"Where Do They Go?" is a delightful story adapted by James E. Smith.
The water bugs lived happily together, but sometimes one of them would crawl up a lily stem and was never seen again. Now this worried the bugs and they began to ask, "Where are they going when they disappear up the lily stem?" So they decided to hold a meeting and resolved that the next time that a bug got the urge to climb up the lily stem, the climber was to come back and tell them what he saw.
Sure enough, one day one of them got the urge. Slowly he climbed up until his head touched the lily pad. It took all the strength he had but finally he boosted himself onto the edge of the pad and rested. For the first time he felt the warm sun shining down on him. Soon he fell asleep. How long he slept he couldn't tell, but when he awoke he felt all crispy and stiff, for the sun had baked his soft skin until it began to crack. As he stretched himself out, his outer coat fell away. Suddenly he felt big and clean and free. He looked at himself and blinked his eyes, because he was no longer a water bug but a beautiful green dragonfly. Soon he worked his wings and rose up into the sky. But suddenly he remembered his promise to go back and tell the other bugs of the new world above the water.
He said to himself, "I can't go back to the mud again. What will I do?" As he flew around and saw more of the beautiful world around the pond, he made up his mind. "No, I can't go back to the bugs. But it really doesn't matter. One by one they too will climb up the lily stem, and when they see the big, new world they will know why I couldn't go back."
I believe that when a person dies, he goes to heaven. Now that statement needs several qualifications. That person must be a believer, and heaven is not what I would call the ultimate heaven. I do not believe in souls sleeping, though many of my colleagues do. I believe that when a Christian dies, he goes into the very presence of God. If that is true, then it is the thought of death that is distressing, not death itself, for death is gentle.
In answer to the question, Where are the dead now? I feel that the dead have gone to a conscious state NOW (Luke 16:26; 16:19-31). Paul said to be absent from the body for a Christian is to be present with the Lord. At death the soul of the Christian goes into the presence of God, but not heaven per se. There is a state after death; there is a condition after judgment.
Will there be degrees in heaven? Yes. I believe that the Bible teaches that there will be degrees (Rom. 2:6). This is also obviously true with sowing sparingly or bountifully (II Cor. 9:6).
We will have new bodies (II Cor. 5:1). We will retain our senses even though our bodies are in the grave. We will see as if we had eyes and hear as if we had ears. We foolishly think that the eyes see. They do not see. It is the soul that sees, using eyes for windows. Human ears do not hear. They are merely the physical instruments which the soul can use while clothed in a physical body. But the soul can hear without ears. We say that the tongue speaks, but it is not the tongue that speaks, it is the person behind the tongue. These organs of clay in the human body have no sense when their master, the soul, is departed.
In heaven there will be no marriage (Mark 12:25). Revelation 21:4 tells us there will be no mourning. I Corinthians 13:12 indicates that we will know as even now we are known. We will be literally and truly the some person but more than that. The sick will be well, the beggar will be rich, those who were in pain will be happy and comforted.
What type of life will there be? No suspended existence. There will be an infinite condition of growth, enrichment, and service. We will praise Him.