What Happens When We Die?


We have a tendency to dress up the words used for dying with other words such as; pass away, laid to rest, and moved on. The question is not whether we are going to die, but what awaits us when we do. People have all kinds of opinions, but unless you have been there and back, we need to see what scripture says about this.

Jesus is the only One who has been through death and lives even now. Hebrews 9:27 – “It is appointed for men to die once an after this comes judgment.” This appointment with death has been set by God.

Most people think we are in the land of the living on our way to the land of dying. Reality is, we are in the land of the dying on our way to the land of living. Dying is not the end of a person’s existence.

The Separation of the Body and Soul

Death is the separation of our temporary, body from the eternal. The body without the spirit is dead, but the opposite is not true. Our souls were created to live forever.

At creation, Adam was just a shell made out of dust until God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). When we die, life is not over, because the only part that truly dies is our body.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord.” He told the Philippians, “I am hard pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is better (1:23). Doesn’t sound like he expected to go into a deep sleep, does it?

We’ll see when we get to Luke 16, that we have a conscious existence in eternity, whether in heaven or hell. The Bible says nothing about a purgatory state after death or a second chance to get our act together.

The world puts a period after someone’s death, but from God’s standpoint the death is only a pause that is brief.

Death is Followed By a Destination

The best clear picture of what happens after death, Jesus gave us in Luke 16:19-31. Jesus always spoke truth so there’s nothing in the story of the rich man and Lazarus where He was merely figurative speaking. Look at Luke 16:22, 23 – “Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.”

Death has no respect, they both died, rich and poor.

Lazarus’s destination at death is called “Abraham’s bosom.” This is a term for heaven or paradise, while the rich man found himself in “Hades,” hell” in the King James Version.

Heaven will have no frustration or irritation, nor boredom. It will involve rest and intimacy in the presence of Jesus forever, but we will have a meaningful service to perform. Our new bodies will never get tired. If God can create this earth in just six days, imagine what heaven will be like when Jesus has been working on it for two thousand years (John 14:1-3).

In the blink of an eye Lazarus died and was immediately in the presence of Abraham. And for those who are in Christ, the second we are pronounced dead, we are in the presence of Jesus. That’s the good news of not having to fear the terrors of death if you are a believer in Christ Jesus. Our bodies will wast away until we get a new one at the resurrection, but our soul and spirit, will instantaneously be with Christ.

Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 – But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow (grieve) as others who have no hope.

Lazarus experienced the same thing the repentant thief on the cross did when he asked Jesus for forgiveness, Jesus said “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Stephen, the first martyr, was dying from being stoned, and looked up and saw heaven open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55, 56).

The Horrors of Hell 

The rich man had a destination as well. First notice that the rich man was conscious and was able to have a conversation even in the torment of flames. He was also conscious of some opportunities he had missed on earth and concerned about the eternal fate of his five brothers (verse 28).

There are a lot of misconceptions about hell, but a big part is the agony and the remorse of knowing things could have been different. Even with all that, the worst part of being in hell is being cut off from the presence of God . There was a great chasm (Luke 16:26) between heaven and hell. People are not playing golf in heaven and they are not partying down in hell. Too many people think that just because they loved someone that has died, they are in heaven, because they can’t imagine their loved ones living throughout eternity in hell.

The Choice is Ours

God has laid before each one of us the choice of life and death. He says, “choose life!” As a Christian we don’t have to fear death because Jesus paid the penalty for that sin, which is death when He hung on the cross at Calvary. He made atonement for sin, once and for all. We are to live our lives in front of others as a witness so others will know when they make Christ their Savior, they will forever be with Him throughout all eternity.




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