Luke 16: 19-23, II Cor 5:8, Heb 11:16.
It’s another time of goodness on The Gospel Exposition Blog. Today, we’ll be treating a very important topic, which is “Twenty people we are sure are in heaven“. I know someone might be asking, how are you sure someone is in heaven when you have not been there? What is heaven in the first place? Well, the bible is the boundary of our (the believers) knowledge, outside which there is no knowledge anyone can claim to have and within which every revelation one receives must align. Therefore, those and similar questions you’ve got would be answered by the Spirit of God in this article. I pray that as we go through the scriptures together, your mind is flooded with light in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Before we start, it’s imperative to know that heaven is a largely used word, and the context of discussion would determine what is in the mind of the writer. There are three kinds of heaven, 2 Corinthians 12:3, and this we’ll mention as we go further in this study. It is also important to know that this post is not to mean some people have received judgment and are in heaven while others would receive theirs in a later time, whether at death or rapture. The bible definitely did not teach such. This post is actually talking about a temporary resting place for the saints before the final judgement, that is, an intermediate place or state where the souls of the righteous await resurrection and the final judgment.
Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, when the thief at His right hand side rebuked the other thief and pleaded Christ’s mercy and remembrance in His kingdom, Jesus said “today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke 23 (KJV)
39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.”
40 but the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?
41 and we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
43 and Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The question that readily comes to mind is what is paradise? The dictionary gave these general definitions:
A very beautiful, pleasant, or peaceful place that seems to be perfect.
A place that is perfect for a particular activity or for a person who enjoys that activity.
A state of complete happiness.
Now, to complete and perfect these definitions, let’s check the definition from the scriptures.
2 Corinthians 12 (KJV)
- I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third Heaven.
- And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—
- How he was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Paul in the simplest term defined the “third heaven” he earlier mentioned in verse two as “Paradise” in verse four. In other words, the third heaven is likened to paradise. To buttress this, the third heaven is the highest heaven or heights of heaven according to the records in the GNB and MSG version respectively. Therefore, paradise is synonymous to heaven.
The first heaven is the atmosphere we see, the cloud, the sky, where birds fly. Lamentations 4:19, Genesis 2:19. The second heaven is the firmament or upper region – the body or system of the sun, moon and stars, that is, the outer space. Matthew 24:29, Jeremiah 8:2. Beyond these is the third heaven – the heights or heavens of heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:1, Deuteronomy 10:4.
Before we proceed to give the list of people already in heaven, it is important we look into what guarantees heaven. There’s a beautiful account in Hebrews to check out.
Hebrews 11 (KJV)
- But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
This is talking about the Patriarchs of faith who did not dwell in the past but desire a better (heavenly) country. They believed God and His word, therefore, He saw their faith and was proud of them, preparing a city (or place) for them.
Paradise is a prepared city or place for the prepared beings (people). What gets one prepared is faith. So, faith is the guarantee of heaven.
It is important to know that the Old Testament saints did not go to heaven immediately they died, although they are there now. Jesus said, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven”. John 3:13. Therefore, no man, before Christ’s work of redemption, has been to heaven, including Enoch and Elijah. However, we know from Jesus’ statement above (the account of the thief at the right hand side) that the Old Testament saints went to a place after death. That’s the place of rest prepared for the saints that died before Christ’s redemptive sacrifice – (the sacrifice was actually effected after Christ’s resurrection) , so the thief too didn’t go to heaven immediately, he also joined the Old Testament saints in their temporary place of rest. Let’s consider Saint Luke’s account of the Lazarus and the rich man for more light in this discussion and to know what the place of rest is called.
Luke 16 (KJV)
19 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.
20 but there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,
21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 so it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.
23 and being in torments in hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”
According to the account above, the Old Testament saints’ temporary abode after death is Abraham’s bosom. Why Abraham’s bosom? This is a statement of certainty and inclusion of Abraham, who is the father of faith, in the place of temporary rest with the Lord before the final judgement. Abraham is believed to be the father of faith, so, he was there, and so are other saints of the Old Testament, fashioned in the same manner of faith, which also include the repentant thief on the right hand side of Jesus. However, the New Testament saints sleep at the Lord’s bosom. Paul said, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord”. 2 Corinthians 5:8. When the New Testament believers are absent from the body – die, they go to heaven, directly, to be present with the Lord. The Old Testament saints therefore would be with the Lord Jesus, in heaven, after His redemptive sacrifice and no longer at Abraham’s bosom because Abraham himself is now at His bosom, for the Lord has paid the price in full, for every saint.
This is a clue to knowing people that are already in heaven and those that are going there: Faith in God and Whom He has sent. That is the key. Someone might ask, what about holiness and righteousness? I would love to tell you that faith is greater than them all and as a matter of fact, genuine and sound faith would produce these, easily. Rahab the harlot and Samson was included in the list of the elders of faith in Hebrews 11 not because they were holy and righteous, neither was the thief at the right hand side perfect before he obtained favour. As a matter of fact, none of the elders were flawless. But the common thing they all had was faith and that is why it is the most important criterion for heaven, while we allow its fruit to manifest in us as believers. Everyone that died in the faith, both in the Old and New Testament, is in heaven.
Having given the blueprint for heaven which is faith, we can now proceed to giving twenty people we are sure are in heaven. I would love to start, sequentially, from the patriarchs of faith according to the book of Hebrews, while the remaining would be added.
- John the Baptist
These Old Testament folks are all in heaven and the list can go on and on.
32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the Prophets:
The verse above implies the list is longer than the one given. This tells us that in addition to those mentioned, there are many more.
Also, all the saints that died after Christ’s work of redemption are in heaven, resting at the bosom of the saviour. This will include the eleven and other disciples, the apostles and servants of the New Testament, down to the saints that died in our contemporary time.
In conclusion, I want to recommend a previous post on this blog, which is, “Looking unto Jesus – Author and Finisher of faith“, and at the same time request your continued visit for a post slated for a later date, which is “When Christian die, where do they actually go?” The former will shed more light on the subject of faith discussed in this article while the latter will delve more into what happens afterlife. Today, we are given a tip for the purpose of clarity on the people we are sure are in heaven.
We are sure you enjoyed this post. We would be glad to have your questions and comments if you have any. Check us again next week Tuesday for another encounter. Thank you. God bless you.