Isn’t it interesting that our world doesn’t really know what to do with the idea of death? Flowers, which are beautiful signs of life, adorn cemeterie. There is even an occupation to make dead people look nice and happy and life-like after they’re dead—a mortician. All of the anti-aging creams, diets, and plastic surgeries prove that we are afraid to die. The truth is, death has a 100% success rate—10 out of 10 people will die!
So, what happens when we die?
Let’s take a look at some FALSE ideas first:
This belief says that humans are only a body and have no soul. Once people die, there is nothing more. In order to make life count, “you need to squeeze as much joy out of life. If it is filled with pain and regret, you are simply a loser.”
This belief says that “in the end everyone goes to heaven no matter what they have done in this life”. The problem is that “rapists, pedophiles, murders, thieves, can go on with their disgusting activity their entire life and be eternally rewarded.”
Some Catholics believe in the idea of purgatory. This belief says that after death, people go to purgatory who have died in God’s grace in order to pay God off for the sins that haven’t been forgiven. This is totally wrong because it basically says that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was not enough and that we can take care of what Jesus did not complete as our sacrifice on the cross for our sins. We know that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” that it was!
This belief says that after you die, you will come back repeatedly to earth until you have paid off your karmic debt. You must try to make right all the things you did wrong until you reach a state of perfection or nirvana, then you join the “energy of the universe”. This is foolish because “you can’t pay off your old sin as fast as you would be adding to your new sin.”
So what does the BIBLE say actually happens when you die?
1. As humans, we are composed of body and soul.
2. At death, a separation occurs between our body and our soul (Psalm 104:29; 146:4; Ecclesiastes 3:20-21, 12:7; James 2:26.
3. For Christians, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; Luke 23:43), therefore, the soul of a believer goes immediately into Jesus’ presence (2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Philippians 1:23).
4. For non-Christians, their souls go to immediate eternal punishment (Hebrews 9:27).
5. When Christ returns, there will be a resurrection of the dead (for both Christians and non-Christians), and body and soul will be reunited (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46).
6. All will face judgment, based on their deeds. Those who’s name is written in the book of Life (because of faith in Christ alone, by grace only), will be welcomed in to heaven for eternity. Those who’s name is not written in the book of Life are cast in to the lake of fire with Satan and demons for eternal punishment (Revelation 20:11-15).
** Ideas and quotations are borrowed from Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe by Mark Driscoll (esp. Chapter 13). In addition, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem was consulted (esp. Chapter 41). Please look at these resources for more detail on these and other theologies.