At death, believers move directly from life on earth to life in heaven.
What happens immediately after a believer’s death? Does the soul enter heaven right away, go to sleep until the resurrection, or suffer for certain sins before coming into the presence of God?
In writing to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul referred to the dead as being asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:14), which some interpret as a state of “suspended animation” until the resurrection. However, Jesus told the thief on the cross that they would be together in paradise that very day (Luke 23:43).
Others think that before we go to heaven, additional cleansing through punishment is required. But Scripture is clear: Jesus paid the price for all sins. His work of atonement was finished on the cross (1 Peter 3:18). Those who have received Jesus as Savior move immediately from life on earth to life in heaven.
Unfortunately, people who die without Jesus suffer until they face judgment (Luke 16:22-23). Since belief in Christ is the only way to heaven, the lake of fire will be their final destination (Revelation 20:11-15). This is a hard truth, but the good news is that knowing our ultimate destiny encourages us to face our unbelieving loved ones—and empowers us to pray for and witness to them.