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Particulars of Christianity:
303 Bible Cosmology

Part 2: From Christ's Death to His Return

Cosmology: Introduction and Definitions
Part 1: The Old Testament - Buildings in Heaven
Bodies in Heaven: Angels and Spirit Bodies
Humans and Angels: How Similar are We?
Hell in the Old Testament
Part 2: From Christ's Death to His Return
Part 3: Christ's Return Through His Millennial Reign
Part 4: The Final Judgment and Eternity
Replaced or Restored: "Restarts" vs. the First Start
Replaced or Restored: Genesis 1 and Angels
Replaced or Restored: Precedent Reveals Restoration (Part 1)
Replaced or Restored: Precedent Reveals Restoration (Part 2)
Replaced or Restored: More on the Creation of Angels (Part 1)
Replaced or Restored: More on the Creation of Angels (Part 2)
Cosmology: Composite Chart
Cosmogony Illustrations

In this section of time, the concept of Heaven remains entirely unchanged with one small addition, which we will describe in a moment. During this second section of time, heaven continues to be defined as the place where angels and God currently reside consisting of physical structures such as a temple and where bodies such as the spiritual bodies of the angels and the resurrected body of Jesus Christ exist. And, once again, we would note that unlike the kingdom of God, which will arrive and be established on earth when Christ Jesus returns, Heaven is not some future time. Heaven is a place that currently exists.

And, for the most part, Sheol and hell remain the same as during the previous time period, with the same minor exception as described in the above paragraph regarding Heaven.

Sheol continues to contain a compartment of fiery torment for the wicked dead and fallen angels as described by Jude 1:6, 1 Peter 2:4, and Luke 16:19-31. However, as discussed in the previous section and as described in 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6, when Jesus died he went and preached to the dead spirits who were imprisoned for disobedience. And, from Jesus' comments to the thief in Luke 23:24, we know that Jesus also went that very day he died to Paradise with the thief, which was obviously not the place of the disobedient, but of the obedient. For the Greeks, this word paradise denoted a place within hades. Since Paradise was the place where this good thief was going upon his death, we can conclude that Paradise was the same as the Bosom of Abraham, the compartment of Sheol reserved for the comfort of the righteous.

However, writing after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul speaks of being caught up to what he calls the "third heaven." In verse 4, Paul also refers to this third heaven as Paradise, just as Revelation 2:7 (also written after the resurrection of Christ) refers to the current residence of God as "Paradise." And, even though in the Old Testament prior to the death and resurrection of Christ, the righteous dead went to Abraham's Bosom within Sheol, in 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 Paul asserts that at that time dead Christians are present with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. Similarly, Revelation 6:9 describes the martyred saints as residing before the altar of God in Heaven.

So, why the difference? Why, prior to Christ, do we see the righteous dead depicted as residing in Abraham's Bosom within Sheol (a subterranean region) and yet writings after the resurrection of Christ depict the righteous dead residing in the very presence of God in Heaven?

As 1 Peter 3 and 4 tell us, Jesus preached in Sheol, including preaching to the spirits of those who died before the flood and were being kept in the compartment of the wicked. At this point, since Jesus had made the atonement for human sin, the saints of the Old Testament (and presumably any of those in prison who may have accepted Jesus' message) no longer had to be barred from the presence of God. As such, although Paradise (the place of comfort for the righteous dead) was formerly within Sheol and was synonymous with Abraham's Bosom, after the atonement was provided, the righteous dead could now ascend from Paradise/the Bosom of Abraham to the very presence of God in Heaven. From that point forward, Paradise (the place of comfort for the righteous dead) was no longer within Sheol, but was now located in the presence of God, just as we see the martyrs in Revelation 6:9 waiting beneath the altar of God in heaven, being comforted as they await justice on their murderers. The reason for this is that at his death and resurrection, Jesus took the keys of death and hell (Revelation 1:18), with the immediate effect being that the gates of hell (Sheol or hades) could no longer keep back his followers (Matthew 16:18) and the future effect that one day, Jesus would return and enforce his defeat over death, which is the last enemy to be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:26), and consequently his followers will become resurrected and immortal (1 Corinthians 15:52-57).

Ephesians 4:8 explains, "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." When Paul writes that when Jesus ascended to heaven he led captivity captive, Paul is referring to the fact that when Christ ascended to heaven after his resurrection, he brought forth with him the righteous dead (as well as any wicked who might have accepted his message) who prior to that time had been held in Sheol, unable to leave.

Matthew 27:50-53 attests to this fact. Matthew 27 tells us that when Jesus' died, "the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection."

What was it that caused the Old Testament saints to arise at that precise moment in time? It was the fact that the atonement had been made and they were no longer required to remain in Sheol.

So, in this second period of time spanning from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to the return of Christ and the onset of his millennial reign, Heaven and Hell remain largely the same as prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The only difference is that Sheol no longer contains a compartment reserved for the righteous. Instead, during this period of time, Sheol only contains a place of imprisonment for the disobedient and fallen angels. Thanks to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, the place of comfort and waiting for the righteous is now in the specific area of heaven reserved for the presence of Jesus and God the Father.

This concludes our analysis of the second period of time between the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the return of Christ and establishment of his millennial reign. We will now move on to our third section of time, which spans from the establishment of the millennial reign of Christ Jesus to the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of that 1000 year reign.

Related Images

(Days of Creation)
(Figures 1-6)

Cosmology Chart