Do We Go to Heaven when We Die?

Based on several Bible verses, it seems that we do NOT go to heaven when we die–

“When his spirit (ruah) departs he returns to his earth; on that day his thoughts perish” (Psalm 146:4).
“And when the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath (ruah) returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
“For there will be no work, nor reason, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in Sheol (the grave) where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.” (Daniel 12:2)
“Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; for you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)
“Return, O LORD, save my life; rescue me because of your kindness, for among the dead no one remembers you.” (Psalms 6:5-6)
“The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any that go down into silence”. (Psalm 115:17)
“For the lot of man and of beast is one lot; the one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life-breath, and man has no advantage over the beast; but all is vanity. Both go to the same place; both were made from the dust, and to the dust they both return.” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20)
"…the dead know nothing…(Ecclesiastes 9:5)
“So men lie down and rise not again. Till the heavens are no more, they shall not awake, nor be roused out of their sleep.” (Job 14:12)
Why did I not die at birth…for now I would have lain down and been quiet, I would have slept then, I would have been at rest…with kings and counselors of the earth…with princes who had gold…or like a miscarriage which is discarded, I would not be…there the wicked cease from raging and there the weary are at rest, the prisoners are at ease together; they do not hear the voice of the taskmaster. The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master. (Job 3:11-19)
And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? For now shall I lie down in the dust; And thou wilt seek me diligently, but I shall not be. (Job 7:21)

(list taken from

I know Catholicism does not teach this. So, how do Catholics deal with these verses?

Just curious, why seek for Biblical scholarship on a guitar website?

While IANAPJAAS, the “standard” Catholic position is that Biblical teachings developed over time. First, you had the Torah, then, the prophets, and, finally, our LORD and His followers, who produced the NT.

Some teachings (there is a God, whom we must follow) came about almost at once; while others (such as the eschatology of the human being) took time to flesh out.

In Tanakhic times, it was indeed believed by most Israelites that death ended the human being. (Yet even Job expected to see God after the worms destroyed him.)

Still, by Maccabean times, a strong sense of human afterlife was afoot (although it was still debated, ie, Pharisees versus Sadduccees).

It required our LORD to settle the issue by His resurrection, and S. Paul to complete the picture with his teaching of the spiritual body (pneumatikon soma).

(BTW: older and newer teachings do not conflict. The Tanakh is not heaven centered but earth centered, and your earth being is your human body. When that stops holding life, you cease being on earth, although your life restores in Eternity.)


The problem with the verses you posted is that they are from the OT, which is before Christ came to open the gates of heaven.

If you want to claim we don’t go to heaven, passages from the NT. And if you want to make it an even bigger task, try not to take verses out of context.

Before Christ died and rose again, no one went to heaven (with arguable a select few such as Elijah). They were instead in hell (land of the dead), but in a particular area of hell known as the Bosom of Abraham, where those who died in God’s favor were protected from the sufferings of hell.

After Jesus’ death on the cross, he opened the gates of heaven which allowed those in the BoA to be taken up to heaven.


As bzkoss noted, those applied to the Old Covenant times.
We are in the times of the New Covenant and we look to those teachings.

Luke 23:43 “This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”

2 Cor 5:8 We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Phil. 1:23 …My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Why are you ignoring the NT?

Hey people, thanks for your replies. In response to GEddie, you never know what kind of wisdom you will find in obscure places.

Here’s my problem with all these replies urging me to check out the NT: new revelation should not contradict old revelation. Why favor the new revelation of the NT over the old revelation of the OT when it comes to the afterlife?

If we go to heaven when we die, why is Paul so disturbed by the thought that we might not rise from the dead?

What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Cor. 15:32)

I’m kind of playing devil’s advocate here, since I already have an idea of how to respond to the above question.

Look at the gospels of Jesus’ transfiguration. Who’s with Jesus? Those passages always give me great hope.

Only if you have accepted JESUS as your Lord and Saviour and that you are sorry for your sins!

Paul is not “disturbed by the thought that we might not rise from the dead” - he knows we’re going to rise from the dead. It’s out of concern for the eternal welfare of others that he’s pointing out to them that it’s only because there is an eternal existence for us humans (beings who consist of a body and soul) that what we do in this life has meaning - has eternal consequences. If it didn’t have eternal consequences, if there was no life after death, then we might just as well forget about trying to do what is moral, and just do whatever we want (“eat, drink, and be merry”).

I’ve reread this post, and I’m not sure on what point/position you mean to be playing the “devil’s advocate”. Are you challenging the position of whether we will experience an afterlife of any sort? (You cited only OT quotes that express a lack of knowledge regarding afterlife.)

If we go to heaven when we die, why is Paul so disturbed by the thought that we might not rise from the dead?

Or are you maintaining an afterlife for our human soul but challenging the position that our bodies will be raised at the end of the world to be reunited to our souls in this afterlife?

It’s all about the context.

The verses cited in the original post mostly have to do with misery and suffering, and with death as the culmination of, or sometimes relief from that suffering. The authors were not interested in teaching about the nature of our immortal souls but were telling us about human suffering. This is especially true of the citations from Job, and from the Psalms of David where he is betrayed, has to flee for his life and driven into the wilderness.

Catholics believe in Heaven but we believe that we will be ressurected from the dead at the end of time.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

Most Jews, from Abraham to the Pharisees, believed in the ressurection of the dead. Catholics believe in the physical ressurection of the dead at the end of time. We profess that belief at every Mass in the creed.


Nita, I was playing devil’s advocate by citing Paul as evidence that the apostles did not believe in an afterlife without the body. I can think of a way to reply to my citation though, by going back in the chapter and pointing out how it is the possibility that JESUS did not rise from the dead that is so disturbing.

However, I don’t think those of you who have been replying to my second post with the quote from Paul understand what I am saying. My reason for quoting Paul js that, if we have an afterlife without a body in the presence of God, then Paul would not think that it is important that we rise from the dead in order to be with God. Why would Paul say we may as well do whatever we want if there is no resurrection, if there is a disembodied afterlife? If there is at least a disembodied afterlife, then we should be careful about what we do. But, if the only afterlife we could have is a physical resurrection (no in-between state of disembodiment), and that resurrection is not going to happen (which Paul assumes for the sake of his argument), then surely we can do whatever we want without fear. Paul assumes that if there is no resurrection, we can do whatever we want. Why should the lack of resurrection mean the lack of an afterlife at all? But Paul assumes that if there is no resurrection there is no afterlife.

Let me quote from the masterguitar link about the early Church fathers–

'Justin Martyr says,

Why do we any longer endure those unbelieving arguments and fail to see that we are retrograding when we listen to such an argument as this: That the soul is immortal, but the body mortal, and incapable of being revived. For this we used to hear from Plato, even before we learned the truth. If then the Saviour said this and proclaimed salvation to the soul alone, what new thing beyond what we heard from Plato, did He bring us? (Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 80)

These men were in contention with Gnostics, who denied the resurrection. In arguing for the resurrection of the body, these Fathers secondarily reveal that they hold that the soul of man does not exist apart from the body, or if it does exist in some sense, it “sleeps”. It doesn’t go to heaven but is kept in the grave (Hades/Sheol) until the resurrection. In Justin’s case, in the same context as the quote given above there is a passage where he argues explicitly that without a body AND a soul TOGETHER there is no person. He says,

“As in the case of a yoke of oxen, if one or other is loosed from the yoke, neither of them can plough alone; so neither can soul or body alone effect anything, if they be unyoked from their communion . . .” (Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 80)
In relation to this subject, these men rightly reject their Platonic heritage and background.

Contrasted to these would be other influential Greek fathers who carried their Platonic presuppositions into their Christianity and superimposed their Greek paradigm onto Hebrew documents. An example would be Origen, who believed in the inherent immortality of human souls. He taught that human souls pre-exist. He believed in the transmigration of souls, that is, reincarnation. His paradigm is directly from Plato.

“Traditional” Christianity has included a belief in the resurrection of the body, while ALSO teaching an immediate salvation of the soul alone in a conscious disembodied state. This is said to be the REAL person, albeit disembodied. Such an idea is flatly contradicted by Justin and Irenaeus and is identified by them as pagan - specifically, Platonic.’

The ideas and belief in an after life did not enter into Hebrew thought until after the Exile and then even still was not a universal belief. By the time of Jesus of Nazareth it was more widely accepted. The Bible did not come to us as a cohesive whole but in layers and layers of tradition. One must consider the times and circumstances surrounding which book one quotes from. By the end of the first century CE Greek thought entered into Christian thought when Christianity ceased to be a Jewish sect.

this is also debatable amongst protestants as well. even going back to the OT it mentions
odd people here and there been taken up to heaven even though they were alive at the time.
one example was in genesis 5:24 when god walked with enoch and then just took him.
another example is in 2 kings 2:11 when elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. so it
must be possible for some individuals to go directly to heaven. also what did jesus mean
when he told his disciples to go and preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand matt 10:7:shrug:

I notice that all those verses are from the Old Testament. Hmm, interesting…

mark for remarks

some go to heaven when they die.

some go to heaven after spending some time in purgatory after they die.

some may, think of judas, go to hell after the die. those never go to heaven.

I Corr.

15:12Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again.
15:14**And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain: and your faith is also vain


988 The Christian Creed - the profession of our faith in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and in God’s creative, saving, and sanctifying action - culminates in the proclamation of the resurrection of the dead on the last day and in life everlasting.

989 We firmly believe, and hence we hope that, just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and lives for ever, so after death the righteous will live for ever with the risen Christ and he will raise them up on the last day.534 Our resurrection, like his own, will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.535
990 The term “flesh” refers to man in his state of weakness and mortality.536 The “resurrection of the flesh” (the literal formulation of the Apostles’ Creed) means not only that the immortal soul will live on after death, but that even our “mortal body” will come to life again.537

991 Belief in the resurrection of the dead has been an essential element of the Christian faith from its beginnings. "The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live."538

How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. ... But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.539

Are you sure you are interpreting “dead” or “sleep” or other description correctly? You can be surely alive, yet dead.

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