It has been somewhat of a mystery about where we go after passing from our earthly lives. People whose names are written in the Book of Life will eventually be citizens of God’s Kingdom, but during the time after our death and before the rapture, where will we be? The Bible gives sparse information about this, but it’s sufficient to conclude we go to a place called Paradise.
“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23:42-43 NLT
When Jesus said he would be with him in Paradise, he must have known the criminal believed he is the Messiah. The brief conversation was profound.
During the three days after Jesus died and before his resurrection, he told the Good News to people who have previously lived. This reveals God has retroactively expanded the New Covenant to include people who lived prior to it’s activation. They were presented with the opportunity to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, the same opportunity we have while living.
“So he went and preached to the spirits in prison— those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood.”
1 Peter 3:19-20 NLT
Our time of choosing Salvation, under the New Covenant, is only before we die. We have all the information available to us now, so the path we choose while living, stands for eternity. If we choose Salvation, then we spend eternity in God’s Kingdom. People, who reject Jesus as Savior, are sent to hell.
Before Crucifixion, Paradise was inside earth near hell, and is referred as a prison in Scripture because people could not leave, but rather than a place of punishment, it’s a place of comfort. This is revealed in the story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus, in Luke 16:19-31.
Lazarus was poor and homeless, and the rich man was greedy and selfish. Lazarus’s health wasn’t good and he would sleep outside the rich man’s door, hoping to get at least some scraps to eat. The rich man lived in luxury, and had no compassion for Lazarus. As far as he was concerned, Lazarus could just die.
Eventually Lazarus did die and angels carried him to Paradise, Abraham was also there, and had been since his physical life ended. Then the rich man died, and his soul went to hell, a place of pain and torment. These two places were inside earth near each other, with a chasm between, whereas you can see from one place to the other, but cannot cross over.
From hell, the rich man could see Lazarus with Abraham in Paradise. He shouted across the chasm saying, “Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.” (Luke 16:24)
Abraham told him there is a chasm between the two places, no one can cross from one place to the other. Then the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house and warn his five brothers about the horrible place, so they can repent and turn to God.
“But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote…If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Luke 16:29, 31
This story confirms people don’t just sleep for centuries or millenniums after dying. People who have rejected God, not having their names written in the Book of Life, go to hell, remaining consciously aware. People who have accepted Salvation, having their names written in the Book of Life, go to Paradise.
Since God knows the heart of all people, he knew how to separate good people from bad. Therefore, we can assume good people went to Paradise and bad people went to hell. Jesus preached the Good News in Paradise. People in hell have no more opportunity to receive salvation, so it would do no good to present the Good News to them.
“That is why the Good News was preached to those who are now dead —so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit.”
1 Peter 4:6 NLT
The moment Jesus died, an earthquake occurred, causing tombs to open. When he was resurrected, godly people left their tombs and walked into Jerusalem.
“The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.”
Matt 27:50-53 NLT
They left their tombs after Jesus preached the Gospel in Paradise, so apparently they chose life. Nothing more is revealed about the significance of these people leaving their graves and walking around. There is no indication about how widespread this phenomenon was, or how long they walked around.
It can be assumed the phenomenon was due to Paradise being moved. After Jesus finished preaching in Paradise, this wonderful place was moved to the 3rd Heaven. This move was confirmed by Paul, he actually visited Paradise, the move is also confirmed by modern prophecy. Since there are many people going to hell every day, it has expanded, utilizing the vacated space.
“I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.”
2 Cor 12:2-4 NLT
Paul believed people, whose names are written in the Book of Life, go to Paradise. This was manifested by something he said later on, he was talking about how it would be better for him to go to the Lord, but since he has work yet to do, it would be more beneficial to other people for him to stay. If Paul believed we sleep after dying, then he wouldn’t be anxiously looking forward to stepping into the beyond.
“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.”
Phi 1:21-24 NLT
Another Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary, lived in Bethany, and all three were close friends with Jesus. Lazarus got sick and died while Jesus was away, and Jesus knew ahead of time he was going to die, but was going to bring him back to life.
When the news reached Jesus and his disciples that Lazarus was very ill, he delayed before heading to Bethany. He purposely waited so Lazarus would be dead long before he arrived, then no one would doubt he was actually dead. Later on, after Lazarus died, Jesus told the disciples Lazarus was asleep. But then when they thought he could just be woke up, Jesus told them he was dead.
The most curious aspect about this story is, where was Lazarus during the four days his body was dead? Jesus told the disciples he was asleep, but I don’t believe he meant that literally. If he was in Paradise, Jesus would probably say he was sleeping, because it wasn’t appropriate to tell them about Paradise at that time.
Also, perhaps there is some sleeping going on in Paradise. I don’t know that we will need sleep in our spirit form, but sleep may be for a different reason while in Paradise, perhaps waiting for the rapture.
“So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.””
John 11:14-15 NLT
After arriving to the tomb, the first sister Jesus spoke to was Martha. She scolded him for taking so long to get there. Jesus told her Lazarus was going to rise again, but Martha thought he meant at the end of days.
“Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?””
John 11:25-26 NLT
Then Mary came to the tomb, she was very distraught and also scolded him for not arriving sooner. When Jesus saw that everyone around was wailing, he also wept and a strong feeling welled up inside him. Jesus said for them to roll away the stone, but Martha objected on the grounds that the body would be stinking by now.
“So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”
Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
John 11:41-44 NLT
I have read many books written by Christians, sharing their experiences with God. In some of the stories, the person experienced temporary death, and when this happened, there seems to be a commonality of seeing Paradise.
Another commonality was when they arrived to Paradise, they would be greeted by people who they previously knew, who also have their names written in the Book of Life. Therefore, it’s likely people we knew, whose names are written in the Book of Life, will be our welcoming committee into Paradise.