What Happens After Death 

 Death is a subject none of us like to talk about, and yet, as repugnant as the subject is, it is one that we cannot evade. Our daily newspapers bring us headline stories of murders and tragic deaths every day. We turn the pages and find ourselves staring at the obituary columns telling of many around us who have just died. The ambulance siren, the intensive care units, the hospital morgue and the funeral processions all remind us that life is fragile. When one of our loved ones die we have a funeral director suggesting add on running into the thousands of dollars "to properly honor their memory". In all, there are some 200,000 people who die on planet earth every day.

     When the person who dies is our wife, husband, mother, father, son, daughter, or best friend we find ourselves gripped with the thought, "What has happened to my loved one after their death?" The Scriptures give us some clear truths that provide us the answer.

Man Has A Physical and Spiritual Nature

      Jesus made this truth very clear when He said, "And do not fear those who kill the body, but can not kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28. The soul is separate and distinct from the body.

     The apostle Paul also pointed out the distinction between man's physical and spiritual nature. "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1st Thessalonians 5:23.

Man's Spiritual Nature Continues To Live After The Body Dies

    Solomon gave some insight on this truth in the book of Ecclesiastes, 12:7;: "then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it."

     There is also much to be learned from the experience of Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus back to life. "He, ... took her by the hand and called, saying, 'Little girl, arise!' Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately; and He commanded that she be given something to eat." Luke 8:54, 55.

     James also points out that death comes to the body when the spirit departs. "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so  faith without works is dead also." James 2:26.

     Peter spoke of departing from his earthly body. "Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.  Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease." 2nd Peter 1:13-15.

     Paul made a similar statement. "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you."   Philippians 1:21-24.

     The most complete teaching on the spiritual nature living on after the body dies is found in 2nd Corinthians 5:6-9. "From here we receive those comforting words, "We are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, and not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.  There we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him"

Where Does The Spiritual Nature of Man Go After The Body Dies

     Previous to the resurrection of Christ all who died went to a place referred to by the Hebrew word, "Sheol." Sheol means the unseen world, the state or abode of the dead. When physical life ended the body went into the grave (Hebrew "queber") or ashes or whatever. The soul went into Sheol. Sheol was a place of conscious existence. God forbade any Israelite to be "one who calls up the dead". Deuteronomy 18:11. However, King Saul, in distress, went to a medium at Endor, who summoned Samuel back from Sheol. 1st Samuel 28:11-15. We are also told that when the king of Babylon began his descent into Sheol that "Hell from beneath is excited about you to meet you at your coming; It stirs up the dead for you, All the chief ones of the earth; It has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations."    Isaiah 14:9.

     Both the righteous and the wicked descended into the realm of Sheol. Jacob, renamed "Israel" by God, said, "Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son (Joseph)." Genesis 37:35. We also read, "The wicked will be turned into hell, and  all the nations that forget God." Psalms 9:17.

     Jesus gave us the revelation that Sheol was divided into two compartments with a "great gulf fixed" separating them (Luke 16:19-31). As we read His story of the rich man and Lazarus we must remember that He was describing the realm of the dead as it would exist until His resurrection. Here are the basic facts:

  1. The bodies of the rich man and Lazarus were buried in a grave.
  2. The spiritual nature of Lazarus went to a place of "comfort" in the bosom of Abraham whereas the spiritual nature of the rich man went to a place of torment in fire.
  3. There was complete consciousness of their condition after they died and remembrance of conditions on earth.
  4. The righteous and the wicked were forever separated from one another

The location of the righteous dead would be drastically changed when Jesus rose from the dead.


After Jesus Arose From the Dead He Took The Departed Righteous With Him To Heaven

      This event is described by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:8-10. Therefore He (Psalms 68:18) says, 'When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men' (Now this, 'He ascended,' what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)"

     The location of "paradise" in the presence of God is illustrated by Paul's experience recorded in 2nd Corinthians 12:2-4.
     " I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago - whether in the body I do not know, or  whether out of the body I do not know, God knows - such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows---how he was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."

     No wonder Paul was able to say with such confidence, "we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." And again, "having the desire to depart and be with Christ for that is very much better.". All believers who have accepted Christ as their Savior can make these statements with just as much confidence…about themselves and their loved ones who have departed to be with the lord.

What Will Happen To The Bodies of Those Who Have Died?

     There will be a resurrection of both saved and unsaved. The resurrection of the righteous is taught in several Old Testament passages (Job 14:13-15; 19:25; Psalm 17:15; 16:10, 11; 49:15; 73:24; Isaiah 26:19). Only to Daniel was it clearly revealed that the unrighteous would also be raised (Daniel 12:2) With His teachings and resurrection, Jesus Christ "brought life and immortality to light…" 2nd Timothy 1:10. Jesus made abundantly clear that there will be a resurrection of the unsaved as well as the saved. "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming, in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice, and come forth---those who have done good. to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil  to the resurrection of condemnation." John 5:28, 29. Elsewhere Jesus taught that men of Sodom, Tyre, and Nineveh would appear at the judgment (Matthew 11:22-24; 12:41, 42). Following the resurrection of Jesus Christ the resurrection of saved and unsaved became an integral part of apostolic preaching. (See Acts 17:18, 31, 32; 24:15; 2nd Timothy 4:1; Revelation 20:12, 14).

The Order of the Resurrections Is Found in 1st Corinthians 15:22-24

  1. "Christ the first fruits"
  2. "After that those who are Christ's at His coming". (From 1st Corinthians 15:51-17 and 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 we learn that "the dead in Christ" will be raised and caught up to be rejoined with their spiritual natures and living believers will be changed from mortality to immortality and caught up without dying).
  3. "Then comes the end." (This refers to believers who die during the tribulation period who are resurrected after the tribulation (See Revelation 20:4, 5). It also refers to the resurrection of the unsaved 1000 years later after the earthly reign of Christ (See Revelation 20:7-15).

     The nature of believers resurrected bodies is referred to as "glorified" (Romans 8:17). John tells us that "we shall be like Him (Jesus) because we shall see Him as He is. The last two chapters of Revelation describe the conditions in which believers live forever.

     The unsaved will be sentenced to "the lake of fire" which is described as "the second death." Revelation 20:14.

Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted

    Copyright © 2008 Truth Helpers Inc.