Where Will I Go When I Die?
This morning we are picking back up in our study of the Gospel of Mark.
If you’re new to our church, it would be good for you to know that we practice a form of preaching called “Expository Preaching”. What that means is we believe the Bible is best taught by taking books of the Bible and then teaching through them from beginning to end, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, in order to understand how God’s Word applies to our lives today.
With that said, we are currently walking through the Gospel of Mark. A gospel written to teach us who Jesus is, what He came to do, and what it means to follow Him. And as you could probably tell from the opening video, we are nearing the end of this study of this Gospel.
You may recall last week we looked at the death of Jesus. An event that left the followers of Jesus stunned as the story of Jesus seemed to come to an end.
But despite the hopelessness of that moment, we learned there was still hope. That there is another chapter to this story. We learned as Jesus cried out his last words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, that it wasn’t a cry of defeat or abandonment, but a cry of victory.
We know this because his cries echo the words of the Psalmist in . A Psalm prophetically written to predict and depict the crucifixion and victory of Jesus.
So, if you missed the message last week, I would encourage you to go online to marysvillefellowship.com where you can listen to it in it’s entirety.
In his final moments Jesus points us to to show us there is another chapter yet to be written and victory is to come.
Because while the Psalm begins with the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (ESV) The Psalm ends on an entirely different note as the Psalmist writes , “All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. 30 Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; 31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.” (ESV)
The Psalmist says the story begins with our savior nailed to a cross, but it ends with Jesus sitting on a throne. The story ends with all bowing before Him. The story ends with Jesus proclaiming victory. Death has been defeated. The grave can no longer hold us. For those who put their faith in Jesus, he has done it, there is victory, it is finished.
That’s the hope you and I have this morning. And as we’re going to see next week, it’s a hope we can count on as Jesus will conquer death itself.
But the truth is, for those standing at the foot of the cross, the promised victory is difficult to see. All they can see is his death. Yes, there’s , and that’s great, but right now, Jesus is dead and it’s difficult to see hope in the midst of loss.
And while we know that to be true, while we know that those who put their faith in Jesus don’t have to fear death.
To be honest, this is the part of the story nobody likes to talk about. In fact, I think it would be fare to say, that outside of Easter, the burial of Jesus is often overlooked, and something we’d rather not discuss.
Why do you think that is? Probably because it’s a funeral. An event nobody looks forward to. An event we all dread, especially when it comes to the loss of a loved one.
Because like all funerals, the burial of Jesus represents loss:
For Mary, it’s the loss of a child.
For the disciples, it’s the loss of a close friend, teacher, and mentor.
And for the many who followed Jesus, it’s the loss of hope, as the one they thought might help them is now dead.
Like all funerals, the burial of Jesus represents a time of grief, loss, and reflection.
And the truth is, we all can relate with this moment. Because without a doubt, every one of us in this room and watching online have felt such a loss. We’ve all gotten the phone call or heard the news. Someone we loved or cared about has passed away. We’ve all walked past the casket and grieved the loss of a loved one. A moment when hope is fleeting.
And to be honest, like those who buried Jesus, it’s a moment when it’s difficult for us to find hope. It’s difficult for us to see past the pain of loss. Somebody we loved is gone.
In addition to that, it’s always a reminder of our own death. That one day people will gather to remember us. That one day friends and family will walk by our casket. It’s a reminder that our lives are fragile and temporary.
No, funerals are no fun. Funerals remind us of our loss and our own mortality.
And as a result, it leaves us asking questions:
Why has this happened?
How will I move forward?
Will we see them again?
Did they go to heaven?
Where are they now?
And maybe even more concerning, “What will happen to me when I die?”
And really, that’s the question I’d like to address this morning. A question people have pondered, discussed, and debated since the beginning of time. A question that maybe you’ve even considered. The question of, “What happens to a person when they die?”
Let me ask you something, “Have you ever considered that question?” Have you ever wondered, “Where will I go or what will happen to me when I die?”
I think if we’re honest, we’ve all asked that question. We’ve all considered what life after death might hold. Because after all, we’re all going to have a funeral. We’re all going die.
Now, at this point, some of you might be thinking, “Wow Pastor, I’m glad I came to church today. I didn’t know it was going to be so uplifting. Thanks for the reminder.”
Well, like I said, that’s probably why this passage isn’t preached very often. Because the funeral of Jesus is a moment we reflect on death. And the truth is, if we’re going to follow Jesus and lead others to Jesus, we need to understand what death means for the Christian.
So, here’s what I want to do this morning:
But because it is Jesus’s funeral, it raises some questions about death. Questions we need to know the answers to if we’re going to follow Jesus. Questions we need to be able to answer if we’re going to lead others to Jesus. Questions, when answered, that I believe will bring comfort and assurance to us when it comes to our own death. So, here’s what I want to do this morning:
First, I want to read through the passage and give some explanation to the funeral of Jesus. Why it happened the way it did and what we can learn from it.
Second, I want to spend the rest of our time addressing two questions. Two questions we need to know the answers to as Christ followers.
Before Jesus came, where did people who go when they died?
The first question we’re going to ask is, “Where did people
Where did Jesus go when he died and why is that important?
Where will I go when I die?
How many of you would like to know the answers to those questions? I think we all probably would and should.
So, with that as our basis, let’s begin as we pick back up in as we attend the funeral of Jesus. Beginning in verse 42 Mark writes:
42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
Mark picks back up following the death of Jesus. If you recall, at the moment Jesus died, Mark and Matthew both record that the temple veil was torn in two, and Matthew says the ground shook and some of the tombs were split open. Meaning, the death of Jesus was felt. Not just by those standing at the cross, but by creation and death itself.
In fact, so significant was the life and death of Jesus that in the years to come, history would reflect it as the calendar system would be divided into two sections, BC and AD.
BC stands for the history “Before Christ”. And AD is the history after Christ, It stands for “anno domoni” which translated means “In the year of our Lord”. As a result, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are turning points in world history. Dividing history into what took place before Jesus and what took place after Jesus. That’s amazing, isn’t it?
And what’s so interesting about that, is while Jesus’s life and death have become the center point of human history, when it comes to his funeral, only a few were in attendance. In fact, Mark says only three people signed the guest book, and the Gospel writer John adds a fourth. The most significant person that ever lived in history, and only 3-4 people attended his funeral. Doesn’t seem right, does it?
Mark tells us why. Mark says:
So, why is that? Why so few in attendance? Who was there and why? Thankfully, Mark tells us. In verse 42 he writes:
42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Mark says as this horrific day came to an end, a man named Joseph of Arimathea sought permission to take Jesus’s body down.
So, a good first question might be, “Who’s this guy?” According to Mark he was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was the religious counsel that had condemned Jesus to death. A good second question would then by, “Why does a member of the counsel that condemned Jesus to death want his body?”
Fist question, “Who is Joesph of Arimathea?” Where did this guy come from? Second question, “Why does he need to ask permission? And why did he need to take courage?”
38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.
Well, let’s begin with who Joseph of Arimathea is. Mark says he was a member of the Sanhedrin, which was the religious counsel that had condemned Jesus to death. Based on that, it seems odd that he would be asking for Jesus’s body. Because if he’s part of the counsel that condemned Jesus, why is he asking for the body of Jesus?
Well apparently, unlike his peers, Joseph is a friend of Jesus. In fact, the gospel writer John tells us he’s a follower. John writes:
38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body.
John says Joseph of Arimathea is a secret disciple of Jesus. And Mark adds that he is a man,“looking for the kingdom of God.” In other words, Joseph sought answers concerning the life to come, and he believed Jesus might have those answers. So that’s who Joseph is.
But apparently he’s not alone. Because while Mark doesn’t mention it, John says someone else is with him. John writes:
39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.
So, who is Nicodemus? John tells us in . John writes:
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John says Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a Jewish religious leader. And apparently at one point he approached Jesus and asked about the Kingdom of God as well. Like Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus believes Jesus may have the answers.
So, here we have two religious leaders. Men who have secretly followed Jesus. Men who believe Jesus has answers. Men who now, in his death, show great courage as they seek to honor Jesus by giving him a proper burial.
It’s a reminder to us that some of the most committed Christians are often the ones you’d least expect. It’s a reminder that you should never judge a book by its cover. Yes, they are Pharisees, but at this point they are more committed than the disciples themselves. Because while the other disciples are nowhere to be found, these two men boldly seek to honor Jesus.
This leads us to the second question. “Why does Joseph need permission, and why would this be a courageous act?”
In fact, Mark says Joseph was “looking for the kingdom of God”. And according to the Gospel writer John, another religious official was with him. John writes:John affirms that Joseph was a secret follower of Jesus,Which means, to some degree Joseph must have believed Jesus had some answers concerning God and spiritual matters. And apparently his belief or faith in Jesus was so strong that Mark says, “he took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.”
Now, you might be wondering, “Why did it take courage for Joesph to ask for Jesus’s body?”
At this point, why only these two at the funeral and why in secret? Mark gives us a hint. Mark says, desiring to bury Jesus, Joseph took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And it’s in this statement that we find out why so few are present.
Let’s start with why he needs to ask permission. What we need to understand is, while most criminals executed by Rome were given a proper burial, some were not. Specifically those who had been charged with high treason. For those criminals Rome would often deny burial and leave the bodies on the cross as a reminder of what happens to people who try and usurp Roman authority. For that person there would be no place of rest.
As a result, bodies left on the cross were typically eaten by birds or torn down and eaten by wild dogs and animals. It was the disgraces of all disgraces. For that person there would be no place of rest.
That’s why Joseph needs permission to take the body. Jesus hasn’t been accused of a common crime. He’s been accused of high treason. His accusers said he claimed to be a king like Caesar. A treasonous charge. So, if Jesus was to be buried, an exception would need to be made.
This is where the courage part comes in. Because to ask for the body of such a criminal would take nerve. It might even lead to ones own demise. And that’s why nobody is planning a funeral. That’s why Jesus’s family and his disciples have abandoned the body. To even suggest that Jesus receive a proper burial might be seen as treasonous. For the person asking, they may find themselves on a cross as well.
But Joseph is willing to put his life on the line to honor Jesus, so he goes to Pilate and asks permission to bury the body. And surprisingly, Pilate lets him. Listen to what Mark tells us:
44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph.
So, why would Pilate allow somebody to tak
What I want you to notice is, when asked, Pilate isn’t surprised by the request, but that Jesus is already dead. Because typically it took a little longer for crucifixion victims to die, sometimes days. But with Jesus, it’s only been hours, and Pilate is surprised.
Why is that significant? For a few reasons. #1, it’s significant because what we need to understand is that Jesus didn’t die because Rome wanted him to. In other words, nobody took Jesus’s life. Jesus gave up his life on his terms. He could have stopped it, but he didn’t. Jesus has made a willing sacrifice. Matthew puts it like this:
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.” (ESV)
Matthew says that Jesus gave up his spirit. Meaning, Jesus didn’t die from the wounds, the lack of oxygen, or the loss of blood. He died because in that moment he choose to. Jesus was in control of his death. Jesus puts it like this in John chapter 10. Concerning his life and death he says:
18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
#2, it’s significant because for Jesus to accomplish the work of salvation, he must die. And this passage verifies his death. Because when Pilate is told that Jesus is dead, Pilate wants verification. So, he asks the soldier who executed Jesus to verify it. In fact, while Mark doesn’t tell us, John tells us how it was verified. John writes:
34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
To make sure Jesus was dead, a spear was shoved in his side giving him a mortal wound. All that to say, when Jesus was taken down from the cross he wasn’t mostly dead, he was all dead. There is no doubt, Jesus is dead.
#3, it’s significant because Pilate actually gives Joseph the body. The question then is, “Why?” I mean if Jesus has been accused of high treason, why would Pilate allow a burial?
More than likely Pilate makes an exception because he knows Jesus was innocent. Remember, Pilate declared Jesus innocent at his trial. In fact, he had washed his hands of it. So, more than likely Pilate has no problem releasing the body because in his mind, Jesus was an innocent man. The charge was just a farce to avoid a riot.
And it’s significant because it’s further evidence that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Is. 53. That Jesus truly was the innocent lamb of God, willingly sacrificed for the sin of others. A pagan governor has further confirmed it.
So, now that Joseph has the body, he prepares it for burial. Mark writes:
46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
Without going into a lot of detail, Joseph gives Jesus a typical Jewish burial of that day. He wraps the body in a shroud and lays him in a tomb cut out of the rock. In other word, he puts Jesus in a small cave. But it’s not just any tomb. This tomb is special. Why? Matthew tells us:
59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.
59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud
Matthew says the tomb Joseph lays Jesus in is his own tomb. It’s his burial plot. Meaning, it was an elaborate tomb. We know this because according to Matthew, Joseph was a wealthy man. And wealthy people had elaborate tombs. In this case, it had a mechanism that sealed the tomb. Installed on the tomb was a large stone designed to easily roll into place. Here’s a picture of what it probably looked like:
In a tomb like this, the stone was designed to easily roll into place, but to roll it back was another story and required several men. As we’re going to see next week, that’s why the women were concerned about how they would clean Jesus’s body. In we read:
3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
This is an elaborate tomb, a tomb that once sealed is difficult to penetrate. In addition to that, in we are told that Pilate had guards stationed outside of the tomb. All that to say, once in the tomb, somebody would have to go to a lot of trouble to get the body of Jesus out. It would be no easy task.
Why is this important? It’s important because it lends further evidence to the fact that Jesus’s body wasn’t stolen or lost. We’ll talk more about that next week.
So, now that Jesus’s body has been taken down, wrapped, and put in the tomb, Mark gives us one more detail. He writes:
47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
Mark now tells us who else was at the funeral. Apparently the two Mary’s are there, and just to be clear, we’re not talking about Mary the mother of Jesus. These are two different Mary’s that have followed and been a part of Jesus’s ministry.
So, why are they mentioned? Mainly because Mark is once again establishing witnesses. In other words, what Mark is saying to his first century audience is, “If you want to verify what I’m saying, go talk to Mary Magdalene or Mary the mother of Joses. They were there. They saw where Jesus’s body was laid.”
So, that’s the funeral of Jesus. That’s how and why it went down the way it did. While not a highly attended funeral, it was a funeral that further gave evidence to the legitimacy of Jesus’s death and burial. Important facts for the days to come.
So, now that we have an understanding of that, let’s get to our questions concerning the after life. And maybe a great place to start would be by asking and answering the question.
To answer those questions, it’s probably best to start with the most obv
Question 1 - Where did Jesus go when he died?
In other words, while Joseph is asking for the body, while Jesus’s body is being laid in the tomb, where is Jesus and what is he doing?
The truth is, there is a lot of speculation and theories concerning Jesus’s time in the grave.
Some say he went to hell and battled the devil.
Others believe he went to hell and suffered for our sins.
And some believe Jesus did neither.
So, what where did Jesus go? What did he do during those few days?
Believe it or not, the Bible actually tells us. In fact, Jesus himself tells us. The answer is found in . Listen to what Luke tells us:
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Luke says as Jesus hung between the two criminals, one mocked him and the other begged for mercy. And apparently, the one begging for mercy asks Jesus to remember him in the life to come. And in this moment, Jesus makes an amazing statement to the man. Recognizing his faith, Jesus says, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Amazingly, this statement answers all our questions. It answers where Jesus went, and answers where we will go when we die. So, let’s get to the first answer. Where did Jesus go when he died?
Well, according to Jesus, he went to a place called “Paradise”. So, where’s that?
So, the question then is, “To what and where is Jesus referring? What and where is this Paradise?”
The word translated “paradise” here means “a dwelling place of the righteous dead”, and in Jesus’s day it was also known as “Abraham’s Bosom”. It’s called that because according to Jewish teaching, it was the place the OT saints went when they died.
Let me explain it like this. When Adam and Eve sinned against God in , it created a problem for all of us. In that moment, sin entered the world and like a virus it infected all of mankind as death entered the world and man was separated from God. Meaning, from on, when people died, they didn’t go to heaven.
So, where did they go? Well, it depended. It depended on where your hope and trust were. Because in , God made a promise that one day he would provide a redeemer. Someone who would come and solve the sin problem, thus restoring man’s relationship with God.
Well, it depended. Because in , God made a promise that one day he would provide a redeemer. Someone who would come and solve the sin problem, thus restoring man’s relationship with God. But until then, a separation would exist.
As a result, if a person was willing to commit their life to God, live righteously, and put their faith in God’s promise of a redeemer, although separated when they died, it wouldn’t be permanent. Because someday the redeemer would come and the separation would end.
In fact, the Apostle Paul verifies this in . Listen to what he says:
2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
In this passage Paul is making his point that salvation doesn’t come by works, but by faith. And to illustrate his point, he points back to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, and he asks, “How was Abraham saved? Was it by his works? He says, “No, it was because of his faith.” He believed God and God counted it as righteousness.”
The question then is, “What did Abraham believe God about?” He believed God would send the redeemer promised in . In other words, he put his faith and believed in the future Jesus. That’s why Paul goes on to say in verse 16:
That’s why Paul goes on to say in verse 16:
16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
In this passage Paul reemphasizes that salvation is a result of faith in God’s promise of redemption, of his redeemer. And it’s not just for the Jews, but a promise for all nations, for all people. For all who have put their faith in the promise of Jesus, they will be saved.
And that’s why the Jews referred to “Paradise” as Abraham’s bosom. It was the place that people went who shared Abraham’s faith in God’s promise of a redeemer. Everybody who believed in the future Jesus.
All that to say, prior to Jesus, if a person put their hope and faith in the one true God and his promise, then when they died, they went to “Paradise”. A holding place so to speak where they would await the coming of the redeemer. Everybody with me so far? Now, you might be thinking, “Ok pastor, but how do you know this place really exists?” I know because Jesus says it does, and he actually gives us a glimpse of it.
In fact, we catch a glimpse of this place in a story that Jesus tells about a beggar named Lazarus. The story is found in . It’s a story about the life and death of two different men. Listen to how Jesus tells the story:
The glimpse is found in . It’s a story about the life and death of two different men and their journey to the after life. Listen to how Jesus tells the story:
19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”
In this story Jesus highlights two men. The first man is a man named Lazarus who devoted his life to God and lived as a beggar. The second man isn’t named, but we are told he was a rich man who gave his life to his riches.
The second man isn’t named, but we are told he was a rich man who gave his life to his riches.
But regardless of their earthly status, like all men, both died and Lazarus went to Abraham’s side (Paradise), and the rich man went to Hades.
Now, you might be wondering, “What is Hades?” Hades is the opposite of Paradise. It’s where unrighteous people went who didn’t put their faith in the God of the Bible and his promise. It’s a holding place as well, but it’s no paradise. And apparently the rich man had put more hope in his riches than God, so that’s where he went.
Think of it like this. Paradise is a 5 star all inclusive Marriott resort, and Hades is a 1 star Super 8.
In addition to that, while staying at separate resorts, each can see the other. And so seeing that Lazarus is at the Marriott, the rich man yells over to Abraham and says, “Can you send Lazarus over to give me some water. It’s really hot here. I’m burning up. I’m in torment.” And Abraham says, “I wish I could. But we’re separated. And the reason we’re separated is you put your hope in the wrong thing, and now you’re paying for it. I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”
Kind of a scary story, right? But that’s how it worked prior to Jesus. If you put your hope in God and his promise, you went to paradise while you waited for the redeemer to come. But if you didn’t, you went to Hades, or in our case, the Super 8.
All that to say, when Jesus says to the criminal, “Today you’ll be with me in Paradise”, that’s what he’s talking about. After he dies, that’s where Jesus is going.
So, why is Jesus going there? The Apostle Paul tells us. Concerning Jesus he writes:
8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
In this passage Paul says when Jesus died he descended into the earth. This is Paul’s way of saying he went to Paradise. So, what did he do there? Paul says he led a host of captives. Which means he went to set the captives free. The ones that have been separated from God but have put their hope in the redeemer. Because now the redeemer has come. So, upon his death, Jesus descends into Paradise and he leads the righteous dead to heaven. The separation is over. God has made good on his promise.
And we see further evidence of this in Matthew’s Gospel. Because Matthew says when Jesus died, not only did the temple shroud tear in half, not only was there an earth quake, but some of the tombs were opened. Listen to what he says:
52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
Matthew says in that moment, some of the saints from “Paradise” rose from the dead as evidence of what Jesus had done. Jesus had set the captives free. The reign of death is over. Pretty awesome, right!
But that’s not the only place Jesus went. Peter tells us Jesus had some more business to take care of. He writes:
19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
1 Peter 3
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
Peter indicates here that Jesus made a proclamation of victory to some spirits who were in prison. So, who were these spirits? To be honest, there’s a lot of speculation and not a lot of fact on this. Most scholars believe these spirits are condemned angels who committed heinous sins at the beginning of creation. Both Peter and Jude mention these angels. Jude writes:
6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
And Peter writes:
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;
More than likely, these are some of the angels that fell with Satan. So, some scholars believe Jesus is running a victory lap around these spirits to proclaim his victory over death. Paul puts it like this:
15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
So, what does this all tells us? Three things. First, Jesus went to paradise, not hell. Second, at no point does Jesus go to hell or have to suffer in hell for our sin. That’s bad theology. The book of Acts verifies this. Luke writes:
31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
Jesus didn’t go to hell. And third, the moment Jesus died, the battle was already won. The reason he didn’t have to go to hell and battle the devil is because the moment of his death, death was defeated. That’s why Jesus said, “It is finished”. In that moment, the innocent lamb of God paid for our sins, the temple shroud was torn in two, the tombs split open, and the captives were set free. That’s where Jesus went and that’s what he did.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
So, a good question might be, “Where is Jesus now?” Well, as were going to see next week, after his resurrection, he eventually goes back to heaven. Referring to Jesus, Peter writes:
22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
Peter says right now, Jesus is on his throne, next to His father, where all of creation is subjected to Him. That being the case, we have one more question to answer. If that’s where Jesus went and what he did:
he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
Question 2 - Where will I go when I die?
15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
To be honest, that depends. It depends on what you’re putting your hope in.
For example, if you’ve put your hope in the redeemer, in Jesus, and you’ve commited to give your life to Him, then you’re going to go where He is now. How do I know that? Because that’s what the Bible says. Paul writes:
8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
In this passage Paul says, for the Christian, to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord. In other words, if you’ve put your faith in Jesus, then when you die, you’ll be with him. Just like the criminal on the cross, you will be with Jesus when you die.
That’s good news, right? Now, when I say that, I know that may go against what some of you have may have been taught, especially if you have a non-religious or Catholic background.
For example, if you have a non-religious background, you may have been taught that as long as you’re a good person, you’ll go to heaven. And that is simply not true. The Bible says no one is righteous, not one. In other words, because of sin, nobody is good enough to stand before God. That’s why we’ve been separated from him. Like it or not, good people don’t go to heaven because no one is good.
But maybe you were raised religiously, and in our context, possibly Catholic. In your case you may have been taught that when you die you go to a place called “purgatory”. And what you’ve been taught is purgatory is the place the believer goes to finish paying for their sins. The idea is that in this life you probably didn’t do enough to earn your salvation and there is still sin in your life that needs to be accounted for. So purgatory is the place where you go to balance the ledger.
Because in Roman Catholic doctrine, purgatory is the place the believer goes to finish paying for their sins. The idea is that in this life you probably didn’t do enough to earn your salvation and there is still sin in your life that needs to be accounted for. So purgatory is the place where you go to balance the ledger.
Now, please hear me, I’m not bringing this up to offend anyone or cause a controversy, but I do believe this is an important enough matter that we need to make sure what we believe about death and the after life lines up with the Bible.
Because there are two problems with the idea of “Purgatory”. First, it not only doesn’t line up with the Bible, it’s not in the Bible. There is not one passage of scripture that would point to such a place.
Second, the idea of purgatory negates Jesus’s work on the cross. In other words, if there is still a need for sin to be atoned for, then what Jesus did on the cross didn’t work or wasn’t good enough. And the Bible does have something to say about that. Concerning the work of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews says:
Concerning the work of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews says:
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
The writer says Jesus took care of the sin problem. He’s not on the cross anymore. He’s sitting on a throne. He goes on to say in chapter 9:
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
The writer says Jesus did what no other work or sacrifice could do. Jesus’s blood paid the full price for our sin. There is nothing we can do outside of him to atone for our sin.
The Apostle John then writes:
2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
John says Jesus is the payment for our sins. Nothing else needs to be burned off. Jesus paid the full price. And Paul writes:
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Paul says because Jesus paid the full price, if we put our faith in Jesus, God seed us as righteous. All that to say, if you’ve put your faith in Jesus, there’s no more penance that needs to be made. Jesus paid the full price. That being the case, when you die you’ll automatically go to be with him. The captives have been set free!
That’s what the Bible says happens to the Christian when they die.
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
So, what happens to the non-Christian. What happens to the person who didn’t put their faith in Jesus? Well, unfortunately, regardless of how good they were, if they didn’t put their hope in Jesus, then they go to a different place.
So, if your faith is in Jesus when you die, if your life has been devoted to living for him, then when you die, you get to go be with him.
They’ll go where the rich man went. They’ll go to hades, to the Super 8. And there they will suffer because their sin wasn’t atoned for. They didn’t put their hope in the one who paid the price for sin. And there they will wait for judgment at the end of time. The writer of Hebrews says:
And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
The judgment he’s referring to can be found in . A judgment that will result in eternal separation from God for those who refused to put their hope in Jesus. John the revelator writes:
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
John says because the people in hades never trusted Jesus for the payment of their sin, they will pay for it for all eternity as they are thrown into the lake of fire. Hell is a real place my friends. And it’s reserved for those who thought they didn’t need a savior. Reserved for those who refused to receive the free gift that Jesus offers.
So, where will you go when you die? Like I said, it depends:
It depends on where your hope is. Is it in what you can do? Is it in what this life offers? Or is it in what God offers you?
It depends on whether you’re willing to admit that your a sinner in need of a savior. Paul writes:
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It depends on whether you’re willing to believe that Jesus died and paid the full price for your sin. Paul writes:
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
It depends on whether you’re willing to embrace a new life in Jesus. A life where you leave the old you behind. A life where you are transformed into his image. A life where you are now devoted to following him rather than following sinful desires. It depend on whether you’re willing to be born again. If you’re willing by faith to believe that Jesus is the answer to your sin problem. That’s what it depends on. It depends on you putting your hope in Jesus or not.
So, as we close, let me ask you this, “Based on what the Bible says, where would you go when you die?” Would you be with the Lord or the rich man? What have you put your hope in? What are you basing eternity on? What you can do, what your religious tradition has taught you, or what the Bible says Jesus did?
Because the good news fo the gospel is this, if you’ll put your hope in Jesus, and if you’ll make him Lord, then you don’t have to worry about your funeral. You don’t have to worry about life after death. The good news is, Jesus offers you the gift of eternal life. Like the criminal on the cross, if you’ll look to Jesus, then you’ll be with Jesus when you die. The question is, “Will you accept the gift? Will you put your hope and faith in Jesus?”
And the good news of the gospel is, if you’ll put your hope in Jesus, and if you’ll make him Lord, then when you die, you can be with him.
Where did people go when they died before Jesus came?
Where did Jesus go when he died?
Where will I go when I die?
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