What happens after death?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Like all Bible topics, we must remember to approach it dispensationally. We will begin by presenting some basic information about a human’s physical and spiritual makeup. Then, we will explain physical death and its subsequent events as outlined in Scripture.

Physical death is described most graphically in Genesis 35:18: “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.” Upon death, we see the person’s physical body lying motionless and immediately undergoing the grisly process of decomposition. Here are the limits of the “natural eyes.” Through the eyes of faith, however, we see can see more—much more.

We understand that his or her invisible person—the “real” or permanent individual—has vacated that temporary tent or shell and relocated to another dimension. No longer housing the soul and the spirit, the physical body can be buried in the earth to return to the dust from which it came (Genesis 3:19). Death is not a termination but a separation. We continue to exist after death, just in a different form. Our spiritual body has separated from our physical body; to wit, the “inward man” has departed the “outward man” (2 Corinthians 4:16). The physical body now lacks a spirit (memory, vocabulary, frame of reference, and perception) and a soul (mentality, conscience, will/volition, and emotional seat). Both the spirit and the soul are linked at the mind, and they remain connected even after death. They are simply not attached to a physical body.

Peeling back the curtains of the mysterious afterlife, the Holy Spirit reveals to us in Luke chapter 16: “[19] There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: [20] And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, [21] And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

“[22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; [23] And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. [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. [25] But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. [26] And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

“[27] Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: [28] For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. [29] Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. [30] And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. [31] And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

The Bible says, after death, the angels indeed carried the soul of the believer (Lazarus) into “Abraham’s bosom” (verse 22), what Jesus Christ termed “paradise” (Luke 23:43) and “the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Read Luke 16:22 again: “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; [23] And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” The Bible is silent about anyone or anything coming to retrieve the rich man’s spiritual body though. He—his soul and spirit—simply fell into the heart of the earth. “Hell” is said to be downward or beneath our feet (Proverbs 15:24; Isaiah 14:9).

Although the rich man’s body is buried, he has eyes and can still see (Luke 16:22-23). He has a tongue and can experience thirst (verse 24). The rich man can talk and hold a conversation with Abraham whom he recognizes (verses 24-31). He also has a detailed memory of his life on earth (verses 25,27-28). The rich man is completely aware of his torment in flames (verse 24). Here are his soul and spirit, existing outside his body, just as conscious as we are right now, able to be exercise senses and use logic as we do now. Abraham, a believer, is on the paradise side of the afterlife. He too can remember, reason, and speak. Both have a will or volition to make decisions.

Friends, the above information is true even now concerning the afterlife, with a few exceptions. Here is where dispensational Bible study is critical (2 Timothy 2:15). “Paradise” has been moved to “the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). Therefore, believers in Christ go to Heaven today, as opposed to the heart of the Earth (see also Hebrews 12:22-24). Also, in this the Dispensation of Grace, angels do not play the role they once did in believers’ lives. We study Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, to see that to be the case. Now, angels do not come to collect a Christian’s spiritual body when he or she dies. Instead of angels (as with Lazarus), the indwelling Holy Spirit Himself personally escorts the Christian into Heaven. What a remarkable trip that is!

Ephesians chapter 1: “[12] That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. [13] In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, [14] Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” The Holy Spirit preserves us Christians spiritually as we live on Earth, and this will be equally valid once we leave Earth! “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). After the saint exhales his or her final breath, the Holy Spirit rapidly transports soul and spirit into the third heaven. It is an instant awareness, much like waking up to a new morning—only a million times better! Yes, they know where they are, they are enjoying praising the Lord, and we will see them again!

Some religionists contend that we cease to exist when we physically die. On the basis of 2 Corinthians chapter 5, we know this to be a lie. “[6] Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: [7] (For we walk by faith, not by sight: ) [8] We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Notice verse 8—to be present with the Lord.” “To be” means we still exist after death!

Paul the Apostle said in Philippians chapter 1: “[21] For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. [22] But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. [23] For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: [24] Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” Again, “to be” describes Christians after physical death. Paul stated that dying “is gain” and “far better.” How ridiculous these statements would be if death were the cessation of existence!

The souls and spirits of all people currently physically dead will be reunited with their physical bodies one day. Concerning members of the Church the Body of Christ, they will be joined with their new bodies at the Rapture (Romans 8:18-25; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58; 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). They will reign with Christ in His heavenly kingdom (Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 1:16-20). All other believers of the ages will be resurrected at the Second Coming of Christ, to reign with Christ in His earthly kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6). Exactly 1,000 years later, all unbelievers of the ages past now in Hell will be bodily resurrected to be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment, and then thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

My friend, if you are without Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, do not waste another moment being lost. You can pass from eternal death to eternal life right now—and you are strongly urged to immediately believe on the Lord Jesus Christ! “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He shed His sinless blood to pay for everything that is wrong with you. If you die and wake up in Hell, it will be your own fault because Almighty God did everything to prevent you from going there. Those of us in Christ need not fear death or anything that will happen afterward. We are well aware of what heavenly bliss awaits us in the next life—as well as the eternal doom that looms for those outside of Christ.

P.S.: Dear reader, just in case you “do not believe in the afterlife,” you should be warned that you will most definitely believe in it one second after death… when it is too late!

Also see:
» Is Luke 16:19-31 merely a parable?
» How can a “loving” God send people to Hell forever?
» Will we know if a loved one is not there in Heaven with us?