It Seems You Have Already Sentenced Each Person to Their Final Spot, Prior to Christ Doing the Sentencing. What Am I Missing?

Question from a reader:

I am presently reading your book, and I have a question regarding the Present Heaven. The last line, page 63, has all of us either, in Present Heaven or Hell, before we have been judged. I understand that Jesus will open the “books” and we will hear him say, either depart or enter our final place. It seems you have already sentenced each person to their final spot, prior to Christ doing the sentencing. What am I missing?

Answer from Randy Alcorn:

Luke 16 makes clear that upon death Lazarus immediately went to a heavenly place of comfort and the rich man immediately went to a hellish place of misery. (Likewise the thief would go to Paradise “today,” Jesus said.) It is God who judges the conditions of their hearts and where they should go.

I agree that there is a final judgment, but Scripture shows that there is also an immediate comfort in heaven or suffering in hell at the point of death. A parallel might be a prisoner who is on death row. The sentence hasn’t been carried out, yet he is still in a place of preliminary punishment. In fact, even before he is convicted of the crime, he is in prison awaiting a final judgment. Because God the righteous judge is all-knowing, He can without error assign someone to comfort and someone else to punishment even before the final judgment.

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries