Summary: What Happens to Christians when they die? Is there an afterlife? How do one prepare for it? How is one certain of resurrection?
“PRECIOUS IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD IS THE DEATH OF HIS SAINTS” (PS. 116:15)
Death is the one thing we are most certain of, yet most ill-prepared. Is there an afterlife? How do one prepare for it? How is one certain of resurrection? All cultures have shown interest in life after death. Egyptians dedicated pyramids for their dead. Chinese built huge emperor tombs with ceramic armies to protect them in the afterlife. Vikings dressed fallen warriors and released them to the wind in burning ships. Crusaders in the Middle Ages believed they gained a more favourable afterlife if they died in battle, as did the Japanese kamikaze pilots in the 2nd World War. American Indians buried weapons and tools with their dead for use in the Happy Hunting Ground. Hence the question: What happens to Christians when they die?
Currently, 60 million people die every year, and 140 million new babies are born. As mysterious as the origin of new life, so mysterious is our end. Scientists cannot create new life nor give us immortality. Some people have babies without any effort; others cannot have children. Some people who want to die yet they remain alive and others who want to live unexpectedly die.
Life is fleeting, therefore hold on loosely.
The paradox of life is our vulnerability to death, yet we desperately fight to preserve and extend it. We all know that all of this life’s material things are temporary, yet we spend most of our time acquiring assets, belongings and goods.
“Our days on earth are as a shadow” (1 Chron 29:15; Job 14:2; Ps. 90:9)
As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more. (Ps 103:15-16)
Death is CERTAIN.
“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).
The Bible describes death in many different ways when Christians die.
The psalmist wrote that when people die, they “return to the dust” (Psalm 104:29).
The Bible says that when Abraham died, he was “gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8). In other words, he joined his deceased relatives in death.
The apostle Paul called death a “departure” (2 Timothy 4:6). It’s like going on a trip…from this world to another.
The apostle Peter said that death is like “taking down a tent” (1 Peter 1:13-14). Our bodies are temporary dwelling places.
Job described death as “the king of terrors” (Job 14:14). Death is many people’s greatest fear.
There is nothing evil, sinister or wicked about the death of a Christian
Death is as natural as the birth of a newborn baby. It is part of the cycle of life. You will also not find any rubbish dumps in Nature. There is no waste, death has a purpose. Death often provides for life! It is a gift. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24-25)
One will always find sufficient grace in the death of a Believer. As a local pastor, I still must find the story where God did not work everything for good for those who love him. (Rom 8:29) Testimonies of provision, reconciliation, repentance and return to the Lord. Testimonies of God’s love and presence in the midst of the Valley of death. (Ps 23)
The tragedy of death is dying without being reconciled with God! Oh, the great horror! To see someone struggling to die without finding peace! Death is a sobering reality and the grief process is a lonely path all must take to discover what life is really about. When losing a loved one, the speeding sometimes out of control bus of life calls to an abrupt halt. One becomes aware of eternity. Your soul searching for meaning, purpose, understanding. The best poems, songs and books were written during a grieving process.