So what does happen the moment our body dies? What happens to our soul? This is an extremely important question that demands answers especially for those of us who have lost loved ones. I remember vividly standing in a hospital room in San Francisco over looking the Golden Gate bridge as my wife and I held our oldest daughter as she passed out of this life? Where did she go? Could we really know? I am thankful that because of my Christian worldview I could confidently answer this question. I know where she went! I know where she is now, and so can you.
Our church group often reaches out and witnesses to our local community. There are many Seventh Day Adventist and Jehovah’s Witness that will contend that our soul ceases to exist. We are basically no different than an animal. They will even use Scripture to justify this belief. Some Christians will also contend that our souls go into a “sleep” at the moment of our physical death and then will be “awakened” when Christ returns.
Based on my study of the Bible I think there is very compelling reasons to believe that the moment a Christian dies, he or she goes immediately to be with the Lord! Death for a Christian is not an ending of life, but a transfer of living! We just change locations. This is not just wishful thinking, but it is the truth! Let’s briefly consider some passages of Scripture that relates to this subject.
We were created in the image of God
Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…. Gen. 1:26
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (soul). Gen. 2:7
We have a body, soul & spirit
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify yourself completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23
It can be somewhat challenging at times trying to differentiate when the scripture uses the term soul and spirit. There are two words that are commonly translated as “soul” in Scripture. The word is “nephesh” in the Old Testament and “psuche” in the New Testament. We have to be good students and “rightly divide” Scripture and consider the context. The purpose of this study is not to go into a deep study of this area but my primary intent is to show that there is a part of us that continues to exist when our physical body dies. I will briefly outline some of my thoughts on the body, soul and spirit. Even though at times it seems like the terminology soul and spirit are used interchangeably. Here is a brief generalization.
Body = Physical body, earthly house, shell, tabernacle, tent. (see 2 Corinthians 5) This would include the following:
Soul= Emotions and feelings. This is the essence of who we are…a living being. We communicate with others. This includes our:
Spirit = The part of us that communicates with God. Once we are saved, He enlightens our spirit. Our spirit becomes alive (John 10:10), we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), the eternal God dwells in you (John 14:15-20) An unsaved person’s spirit can become hardened as they reject God. (Romans 8:7, Revelation 3:20)
As Christians, our bodies may die (sleep) but we our soul/spirit goes to be with the Lord immediately!
2 Corinthians 5:6-8 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.
In Philippians 1:23, the Apostle Paul said that “….To depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” Now why would Paul say this if he was going to go into this long period of “soul sleep.” It is because Paul knew that the moment he “died” he would immediately be with Christ which indeed would be far better.
As Stephen was being stoned he saw the son of Man standing at the right hand of God. As he was dying, he said, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.”( Acts 7) Like Paul, Stephen also had the confidence that he was about to be ushered into the presence of the Lord!
Jesus to the thief on the cross, “today, you will be with Me in paradise” Luke 23:43 They were both about to physically die, but this passage indicates that our lives will continue after our heart stops beating.
Even the unsaved’s soul continues after physical death
In Luke 16:19-31 the beggar (Lazarus) died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom. He was conscious. The rich man also dies and it states “And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” He then has a conversation with Abraham. This is characteristic of someone that is conscious after death.
The Blessed Hope
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 gives us the following hope (this truth is also repeated in 1 Corinthians 15)
But I do not want you to be ignorant brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep (died), lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Wow! That truth has definitely been a comfort to me. So yes, I know where my daughter is. She is also with my father and mother who are also with the Lord along with many other relatives and friends. Any of your loved ones who have accepted Christ as their personal Savior are also with the Lord. I hope that brings you some comfort! After Christ comes back for us, we will all receive our new glorified bodies. What a reunion that will be!
Unfortunately, those that reject Him, will also live forever but be separated from him. But that is not God’s choice. In 1 Peter 3:9 he says that, He is not willing that any should perish but that All should come to repentance. God gives us the ability to choose. What choice have you made?
Jesus said we will never die
John 11 (Jesus to Martha)…Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
John 8:51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.
What a promise. We will never die. There is no soul sleep!