One of the things I enjoy most about being a pastor is preparing sermons. Last week, I was inspired to preach about hypocrisy and focused my teaching on the Pharisees. One of the questions I got from some congregation members after the sermon was, “did Pharisees go to heaven?”
The Bible does not clearly say whether the Pharisees go to heaven. However, Jesus suggested that the Pharisees do not go to heaven in Matthew 23: 13. Some Biblical scholars believe that some Pharisees who changed their ways and became Christians, like Paul the Apostle, may have gone to heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2).
In this article, I invite you to join me as we delve into the topic of the fate of the Pharisees and answer questions such as does the Bible say that the Pharisees went to heaven, what happened to the Pharisees, and why did Jesus call the Pharisees a ‘child of hell.’ Read along to find the answers to these questions and more.
Does the Bible say that the Pharisees went to heaven?
No verse in the Bible says that the Pharisees went to heaven. On the contrary, Matthew 23:13 implies that the Pharisees did not go to heaven. It says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter; nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
In this Bible verse, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for preventing people from entering the kingdom of heaven since they hindered people from believing in him. Jesus also suggests that since the Pharisees did not believe in him, they would not go to heaven.
What happened to the Pharisees?
Research suggests that when Jesus was crucified and the Jerusalem temple was destroyed in 70 CE, only the Pharisees remained since sects such as the Sadducees became extinct. The Pharisees and early Christians began competing for dominance in Jewish society.
The Pharisees evolved into Rabbinic Judaism and outcompeted the early Christians in Palestine. Rabbinic Judaism was the forerunner of modern Judaism. Today, the Pharisees are referred to as the Rabbis.
Why did Jesus call the Pharisees a ‘child of hell’?
Jesus called the Pharisees a child of hell (Matthew 23:15) since they displayed wicked acts. For instance, they failed to practice what they preached, as explained in Matthew 23:3. They burdened society with religious ceremonies and rituals that they invented and failed to help them bear them. Jesus called them a child of hell for their sins and the punishment awaiting them.
The Pharisees were also referred to as a child of hell since they rejected salvation. They never feared opposing Jesus and called him an impostor. They even accused him of demonic practice in Matthew 9:34.
Did the Pharisees believe in hell and the afterlife?
The Pharisees had different beliefs about the afterlife. For instance, Acts 23:8 suggests that the Pharisees believed in the resurrection and in the existence of spirits and angels. According to a historian, Josephus, who was also a Pharisee, the soul is immortal, and the souls of good people are resurrected after death or passed into other bodies.
He also believed that the souls of wicked people await eternal punishment but did not mention hell. Most Pharisees did not believe in hell. This was a teaching of the pagan religions practiced in the nations surrounding them.
What was the sin of the Pharisees?
Jesus pointed to the sin of hypocrisy in the Pharisees. In Matthew 23: 23, he condemned them for giving a tenth of cumin and mint and neglecting what was more important in the law- faithfulness, mercy, and justice.
Pharisees were also sinners due to their greed and self-indulgence. In Matthew 23:25, Jesus accused them of cleaning the outside of the dish and cup but being full of self-indulgence and greed on the inside. This verse means that the Pharisees were more concerned with their outward appearance than their inward feeling.
Jesus also condemned the Pharisees for the sin of invalidating the word of God for the sake of their tradition (Matthew 15:2, 3, 6). They added a lot of traditional material to scripture which ended up being passed to generations.
Why do Christians believe that the Pharisees did not go to heaven?
Christians have this belief since the Pharisees were the ones that plotted to kill Jesus (Matthew 12:14). They also believe that the Pharisees did not go to heaven since Jesus condemned them several times and suggested that they would not enter heaven in Matthew 23:13.
Many Christians also believe that the Pharisees did not go to heaven since Jesus said they were not righteous enough for the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 5:20, the Pharisees were prescribing righteousness based on their heritage. Jesus did not agree with this and therefore told the people that their righteousness needed to exceed that of the Pharisees for them to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Do bible scholars believe the Pharisees went to heaven?
Bible scholars have different views on this since some believe that Pharisees did not go to heaven while others believe that some went to heaven. According to Mark 1:15, repenting is the first step to salvation. Bible scholars who believe that Pharisees did not go to heaven argue that they did not see any need for repentance.
Those who believe that some Pharisees went to heaven argue that some Pharisees converted to Christianity, including Paul the Apostle (Acts 23:6), and may have gone to heaven. They also believe that God examines every individual based on their faith, including the Pharisees.
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.