What happens when I die?
This is a question we all ask at some point. There is no escaping the reality of death.
Even people with no religious convictions like to think of the departed as having started life again in a happier environment. It’s a built-in hope that we all seem to have: the hope that there is something afterwards. And perhaps we have that hope because life can be such an exciting and fulfilling experience. Nobody wants to think that it just ends when we die; like switching off the light and going to sleep for ever, but what really happens?
The Bible says that death is not an automatic door to another life – it is a natural consequence of being human, and is a judgement for disobedience (‘sin’) against God. In the letter to the Roman church, Paul wrote that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that the wages of sin is death.
When we die we become unconscious, knowing nothing, and our bodies perish and return to dust. The writer of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes makes this clear: “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6)
In the Bible, the soul is the person, the living being. When the person perishes, the soul, or life, perishes with him. The prophet Ezekiel was inspired to write, “The soul who sins is the one who shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:20)
Does this mean that mankind has no hope beyond death? We have all sinned and we will all die, our bodies will return to the dust, we will know nothing more, and that is it? Not quite. In the Gospel of John it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
This is the essence of the gospel – the good news! God has given us a way out through believing and following his son, Jesus.
Jesus was the only person to have lived who never sinned. As such he did not deserve to die, so God raised him from the dead. The apostle Paul says, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3)
In fact Paul devotes this whole chapter to asserting that those believers who have died will rise again! Paul says there is no doubt about it, Christ did rise from the dead and so will those who belong to him. In fact rather than saying that those who believe have died, he says that they are just asleep.
He goes on to explain further in his letter to the church in Thessalonica, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
He continues to say that there will be a future time when Jesus will return to the earth to set up God’s Kingdom, and that at this point those believers who have died will be raised. He tells us, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Back in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says more about those who believe and are raised from the dead: “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality… then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:53)
So this is the good news the Bible has for us. Jesus will return to the earth to call to himself those believers who are still living, and to summon the dead from their ‘sleep’ in the grave. Those considered worthy, will join Jesus in the glory of God’s kingdom on this earth, and the world as we know it will be totally transformed. The Bible tells us that all of the things that now cause us distress – like illness, famine, natural disasters, war, suffering and death – will be removed. The world will once again be at peace and in harmony with God.
So God is offering us an amazing opportunity for eternal life in a perfect world, if we are willing to accept his grace and try to change our lives to live in a way that pleases him and follow Christ.
Please read the Bible to know more about what happens when we die. Also send for your free copy of the booklet After death – what? – see the free booklets section for ordering details.
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