A discussion on the fate of Christians after death usually comes up during our bible study sessions. The most common references that we usually use to suggest that Christians who live righteously go to heaven are Enoch and Elijah. Recently, we mentioned Eli and how he allowed immorality among his sons, despite being a priest. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Did Eli go to heaven?”
The Bible does not imply that Eli went to heaven. The first book of Samuel suggests that Eli died after hearing that the Philistines had captured the ark of God and that his two sons had died in the battle. His fate after death is not mentioned, nor is there any speculation in the Bible that he went to heaven.
In this article, I am going to explore the events that led to Eli’s death. I am going to delve into Eli’s relationship with God at the time of his death. Also, I will look into the beliefs of Christians and Bible commentators on whether or not Eli went to heaven. Read on!
Does the Bible mention that Eli went to heaven?
According to 1 Samuel 4:18, it is not clear that Eli went to heaven. Eli died after receiving news of the outcome of a battle between the Israelites and the Philistines. ‘As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat and by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken, and he died, for the man was old and heavy…’
The fact that Eli died immediately nullifies any chances that he was taken to heaven, as was the case with Elijah and Enoch. The only other argument that comes close is that he went to heaven after death. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 suggests that during the coming of the Lord, the dead in Christ shall rise. This is the only basis for assuming that Eli went, or rather will go, to heaven.
How did Eli sin against God?
The Bible implies that Eli did not take action against his sons, who were notorious for corruption and sexual immorality. 1 Samuel 2:29: ‘Why do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me…?’ According to this verse, Eli had the opportunity to fire his sons from priestly duties, but he chose not to. Though he did rebuke them, as implied in 1 Samuel 2:22-26, he should have done more since he was both their father and a high priest. Therefore, God saw that Eli honored his sons above Him, which is a sin.
How did God punish Eli for his sins?
1 Samuel 2:31 suggests that God condemned every man in Eli’s family, saying that they would never reach old age and that his sons would die on the same day. Eli’s family was chosen by the Lord to be priests. This means they went before the altar and burned incense and offerings that came from the people of Israel. This was a great honor that had been bestowed upon Eli’s bloodline. However, by honoring his sons more than God, God mentioned through a messenger that he does not honor those who do not honor him (1 Samuel 2:30). Thus, He punished Eli’s bloodline just as he had blessed them.
What happened to Eli when he died?
According to the book Samuel, when Eli died, he fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate and broke his neck. 1 Samuel 4:12-22 explains that Eli was seated by the road when a man of Benjamin, who had run from the battle line, approached with a message of the Israelite’s defeat and the deaths of his sons. When Eli heard about the capture of the ark of God, he fell over and died. After his death, there is no mention of what became of Eli. He was old and heavy and had judged Israel for forty years.
Do Bible commentators believe that Eli went to heaven?
Many commentators argue that Eli openly judging Hannah, as implied in 1 Samuel 1:14, and his ignorance towards the actions of his sons did not qualify him to go to heaven. Others say that since he was a godly priest, we should not question his eternal destiny.
The Bible does not give any clues on what happened to Eli after his death. Biblical scholars view the story as a build-up to the story of Samuel, which is why he is only mentioned in the first chapters of the book of Samuel. Therefore, commentators have various beliefs about what happened to him, but none of them can be proven.
Do Christians believe Eli went to heaven?
Many Christians believe that Eli lived righteously, and therefore his ending up in heaven is unquestionable. Having lived righteously and died, he is destined to be resurrected during the second coming of Jesus and ascend to heaven as suggested in 1 Thessalonians 4: 16. Christians believe that everyone who died in Christ will go to heaven, and since Eli did so will he.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.