Are They in Heaven Looking Down? You Decide
Are they in Heaven looking down? That question about the dead has been answered in the affirmative many times. It seems that I have heard expressions to that affect all my life (I am now 80 + years old), and monitoring of social media in the current age provides ample statements of belief that upon death the soul is transported directly to Heaven to be with the Lord. During the very early years I pretty much accepted the statements as fact. However, as I advanced in age and study of the Holy Bible, my acceptance of the statements as supported fact began to change. I considered and accepted the statements as the sincere belief and opinion of the speaker about the dead person’s goodness and justification for Heaven and the presence of the Lord. Some have said “what difference does it make,” and I cannot disagree with that attitude because it is something we cannot control (beyond living a righteous life and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation) or prove one way or another. In pursuit of Biblical support for the belief of immediate ascent I found some support, some support for the opposing belief, and some personal confusion. Immediate ascent is in conflict with my long-held understanding of death, the second coming of Jesus Christ, judgment, Heavenly rewards for righteous living, and punishment for the wicked. When I become aware of important, conflicting information it instills an urge in me to try to resolve the differing opinions or versions. In this effort, regarding the current question, I recently went to an authority to find an address of this subject, the website of Dallas Theological Seminary.
Doctrine Statement from Dallas Theological Seminary Re: Ascension to Heaven Immediately at Death
Article XXI—The Eternal State
We believe that at death the spirits and souls of those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation pass immediately into His presence and there remain in conscious bliss until the resurrection of the glorified body when Christ comes for His own, whereupon soul and body reunited shall be associated with Him forever in glory; but the spirits and souls of the unbelieving remain after death conscious of condemnation and in misery until the final judgment of the great white throne at the close of the millennium, when soul and body reunited shall be cast into the lake of fire, not to be annihilated, but to be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power (Luke 16:19–26; 23:42; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; 2 Thess. 1:7–9; Jude 6–7; Rev. 20:11–15).
Biblical References to Life after Death
The source for the following verses related to what happens after death are from the Zondervan King James Version Study Bible. Note that spelling, sentence construction, and punctuation does not conform to current standards and may appear to be in error.
7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
1 Peter 3:20
20Which sometimes were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
28 “Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.”
12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
25 Jesus said unto her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
1“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
4His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish.
17 The dead praise not the Lord, Neither any that go down into silence.
29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
1 Timothy 6:15-16
15 which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light, which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.
7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
1 Corinthians 15:50–54
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
1 Thessalonians 4:16
16 For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: And the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
Biblical References to Life after Death
English Standard Version
The below verses are from the English Standard Version
2 Corinthians 5:8
8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
2 Thessalonians 1:7–9
7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
Judgment before the Great White Throne
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Resolution of the Subject Question
Are They in Heaven Looking Down?
On the basis of the above research, I say “no.” You decide on the basis of your own understanding of the Biblical references. I am certainly not qualified to override the opinions of the theological scholars. However, I believe the preponderance of the references do not support immediate ascent upon death. This is, I believe, supported by The Revelation to John (Book of Revelation) in the Holy Bible. I suggest a complete study of Revelation in order to digest the chain of events that are predicted in John’s dream of Revelation by God, to Jesus, to the Angel, to John, to the seven churches, to the messengers of the churches.
This takes us from the beginning:
7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7, King James Version
To the ending:
Judgment before the Great White Throne
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11–15, English Standard Version