In the previous article we looked at how man will die only once (no reincarnation) and will face judgement. (Hebrews 9:27). We only have one opportunity and what we do now will shape what happens after in the so-called next life. To be honest I think most people in their consciences believe that the decisions we make now will have consequences into the future and in any judgement to come. It’s the judgement bit that we don’t like to think or talk about.
This I understand but I also understand that to merely pretend that something isn’t a reality will not make it go away. As many have said the only thing we can be certain of is that we will die.
In this article I will look at what happens to people when they die according to the Word of God.
Firstly there is a difference between those who follow God and those who don’t. Not because God loves his followers more but because in following him they have submitted to his sovereignty and most importantly have had would stood against them (sins) washed away.
Throughout scripture our problem is defined as our sinful nature and that our acts of sin (wrongdoing) demand punishment from a Holy God. But instead of dishing out this punishment God took the punishment on himself instead (this should move all people to repentance, if this doesn’t motivate you nothing will).
What follows now are a few simple points taken from scripture which define what awaits both believers and unbelievers.
1) Christians who die go straight into the presence of God
For those who believe and submit to God’s way the scriptures teach that when believers die they will go straight into the presence of God and will be with Jesus. (Luke 23:43, 1 Thesselonains 4:17, 2 Corinthians 5:8 & Phillipians 1:23).
This can also be seen in the transfiguration where Moses and Elijah appear to Peter, James and John which some would argue goes against the notion of the faithfully departed being in a separate chamber of Sheol or Hades awaiting judgement.
2) Those who reject God sent to temporary place to wait Judgement
This temporary place is known as Hades in Greek or Sheol in Hebrew. They can sometimes be confused with a grave however several scriptures make it clear that they are a specific place rather than a general grave (Proverbs 30:15-16, Proverbs 27:20).
In Luke 16:23 the Rich man is described as being in Hades where he was in torment but that Lazarus was by Abraham’s side. Jesus said he held the key to death and Hades (Revelation 1:18) and it also reports in Revelation 20:13 that Death and Hades will give up the dead that were in them for judgement.
This idea of Hades as a temporary abode for the dead is also understood to be the place that Jesus went to in 1 Peter 3:19 to proclaim to those imprisoned spirits who disobeyed long ago in the days of Noah.
This idea of a temporary place of punishment to await a specific day of judgement is also described in Acts 24:15 which states that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
Jesus also describes this future resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
“….those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned”. (John 5:29).
3) Those who reject the truth will go to everlasting punishment/destruction
The final thing to say and this is one of the most unpopular things to discuss is that, those who are judged and names aren’t found in the book of life e.g. They did not submit to the authority of God in their lives, will be sent to eternal punishment. This is also described as the second death or the lake of fire where it is reported that the fire will never go out.
Although this will not be discussed in detail here I do not believe in the idea of an unending punishment but in a terminal view of hell as described by Douglas Jacoby (www.douglasjacoby.com). But I would subscribe to the view as laid out in the following scripture that the punishment will be everlasting destruction.
2 Thesselonains 1:9 “they will be punished with everlasting destruction”.
It is hard to write or read such things without feeling something in our hearts, whether it be a passed loved one, a future loved one or when we think about our own lives. What happens when we die is the mother of all questions because we are creatures of purpose and also because God has put this sense of Eternity in our hearts.
Only Gods words can give us the hope and peace that we all crave so much even in the most difficult of circumstances. With God we can be filled with nothing but hope for our tomorrows regardless of what they bring and in the short-term we can have peace for today.
Let us seek after the only one who has the answers to these most important of questions.