Where do Church Age believers go when they die?
Old Testament saints went to a place called Abraham’s bosom, which apparently refers to a paradise for Old Testament believers at the time of their death (cf. Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4). This was a heavenly place, but evidently not directly in God’s presence because Jesus had not yet died for sin to give access directly into God’s presence. If you recall, right after Christ’s death on the cross, one of the phenomena that occurred was the rending of the veil to show the way into God’s presence had been opened. It is through Christ’s sacrificial death that we are given access to God with the barrier of sin removed (Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Heb. 4:16; 10:19, 35). In anticipation of His death and the immediate access it would give to the presence of God, Jesus promised the thief on the cross that “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke. 23:43).
Today, during the Church Age, believers go directly into the presence of God in heaven. This is evident in several passages. In Philippians 1:23 Paul wrote, “But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” Where is Christ today? He is seated at the right hand of God in heaven (Eph. 1:20). Logically then, to be with Christ after death is to also be in heaven. So likewise, if “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5), death means to be in heaven with the Lord, though without our glorified bodies which wait until the resurrection when soul will be joined together with a glorified, resurrected body.
You might want to check out Lehman Strauss’ book, Death and Afterward, on our web site which deals with life after death. You will find it in the “Bible Studies / Theology / Eschatology” section.