Thank you for your questions.
In the Bible, to fall asleep, unless it is obvious that a person is having a little rest/nap/snooze/ temporary closing of the eyes etc, is to physically die.
You have mentioned two verses that say this -
These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. (John 11:11-14)
After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. (1 Cor 15:6). They have died ie they just haven’t dozed off for a while or gone to bed for the evening.
Now Christians who have died are dead in Jesus while their physical body is rotting in the grave. Paul writes to the Thessalonians who were fearful that their dead Christian brothers and sisters, might miss the rapture. He writes to re-assure them they won’t and in fact they will rise first to meet the Lord in the air as he says
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:15-17)
Now, Christians that die are automatically in heaven as they are in Jesus Christ where he now sits at the right of God the Father. Paul writes
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
Furthermore, he writes
2 Cor 5:8
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
And where is the Lord? Many scriptures show that Christ is now in heaven at the right hand of God the Father. Here is one -
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (Eph 1:20).
Now people who are not saved, when they die, will automatically go straight to hell. He writes to the Thessalonians as follows:
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (2 Thess 1:7-9).
Indeed Jesus talks of the reality of hell, the fire of hell and the actual place of hell, when he speaks the following:
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Who should we believe about heaven and hell? Well, Jesus is now in heaven and also Jesus created hell. Paul also attests to heaven and hell.
So here’s the question “As a Christian where should I get my doctrine from? Who should I believe?”
Paul says we are to follow him as he follows Christ.
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
Paul says he has the correct doctrine
2 Tim 3:10
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
Paul says that a special dispensation of the gospel was given to him
1 Cor 9:17
For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.
So, as a Christian, we get our doctrine from Paul and his thirteen epistles from Romans to Philemon. We don’t follow Peter, James, John, Genesis, Ecclesiastes, any of the prophets of the Bible.
There are no mistakes, errors or contradictions in the King James Bible. All scriptures are true, historical but they are not necessarily doctrinal for the Christian eg the obvious one is that a man doesn’t need to be circumcised to be saved today – it’s a different dispensation.
So Jesus said there is a hell and he is now in heaven as well, and Paul believes in the fires of hell and Christians being in heaven. Paul writes he wants to die and be with Christ who is in heaven.
So in summary, there is a heaven and a hell (Jesus and Paul say so).
When a Christian dies he or she goes straight to heaven.
When an unsaved man or woman dies, they go straight to the fires of hell.
So this brings us to the verse of scripture that all the cults use to say there is no hell.
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
Furthermore they quote
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
They conveniently do not quote the following verse
Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
Solomon, in writing Ecclesiastes, is only comparing THE PHYSICAL LIFE here on earth UNDER THE SUN as opposed to the dead corpse in the grave. Of course there is no work, knowledge, wisdom, love, hatred, reward or memory for the rotting carcase in the grave/cemetery.
They pick one verse on which they will gamble their life on to prove there is no hell. One second after they die they will know there is a hell.
No …, you were taught the right things about heaven and hell when you were growing up and don’t let anyone unsaved person from the cults (SDA’s, JW’s etc) tell you different.
Hopefully, the above explanation might go some way to helping your understanding.
If you still have questions, please do not hesitate to get back to me.
Now finally, may I ask on what are you trusting in to go to heaven?
By Harley Hitchcock For ABM.