General Question

Malakai's avatar

How did Christians get into heaven before Jesus was born?

Asked by Malakai (567 points ) October 21st, 2008

Didn’t it have something to do with burning animals? Or maybe you just had to be a really good person?

And for that matter how did Jews get into heaven? Is there even a heaven for Jews? Is it the same as the Christian heaven?

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98 Answers

MrItty's avatar

“Christians before Jesus was born” is an oxymoron. There is no such thing. You can’t believe Christ is the son of God if there is no Christ.

And fwiw, many Christians do not believe that any Jews – before or after Christ’s birth – got into Heaven. For example, in El Inferno, Dante asserts that all those who were born before Christ who would have otherwise gone to Heaven are in fact in the first level of Hell. It’s not tortuous at all. It’s virtually paradise. The only “punishment” they have is that they’re not in the presence of God & Christ.

Malakai's avatar

So, NO ONE went to heaven before Jesus was born? Not even Abraham or Noah or any of the other myriad of the LORD’s prophets and priests who dedicated their lives to serving HIM?

Well, what happened to them when they died? Did they go to Hell?
(I mean that’s hardly fair… not exactly what you’d expect from an omni benevolent being, anyway… even if it IS a really, really, nice hell…)

Then what was the point of all those burnt offerings?

The Lord detailed to Moses how his people, if they make a burnt offering, should be of the male member, without blemish, of the herd, either cattle or of sheep/goats. (1:2, 10). The person making the voluntary offering was to bring it to the door of the tabernacle, place his hand on the head of the offering, and kill the animal. The blood would be sprinkled by the priests around and upon the fire altar, and then the animal was cut into select pieces of the head, the fat, washed insides and legs, and lay them upon the fire to create a “sweet savor unto the Lord.” (Lev. 1:9,13).

bodyhead's avatar

I think that’s actually the definitive answer. Everyone before Jesus’s death went to hell. Even the people with the misfortune to die 10 minutes before Christ still went to hell.

There was no heaven until Christ died. Thousands upon millions of people were condemned to hell because they had the misfortune of dying before Jesus.

Dante’s Inferno is hardly the definitive text on hell. It’s a good book no doubt, but I don’t really assume any part of hell is a paradise. Maybe that’s me.

robmandu's avatar

Ugh… I’m no expert… but seriously, if you people haven’t the foggiest clue of Christianity, why are you answering?

The Jews before Christ that met the letter of the law and had their sins covered by the blood of sacrificed animals did indeed qualify for heaven.

Jesus Christ embodied the perfect expression and fulfillment of the same law. After Jesus, the sacrifice of animals was no longer needed. Jesus himself was the sacrifice. And a better one. He fulfilled the ancient Hebrew law for once and for all.

After Jesus, I think Christians would argue that it’s likely Jews that don’t accept Christ as their personal savior will indeed go to hell as they’ve rejected the one & only way to God.

Before Jesus, many Jews certainly did get to heaven.

As an aside, I think it could be said that heaven isn’t really accessible yet. There’s mention of paradise which some might consider a staging area until the Day of Judgment. After that (and the millennial reign?), then heaven is opened up for business.

bodyhead's avatar

I’m actually just answering as explained to me by a Christian. I don’t believe any of it. Someone should explain Christianity to most Christians.

robmadu, you tend to be much better informed then most of your ilk.

As shown in the link here

Technically Abraham did not go straight to heaven as many people think. Abraham and all other rightious people did not go to heaven until Jesus Christ the son of God came to earth in human form to die for our sins. At this time all believers of God ascended into heaven. and no one will go to heaven until Christ returns. as it says in in 1 Corinthians 15:52 it says”...the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies.”

It’s not as cut and dry as you might think Rob.

MrItty's avatar

robmandu, you talk as though you think there’s only one “right” explanation of Christianity. That’s simply not the case. I said only what SOME Christians believe. I did not say “THIS IS CHRISTIAN LAW!!!”. If you think two people who both identify as Christians might have completely different ideas on this topic, you’re out of your mind.

Malakai's avatar

So a modern Jew, who is a good a person, gives to the poor, does charity work… basically lives a good life; is brought up in a Jewish home with a Jewish family and Jewish traditions… is destined to go to hell?

Because he stays loyal to his faith?

What about the primitive tribal cultures of say… South America? Who’ve never even heard of Jesus?

Or Islamics, Hindus, Buddhists, Shintos, dozens of mainstream religions all over the world… All capable of being “good, God fearing” people, are destined for eternal torment because of… geography?

Again, I feel this is not the behavior of an all-knowing, omni-benevolent entity.

MrItty's avatar

That’s exactly why Christians employ missionaries – to spread the “good news” of the Lord, in an effort to “save” all the ignorant and unbelievers from eternal damnation.

My uncle is a Catholic priest and was a missionary in Brazil for about 10 years, doing exactly this.

Again, not EVERY Christian believes the same thing. This is one commonly held belief. Nothing more, nothing less.

And fwiw, I agree with you – that doesn’t seem to me to match up to the idea of an “all knowing all caring all loving God”. That’s just one of thousands of contradictions inherent in religion, though.

robmandu's avatar

off-topic

@MrItty… (sigh)... guess what. There is only one “right” explanation of Christianity. Problem is, we—all of us—get it wrong and argue about it.

That said, if all of the qualifiers in my quip above didn’t catch your attention, please look back again. I used phrases like “I’m no expert”, “I think”, and “would argue” in an attempt to convey that there are different viewpoints.

The thing is, up to that point, all I had read from you and bodyhead is a bunch of hearsay. That’s fine… but until I called you out on it, it wasn’t explained as such. I’m sure positioning an authoritative response was probably unintentional, but I sense a lot of disdain of religion in general, Christianity in particular, from you and so wanted to get your position on record.

robmandu's avatar

@Malakai, it’s a common premise of Christianity that “good works” will not get a person to heaven. Yes, many people do indeed find it to be unfair.

Christianity teaches that a person’s access to heaven is granted through grace. It’s freely given by Christ. He made his sacrifice for you. So you don’t have to earn it.

Yes, Christians are indeed supposed to sacrifice and work, commit their lives. But that’s intended as an expression of grace received. Not the pre-requisite.

You see, the only way into heaven is through a perfect life. Not just a good one. Christ lived that perfect life… and was killed for it. His sacrifice then puts him in a unique position where he can confer that perfection to the rest of us… should people choose to accept it.

MrItty's avatar

BWAHAHHA. That’s hilarious, robmandu. “It’s only heresay”. OF COURSE it’s only heresay. ALL of religion is heresay. ALL of it. You believe what you’re told to believe, or what you read in a book that someone tells you to believe.

The idea that there’s only one “right” explanation of Christianity is only from the view point of someone who actually believes the religion to begin with. To anyone objective, who doesn’t believe any of the myths, it’s painfully obvious there’s no such thing as “right” Christianity.

You’re absolutely right you’re “sensing” a lot of disdain for religion. Explain to me how that invalidates anything I’ve said?

It is ABSOLUTELY TRUE that “some” Christians do in fact believe that no one born and died BC will ever go to Heaven. Which is what I said in the very first post. I never once asserted it was an “authoritative” response (whatever you think that means), nor did I ever assert that “ALL” Christians believe it.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Malakai, I have always been under the impression that one is only accountable to accept Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior if one has been exposed to the teachings of Christ. If one has never learned of Christ, how can that person be sent to hell for not acting according to those teachings?

fireside's avatar

There’s some good information on Progressive revelation here if you really want to understand the different attitudes about the afterlife throughout the years.

Prior to 623 BCE: The ancient Israelites had the same view of life after death as other Semitic peoples. Both good and bad individuals went under the earth into Sheol when they died, where they led a type of shadowy, energy-less existence, separated from God.

During and after the Greek occupation: All the dead will be resurrected. They will be judged by God and sent either to an eternal reward or never-ending punishment.

St. Paul’s writings; 48 to 65 CE: Those who believe in Jesus’ resurrection will go to heaven. Non-believers are annihilated; they cease to exist after death.

Anonymous authors of the Synoptic Gospels: Mark, Matthew, and Luke: circa 70 to 90 CE: Those who do good deeds go to Heaven.

Author of Revelation: 93 CE?: Evil people are thrown into a lake of fire and annihilated. Some are eternally punished.

Author(s) of Gospel of John: 100 CE?: Those who believe in Jesus’ divinity will go to heaven.

bodyhead's avatar

@robmandu, turns out that it’s all hearsay… even the bible which was passed down in oral traditions until it was written down and consolidated over the course of several centuries.

At some point, you’re just believing what some guy said to some other guy who told some other guy who wrote it down.

Hey, just so you know, I really am interested in your response and I’m not trying to attack you in any way.

dammit, my compatriot there just said this same thing

@Supermouse, So do people who don’t know Christ get into heaven automatically?

robmandu's avatar

off-topic

@bodyhead & MrItty, seriously. You guys think that just because you can spell J-E-S-U-S that you’re qualified to talk about this. Gimme a break.

I don’t have all of the answers. But you two don’t have any.

MrItty's avatar

robmandu, I’m still waiting for your answer to my question: How does my lack of belief in your particular mytholgy invalidate my knoweldge that SOME Christians believe those born BC do not go to Heaven.

bodyhead's avatar

off-topic

I like to think I have some answers but it turns out I’ve been spelling Jesus wrong for years. Thanks for the quick lesson. I’m joking… I’m joking

Rob, what do you believe that is opposite to what I said? Unless you knew the living Jesus personally, I would say that your religious beliefs are based on hearsay. I’m sorry this seems to strike such a strong cord with you. Maybe hearsay is the wrong word here. I would use something more polite if I had a better vocabulary.

Do you think that the bible was written all at once? I’m assuming that we are talking about the new testament.

As found on the wiki for the new testament

The New Testament is sometimes called the Greek New Testament or Greek Scriptures, or the New Covenant – which is the literal translation of the original Greek. The original texts were written in Koine Greek by various authors after c. AD 45 and before c. AD 140. Its 27 books were gradually collected into a single volume over a period of several centuries.

fireside's avatar

Another phrase for “hearsay” could be “inherited tradition”.

But I think that faith is a personal thing that everyone has a chance to discover for themselves, even if religious customs are inherited.

bodyhead's avatar

Thanks fireside. I’m really not trying to be rude here.

I believe that the information on which any living Christian bases their faith was given to them through an inherited tradition. The faith itself is not inherited but the information (on which the faith is based) is all second hand at best.

Unless you preach to yourself about information that only you know, your info is second hand. And if you did do that, you’d look like a lunatic.

robmandu's avatar

off-topic

@bodyhead, you’re conflating years of scholarly research with hearsay. It’s analogous to saying that, just because you have Calculus book in your home, you’re qualified to discuss the nuances of the Poincaré-Bendixon theorem.

@MrItty, it’s not about invalidating your “knowledge” of what some other unnamed people think.

Again, please note that I’ve made it clear in my responses that I do not have all the answers and that much is subject to debate.

MrItty's avatar

Really? Seems to me that’s exactly what it’s about. My very first post here said what I know some Christians to believe. You responded “Sigh… if you don’t have the foggiest clue about Christianity, why are you answering?”. That’s not an attempt to invalidate my answer? Really?

Are you still going to try to assert that those people who believe as I stated are “wrong”, and that your version of Christian Belief is “right”?

bodyhead's avatar

rob, I in no way say this to push your buttons but if the books of the bible were written from 40 AD to 140 AD in a time when the average life expectancy was probably 40 at most then someone probably heard through another rather than directly at least some of the stories in the bible. More likely, they were all passed down to at least one other person (if not several) before they were written down.

Heard through another rather then directly is the very first definition of hearsay on the definition page you linked to.

jvgr's avatar

MrItty: “robmandu, I’m still waiting for your answer to my question: How does my lack of belief in your particular mytholgy invalidate my knoweldge that SOME Christians believe those born BC do not go to Heaven.”

@Mritty: Your original questions were interesting, but when you received answers that did explain the questions, you turned it into a discussion of “proofs”, which is a different set of issues. It’s as if you took a course in survey of religions and demanded that the course giver prove the validity of the varioius religions.

Ultimately no one can prove the rightness of their belief or the wrongness of anothers; belief in an unknowable is not provable.

Malakai's avatar

This is really just a question for the practicing theists in the room.
And I mean no disrespect.

The Jewish (Morman, buddhist, muslim, whatever) man I described above, a really good person, a “better” person than you, is destined to go to hell because he chooses to remain faithful to the religion of his culture and upbringing? (Just as a great many Christians do.)

If that’s the case, what is the argument that your holy texts and ideology are the “correct” one? Simply because that was the environment YOU happened to be born into?

You’ll have to excuse me if that seems a little, well… narcissistic.

MrItty's avatar

jvgr, thank you for proving my point for me. You are absolutely correct – no one can prove the rightness or wrongess of beliefs. That’s why I continue to be mystified that Rob replied to my original answer about what some Christians believe by stating that since I don’t believe in Christianity, I’m not qualified to give that answer.

robmandu's avatar

@Malakai…

John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

For a Christian who believes in the Bible, it’s pretty clear.

asmonet's avatar

I think everyone should go back on topic and quit arguing with everyone else.

Malakai's avatar

I’m sure the Qu’aran has an equivalent quote in there somewhere.
I’m sure a great many of the holy prophets and holy books do.

Jesus wasn’t exactly the first brother to die on a cross and be born again three days later, ya know? History is replete with that particular scenario. But that’s a topic for another day…

My point is that I find it highly unlikely for an omnipotent omni benevolent (and all loving) being to take the time and energy to create a thriving universe and then commit the vast majority of it’s inhabitants to eternal damnation over simple semantics.

That makes sense to all the Christians here?

That they, and they alone, shall be saved in the afterlife while 90% of the earth’s population writhes in eternal agony?

Are any Christians willing to step outside of what they have been taught and admit that sounds like sort of a crazy thing for an all loving being to do?

Malakai's avatar

And can anyone answer my previous question without saying, “because the holy book told me so?”

critter1982's avatar

I am not EXPERT on the matter either but this is what I know from the Bible, or as many in this thread are calling Hearsay.

First we need to understand the Jewish concept of the universe (There were no Christians before Christ, Christianity is based on the New Testament, whereas Jews believe Christ was a righteous man but not our Savior nor God’s son). They believed in three heavens (heavens may be a bad word here). The first was the atmosphere. The second is the realm of the universe. And the third heaven was the very dwelling place of God. In the Old Testament in Kings 2 below, they were not taken into the very dwelling place of God, but into the heavens; that is, they were taken up into the sky. Exactly where who knows? It isn’t until after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ were those who had died before, in faith, taken into the highest heaven. Ephesians 4:8 is often referred to as a supporting scripture for this belief. It says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” Furthermore, when Paul said he was caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2), he was referring to the very dwelling place of God.

2 Kings 2:11
And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

This is all based on the Bible.

robmandu's avatar

@Malakai, that’s fine. That’s your opinion. Quite a setup to try to drag us all down this path just so you can make your point.

That said, any person who claims to practice [insert religion here] and then knowingly disregards their holy writings just so they can do whatever sounds good to them is the one acting illogically and inconsistently.

I submit that a person who calls himself “Christian” and then disregards the Bible isn’t really a Christian. Same goes for someone calling himself a “Muslim” and then ignoring the Koran.

asmonet's avatar

Malakai you are seriously under informed. Now please, stop.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Atheists Wager
“You should live your life and try to make the world a better place for your being in it, whether or not you believe in god. If there is no god, you have lost nothing and will be remembered fondly by those you left behind. If there is a benevolent god, he will judge you on your merits and not just on whether or not you believed in him.”

critter1982's avatar

@Malakai: You posed the question how do you know that your “insert religion” is the correct one?

Having a religion is strictly based on faith, and faith is defined as a belief not based on proof. Nobody to this point is capable of proving where we came from. So no matter what you believe, Bible, Koran, scientology (I’m not sure what their faith based book is called), evolution; it is all based on some type of faith.

critter1982's avatar

@Malakai: If you looking for proof, you will not find it here on fluther.

susanc's avatar

Robmandu is presenting the orthodox teachings of the church. Maybe he believes them, maybe he doesn’t: that doesn’t address malakai’s question. Why attack him for “believing” anything at all?

Malakai has actually produced some scriptural descriptions of how afterlife geography works, and for that he got slammed for “ignorance”. How odd.

We jellies – a fairly brainless life form – aren’t going to decide what’s going to happen after death, nor are we going to rationally decide whether it was nice of various gods (or their spokespersons) to invent Hell.

We can’t argue belief. We can examine what the texts say. Rob has been doing that.
Why can’t we learn instead of going ballistic? Bizarre.

MrItty's avatar

robmandu: You said “a person who calls himself ‘Christian’ and then disregards the Bible isn’t really a Christian.”

In that case, I submit that there is no such thing as a Christian. The Bible is inherently contradictory. There is no way to believe all of it at once. One has to pick and choose which passages to believe and which to reject.

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html#father_of_joseph for some exacmples of the Bible contradicting itself.

robmandu's avatar

@MrItty, that’s your admittedly ignorant opinion. Thanks for sharing.

MrItty's avatar

You’re quite welcome. I would further welcome any rebuttle you’d care to offer that explains how you can believe the Bible in its total, contradictions and all.

robmandu's avatar

Two rebuttals:

> Heli was Mary’s father, and so son in that usage can also mean son-in-law.

> It also might be a confusion of punctuation.

MrItty's avatar

Great Answer to susanc. I fully and freely admit to being a fucking idiot on occasion. This thread is probably one of them. :-)

critter1982's avatar

@MrItty: My first rebuttal would be to point out that many of the contradictions studied (I didn’t link your site but I’m sure they are the some of the same that I have heard) are taken in literal context. There tons of readings in the bible which were not designed to be taken literally. If you want we can go down through all contradictions and discuss??

MrItty's avatar

critter1982, thank you again for proving my point as well. As you say, the Bible (or at least portions thereof) is not meant to be and cannot be taken to be literally true. It is to be interpreted. So how can anyone be shunned or considered “not a Christian” for coming up with a different interpretation?

susanc's avatar

@mritty et al: I revised my original answer to take out the phrase “fucking idiot”
but thanks for the smile.

critter1982's avatar

I don’t believe this in particular was what Rob was referring to. Identifying different interpretations of the bible is different than someone who disregards the bible.

MrItty's avatar

Rob is referring to ignoring the passage he quoted. But as fireside pointed out, that passage is contradicted by other passages. So it is not being ignored. It is being chosen or not chosen. That’s my point.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Bodyhead, should people who have never been exposed to Christ go to hell solely because of where they were born and raised? That makes no sense to me.

critter1982's avatar

His quote, “I submit that a person who calls himself “Christian” and then disregards the Bible isn’t really a Christian. Same goes for someone calling himself a “Muslim” and then ignoring the Koran.”

He doesn’t mention a particular quote or passage. In fact he mentions another religion. I think you are interpreting what he was saying incorrectly.

MrItty's avatar

I admit the possibility. I was referring to his statement after his quoted passage: “For a Christian who believes the Bible, it’s pretty clear.” That, taken with his assertion that whoever doesn’t believe the Bible is not a Christian, seems to me to imply that whoever doesn’t agree with that particular passage isn’t a real Christian.

Again, I admit the possibility I’m interpreting him incorrectly. Rob, would you care to set me straight?

robmandu's avatar

I was saying that the literal interpretation of John 14:6 is pretty clear.

MrItty's avatar

I agree that it is. But I think the passages that fireside quoted are also pretty clear. And I also think that some of them contradict John 14:6. Do you agree?

robmandu's avatar

off-topic again, and for the last time, I hope.

Sorry, I don’t see anywhere that fireside quoted passages from the Bible.

And even so, I think you’ll find that someone with sufficient study and experience is able to draw a logical explanation between superficially contradictory passages. Realize that there are people who study at seminary for years to get doctorate-level education. Not to mention monks who devote their entire lives to study. They do not do so because it so obviously illogical and contradictory… where interpretation is a free-for-all and everyone can make his own path to God.

bodyhead's avatar

It’s actually not obviously illogical and contradictory. I went to church for over ten years and never had a contradiction mentioned to me once. I’m willing to bet they don’t mention contradictions at your church, Rob. (even superficial ones)

MrItty didn’t come up with that contradiction on his own. Someone who studied like crazy found it in the bible. Contradictions in the bible aren’t usually found by casual atheists. They’re usually found by those (maybe in seminary) who are looking for a deeper understanding of the bible. You’ve got to know the stories in the bible extremely well to even know there’s a contradiction being made.

Most of those doctorate studies that you mention are based on both biblical interpretations and self exploration (mostly with regard to faith). Some of my favorite religion teachers in college were Brothers. They didn’t hate on non-believers like me and they usually didn’t try to convert me.

All you have to do is google ‘bible contradictions’ to find huge lists of contradictions in the bible. They do exist. To say that they are all superficial is to say that the bible is superficially wrong.

Any God who would send a person like me to hell is a God that I could never worship. I would rather choose oblivion then play by those rules.

robmandu's avatar

< < Curious as to why people think this discussion is an attempt to convert their (lack of) faith. The only apparent attempt at conversion was when Malakai started this thread on one topic and got around to making his anti-theistic point later.

@bodyhead, as I demonstrated, those google’d contradictions are oft times easily addressed by a second google. Hence they’re obvious.

Discussion as to why hell and the lake of fire exists and their purpose is something I’ll wait to tackle another day. This discussion has ranged around far enough and I’m kinda tired from drawing a line in the sand and defending it.

bodyhead's avatar

Maybe his real question should have been, “how do you reconcile a God who sends 90% of all people to hell based on where they were born with your idea of a loving God?”

That might have been closer to what he was really trying to find out but it sounds like such a damn loaded question. I think he took the proper way. He gave it a ‘what do you think?’ without trying to bias your opinion (until he made his point).

Aside: I never said you were trying to convert me. I think I’m one of those people that has to be converted in person. I will, however, take everything you said and add it to my memory banks. It’s good to know how a theist might respond.

You came out the gate attacking people. I posted a viewpoint I heard from a Christian so I’m assuming it was a Christian viewpoint.

Your posts seem defensive and angry and I’m not sure what I did to piss you off.

Rob, I never once said you didn’t know what you are talking about. I never attacked your faith and I respect the answers I’ve seen you leave for other questions.

I will attack your argument but I will not attack you.

shadling21's avatar

The answer is not as completely cut-and-dry as one may think. You only need to look so far as Wikipedia’s article on salvation to see that every denomination says something slightly different about these issues.

The Holy Bible is always taken into consideration when deciding what to believe, but since there are multiple ways to interpret each passage, the Catholic Church (along with others), claims infallibility of Tradition, Scripture, and Magisterium. This means that there are more sources in play for Catholics than just the Bible. In fact, Protestantism was the result of a desire to solely rely on the Bible for spiritual guidance (and to interpret the book literally).

—————-

The trick to learning about anything is to look at the information from an impartial perspective. It seems many in this thread are getting too worked up over perceived attacks. Let’s all take a step back and disseminate the information without making it personal.

breedmitch's avatar

Can a Jewish person still get into heaven if he does the burnt offerings thing, or did the coming of Jesus close that door forever?

robmandu's avatar

@breedmitch, a Christian would say that door is closed forever. Jesus’ sacrifice replaced it. Obviously, a Jewish person would feel differently.

Malakai's avatar

@Rob—This wasn’t intended as a “bait and switch” it was just a question that came up between myself and a friend last night, and I thought it could be interesting. There was no master plan to make a point, I was just laying out my observations as they came to me.

I am often genuinely curious as to how theists rationalize what I perceive to be glaring contradictions inherent to religious dogma. (And, just to be clear, I’m not referring to contradictions that do or don’t exist in holy texts.)

Really I just wanted to know how many bulls a brother had to burn to get through them pearly gates back in the day. I figured this is as good a place to ask as any…

breedmitch's avatar

@Rob: I sure hope every department got the memo. :)

seVen's avatar

Since the fall of man, the basis of salvation has always been the death of Christ. No one, either prior to the cross or since the cross, would ever be saved without that one pivotal event in the history of the world. Christ’s death paid the penalty for past sins of Old Testament saints and future sins of New Testament saints.

The requirement for salvation has always been faith. The object of one’s faith for salvation has always been God. The psalmist wrote, “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:12). Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abraham believed God and that was enough for God to account it to him for righteousness (see also Romans 4:3–8). The Old Testament sacrificial system did not take away sin, as Hebrews 9:1–10:4 clearly teaches. It did, however, point to the day when the Son of God would shed His blood for the sinful human race.

What has changed through the ages is the content of a believer’s faith. God’s requirement of what must be believed is based on the amount of revelation He has given mankind up to that time. This is called progressive revelation. Adam believed the promise God gave in Genesis 3:15 that the Seed of the woman would conquer Satan. Adam believed Him, demonstrated by the name he gave Eve (v.20) and the Lord indicated His acceptance immediately by covering them with coats of skin (v.21). At that point that is all Adam knew, but he believed it.

Abraham believed God according to the promises and new revelation God gave him in Genesis 12 and 15. Prior to Moses, no Scripture was written, but mankind was responsible for what God had revealed. Throughout the Old Testament, believers came to salvation because they believed that God would someday take care of their sin problem. Today, we look back, believing that He has already taken care of our sins on Calvary (John 3:16; Hebrews 9:28).

What about believers in Christ’s day, prior to the cross and resurrection, what did they believe? Did they understand the full picture of Christ dying on a cross for their sins? Late in his ministry, “Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matthew 16:21). What was the reaction of His disciples to this message? “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ’‘Far be it from you, Lord; this shall not happen to you!’” (16:22). Peter, and the other disciples, did not know the full truth, yet they were saved because they believed that God would take care of their sin problem. They didn’t exactly know how He would accomplish that, any more than Adam, Abraham, Moses, or David knew how, but they believed God.

Today, we have more revelation than did people living before the resurrection of Christ, we know the full picture. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1–2). Our salvation is still based on the death of Christ, our faith is still the requirement for salvation, and the object of our faith is still God. Today for us the content of our faith is that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3–4).

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Malakai, in an attempt to answer your question, which was wording quite an “interesting” way:

How did Christians get into heaven before Jesus was born?

I’m going to take that as “how would a Christian say that anyone ‘got into heaven’ before Jesus died and was resurrected.”

I have been taught both points of view from different teachers. Some say no one went to heaven. Most make strenuous attempts to avoid answering the question.

Didn’t it have something to do with burning animals?

Jews sacrificed animals, according to the Hebrew bible, but it was certainly no guarantee of a place in heaven, it was just a “mitzvah” (commandment) like any other (ie. Honor your father and mother; Do no murder)

Or maybe you just had to be a really good person?

I think I addressed this as best I can in answer to the first question.

And for that matter how did Jews get into heaven?

This question falls underneath the first and second question as well.

Is there even a heaven for Jews?

Most modern Jews do not specifically believe in heaven, no. Not to say that all don’t, but it is not at all a central part of Jewish theology.

Is it the same as the Christian heaven?

I would say this has been nullified by the previous.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I would have to say the I think you go to heaven if you meet whatever God’s requirement is, even if you don’t believe in heaven. What a lovely surprise that would be!

I keep coming back to the story of the Prodigal Son… the good son’s goodness is its own reward; it’s what God expects of you. Christians do not have a lock on goodness, or faith without fear. It’s possible to follow the teachings of without ever having heard of Jesus, or read the bible. It’s a way of being, not fraternity/sorority rush rules.

Judi's avatar

63 responses? Boy am I glad I decided to stay out of this discussion!

shadling21's avatar

@La chica – Nice distinctions.

@Judi – Yeah. It seems that it got a little messy up there.

fireside's avatar

lol, i had to do some work and have been reading for h o u r s to catch up.
Umm, where are we?

This article has some interesting points and, apparently, the answer to the question as stated is: in spirit form

The early Christians and Jews believed that man was not pure enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven as flesh and blood. They believed all people were transformed into spiritual beings, filling Heaven with angels.

shadling21's avatar

@fireside – I believe that’s more of an explanation of how the body remains after a person has died. According to Christians, there will be a Second Coming of Jesus in which he will raise the dead and bring everyone (body and all) to heaven. Also, note that angels and human spirits are very different beings, at least in the Catholic Church.

fireside's avatar

@shadling – i see your point. the article also says that that viewpoint has changed a lot over time. but the question was about early Christians, not the catholic church (which came later).

PIXEL's avatar

How can people believe some of these things? Do you honestly believe that being Catholic is the only way to get into Heaven? That is rediculous. Religion isn’t healthy. You should be spiritual and respect God. Do you think your whole life you’re suppost to worry about trying to please God by living in fear your whole life? What God wants is the same thing everybody wants. It’s happynes. Do you think he created you to make you fell miserable? No. What he wants is for you to be happy.

The Catholic Religion was pretty much written to scare people into doing good even if nobody was watching them. This was before we had police of course so they came up with this idea.

Now I’m going to tell you this. Nothing makes God angry. He is not this jelous, angry, or vengeful God that humans have made him to look. This was another way to scare people into being good and not be sent to “hell.”

Hell doesn’t exist. Do you honestly believe not going to the right church sends you to hell? Isn’t the point to respect God and give thanks? Or do you think that eating meat on a friday will send you to hell? Lieing? Being in the “wrong” religion? Cheating? Stealing? Being Homosexual? The list goes on and on. If all these “rules” were real all of us would go straight to hell.

Your sopposed to want to be good and not feel as if you have to feel good. If you think all that I said is rediculous then I do not mind. I just strongly recommend you read Conversations With God 1, 2, and 3. (A conversation between God and a man from the 21st century). It will litterally change your life.

Knotmyday's avatar

Well, I’ve learned a lot. about topics to avoid

rowenaz's avatar

That’s my bus…gotta run!

shadling21's avatar

@fireside – Good point. I should have been more clear. I very much liked your answer. I mean, “in spirit form”! That’s actually a really playful way to answer the question. Literally, how? By detaching the soul from the body, of course. Many of us are concerned with the question of “To Christians, what would it take for a soul unexposed to Jesus to be accepted into heaven?”

I guess I just disliked the quote you used…. Nearly all Judeo-Christian religions and denominations believe (dogmatically) that angels are completely separate beings from humans. Anyone who thinks that early Christians believed (dogmatically) that human souls can become angels in heaven is mistaken, and I have to wonder if they did their research. I realize that the author of the article is very respected, but I don’t believe that passage is factually correct.

@PIXEL – I hope you weren’t speaking directly to me in your rant. I made no defense of the Catholic Church, or Christianity, and I merely stated facts in an attempt to help answer the question at hand.

It’s amazing how people feel the need to either defend religion on the whole (or attack it). Can’t we just answer questions with cool logic? There seem to be a lot of confused opinions on these topics, but information about the tenets of each faith are easily accessible via the internet. This question did not ask for anyone’s opinion on these facts.

I suspect my bus is coming soon as well. I’ve spent far too long on this thread, when I don’t even believe in any of this crap. Just trying to support the use of reason.

Malakai's avatar

@ Chica—You’re right, I should have asked how people got into heaven before Jesus died. And I thought the sacrificing of animals thing was in the Old Testament, which I also thought was part of the cannon of both Christians and Jews.
I obviously don’t understand very much about religion.

My atheist friend and myself were just looking for the answer to a question we don’t know much about. This is the place, right?

This thread got a little unglued somewhere, and I’ll accept responsibility for a some of that. It made me think of another question, too. ...but I think I’ll sit on it for a while.

We’ve had enough discussion about reanimated corpses floating up to heaven for one day, eh?

I’ll just leave it with this quote, which no religious thread should be without:

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” -SR

shadling21's avatar

@Mal – Well said. And that’s a great quote.

PIXEL's avatar

@shadling21 No it wasn’t directed at you. If it was you would see a ”@shadling21.” :P

shadling21's avatar

@PIXEL – I thought so. Some people forget, though.

trogdor_87's avatar

Oh god not religion, I am gonna stay away from this debate.

Bri_L's avatar

Practice, practice, practice.

(sorry, I am a christian but I happen to believe in my own way that doesn’t quite fit with this rigamorall)

La_chica_gomela's avatar

bri l, lol, what are we supposed to be practicing?

Bri_L's avatar

Love one another.

I was just putting in my two cents. My method of practice is WAY simpler than what is being discussed here.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

oohhhh ok, i thought we were supposed to practice dying and trying to get into heaven….i was a little confused…

fireside's avatar

That would be the Hindu method.

Bri_L's avatar

Nope, just a little humor. My practice and belief allow for humor.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

good one, fireside!

Bri_L's avatar

I must agree and ask you to COME again.

Oh, that was Apu, not Hindu. sorry.

pats04fan's avatar

Alright here is how i see it, after studing the bible, the whole old testement is focused toward the jewish religon. It was not until Christ died that the gentiles were given the oppurunnity to be saved, since the jews turned him down. However there were two people in the old testament that were casted into heaven, elijah and enoch. For the others they roamed the earth until jesus came back for “his people” when they descended into heaven with him. I am Baptist so my beliefs are different then that of other denomonations or religons, but i hope i could help you out in anwsering this question for i at one point had the same question,

Judi's avatar

@pats04fan ; “decended into heaven?” YIKES!

pats04fan's avatar

well i couldn’t think of the right word but ascended

Speedfirst's avatar

As someone stated, you could not have been a Christian before Christ took on the form of flesh and became man. Now Jesus was here from the very begining, in the begining was the word and the word was God and the word became flesh. John 1:1–3, 14.

The blood of Jesus who is the Annoited One, the Mesiah reaches back and can save those who lived by faith. The Bible say’s the just shall live by faith Habakkuk 2:4 Hebrews 10:38. Jesus told the thief on the cross, today you will be with me in paradise, the thief on the cross lived and died under the old dispensation, but yet was saved by Jesusm because of his faith.

savannah's avatar

Before Christ came there was only hades (or hell). In hades there were 2 compartments: Abraham’s bosom and hell. The rightous that believed in the promise of the coming messiah (Jesus) and were faithful to the one true God went to Abraham’s bosom, the others hell. That includes ALL others. After Christ came heaven was opened and he went to hell to release those that had been waiting for the promise(Christ). They then went to heaven and hell was expanded to be just hell. Since man cannot live a perfect life and cannot follow the ten commandments perfectly and God is holy, only those that believe and have faith in Jesus who was the perfect sacrifice (lamb) without sin go to heaven all others go to hell. We are covered by his blood and when God looks at us he sees Jesus as our mediator and we are forgiven. God demands a perfect sacrifice and there are no more sacrifices given by the Jews anymore because there is no temple. No other religion offers a sacrifice for our sins. That’s why it’s so important to spread the gospel around the world.

RagazzoSolo's avatar

Even after Christ was born, not many people knew that he existed, let alone that he was the son of God. During his lifetime or just after he was crucified, few people outside of Israel (and then the surronding areas, and on to Rome) would have known, so I am assuming they were covered by the ‘old’ rules. Even today there are many grey areas. What if you are born, live, and die in the deepest part of the rainforest in Brazil, or some remote mountain in Tibet where the word of Christ is not spoken, does that mean you go to hell? What if you hear about Christ only once and reject it, do you go to hell for that?

thebrain's avatar

Religion, just comes from fear and its made to control,that is why the christion religion is now seperated, the bible written from Catholics .Religion is the cause of war, even on this page. Only one God, energy or science, alot bigger than the books and universe your small minds can wrap around.

kerip's avatar

ACTUALLY…. I think this is a really great question and this is actually the topic to my Bible study tomorrow. So, my answer is there was heaven before Jesus as Enoch, Elijah and Moses all know. It was said in the Old testament that there were different chambers to heaven. Who knows what each chamber is for or what it contains or even how you get into one and not the other, but from the very beginning in Gen. 28:17 mentions the gates of heaven. This was written before the new testament was written which therefore means that heaven was known to humans before Jesus. If none of this at all was meant for anything at all then what does our life really mean? Why are we here? I would love to think that the same God that has lifted me out of my troubling time is the same God that I will spend eternity with! Or, if not then all my life means is that I’m going to end up in a box 6 feet in the ground and that’s THE END!? I don’t think so I’d like to think my life means more than that. Take it how you want but It’s documented (key word) ‘heaven’ waaaaay before Jesus! Yes, in FACT there was HEAVEN before JESUS! There are also DOCUMENTS that they can NOT disprove from the Bible and events they CAN NOT disprove, shake or determine false in any way. Thank you!

PastorDrew's avatar

Why are many of you so worried about how other people get to heaven? Shouldn’t you worry about your own salvation? Jesus clearly states that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the father except through him. Before Jesus, there were laws and covenants that one must keep, along with blood sacrifices of animals to cover sins. You are right when you say that “Heaven” is mentioned before Jesus!

And as far as “trying” to refute the Bible as being something that was passed on by a bunch of story tellers…I could sit here for hours explaining the historical accuracy of the Bible and the very recent discovery of texts that are 99% accurate with the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts we have today. There is overwhelming proof of this, as well as the explanation that our world must have come from a creator (even your Dawkins states this, and goes as far as stating that there is a possibility that aliens came and brought life to this earth because it requires a creator to exist). Darwin himself stated that his original ideas of natural selection could in no way have been possible. But yet people don’t listen to that because they don’t want to hear it. Even though it came from the man who came up with the ideas in the first place!!

Like I said, I could go on for hours giving you explanations of this, but many of you won’t listen anyways because you have been deceived by a lie that started thousands of years ago. Religion doesn’t start wars. Lies and deceits start wars. And most Christians would tell you, outside of Catholics maybe, that it isn’t about religion anyways. Jesus never taught us to be “religious”. That is putting the power in the hands of man, which is completely missing the point. It is about a true and authentic relationship with Christ. It isn’t about following a bunch of laws and decrees that a church makes up. Never in the Bible does it say to do this. But it does say to be obedient to God and live in a pure and holy way for our own protection.

You are missing the point all together. For those of you that can’t see this as truth, I am truly praying for you, whether you want me to or not. God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you. It is ok to realize that the world is bigger than just you!! And in fact it is very humbling and gives you more of a sense of purpose in this world. It allows you to be apart of a bigger story, a meta-narrative of the world! I pray that you can experience this type of relationship with Jesus some day. :) God Bless!

WolfWeather's avatar

Can’t people take their own sins, and learn from them, instead of being barbaric and killing animals to take the burden off of themselves? Sounds irresponsible to me.

Creation, “I will not apologize for my existence. This is my body, and all that is in it is valuable to me. It functions as it should, and will change itself to learn, in time.”

Who even wrote the bible? How diluted and mangled is the bible that we know of today? How many times over was it translated. The same people that had Jesus killed, to this day fight a battle against his bloodline, and his true history. These tactics are the same that all conquerors use to weave their sense of control; namely Manipulation by Force and Illusion. We are in the midst of a war, and cannot trust anything blindly that hath passed through the enemies hands.

If anything, Jesus was a knowledgeable, albeit magical man, who led an Army to seize the throne of Israel (and the World). That is a huge claim to be made, and threatens the richest, deadliest, most powerful families of the world. To this day they are scared of the return of the king, because they know it is a REAL threat, to their lives, and to their reign over the world.

By the way, those clouds of heaven, could they be spacecraft? We all know people spoke weird in those days, through symbolism to denote meaning, although confusion must have been widespread, unless they have seen what he meant. Jesus somehow has his ties to a Royal Bloodline, stemming from another place in this galaxy, which is already under the rule of a galactic government, and cooperative kingship.

This galactic government is SO much more powerful than the rebellious rulers of our Earth, that they tremble , because they know they cannot withstand the full force of such an immense body of power. It’s simply a matter of time, before this earth is overtaken by a new king, and also by the predominant government within our galaxy.

Something to research about and ponder. Jesus was a total rebel, he questioned everything, why not question the manipulated purpose of our current version of the bible. Painted one shade of green, much like the mainstream news channels we have today.

Jesus within the bible of today CANNOT be taken word for word, because his killers pursue him to this day, and blur anything of total value to the people of the world, of his knowledge, his true history, and purpose.

The war is not won yet. Jesus is not yet King.

I recall a quote from King Arthur’s grave, “The once and future king” .

breedmitch's avatar

I love how the last 7 posts here are short essays from 1 lurve new jellyfish. It’s like we’re some sort of assignment in a Bob Roberts University class. Ha ha.

luviecuvie's avatar

ill be short..some of you have good points but for you that question the bible just understand there is a reason the bible is in parables

Ambie's avatar

Please dont take this wrong I’m a mormon and I’ve been in the church for 6 months so don’t know much but still try to learn. as earlier was said about john 14:6Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. Also remember that he said that we will be waiting until he comes back. Which is the second coming, in this point of view so maybe just maybe they are doing the same as the ones before us and right now in these latter day waiting until the redeemer has came back on this earth. 1st Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first

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