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Where Do People Go When They Die?

This is a very common question and one to which the Scriptures give much attention. First, let me state some answers that I believe are false and which find no true support from Scripture…

> Soul Sleep. There are a few religious groups today which teach a doctrine known as “soul sleep” in which a believer who dies simply “sleeps” or fades totally from consciousness until the final judgment.

> Pergatory. Roman Catholicism teaches that a person may go to this state of limbo in between heaven and hell. In Pergatory, a person may suffer for their sin until it is paid for, or others may pray for their forgiveness as well. Obviously this violates the Bible’s teaching that this life is the only opportunity we have to make things right with God. It also inserts a doctrine where none is found in all of Scripture, as well as diminishing the all-sufficient, finished work of Christ on the cross by assuming that our suffering is a necessary supplement to His atoning death.

> Annihilation. Jehovah’s Witnesses, among others, teach that a person simply ceases to exist upon death if they are not a faithful witness of Jehovah. You might say that this is the viewpoint of the atheist and the agnostic as well who do not believe in an afterlife.

> Heaven (with streets of gold) or Hell (the lake of fire). Many believe, because of humanistic sentimentalism that either everyone who dies today immediately walks streets of gold or that some go to heaven and some go to hell forever upon death. While there is an element of truth here, this is not the teaching of Scripture either.

So what happens to a person when they die today? Though Bible-believing men may differ on the details, the Bible’s basic teaching is that a believer’s soul is immediately in the presence of Jesus upon separation from the earthly body at death, while the physical body returns to the dust from which it was formed (Ecclesiastes 12:7). As Paul said, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8).

However, being in the presence of Jesus is not the equivalent of being in heaven in the eternal sense, for Peter declared, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13) A believer who dies is consciously and immediately in the presence of Jesus in paradise, but waits for a final resurrection and judgment (at the judgment seat of Christ, see 1 Cor. 3:11-15) to enjoy the final and eternal heaven with streets of gold.

For the nonbeliever, the body returns to dust and the soul departs to hell, or the grave, a holding place (like a prison) to await a final judgment of his works where he will someday be sentenced to eternity in the lake of fire. (see Revelation 20:11-15). Though the lake of fire is yet to come, hell today is a place of conscious suffering, darkness, and loneliness. Further it is a place where people understand that they are lost eternally and wish that they could witness to their loved ones left behind.

Jesus told a story (not a parable, as individuals are not named in parables) in Luke 16:19-31 about a rich man and a poor man, each of whom died. Jesus said of the rich man, “in hell, he lifted up his eyes, being in torments…” Jesus further described the rich man as wishing that he could send Lazarus, the poor man, back from the grave to witness to his brothers. The finality of death and lack of ability to change our minds after death is apparent from Jesus’ story.

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  • Cathy

     I pray the Spirit of God reveals to you what you are about to hear.
    1Cor.2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: FOR THE SPIRIT SEARCHETH ALL THINGS, YEA, THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD.
    John 19:30
    When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said “IT IS FINISHED:” and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.

    Rev. 22:10-14. 
    v.10 And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: FOR THE TIME IS AT HAND.
    v.11 He that us unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
    v.12 AND, BEHOLD, I COME QUICKLY: AND MY REWARD IS WITH ME, TO GIVE EVERY MAN ACCORDING, AS HIS WORK SHALL BE.
    v. 13  I AM ALPHA AND OMEGA, THE BEGINNING AND THE END, THE FIRST AND THE LAST.
    v. 14  Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
    2 Peter 3:8  But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
    There is knowing no time, no hours, no mintues, no days, just eternity, forever being in the presence of God.

      Matt. 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. v.22 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? v.23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. These are those who asked Jesus into their lives but did not have a relationship with Him, doing His will.

    When a child of God, one who has asked Jesus to forgive them of their sins, one who’s eyes are opened to their wicked ways, knowing truth, having a personnal relationship with God, one God knows, they immediatly will be in the presence of God with the books opened being judged according to their works. Rev.20:12
    When Jesus said “It is finished”, its finished.
    God knows our lives from beginnig to end. We live what He already knows, we are the maniffestation of all that He has planned for our lives, here in earth and in Heaven.
    To be absent from body is to be present with God. Heaven IS being in the presence of God.

  • tonex

    Hi,

    So, “in the presence of Jesus” means what?

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      It means, when we have a relationship with Jesus and we die, we are wherever He is, which happens to be paradise.

      • tonex

        Thank you so much, Brandon.  I have a follow up question.  If a believer is with Christ in paradise (immediately after death), and that believer still has to wait for final judgement, does that mean that believer still can be cast to the Lake of Fire or is that believer’s place is already assured in the New Heaven and the New Earth?

      • Kelseysmith13

        no offence mmate but do you have proof coz thats what i thought but my grandad died and ever since i have dreams of him in a box with handcuffs ??

  • masternava

    I believe anything that makes sense and there is proof. I believe in faith but I don’t believe in religion. Religion to me is faithless. I don’t necessarily believe in the afterlife but I also don’t believe that you just cease to exist. Until there is enough proof of either then and only then will I stand firmly on which ever it may be.
    I suppose I will die first and find out then for sure but for now I am having a great time here on this beautiful, wonderful existence.

    • Cathy

      Once you die it will be too late.
      John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
      John 3:14 – 17 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, (Numbers 21:8) even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
      Faith – Persuasion (strong belief) i.e. credence (Acceptance as truth), especially reliance upon Christ (the anointed) for salvation.
      Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
      When we accept and believe (have faith) that Jesus died for all our sins we have eternal life.
      Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith (believing): and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
      A gift is given. We are given forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. Receive it by believing.
      As for enough proof. I’m taking it your saying “seeing is believing”?
      Romans 8:24-25 …but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
      But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.