If I understand your question, you are asking, “Did all BELIEVERS who died before the cross go to heaven AFTER Jesus died on the cross?” You had said, “ALL people” but I trust you weren’t including UNBELIEVERS in your question, for Scripture is crystal-clear that unbelievers will NOT go to heaven. John 3:36 declares emphatically, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and HE WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE THE SON SHALL NOT SEE LIFE, but the wrath of God abides on him” (NKJV).

There are two main views on this subject. 1) All believers before the cross went to heaven the moment they died; and 2) All believers before the cross went to a place of comfort and bliss when they died, but it wasn’t until Jesus “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26) that they actually went to heaven. We will explore both of these views.

Regarding view #1, we know that there are examples of Old Testament saints going to heaven. In Genesis 5:24 states, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God TOOK HIM.” Hebrews 11:5 says, “By faith Enoch was TAKEN AWAY so that he did not see death.” Where did God take Enoch? Surely He must have taken Enoch “to be with Himself in heaven.” There was another man who never died and we can be sure he was taken to heaven. Who was that? 2nd Kings 2:11 gives us the answer, “Then it happened, as they (Elijah and Elisha) continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah WENT UP BY A WHIRLWIND TO HEAVEN.” This makes it very clear that there are believers that lived before the cross who went to heaven.

Some may be thinking, “Okay, for some reason God allowed two LIVING men to go to heaven without dying, but we are discussing THOSE WHO HAD DIED?” We won’t find any examples of believers dying and going to heaven in the Old Testament, but we do have one in the New Testament. In Luke 16:22 we read, “So it was that the BEGGAR DIED, and was carried by the angels to ABRAHAM’S BOSOM.” It goes on to say that to say he was “comforted” (verse 25). Those who espouse view #1 say that “Abraham’s bosom” is another name for “heaven” (which surely is a place of perfect comfort and bliss). They would say this also teaches us that Abraham was also in heaven, along with all of the Old Testament saints.

Regarding view #2, it is ironic that most who hold this view rely heavily on the same verse in Luke 16:22. They say that “Abraham’s bosom” was a” temporary place of comfort” and they even call it Paradise. They are divided as to WHERE this was, for some say it was a “special compartment in heaven” (but not the heaven where God lives); others believe it was “in the bowels of the earth.” Both believe that after Jesus died He went to Abraham’s bosom and took them with Him when He ascended to heaven. They base this belief on Ephesians 4:8-9, “When He ascended on high, He LED CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE…(Now this, ‘He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth).” Those who say that “Abraham’s bosom” is “a temporary place in HEAVEN” should have trouble using this verse, for a place in heaven couldn’t be described as “the lower parts of the earth.” But those who teach that Abraham’s bosom is in the bowels of the earth have a real problem too, for the words “descended into the lower parts of the earth” refer, I believe, either to 1) Jesus descending to earth at the Incarnation so He could become the sinner’s Savior, or to 2) the burial of Jesus’ body in Joseph’s tomb. Besides that, if “Abraham’s bosom” is indeed “Paradise,” then it must be HEAVEN. This is confirmed in Luke 23:43 & 46; 2nd Corinthians 12:2 & 4, and Revelation 2:7. (304.6) (DO)