Going to Heaven
The early church did not believe in any way, shape, or form, the idea of going to heaven as soon as we die and if one would do some biblical research one would find that there is not one single scripture that speaks of going straight to heaven on the day we die and if the Bible doesn’t speak of it, then it is not. When we die we either go to the place of burning or we go to paradise and both of these realms exist in Hades.
“We maintain that after life has passed away you still remain in existence and anticipate a Day of Judgment. (In the Judgment), according to your deserts, (deeds) you are assigned to misery or to bliss. Either way, it will be forever. To be capable of this, your former substance must return to you the matter (body) and memory of the very same human being. For if you were not endowed with that sensitive bodily organization, you could fell neither good nor evil. And there would be no grounds for judgment without the presentation of the very person to whom the sufferings of judgment were due. Origen.
Another gifted Christian writer was considered to be one of the greatest Christian theologians of his time and before. His name was Origen and he was born in 185 or 186 A.D. Origen was not quit seventeen when a Christian persecution was begun by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. Origen lived during a turbulent time when there were periodic Christian persecutions during the reigns of Emperors Severus, Maximin, and Decius. Also during his time the Roman Empire was threatened with destabilization because of the barbarian invasions that were sweeping across Europe. He was born into great Christian persecution and he died sometime in 254 or 255, while still living under great Christian persecution. In Origin’s time, Christianity had not yet established a system of theological beliefs as a basis of orthodoxy so consequently there were several different sects and each one claiming to posses the truth about the Christian faith. The largest of the different sects were the Gnostics and it is the Gnostic doctrine that Origen fought hardest against. Since there were no non-Gnostic theological systems that were as successful as the Gnostics in his day, Origen formulated one. Because of Origin’s his works and the works of many other wise theologians like him, much of what we believe today is a direct result of their efforts to keep paganism and false doctrinal teachings out of the body of Christ. However after these dedicated men had all passed away and the church became organized, there were several false doctrinal beliefs and many pagan rituals that crept back into the church. Men like Origen were instrumental in the fight against pagan worship and left field concepts like Gnosticism.
Like several other early church theologians Origen also wrote “Ignorant men (uneducated believers) and unbelievers suppose that our flesh is destroyed after death to such a degree that it retains no relic at all of its former substance. However, we who believe in its resurrection understand that only a change has been produced by death…. It will again be raised from the earth. And after this it will advance to the glory of a spiritual body according to the merits of the indwelling soul. We are to believe, then, that all this bodily substance will be brought into this condition. This will be when all things will be re-established into a state of unity and when God will be “all in all” And this result must be understood as being brought about, not suddenly but slowly [in process of time] and gradually.” It also seems that Origen contradicts himself. “The apostolic teaching is that there is to be a time of resurrection from the dead, when the body which now is sown in corruption will rise in incorruption; and when that which “is sown in dishonor will rise in glory.” We know now that the flesh will not rise from the grave just as it went into the grave and even if it did, changing into the glorified body on the way up to heaven accomplishes the same task. Anyway believing that the flesh will rise from the grave just before it changes into the glorified body is not eternally significant.
This belief shows that the believers of the early church not only did not believe in the ascension to heaven at the moment of death but also believed we went into the earth and stayed there until we will be called by Jesus to come forth from the grave. Again the early church got it right because there is not one single word in the bible that tells us that we will go to heaven immediately after the moment of death.
“We therefore believe that the body also rose. For even if it decays, it is not in the least bit destroyed. That is because the earth that receives its remains, will preserve them. They become like seed and are wrapped up in the richer part of the earth. Thereafter, they spring up and bloom. However, the body is not raised the same thing as it is now. Rather, it becomes pure and no longer corruptible. And to everybody, its own proper soul will be given again. But the unrighteous will receive their bodies unchanged. They will not be freed from suffering and disease. They will be unglorified, with all the ills in which they died. Hippolytus.
Today we know that when we die our body turns back into the dust from which God made it from and our spirit or breath of life which animates the body goes back to God where it came from. But what of the soul? What happens to the soul when our body is no longer function able and the spirit of life leaves the body? First of all the bible doesn’t speak one single word about what happens to the soul when we die and yet salvation is all about the soul. The soul is what will rise from the dead and stand before the throne of God as a multitude that no man can count and the living will change from the flesh to the glorified body and will also stand among the multitude.
Hippolytus was correct when he stated that the unrighteous will still suffer all of the pain and disease which the body suffers while still in the flesh but after one has been judged to be unworthy for the glorified body it will be the soul that suffers these things because the body dies daily and will not last forever but the soul can and will suffer for eternity. The Parable of the rich man and Lazarus is proof of that concept.
Besides, if everybody goes to heaven as soon as they die and all of the graves are empty, Who will Jesus raise from the grave if the graves are empty?