The Afterlife: Where Do We Go When We Die?
The afterlife should be of concern to everyone. While some people don’t believe there is an afterlife and it is viewed as unscientific and wishful thinking, it is a very significant part of our existence because after our temporal life here on earth is over, our eternal destination defines our existence for time everlasting. In comparing our seventy years or so of life to forever, it is easy to see which is more significant.
So is there any way to prove an afterlife? Today’s scientific world bases all belief on what can be measured. This tends to leave out many things which are real yet have no material dimensions upon which to perform tests and develop theses. For some time infrared light and ultraviolet light as well as x-rays and the whole array of the electromagnetic spectrum were unknown. They existed, but until scientific advances they were no measurable. We may have noticed their effects, like the fact that we cannot see the air, but we know it is there because it makes the trees move. John 3:8 I believe that it is apparent that there are spiritual aspects to existence that are not measured by science that point toward the existence of a realm that modern science by definition cannot define, yet it is a part of every single person’s life.
For instance, take love. What color is it? What does it smell like? Does it have a taste? How long is it? How much does it weigh? As Chris Rice says in his song by this name, it’s like trying to smell the color nine. Love is a spiritual thing, bringing out emotions sometimes felt and expressed in our physical bodies, but ultimately not definable by the scientific method because it has no material properties by which to test it. Yet none can deny it is and that it affects our daily lives, we just don’t usually think about it as such.
So is it possible from our daily lives to see the possibility of our consciousness continuing on outside of our body and the physical reality we know as this world? I believe God has given us a glimpse of this as well. In fact Yeshua also spoke of it interchangeably with death - that is sleep. We all do it every night and during that time we often have experiences that take place outside of our physical bodies and reality, yet they can seem very real in the moment. So how is it that we can see and hear things that are not real while our bodies are inanimate and resting? Would this not be defined as experiences of our consciousness outside of the limitations of our physical bodies? We “see” things without our eyes and “hear” things without our ears that we can recall soon after waking up yet tend to fade as the real world comes into focus. If our consciousness can experience non-material reality while our bodies are comatose every night, is it not also possible then that who we are, our consciousness can exist and experience things after our bodies are gone?
Of course when we sleep we still have a beating heart and brain activity so for most people this example may not be enough to convince anyone. However there are some people, who through the advancement of medicine and modern science, have had near death experiences where it is documented that their heart and brains had become inactive yet they still experienced things outside of their bodies and even looking down on their dead bodies. These people are able to recall what doctors were doing and saying while they were lying there brain-dead.
Assuming the belief in an eternal afterlife, the question becomes “what is it like?” My answer comes from the foundation of scripture and it is pretty black and white. There are only two ultimate destinations, with God forever at His dwelling place or apart from Him forever outside of his dwelling place. Everything good comes from God and so being apart from Him is an eternal lack of the good that is part of being with Him. We call these places heaven and hell respectively.
God created a place for the fallen angels where He would not be forever. God is love, 1 John 4, and so to be apart from God is to be completely devoid of anything that He is. God does not want any of us to choose to be apart from Him, but rather that we repent and follow His ways of love. However, because we were given free will that choice is and always will be our own to make, for some to our everlasting detriment. Galatians 5 paints a picture between the Spirit of God and the lusts of the flesh.
To be separated from God eternally by our own choice is to lose experience of all of the above forever in addition to and as part of the eternal torment experienced in separation from God. This is why understanding who God is and following after Him is so important and why I’ve made this website to help share it.
We all die, that is a part of life because of the curse brought by our disobedience. There are lots of beliefs about the afterlife, some believe we reincarnate into other things to keep bettering ourselves. The Bible makes it clear this is not the case, connecting our only hope in Christ who covered our transgressions. This is the reason for our death in the first place and we have no power to eliminate them by our works, only through Christ’s blood.
Fear of death is bondage which we are delivered from through Christ who offers us eternal life if we love and obey Him.
When we realize that Yeshua has power over death by paying the debt for our sin and offering us eternal life, we have no fear in dying physically and are no longer in bondage to the fear of death. The question is, where do we go when we die? If you don’t accept Christ, He won’t accept you, the choice is yours. If you choose to reject Christ, He will reject you and give you the promised eternal separation from Him. God is Love, so think hard before you choose because the opposite of love for eternity is not good. What is hell?
As a Biblical Christian, are we with Yeshua right after we die?
As a Christian however, the question becomes whether we are with Yeshua immediately when we die, or if we are asleep awaiting His coming to gather us to Himself. First we must understand where Yeshua currently is, and in that same passage we have a clue to the answer to this question.
Yeshua has told us where He was going and what He would be doing, He is preparing New Jerusalem for His bride in accordance with the Hebrew wedding traditions that were foreshadowing His coming to gather His bride. There’s no mention of us going to be with Him. In fact His next statement makes it pretty clear we won’t be with Him because He promises to come back for us that we will then be with Him. It is from the point of the harpazo that we are forever with Him. He’s still “building” our future residence until He comes for us after it’s ready and the time has come that only the Father knows.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
I think there’s a misunderstanding on where the dead in Christ are. They are not currently with Christ to be coming back with Him. The italicized portion above is where you stopped, but looking at the whole context we can see that the dead in Christ are raised first. That means they were sleeping in the earth, not with Christ. They are resurrected before we are all caught up to the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. If they were already with the Lord, why would they be resurrected and then caught up with the rest of us? The dead are asleep right now. They will be awakened with the trump of God as they are raised incorruptible.
What I believe scripture is stating here is that the dead in Christ will be brought with Christ when the rest of us are taken to heaven. We’re all going to be caught up together and go to the marriage of the Lamb in heaven. All the dead in Christ will be brought by God with Christ to that event even though they were asleep. We’re to comfort each other with these things. We don’t lose hope in death, but await to see the glory of God raise them incorruptible to join us all with Him and God will bring us all to Himself. That’s what I believe this passage is stating, not that the dead are with Christ now and will come with Him from heaven to harpazo us.
Here we see a resurrection of dead bodies. Notice this takes place BEFORE God’s wrath comes. After they’re resurrected, they’re told to hide because the Lord is coming out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity. We’re not appointed to His wrath in several places in scripture.
This seems to say it all, everyone who dies in Christ is resurrected at the same time.
It is commonly accepted that those that have died in Christ are with Him now in heaven.
They have died in Christ and are speaking with God prior to the cosmic signs.
Jesus’ own words telling the thief he would not have to wait until the kingdom to be with Jesus in paradise. Rather he told him “today” he would be in paradise with Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:50-58
It would seem from this passage that death isn’t swallowed up in victory until we are raised incorruptible or changed depending on status at the harpazo.
The “land of the living” always seems to refer to earth. And Christ referred to death as sleep. God is the God of the living because we have all gained eternal life through Yeshua the Christ. Does that mean we don’t die because God is the God of the living? Or does it mean that we sleep now and when the resurrection/harpazo takes place we are then given our immortal bodies with which to follow Christ to the place He’s been preparing for us?
Wouldn’t that mean that we aren’t with Christ until He comes to receive us unto Himself?
I don’t argue that our souls are present, just not in our immortal bodies until the resurrection/harpazo. Our bodies will die (sleep) and our spirits will then be in Abraham’s bosom, kind of like a common dream with the rest of the dead in Christ. I’m just having a hard time with the clear transition when Christ comes to receive us to Himself and the fact that the dead aren’t raised until that point. I believe our spirits enter an alternate dimension (for lack of a better term) that’s like a dream state, where our consciousness still exists, just without a tabernacle. The new body collocated with Yeshua in the Father’s house doesn’t come until the resurrection.
What is paradise? Is that another term for Abraham’s bosom? Christ hadn’t gone to heaven yet and so if paradise is the holding place till the resurrection, then Christ would see him there that day. Only Christ, and those resurrected with Him Matthew 27:50-53, would then be resurrected and leave that place for the land of the living again. Then He ascended into heaven while the thief remained in waiting for his resurrected body. Perhaps those resurrected were the 24 elders seen in heaven later in the vision.
“To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord?” (paraphrased) Ever hear of that one? When a Christian dies, his or her soul goes instantaneously to heaven to be with Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
I would rather be absent from the body and be present with the Lord as well. Reading the context of the beginning, it’s centered around the incorruptible body we get, but we don’t get that until the resurrection/harpazo according to scripture. Then there’s the story of the afterlife we do hear about. It’s not terribly detailed, but the rich man isn’t in the lake of fire, he’s in Hades.
So is heaven Abraham’s bosom? Or is that a place the dead go in waiting for the return of Christ to have their souls placed in the new tabernacles which are incorruptible and immortal? Kind of like how Hades is the holding place of the wicked until the great white throne judgment?
Hi Brother Triton,
What is dead and in the grave of EVERYBODY - right now? It is the body. Not the soul. The soul of EVERYBODY is either with the Lord - if a person is saved. Or the soul is in sheoul...hell... if a person has not received Jesus. That’s only TWO places....to consider... heaven or hell.
Triton57: The way this is described is as sleep and the dead are asleep in the dust of the earth. Both verses compare death to a sleep, an unconscious state, which is to continue until the time of the resurrection. Here’s a study on this topic
The idea that death is merely a separation of a conscious, immortal soul from the body came not from the Bible but from Greek philosophy. Notice what Plato wrote in Phaedo:
“The soul whose inseparable attitude is life will never admit of life’s opposite, death. Thus the soul is shown to be immortal, and since immortal, indestructible... we believe there is such a thing as death? To be sure. And is this anything but the separation of the soul and body?...being dead is the attainment of this separation when the soul exists in herself and separate from the body, and the body is parted from the soul. That is death... death is merely the separation of the soul and body.”
An interesting philosophy— very much in harmony with the modern concept of the soul; but it is nowhere taught in the Old Testament. Even modern theologians who believe in the immortality of the soul admit frankly that it is not taught in the Bible.
Obviously this was before Christ’s death and resurrection. The dead in Christ sleep until the awakening blast of the last trump. Those living in Christ are changed before death.
1 Timothy 6:14-16
This statement, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord,” isn’t stating that when we die we’re with the Lord. It’s stating that we are confident (by faith) in the promise of eternal life and willing (desiring) to be absent from this body and clothed with the immortal one, the tabernacle from heaven. However, we know that nobody is raised into this incorruptible until the last trump, the catching away.
Jesus’ body was not left in the grave because he was the firstfruits.... as the bible says. The rest of us will have our bodies resurrected or changed in the twinkling of an eye if we are alive when the event of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 takes place.
Triton57: “Do you have a scripture stating that Abraham’s bosom was emptied and nullified as a place for the just to go when dead? Is there some reason why the story of Lazarus and the rich man no longer represents the afterlife before Christ comes again and resurrects the dead in Christ? Why are they being resurrected on His return? Do we need our physical incorruptible bodies to be in heaven, that’s how Christ ascended.”
No, we don’t need our incorruptible bodies, for our souls to go to heaven... evidenced by the souls that John saw in Revelation of those in heaven who died during the great tribulation.... Revelation 7.
The soul does have some sort of form there, because the multitudes in Revelation 7... their souls are pictured. But in that form, it is not the promise of God... that redemption of the body will occur. God is correcting what that Satan wanted to destroy of God’s creation. Satan instrument for destruction was-is ....sin. It is in everything... even the earth itself must be redeemed... it too will be destroyed.... and be made anew.
I am not saying that Abraham’ bosom was nullified....it still exists...but it never was the place that CHRISTIANS go. The story of Lazarus and the rich man...was before there were any Christians. One has to keep that in mind.
The conclusion of the story of Lazarus and the Rich man itself (that the rich man’s relatives wouldn’t listen Moses so they wouldn’t also accept the gospel message)... and that hell doesn’t give up its those who have died “souls” UNTIL the final Great White Throne Judgment at the end of the millennium... indicates that hell is still operational.
What Paul said regarding being present with the Lord when absent from the body (until the resurrection of the body occurs) .... applies to Christians....of where out souls go when a Christian physically dies. We have that comfort. And that when the resurrection and redemption of the body that is now in the grave takes place.... those who are alive at that time... won’t be left out... we also have that comfort.
What is Jesus telling us about our ability to be with Him now in His physical presence? There’s a chapter separation, but this is the continued conversation...
This tells us that we are not with Christ until He comes back to “receive you unto myself.” So what does this mean when applied to where the dead are currently at when they die. Where is your Father, Grandmother, Sister, or Brother who has died? The general answer is always, for the Christian, that they’re with Jesus. But is that what the Bible says?
1 Corinthians 15:50-58
I view death as falling asleep. When we sleep, we dream. We aren’t really in these places we dream and many times they never happened to our knowledge, but we still experience them even though our bodies are unconscious and in a death-like state. When we wake up, they may have even affected our conscious thought.
In death, we sleep. Our bodies remain in the earth while we “dream” a shared dream with those who died in Christ of Abraham’s bosom. The only difference is this is reality, just in a “dream state.”
When Christ comes for His bride, the last trump will wake the dead and they will be raised in their incorruptible bodies and taken, with those living who are changed, to meet the Lord in the air. This verse is not representative of the harpazo, but it shows the relationship of sleeping and waking as related to death. (The only time the unjust are raised is the great white throne judgment after the millennium. Revelation 20:4-5)
John 14 makes it clear that Christ has left to prepare a place for us. It is also clear that Christ promises to return one day to gather us unto Himself so that we can be with Him from that time on.
If we’re already with Him when we die, why would He be promising to come receive us to Himself so we can be with Him? It is His coming again that brings us together as He gathers us to meet Him in the clouds.
Near Death Experiences (NDE)
Near Death Experience Cases & Research on Coast to Coast AM - Dr. Jeffrey Long, a leading researcher into near-death experiences (NDEs), shared new findings and reports on the phenomenon. He also reacted to Prof. Kevin Nelson’s recent study (see below) which connected NDEs to out-of-body experiences (OBEs) and sleep paralysis. While Long was pleased that research into this area was being conducted, he was critical of the study’s conclusions. He felt their surveys didn’t retrieve enough details from respondents, and that more information could have highlighted the differences between these experiences. There is a startling similarity across countries and cultures of what people report during NDEs, which can include being greeted by deceased relatives and friends, traveling through a tunnel, and undergoing a life review. Even NDErs who have been blind from birth report seeing similar things, he said. About 5% of NDEs involve hellish encounters, Long noted. In a few cases he’s collected, people have reported interactions with beings on other planets. He shared the report of Roger C. who described speaking telepathically, and conveying images to members of an advanced civilization on a distant planet. The beings, dressed in strange uniforms that molded to their skin, expressed surprise when he told them that humans eat foods that had been alive. “We knew there were primitive civilizations but not as bad as that!,” they commented.