Death – Ground or Heaven?

Straight Talk

The Question

I’ve read two different things in the Bible about what happens when we die: one is we go back to the ground and “sleep” until the Lord’s judgment day and the other is that we instantly go to be with Christ the minute our bodies die. Which is it?

The thought of sleeping for many years is kind of creepy and the thought of being with Jesus instantly at death is almost too good to be true. Yet the Bible says both of these so can you tell me which is which and what can I expect when I die. I’m a born again believer.

KK from Cheektowaga, New York

The Answer
Part 1: Mystery of death

Mystery of death

I wish I knew which scripture passages in particular you are referring to. Without that, I will try to address the question in general. “In general” is the only way any of us still living can address it anyhow because there is much we do not know about how death and after-death works.

The Bible tells us some things but leaves many details out. I think that is why it is such a scary event: like birth, death is a once in a lifetime experience. Plus, (and who likes this?) you must do it alone.

It is true that our natural body will return to the ground. Genesis 3:19 reminds us “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” You could call this “sleep” because the Bible sometimes refers to death as “sleeping.” Like when Jesus told the synagogue official about his dead daughter “’…for the girl has not died, but is asleep.’” (Matthew 9:24)

But, though our natural body will rest in the ground until a certain time in God’s timetable, our soul and spirit move on into eternity in advance of that. At death, we will enter either heaven or hell based on what we did with the question of Jesus. As a born again believer you can expect to enter into the presence of God.

Still, that is not the end of the story. There is also something which scripture calls “the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:42) Your body, which was thrown off at death, will rise again and be reunited with your spirit. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (Verse 53)

We often refer to this as the glorified body. Jesus has already gone through this and has his glorified body. According to the apostle John “…when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2) Our glorified body will be incorruptible and many human limitations we have experienced will be lifted.

The bits and pieces we are told in scripture about life after death is kind of like watching the trailers to an upcoming movie. There is enough there to pique our interest but we won’t really know the whole story until we sit down and watch the whole movie.

Sit back and relax. Believe me, eternity may be a mystery but it is a COMING EVENT!


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