “the late, great planet earth” instead of
    with creation. Salvation was “going to heaven when you die”—that is,
    the real you—the soul, sloughing off its mortal coil. In spite of
    apparent disembodiment, heaven was like winning the national
    sweepstakes: your own mansion, streets of gold, jewels in your crown,
    and so forth…There are two “Gentile” ways of misreading the biblical plot with respect to the dawn of the kingdom of God.”

    “The first is to think of salvation as the liberation of the soul from the body. As we see especially in Plato, there is an “upper world” of eternal spirit or mind and a “lower world” of mere appearances, the prison-house of the body, chained to the ever-changing realm of historical flux. So the soul strives to ascend upward, away from the lower world.”

    “The second Gentile misreading of the kingdom is to imagine that it’s a perfection of human society from below, something that we can bring about gradually through our own activity. At least according to orthodox Jews, the kingdom of God is not an ethereal “other world,” but this world re-created. Yet it is also something that comes to earth from heaven, through God’s Messiah, not something that human beings can bring about.”

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Revelation 3: 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen,

    Revelation 6: 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

    Revelation 19: “Hallelujah!
    For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
    Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
    for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
    it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—
    for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

    dressed in his righteousness now, at the second coming–dressed in his resurrection

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Updike, Self-consciousness, p 215—-Paul rejected the Gnostic idea that the resurrection had already taken place (II Tim 2:18) and in I Cor 15;14 rebuffed doubters within the early church—if Christ be not rise, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is also in vain, The church insisted no less firmly than modern materialism that the body is the person, and taught the resurrection of the dead.

    If we picture the afterlife at all, it is heretically as the escape of something impalapable—the essential “I—from this corruptible flesh, occurring at the moment of death and not “at the last trump”. The thought of a long wait within the tomb afflicts us with claustrophobia and the fear of being lost forever. Where is our self during the long interval?. The winged heads on Puritan tombstones do not represent ascended angels but souls hovering in that abyss between death and resurrection. The idea that we sleep for centuries and centuries without a flicker of dream, while our bodies rot and turn to dust and the very stone marking out graves crumbles to nothing, is terrifying.

    Every attempt to be specific about the afterlife, to conceive of it even the most general detail, appalls us. Our brains are no longer conditioned for reverence and awe. We cannot imagine a Second Coming that would not be cut down to size by the televised evening news.

  8. markmcculley Says:

    nonsense from McCheyne and Rutherford—
    Rutherford asks the question, whether Christ should be more loved for justification or sanctification? Rutherford claimed to love Christ more for the latter, because “it is greater love in him to sanctify than to justify.”
    Rutherford —Let a sinner, if possible, lie in hell for ever. If God makes him truly holy, and lets him stay there burning in love to God, rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, hanging on to Christ by faith and hope, then that is Heaven to that saint in the bottom of hell.

  9. markmcculley Says:

    We need to focus on the permanent—Christ had not already make the propitiation before He was incarnated, but the death He has now died is permanent. Christ has not yet come to give us immortality, but when Christ does come, that resurrection will be permanent.

    II Cor 4: 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to SHOW that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, in order that the life of Jesus also be SEEN in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake,in order that the life of Jesus also be SEEN in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

    13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus WILL raise us also with Jesus and bring us WITH YOU (not one by one as individuals) into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it will increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

    16 So we do not lose heart. Though our seen self is wasting away, our unseen self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us the permanent weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are SEEN but to the things that are UNSEEN For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are permanent.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    David Bishop
    Genesis 1:30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
    Genesis 2:7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
    Presumption is the first obstacle encountered when one first encounters the subject of conditional immortality. We often agree with what we have learned from childhood about immortality and eternal punishment without ever asking whether they might be wrong. Well, here we are again, facing off against another long lost Sunday School lesson.
    We were told that what God breathed into Adam was an immortal spirit that cannot die, and that will someday continue to live and act and think apart from the body. Yet not even the text itself will allow such thinking, for we are told in the verse that upon breathing the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, the man became a living creature. Without this breath of life in his nostrils, is he still a living creature? What of the beasts of the earth, the birds of the heavens and everything that creeps on the earth, are they too immortal?
    The Hebrew word translated life and soul is the same word. “Nephesh.” נָפַשׁ Sometimes it is translated “soul”, as in Psalm 22:20, 1 Samuel 25:29 and 1 Samuel 26:21, “Then Saul said, ‘I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will no more do you harm, because my soul was precious in your eyes this day. Behold, I have acted foolishly, and have made a great mistake.’” In other instances it is translated “life”, as in 1 Samuel 19:5, 1 Kings 3:11 and Judges 16:30, And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.
    In Scripture, nephesh is sometimes used to indicate one’s mental faculties, such as in Deuteronomy 4:29, 6:5, 10:12, 11:13 and 11:18, “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
    However, the most common use for nephesh in Scripture is to indicate life.
    Genesis 1:20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.”
    Genesis 1:30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
    Genesis 19:17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”
    Joshua 2:14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”
    The Bible uses the words life and soul in ways we have not been conditioned to think. First and second century Gnosticism tried to divide us into a body and soul by condemning all matter as inherently evil. It rejected the truth that Christ Himself had a body, and it told us that our true selves are immaterial only. Rome carried this forward and even developed an entire doctrine of purgatory around it. The papists taught us to think of ourselves as a spirit warehoused in a body. We were told to scourge the body, to abuse and mistreat it, for it was evil thing to be despised, a thing not part of our true selves.
    Today, most of us tend to still think of ourselves this way, as a creature that is two different things at once – an immortal, immaterial consciousness, and a mortal, material body. We think we can shuck off one while maintaining the other. The breath of life is not immortal though; the birds and the snakes share it alike with man. Nor is it present without a body.
    Which takes us back to our original question. What happens to the righteous when they die?
    There are two prevailing answers to this question. The first is what we might call “the traditional view”. This is the view everyone is familiar with. It is the view we most likely learned in Sunday School and from our parents. It is the view handed down to us from Rome after the Greeks and Gnostics finished with it. It is the view which asserts that since everyone, both elect and non elect alike, have an immaterial part of them that is inherently immortal, this immaterial inherently immortal part therefore, takes leave of the body at death before being transported either to a place of eternal torture or to a place of eternal paradise.
    The other prevailing answer we might call “the conditional view”. Simply put, this is the view which asserts the righteous do not go immediately to heaven to be conscious with Jesus when they die, but instead remain unconscious, asleep in death and kept safe in the Lord until He returns to raise them to immortality. Although this view does not necessarily require agreement with conditional immortality, it is a logical and Biblical extension of it.
    13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
    — 1 Thessalonians 4

  11. markmcculley Says:

    William Tyndale, 1530—-

    “Nay, Paul, thou art unlearned; go to Master More, and learn a new way. We be not most miserable, though we rise not again; for our souls go to heaven as soon as we be dead, and are there in as great joy as Christ that is risen again.” And I marvel that Paul had not comforted the Thessalonians with that doctrine, if he had known it, that the souls of their dead had been in joy; as he did with the resurrection, that their dead should rise again

    More, putting departed souls in heaven, hell, and purgatory, destroy he arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection…. And again, if the souls be in heaven, then what cause is there of the resurrection?—William Tyndale, An Answer to Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue (Parker’s 1850 reprint), bk. 4, ch. 4, p. 180

    The true faith setteth forth the resurrection, which we be warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers, denying that, did set forth that the souls did ever live. And the pope joineth the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshly doctrine of philosophers together; things so contrary that they cannot agree. And because the fleshly-minded pope consenteth unto heathen doctrine, therefore he corrupteth the Scripture to stablish it., p. 180.

    And when More proveth that the saints be in heaven in glory with Christ already, saying, “If God be their God, they be in heaven, for he is not the God of the dead;” there he stealeth away Christ’s argument, wherewith he proveth the resurrection: that Abraham and all saints should rise again, and not that their souls were in heaven; which doctrine was not yet in the world. And with that doctrine he taketh away the resurrection quite, and maketh Christ’s argument of none effect. p. 118.

  12. markmcculley Says:

    His resurrection body, which is him and not us, not even the us who are legally identified with His death and resurrection. Romans 6: 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 1: 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord..
    John 3: 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. He’s there, and we are not there. Only in Wall-e the movie do folks leave the earth and go up into heaven.


    These two old songs are simply not biblical—
    When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
    And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there”

    (The Old Rugged Cross) “Then He’ll call me some day, to my home far away….

    David Platt, Radical, p 179—“The key to taking back your faith from the American dream is to see death as a reward.

    Mike Wittmer—“-If the thought of being cremated or rotting in the ground does not scare you and sicken you, there is no way you will ever put your faith in Jesus. Why would you? Jesus came to solve a problem you don’t think exists…..”

    If heaven by itself were superior, then Jesus would not have raised Lazarus from the dead. Earth is the best place for humans, because this is where God made us to live. The problem of “better place” will not be resolved until Jesus returns and unites heaven and earth. Until then, we should be careful not to unequivocally call heaven “a better place,” as it isn’t better in every way and saying so promotes the Platonic idea that heaven is our final home. Who would want to leave the better place to come back here?

    Paul’s desire was to be with Jesus not by dying but by Jesus’ coming. Paul’s cry of “Maranatha!” (1 Cor. 16:22) echoes the closing prayer of Scripture, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

    “Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40)

  14. markmcculley Says:

    If all his disciples, his chief future apostles, if the women who followed him and stood by the cross, if all those who believed in him and worshipped him had seen a corpse like that (and it was bound to be exactly like that), how could they believe, looking at such a corpse, that this sufferer would resurrect? Here the notion involuntarily occurs to you that if death is so terrible and the laws of nature are so powerful, how can they be overcome? How to overcome them, if they were not even defeated now, by the one who defeated nature while he lived, whom nature obeyed?

    Dostoevsky, The Idiot

  15. markmcculley Says:

    when humans pass away (die), they don’t go back to nothing (or even dust)?

    but when the old earth passes away, will the old earth be destroyed?

    was the world after the flood made out of the world before the flood?

    will the new earth be created out of nothing?

    do over, start again, or RE-DO?

    I Peter 1: 7 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which PERISHES THOUGH REFINED BY FIRE—will result in praise, glory, and honor AT THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST.

    II Peter 3: 5 Long ago the heavens and the earth were brought about from water and through water by the word of God. 6 Through these waters the world of that time PERISHED when it was flooded. 7 But by the same word, the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and DESTRUCTION of ungodly men

    II Peter 3: 10 But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day the heavens will PASS AWAY with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be DISCLOSED. 11 Since all THESE THINGS things are to be DESTROYED in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in HOLY CONDUCT and godliness

    Malachi 3: 2 But who can endure the day of His coming? And who will be able to stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire and like cleansing lye.

    Revelation 21: 4 the previous things have passed away 5 Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.”

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