Most people know that the Bible talks about a heaven and a hell, which is correct. And although there are different views on who goes where, the Bible is fairly clear on this matter.
To understand what happens it helps us to look first at the Spirit and Soul and then, separately look at the body.
The Soul after death
Contrary to what some believe, the bible teaches us is that there is no lack of consciousness, no sleep for the soul, immediately the soul will go to his eternal destination, be it in the presence of God, heaven, or absent from the presence of God, hell:
Let’s first look at the lost person, he who has not trusted in Christ;
Luk 16:22b the rich man also died, and was buried;
Luk 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Luk 16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
Here we see the teaching of our Lord, Lazarus and the rich man both died at the same time and there is no indication of any delay. The rich man awake, conscious in hell, in torment.
Now let us consider the saved, he who has trusted the Lord;
2Co 5:6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
2Co 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
2Co 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
Here we are told that absent from the body, that happens when we die, we are present with the Lord and we are also told that Paul is confident, both of this fact, and that it is better.
So that deals with the Soul, the Spirit. You are immediately in hell, or in the presence of the Lord depending on your relationship with Christ.
What about our bodies?
Well obviously, our bodies decay. They either go to the grave or to the crematorium, but the Bible teaches us that this is not the end of our bodies, they will be resurrected but, again depending on our relationship with Jesus, they will experience different ressurections;
If you are a believer we are told what happens in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. Here the apostle Paul was addressing a concern by the believers at Thessalonica that their loved ones who had died would miss out on the Day of the Lord:
1Th 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
1Th 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
1Th 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
1Th 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
1Th 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
So here we read that the dead in Christ, the bodies of those who trusted Jesus as their personal saviour will be bodily resurrected ’to meet the Lord in the air.’
What about those who haven’t trusted in Jesus for their salvation?
Rev 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Rev 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
Rev 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Rev 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
So we learn that for the believer, those who have trusted Jesus to save them from the consequence of their sins, their names are written in the book of life, upon death their soul/spirit goes immediately into the presence of the Lord, and their bodies will be physically resurrected (elsewhere we are told the bodies will be changed to be glorious, powerful, uncorrupted) to spend eternity in the presence of Christ, ultimately in the new heaven and earth.
For the unbeliever it is a different situation. Immediately upon death they will be in conscious torment in hell, and ultimately, in the future, they will be reunited with their bodies and cast into the lake of fire where they will spend eternity.
Now do you understand why I spend so much time preaching the Gospel?
This week, I talked to a lot of people on the street about the Gospel. I often started the conversation by asking them a question;
‘seeing as the Bible says that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), how can we get to heaven?’
In response, never did anyone deny that they were a sinner, instead they told be that ‘you must pray’, ‘You must do good things’ or ‘you must believe in God.’
To those that said you must believe in God I took them to the scripture that says;
Jas 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
And I asked them if they thought the devils will be in heaven?
To them that said that needed to pray, I took them to the following scripture:
Isa 59:2b your sins have hid his [God’s] face from you, that he will not hear.
And I asked them that seeing as our sins have stopped Him hearing our prayers, how can we pray to overcome our sins.
To those who said they must do good I showed them the following scriptures:
Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Rom 3:12b there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
I then shared the gospel with them;
That we are sinners, incapable of saving ourselves from the consequence of our sin, but Jesus came to the world to reconcile us to God, to pay the penalty for our sins;
Mat 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
It is the repenting of our sins and trusting in Jesus, and Jesus alone, that is the way that God designed for us to have eternal life.
Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Col 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
I leave you with one simple question; if I were to do your memorial service, would I be able to say that ‘you are in a better place?’