Before Christ, Did Some Go To Heaven?

I was stumped by this question asked of me by a family member. He is a Christian but remains unaffiliated with any denomination.

I asked for time to get a good answer for his question and he said okay “let me know next time I see you”. I wanted to say they went to purgatory but figured I would ask here first.

Does original sin come into the equation here ?

Before the life and Paschal Mystery of Christ, no one was able to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. This reality was due to the fact that Original Sin had corrupted the soul without any means of cleansing. The souls of all of the people who had ever lived before Christ went to the “land of the dead” after their death. The good and just were separated from the wicked in the “land of the dead,” at that time, but such a state was only temporary. After Jesus’ death on the Cross, He descended among the dead and “brought to completion the proclamation of the Gospel and liberated those holy souls who had long awaited their Redeemer” (Quote from the article below).

Hence the phrase in the Apostle’s Creed that Jesus “descended into hell” after His death and the Letter of Saint Peter that says, “For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water” (1 Peter 3:18-20, emphasis added).

This article, which I quoted from above, should also help you:

May God bless you in abundance for all eternity and help you to answer all questions with sound faith! :slight_smile:

Old Testament: Elijah and I believe Enoch) were taken up…assumed…into heaven.


“The whole lifetime of Enoch was three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God,* and he was no longer here, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24)

If you look at the full context of Genesis 5, it’s obvious Enoch was taken into Heaven. Every other descendent of Adam has their life summed up with “x’s life lasted n year; then he died.”

“As they walked on still conversing, a fiery chariot and fiery horses came between the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:11)

Yes…I believe there’s a long passage…so and so died…so and so died…and Elijah was taken up.

The problem with the question is the word “before.” This presumes that, in the afterlife, time works pretty much the same way it does on earth.

We don’t actually know how time works in the afterlife, but there’s no reason to believe it’s the same as on earth. We may exist completely outside of time (as God and the angels exist outside of time). Such an existence really challenges our understanding (but, we are assured, that eye has not seen, nor ear has heard, what God has in store for us, so something beyond our comprehension is not unexpected).

In fact, scientifically speaking, time doesn’t work anywhere in the universe the same as it does on earth. Time doesn’t work the same on the moon (but the difference is too tiny to notice). It doesn’t even work the same for you and I (but the difference is really, really tiny).

For the record, it was awesome Mother Angelica who First called Pope John Paul (1) one of the most significant Popes in History, and (2) was first to call him “The Great”

You’re really asking, is/are there any exception(s) to the following?

“No one has gone up to heaven except the One who came down from there the Son of Man” (Jn 3:13).

Here are 3 thoughtful responses to your question.


The gates of Heaven were closed until the Resurrection of Jesus.

That would mean that those who died (or even assumed) prior to that were in the Limbo of the Fathers.

Absolutely correct – but, whenever the word ‘limbo’ is used, it might lead to confusion. Someone might ask, “wait – limbo? You mean where unbaptized babies go?”

Of course, the answer is “no.” The ‘limbo of infants’ was never an official Church doctrine, although some used it to try and think about the question, “what happens to a baby who dies before being baptized?”

On the other hand, the “Limbo of the Fathers” – or, “Abraham’s Bosom”, as it’s sometimes called – really is the doctrine of the Church. As thistle points out, those who died before Christ’s resurrection could not enter into heaven until that time, and the notion of the ‘limbo of the fathers’ addresses that question of ‘where’ they were.

Hope that helps…!


Good point. Those persons who died in a state of grace prior to Christ are still saved by his sacrifice. For the grace of God is not limited by time.

We conceptualize the salvation of souls before Christ as waiting in purgatory and the limbo of the Fathers until Christ opened the gates of Heaven by His sacrifice on the Cross. That is correct, but time in purgatory and the limbo of the Fathers is almost certainly not the same as time in this life. So if Abraham died 2000 years or so before Christ, he does not wait 2000 years to enter Heaven. Time in Purgatory, Limbo, and Heaven is not the same as on earth. Actually, all the residents of Heaven participate to some extent in the eternity of God.

thisle is absolutely right.

The gates of heaven were not opened until the “fulness of time”. If people could go to heaven early then there were some who deserved greatly. Even in scheol, there was a great divide between those good and bad. In the Talmud, it iven talks about the THREE places which could encompass our understanding of purgatory.

Thanks for all the repIies.

So, I was correct but now I can explain it better. :slight_smile:

Does that mean people don’t wait much for the new heaven and new earth as well?
Could it all ready be established?

I don’t think the new heaven and new earth are established yet. The souls in Heaven “wait” for the time of the new heaven and new earth. But since they participate in the eternity of God, they are not passing time day by day. Heaven is like all time put together at once, or like no time at all.

The Hebrew word for “Heaven” and “sky” can be the same.

Elijah and Enoch were taken up to they sky.

Jesus personally opened heaven to humanity.

Hope this helps.

God bless.


Can we add Moses to the discussion…

Does the transfiguration indicate that he too was in heaven?

No one went to heaven before Jesus sacrifice on the Cross opened the gates of Heaven.

Regarding Elijah, Enoch, and the rest of “the just”:

A few considerations . . . .

ROMAN CATECHISM** Part I, Article V. Why He Descended into Hell

To Liberate The Just

Having explained these things, the pastor should next proceed to teach that Christ the Lord descended into hell , in order that having despoiled the demons, He might liberate from prison those holy Fathers and the other just souls, and might bring them into heaven with Himself. . . . This deliverance of the just was long before predicted by Osee in these words: O death, I will be thy death; O hell, I will be thy bite; ’ and also by the Prophet Zachary5: Thou also by the blood of thy testament hast sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit, wherein is no water; and lastly, the same is expressed by the Apostle in these words: Despoiling the principalities and powers, he hath exposed them confidently in open show, triumphing over them in himself. . . .

. . . Wherefore before His death and Resurrection heaven was closed against every child of Adam. The souls of the just, on their departure from this life, were either borne to the bosom of Abraham; or, as is still the case with those who have something to be washed away or satisfied for, were purified in the fire of purgatory.

A couple of other suggestions . . .

EPHESIANS 4:8 8 Therefore it is said, When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.

Now Ephesians 4:8 taken by itself doesn’t necessitate Jesus opened the gates of Heaven, but taken with other evidence, I think it is appropriate to interpret it that way.

CCC 637 In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.

1st CORINTHIANS 15:20 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Jesus Is The Fulfillment Of Pentecost

Jesus is “the first fruits (see 1st Cor. 15:20 above) not the second fruits. Jesus is the
fulfillment of the “Feast of Weeks” or
the “Feast of First Fruits” or the “Feast of Pentecost
(all differing ways of alluding to the same feast).

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