Death is inevitable and inescapable. We must all face it. One minute, you’re alive and the next, you’re gone.
Your heart stops. No more breaths come. A doctor makes a pronouncement and a sheet is pulled up over your head. Your body is placed in a bag and wheeled to a refrigerated room where it waits, either for the medical examiner or the mortician. After a possible autopsy and preparation, your body is either buried in a hole in the ground or incinerated in a crematorium. After a period of time, memories of you start to fade. Soon, even your dearest loved ones have trouble remembering the exact sound of your voice. It won’t be long before a new generation arises that never even knew you existed. It’s all quite grim, but is that all that happens when we die? Is life really so meaningless? It’s that sense of unknowing that makes death one of the most common fears known to man (between loneliness and spiders on most polls).
Fortunately, while sacred scripture doesn’t give us a concise, step-by-step description of what happens after death, it does give us enough information to put together a fairly complete itinerary of events that happen when this earthly race is over. For the righteous (those who have saving faith in Jesus Christ), here’s a glimpse of what to expect.
GREETED BY ANGELS
Once you’ve exhaled for the very last time, you can expect to be surrounded by angels who have come to escort you home. Now, I know that many people have taught many different things on this subject. I’ve heard preachers say that you will be greeted by departed loved ones and others say that you will be instantly transported into the presence of Jesus, but let’s go with what the Blessed Master taught.
In the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. While this was a parable, told to illustrate a series of points, we should take comfort that Jesus got the details right. In this parable, the poor man, Lazarus, died and was carried by angels (plural) to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).
My late wife had a fondness for angels. She took comfort in knowing that they are all around us. It brings me joy to know that on that fateful day, August 1, 2015, when she took her last breath that she was not alone. She was surrounded by the angels assigned to carry her to her destination, safe from the cares and troubles of this world.
SOULS MADE PERFECT IN HOLINESS AND RECEPTION IN HEAVEN
Hebrews 12:23 tells us that, at that moment, our souls are made perfect in holiness. The righteousness of Christ, which had been imputed to our account, is made manifest in our souls. It has to be as no stain of sin can enter the Kingdom of God. I have no idea whether our journey with the angels takes seconds or minutes, but I do know that our sanctification is completed on this journey and we are made ready for our destination.
At the conclusion of our journey, we are received into the highest of Heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1, 6, 8). This is something every born again saint of God has longed for. After a life of toil and work in a fallen world, we are home. We are in a place of paradise where there are no tears and where the light of God illuminates everything around us.
BEHOLD THE FACE OF GOD IN LIGHT AND GLORY
Upon reaching that celestial shore, we shall be ushered into the presence of Almighty God, the creator, and ruler of the universe and we shall see Him face to face. We learn that in 1 John 3:2. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, the apostle Paul tells us that for now, we see as if in a glass darkly, but on that day, we shall see Him face to face. Paul also promises that we shall be known as we are known.
Just imagine it, if you can, that on the day your earthly life ends, you will stand in the presence of God, surrounded by His radiant glory and power. Just the thought makes my heart skip a beat. That thought quite simply boggles my mind. I cannot even begin to wrap my mind around it, can you? I do know one thing: I long for that day. I don’t know what my soul will do on that day, but I know that it will be glorious.
…AND OUR BODIES?
While our souls are in Heaven, in the presence of our God and our Blessed Savior, our bodies will rest in their graves, as in their beds (Isaiah 57:2) waiting for the day when they have been fully redeemed, resurrected and reunited with our souls. It doesn’t matter if your body is buried or cremated, God can and will resurrect it on that final day.
This illustration of the body as “resting in a bed” was used a lot in the old testament, giving the human perspective on the appearance of a body after death. This has given rise to the false teaching known as “soul sleep,” that states that there is no immortal soul and that the body simply lies in the ground waiting for the resurrection. This is clearly not what Jesus taught and not what Paul clearly believed.
WHERE DOES PURGATORY FIT IN?
Purgatory, a place where residual unrighteousness is purged from our soul is an unbiblical doctrine taught mainly by the Roman Catholic Church. There is no support for this doctrine found in sacred scripture. While we do not hold fast to the doctrine of purgatory, we do believe that there is a place where sin was purged. That place was the cross of Calvary.
WHAT HAPPENS TO NON-BELIEVERS?
For those who have not put their trust in Christ, or worse, have rejected Him directly, the journey is similar but much more grim. The Westminster Larger Catechism says that the souls of the wicked are in torments and utter darkness while their bodies are kept in their graves, as in a prison, waiting for the resurrection and the judgment on that great day (Luke 16:23, 24).
WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You see, for those with saving faith in Jesus, death need not be feared. It is not an ending, but a doorway to eternity. For non-believers, the picture is much more grim. Where do you stand on the subject of eternity? Are you longing to see your God and your Savior face-to-face, or does the subject of dying scare you to death (pun intended)? You need to examine your heart and ask yourself, “If God calls for an accounting of my soul in the next ten minutes, am I ready?” Only you can answer that question. I ask you to prayerfully consider the answer and, if you’re not sure that your post-life journey will be a pleasant one, please cry out to the Lord and ask Him for His redeeming grace and mercy.
I pray that this article has blessed you in reading it, as much as it blessed me in writing it.
May God bless you richly.