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Lesson 13: What Happens After Death?
People have always wanted to know, "What happens after death?" In the oldest book in the Bible, the question is asked, "If a man die, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14)
The answer to this question is: Yes! Man is different from animals in that he is an immortal person. He will live forever.
When someone dies, the body is laid in the grave, but the real person does not die. He simply moves out of his body, the earthly "house" in which he has lived.
A preacher was once giving an illustration to some children. Holding a watch in his hand, he said, "Children, what is this I hold in my hand?"
"A watch, sir," was the answer.
"How do you know that it is a watch?"
"We can hear it tick."
"That is correct," said the minister. "Now I am going to remove the works from the watch-case. Watch me closely."
He then removed the works from the case and held the works in his right hand and the empty case in his left hand. "Now in which hand do I hold the watch?" he asked.
"In your right hand, sir," said the children.
"How do you know that what I'm holding in my right hand is the watch?"
"Because we can hear it tick!"
"Now," said the minister, "I am going to put the case of the watch over there under my hat, and then I am going to ask you to tell me where the watch is."
The children watched him eagerly as he put the case under his hat. Then he returned to his place at the table. "Now tell me where the watch is," he asked as he held the works up in his left hand.
"In your left hand, sir."
"Do you mean to tell me that the watch can tick, tell the time, and keep going without the case?"
"Yes, sir," replied the children in a chorus.
"Well," said the minister, "so it is with the soul. It lives, feels, and thinks and goes on existing after the body has been put in the grave."
Story told by Reverend Flourney Shepperson
Just as the watch existed apart from the case, so our spirit and soul will continue to exist apart from our body.
What happens after death?
The Bible teaches that every person will live forever in one or the other of two places: Heaven or hell. Where a person spends eternity depends on his relationship with God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says,
"He who believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he who believes not the Son shall not see life (in Heaven); but the wrath of God abides on him." John 3:36
Is Hell a real place?
Yes, it certainly is. The Lord Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about Heaven. He lovingly warned men of the terrible consequences of dying unsaved, with their sins unforgiven.
Hell is not here on earth, nor is it an imaginary place. Hell is a very real place, believed to be in the center of the earth. The Bible says,
"The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." Proverbs 15:24
There are those who falsely teach that the unsaved are annihilated or cease to exist when they die. This is not taught in the Bible.
God's Word teaches that unbelievers will exist forever in a condition of ruin and separation from God. It is terrible to think of this, but we must be true to what God tells us in His Word.
Sometimes the question is asked, "Does 'fire' really mean literal fire in connection with hell?" There is no reason to believe that the fire mentioned in connection with hell is other than real, literal fire. Hell is referred to as "the lake which burns with fire and brimstone." (Revelation 21:8)
Someone may ask, "If God is a God of love, how can He create anything so terrible as an eternal hell?"
Hell was not created for people. Hell was made for Satan and his fallen angels. But those who disobey God and follow Satan will have to go to be forever with him some day.
God is a God of love, and for that reason, He gave His Son to die for our sins. Those who refuse God's love and reject His Son cannot hope to escape eternal punishment.
Some people laugh and say, "I don't care if I go to hell. I'll be with all my friends." Perhaps so, but there will be no company or friendship in hell.
There is no love in hell, no peace, no light, no friendship, no forgiveness, no Savior, and no hope. It is a place of "wailing and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 13:42)
Hell is no laughing matter.
"Absent from the body… present with the Lord"
When a Christian dies, the body is laid in the grave, but the person—soul and spirit—goes immediately to be with the Lord.
The Bible says to be "absent from the body" is to be "present with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:8)
Believers who have died are with the Lord now. To the dying thief on the cross who trusted Jesus as his Savior, the Lord said, "Today, you shall be with Me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
For a believer, death is simply the door into the next world. And that world is filled up with a person: the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said,"to depart (to die)" is to "be with Christ." (Philippians 1:23)
When we die, we do not go into a region of darkness at all. We go into a new world where Jesus Christ is supreme. He is Lord of all!
A dear servant of God was on her death-bed. The young minister who came to see her was embarrassed, not knowing what to say to her.
She looked up with a wonderful smile on her face and said, "Bless your heart, young man, you're scared. I know that I am getting ready to cross over the river but there's no reason to be afraid. My Father owns the land on both sides of the river!"
The Resurrection of Believers
When a Christian dies, his body is placed in the grave. The body is spoken of as "being asleep in Jesus." When Jesus comes again, God will raise the bodies of all His children and give us new bodies. The Bible says,
"If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." I Thessalonians 4:14
When Jesus comes, all believers, both the living and those who have died, will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The Bible says,
"For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
We are looking for a Person! The Lord Jesus Himself is coming to take us to Heaven, a place more beautiful than anything we could ever imagine. The Bible says,
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him." 1 Corinthians 2:9
What will we be like in Heaven?
We will be like Jesus! We will have a body just like His glorious resurrection body. The Bible says,
"We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." Philippians 3:20-21
What joy it will be to see our loved ones. Once again our arms will embrace those from whom we have been separated so long. Every longing of our heart will be satisfied. Best of all, we shall see our Savior, face to face.
Jesus told us how to get to Heaven. He said, "I am the Way." (John 14:6)
How simple this is! It is not by trying to do right or doing the best we can. It is a Person who is the way, the Lord Jesus Himself.
Dear friend, have you received this Person? If so, you have the assurance that you are a child of God. The Bible says,
"As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God." John 1:12