by Royce Frederick
What happens when a person dies? On day six of creation, “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” (Genesis 2:7). Death occurs when the “soul” or the “spirit” of a person leaves his body. “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). When Rachel was dying, the Bible says, “her soul was departing” (Genesis 35:18). James tells us very simply that “the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26).
After death, every soul goes to the waiting place called “Hades.” It has two parts:
- a place of comfort for those who are saved, and
- a place of suffering for those who are lost.
The souls of righteous people go to the comfortable waiting place in Hades. Jesus told about a beggar named Lazarus who died “and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22). He went to a place where he would enjoy close companionship with Abraham. Also, Luke 23:39-43 tells us about two thieves who were crucified with Jesus. After one of them repented, Jesus told him, “today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43; see Acts 2:27, 31). The word “paradise” means “royal park” or “garden.” These verses show that the souls of righteous people go to a pleasant waiting place at death.
The souls of sinful people go to a miserable waiting place in Hades. In the account about Lazarus, Jesus said, “The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22-23). The rich man later said, “I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24). The rich man could not go from his place of misery to be with Abraham (Luke 16:26). Also, he was not permitted to send a message to his five brothers who were still alive on the earth (Luke 16:27-31).
All people will be raised from death and will stand before Christ to be judged. He said, “the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice [the voice of Christ] and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). God has “appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). On that day, every person from every nation will stand before Christ to be judged (Acts 17:31; Matthew 25:31-33; Revelation 20:11-15). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (II Corinthians 5:10).
When Christ judges everyone, He will say to the saved people, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). On that day, all citizens of the kingdom will enter the eternal place of the kingdom (Colossians 1:13; Philippians 3:20; Acts 14:21-22; II Peter 1:10-11; I Corinthians 15:24; Revelation 21:1-4). To the wicked, He will say, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). They “will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). Speaking about that future time, John wrote, “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15).
If we obey the Gospel and remain faithful, we don’t need to worry about death and eternity. By God’s grace, the blood of Jesus removes our sins when we are baptized, and His blood keeps on cleansing us as we walk with Him (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4, 23; 8:1; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-9; Hebrews 3:12-14; I John 1:7). “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (I John 2:28).
For all saved people, Judgment Day will be a time of rejoicing! Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3)!