As we all know, sooner or later, every single one of us is going to die and cross over to the other side. As Christians, there is a bit of a divide as to exactly what occurs at death.
I will use this article, along with the appropriate verses from Scripture, to fully explain to you exactly what occurs at the moment we die and depart from this world.
The first thing you will need to know is that there was a major difference as to what occurred at death in the Old Testament as versus what occurs at death in the New Testament.
I will first breakdown what occurred to people when they died in the Old Testament, and then what happens to everyone who dies in the New Testament.
1. Old Testament
In the Old Testament when people died, they were not allowed to enter into heaven because Jesus had not come yet to die on the cross for all of their sins. God the Father obviously could not throw all of the good and righteous people into hell, so what He did with them, until Jesus could come down and set them free through His death on the cross, was to put all of them in a place called “Abraham’s bosom.”
The people who were not good and righteous, who were bad and evil and who could not live proper righteous lives before the Lord, these people were then thrown directly into hell. We just put up a new article titled, “The Reality of Hell.” In this article are 47 of the best verses in the Bible showing you that not only does a hell exist and that it will be for all of eternity, but that all of the unrighteous people were immediately thrown down in there back in the Old Testament, even though Jesus had not come yet to die on the cross for all of their sins.
Then after Jesus had fully completed His sacrifice on the cross for all of us, these bad and unrighteous people were still not allowed to come out of hell to be able to enter into heaven, as all of their judgments were final.
Only the good and righteous people in Abraham’s bosom were allowed to go up into heaven after Jesus had paid the full price for them with His sacrificial death on the cross. In other words, God was already separating the good apples from the bad apples even back in the Old Testament.
Here is the verse that gives us perfect revelation on this entire scenario. The subtitle of this passage is “The Rich Man and Lazarus.”
“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
So it was the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.
And being in torments in Hades (Hell), he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.
And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’
Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to them, ‘If they did not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'” (Luke 16:19-31)
Notice that Lazarus was in Abraham’s bosom and that he immediately went there right after he had died and crossed over. However, the rich man immediately went down into hell due to the type of bad lifestyle that he must have lived.
Then notice what happens next – the people in hell could not cross over and reach the people who were in Abraham’s bosom due to a “great gulf” that separated these two places from one another. And Lazarus likewise could not cross over to try and reach the rich man who was burning in hell due to this great divide that was separating these two places from one another.
This great gulf that was separating these two places from one another was telling you something right off the bat – and that was the people who were in hell would now be down in there for all of eternity with no chance of ever being able to make it back out again – and the people who were in Abraham’s bosom would be getting out of there as soon as Jesus comes down and goes to the cross for all of them.
Now here is the verse that will show you that all of the people in Abraham’s bosom were immediately allowed to enter into heaven after Jesus pays the full price for all of them with His sacrificial death on the cross:
“Jesus, when He had cried out again with a loud voice, yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:50-53)
Now that Jesus has already died on the cross for all of us, this will now take us into current New Testament times, which we are now all living in.
2. New Testament
Now here is where there is a bit of a divide between some in the Body of Christ as to what happens to all believers when they die and cross over.
Some Christians believe in something called “soul sleep.” This is a belief that when we die, our soul will go into an actual state of rest and unconsciousness until the time of our bodily resurrection, which will be explained below. And until that event occurs, all of the “dead in Christ” are now in some type of unconscious, sleep-rest state.
For the record, we do not believe or ascribe to this theory. The reason being is that there is one verse in particular that completely discredits this theory. Here is the verse:
Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, TODAY you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)
Notice that Jesus tells the thief next to Him on the cross that he will be with Him in Paradise that very day after they both die together, not sometime far off in the future when He comes back for His church. If the soul sleep theory was correct, then God the Father would not be making an exception for this thief on the cross next to Jesus.
When Jesus makes this statement to this man, I believe this statement applies to every single believer in Him from that moment on – which means that when we all die, we will immediately be granted entrance into heaven to be with Jesus on the very day that we die, not sometime far off in the future when our physical bodies are fully resurrected by the Lord.
The apostle Paul also makes an additional statement on this issue. He says that to be “absent from the body” is to be present with the Lord. And once you die, your soul and spirit will immediately become absent from your body. And according to Paul, once your soul and spirit becomes absent from your body, then you will immediately be allowed to come into the presence of Jesus in heaven, not at some far off time in the future.
Here is the verse from Paul making this specific statement to all of us:
“Therefore we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)
In this verse, Paul is definitely tying in the fact that we are in the presence of Jesus once we are absent from our bodies. And the only way that we can be absent from our bodies is if we literally die, at which time our soul and spirit will then ascend up into heaven to be with Jesus for all of eternity. There is no other way that this can happen.
And if we are in the presence of Jesus immediately after our deaths and departure from this world, then there is no room or possibility for any type of soul sleep to be occurring with our souls and our spirits.
3. Resurrection of the Body
The apostle Paul tells us that we have three distinct parts to our actual beings – a body, soul, and spirit. Here is the verse giving us this specific revelation:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
What happens when we die now is that our soul and our spirit will lift up together out of our physical bodies and then ascend up into heaven. Our natural physical bodies are then left temporarily behind to rot and perish on the earth.
Paul tells us that we now have two types of bodies – a natural body and a spiritual body. Our natural body is obviously our human, flesh, physical body, but our spiritual body right now is our soul and spirit united together. In other words, the saints who are now living in heaven are in their spirit bodies, since their natural bodies are still lying down here on this earth in a corruptible state.
But at a later date at Jesus’ second coming back to our earth, God is going to fully resurrect all of our physical bodies just like He did with Jesus on that third day from His death on the cross. On the third day after Jesus died on the cross, His soul and spirit were reunited with His physical body and then God fully resurrects His physical body.
But there is now one major difference with His fully resurrected body – it is no longer a natural body, it is now a new, glorified, spiritual body. A transformation has now taken place, and we as Christians are going to have the exact same thing happen to all of us.
Here is the specific verse that is telling us that our physical bodies will be raised up and transformed into new, glorified, spiritual bodies at the second coming of Jesus.
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:44)
Notice this verse says that we are all born with a natural body, which is our human physical body, but that same body will then be raised up and fully resurrected as a new, glorified, spiritual body just like God did with Jesus. So in one simple little verse, Paul gives us complete and full revelation as to exactly what is going to happen to all of our bodies at the second coming of Jesus back to our earth.
And these new, glorified, spiritual bodies will also no longer age, deteriorate, or corrupt on us – ever again! They will no longer ever get sick again.
Notice in the above verse it says that our bodies were initially sown in “corruption” and “weakness,” but they will be raised in “incorruption.” This means that our new bodies will be imperishable, immortal, and indestructible.
These new resurrected spiritual bodies will also be capable of eating foods, as the Bible tells us that Jesus ate food with the apostles in His new glorified spiritual body before He ascended to the Father. Here is the verse showing that Jesus was able to literally eat food with the apostles after He had already resurrected from the grave:
But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.” (Luke 24:41-43)
Even though our new bodies will be spiritual bodies, they will also still have actual flesh and bone to them, which means we will still be able to feel and touch things as we do now. Here is another verse where Jesus is specifically making the statement that His new, glorified, spiritual body is still a physical body that has actual flesh and bone in it:
“Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” (Luke 24:39)
Though we are being given these new spiritual bodies, these new bodies will not be immaterial or ghost-like, like what we think about when we think of the word “spiritual.” These will be physical, flesh-and-bone bodies that will be capable of eating, feeling, touching, and smelling, but with a spiritual component and makeup to them that will literally make them indestructible, incorruptible, and immortal.
Also notice that just as God made Jesus wait for three days before He fully resurrected and transformed His earthly natural body into a new, glorified, spiritual body, in the same way we all have to wait for a certain number of years before our physical bodies are fully resurrected and transformed into the same kind of new, glorified, spiritual body that Jesus now has.
We do not get these new, glorified, spiritual bodies at the time we die and depart from this earth. These new spiritual bodies will be given to us when Jesus returns back to us in His second coming, not at the time we die and leave this world. Here is the verse that specifically tells us this:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
We also believe that this is verse of the rapture. If it is, notice that the “dead in Christ” will rise first. If the dead are already in heaven, then what is going to rise? If will be the resurrection of their physical bodies from the grave. In other words, all of the saints who are now living in heaven will receive their new, glorified, spiritual bodies right before the rapture occurs.
And then once this event has occurred with the saints who are up in heaven, then the saints who are still alive and down here on this earth at the time of the rapture will not have to go through any type of physical death. Once the rapture actually occurs, their natural physical bodies will then be immediately and instantaneously transformed into their new, glorified, spiritual bodies.
This means that all of the saints who have died and who are now living up in heaven with Jesus are still waiting for their new resurrected spiritual bodies to be given to them by the Lord.
In 9 very powerful and direct verses from our Bible, God has given all of us very good and powerful revelation as to what is going to happen to all of us and our physical bodies after we die and depart from this earth. Again, here is exactly what is going to occur to every single believer in Christ at the moment of their deaths upon this earth:
But then at the second coming of Jesus back to our earth, and possibly right at the time of the rapture, all of the saints in heaven will then have their physical bodies fully resurrected and then transformed into brand new, glorified, spiritual bodies.
These new spiritual bodies will still be physical, flesh-and-bone type bodies, but they will have a spiritual component and makeup to them that will now make them totally immortal, indestructible, and incorruptible.
In other words, we will all be given brand new, physical, flesh-and-bone, glorified, spiritual bodies that will last for all of eternity. These new bodies will never age, corrupt, die, or ever get sick on us – ever again!
And if anyone down here has bodies that are deformed, scarred, or disabled in any way, they will all be made completely whole again once they receive their brand new, fully resurrected, spiritual bodies from the Lord.
With the flawed and imperfect bodies that we are now forced to live in on this earth, we will really be able to appreciate these new, glorified, spiritual bodies once they have been given to us by the Lord. What a relief it is going to be to think that these brand new, glorified, spiritual bodies will never age, wear out, or ever get sick on us ever again! And this will be for all of eternity!
What more can you say on how good and how great our Lord is with the final ending and final chapters that He has already prepared for all of us with these brand new glorified, spiritual bodies that will be given to all of us, not to mention the New Heaven and the New Earth that we will all be given as our final resting place in the Lord.
Thursday 1st of July 2021
I understand that our soul and spirit ascend to heaven when we we die, then later at the rapture we are re united with our bodies which have been made incorruptible. Reading some of the other comments about Jesus's death and resurrection, His seems to be different purely to illustrate that it is Him that was dead but is now alive. When we are raised up at the rapture we will get 'new' bodies, however Jesus is different, His resurrected body still bears the nail marks and the spear mark in His side. This must be to let His disciples know (especially Thomas)that it is really Him and that He has been raised and by believing in Him we will be raised and our bodies will be new and perfect, fit to be in the presence of God in heaven.
Thursday 30th of July 2020
Why would God allow the Saints to enter into Heaven without their glorified bodies, when He did not allow Jesus to do so???
Sunday 7th of March 2021
This is my 2nd part reply to correct the 1st response. "The SPIRIT shall return to God whom gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7)." It is our SOUL that moves on at the point of death.
Sunday 7th of March 2021
Jesus had to die FIRST in order to give us and the righteous that died in the O.T., entry into Heaven. The atoning work of the Lamb had to be fulfilled 1st. It took 3 days and God knows why, but He alone could have done it to allow our soul entrance at the point of death. I say "our SOUL," because Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12:7 that the soul returns to God whom gave it.
Friday 14th of December 2018
As to what happens to human beings after they die, from a Biblical standpoint –human imagination and speculation to the contrary notwithstanding – they sleep until the resurrection (see Daniel 12:02 and John 5:28 & 29, John 6:40, and John 11:11). Then – the next thing that the believers in Christ will experience when they regain consciousness at the resurrection, is joining Lord Jesus in the clouds as he begins his descent on to the Mount of Olives (see I Thessalonians 4:16 & 17, Revelation 1:07, Mark 14:62, and Zechariah 14:04). They will be resurrected before the Millennium, to return with Lord Jesus at his Second Coming (see Colossians 3:04, I Thessalonians 4:14, Zechariah 14:05, Jude 1:14, and I Thessalonians 3:13). They will live on this earth with Christ during the Millennium (see Revelation 20:04) and with Christ eternally on the new earth (see Isaiah 66:17, John 3:16, John 6:47, II Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:01). As to the unbelievers, they also sleep until the resurrection (see Daniel 12:02 and John 5:28 & 29). They are resurrected after the Millennium (Revelation 20:05), and are annihilated never to exist thereafter, when fire comes down from God out of heaven and devours them (see Revelation 20:09, II Peter 3:07, and Malachi 4:01). While the human imagination has conjured up a myriad of post-death scenarios throughout the world, since death is a universal experience, this is the only Biblical scenario explaining what happens to human beings after they die. Anyone who thinks otherwise (that humans go straight to heaven, where they live in a conscious state throughout eternity, for instance), is welcome to cite Biblical book, chapter, and verse to substantiate their claims to the contrary.
Norman L. Hughes
Friday 28th of September 2018
You can rationalize all the scriptures you want but believers in Jesus, old testament and new, accepting him as the Lord and Savior are in Paradise when they die and will be in Heaven when when he comes back to gather up his church, the living and the dead. It would be nice to think we go straight to heaven when we die and loved ones are looking down on us from heaven but it is just not happening yet.
Friday 2nd of November 2018
Thank you so much Michael for this insight into God's spoken word. The Bible never contradicts itself and in studying the word and reading/ listening to others and their opinions and this is what they are opinions only. We need to study and search the scriptures (not just read) to get the full understanding of what God is saying to us. Luke 23:43 in my studies clearly is speaking about today not to day. I believe that some scriptures confuse saints into going by their own thoughts and feelings and therefore complicated the subject of which God is attempting to show us. Remember saints God is not the author of confusion 1 Cor. 14:33.
J. Nick Freeman
Saturday 14th of April 2018
All this debate about after the death of a Christian (born again) is totally missing the point. It is not whether we will be in Heaven or Paradise, whether we are in a spiritual body or a new body But that we are with the LORD our Savior our GOD. Being in His presents nothing else will matter we will be in the very presents of GOD prostrate before Him.