The Gospel

What Happens When We Die?

Death is the biggest fact of life, the great leveller. The 1 certain thing is that we will die. Job expressed the big question facing man: 'If a man die shall he live again?' This is not to be answered by SCIENCE or SENTIMENT but by SCRIPTURE (only God knows & can tell us) 

Some wrong ideas: 

1. Death isn't real (Christian Science). 

2. We live on only in our children & work, or in other people's memories. 

3. Oblivion. 

4. Reincarnation. 

5. At death we're finished with the body for ever. 

6. Universalism- all go to a better place.

Universally man has believed in life beyond death. `God has put eternity in our hearts' (Eccles 3:11) We know there has to be more, this life is so incomplete. There is also a universal fear of death so that people avoid thinking about it.

This is because: 

(1) The Unknown always makes us nervous. 

In 600AD King Edwin of Northumberland was visited by missionaries. 

When a sparrow flew into the Hall and then out into the dark again, the King said 'that's like my life, I come into the light of day for a short time and then out into the dark unknown. Does your religion tell us about the after-life?` They told him the gospel and his whole kingdom became christian.

(2) People know that death, like a serpent, has a sting. 

'The sting of death is sin.' (1Cor 15:55). Death means a completed life. The time of sowing is over and now it's time for reaping. We must give an account to God. 

'It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.' (Hebrews 9:27). The real fear is to enter a state of eternal punishment for our sin.

The Biblical Attitude to Death

1. Death is real. It's a fact we must face. 

At the centre of christianity is the cross where the issue of death is faced head on.

2. Death is not of God. It's the result of man's sin and an enemy to be fought. But God uses it for our good. Being under the sentence of death tells us there is something badly wrong and that we need salvation. Man is on `death-row.' The certainty of death should motivate man to seek God for forgiveness. We have this life alone to repent and obtain pardon, or else be condemned to eternal death. Without physical death man would not be alerted to his need of salvation until too late.

3. Death is never the end of a person. Your spirit will live forever. Our existence is in 3 phases. This life is just the first and is short compared to eternity. A fool is one who does not face death and make preparation for it (Luke 12:16-21). Funerals are good for the heart of man for they remind us to prepare for eternity. Death is just when our spirit leaves our body. 

It is just a JOURNEY from one phase of existence to another. Wise mengoing on a journey make preparations to ensure they go to the right place and bring the right things with them. Material things can't be taken past the grave. (lTim 6:6-10) Spiritual things(rewards) can. Our priority should be to build our heavenly treasures which can be taken with us. (Matt 6:19-21)

4. Beyond death there are only 2 possible destinies (Torments or Paradise; Heaven or Hell)

5. In this life we decide which way we go (your choice is made now) No choice is a bad choice. The way to hell is straight on-the way to heaven is about turn & receive Christ. You don't go to heaven by accident.

6. After death we enter phase 2-the Intermediate State (a disembodied spirit awaiting judgement)

7. At Christ's return we enter phase 3, the Final and Eternal State. This is our real hope. The intermediate state is only temporary. Every spirit will be united to their resurrected body. After judgement (the formal pronouncement of the eternal destiny we chose in this life) the righteous will live eternally in a glorified body in heaven and the wicked (God-rejecters) in hell.

8. Jesus has taken the sting of death (sin) for us in his death. (Gen 3:15, John 3:14-16). He conquered death in his resurrection. Jesus died for us, he took on our enemy and defeated it for us, so that we might live for ever in a glorified body! For us who trust Him as Saviour there's no fear of death-He's taken the sting out of it: '0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory?., thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ' (1Cor15:55,57). Jesus died for us that by his death: 'he might destroy him with the power of death (the devil) and deliver them who by fear of death were all their life in bondage' (Heb 2:14,15). Our attitude to death is not afraid of it because it is a defeated foe (Matt 16:18) Christians' victorious attitude to death is one of our greatest witnesses to the world. We stay and fight it to bear fruit for God and lay up our treasure in heaven, preparing for a glorious journey into eternity.

9. The Bible forbids 'spiritism' (attempted contact with the dead) Prayers for the dead are futile. We are to leave them in God's hands, He will do the right thing. There is no purgatory.

The Immortality of the soul. 

Many like to believe there is nothing beyond the grave for then there's little to fear. But the Bible describes man as a `spirit-soul' who lives in a body. 

The body (material) and spirit (immaterial) are clearly distinguished: 

'The LORD formed man of the dust of the ground (body), and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (spirit) and man became a living soul.' (Gen 2:7).  The body is dust that dies, but the spirit is made from God's breath which can't die.

The real man on the inside (the spirit) is immortal: 'Our outward man perishes, yet the inward man is renewed day by day...the things seen (bodies) are temporal; but the things unseen (the inward man) are eternal.' (2Cor4:16-18) 

'The hidden man of the heart...is incorruptible (immortal), even..a..spirit'(1Peter 3:4) 

'Your heart shall live forever.' (Ps22:26) 

'Fear not them who kill the body, but can't kill the soul' (Matt 10:28)

Jesus himself taught that our soul will live beyond death. 

God says: 'I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is not the God of the dead but of the living.' (Matt22:31,32). In other words Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive now and have everlasting life, through their eternal covenant. 

'He's not a God of the dead, but of the living for all live unto Him' (Luke 20:37,38) The appearance of Moses living past his death, before the resurrection is further proof (Matt 17:3)

The promises of eternal life mean believers don't cease to exist or go into a `soul-sleep'. (John3:16, 5:24, 1John2:17, 5:11-13; Prov 4:18). 

'Jesus said, I am the resurrection, and the life: he who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die' (John 11:25,26).  The empty grave proclaims life after death.

Death is the departure of the spirit from the body: 'The body without the spirit is dead' (James2:26; cf. Job 4:10, 1 Kings 7:20-22, 2Sam 12:19-23, Luke 8:49-56,16:22) 

'My departure is at hand.' (2Timothy 4:6-8) 

'Jesus said, `Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit & then he gave up the spirit.' (Luke23:46) 

In Luke 9:31 his death is called an Exodus.

The real man is the spirit. The body is like a coat we wear and then put off. It is a tent, a temporary house that we live in: 'While I am in this tent I stir you up by reminding you; 

knowing soon I (my spirit) must put off my tent (body).' (2Peter l:13,14) 

'If our earthly house of this tent were dissolved, we have an eternal building of God,(the resurrection body)' (2Cor 5:1,2)  In this body we don't desire to be disembodied (naked) but to be clothed with our resurrection body (our permanent house from heaven) (v3,4)

A Christian leaves his body and goes straight into the presence of Christ and sees Him: 

'While at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. We're confident and willing rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. Our aim, whether present or absent, is to please Him.' (v6-9) This proves the soul doesn't sleep but is conscious in Christ's presence praising him.

'To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I live in the flesh, it's for the fruit of my labour: yet what I'll choose I know not. I'm in a strait between two, with a desire to depart and be with Christ: which is far better. But abiding in flesh is more needful for you.' (Phil 1:21-24)

Christ's promise in John 14:3 can be applied to the moment of our death: 

'I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.' 

When he said: 'I AM the WAY (to heaven)' he was saying: 'I will take you there personally.'

At the rapture the spirits of those who 'sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.' (1Thess4:14) Thus the spirits in heaven are brought to earth to be reunited with their resurrection bodies.

A believer in death is described as `asleep' (John11:11-14). This refers to his body not his soul. This means that death is temporary and that his body will awake and arise on the resurrection morning.

After death the inner man remains conscious as Luke 16 shows: 'The beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham's Bosom (Paradise) the rich man also died, and was buried and in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in Torments and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." (v22,23) He said 'Abram, have mercy on me, send Lazarus, to dip his finger in water, and cool my tongue for I'm tormented in this flame' (v24). Abraham said: "Now he is comforted, and you are tormented and between us and you there's a great gulf fixed: so that none can cross over even if they want to.' (v25,26)

Note that there are 2 possible destinies that are fixed after death. Notice all the words describing his conscious experience- he saw, he willed, he desired, he felt heat and torment, he talked and was concerned for his family. Lazarus felt comforted in Paradise. 

This contradicts the idea of soul-sleep.

Explaining this story away as a parable is weak. 

First, Jesus never said it was a parable. 

Second, even if it were, parables were always set in real life situations, that were true to real-life (like the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son). Jesus told this as a true story and we have no right to deny it happened or could have happened.

"Jesus died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep we should live together with him." (1Thess 5:10).

Revelation 6:9-11 and Hebrews l2:1 also reveal believers as conscious between death and resurrection. Likewise Hebrews 12:22-24, reveals the Old Testament saints ('spirits of just men made perfect') along with 'the church of the firstborn' on Mount Zion (heaven). They are alive not asleep!

Where do people go? 

1) Believers go to Abraham's Bosom, which is Paradise, which means 'The Palace Gardens of the king'  'Jesus said...You will be with me in Paradise.' (Luke23:43)

(2) Unbelievers go to Torments, a compartment of Hades under the earth. It is the Palace Dungeon for those awaiting judgement.

Before the Cross. Paradise was in Hades above Torments.(Luke16:22,23) But when Christ arose he took Paradise and all the believers in it to heaven (Eph 4:8-11) 

This is confirmed in 2Cor 12:2-4: 'A man in Christ 14 years ago, (whether in the body or out of the body, I can't tell) was caught up to the 3rd heaven.., caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words.' (see Acts 14:18,19).  We also see from this that when the soul leaves the body he is still conscious.

What will it be like in heaven? 

'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things God has prepared for them who love Him.' (1Cor2:9) 

Heaven has: Rest, Rewards, Responsibilities, Relationships, Revelation, Righteousness,and Rejoicing! But no: Suffering, Sorrow, Sex, Sea, Separation, Shadows, Sanctuaries or Sin!

'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on: Yes, says the Spirit, they rest from their labours; and their works follow them.. Behold, the dwelling of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them, and be their God. God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain: for the former things are passed away.' (Rev 14:13;21:3,4)

How can we prepare for death? 

Face the fact this life is short- it's not forever (Psalm 90:12) We have 1 chance, 1 life. Our choices now affect our eternal future. In this life we decide where and how we will spend eternity. Make sure you're going to the right destination-receive Christ as your Lord! Then, while you can, lay up treasure (eternal glory) in heaven. Make the best of the time God gives you. Don't waste it with things that have no eternal value. Seek God's plan for your life now. This life is a breath in eternity but determines everything.

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