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Question and Answer

When Christians die, do they immediately go to heaven or do we wait for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

When Christians die, their soul and spirit (two aspects of our immaterial self) go immediately to heaven. Separated from their physical bodies, they will be in the immediate presence of God and in conscious and thrilling fellowship with Christ and the redeemed in heaven (John 11:25; Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:6–8; 2 Tim. 4:6; 2 Peter 1:12–15). Their physical body, the body we view at funerals, is left on earth. Resurrection, on the other hand, is the reuniting of the soul and spirit with the physical body. At the Second Coming of Christ for His people, the Lord will reunite the souls and spirits of departed Christians with their physical bodies. These bodies will be glorified forever for the full embodied enjoyment of God (1 Cor. 15:50–57; 1 Thess. 4:13–18). What a glorious prospect for the child of God!

What does the Bible say about physical death?

As human beings we are made up of two parts: material and immaterial. Our material part is our physical body; our immaterial part is our soul and spirit. Our soul and spirit and our physical body are united and unified in our present embodied life and experience. Death, however, is a major disruption. It is the separation of our soul and spirit from our physical body. The person who animated the body is gone, no longer present. Physical death, the separation of the soul and spirit from the physical body was not the Lord’s creation intent for people. Physical death is one of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God (Gen. 3:17–19) and the ongoing result of living in a fallen world (Gen. 5:1–28). But by His death on the cross, Jesus has stripped physical death of its power, and in His own time the experience of physical death for God’s people will be banished from the universe forever (2 Tim. 1:8–10; 1 Cor. 15:50–56; Rev. 21:1–4).

Since atheists do not believe in God or Satan, what do they think is the cause of all the evil happening in the world today?

A consistent atheist does not consider terrible things (murder, rape, robbery, war, lying, stealing) happening in the world today to be evil. Evil is a moral category that implies an absolute standard. For example, some atheists did not want to consider the September 11 terrorist attacks evil, because that would acknowledge an absolute standard. A consistent atheist refuses to make such an acknowledgment. Since atheists do not believe in God’s existence, they are forced to account for the world in social, cultural, biological, and chemical categories. What is obviously evil is in their minds a deviation from a cultural or social norm; the cause of evil acts may be mental illness or a lack of education or culture. In the atheistic construct of the universe, people have no ultimate value and significance. People are just chemicals. Atheism is a tragic and sad worldview with dire consequences for the people and societies that embrace it. One of the first steps toward Christ that some atheists take is the recognition that evil exists in our world and that people are messed up because of sin. C. S. Lewis is a classic case of an atheist who became a believer.

As Christians, how should we handle material wealth in this life?

Material wealth in itself is neither sinful nor morally wrong. Indeed, in the Bible, a number of God’s choice servants were wealthy people: Abram (Gen. 13:2), Job (Job 1:1–3), Lydia (Acts 16:14–15). But at the same time, we must remind ourselves that wealth and the abundance of possessions are not the essence of life. Only Jesus can satisfy! As Christ followers, the men and women whom the Lord has blessed with the abundance of material things have the responsibility before the Lord to steward their wealth wisely for the glory of God and for His kingdom (1 Tim. 6:17–19). We should be thankful for wealthy followers of Christ who invest their wealth in the kingdom of God by giving to their local churches, supporting full-time Christian workers, and partnering with ministries that practice and proclaim God’s Word.

Will there be wealthy people in heaven?

Yes. All of us! Every redeemed human being in heaven will be wealthy in the “heavenly” meaning of wealth (2 Cor 8:8–9). What I mean is this: every person in heaven will be wealthy in the sense that they will be free from the power and presence of sin. We will also have a glorified body through which the Holy Spirit will act without hindrance (Rom. 8:23; Phil. 3:20–21). Sin will not taint our lives in the slightest way, allowing unhindered fellowship with the triune God and with one another. The spiritual blessing and wealth that are ours right now in Christ will be experienced in a fullness of joy beyond anything we have known or experienced in this life (Rev. 22:1–5). Certainly, we will be wealthy!

BY Dr. Winfred O. Neely

Dr. Winfred Neely is Vice President and Dean of Moody Theological Seminary and Graduate School. An ordained minister, Winfred has served churches across the city of Chicago, the near west suburbs, and Senegal, West Africa. He is the author of How to Overcome Worry (Moody Publishers) and a contributor to the Moody Bible Commentary and Moody Handbook of Preaching. Winfred and his wife Stephne have been married for forty years and have four adult children and nine grandchildren.

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