Perhaps it was because we were so enraptured as we considered John 3:16 that we failed to grasp the impact of a very important verse just preceding it: John 3:13. "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven." The Apostle Peter made a kindred statement in Acts 2:29,34, where he said, "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. . For David is not ascended into the heavens."
By the time John wrote these words, Herod the King had already killed John's own brother James with the sword, and John said he did not go to heaven. Stephen, one of The Seven, had already been stoned to death for the word of God, and John said he did not go to heaven. Yet both Peter and John, who were two of The Twelve Apostles in whose doctrine the faithful "continued steadfastly," apparently did not believe that anyone, including men of greatness who lived and died before anyone could be born again, went to heaven immediately when they died. Neither did they believe that people who were born again went to heaven when they died.
These facts are very interesting, when you consider the vast number of Christians who believe that God's faithful go to heaven when they die. Could it be that Paul was right when he said that those who die from among the believers "sleep in Jesus," and "shall be made alive ... at His coming" (1 Thess. 4:14; 1 Cor. 15. 15:22,23)?