Over the years, theologians continue to disagree on whether there is immediate life after death. Some believe in the concept of “soul sleep,” that once you die, both your body and soul lie in the grave until the resurrection. Others believe that at death, the soul or spirit separates from the body and ascends to heaven or descends into hell. Although I believe in the latter, the only source where there is an answer for us is in God’s Word, the Bible. Job raises the question in Chapter 14, verse 14, “If a man dies, shall he live again?” Exactly, what happens to us after we die?
In 1 Corinthians 2:9, Paul tells us that there is not only life after death, but eternal life is so glorious that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” . As God in the flesh, Jesus came to the earth to give us eternal life. He sacrificed His life on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. According to Matthew 27:50, while He was on the cross, Jesus “yielded up the ghost,” thus His spirit was separated from his body. But on the third day of being in the grave, Jesus’ body was resurrected and re-joined His spirit. Paul also tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:14 that, “God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.” According to the Bible, we will all be raised at the resurrection, but what happens immediately after death?
The gospel of Luke, Chapter 9, verses 29-31, tells us that, “And as he (Jesus) prayed, the fashion of his (Jesus) countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” Deuteronomy 34:5-6 tell us, “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he (God) buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor; but no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day.” Moses body was buried but his spirit ascended into heaven confirming his appearance in glory (brilliance) to meet with Elijah and Moses, sufficient evidence that the spirit is separated from the body at death.
The Bible describes two occasions where God’s servants ascended to heaven without dying – Enoch and Elijah (Elias). Paul tells us in Hebrews 11:5, that “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” “When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal (2 Kings 2:2 NIV). Paul also tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Paul is saying that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. In other words when we pass from this life in an instant we will be present with God in heaven. “And they stoned Stephen calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Here, Stephen acknowledges the fact that after he is stoned to death, his spirit will be with Christ.
In addition to the above biblical references, there are at least two examples in the Bible where Jesus gives us a glimpse of what happens after death. In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus tells the story of a rich man and Lazarus. While some theologians believe that these verses represent a parable (story), I am among those who do not because in all of Jesus’ previous parables, He never identifies the name of a person – in this case “Lazarus.” Verses 22 and 23 say, “The time came when the beggar (Lazarus) died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades (Hell), where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.” According to these scriptures, there is immediate recognition after death, the rich man was in pain, he could see as well as talk. The rich man wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers about “this place of torment” (v. 28), but Abraham says in v. 31, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
While Jesus was on the cross just before He gave up His spirit, one thief hanging beside Him asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus answered him saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus didn’t tell the thief that he would be with him at the resurrection but “today” meaning immediately. Finally, John tells us in Revelation 6:9, “And when he (Jesus) had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” John did not see bodies but their spirit.
I believe there is sufficient biblical evidence to suggest that immediately after death, our soul departs the body and goes either to heaven or hell. People who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will go to heaven (Romans 10:9), those that do not unfortunately will end up in hell. Have you made a decision to receive Jesus Christ as Savior? The choice is yours, but that’s just my take.
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