What Happens after Death? A look at what the Bible says about life after death

Death is nothing to fear; in fact, we Christians can look forward to it with eager anticipation. In Philippians 1:21-23, Paul declares: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” However, God still had work on earth for him to do. So, he stayed around a little while longer.

In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul declares: “We are confident, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

As Christians, we know that heaven awaits us after death. But many of us wonder about that moment. What will it be like? Will it be frightening to experience our soul’s departure from the body?

What does the Bible tell us about death?

Charles Spurgeon (the “Prince of Preachers” during the mid to late 1800s) had a great perspective: “Depend upon it, your dying hour will be the best hour you have ever known! Your last moment will be your richest moment, better than the day of your birth will be the day of your death. It shall be the beginning of heaven, the rising of the sun that shall go no more down forever.”

There’s reason to believe that at the moment of death, believers will be ushered into heaven by angels: “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side…” (Luke 16:22).

Jesus makes it clear that every child has at least one guardian angel who watches over them: “See that you do not look down upon one of these little children. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10)Our escorts into heaven may well be the angels who served us while we were on earth.

“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14)

But, best of all, Jesus himself promised that he would be with us in the moment of our death and take us immediately to heaven: “I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).

Let me weave together a number of verses which summarize succinctly what happens after death:

Biblical Summary of What Happens After Death

At death, the bodies of all believers and unbelievers go to the grave. The spirits of believers go to heaven, in the presence of Christ.

At death, the spirits of unbelievers go to Hades, which is a waiting place of torment as they wait for their final judgment at the great white throne.

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side” (Luke 16:22-31). (“Abraham’s side” is identified by most as a euphemism for heaven.)

The next event for Christians is often called the ‘rapture’ from the Latin word meaning “catching away.”

The rapture occurs at the second coming of Christ. At that moment, the bodies of Christians who previously died and went to heaven will be resurrected from the grave and united with Christ as he comes to earth. They will have spiritual bodies which fit them to live in heaven (1 Thessalonians 5:23). At “twinkling eye speed,” the Christians who are alive at that time will be instantaneously transformed into their spiritual bodies and united with Christ.

Unbelievers, on the other hand, are not raised at the second coming. Their bodies remain in their graves, and their spirits remain imprisoned in Hades (a euphemism for hell) until the conclusion of the millennial reign of Christ on earth (1000 years).

Next, “The Judgment Seat of Christ” occurs. 

Christ followers will stand before the “Bema” or “reward stand” to receive crowns based on profitable ministry during their lives on earth (1 Corinthians 3:10-14).

We will lay these crowns at the feet of Jesus (Revelation 4:9-11; 5:9-14). Only He is worthy to receive honor, glory, wealth, and praise.

Finally, all Christians will sit down with Jesus at “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” 

Obviously, this will be a time of great fellowship, rejoicing, and victory.

“Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” (Revelation 19:9).

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