A study by: Timothy M. Youngblood
Copyright © The Master's Table
What Happens after Death?
Note: Some of this information is also in the study Paper titled "Do you go to Heaven after death?"
Some questions people ask are...Where do we go after death? Is there life right after we die, or is there a time span before we come back to life? The most questions asked are do we go to heaven or hell right after death and then many ask about the subject of what is the resurrection we read about in the bible? (I Cor. 15: 42-58)
The way to study the scriptures is the same way a detective will search for the clues at a crime scene. The detective does not go in with preconceived ideas, or accepting what someone else has conveyed to him before hand. No, he keeps an open mind and let's the clues lead him to the truth. That is the way we must study any subject we are trying to understand. As bible students we should inject ourselves into the era of the times that we are studying in order to get the flavor and true picture in which we are trying to understand. We should always seek to put ALL scripture in its proper context and compare what Jesus stated about the subjects when studying the New Testament. If you will continue reading you will find a gold nugget that will truly give you understanding of God's great mercy and great hope with comfort and reassurance for those you love and your fantastic future.
Let's continue on in order to come to the truth about the concept that have been taught concerning if we go to heaven when we die. We must consider the scriptures that have been used for years and consider many other scriptures that plainly reveal the truth about this subject. Although it could be discouraging on the surface when you see the truth about what happens when we die, you will find in this study a truth which will be much more rewarding not only because it is better for all but that it is also the truth and that is what God wants us to accept.
Life, Death and The Resurrection:
Let's look at the term resurrection and learn what it means. The definition is "To raise from the dead." As the rising of Christ from the dead, or the rising again to life of all the human dead before the final great white throne judgment at the end of Christ's thousand-year rule. When people teach that the one being buried is in heaven have not really considered the term "Death" and just what it means. Before we continue about the resurrection let's take a close look at the definition of life and death so we can be informed and then be able to see why the bible teaches what it does about life and death.
LIFE: is the quality that distinguishes a vital and "functional" being from a dead body. The sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual. To be alive is to be thinking, moving, feeling, and interacting with others who are also alive.
DEATH: is the "cessation" of all vital functions such as thinking, moving, feeling, and interacting with the living. So the state of being dead is the cessation of life. So we find that to be dead is to be without ALL our senses such as site, hearing, feeling, taste, and smelling.
This also goes along with the statement as to what happens to the wicked in 2 Pet 2:17. Let's read it..."These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." The term blackness of darkness is used for those that are dead in other words no longer have their five senses, and the term in this scripture as well as Jude 1:13. "Blackness of darkness forever" meaning that they are dead forever.
What about the SOUL?
If people who die are dead until Christ returns, what happens to our soul? I'm sure that you have heard the term Immortal Soul. Is the soul immortal? First we must understand the true meaning of soul as taught in your bible before we can find the truth. There are several words in the Old Testament that mean the same thing if translated correctly. The best place to start is to ask was Adam created as a soul? Let's read Gen 2:7. "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." The word "Being" here in the Hebrew is "Nephesh" (neh'-fesh); meaning a breathing creature, i.e. "animal” or human soul; so by this we understand that mankind IS a soul, not HAVING a soul and the soul is the flesh not as taught by some men to be spirit.
We found that the Hebrew word "Nephesh" (neh'-fesh); is used to describe humans but is this word "Nephesh" (neh'-fesh); ever used when the Bible refers to the creatures of this earth, denoting they are of the same flesh as mankind that turns to dust after death? Are cows and other animals a soul? Let's read it for ourselves in Gen 1:20. "Then God said, "Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens." The word "creature" here in Hebrew is also "Nephesh" (neh'-fesh); but the word creature was used by the translators to make a distinction between the two because they did not get the point of what was written. So we see that God created all living flesh, including humans with the same flesh or the same nephesh. The word nephesh is also used concerning a dead body. Num 5:2. "Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper, everyone who has a discharge, and whoever becomes defiled by a corpse." The Hebrew word "corpse" is also "Nephesh" (neh'-fesh);
Now that we have found that the flesh is called "Nephesh" (neh'-fesh); we need to research and answer the question, "Does the bible teach that the soul is immortal?" Let’s let the bible answer. Ezek 18:20. "The soul "Nephesh" (neh'-fesh); who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." And in the book of Ps 33:18-19 states. "Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul "Nephesh" (neh'-fesh); from death, and to keep them alive in famine." These scriptures do not say the soul that sins shall live, or live forever in torment, but the soul that sins shall die. Remember, to die is the "cessation" of all vital functions such as thinking, moving, feeling, and interacting with the living.
What did Jesus teach?
It should be much more important to know what Jesus taught so let's start by looking at what Jesus Himself stated about the question of going to heaven recorded here in John 3:12-15. We read, "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (NKJ throughout)
Let's look at some more scriptures that shine a light on the fact we don't go to heaven after death and who has life inherent. Let's look at what is recorded in John 5:26-29. "For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice, and come forth-- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." This means that all who have died (except Jesus) are still in their graves to this day. They are not in heaven or a place of torment. Notice again what Jesus states; "all who are in the graves will hear His voice" Now if all who are dead and in their graves will hear His voice, and come forth at the resurrection when Jesus returns, (yet future) what would be the point if people go to heaven at death? Again stated from Jesus’ own words we see they were in their graves! If the dead were in heaven, Jesus (Who never lies) would have stated so.
Another reason confusion about
this subject of going to heaven continues is because misguided preachers have,
and do misinterpret the scripture concerning when Jesus told the thief on the
stake next to Him "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with
Me in Paradise." Luke 23:43. The confusion comes in when they refer to
the word TODAY, but they don’t think it through. Let's do just that now; let's
think it through. The point is that Jesus could not have meant that very
day because Jesus did not go back to heaven THAT day...He went into the
grave for three days, and three nights. The thief went to the grave THAT day
also. What was Jesus telling the man next to Him if He did not mean that they
would be in heaven that day? Jesus was telling the man he had received salvation
THAT day because he believed Jesus was the Son of God, and our savior.
Some also refer to what is known as the transfiguration to teach that people go to heaven after death. They say that Moses and Elijah were there so they had to be in heaven in order to "appear" with Jesus. Is this true? To find the truth we must remember the above fact that Jesus stated no one has ever gone into heaven, and I for one believe Him. Do you? So again we must look at the whole picture in order to come to the truth. Just a few verses down in Matt 17:9 we read, “Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the “vision” to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead." Let's notice he said “Tell the “VISION” to no one. When the Apostle John saw visions of things depicted in the end time as we read in the book of Revelation; did they really exist when he saw them? No! They were visions for the future, and were visions very much like a movie, or a mirage. We see and hear people on T. V. that has been dead for years but we all know they are still dead. So the question is were Moses, and Elijah on the mount with Jesus during the transfiguration? They could not have been because according to your bible the dead are dead and know nothing, as we will examine scripture that teaches this fact on into this study.
TIME Magazine did a poll in the March 1997 issue under the Religion section,
The questions asked were. Do you believe in the existence of heaven, where people live forever with God after they die? (81% answered yes,) Then they were asked; do you believe in hell, where people are punished forever after they die? (63% answered yes.) As you can see by this poll, most Christians believe they will go to heaven or hell right after they die.
Where did this teaching come from?
Our research have found that the teaching of going to heaven after we die, as well as the teaching of the immortal soul, came from the old pagan Hellenistic religion and is not biblical. They taught that spirits in heaven would want to be born as humans and experience life with all the challenges we have here. They contended that to do so would raise them higher in their status as spirit beings. The more they returned and overcame what they could not in their other physical lives the higher they would rise. We have found in our research that the Hellenistic religion was embedded in the Jewish religion at the time Jesus began His ministry. In fact we find that the apostles had to preach against this very religion during their ministry. We can read of this in Acts 9:29. "And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him." It is not my intent to go into the study of the Hellenistic religion here, but you can go to the link at the end of this study to view our research. It is notable that many of their beliefs were adopted by what became known as the Catholic Church, and thereby filtered down to what is know today as The Christian faith by way of the Protestants who separated from their mother Church. We will cover in detail from the scriptures in the Christian bible who has immortality in this study.
Now let's go to the Christian bible again to see what the bible teaches us about death. Eccl 9:4-5. "But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten." Let's also look at what is recorded in Rev 20:5-6. "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." The wording here shows that there will be a FUTURE resurrection of the dead, and "The rest of the dead did not live again". Remember this very important point; this is before the great white throne Judgment. We also find here that there are more than one resurrection by the statement, "this is the first resurrection" in the above scripture. We have found that the first resurrection is for those that will be in the Kingdom of God during the thousand-year reign of the Christ, and the second resurrection is for those that come up for the final Judgment. Rev. 20: 11-15. (See our related study titled Resurrections and Judgments at the end of this study.)
What did the apostles say concerning King David's death recorded in Acts 2:29? "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day." What did David himself record in, Ps 115:17. "The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD'S; but the earth He has given to the children of men. The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!" He stated that the dead can not even praise God, so if what is taught in Churches that the dead are in heaven alive then why can't they praise God?
Two types of Bodies:
The answer from the bible is that there are two types of bodies that humans can have. The physical body and the spiritual body. The physical body dies and as the bible states will go back to where it came from; the dust of the ground as we read in Gen 3:19. "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return." The bible also reveals that the spirit IN man then returns to God who gave it and will become born again at the future first resurrection when Jesus returns. (Eccl 12:7 7.) According to scripture we will put off this physical body and put on a spiritual body at that time so let's look at the scriptures written by the apostle Paul when teaching about the two types of bodies he called a natural body, and a spiritual body. Notice that he starts the subject by stating "So also is the resurrection of the dead." Let's read about this in 1 Cor 15:42-44." 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." Notice what he said about the order of existence from the natural body to the spiritual body. Now let's look at the time that we will become spirit. Paul continues to explain on into verses 47-54 that there will be a resurrection when the last trumpet sounds; that is, when the seventh angel sounds the trumpet, and Christ returns. We can find the sounding of this seventh trumpet in Rev. 11-15.
What does it mean to be born again?
Did Jesus teach the same concept as we just found Paul teaching? Believe it or not, Paul got his information from Jesus as we will see here. Remember I stated above that we must compare ALL scripture to find the truth. Many times we miss the points of scripture because someone has placed a misconception on the subject and have not studied the scriptures as they are intended. If we go to John 3:1-12 we see Jesus explaining to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews that he had to be born again. Nicodemus understood that Jesus was talking about a birth in the sense of being born of our mothers. Notice Jesus told him he could not enter the Kingdom of heaven until he was born again. Notice the very important points in verse six, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." So Jesus is teaching that there are differences between flesh and spirit just as Paul taught. When you were born, were you born flesh, or spirit? It's amazing how people put different meanings on life, death, flesh, spirit, and being born when reading the Bible. When the Bible relates to living, it means to be alive, and when it relates to dying, it means to cease to live. When it relates to being born, it means coming into existence; either the existence of a life in the flesh, or the existence of a life in the spirit, which are two different types of existence, and two different types of bodies.
Jesus taught that which is spirit is spirit, and that which is flesh is flesh,
so what did Paul also teach about the type of body we must have before we can
enter the Kingdom of God which is yet to come? Let's read more on the subject
in 1 Cor 15:46-50. "However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural,
and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the
second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those
who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are
heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also
bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that
flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption
inherit incorruption." Notice two things. One “we shall” denotes
the future, and second that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom;
we MUST become spirit in order to enter God’s Kingdom. Now Jesus stated
the same thing when He stated; "
Now Jesus stated the same thing when He stated; ""That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Also let's add the other statement Jesus conveyed to Nicodemus about those that will become spirit after they are born again; "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:8. Are you flesh or spirit? Can people see you or are you as the wind?
Born again now?
Some teach that when a person receives Christ as their savior - they are born again, but what does the Holy Bible teach? Has the bible ever taught that you are born again at baptism? Through our research we see throughout the entire book of Acts that there is absolutely no mention of being born again. I use the book of Acts because this is where the beginning of the ministry is recorded. It teaches in many places that we are to repent and be baptized into Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit, and we are baptized into His death so we should walk in newness of life here and now. There is one scripture in 1Pet. 1:23 that is used by ministers to teach that we are now born again, is incorrect because the words "born again" here in the original Greek is anagennao "ana" (again) and, gennao, (to beget) We have found that the Greek word "anagennesis" which means "new birth" never occurs in the New Testament in relation to a spiritual birth here and now! To beget again, (anagennao) means to regenerate, restoration, or to become something new; to change from our former ways and become like Jesus our elder brother, who set the example for us to imitate. Eph 4:22-24.
Who has immortality at this time?
We know that the bible teaches the concept of immortality so let's study about who has immortality now? 1 Tim 6:13-16. "I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, "who alone" has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen." (Emphasis mine) God the Father and Jesus the Messiah are the only God beings that have eternal life inherent at this time, and are the only beings that have the power to give everlasting life. Notice that I used the word "inherent" to describe God the Holy Father and Jesus His Son because the angels and demons do have eternal life also, but they are created beings not "God beings with life inherent", and do not have power apart from God the father or Jesus the Messiah.
Some teach that the Spirit of God in a person causes them to receive a spiritual birth or to say be born again. Listen brethren the Spirit of God does not cause anyone to receive a spiritual birth. Are you Spirit? Can you move around without anyone seeing you” Can you influence things in nature as the wind or as a spirit influence things? If it was true that we receive a “spiritual birth” at our baptism and laying on of hands then the scriptures written by the apostle Paul in I Cor. 15:50 would be void of truth as he stated these things from the teachings of the Messiah.
Again what does Paul teach concerning when we become spirit and what kind of body humans have before the resurrection? The facts are that we have “Mortal” bodies which is flesh and this flesh that we have is corrupt and must at the resurrection just before Jesus returns put on incorruption. This flesh has been condemned by the Law and salvation can only come when a person accepts Jesus as the Son of God and believes that He became our eternal sacrifice by placing Hid shed Holy blood on the Holy of Holies in heaven.
Do you sin? Are you weak and can you become injured and old and even die some day? Yes so that answers the question of being born again and the Holy Spirit causing a person to receive a “spiritual birth” now. No the answer is a person is “Begotten” as we covered above from the Greek word anagennao "ana" (again) and, gennao, (to beget) Notice in 1 Pet 1:3 it states “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy “has begotten us” again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Being begotten is actually the process of "the regeneration, till the Messiah shall sit in the throne of His glory after the resurrection and the change of our bodies is becoming immortal. Our adoption or to be begotten now in this fleshly state will become an eternal state at the coming resurrection and then we will be born again. Is there any person that has salvation now or will it be given when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom? Let’s read what the word of God states about this in Rev 12:10: Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.” Notice the word of God states He will bring salvation with Him. Who will receive it? Those whom were more righteous than someone else? Or will it be that Jesus will give it to whom He wills? Remember salvation is more because of God's grace and mercy and not by works. The good works are a result of conversion (regeneration) rather than determining who will be saved.
The biblical four steps towards salvation are:
(1) God's Love, grace, and mercy.
(2) Accepting the Messiah as the Son of God and His shed blood for the remission of sins and the resurrection.
(3) Then our regeneration (Spiritual or moral revival) or to say learning of His ways and working on change.
(4) The final, our eternal change to spirit at the resurrection.
Some teach that Jesus was a created being, but is this true? The truth is that we find many examples that Jesus has always existed as the "Word of God" just as the apostle John recorded in John 1:1-4. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." And in verse 13, and 14 we read, "who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
A spirit in mankind?
Remember we stated above that the flesh is to return to the dust of the ground from where it came but the spirit will return to God who gave it? Let's understand that there is a spirit IN mankind that God gives at birth, but it's not something that thinks and reasons of and by itself. It is IN the person, but it is not THE person. There's a heart in a person, but the heart is not the person. The heart has a function, just as the spirit IN mankind has a function. The Hebrew word spirit that we find in Ecc.12:7 is "ruwach" which means breath of life, "only of a living being" (including its expression and functions): The spirit in man is what sets him apart from the animals. It is what gives us the ability to think, reason, and design what we build and without it we would be just like a monkey. Let's also look at what is recorded in Job 32:7-8. "I said, 'Age should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.' But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding."
The animals do not have this spirit in them, and as we learned in this study created animals are made of the same flesh "Nephesh" (neh'-fesh); as we are and this spirit in man that we read of here in Job 32:7-8 is the function of the spirit IN mankind, which is what makes us like God in that we can reason right and wrong, and, as stated above, we can create what we desire, and even reason the complexities of law. Studies have proven we are the only flesh beings that seeks family relationships in the way of a marriage pledge and structure of the family. Notice in Job 32:8 above that the breath of God gives this understanding, "it's God breathed." However, when a person receives the Holy Spirit of God (Another Spirit) they begin to understand the things of God. If a person has not received the Spirit of God they cannot understand spiritual things, like the animals without the spirit "in man" can't understand the things of man.
This is not my teachings, but the teachings of Jesus as we find recorded in John 16:12-14. it states..."I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when the Spirit of truth, has come, It will guide you into all truth; for it will not speak on it's own authority, but whatever it hears it will speak; and it will tell you things to come. It will glorify Me, for it will take of what is Mine and declare it to you." And in John 14:26. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, it will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." Also we find that the apostles understood this as recorded in 1 Cor 2:10-11. "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God." We see here that Jesus told His disciples they "could not understand the spiritual things" until they received the Holy Spirit. So we see here that the Holy Spirit is the power of God, and it has a function also. The Spirits are not persons, but things (Or the power of God) that perform functions.
You might want to study "Do you go to Heaven after Death?"
And what about hell? Hell fire and Torment
For other related subjects See... Resurrection/Judgment And Just what is sin?
You also might want to study Just what does it mean to be born again?
You also might want to study the Truth about the Rapture
There are many scriptures that verify the Holy Spirit is the power
(See our related study titled "What is the Holy Spirit?)
In Jesus' Service and hope to see you in the
Kingdom of God.
Timothy M. Youngblood
The Master's Table