In the Transfiguration, (Mt 17:3) Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus.
Where had they been all the while? They weren’t in heaven right? Jesus
said no one had been to heaven except Himself (Jn 3:13). Then where were
they?? Also what exactly happened in the passage given below? I mean
aren’t the dead to rise on the last day?
52The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died
were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’
resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
My friend Doug Jacoby is much more the expert on this one. You will find a
few similar questions in his book Q & A and his new book Q & A 2 available
The Bible, for reasons one can only guess at, says very little about what
happens to us between physical death and the coming of the New Jerusalem
at the end of the ages (Rev 21). David describes the place of waiting as
Sheol. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus seems to describe two
different places–Paradise and Hades. By the way, Hades is not the
Purgatory of Roman Catholic false doctrine. The false doctrine of
Purgatory describes a place where we can somehow undo our sins through
penance in order to reearn our way into heaven. This is clearly not a
biblical teaching. Another hint of a place of waiting is found in 1 Peter
3:19 which describes Jesus preaching to Spirits in prison, which sounds
somewhat like Hades. Although the Bible principally only provides hints (I
could give several others, but I have a feeling you probably know them.
King Saul talked to Samuel, etc….), one can conclude that when the Bible
refers to people “sleeping” (For example in 1 Cor 15:21) while waiting for
Judgement Day, it must be speaking metaphorically. The example of Moses
and Elijah you mention is another example supporting the idea that we are
not without conscious awareness while we wait for Judgement Day. I do not
think we will ever convert all those who believe we just fall asleep and
wake up on Judgement Day, especially because some passages seem, at first
glance, to teach that, but I believe it is more than just sleep. I am sure
you would agree that in the end, whatever one believes on this is probably
not terrifically important in determining salvation or even how we live
our lives, so it is not worth getting too upset over these issues. Perhaps
the fact that it is not all that important to us can explain why God left
it somewhat unclear.
Oh, I forgot Matt 27:52, 53. Here we have a perfect example of what I am
talking about. Again, we see evidence that people do not simply remain
“asleep” while waiting for Judgement Day. Here again, the Bible is
extremely obtuse about explaining what is going on. Nevertheless, we have
people who have already died apparently reacquiring some sort of visible
body (physical or not, we do not know) and walking around on the earth. If
you expect the Bible to tell you what you will be doing after death and
before Judgement, you will be very disappointed. If you want evidence that
you will be doing at least something, you have quite a bit.
John Oakes, PhD