Did Moses Go to Heaven? Learn the Truth


Moses is one of the most important figures in the Bible. He lived a heroic, yet imperfect life. Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land because of a mistake he made. Additionally, the New Testament teaches that an angel and Satan fought over his body when he died. This has led people to wonder if Moses is in heaven or not.

Moses is in heaven according to the New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In the story, commonly referred to as the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, Moses appears along with Elijah. According to Luke’s account, Moses appeared in glory and spoke with Jesus, which confirms his presence in heaven.

Where exactly do the Gospels teach that Moses is in heaven? What New Testament book mentions an angel and the devil fighting over Moses’s body? What is unusual about the way Moses died, which may lead to speculation about his eternal destiny? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Moses Mount Sinai
Did an angel and the devil really wrestle over Moses’ body? See below (Mt. Sinai pictured)

Does the New Testament Gospels teach that Moses is in heaven?

The scene in Jesus’s life that is often referred to as the Transfiguration, is one of the most pivotal moments in the Gospels because it confirms Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. It’s one of the few times that people hear a voice from heaven confirm who Jesus is. Jesus’ disciples, Peter and John, are at the Transfiguration. So, too, are Moses and Elijah.

“After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared before them, talking with Jesus.”

Matthew 17:1-3 (ESV, emphasis added)

Moses and Elijah died in two very different ways, yet clearly they are both in heaven. The deaths of Moses and Elijah are quite different from each other, as the Bible tells each story. The Israelites not only didn’t see Moses die, but they didn’t even know where he was buried (more below). Elijah, on the other hand, never physically died. God took him to heaven in a whirlwind as other people watched (2 Kings 2:11).

Does Moses’ presence with Jesus and Elijah at the Transfiguration mean he went to heaven? Yes. The Transfiguration is a supernatural story, but it’s not a figurative one. Elijah and Moses were really there. Moses really spoke to Jesus and anticipated his death on the cross for sin. Moses was Messiah-like; Jesus was the Messiah himself.

Do Bible scholars believe Moses is in heaven? Yes. Bible commentators on Matthew, Mark, and Luke don’t necessarily argue that Moses went to heaven; they assume it. For example, one of the most well-reviewed commentaries on Matthew begins its explanation of the Transfiguration, stating, “Jesus’ otherworldly appearance is underlined by the presence with him of two well-known inhabitants of heaven.” [2]

Moses death promised land
Why did Satan try and steal Moses’ body? See below (Mt. Sinai pictured)

Does the book of Jude teach that Moses went to heaven or hell?

Even some of the most acclaimed Bible commentators today admit that Jude 9 “is a difficult verse.” [1] The verse says that after Moses died, Michael, the archangel of God, fought with Satan for his body.

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

Jude 9 (ESV)

What is the point of Jude 9? The meaning of Jude 9 isn’t to fill in the gaps and respond to readers’ questions about Moses’ eternal destiny. Jude is addressing people who had blasphemed angels. He is saying that not even Michael commanded a fallen angel when vying for Moses’ body. Instead, Michael said, the Lord rebuke you.

Did Satan believe he had a right to Moses’ body? Most experts on Jude teach that Satan mistakenly believed he could intercept Moses’ body and deny it a legitimate burial. The verse doesn’t say what the implication would have been for Moses’ eternal destination if Satan had won the tug-of-war.

Speculation on that is moot because Satan didn’t have a right over Moses’ body. Michael’s petition for the Lord to rebuke the devil, which he did, confirmed God’s plan for Moses’ body.

Michael’s rebuke didn’t “merely indicate a desire for the Lord to reprimand Satan verbally for bringing an accusation against Moses, as if Satan would receive only a verbal ‘dressing down.’ The Lord’s rebuke would function as an effective response to Satan’s accusation so that Moses would be vindicated, and his vindication would secure his proper burial. [1]

What does Moses’ death teach about whether he went to heaven or not?

Tragically, Moses’ story doesn’t have a fairytale ending in the Bible. God commissioned Moses to be Israel’s leader, not just to free them from slavery in Egypt, but to guide them to the land that God had promised long ago to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). Yet God didn’t allow Moses to step foot in the Promised Land because of a terrible mistake he made.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim range and see the land that I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was; for when the congregation contended in the Wilderness of Zin, both of you rebelled against My command to show My holiness in their sight regarding the waters.” Those were the waters of Meribah in Kadesh, in the Wilderness of Zin.

Numbers 27:12-14 (ESV, emphasis added)

Do sad endings in life mean that faithful people go to hell? The conclusion of Moses’ life on Earth is bitter-sweet. It’s bitter because he didn’t get to step foot in a place he worked to get to for a large part of his life. It’s sweet because God let Moses see the land with his eyes. Moses’ less-than-ideal ending doesn’t re-write his entire story. His rebellion against God’s command in the Wilderness of Zin didn’t result in discipline, but not damnation.

Who buried Moses? Where is his grave? The book of Deuteronomy teaches that God buried Moses. The phrase “and he buried him” is commonly interpreted as “and God buried Moses.” The passage also reports that no one knows where his body was buried (v. 6b).

And the LORD said to him, “This is the land that I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you will not cross into it.” So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, as the LORD had said. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab facing Beth-peor, and no one to this day knows the location of his grave.

Deuteronomy 34:4-6 (ESV)

The unusual circumstances surrounding Moses’ death may have led people in later centuries to speculate about his death, as well as his life after death. The books of Numbers and Deuteronomy explain how and why Moses died. However, theologians often cite the Gospels to affirm that Moses went to heaven.

References:
[1] 1, 2 Peter, Jude by Thomas Schreiner. New American Commentary. P. 458.
[2] The Gospel of Matthew by R.T. France. New International Commentary on the New Testament. P. 648.
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