Where did the saints in the Old Testament go when they died before Christ was resurrected from the dead?
There are three key passages that we want to look at in order to answer your question. The first two passages will help us understand “Paradise,” and the third passage will tell us where the Old Testament saints went when they died.
To the sad disappointment of some, paradise is not found on the islands of Hawaii. Nothing on this planet or in this life is paradise. Paradise is heaven itself. The first clue that paradise is heaven is found in 2 Corinthians when the Apostle Paul was talking about himself.
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows – was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. (NASB) 2 Cor. 12:2-4
The Jews referred to three heavens. The first heaven is our atmosphere, the second heaven is “outer space”, and the third heaven is heaven. Therefore, since Paul tells us that paradise is the third heaven, he is simply telling us that paradise is heaven itself. The next time the Holy Spirit refers to “paradise” is in Revelation.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (NASB) Revelation 2:7
Here God promises the overcomers in the Ephesian church that they will be able to eat of the Tree of Life in paradise. Later in Revelation, after the old earth and old heaven (or the first and second heavens) are destroyed (Rev. 20:11), the last two chapters describe the new heaven (Rev. 21:1-2). These last two chapters of Revelation describe our eternal home – heaven. It is here in these two chapters that we are told the saints will be able to eat of the Tree of Life. If we put it all together, this means that paradise is heaven.
Where did they go?
Where did the Old Testament saints go when they died? Now Jesus gives us the answer when He tells a thief hanging on one of three crosses that he will be in paradise with Him.
And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (NASB) Luke 23:43
Jesus means that the thief will be in heaven. The passage also tells us that Jesus went to heaven on that Friday afternoon. This is a wonderful passage since it tells us that Jesus visited God the Father. This was a victory celebration.
The Old Testament saints went to paradise or heaven. The same is true today for any person who believes in Jesus Christ. Any person who really believes in Jesus Christ will go to paradise or heaven immediately. This is God’s promise. I look forward to seeing Him face to face.