What happens when we die?
The Bible clearly teaches that at death, a separation occurs: Our body (the material part of us) is separated from our spirit/soul (the immaterial part of us) (James 2:26). While our body remains on the earth, our spirit/soul immediately goes to another location. That location is determined by how we responded to God’s Son, Jesus Christ, while we were alive.
Are you a believer? Do you have a personal relationship with God? Do you trust in the work of Christ on the cross? Do you trust in the death and resurrection of Christ? Scripture teaches that “to be absent from the body” is “to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:7). When you die, you will be immediately ushered into the presence of Christ in Heaven.
What happens to unbelievers? Tragically, they will find themselves in a place of complete darkness, unimaginable horrors, and everlasting torment…separated from God forever.
Hell is not something to joke about. It is a real place. Christ spent more time warning people about Hell than He did about describing the glory of Heaven. He loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish. Christ took the punishment for our sins so we don’t have to go to Hell. By ignoring the Bible’s warnings and refusing Christ, people choose Hell as their eternal destination.
Consider what happened to the two criminals who were crucified alongside Christ.
38 “Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”
40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”
43 And [Jesus] said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
At death’s door, one of the criminals repented and believed in Christ. Look at Christ’s response: “TODAY you shall be with Me in Paradise” (my emphasis).
Notice what Jesus did NOT tell the criminal. He did not say, “Sorry, you haven’t been good enough to get to Heaven. First you will have to suffer in Purgatory.” Purgatory is a man-made invention, not mentioned anywhere in Scripture.
The Bible, God’s Word, assures us that none of us can ever be good enough to deserve Heaven on our own. There is only one way to qualify for Heaven: We must turn from our sins (repent) and trust in Christ. Then God will forgive our sins and bring us into a personal relationship with Him. We then HAVE (present tense) eternal life.
The repentant criminal fulfilled God’s qualifications for going to Heaven. As soon as he died, he went to be with Christ in Paradise.
Consider the apostle Paul. He endured many trials as he lived for Christ. Even in the face of death, he had joy. He had complete confidence that when he died, he would immediately be with Christ in Heaven.
Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth, “Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
From prison, Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake” (Philippians 1:21-24).
What about the idea that some have called “soul sleep”? This is the idea that believers who have died remain unconscious until the resurrection. The Bible does not support this idea. God gave the apostle John a vision of Heaven, which is recorded in the last book of the Bible. John witnessed multitudes of people in Heaven. They were all fully conscious, actively speaking, or singing and praising God (Revelation 6:9-11, 14:1-4).
Do you have assurance that you will go to Heaven when you die? If not, do not delay. God is saying, “Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Read “How Can I Know God?”
If you are a believer, reflect on these truths about Heaven. Like the apostle Paul, you can live with joy and hope – no matter what you’re going through.
What Do You Think?
So what do you think?
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