Over the last couple posts, I have attempted to answer a few burning questions: What will happen at the moment of our death? What does the Bible say is the destination for each person when they die? Do all dead people go to a better place? Will we go to heaven or will we go to hell? What does the Bible say?
Before we answer the question, I think we should say something about what the Bible says about death itself. I know that last statement sounds morbid and uninviting. Nobody likes talking or thinking about death. We would rather talk about going to the next party or having a good time. Solomon says some very startling.
Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies— so the living should take this to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2
The reason it is better to go to a funeral than to a party is that funerals snatch us out of our dream world of facades and fakery. A funeral is as real as real can be. Death is the ultimate reality of life. Funerals force us to think about our death and what we are doing with our lives. More importantly, funerals make us reflect on where we will go when we die. So, I believe that it is important to briefly say what the Bible says about death.
What Does the Bible Say About Death?
- Death is universal
No one can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave. Psalm 89:48
The Bible only affirms what we already know, right? No one can escape death. We can do all we can to stave off death. We can exercise – run, lift, plank, spin, and do yoga. If we eat healthily – carb-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, egg-free, GMO-free, nut-free, dairy-free, nitrates-free, trans fat-free, and sugar-free, it is not enough to stop death. The truth is, we don’t have enough money, networks, and intelligence to prevent death – the ultimate reality of this life. Consequently, in the end, we will all die. Death does not discriminate:
One person dies in prosperity, completely comfortable and secure, the picture of good health, vigorous and fit. Another person dies in bitter poverty, never having tasted the good life. But both are buried in the same dust, both eaten by the same maggots. Job 21:23-26
- Death is irreversible
For soon I must go down that road from which I will never return. Job 16:22
This verse and Hebrews 9:27 are very clear that there are no second chances after death – either in the life after or through reincarnation – returning to life in a lower or higher form. We die once, and after then we have to face God We cannot turn the clock back and do it again. No matter how hard we wish, we cannot reverse the work of death. The only opportunity we have is the opportunity that God gives us now.
What Happens at The Death of a Believer?
When a follower of Jesus dies, the Bible seems to say some very specific things about what happens:
- Our souls go into the conscious presence of the Lord.
And Jesus replied (to the thief on the cross), “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8
- Our bodies are buried until Jesus comes back (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18).
- God will raise our bodies from the grave when Jesus returns.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died[b]will rise from their graves. 1 Thessalonans 4:16
- God will reunite our body and soul, and we will be with the Lord forever.
Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thessalonians 4:17
Heaven will far transcend any joy that we have ever known. The primary dimension of heaven is the presence of the believer with the Lord forever. We believe heaven will be better by far. Grandparent holding their grandchild – better by far! Graduation from college – better by far! Wedding – better by far! Sexual pleasure – better by far. Cubs winning the World Series – better by far.
What Happens at The Death of an Unbeliever?
When an unbeliever dies, the Bible seems to say some definite things about that as well.
- At the moment of death, the soul of the unbeliever is sent to hell. This is a place where there will be conscious torment (Luke 16:19-31). This topic has created lots of controversy in our day. The teaching of everlasting punishment appears to some to be outmoded or even sub-Christian. This thinking comes from trying to reconcile God’s love and God’s judgment. However, eternal punishment is explicitly taught in Scripture.
- God created hell for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41).
- There is a real place called hell (Revelation 20:11-15). The Bible seems to say there will be outer darkness, anguish – whether physical or mental or both, weeping, eternal punishment. There is one characteristic of hell, in contrast to heaven, the absence of God or the banishment from his presence.
- God will raise unbelievers’ bodies at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15)
- The punishment is eternal.
- The unbeliever will be eternally separated from the presence of God.
British author and theologian, C.S. Lewis, summed it up well when he said:
Sin is the human being saying to God throughout his/her life, ‘Go away and leave me alone.’ Hell is God finally saying to the person, ‘You may have your wish.’
It is God leaving the person to himself or herself, as that individual has chosen. This is the final destination of those who have not committed to following Jesus as Savior and Lord. To make it more personal, this is the final destination of our friends, relatives, co-workers, parents, brothers, sisters, children, and spouses.
What Will Happen When YOU die?
This question is a very, very, personal one. Only you know if you have made a commitment to follow Jesus and let him lead your life. Only you know that if you breathed your last, whether or not you would spend eternity with Jesus or be eternally separated from him. If you are following Jesus, then you will spend eternity with Jesus. However, we should not be satisfied with going to heaven; our concern should extend to others. We must pray for and weep over those who have not committed their lives to Jesus.
We must live graciously among people who are far from God. Now, this doesn’t mean we do what they do, but it does mean we place ourselves in a position to live and speak the good news.
If you have never made a commitment to follow Jesus, I want you to hear this – God is so in love with you, and he wants you to know that he created you so that you could live in relationship with him. God didn’t create you to live and then shuffle off the stage of life. He created you to know him and enjoy him and ultimately spend eternity with him. Think about these verses:
Therefore, good deeds won’t get you there. Going to church won’t get you there. Giving to charity won’t get you there. Being sincere won’t get you there. Good deeds outweighing the evil deeds won’t get you there. Recognizing that a holy God has holy standards, and we don’t measure up to those standards Jesus and his death on the cross are the only ticket that can get you to heaven. Surrendering to Jesus is not just saying some words and just believing facts. Surrendering to Jesus is placing the weight of your life and your future and your sins on the broad shoulders of Jesus Christ.
What happens after we die is dependent on Who we trust before we die.
Have you surrendered your life to Jesus?
With whom will you share this?