Sharon Harris is wife, mother, English teacher, amateur photographer, and gardener.

What happens to us as soon as we die?


Question: What happens to us as soon as we die?

Answer: The Bible has plenty to say about death and the eternal part of a person, the soul, that continues.  One of the most wonderful passages in the Bible is when Jesus was teaching about the death of a poor man named Lazarus. In this account, Jesus revealed much about what comes next! From Jesus’ own words:

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with soresand longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.So, he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them. ’No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”  Luke 16: 19-31

What can you realize from this? If heaven is your destination, then you are escorted by angels to be with others who have arrived before you. There are two distinct places – heaven and hell.  Heaven is pleasurable, while the alternative is a place of suffering. Those in Hades or Hell can see the inhabitants of heaven. The rich man could see, feel, hear, talk, and experience pain and need. There’s no communication allowed between the dead and those still living on earth. A person’s soul or spirit definitely lives on after the physical body dies, with memories of their earthly lives.

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God Who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7

In another Biblical account, Stephen, a godly man, saw Jesus waiting for him in heaven as he was being killed for his support of the early church:

But Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”  Acts 7:54-60

We know arrival in heaven is nearly instantaneous upon death because of what Jesus spoke while dying on the cross. Jesus has gone ahead to make ready a place for our souls to live:

“One of the criminals who hung there with Jesus hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.  Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” Luke 23:39-43

Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? AndifI goandpreparea placefor you,I will come back and welcome you into My presence,so thatyoualsomay bewhereIam.”   John 14:2-3

In another exciting preview of heaven, the Apostle Paul wrote these words about his own experience of seeing heaven even before he died!  

“I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell, or whether out of the body, I cannot tell, only God knows) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell; God knows), how that He was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”  2 Corinthians 12:1-4

Paul was so certain of his immortality and heavenly destination that he confidently wrote, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) Many others were willing to suffer and sacrifice their lives because of the assurance of heaven. We are promised this when we follow Jesus, and the later judgment Paul went on to explain is not to decide whether Christians remain in heaven but to determine their rewards.

“While we labor, whether present in our bodies or absent, our aim is that we may be accepted by the Lord and please Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his earthly body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5: 9-10)

There is no waiting, no pause of existence once the body dies. Jesus demonstrated clearly that humans enter a different existence which can be fuller and much better than ever before!  The disciple John observed almost indescribable beauty in heaven in the tour Jesus gave him, recorded in Revelation 4:

“After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must come after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on 

the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the 

throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the 

seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front 

and behind: The first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third 

living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.  And 

the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and 

day and night they never cease to say:

‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’”

Let these promises from the Bible both encourage you AND warn you to decide now whether to make Jesus the Lord and Master of your life! God has given you a choice, and it is a crucial, eternal choice that is yours alone to make. There is NO decision in all of your life that is more important than this. 

If you want to be counted as one of God’s own family who has accepted His Son Jesus as Savior, say this:

Dear God, I know that I am a sinner, that I have done many things wrong. I’m very sorry for my bad choices in life, and I want to turn away from all of it and change. Please forgive me. I believe Jesus is your Son, that He died on a cross to pay the penalty for my sins, and you raised Him to life. I ask Jesus to come into my heart and take control of my life. I trust Jesus as the one who saves me, and I will follow Him all the remaining days I have life, beginning now. Amen!

“It is because of this solemn fear of the Lord, which is ever present in our minds, that we work so hard to win others. God knows our hearts, that they are pure in this matter, and I hope that, deep within, you really know it, too.”  Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:8

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