What Happens When You Die?
This coming Monday, 16 April, I have a funeral service to conduct for a deceased member of God’s church. This Christian lady knew what the Bible said of death and was not afraid of it. Indeed she did not want to linger too long as cancer withered her and prayed, as did others on her behalf that, in the absence of healing, that God would allow her to die quickly with the minimum of suffering.
As it transpired, that is exactly what happened – death mercifully came quite quickly.
So what did happen at that point and what now will happen in the future for this spirit begotten Christian lady? What does the Bible reveal?
Millions believe in the “transmigration of souls,” assuming a living “soul” goes on to some other state. Millions believe in “reincarnation”; that they have had a previous life, and will go on to yet another life in some different form. Millions believe the Catholic or Protestant version of the “immortality of the soul”; that one either goes to heaven or to hell, or, as the Catholics believe, to “purgatory” at death.
This lady believed none of that. She believed that the Bible teaches a literal RESURRECTION of a dead BODY! She knew that nowhere does the Bible teach that anyone possess an “immortal soul.”
The Bible does teach that man is, like the animals, a living soul. The Hebrew word “nephesh” is used throughout the Old Testament to describe both animals and man as living, air breathing creatures.
The Bible also teaches that man, unlike the animals, has a human spirit. It is this human spirit that animates man’s conscious, self aware, reasoning mind while the animals merely have a brain and function by instinct.
But where would you begin a funeral service? Which scriptures would you start with?
The fact is that the Old Testament is replete with scriptures that speak of the Resurrection. A good place to start is found in the Book of Job.
“If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
“You will call and I will answer you. You will have a desire to the work of your hands.”
Job knew there was a time coming he would be resurrected back to life.
Of course the New Testament writings are also replete with references to a resurrection. Indeed Jesus Christ Himself was resurrected from the dead and is called the First of the Firstfruits of salvation.
Christ said: “Verily, verily I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation [Greek, “judgment”]” (John 5:25-29).
Here, Jesus speaks of two categories of people; those who have done good, and those who have done evil. Two different resurrections, for different purposes: One, a resurrection “of life,” and the other, a resurrection “of judgment.”
The resurrection of life is spoken of in great detail in the New Testament. Notice how Paul puts it: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:19, 20).
The foundational bedrock of the Christian faith is the fact of Christ’s resurrection.
The living saints are not taken to heaven at His coming, nor are the “dead in Christ” taken to heaven at His coming. He is coming again, not awaiting, in heaven, the arrival of souls, or of saints.
Notice: “Behold the Day of the Lord cometh…I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle…Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations [see Revelation 19:11-21], as when He fought in the day of battle: And His feet shall stand IN THAT DAY upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east…And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one” (Zechariah 14:1-9).
Further notice how Paul, in the famous “resurrection chapter” of the Bible, puts it: “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep [die] but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump [at the exact moment of Christ’s return], for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:50-52).
This is speaking of the converted saints, those called and converted now and who are now “the dead in Christ” – those are “asleep”, waiting in a deeply unconscious and unknowing state for Christ’s return.
That is the state in which this recently deceased Christian lady resides. And at the funeral a few brief scriptures that comforted her, and perhaps will comfort the mourners, will be read.
But the Bible also speaks of a second and a third resurrection. While the firstfruits are promised a resurrection to an incorruptible spirit body there is also a great resurrection following that will see all of mankind raised to physical life to receive a first chance at salvation.
“No man can come to Me unless the Father draws him”. So said Christ. And it is obvious that billions upon billions who have walked the earth and who walk it now have not been called, have not had their minds open to the Truth of God and therefore have not ever begun on the path of salvation. The Bible reveals that in the fullness of time almost all of mankind will be converted and will be saved into the Kingdom of God.
Then there is the third resurrection. The reader should at this point, if interested in full clarity, go to the booklet “When I Die, What Happens Next?” By Garner Ted Armstrong.