The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.
We know that when Christians die, they are immediately ushered into the presence of Jesus. But what about those who died before Jesus? What happened to the Old Testament saints like Abraham, David, and Jeremiah? Where did they go when they died?
It is an interesting question. First of all, were they even saved? They lived before Jesus offered his sacrifice. How were the Old Testament saints saved? There is a very simple answer: People in the Old Testament were saved the same way you and I are saved. They were saved by the death of Jesus on the cross for their sins. How could Jesus’ death save them if they lived before Jesus? They were saved on credit. Genesis 15:6 says that Abraham “believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Abraham and the Old Testament saints believed what God revealed to them, and their exercise of their faith allowed them to be saved on credit. The bill for their sins, just like the bill for our sins, came due on Mount Calvary, and Jesus paid that debt for all of us. That is why He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The Old Testament saints were saved the same way you and I are saved: by the blood of Jesus Christ. They were saved on credit.
Second, where did they go? To understand where they went, we need to understand the concept of Abraham’s bosom and Hades. In Luke 16, Jesus told a story of two men who died. One man was a poor man named Lazarus, and when he died he went to Abraham’s bosom because he trusted in God. The rich man died and went to Hades, a place of suffering. Jesus said, “The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’” (16:22-24).
This passage reminds us of a couple of things. First of all, not everyone goes to the same location when they die. Jesus said there is a place of blessing, and there is a place of judgment. Second, this passage reminds us that when we die, we immediately begin experiencing either God’s blessing or God’s wrath. There is not a waiting time for the future. Immediately Lazarus was welcomed to Abraham’s bosom and began experiencing all God had for him. Immediately the rich man was in Hades, a place of torment.
I believe that when the Old Testament saints died, they went into the presence of the Lord. Believers go immediately into God’s presence, and while we are there, we await the creation of the New Heaven and Earth that will be our permanent destination.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Do Christians Immediately Go To Heaven When They Die?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.lockman.org)