There are some Christians who affirm that the righteous dead go immediately to heaven, but they express agnosticism regarding the status of the unrighteous dead. Indeed, some even postulate that unsaved humans likely come to Earth to harass and even possess living humans. What are we to say about this asymmetry of judgement?
1. First, it is asymmetrical..it is ugly...it is unbecoming of the glorious judge of heaven and earth. Why would God send the souls of the sheep to eternal glory and rest, but send the souls of the goats to earth to wander as they please till the Second Coming?
2. It reveals a lack of understanding of JUSTIFICATION--where God declares us righteous the moment we believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord. When God justifies us He declares us not guilty (imputing our sins to Christ, and imputing Christ's righteousness to us...2 Corinthians 5:21) In other words, the final verdict is conferred upon believers the moment they believe! When we die, we experience a private judgement before God, and those who are justified are sent to their rest in heaven. Those who are non-justified, or still under God's wrath, are sent to hell. This would be their souls. The only proper place for a non-justified soul is Hell. What many do not understand is that the Last Judgement is simply a public pronouncement of the previous private judgement, and then we are joined with our bodies--a glorified body like Jesus' or a damned body which is hideous.
3 The righteous Judge of heaven and earth is not going to let "children of wrath" just slide away from His throne of Judgement to wander about the earth, which is Satan's proper abode (until his judgement) It is unthinkable that the God of burning holiness would just let the un-justified walk free, if even for a short time. THEY ARE GUILTY before the thrice holy Judge. Can you imagine a human judge, who has just sentenced a truly guilty man to death, to then tell him that he has twenty years to party before he is given a lethal injection? That is more likely to happen before the Lord of Hosts allows a damned, guilty human to descend back to earth after his eternal death sentence.
4.There is no text in the bible that supports the notion that the damned dead walk the earth..quite the opposite! Some might call this an "argument from silence", but some silences are not fallacies. Certainly God has warned us of Satanic/demonic enemies we must do battle with (Ephesians 6) If humans can assault and even possess humans, then why didn't He warn us? It is an extremely serious matter. The Great Communicator would have failed to have adequately communicated what we need to be fully equipped.equipped 2 Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that God has communicated to us all we need to adequately equip us to live godly lives.
5. In my book "Seeing Ghosts through God's Eyes" I state that the bible never affirms the existence of ghosts wandering/stuck on earth. Some have attacked this as an argument from silence, and say that the bible never affirms the existence of chimpanzees either, and yet we know they exist. This is a false analogy. The bible is not concerned with giving us a taxonomy of the natural realm. It is a
meta-narrative or drama of redemption which gives us knowledge we need to fight the "good fight". Knowledge of chimps is not necessary for that, but knowledge of who populates the spiritual realm,and attacks and possibly possesses many people, is necessary. Silence regarding that would leave us vulnerable, ignorant, unequipped, and unable to discern. It would impugn God's character. It is a failure to see the distinction between what is incidental knowledge and what is crucial knowledge--regarding spiritual warfare and other spiritual issues.
6. The notion that Hitler and other moral monsters have temporarily escaped God's furious judgement is noxious to God's burning holiness. Hebrews 9:27 makes it very clear that immediately after death we go to heaven or hell. What also concerns me is the very selective use of theologians to buttress unbiblical views of human existence after death. Worse, is the confusion this is causing. Certitude, based on the Word of God, is not hubris, it is humility...bowing before the Lordship of Christ over the totality of life and death.
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.