This post is from Pastor Matt’s blog.
Michael Bird breaks it all down as follows:
1. Prior to Christ’s ascension, all who died descended to Sheol/Hades, which was divided into two parts, one for the wicked and one for the righteous.
2. At Christ’s ascension, he went into heaven and took with him all of the saints in the paradisal part of Sheol/Hades, while the wicked remain in Sheol/Hades, waiting for judgment.
3. Upon death new covenant believers go to be with Christ in heaven ahead of the general resurrection, while the wicked descend to Sheol/Hades waiting for judgment.
4. Eventually Sheol/Hades will be thrown into hell and all believers will share in the new heavens and new earth.
See Evangelical Theology p. 323.
I’ve featured some debates with Michael Bird before, he is a famous evangelical historian.
It’s important to understand that the Christian view of humans is that we have a material part and a non-material part. When you die, the material part goes into a tomb. The non-material part goes on to be with God, until the day when you get a new resurrection body.
Earlier, I blogged about some philosophical arguments for the existence of souls and some scientific evidence for the existence of souls, and it’s worth looking over in order to move beyond mere opinions. Like it or not, this is the way we are! Not just bodies, but souls.