Too many Christians today believe that Jesus came so that His People could go to 'Heaven' when they die; not only does this water down the Gospel message, or rather, their understanding of it, it is totally unbiblical! Jesus never told anybody to 'get saved so you can go to Heaven when you die'! He DID tell them that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and that they needed to be born again to enter it!
According to most Christians today, even some who claim to believe in a Fulfilled Gospel, one does not enter Eternity till their physical bodies perish and they become a free spirit.This is likely purported because these preterists want to maintain a certain level of orthodoxy; this is, after all what the mainstream church has taught for centuries! Most Christians, futurists especially, believe this for several reasons, two of which are that here is a bit of gnosticism in their 'baggage', and many have simply accepted what their pastor told them or what their parents and grandparents believed!
Jesus died so that we, His People, the 'Israel of God' might live; He did not suffer on the cross so that we could go to 'heaven' when we died! he promised His disciples in John 14:23, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him'. This is undoubtedly fulfilled, and being so, Paul's words in I Thessalonians ( 4:17 ) are undoubtedly true as well; he told the Thessalonikan believers, 'Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord'. Paul never told anybody that their being with the Lord necessarily involved dying, and he most certainly did not say here that if they were alive at the time of His Parousia they would die!
Jesus promised that those who believed in Him and loved Him would not die; they would live forever. Obviously, He was not speaking of physical existence, because we who love & believe in Him still lose our biological presence; it becomes worm-food, it was never meant to last forever! Our spiritual 'body' however, continues on after it is separated from its biological host; like Jesus said, 'we' will never die!
One problem with Modern Christianity, and indeed, much of ancient Christianity as well, was the whole idea, or notion that these promises in Scripture were primarily made to individuals. A careful study of the Greek usage here ( tenses, etc. ) will reveal that, for instance, in John 3:16, Jesus told Nicodemus, as a representative of Israel, 'you ( all ) must be born again'. Although much of the Greek Scriptures do have an individual aspect to them, it is to the corporate body of Israel, who was dead ( in sin ) that the promises were made; Ezekiel 37 is probably one of the clearest examples of this in the Hebrew Scriptures.
We were not quickened ( made alive ) so that we could enjoy the Presence of God when we died; we ( corporately ) were 'born again' so that we could live IN His Presence ( remember all that stuff ( Leviticus 21:11, Numbers 6:6 ) about not going near a dead body, in the Old Testament? )!
As we live forever in the blessedness of His Presence, let us rejoice in the fact that we do not have to experience physical death in order to enjoy Communion with Him; our, or rather 'their' Blessed Hope is fulfilled!
Amen & Amen!
Charles Haddon Shank