Death is separation of the spirit from the body. For the believer, what happens next? What will our arrival in Heaven be like?

St. Peter at the gates?

A common belief is St. Peter will be at the gates asking everyone why they should be allowed in. This has been the subject of numerous jokes, including this one:

A preacher and a bus driver went to heaven. The bus driver got a big beautiful mansion with large rooms. The preacher got only a one-room bungalow, so he went to St. Peter and said, "How come I got a very small place and the bus driver got that beautiful house? I've preached the Good News all my life!" St. Peter replied, "It's a matter of results. When you preached, people fell asleep. When the bus driver drove his bus, people prayed.-Bo Reud

This idea is based on Matt. 16:17-19:

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Jesus was praising Peter because Peter recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Here the kingdom of Heaven is not Heaven itself but Christ's church that will be built. The "keys" Peter will be given are the symbol of authority in the building of it. Peter went on to proclaim the Gospel to a crowd after receiving the Holy Spirit(Acts 2). Only God can judge whether someone goes to Heaven, so St. Peter is not at the gates of Heaven.

What the Bible says

The Bible says little about our entrance to Heaven. Angels carried the beggar Lazarus to Heaven when he died(Luke 16:22), indicating our souls aren't able to get there on their own. Jesus tells the repentant thief today he will be with Him in paradise as they were both dying on their crosses(Luke 23:43). We know that in death we will be in the immediate presence of the Lord(2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). From all this we have no indication of any delay into Heaven or soul-sleep, the idea where we will remain unconscious until the resurrection. If anything, our spirits will be made perfect after our arrival(Heb. 12:23).

If St. Peter will not quiz us at the gates of Heaven, will we still be quizzed at the gates by someone else the moment we die? No, we won't be given a series of questions where we enter Heaven if we answer them all correctly as we don't earn salvation(Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Jesus is the way through the gates of Heaven(John 10:9; 14:6). When we die we either have salvation or not; there's no bargaining, appeal, reincarnation or second chance for redemption(Heb. 9:27).

Welcoming committee?

Will we be greeted by others upon our arrival in Heaven? The Bible says we will receive a rich welcome(2 Pet. 1:11). Stephen got a warm welcome by getting a glimpse of God right before he died while being stoned(Acts 7:56). Jesus tells us if we use our worldly wealth to benefit others we will be welcomed into our eternal dwellings(Luke 16:9). As a result, we can expect a welcome unlike any we have ever experienced.

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Last updated 1/28/2011