The Myth of Instant Heaven

There is a popular myth, a widely held but false belief or idea, that has been and is being perpetrated by countless pastors and other individuals as they conduct memorial and funeral services for people who have died. It's become a familiar part of our human traditions.

This is certainly a difficult time for those surviving. As a result many efforts are made to soften the impact of the death of a loved one. We use the term "passed on", for example, instead of saying plainly "they have died.

The myth is that when one dies they instantly go to Heaven.

Let me state plainly, "THIS IS A LIE!" It is a false teaching! There is no solid support in Scripture for this point of view. This is based on human tradition, wishful thinking, and good intentions, but a gross misinterpretation of Scripture.

Lest you think I'm in error please consider carefully this one question:
If you go instantly to Heaven why does Scripture teach there will be a resurrection of the dead?

You cannot be alive AND be resurrected from the state of death! It's pointless.
Resurrection can only occur if you are dead.

And if you are already in Heaven, alive, there is absolutely no need for a resurrection of the dead!
And if there is no need for a resurrection of the dead why does Scripture teach such a concept?
YAHWEH does not lie! What He speaks He does! He has given us this teaching so we know what He will do at some future point and we can have hope for the future, even after we die. 

There are numerous references to resurrection in Scripture. It's clear that such an event will take place.
Some will be resurrected to eternal life with
YAHWEH - in Heaven.
Others will be resurrected to eternal separation from YAHWEH - in what is traditionally referred to as Hell.

The Old Covenant contains many references to She'ol and the grave. The concepts of She'ol and Hades are found in both The Old Covenant and The New Covenant. However, there's much confusion attached to these references because of the practice of using the Greek term, hades, as a replacement for the Hebrew term she'ol. The Greek term is only found in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew text of The Old Covenant which is a Greek version of the text. It replaces she'ol, the Hebrew term used in the Hebrew text. This Greek term is also used in the Greek New Covenant.

Unfortunately the use of this term has introduced the Greek concept of hades and its surrounding mythology as opposed to the Hebrew view of she'ol. This Greek view introduces hades as a place of torment and distress. It was connected to the Greek god of death. It is often translated as "Hell". The Greeks believed that only bad people went to hades. In their view the good people "worked their way upward" while the bad people descended into a pit. This concept is not found in the Hebrew understandings of she'ol.

When one looks at the definitions given in theological dictionaries for these terms the confusion becomes apparent. There is a blending of both views into most of these definitions. She'ol and hades are treated as virtually identical. This is not correct. And it has led to many incorrect understandings of these terms.

For the Yisra'elite she'ol was the place of the departed, the dead. It was a place of nothingness, a place of waiting, a holding place for those who had died where they were kept until the resurrection of the dead, at which time they would stand before YAHWEH for the purpose of judgment of their deeds while they lived. In their view everyone went to she'ol, both the good and the bad. She'ol represented death. Because it represented death it came to be associated with the tombs, the grave. In many instances it is translated as "the grave". However, there is a different Hebrew term for the grave, qivr, and it should properly be used whenever the concept of a grave or a tomb is intended.

The blending of these two terms, using them both to refer to the grave, leads to some of the confusion we have regarding death, hell, she'ol, and hades. It's my hope that this article will help you understand the distinction and will help you to be more clear in your own conversations about such things.

Now, if everyone goes instantly to Heaven to be with YAHWEH as the popular myth purports there is no need for a resurrection or a final judgment. Heaven is already fully populated.

This view makes numerous passages of Scripture meaningless. That cannot be correct. YAHWEH would never place such teachings in His Word of Truth if they are meaningless. You need to decide who you you are going to believe.

The implication that "everyone" goes to Heaven immediately upon death is is false teaching!
It is not supported by Scripture!

How many pastors have you ever heard say that one who has died has gone to Hell?
I've never heard one pastor teach this or suggest this, no matter how evil the person was whose memorial service they were leading.

You can imagine how devastating it would be to the family that's left behind to suggest such a thing. So in the interests of "comforting the family" they are LIED TO! They are told their loved one is "now with God - in Heaven" - instantly! It doesn't matter if they were a good person or an extremely evil person. Everyone is treated the same by these supposedly well-meaning individuals.

My friend, this is hypocrisy at its worst! Everyone does NOT go to Heaven. And most assuredly no one goes there instantly upon their death. If they do then Scripture is false and you cannot believe any of it.

We've been inundated with "near death" experiences. These are often related as a means of affirming this myth. The encounter with "The Light", the moving through a tunnel toward this brightness, the "return to life" after purportedly having "died”…. These so-called "miracles", these anecdotes, are all used to support this lie of Satan. We really do not know what is taking place in these stories. We are not the ones experiencing them. And we have no way of confirming the validity of what's being reported. To use a modern cliché, it may simply be "fake news."

Everyone wants to believe in the miraculous. Everyone wants to have hope. We all want good things to happen for ourselves. We go to extremes to make this happen. This has become even more pronounced in our current overly selfish culture. So, when we hear a story like this we want to believe it. But, like all "fake news", we need a dose of skepticism, a dose of reality. We need to be able to verify things before we accept them as true.

Here are two articles from theological dictionaries that "define" these terms. Please note the similarities and the lack of clarity involved.
Here's what The Old Testament Word Study Dictionary says about "she'ol":

7585.   lwøaVv s¥§}o®l, lOaVv s¥§}oœl The word means depths or Sheol. Job called the ways of the Almighty higher than heaven and lower than Sheol or the depths of the earth (Job 11:8). The psalmist could not escape the Lord even in the lowest depths of the earth, in contrast to the high heavens (Ps. 139:8; Amos 9:2). It means the deepest valley or depths of the earth in Isaiah 7:11.
In a few cases, Sheol seems to mean death or a similar concept; that Abaddon (destruction) lies uncovered seems to be matched with Sheol’s meaning of death (Job 26:6). It means death or the grave, for neither is ever satisfied (Prov. 7:27; cf. Isa. 38:10) The word is best translated as death or the depths in Deuteronomy 32:22.
Sheol or the grave is the place of the wicked (Ps. 9:17[18]; 31:17[18]); Ezekiel pictured it as the place of the uncircumcised (Ezek. 31:15; 32:21, 27). Israel’s search for more wickedness and apostasy took them to the depths of Sheol (Isa. 57:9). On the other hand, the righteous were not made for the grave or Sheol; it was not their proper abode. They were not left in the grave or Sheol (Ps. 16:10) but were rescued from that place (Ps. 49:15[16]). Adulterers and fornicators were, metaphorically, described as in the lower parts of Sheol or the grave (Prov. 9:18). Sheol and Abaddon (Destruction) are as open to the eyes of God as are the hearts and thoughts of humankind; there is nothing mysterious about them to Him (Prov. 15:11).

Here's what Strong's Hebrew Dictionary says:

7585lwøa◊v sh}owl, sheh-ole´; or  lOa◊v shol, sheh-ole´; from 7592; Hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), including its accessories and inmates:—grave, hell, pit.

Notice how James Strong uses the term hades as equivalent to she'ol. Yet hades has no place in a Hebrew dictionary. It is not a Hebrew term. Even the revered James Strong got it wrong.

Now let's take a closer look at what Scripture itself says concerning death and dying and concerning she'ol. The following Scriptures provide us with some very strong evidence for how we are to properly consider this term. The references are from Scripture for Seekers, The S4S Edition.

Eccl. 9:10 Everything which your hand finds to do,
do it with your might.
Indeed, there is no work, or planning,
or knowledge, or wisdom
in She’ol, to which you yourself את are going.

Job 7:9  A cloud passes and goes away away.
Likewise, one going down to She’ol will not come up.
Job 7:10 He will not return any longer to his house.
And his place will not know him any longer.

Job 10:20   Are not my days few?
Put me away!
Then I will be caused to cheer up a little
 21 before I go and do not return,
to a land of darkness and the shadow of death,
 22 a land of obscurity
comparable to the darkness of the shadow of death.
And there is no order.
And it is caused to shine like the darkness.”

Psa. 6:5   (H6:6) Indeed, in death
there is no remembrance of You!
Who can cause praise to You in She’ol?

Psa. 88:3    (H88:4) Indeed, my life is filled with evils,
and my life has drawn near to She’ol.
 4  (H88:5) I have been considered
as with those going down to the pit.
I have become like a man who has no strength,
 5  (H88:6) among those dying,
loosed like those killed, lying in the grave,
who are not remembered by You any longer.
And they have been cut off from Your hand.

Psa. 88:6    (H88:7) You have set me in the lowest pit,
In darkness in the depths. 

Is. 26:14   One dying does not live.
Dead ones do not stand up.
For this reason You have held them accountable.
And You have destroyed them.
And You have caused to perish
every remembrance for them.

Is. 38:9   A writing of Hizkiyah, king of Yahudah,
when he was sick but lived from his sickness.
 10 I myself said, “Into silence my days are going,
into the gates of she’ol have been appointed
the rest of my years?”
 11 I said, “I will not see YAH, YAH in the land of the living.
I will not look intently at human beings any longer
with the inhabitants of the world.
 12 My period of time is pulled up,
removed from me like the tent of a shepherd.
I am rolled up like a weaving cut off from the loom.
From day until night You make an end of me.

Is 38.18 Indeed, She’ol does not praise You,
Death does not commend You.
For those going down to the pit
there is no hope toward Your faithfulness.

Is. 38:19   The living, the living, he praises You
like me this day.

Psa. 6:5    (H6:6) Indeed, in death
there is no remembrance of You!
Who can cause praise to You in She’ol?

Psa. 30.9  (H30:10) “What benefit is there in my blood,
in going down to the pit?
Can the dust praise You?
Can it declare Your truth?

Psa. 115:17   Those dying can not praise YAH,
nor any going down to silence.

Psa. 146:3   Do not trust in princes,
in a child of a human being
in whom there is no deliverance!
 4 His breath goes forth.
He returns to his soil.
In that very day his thoughts perish.

2Sam. 22:5   Indeed, the waves of death surrounded me.
Streams of worthlessness made me afraid.
 6 The cords of the she’ol were around me.
Before me were the snares of death.

Proverbs 7.27 Her house is the way to she’ol,
descending to the chambers of death.

Notice that when one dies they "go down" to she'ol. The Hebrews viewed this as they viewed their tombs, down, in the ground; beneath the surface of the earth. Some of their tombs were 30 feet in depth. And they typically had chambers or shelves in them where the bodies were laid. This is very similar to the concept of she'ol with its bars and gates and "rooms" (chambers).

There are references in Scripture to one being "gathered to their fathers (forefathers)". The practice was that of placing a body in a tomb until it had decomposed. Then the bones were "gathered" and placed in an ossuary, a stone box with a lid typically, which was then stored, "gathered with the fathers", in the family tomb. For the Hebrew mind this concept is tied very closely with that of she'ol. One can observe the connections if you do a study of that term in Scripture.

The myth of instant Heaven is often supported by the story of the rich man and Lazarus. IT appears to imply one being in the presence of YAHWEH. What's seldom identified is that this story is a parable YAHUSHUA, The Messiah, was using to illustrate a point. It was not a factual account of anything that really existed.

The other scripture that's typically used to support this point of view is that of Paul (Sha'ul) where he states
in 2 Cor 5.5-9:

5 Now He who has fashioned us for this very thing
Who also has given to us the earnest money deposit
of The Divine Nature of YAHWEH.
6 So also accordingly, we are always courageous,
understanding that while we are at home in the body,
we are absent from The Master. 

 7 Indeed, we walk by trust, not by sight.
 8 We are courageous.
But we also think it even better
to be absent from the body
and to be present with The Master.

9 Consequently we are eager,
whether present or absent,
to be fully acceptable to Him
 10 because we must all appear
in front of the judgment seat of The Messiah,
so that each one might be responsible
for the things
done in the body
in accordance with what he has performed habitually,
whether good or bad.

But please take notice of what this passage states. The concept of being absent from the body and present with The Master is stating Paul's desire. He is not stating this happens instantly upon one's death.

He's teaching responsibility before YAHWEH in relation to The Messiah. The portion of being absent from the body and present with The Master is taken out of context. This reveals the danger of "proof-texting", using Scripture to say what YOU want to say, not what Scripture actually says. This proof-texting is exactly what is done at many funeral/memorial services to justify the comment that one's loved one is "now in Heaven with YAHWEH". It is a lie! It is not supported by Scripture.

Take note of his identification of the "judgment seat of The Messiah". That event will not take place until the end of things. Revelation identifies that it happens after the resurrection of the dead. Everything takes place in its proper time. Scripture lays out a sequence of events for us. Death comes first. Then the resurrection. Then the Judgment seat of The Messiah. And only then does one go to either Heaven or to Hell.

Concerning Resurrection:

We now need to look at a few passages that speak concerning the concept of resurrection. These are only a few.
A careful study will reveal many more on this topic.

1Sam. 2:6   YAHWEH puts to death and He makes alive.
He brings down to she’ol and He raises up.

Acts 2.25 Indeed, David says concerning Him:
I foresaw YAHWEH always before my face,
for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
Acts 2.26 Therefore my heart rejoiced,
and my tongue was glad.
Acts 2 27 Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope,
for You will not leave my life in Sheol,
nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
Acts 2.28 You have made known to me the ways of life.
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’  (Psa. 16:8-11)

Psa. 49:12    (H49:13) But a human being
does not remain in honor.
He is comparable to the animals.
They perish.

Psa. 49:13    (H49:14) This way of theirs is folly to them.
But their followers are pleased with their sayings.

Psa. 49:14    (H49:15) Like sheep
they will be placed in She’ol.
Death will shepherd them.
And the upright will have dominion over them.
At dawn even their form will decay in She’ol,
away from their exalted dwelling.

Psa. 49:15    (H49:16) However, The Elohim
will redeem my life from the hand of She’ol!
Indeed He will take me!

Psa. 71:19   And Your justice, Elohim, is unto the heights,
You Who have done great things!
Elohim, who can be compared to You?
Psa. 71:20   You who have caused me to see
great and bad troubles,
You will return us to living!
Even from the depths of the earth you will return us!
You will cause me to rise up!

Hos. 13:14   From the power of She’ol I will ransom them!
From death I will redeem them!
Where is your plague, Death?
Where is your destruction, She’ol?

Redemption from "the powers of death" was the entire purpose of the resurrection of YAHUSHUA, The Messiah
(His name was never the Greek "
Iesous" (translated as Jesus). Without His death and resurrection there would not be a resurrection for us either. He gave His precious life in order to redeem us from the power death holds over us as a result of our offenses against YAHWEH. In Him alone we now have the possibility of resurrection to Eternal Life in the presence of YAHWEH and YAHUSHUA, His promised Messiah. PRAISE YAHWEH!

Having reviewed these things the following verses give us the most clear understanding of the meaning of she'ol.

Isaiah 28:18  And your covenant with death itself את
will be annulled!
And your agreement with she’ol itself את will not stand!
When an overflowing scourge passes over
then it will be your trampling down. 

Psa. 89:48  (H89:49) What mighty man can live
and not see death?
Can he deliver his life from the hand of She’ol?

From these it seems clear that each reference to she'ol is a reference to the state of being dead, to death itself. She'ol virtually always refers to the state of death. In death there is "nothingness". There is no life. There is no breath. There is no thought. There is no memory. There is no praising YAHWEH. There is nothing except darkness, stillness, and silence. There is a "going down beneath the surface of the earth", hence to the "lower parts of the earth." It's not merely one physical location. It's a concept. It's something all but those who are still alive at The Last Days will experience.

One cannot praise YAHWEH when they are dead. One cannot speak. One cannot think. One cannot raise a finger. Life as we know it has ceased. There is no breath. There is no heart beat. There is no consciousness. There is silence and darkness, an absence of life.

The body is placed in the ground. There it remains until The Day of YAHWEH, when He will resurrect all who have died. Then there will be The Day of Judgment. The "sheep will be separated from the goats", the just to eternal life, the evil to eternal condemnation.

It is to THIS state that one goes when they die. It is NOT to Heaven. It is NOT into the presence of YAHWEH for eternity. Anyone who teaches otherwise is teaching a LIE!

I want to encourage you to demand HONESTY from those teaching you. Push them to teach you The Truth of YAHWEH. If they will not, or can not, go search for it yourself in His Word. It is, after all, your personal responsibility to seek Him with all your heart. You cannot depend on someone else to do it for you.

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May YAHWEH speak to your heart and bless you with understanding as you explore His Word.