In the Old Testament, there was no mention of people dying and going to Heaven. Instead, all of the dead went to Sheol (or Hades) (Gen. 37:35, 42:38; Ps. 89:48). Some were in a place or compartment called Abaddon, which means “destruction or ruin” (Job 26:6; Prov. 27:20; Ps. 88:11). At Luke 16:19-31, Abaddon (though not mentioned by name) was described as a place of torment, judgment, and punishment. God’s judgment was directed toward the lowest parts of Sheol (Deut. 32:22). It is God’s intent to destroy all creaturely pride, arrogance, and rebelliousness (Ps. 55:23; Prov. 16:18, 17:19, 18:12; Isa. 59:7; Hos. 7:3; Mic. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:16; 3:7,16). Only God is fit to be God.
Others were in a place called Abraham’s Bosom or Paradise (Luke 16:19-31, 23:43). However, there was hope for a change of circumstances. David wrote, “You [God] will not abandon my soul to Sheol” (Psalm 16:10). Also speaking of a future time, Job said, “Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh, I will see God” (Job: 19:26).
To this day, those who never believed while alive on Earth remain in Sheol or Abaddon. However, in my opinion, Peter taught that those who never believed while alive in the flesh may begin to conform to the will of God while still in Sheol (or Hades). Peter said, “For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to the dead, so that though they are judged in the flesh as people, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God (1 Pet. 4:6). However, their ultimate judgment will be based on what occurred while they were alive in the flesh on Planet Earth. We must all give account to the One who is ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Pet. 4:5).
After the coming of Jesus Christ and after His resurrection, the New Testament writers taught us that believers now go to Heaven to be with Christ after his or her death (2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:21:25). The reader might recall that Jesus initially went to Hades for approximately three days after His crucifixion (Mark 8:31; Acts 2:31), but He ultimately went to Heaven after His resurrection (Acts 2:31). More specifically, we are now informed that Jesus is at the right hand of His Father in Heaven (Matt. 22:44; Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20). Jesus will remain with His Father in Heaven until all of His enemies are subordinated under His feet (Matt. 22:44; Heb. 1:13).
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul told us that he was torn between his desire to be in Heaven with Jesus and his devotion to believers on earth. Paul wrote:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard pressed from both directions, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sakes. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith….
Paul was confident that he was going to be released from his imprisonment. He had additional letters to write, and he needed to follow-up with many of his churches that he had planted on his missionary journeys.
However, at this point, it is important for us to note that Paul had a great confidence that he was going to Heaven to be with Christ after his death. About twenty years before writing his letter to the Philippians, Paul was transported to Heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-4). He said that he was not sure if he was in his body or out of his body (2 Cor. 12:1-4). He called the experience a vision and a revelation (2 Cor. 12:1). Paul explained that he was “caught up to Paradise” (2 Cor. 12:4). This was a different “Paradise” than the one found in Sheol. This “Paradise” is found in the third Heaven (2 Cor. 12:2). He used the Greek noun paradeisos, which means “a pleasure garden, Eden, a place of happiness.” It is no wonder that Paul had a fantastic confidence regarding his future destiny. By faith, we can share in his confidence. Additionally, his vision gives us some appreciation for why Paul was so torn between his desire to go to Heaven versus continuing on Earth to complete his ministry.
In 2 Corinthians 5:1-8, Paul taught that we, on earth, inhabit a temporary body called “an earthly tent” (epigeios skenos), but we can anticipate a more substantial body in Heaven called “a building from God.” Perhaps, some remember the words of Jesus. He said,
Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be.
(John 14: 1-3)
It is natural for us to groan in this temporary, earthly tent, but we can happily anticipate being clothed with our heavenly body. In fact, at 1 Corinthians 15:40, Paul used the term “heavenly body.” He said that there are “earthly bodies and heavenly bodies.” Paul also wrote,
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight— but we are of good courage and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive compensation for his deeds done through the body, in accordance with what he has done, whether good or bad.
(2 Cor. 5:6-8)
However, our ultimate body is not just a heavenly body (John: 5:28-29, 11:24-25; Rom. 6:5). Our ultimate body includes a resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:12-13, 42). It should be noted that many Old Testament Jews believed in and anticipated a future resurrection. The Gospel writers acknowledged that the Pharisees believed in the resurrection, while the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection (Matt. 22:23; Mark. 12:18; Luke 20:27; Acts 23:8).
The Apostle Paul proclaimed, “that there shall certainly be a resurrection of the righteous and the wicked” (Acts 24:15). Further, in the Gospel of John, we learn that all (the righteous and the wicked) will experience a resurrection. Our Lord Jesus Christ said,
Do not be amazed at this; for a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and come out, those who did good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed bad deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
The Apostle Paul taught that there will potentially be great differences between one resurrection body and another. The distinctions can be sharp. Generally, there will be a resurrection to judgment, and there will be a resurrection to a life as God intended (Acts 24:15; John 5:28-29). Scholar NT Wright believes that the resurrection to judgment is a resurrection to a not fully human existence. As to the resurrection to life, Paul notes that each resurrection body will differ in glory just as one star compares favorably or unfavorably to another (1 Cor. 15:41-42). The resurrection body will have both a physical and spiritual nature (1 Cor. 15:44).
After Jesus was resurrected, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mark. 16:9), but Mary did not initially recognize Him (John 20:14). Later, He appeared to His apostles and disciples (1 Cor. 15:4-6). On one occasion, He appeared to more than 500 witnesses, many of whom were still alive when Luke wrote the Book of Acts (1 Cor. 15:4-6). There were several occasions when Jesus demonstrated and modeled His resurrection body. Luke wrote, “He … presented Himself alive by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days …” (Acts 1: 3). He looked different, but He was also recognizable. Two men (Cleopas and another man) had to have their eyes “opened” before recognizing Him, and thereafter, He vanished from their sight (Luke 24:13-35).
On one occasion, the disciples were meeting behind closed doors because of their fear of persecution (John 20:19). Suddenly, Jesus appeared in their midst (John 20:20). The disciples were startled and frightened, believing Him to be a disembodied spirit (Luke 24:37). Jesus calmed the disciples by showing them the scars on His hands and feet (Luke 24:37; John 20:20). The disciples were filled with joy and excitement (Luke 24:37). Thereafter, He demonstrated the physical nature of His resurrection body by eating boiled fish in their presence (Luke 24:41-43). It was important for Luke (a physician) to show the physical nature of Jesus’s resurrection body.
As the reader might recall, the Apostle Thomas was not present at Jesus’s initial appearance to the other disciples inside the closed home. The disciples reported to Thomas that they had seen a miraculous appearance of the Lord. Thomas famously said, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Thomas was the representative of every skeptical human in the face of the mounting evidence of Jesus’s resurrection. Eight days later, the disciples were once again in the home with the doors shut. Suddenly, Jesus miraculously appeared to them again. Standing in their presence, Jesus said to Thomas, “Place your finger here, and see my hands; and take your hand and place it in my side; and do not continue in unbelief, but be a believer” (John 20:27). Then Thomas answered and said, “My Lord, and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus responded, “Because you have seen Me, have you now believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29).
In John’s epilogue to his Gospel, we learn of another encounter with the resurrected Jesus. Several of the Apostles had been fishing all night, but they were unsuccessful in catching any fish. Jesus stood on the shore and yelled to the apostles, but they did not recognize Him. Jesus yelled for them to cast their net on the right-hand side of the boat, and immediately, they caught a great quantity of fish. John said, “it is the Lord!” (John 21:27). Immediately, Peter removed his outer garments and threw himself into the sea and swam to the shore. After both Peter and the apostles arrived on shore, they enjoyed a barbecue breakfast with Jesus on the beach. This idyllic scene was not an accident. Ultimately, we are promised that Jesus will return to Planet Earth. We should not anticipate a strange and unfamiliar existence in our resurrection bodies. From the beginning, God has promised us an Edenic existence here on Planet Earth. Our sin and rebellion interrupted but did not end God’s plan for humanity.
At Acts 3:17-21, Peter delivered a famous sermon. He said,
And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers also did. But the things which God previously announced by the mouths of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has fulfilled in this way. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of the restoration of all things, about which God spoke by the mouths of the holy prophets from ancient times.
We should pay very close attention to the words of Peter. We are living in a time of great confusion and disorder. We appear destined for great calamities and judgment. If we repent and return to the Lord, we can anticipate that God will send us times of anapsyxis, which means “recovery, revival, or refreshing.” We believers must change our thinking and trajectory. Of great significance, we believers must repent and return to the Lord before God will send Jesus back to Planet Earth. It does not depend on unbelievers; it depends on believers. Peter explained that Jesus must remain in Heaven until the period of the restoration of all things. Peter used the Greek noun apokatastasis, which means a “restoration to the Edenic state of things as before the fall of mankind.” However, in my opinion, this will not happen until there is a significant repentance and return to Christ among believers. Our obedience to God gives efficacy to our prayers. We are told to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
As will always be true, we are missing some important information and many details about our resurrection bodies and our eternal future, but God has provided us all that we need for faith, hope, and peace. One day, we will see Jesus face to face, and many more of our questions will be answered. But because we are finite and He is infinite, we will always be discovering new things from God. Faith and trust will always be key components of our relationship with God. Our New Eden here on earth is coming. It is something for which we should pray.
 “H11 – ‘ăḇadôn – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Sep, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h11/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 “G3857 – paradeisos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Sep, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3857/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G403 – anapsyxis – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Sep, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g403/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “G605 – apokatastasis – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 19 Sep, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g605/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.