In Hebrews 9:27 the Bible says, "And it is appointed unto men once to die..." Death is a strange phenomenon to most of us. At times our grief over the loss of a loved one is almost surpassed by the haunting curiosity; just what happens when we die? This question becomes more pressing when we consider the prospects of our own death. Do we just cease to exist? Is there really Life beyond the grave? Whereas these questions puzzle the human mind, God is most qualified to answer them. He speaks to us in his word and helps us to understand what happens at death.
To understand what happens at death, we must first understand more about the unique nature of man. Unlike any other life in creation, we are fashioned in God s image. In Genesis 1:26-27 the Bible says, And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness ... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him;"
Jesus explained what is unique about human life in Matthew 10:28 where he said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but ARE NOT ABLE TO KILL THE SOUL; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" We are unique in that when our body dies, the soul or inward man does not die. This can be said of no other creature in all of creation.
Some argue that since death is the end of life that our death must completely end all of our life, and, therefore, no part of us lives after the body dies. Of course what Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 shows this is not true. Actually, most people do not understand death. Most see death as the absolute end of life. But the scriptures define death differently. In James 2:26 the Bible says, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." Here, James defines death as the separation of body and spirit.
Based on these scriptures we begin to see a clearer picture of what happens at death. At death the body dies, but the soul and spirit continue to live. This is further demonstrated by other passages. For example in Genesis 3:19 God said to Adam, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Since it was Adam s body that was fashioned from the dust (Genesis 2:7), it would be Adam s body that returned to the dust at death.
But the scriptures show that something entirely different happens to the soul and spirit. In Ecclesiastes 12:7 Solomon says, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the Spirit shall return unto God who gave it." At death, the spirit does not die. It returns to God. Genesis 35:18 reveals that something similar happens to the soul. It says of Rachel, And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died)..." When Rachel died, her soul did not die. It, like the spirit, departed her body!
This leads to the next question. What happens to the soul and spirit after they leave the body? In Luke 16:19-31 is recorded the story of Lazarus and the rich man. The Bible says in verse 22 that when the beggar died he, "...was carried by the angels into Abraham s bosom": In the next verse we discover what happened to the rich man. And IN HELL he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar oft and Lazarus in his bosom."
This story told by Jesus reveals that when a righteous person dies, their soul and spirit go to a place of comfort. But when a sinner dies, they are taken to a place of torment. Some argue that this was only a parable and cannot be understood to reveal what happens after death. You need to ask; did Jesus ever lie? When he gave parables, were they impossible situations or were they REAL LIFE SITUATIONS? Even if what Jesus told here was a parable, it still demonstrates truth regarding what happens when we die.
We now understand that death is the separation of the soul and spirit from the body. And at death the soul and spirit go on to either comfort or torment. Will this separated condition be our final state? In John 5:28-29 the Bible says, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." Yes, the body will be brought out of its grave by the power of God at the end of time.
At the resurrection, the departed soul and spirit will be reunited with the body. God s power will enable the body to come back to life. Then each person will be judged based on how they have lived their life. Those found acceptable will be taken to heaven. Those found lacking will be cast into hell, both soul and body! As Jesus said in Matthew 25:41, 46, "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels And these shall go away into EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT but the righteous into life eternal."
Just how will you fare when you die? What will Jesus say to you at the judgment? When you die, will your soul and spirit be carried away by angels into sweet eternal rest? Or will you, like the rich man cry out from hell for relief from your torment? At the judgment will Jesus say to you, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you."? Or will he say, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire."?
The beauty of knowing what happens at death is that it gives you opportunity and motivation to prepare while you still have life. Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that DOETH THE WILL of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them I never knew you depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Give serious consideration to what will happen to you when you die. Give your life to Jesus so that you may be prepared to face your death some day.