QUESTION 10: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DEATH?
Here we have the two eternal destinies of mankind: that of the saved and the unsaved. The souls of believers who die go immediately to be with the Lord. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Many think of death as the end of life. But the Biblical definition of death is “separation”. The soul is separated from the body. A good analogy is a radio that runs on batteries. The batteries give the radio life. Apart from its source of life the radio is dead. The soul is the source of life for the body. It is what animates and controls the body.
When you remove the batteries from the radio, the radio dies; the life or batteries did not die, but was simply removed from the radio. The radio ceased functioning. At death the soul, the life of the body, is simply removed from the body and goes to another place, and the body ceases to function. The body dies, the soul, the person inside the body, does not die. It simply goes to another place: for the believer that place is heaven, which is “gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Unlike the death of the unsaved, concerning which God says: “surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 33: 11); God says concerning believers: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints”. God has no pleasure in the torment of the unsaved, but the death of His saints is precious in His sight.
The word “precious” means “valuable”. When the believer departs to be with the Lord, It is valuable to God. It enhances His joy and brings Him glory, while the death of the unsaved is a sad waste of a soul created in His image.
Heaven is a city built and prepared by God for His people. By faith Abraham gave up the things of this world because he had his heart set on that heavenly city: “For he was looking toward the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
Concerning His people who are pilgrims on the earth with no real home here, we are told: “instead, they were longing for a better country— a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepare a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16).
But the Father is not content merely to have His people in the same city with Him. He has a place prepared for them in His own house!” “In My Father’s house are many rooms . . . . .I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14: 2). Believers, as God’s children, have rooms in their Father’s house.
Heaven is where God’s people have their inheritance through Jesus Christ: “Into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4). Our inheritance can never perish, spoil or fade away, kept in heaven for us.
Before entering into our final eternal state, our spirits in heaven will be reunited with our resurrected and glorified bodies then believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive rewards, apart from salvation, for what we did for Christ after being saved. aSalvation is by faith alone
In heaven will be the absence of everything bad. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Heaven is not a place where we will float around on clouds playing harps, but a place of activity and service: “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and His servants shall serve Him”(Revelation 22:30).
It will be a place of rest. “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the lord from now on’. ‘Yes’, says the Spirit, and they shall rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them” (Revelation 14:13). Resting from our labors does not mean we will be inactive. The word “labor” here means a stressful and painful exertion. It is not work and service that will cease, but its stressfulness and painfulness. Work and service in heaven will be joyous and fulfilling.
Best of all we will be with God: “They shall see His face and their name will be on their foreheads” (Revelation 22:4). Believers should delight in the thought of heaven where they will be truly satisfied forever.
Their citizenship is already there: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
The place where the unsaved go at death is called “Sheol” in the Hebrew language, and “Hades” in the Greek language. This is the intermediate state between death and the judgment of the Great White Throne Judgment where they will receive their final sentence. It can be compared to our local jail where they wait for trial and final sentencing after all the evidence is brought in. This will include not only their works while alive but also the influence of their lives after they died.
This is where the souls of the unsaved go immediately after death. They will not receive their final sentencing until a thousand years after believers go before the Judgment Seat of Christ, when the influence of their lives will be taken into account.
For instance a man may influence others to do evil or to disregard God and they in turn, will influence others on down through the generations until the final judgment. This intermediate state of the unsaved dead is not as terrible as the Lake of Fire which is their final destination. But it is still a place of unimaginable suffering. In Luke 16: 19-31 Jesus gives us a glimpse into this horrible place.
In verses 23-27, it is described as a place “torment” verses 23, 28. A place of “agony” verses 24 and 25. In verse 24 it is a place where they plead for a drop of water. In verses 27-31 a place where they do not want their loved one’s to go.
And on top of all this they are waiting to go to another place that is far worse where they will spend eternity!
A thousand years later their souls will be united with their bodies that will be resurrected and tailor-made to suffer forever and never die and they will go before “the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:11-15:
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from His presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hades gave up the dead that were in it, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were throne into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire”.
Here is the final judgment of the unsaved dead. It is called the great white throne because it represents the absolute holiness of God. In verse 12 the “books” are opened. These are the records of each life. There will be the book of THOUGHTS, the book of WORDS, the book of DEEDS, the book of MOTIVES, and the book of INFLUENCE ON OTHERS, etc.
The “book of life” will be opened to show that their names are not there because they have never received Jesus as Savior and Lord. This is the book that will determine their eternal destination (verse 15).
Then these other “books” will determine the DEGREE of their punishment. In verse 13 death and Hades gave up the dead. Here death refers to the grave, the place of their bodies and Hades refers to where their souls were. Body and soul will be united. Then body and soul will be thrown into the lake of fire.
Here the word for lake of fire is “Gehennah” a place of eternal fire, darkness, sorrows, and where there is no rest forever.