Do Good People Go To Heaven At Death?
(26) The general idea, as found in a catechism, is that "the souls of the believers are at death made perfect in holiness and do immediately pass into glory."
(27) Is it true that all the dead who have had faith in God are now in heaven? Let us take an example. What about David, who, with all his faults, was a man beloved of Jehovah, a man after God's own heart? (1 Samuel 13:14) Is David in heaven? Probably many will answer: "Yes." But let us read what the Word of God says. See Acts 2:34: "David is not ascended into the heavens." Nothing could be plainer than that. The question is: Are you going to believe it? Some may say: "That is strange, I thought that David would be in heaven, but evidently I am mistaken. He was not so good as I thought he was." But let us examine further. See what Jesus said. In John 3:13, we find it recorded: "No man has ascended up to heaven, but he who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man." (The words "which is in heaven" that appear in the King James Version do not appear in many ancient manuscripts. See the Revised Standard Version.) "No man"! There is no exception, save Jesus Himself, who came from heaven to be made flesh and dwell among men. Let us beware lest the traditions of men lead us to deny the words of the Messiah. -- Matthew 15:3,9.
(28) In Acts 26:23, we are told that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead. He was "the first fruits of them that slept," "the first born from the dead." (1 Corinthians 15:20; Colossians 1:18) Someone may say: "Does not this contradict the other Scriptural statements regarding the raising of Lazarus and others?" The explanation is that Jesus was the first to rise to life, never to die again. The others were simply awakened from the death-state to their former dying condition, and after a few years at most returned to the tomb once more. Their awakening from the dead was only temporary as they once again returned to the sleep of death. It did not result in their receiving a new birth to eternal life.
(29) What about the time since Jesus died and rose again? Did each one of his faithful followers during the past 1900 years enter into his eternal reward at the moment of death? The scriptural answer to this question is not generally accepted by popular Christians. 2 Peter 2:9 tells us what happens to the wicked. Do we find the apostle there saying that God knows how to punish the wicked at the moment of their death? No, for Peter tells us clearly that God "knows how to reserve the unjust until the day to judgment to be punished." Notice! The time when the wicked are to be punished is at the day of judgment when Jesus returns. Our Lord, in Matthew 16:27, distinctly states: "The Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works."
(30) Will the righteous of this age receive everlasting life immediately when they die? No, for Jesus places the actual time of receiving everlasting life in the "age to come." (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30) Although those of faith are reckoned as alive in this age, it is not until the "age to come" -- during Christ's parousia, that the righteous of this age actually receive everlasting life. How does that square with the belief held by traditional Christianity that the souls of believers are at death made perfect in holiness and do immediately pass into glory? Traditional theology would have us believe that every believer goes immediately at death to be with Jesus, but Jesus never said such a thing to His disciples, those whom He loved so well. He did not say: "I will receive you unto myself the moment you die." What He did say was: "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:2,3) Again, Paul, speaking to the Colossians, said: "You are [reckoned] dead, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory." -- Colossians 3:3,4.