For the past couple of days, we’ve looked at some of what the Bible tells us about our eternal home–the new earth and the city of New Jerusalem. If you have placed your faith in Christ to forgive your sin–eternal life is a guarantee. You never have to wonder if you will spend eternity with Christ.
Your eternal home is described in Revelation 21 and 22. It’s an incredible place.
But what about those believers in Christ who’ve already died? If heaven is not some spiritual dimension in which we’ll float for all eternity, but will in fact be on earth…where are those people now? Clearly, New Jerusalem is not in place yet and the earth has not been made new.
Let’s take a look at several passages from the New Testament.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 says:
13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
Paul wants us to have genuine hope regarding those who have “fallen asleep” (died). We do not need to be ignorant of the truth. We don’t need to wonder about what has happened to our loved ones or what will happen to us. Will we understand everything? No, there’s still much that’s not clear, but what we need to know–we can know.
2 Corinthians 5:6-8 says:
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
In these verses, we see that as long as we go on living in this earthly body, we are away from the Lord. Paul says that he would actually prefer to be away from his earthly body and at home with the Lord. He is confident that upon his death, he will find himself in the Lord’s presence.
Revelation 6:9-11 says:
I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
The apostle John has been given a glimpse into another realm. He tells us that he saw the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God. So what can we learn from these verses?
First, it’s clear that these souls, these people, are in God’s presence.
Second, it seems that they have some type of body. It wouldn’t be the body they had while living on earth and it’s not the glorified body they’ll receive at the final resurrection, but they do seem to have some kind of body. John is able to see them and they are given robes to wear. It doesn’t seem to me that a spirit would be wearing a robe. I don’t know how one could.
Third, they are talking to God. They are calling out to Him in loud voices. That would seem to indicate a real mouth and vocal chords. John didn’t say they were communicating silently or that God just knew their thoughts, which of course He would have, but it seems that John is seeing real people with real bodies who can also talk.
So we see that Christ-followers who have died are in God’s presence and have some type of body. But other than the fact that we know they’re in God’s presence–where are they?
I don’t know this for sure, but I’m going to take a guess. I think people who know Christ and have died may already be living in New Jerusalem. In Revelation 21, we see the city coming down out of heaven. I’m wondering if people are already living there with Christ. And someday, it will simply be relocated here, once the earth has been made new.
Like I said, I don’t know this for sure. For today, it’s only a guess. When you see me in New Jerusalem some day, we can talk about it. The important thing to know for now is that believers in Christ who have already died are with Him.
There are many other New Testament passages that talk about all of this. Again, let me encourage you to be in God’s word and study it for yourself.