Do Christians Go Immediately to Heaven After They Die?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Where do Christians go the moment after they die?  Is it immediately to heaven and for the unsaved, immediately to hell?  Does the Bible say where the dead go and when?

One Second After Death

What happens in the very next second or less after a person dies?  The destination clearly depends upon whether a person has repented and trusted in Christ or whether they have rejected their only hope of eternal life (Acts 4:12; 16:30-31).  Paul seemed certain that after he died he would be present with the Lord.  To be present with someone obviously means that they would have to be with them.  When I got married, my fiancé had to be present with me or we could not have gotten married.  I know that is a poor analogy but what I am saying is that Paul says to be absent from the body (dead) is in the next moment to be “present with the Lord.”  In 2 Corinthians 5:6, 8 Paul wrote that, “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord…and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”   I see nowhere in this text where there is a time differential between death and being in the presence of the Lord.

Do Christians Go To Heaven At The Moment of Death

For those who bend the knee, repent of their sins, confess their sinfulness and desperate need for the Savior, and then put their trust in Him, there is a joyous destination awaiting you.

Pauls’ Final Days

When Paul wrote his letter to Timothy he understood that the time of his death was near.  Whether he had overheard this from the guards, an angel of the Lord or Jesus Christ Himself we cannot tell but Paul seemed certain that he was going to die very soon.

In 2 Timothy 4:6-8 Paul writes:

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

There are a few things that are important to note in Paul’s words here.  First, he says that his “departure is near.”  This departure being near is written within the context of this paragraph where he says that “there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.”  What day!?  It seems clear that Paul’s departure is near and that then there will be awarded to him “the crown of righteousness” on that day!   Do you see that?  He is near his earthly departure and what awaits him is a crown of righteous to be given to him on that day!  It appears to be the same day that he departs that he will receive this crown. He could have modified this sentence to the effect of saying, “Then, at the Lord’s return, I will receive the crown of righteousness” but he doesn’t. He says that it will be awarded to him on “that day!”

It’s important to note that the books of the Bible are not in the order in which they were written…that is, they are not in chronological order.  This is true of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.  There are many books in the Bible that are in the order in which they were written, but certainly not all of them and so when we see that 2 Timothy is followed by Titus and Philemon, which were also written by Paul, this doesn’t mean that they were written after 2 Timothy.  Most Bible scholars believe 2 Timothy was Paul’s last letter and this may be why he is giving Timothy departing letter.

Lazarus and the Rich Man

When Jesus mentioned what happened to the rich man and Lazarus after they died, there was no mention of a holding period or an interval of time between their death and their destination.  Lazarus lived in poverty and want while the rich man lived in splendor and plenty but when they died, they went separate ways.

In Luke 16:22-24 Jesus said

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.  In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” 

  • There is no mention of the false idea of a “soul sleep.”  When the Bible mentions that they slept with their fathers or they had fallen asleep, that meant that they were dead…but not gone (John 11:1-14).

Two important things are in this story.  One is “when they died.” What happened when they died?  The rich man went to “Hades, where he was in torment” while Lazarus was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom.  The place that Lazarus was at seems to be what is called in the Jewish vernacular, “Paradise.”  Paradise is thought to be the abode or dwelling place of the Old Testament saints.   Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Truly I say to you.  Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 223:43).   Any time Jesus says “truly” or “surely” as some translations say, you can be certain that Jesus was putting an exclamation point on what He was saying.  Jesus said surely or truly the thief would be with Jesus in Paradise.  When would the thief be in Paradise and when?  It would be “today” and he would be with Jesus.  That very day Jesus promised the thief would be with Him in paradise.  After Jesus’ death, Paradise may have been changed into being in the presence of the Lord or in heaven because of the atoning work at Calvary so that the Old Testament saints and those who died in the faith will be present with the Lord (2 Tim 4:6-8).

Another related reading:  What Does The Bible Say Heaven is Like?

Stephen Sees Jesus in Heaven

When Stephen was stoned for proclaiming the gospel, he sees the Lord, Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of God in heaven.

We read this account in Acts 7:55-60:

“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Again, there is no mention of soul sleep.  As Stephen was dying, he actually saw heaven open up and there was “the Son of Man (Jesus) standing at the right hand of God.”  Stephen must have known that he was going immediately into the presence of the Lord for he says “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Here is a dying Stephen, seeing Jesus in heaven and asking him to receive his spirit.”  That sounds like he is immediately being “absent from the body” only to be “present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6).  How clear that is.

Interesting reading: What is a Spiritual Body?  (What is your body going to be like in heaven?)


If you are not born again, then you will have no opportunity to go to heaven when you die but will the very next moment be in torment.  You will wait in torment, like the rich man is still waiting today.  You will await the Great White Throne Judgment where all who are in their graves and those unbelievers still living at the time of Christ’s return will be judged (Rev 20:11-15) but God has provided a way for you to be redeemed.  For those who bend the knee, repent of their sins, confess their sinfulness and desperate need for the Savior, and then put their trust in Him, there is a joyous destination awaiting you.

For the Christian, death is not a problem because we know that 2 Corinthians 5: 1- 6, 8 speaks about our eternal destination:

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” and “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 

That is where you’ll be one second after you die…that is if you are born again.  A person that’s born twice (born again and a natural birth) will never die but a person who is born only once (a natural birth but not born again) will die twice; once in their mortal body and then in the lake of fire (Rev 20:11-15).  I pray you choose the former.

Related Post: Where Is Heaven? Where Is Hell? Does The Bible Say?

Resources: New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Louis Wright March 29, 2019 at 5:34 am

2 Cor. 5:1-8 is even more revealing than you have noted. The question must be asked here “What part of us has an earthly home and desires a heavenly if we cease to exist at death and all we are is a body?” Clearly, “we” continue to exist after the earthly body dies.


Linda Nichols May 20, 2019 at 8:54 am

If we go straight to heaven after death (Christians), what is the true purpose of the rapture?


Jack Wellman May 20, 2019 at 9:32 am

We are present with the Lord after death but the rapture is to be a time of terror and dread for those who are lost and give them a chance to repent. God has a purpose for everything, including the rapture, however, many Bible scholars are beginning to question if the rapture is wrong and that Matt 24 happened in 70 AD in Jerusalem.


Aarika November 14, 2020 at 5:22 am

The Rapture or resurrection happens at the second coming of Christ when he gathers His elect to himself and all who believed are changed in an instance. The believers who died before His coming will come back with Him and those alive at His return will be caught up. This is the resurrection. After He will judge those who are unbelieving.


Aaron Torres June 6, 2019 at 8:00 pm

Great article! Thanks for sharing! Good information! Do you have any interpretation/explanation on the return of Messiah. Where it says the dead will rise first?


Jack Wellman June 6, 2019 at 8:36 pm

Hello Mr. Torres. Yes sir, 1 Thess 4 is a great place to stare on the explanation of the dead rising first at Jesus’ appearance. Thank you for your comment.


Robert Vincent Gustafson June 8, 2019 at 1:16 am

You have totally misread this Scripture.”That day” was not the day of Paul’s death. He clearly stated that it would on the day of Christ’s return. Just read what it says.

… will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Get your facts straight. It is “in store” for him at the day of Christ’s appearing. “In store” means that he will have to wait.

In Christ, Robert G.


Jack Wellman June 8, 2019 at 9:38 am

Thank you sir but you need to study this a bit better. Maybe a good Sunday school or Bible study class will help you understand Scripture better since you have a hard time understanding the simplicity of Paul’s statement.


Paul boucher July 11, 2019 at 4:01 am

Hi i have studied the bible for over 30 years. Man was made for the earth. That is our job. Only 140’000 go to heaven at death Jesus disciples are part of that 140’000 to rule in Jesus government As they had to experience an earthly life. The rest of us when we die are in a state of sleep until the resurrection unless and individual survives Armageddon then they will not die at all. Then over the next 1000 years we will restore this planet to glory that we should have done in the first place under Jesus and his government


Jack Wellman July 11, 2019 at 10:40 am

Hello Mr. Boucher. If only 140,000 go to the kingdom, then what of the untold millions of believers who have been martyred in the past and almost 38,000 each year for the lat 10 years? I believe you must have the wrong Bible version or someone’s taught you something that’s not from Scripture. THere is no soul-sleep. This is not biblical.


Paul boucher July 12, 2019 at 8:00 am

Remember what Jesus said “Quote” The dead are conscious of nothing correct Look at how Lazarus would have felt being brought back from the dead if he had been in heaven he was conscious of nothing just as Jesus said. One must gain accurate knowledge. to understand God at Genesis man was made for the occupation of the earth. O yes Mr Jack Wellman who make’s a Martyr humans do (not God) As for the dead they as the bible states will face the resurrection to life at Gods Doing


Jack Wellman July 12, 2019 at 9:24 am

Hello Mr. Boucher. Where did Jesus say the dead are conscious of nothing? Larazrus was with Abraham, not in a soul-sleep and the rich man was conscious of his past memories, regrets, his family and felt thirst and hunber.


Paul boucher July 13, 2019 at 11:22 am

Where in the bible does it say Lazarus was with Abraham when he was dead ?? Anyway we are both aiming at spreading Gods word that’s all that matters in these last days preaching the coming of God’s Kingdom to all the inhabited earth then the end will come


Jack Wellman July 13, 2019 at 12:31 pm

Hello Mr. Boucher. You will find this account in of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:14-31).


Joseph August 1, 2019 at 9:09 am

thank u for giving all the information i needed, infact my eyes are open, now i can teach my local assembly very well. thank u very much, God almighty will uphold u all who contributed for this to happen and more wisdom and knowledge will restored unto u all in Jesus name. my regards to ur family.


Jack Wellman August 1, 2019 at 6:15 pm

I am glad these Scriptures helped. They do much to comfort God’s people who lose their loved ones. Thank you for your kind words too. God bless you for that.


Jean September 25, 2019 at 9:35 am

Thank you very much, Jack Wellman. I believe you’re absolutely correct. I think some people read one scripture and stops there while ignoring the rest of the Bible.


Jack Wellman September 25, 2019 at 10:22 am

It is so refreshing to hear words of encouragement Jean. It seems more believers these days are attacking or persecuting other believers for what they believe the Word of God says, so youhave made my day and I thank you and I thank God for you


Cynthia September 28, 2019 at 5:53 pm

Please subscribe me to your newsletter.
Thank you!


Jack Wellman September 28, 2019 at 6:27 pm

Hello Cynthia. I have done ask you asked. Thank you so much.


Alvin Brown September 30, 2019 at 7:51 am

Thank you for all your insight, had questions you answered.


jonie hensley October 1, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Thank u Jack, for helping me with this. I was afraid that I would have to wait for the sound of the Trumpet, when the dead in Christ would rise first. Hay, I worked hard for this… I wana go NOW when its my time, and give JESUS a big hug. I can picture his face, when we meet…OOOOH !… “I know YOU my little girl”, “welcome home kiddo, were good”. WHEW… THANK YOU JESUS


Jack Wellman October 1, 2019 at 1:05 pm

How precious are your words sir. Thank you so much.


jonie hensley October 4, 2019 at 8:00 am

Jack, a few days ago, you helped me answer the question, do Christians go directly to heaven when they die? The Bible says also, the dead in Christ will rise first at the sound of a trumpet. Well, if were all in Heaven with Jesus, then who are those poor folks dead in Christ, still down here that are having to wait?? I’ve almost wore out my Bible trying to understand this Truth. Is this something God is hiding from me, for me? In Christ, help me here. Jonie. “The Kidd’


Olaf December 23, 2019 at 7:48 am

In regard to hell fire and or torment.
What do we do with all the scriptures in the Old Testament, that say the wicked with vanish like smoke, melt like a snail that has salt poured on it, consumed, and of course be burned up like stubble
, and many more? Also why does the Bible say that all of mans spirits go back to God, and doesn’t just say only the saved go back to God?


Jack Wellman December 23, 2019 at 10:13 am

Hello Olaf. You are taking those 2 or 3 verses and ignoring the dozens and dozens of Scriptures that say hell is eternal. Please read this sir:


Patrick Hodge April 26, 2020 at 7:22 pm

I suggest Steve Greg’s Three views of hell.
You can’t say your way is right. Read all the Bible.


Jack Wellman April 26, 2020 at 8:15 pm

Hello Mr. Hodge. I believe his name is Steve Gregg and not “Greg” but I am not saying my way is right. The Bible’s teaching is right over me and over you and over Steve Gregg. Even Mr. Gregg said he cannot know for sure until we die, but we can know the eternality of hell from Scripture, indeed, from Jesus own lips…He spoke more of hell than heaven because He desired no one go there. I have read all the Bible. I can see by your comment you are angry and judgmental and don’t even know me. I pray you repent of that sin my friend. You can’t say your way is right or Mr. Gregg’s is and everyone else is wrong. That’s prideful, plus totaly inaccurate. I sense you bear a bitter spirit toward other Christians and those who don’t agree with everything you do. I will pray for you sir.


SANDRA Louise BOBBITT August 25, 2020 at 8:07 pm

Mr. Wellman,
Thank you for your excellent review and it is with regrets that you’ve taken such a verbal beating from readers.


Jack Wellman August 25, 2020 at 8:18 pm

Thank you Sandra. I appreciate your encouragment.


doug October 19, 2020 at 7:21 am

Where are the dead?
Gen. 3:19: “In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Eccl. 9:10: “All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol [“the grave,” KJ, Kx;


Michael Stuart December 28, 2020 at 7:05 am

Curious your thoughts to these passages:
John 3:13 says, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15 the apostle Paul is calling us ignorant if we don’t truly understand what happens at death. He says, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.”
Daniel 12:1-4 (KJV) “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Daniel confirms that those who die sleep in the dust of the earth only to be resurrected in the future.


Jack Wellman December 28, 2020 at 10:24 am

Thank you Mr. Stuart. Those who are in the dust have not yet had their bodies resurrected, and that’s what Daniel is writing about in Daniel 12.


Esther Gopaul January 1, 2021 at 2:24 pm

Great Article I enjoyed reading it. I have so many questions my husband passed away three months ago. We are believers of Jesus so I know my husband is with the Lord.


Dan c Bright August 6, 2021 at 5:03 pm

if we go to heaven 1 second after death ,do we have a body or just our spirit is with the lord? if we have a body why a resuration,if just a spirit then you can’t see and fellowship with each other. confused’ help me understand. thank you


Jack Wellman August 6, 2021 at 5:08 pm

Hello Dan. Thank you for your question sir. After we die, we are immediately with the Lord, but the final resurrection will be the last thing to occur and when we receive our glorified bodies. Until them, they are spirit but I believe they can fellowship with one another and with Christ. So “1 second after death ,do we have a body or just our spirit is with the lord?” We have a spirit body but not a physical one…yet. the overall teaching of Scripture, even in the Old Testament, where the bosom of Abraham was seen as the place of the afterlife, there is this persistent notion of continuity. Paul put it this way: To live in this world is good; the greatest thing that can ever happen is to be participating in the final resurrection. But the intermediate state is even better. Paul said that he was caught between two things.

On the one hand, his desire was to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, and on the other hand, he had a desire to remain alive and continue his ministry on this earth. But the apostle’s judgment that the passing beyond the veil of death to that intermediate state is far better than this one gives us a clue, along with a host of other passages. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.” The image of Dives and Lazarus in the New Testament (Luke 16:19-31) indicates to me that there is a continuity of life and of consciousness in that intermediate state.


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