Questions and Answers
Q: Can a person go to heaven without dying?
My sister said a man was coming to their church that has a healing ministry and has been to heaven. I feel that a person cannot go to heaven until death except for John. I have never read it in the Bible but I could be wrong. Will you help me to understand the truth.
Your question, as I understand it, is twofold: 1) Can a person go to heaven without dying? and 2) Can a person return from heaven after dying?
Can a person go to heaven without dying? The Bible records, in the Old Testament, the event of two different men at two different times that appears to have gone to heaven without dying. The account of Enoch is recorded in Genesis 5:21-24; Hebrews 11:5; and Jude 14-15. It implies that Enoch went to heaven. “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” The Scriptures are clearer concerning Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11. Elijah went to heaven without dying riding in a chariot of fire in a whirlwind. These men went to heaven physically without dying.
In the New Testament, there are recorded two separate, but similar events. The Apostle Paul wrote of knowing a man he knew who entered the ‘third heaven’, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. Many scholars believe Paul was referring to himself. He states he was uncertain whether this man accomplished this in the physical body or in the ‘spirit’. Notice Paul’s wording in Acts 22:17-21 when he confessed to being in a ‘trance’ and conversing with the Lord. The second instance is found in Revelation 1:10-20 and 4:1-2. The Apostle John wrote that he was in the ‘spirit’ when he saw the glorified Lord Jesus and found himself before the throne of God. It is unclear, and therefore, we cannot be dogmatic about these two men actually going to heaven physically before death.
Can a person return from heaven after dying? The simplistic definition of death is separation. At death the soul and spirit of an individual separates from the body and enters his eternal destiny. We read in Hebrews 9:27, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” The Bible says concerning the saved, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”, 2 Corinthians 5:8. Those who die without Christ as their Savior enter into Hades, the place of torment. The most descriptive passage of Scripture concerning this is Luke 16:19-31. The Lord taught the immediate and permanent residence of those who have entered their eternal home. Jesus even emphasized the fact that no one returning from heaven to earth would be able to persuade men to be saved, verses 27-31. The salvation of the lost would be the only reason for the Lord to send someone back to earth. Yet, those that I have heard and read about do not seem to share the Gospel or appeal to anyone to be saved. Their message is more about themselves than the grace and salvation of God. What about the accounts in Scripture of people dying and then being resurrected back to life? God dealt with the nation of Israel with signs to authenticate His message and His messenger, 1 Corinthians 1:22. These resurrections where signs to the nation of Israel, pointing them to their Messiah and His power.