What happens to you after you die?
There are a lot of misconceptions today concerning what happens to a person when he dies, both among believers and non believers. This teaching, hopefully, will help disprove erroneous ideas and strengthen your hope in death.
The idea you can reappear again and again on earth, perhaps as an animal, or as a completely different person was first postulated by the Hindu religion. Anybody who has been to India as I have could see "wisdom is justified by her children" (Matt. 11:19). The "child" of the false doctrine of reincarnation is the "caste system", where "untouchables" are downtrodden by those in higher reincarnated states such as the Brahmans. Hindus will step over the carcass of a starving child to kiss the tail of a cow which could have provided nourishment for that starving child.
Does the Bible have anything to say about this? You bet: "It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). You only go around once in life. Get all the reward you can!
Many Catholics believe after death, if you didn't make heaven, but weren't bad enough to go to hell, you can spend time in a place called purgatory. It's not as bad as hell, nor as good as heaven. There you can be "purged" of your sins and eventually "work" your way out of it.
The prayers of loved ones still alive could contribute to their eventual exit. You've heard the phrase: "Light a candle for me"? The Catholic church at one time even sold "indulgences" to allow people to buy their way into heaven. The scriptures never even hint at such a place. In fact, Ps. 49:7-9 says just the opposite: "None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; (For the redemption of their souls is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption".
Many believe when you die, your soul goes into a state of "sleep", sort of a suspended animation, until the resurrection, at which time your soul comes back into existence and your soul and body are resurrected.
The 7th Day Adventist Church and the Jehovah Witnesses are two notable groups embrace this teaching. They use such "proof texts" as Eccl. 9:5, "the dead know not anything". Interestingly, the same verse goes on to say, "neither have they any more a reward". If you take literally they "know not anything", then you must also take literally they will never live again to receive their reward for their good or evil. How can we explain this seeming contradiction? Simple: in the Old Testament, there was not a clear revelation of eternal life. Thus many Old Testament writers who spoke of death could only do so from the basis of the revelation they had. Thus they saw death from this side of eternity and their observations were usually from this perspective.
Thank God when Jesus came, He "abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10). The light of the gospel has shown brightly into the dark mysteries of death, and has pulled back the curtains from it's previous unknowns. Though the New Testament also speaks of death as "sleeping", and mentions those who "sleep in Jesus" (I Thess. 4:14), this must refer to the body, for there are many other scriptures that make it very clear that the soul or spirit lives on: "Absent from the body . . Present with the Lord" is the most obvious (2 Cor. 5:8). Paul's "desire to depart, and to be with Christ" doesn't sound like wanting to retire to sleep in a grave, does it" (Philippians 1:22, 23)? And, his "to live is Christ and to die is gain" doesn't sound like a time share program in the cemetery either.
In 1 Sam. 28:7-20, Saul hired the witch of Endor to call up Samuel from the dead (not that witches can ever actually call up the dead. It's usually demons imitating the dead that appear to them.) However, on this one occasion, God "answered a fool according to his folly" (Prov. 26:5) and allowed Samuel's appearance (It even surprised and frightened the witch!). Samuel's first words to Saul were "why hast thou disquieted me?" not "Fresh air! Fresh air!".
In the New Testament, though Moses had died and been buried (Deut. 34:5,6), he appeared on the Mt. of Transfiguration "talking with Jesus". Furthermore, Jesus told the dying thief on the cross, "Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). He said "today". He did not say "be patient, and in about 2,000 years, you'll be with me". Hallelujah! No wonder 1 Cor. 15:55 cries, "Oh, death, where is thy sting. Oh, grave, where is thy victory?". If death is anything but immediate entrance into heaven, it is a horrible thing any way you look at it. But, thank God, Jesus has delivered us from "the fear of death" which made us "subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:15).
At our death, we can with Jesus boldly cry, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46)! Even D.L.Moody, at his deathbed, was heard saying, "Is this death? Is this glory?" Still we must admit death is an enemy nonetheless. We hate separations from loved ones, even short periods of time.
But, through Christ, its sting is gone. As I drive down the highway, and see carcasses of poor animals that tried unsuccessfully to cross the road, I feel compassion for them, and often thank God that one day death will be the "last enemy that shall be destroyed" (1 Cor. 15:26). What a shout will rise from the saints when no more animals can be found along the roadway, they never attend a sad funeral, and never drive by a gruesome cemetery!
The Moment Of Death
With modern life-support systems, there is some debate as to when a person actually is dead. Is it when the brain is dead? Even if the heart and lungs are still working because of an artificial respirator? Is it when one stops breathing? Or is it when the heart stops beating? And, is it the very second that such things happen? Or, could it be 5 minutes or even an hour later? I don't have the answer to this, but the Bible clearly defines death in James 2:26: "the body without the spirit is dead". The moment the body is dead, the spirit leaves.
In this age of technology, we have the ability to revive people who have been dead for sometime. Consequently we have all read and heard of people who experienced dying when their spirit left their body and rose from the operating table, for instance. Or they described long halls, seeing loved ones, Jesus, or a bright white light. Many times these experiences are related by unsaved people. And they describe the peace they felt which left them with the feeling that had they died they would have gone to heaven.
Rarely do they describe scenes of hell or appearances of demons.This disturbs some Christians, because the Bible clearly says "Unless a man is born again, he shall not see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). And again, "broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:13, 14).
Since no one will ever see the kingdom without being born again, why do the majority of people who die for a few moments before being revived describe serene, peaceful experiences with happy emotions and even seeing a "bright light"? Isn't this evidence they were on their way to heaven? And doesn't this prove, as the Television program "Touched by an Angel" theorized, most decent and good people are accepted by God and will after death make heaven their home? We can lay this false deception to rest forever with one verse of scripture: "Satan himself is transformed (disguises himself) into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14).
Remember Satan was called "Lucifer, son of the morning" in Isa. 14:12. Lucifer means "day star". I believe since unbelievers "shall not see" the "kingdom of God", what they usually see momentarily in a brief life after death experience is a manifestation of Satan, appearing as light, love, and peace. Why? To deceive them into a false hope of acceptance by God. Got any other theories yourself? I'd like to hear them.
Death In The Old Testament
When people living before Christ's resurrection died, their bodies were buried, but if they were unrighteous, their spirits went to Hades (Greek) or Sheol (Hebrew): both are translated "Hell" in the KJV. The righteous dead were also buried, but their spirits were sent to a place called "Abraham's bosom". This is clearly taught when Jesus told the story about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. This was no parable, for Jesus gave a specific name, Lazarus. This was a true historic fact.
Both of these places were in the heart of the earth, for "the Son of man (shall) be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt 12:40), and "he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth" (Eph. 4:9). Before the cross, no Old Testament saint could stand in the presence of God, for "the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was yet standing" (Heb. 9:8). The blood of bulls and goats weren't sufficient. The actual blood of the lamb had to be brought into the Temple of heaven to make way for those Old Testament believers who waited in faith for the "Lamb of God" to come. (See Heb. 9:9, 11, 12-15, 22, 23.).
The Bible says Jesus "went and preached unto the spirits in prison" (1 Peter 3:19). It doesn't say he preached the gospel, giving them an opportunity to be saved. If He did, this would indeed hint of a second chance after death, but would be a foolish and false hope. The Greek word translated "preached" here is "kayruso" which can mean "a proclamation". Peter didn't use the Greek word "euggelizo" which means to "preach the good news". I believe Jesus was showing them what a glorious salvation they missed. The Bible says nothing about any of them being saved.
Be realistic. If you were frying in Hell, and Jesus came and told you if you would just accept him as your savior, you would go to heaven, would you reject him? Nobody would. If Jesus had invited them to join the Girl Scouts and sell cookies in Philadelphia, everyone would have joined! Anything but that fire! Furthermore, even if He was actually giving them a second chance to be saved, he was only including one distinct class of people... those "in the days of Noah". That group represents a miniscule fraction of the dead. If everybody gets a second chance, why did Jesus only preach to this small group?
Some might point to 1 Peter 4:6, "for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead". I do not believe this means the gospel was preached to the "dead" after they had died, but, rather, was preached earlier to those who were NOW dead. That's why Paul goes on to say, "that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit". All who are "dead" have experienced the judgment for their sin (Rom. 6:26: "the wages of sin is death"). But, because of the preaching of the gospel before they died, they had the hope to "live according to God in the spirit" (verse 6).
If you are still not convinced, remember this rule of scriptural interpretation: If a scripture seems to say something that is contradictory to other verses, you must use the preponderance of clear scriptural teaching to judge seemingly contradictory teaching. The best example is in Luke 16:26, "Between us (Abraham and Lazarus safely in Abraham's Bosom) and you (the rich man in Hades) is a great gulf (or chasm) fixed (it's permanent!): so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence". Furthermore, the clear and consistent descriptions of hell as "eternal" and "forever" argue against a second chance (II Pet. 2:17, Jude 13, Rev. 14:11).
When someone is unsaved and killed in a car accident, or dies of a heart attack, what is the place like where he awakes?
Jesus talked more about Hell than Heaven. We have a wealth of "proof texts" concerning it. The rich man is described as being in "torments" (Luke 16:22-24). He "lifted up his eyes" and "cried and said". These are not things that unconscious people do. And, this is descriptive of an actual spiritual body, and not some nebulous spirit somehow becoming one with the universe. He begged for water, so he still had sensation and desire. He cried, "I am tormented in this flame".
I have actually had young men I was witnessing to joke about having a big party in hell and drinking beer together. No such possibility exists. Hell is torment! And, he described a "flame". If Hell isn't an actual fire, why did the rich man describe it as such? Why was the first thing the rich man asked for "water"? And, if Hell isn't an actual fire, why would Jesus describe it as such again and again? (See Matt. 3:12, 5:22, 7:19, 13:40, 42, 50, 18:8, 9, Mark 9:22-48, Luke, 11 Thess. 1:8, James 3:6, 5:3, II Pet. 3:17).
Another rule of interpretation is: Always take something as literal unless it is obviously figurative. There is no reason to believe Hell fire is figurative. Even if it were, surely it would be figurative of the most horrible punishment. (Consider other descriptions of the awfulness of Hell in Matt. 8:12; "weeping and gnashing of teeth" or Jude 13; "blackness of darkness" or Rev. 14:10, 11; "he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone ... the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night".
Even if it isn't real fire, it will certainly be just as painful and miserable, according to these verses. And you can be sure Hell is a real place with an entrance. It has "gates" (Matt. 16:18), but has no mention of any exit at all.
The Lake of Fire
Hell is a temporary place of punishment in the heart of the earth. (The phrase "down to Hell" is used in Luke 10:15 and Matt. 11;23. Amos 9:2 speaks of digging "into hell".) Hell is like a temporary holding cell before the judgment.
At the time of the "Great white throne judgment" (Rev. 20:11-15), "death and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them" and "death and Hell" were cast into the Lake of Fire". The Lake of Fire is like the final Penitentiary where incorrigibles are sent to serve out a life sentence. Many verses talking about eternal punishment are speaking of this place. It is the "second death", the death of the spirit, which is eternal. It is as awful, and sure, and as final as the first death. But, the spirit's consciousness & pain remain forever & ever (Matt 25:41, 46). "Flee from the wrath to come!" (Matt. 3:7).
Share this teaching with a friend!