WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DIE?
Answers to a Mormon, Part 3.
2 Corinthians 5:1-11
- 2 Corinthians 5:1-11
On March 6th, just last week, Deputy Sheriff Barbara Pill was killed in the line of duty while attempting to stop a burglary suspect. This week, a large memorial service was held in her memory. During the service the pastor said, “We know today that Barbara is in heaven with the Lord.” Is that true?
What happens to a person after they die? It is vital that we have practical answers to this question at a time of bereavement. Many pastors and parents have been asked at a graveside, “Where is Grandpa now? What is he doing? Is he with Jesus already? Are he and Grandma back together?
These are important questions to the person asking them. People want and need to know.
A while back I performed the funeral for a friend of mine. After the funeral some woman came up and started saying some stuff about us now having a new guardian angel watching over us. Well, that statement got all over me. I decided it was about time we took a look at what really happens to a person when they die, instead of just going along with whatever is popular, or whatever sounds good at the time.
As we begin to answer that question this morning, I would like to look first at some of the popular, mistaken beliefs people have about the afterlife. Number one, there are some people who believe that when you die, life ends.
I. MISTAKEN BELIEFS
1. Life ends – There are some people who believe and some religions that teach that when you die, that’s all there is. That’s the end. Others teach that there is a heaven for people who are good, but that if you aren’t “good” that you are burned up and your life ends. That, in a nutshell, is what the JWs teach.
Anyway you look at it, if the Bible is true, and if the Bible is correct, then this is a mistaken idea. From the moment you are conceived, from the moment a soul is first formed and placed in that body, that soul never, from that point on, ever stops existing.
> Ecclesiastes 12:7 … and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
The body returns to the earth. It starts decaying, but the soul remains. It goes to God for Him to do with it as He pleases.
> Matthew 25:46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
The 2 groups of people go to two different places, but the soul never ceases to exist. The idea that life ends after death is mistaken.
2. Soul Sleep – There are some who believe that after you die, that your soul goes to sleep. That’s called Soul Sleep. Those who hold this idea believe that after you die your soul is in some kind of holy limbo, waiting for Jesus to come again. The people who hold this idea generally do so because death is frequently called “Sleep” in the Bible.
Well, after you die, you do not go to sleep, waiting to wake up some eventful day in the future. There are several reasons I know this to be incorrect.
- 2 Corinthians 5:8
- Luke 16:19-31
In this parable Jesus says the rich man and Lazarus were both aware of their surroundings after they died. Lazarus knew how well he had it, and the rich man was in torment. He knew from the moment he died that he had messed up. They didn’t go to sleep.
A third reason I know you don’t go to sleep after you die is because of Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross recorded in Luke 23:43.
> Luke 23:43 And He said to him, “ I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
The man would be with Jesus that day. How could he be with Jesus that day if he was going to be asleep? You do not go to sleep after you die.
3. Purgatory – Temporary Prison – There are some who believe that after you die, if you die with unconfessed sins, if you die without confessing your sins with your dying breath, that you go to an intermediate state, a holding cell. Most who hold this idea believe that after you die you go to a holding place in order to take care of whatever sins you didn’t take care of while you were alive. In that place you suffer and wait, and suffer and wait, until finally you have suffered enough or someone else has prayed enough for you to finally be forgiven for the rest of your sins. Then you get to go to heaven.
There is one primary problem with this belief. You see, you can never do enough, you can never suffer enough, others can never pray enough or sacrifice enough, or anything else enough to take care of your sins. There is nothing you can do to earn or merit forgiveness.
> Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.
Listen, if you were in a holding cell waiting to suffer enough or waiting for someone else to do enough for you to get out, or to be baptized so you can get out, you would never be released. Salvation and forgiveness is totally the result of God’s grace. It is totally the result of God’s mercy. We don’t do good works to be saved, but rather, we do good works because we are saved.
Also, if the idea of purgatory were true, then we would be saying that Jesus’ sacrifice was not enough. There on the cross, just before He died, Jesus cried out “Toltelistie”. In most English Bibles that is translated as “It is finished.” But really, that is an accounting term. It means “Paid in full.” When Jesus died on the cross He said that He paid for it all. He paid the total price for our sins. If the idea of Purgatory were correct, it would mean that Jesus was unable, or unwilling to pay for all of our sins
Also, why is it that those who usually teach there is a purgatory, have people buy candles or pay for services to help get their loved ones out of purgatory? As Martin Luther once asked when he posted his 91 thesis on the door in Germany, “If someone could get our loved ones out of purgatory, wouldn’t grace demand that he do so without charge?”
Some change this idea and teach that after you die you have another opportunity to be saved. They teach that you have the opportunity to become a follower of Christ after you die, if someone is baptized for you. We run into a problem there with
> Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment …
Judgment follows death, not additional opportunities, and not suffering to earn your way out.
There is no purgatory and there are no additional opportunities.
4. Angels – There is one final misconception I would like to cover before we move on and that is the idea that after you die you become an angel. I have heard that told to children many times at funerals, to make the children feel good, to make the children feel better. When I went to the law enforcement memorial service in Washington D.C. a number of years ago, I saw many people going around wearing buttons showing pictures of their deceased loved one with a caption underneath saying that we had a new guardian angel.
There is nothing wrong with wanting children and people to feel better, but help them feel that way by telling them the truth. We do not become angels when we die. There are a couple of reasons we know that.
> 1 Corinthians 6:3 Do you not know that we will judge angels—not to speak of things pertaining to this life?
This verse says that after we die we will judge angels. They will have to give an account to us. We judge them. We don’t become them. And remember when we read the account about Lazarus? Luke 16:22 says the angels carried Lazarus, or the poor man, to Abraham’s bosom. The angels carried Lazarus’ soul after he died. He didn’t become one of them, rather, they took care of him.
When you and I die, we will not stop existing. We will not go to sleep. We will not go to purgatory and we will not become angels. Now, if none of those things happen to us, what happens when we die? Before we answer that question, there are a few things we need to understand about what the Bible says about life after death.
II. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT LIFE AFTER DEATH
1. There are two different places referred to in the KJV as hell. They are not both the same place. There is sheole, or Hades, and there is Geenna or Hell. Hades was a place of temporary holding, where Geenna would be what we think of today as Hell.
Before Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, everyone went to Hades, a place of temporary holding. In Hades there were 2 parts. There was Abraham’s Bosom, or the good part; and then there was a place of torment. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Hades is where they went. But, Hades was a place of only temporary holding for godly people. On the day of Christ’s crucifixion, 1 Peter tells us that He went and preached to the spirits in prison. I believe on that day that He went and preached deliverance to the captives.
In Hades, on the good side, were all the saints of old. Moses was there. Abraham and David were there. There was Joseph, Solomon and Noah. All the saints of old were there. They hadn’t yet been admitted to heaven because Christ hadn’t yet paid the price for their sins. On the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, the saints of old were looking on with anticipation. They had been given promissory notes. They had been given checks awaiting payment, and on the day when Jesus cried, “It is Finished!” they rejoiced, for at last they had been freed. At last, their debts had been paid.
At Jesus’ crucifixion, He announced to the godly in Hades that the price had been paid and He escorted them to heaven. The Gospels record that after Jesus’ resurrection, some of the saints of old were seen again, risen from the dead. I think a few of them stopped off on their way to heaven just to strut a little.
Dododododo, dodo, dodo, Can’t touch this. Dododododo, dodo, dodo, Can’t touch this.
So, number one, Before Christ, people went to Hades.
2. Christians after Christ – Now, Christians after Christ. The Bible leaves no doubt that they go directly to heaven. Several verses come to mind. We remember where Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” And we remember also where Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”
Now, I don’t know exactly where heaven is, but I do know, heaven is wherever our Lord is.
3. There is a resurrection – Third, the Bible tells us that there is a resurrection. There is a day coming when everyone who has ever lived, will be raised from the dead.
> Daniel 12:2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to shame and eternal contempt.
- John 5:25, 28-29
4. There is a judgment – There is a judgment for the righteous and the ungodly. We know there is coming a day when everyone who has ever lived will be judged by God.
>Romans 14:12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
> Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment …
5. There is a Hell – We also know there is a Hell. There is a place of eternal torment.
- Mark 9:43, 48; Matthew 25:46; Revelation 14:11, 20:10
The Bible is clear that there is a place of eternal torment reserved for those who do not accept Christ. Now, with these facts in mind, what happens when you die?
III. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DIE?
1. Immediately after death. Immediately after death there is a separation.
Christian – The Christian is taken to heaven to be with Christ. Your loved ones, my loved ones, my relatives and friends, the ones we have lost who were Christians, they are currently, right now, with Jesus in heaven. Christians go to heaven immediately after death.
Non-Christians – The non-Christian, on the other hand, goes to Hades. Hades is a place of torment, but it is only a place where people go temporarily. Think of it as jail with no bail. It is a place people go awaiting trial, awaiting sentencing.
2. When Jesus comes again – When Christ comes again, we shall rise. Our bodies will rise. Our spirits which have been in heaven will be united with new bodies, bodies that cannot be destroyed.
3. Standing before the Judge – Following the resurrection we are all judged.
Christians – It is there where pastors and teachers are judged on how well they looked after the flocks, the people they were entrusted with teaching. It is there where we give account of the idle words we have spoken. It is there where we receive or lose rewards.
> 2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad.
Non-Christians – Non-Christians, on the other hand, don’t receive or lose rewards. They are simply given the final judgment. Their sentence is made final and they, along with Satan and his boys, are thrown into the fiery pit. They are sent to Hell, where the worm never dies and their torment never ends.
Now, seeing that there is so much at stake, seeing that so much hangs in the balance, what shall we do? I believe there are two primary things we need to do.
IV. WHAT SHALL WE DO?
1. Get Ready – Number one, you and I need to get ready. We need to get prepared to meet Christ. It amazes me, the number of people who make pre-paid funeral arrangements. It amazes me, the number of people who have already bought plots and have already made funeral arrangements, and who have already bought headstones, and made out their wills, but who have done nothing to prepare for what comes after.
You and I need to get ready. We need to make sure that we are prepared for that trip. Tell me my friend, do you know for certain what will happen, where you will go, when you die? When you think of how short this life is and how long the next one is, when you think about all that is at stake, that need is emphasized.
13 years ago, there were people running all over the place, buying up food and bottled water and gas and everything else they could think of, just in case something happened with all of that Y2K stuff. They did all of that just in case they were without power, or open food stores for a few days. Sad, how few of them had prepared for what we all know is coming.
Face it my friend, unless Jesus comes again, we are all going to die. You can either face that fact with fear and uncertainty, or you can face it with certainty and excitement, looking forward to what’s coming next. It all depends on how you prepare.
The only way to correctly prepare for that day is to establish a relationship with Jesus Christ. The only way to get ready is to invite Him into your heart to be your Lord and Savior. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”
We must get ready. But, not only must we get ready, but we must also get going.
2. Get Going – You and I have work to do to make sure that not only do we make the trip but that we also take someone else with us.
The past couple of months I have greeted with mixed emotions. I watch the events unfolding in the Middle East with Israel and Iran. I’ve seen the stock market act up, oil prices rise, and people lose their homes. I greet these events with mixed emotions. I hate to see people suffer. I grieve with those who have lost their homes, or their loved ones due to fighting overseas. I hate paying more for gas, I grieve over that. But, I also see these events as reminders that the time until Christ’s return is growing short, and that is what leaves me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am looking forward to going to heaven. I am looking forward to going to a place where there is no suffering, where there is no heartache. I look forward to seeing Jesus. I look forward to seeing again, all of my loved ones who have gone before. I look forward to that reunion, to that celebration.
But on the other hand, I think of my neighbors who won’t be going with me. I think of my relatives who won’t be making that trip. I think of those overseas who haven’t even had the opportunity yet to hear about Christ. I think of friends I have who don’t know about Jesus, and it breaks my heart. I think, Lord, please wait just a little longer. Lord, please give us just a little more time.
I am afraid that too often we in the church focus our attention on the wrong things. We worry about how church is done, or where it is done, or what we’re called, instead of what our task is. Let me tell you, when the ship is sinking is not the time to be standing on deck arguing about how the chairs are arranged.
Jesus could wait another 1000 years, and it won’t do our friends, and our relatives, and our neighbors, and people around the world a bit of good if you and I don’t begin to act like we really believe that Christ is coming again. It won’t do any good if you and I don’t begin to act like we truly believe that people’s lives hang in the balance.
If the Bible is true, and I believe with every ounce of my being that it is, then we had better get ready and we had better get going. This is not a social club. If you’re looking for a social club and worried about what’s in it for you, then go up the street. There are clubs all around who would love to have your membership and your dues. This is not a social club. This is a rescue station. We are people on Mission with Jesus Christ and there are people all around us who need our help. There are people all around you, who need your help.
Fishermen in England. … Before judge. Oh, I wish I had.