What Happens The Second We Die?
• Are Christians Judged The Second They Die?
I’m sure many of us have wondered are we judged when we die or when Jesus returns? Are Christians judged at all? Let’s take a look at what the bible says.
Joh 5:24 "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has
eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
A judgment to decide a person's eternal destiny is no longer necessary for the ones who have accepted Jesus. However, all believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ but this will be to determine their reward according to the works they have done.
2Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may
receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Remember that salvation is never obtained by works so we know this is talking about how Christ will reward Christians for how they have lived on earth in this body. Therefore,
appearing before the judgment seat of Christ for Christians is not a judgment of punishment; it is a judgment of reward. Notice that it says we will receive what is due us, whether good or bad. The word "bad" used here as translated from the original Greek means that which is worthless. So what this is saying is that this judgment is not to determine what is ethically good or evil, but rather that which is acceptable and that which is worthless. Worthless means having no use, importance, or having no good qualities. If it is worthless it is thrown out.
Mat 5:12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they
persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Mat 16:27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then
He will reward each according to his works.
Luk 6:23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For
in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.
2Jn 1:8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may
receive a full reward.
Rev 22:12 "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every
one according to his work.
We know that this is not referring to salvation because we are saved by grace not works.
Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God--
Eph 2:9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
The scriptures show us that this is to receive our reward according to what we have done in
this earthly body.
• What Happens to Children Who Die?
That’s easy to answer. Children who die go to heaven. There are some who believe that we are born as sinners but if that were true then why would Jesus tell us to become like little children if they were sinners.
Mat 18:2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.
Mat 18:3 And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 18:4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the
kingdom of heaven.
God does not create sinners. God does not create human beings as sinners from birth. A sinner has the ability to repent and the power of choice to either choose Him or Satan. We become sinners by our choices, not by creation or by birth. How can anyone look at a newborn baby and say they have sin in their life?
What is sin? "Sin is the transgression of the law" - 1 John 3:4. This is the only definition of sin. The Scriptures talk of many instances of sin but they are not the definition of sin. The law of God tells us what sin is. According to Scripture (1 John 3:4), one becomes a sinner by breaking the law of God. Sin is a choice.
What about the “age of accountability”. Some believe the age of accountability could have been around 20 years old because this was the age when young men in Israel became accountable to serve in the army of Israel. Others believe the age of accountability to be around 12 or 13 due to this being the age when Jesus went up to Jerusalem with his parents and was found in the temple discussing the Law and asking questions. This was also the normal age for being received into Judaism as a “son of the law,” which would make him a full member of the religious community.
But all of this is a conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information since it is nowhere actually stated in Scripture. That response is based on one’s ability to comprehend and respond to the message, a person becomes personally accountable when he or she reaches a point where they have the spiritual and mental capability to grasp the issues. This does not mean they are not sinful, but only that they have not reached a place where they can understand what sin is. children mature at different paces. That would be true from culture to culture, and from age to age in history.
So the Lord in His wisdom didn't identify a specific moment. God knows when each soul is accountable. God knows when real rejection has taken place; when the love of sin exists in the heart. When going against God is conscious and willful. God alone knows when that occurs.
• What Happens at the Moment of Death?
Now back to the main question: What happens at the very moment of death? Some religions such as Jehovah Witness and Seventh Day Adventist believe in “soul-sleep” which is a kind of suspended animation until the day of the resurrection. This is not what the scriptures tell us.
. . . For the Saved
The Bible is abundantly clear on this point. When the saved die, they go directly into the presence of the Lord. Let’s look at some scriptures.
Most of us remember what Jesus said to the thief on the cross.
Luk 23:43 Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
This is a straightforward promise that at the moment of death the repentant thief would pass from this life into the realm called “paradise.” This would seem to contradict the teaching called “soul-sleep.” How could the thief be that very day in paradise if his soul went to sleep when he died?
We also know that Jesus went to paradise instead of directly to heaven because of what he told Mary when he appeared to her.
Joh 20:17 Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go
instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'"
Paul said in Philippians 1:23 that he had a desire “to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”
He also said in 2nd Corinthians:
2Co 5:6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the
body we are away from the Lord.
2Co 5:7 For we live by faith, not by sight.
2Co 5:8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with
These are the words of a man who believed that heaven would begin at the moment of his death. Was Paul looking forward to an unconscious slumber after his death? No! He was looking forward to the personal presence of Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at some more scriptures:
Mat 22:32 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the
God of the dead but of the living."
God would not have said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were dead (he would have said, “I was their God”).
Let’s look at what Stephen said when he was being stoned to death.
Act 7:54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their
teeth at him.
Act 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God,
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Act 7:56 "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of
Act 7:57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed
Act 7:58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid
their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Act 7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
The Apostle Stephen, who was literally being stoned to death for preaching the Gospel is seeing the heaven's opened right before his very eyes and the Lord standing on the right hand of the Father. It’s obvious that Stephen didn’t go into unconsciousness in the grave? Stephen went to be with the Lord.
Another example is in Christ’s teaching on the rich man and Lazarus, both the rich man and Lazarus were fully conscious immediately after their death (Luke 16:19-31). Abraham also was very much conscious. Also on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah openly appeared and spoke with Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8). These two individuals clearly were not in some unconscious state awaiting a future resurrection.
We have looked at several scriptures to prove that our soul immediately goes to be in the presence of the Lord but that’s not the whole story. If we’re in heaven how and when do we receive our new bodies at the resurrection? Let’s start with a scripture in 1st Cor.
1Co 15:50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (We will not have the same body).
The soul goes to be with the Lord in heaven, and the body is buried until the day of resurrection until Jesus returns. Let’s look at some scriptures in the 4th chapter of 1st Thessalonians
1Th 4:14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring
with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
1Th 4:15 According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left
until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the
voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will
1Th 4:17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in
the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
Notice that verse 14 says that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. Here you have both sides of the truth. Christians who die are said to be “with Jesus” (that’s the soul in the conscious presence of the Lord) and “have fallen asleep in him” (that’s the body which “sleeps” in the grave). Here is a clear promise of future bodily resurrection for the believer.
In the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians in verses 35-58 we learn that our bodies will be “raised
imperishable"—that is, we will have a body that is perfect in every way, we will be immortal, free from sickness, injury, suffering, never wear out, never grow old and thank God, never die. Let’s take a look at those scriptures.
1Co 15:35 But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will
1Co 15:36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
1Co 15:37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps
of wheat or of something else.
1Co 15:38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives
its own body.
1Co 15:39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another,
birds another and fish another.
1Co 15:40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of
the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.
1Co 15:41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and
star differs from star in splendor.
1Co 15:42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable,
it is raised imperishable;
1Co 15:43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in
1Co 15:44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body,
there is also a spiritual body.
1Co 15:45 So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam,
a life-giving spirit.
1Co 15:46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
1Co 15:47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.
1Co 15:48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly
man, so also are those who are of heaven.
1Co 15:49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the
image of the heavenly man.
1Co 15:50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the
kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
1Co 15:51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed--
1Co 15:52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will
sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
1Co 15:53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with
1Co 15:54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with
immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been
swallowed up in victory."
1Co 15:55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
1Co 15:57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Co 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that
your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Many Christians have a wrong view of death. We think we’re going from the land of living to the land of dying. But the opposite is true. If you know Jesus, you are going from the land of dying to the land of the living.
Christians have always faced death with confidence. The very word cemetery comes from a Greek word meaning “sleeping-place,” which refers to their confidence in the promise of the resurrection. Many pagans cremated their dead because they saw no further use for the human body. Some have been asked more than once how God can raise the dead if the body has been burned or lost or vaporized in some terrible explosion. That’s not a difficult question at all. God can raise the dead no matter what the condition. All things are possible with God but remember we won’t have these old bodies anyway.
What is ahead for us when we die?
• Our soul goes into the conscious presence of the Lord.
• Our body is buried until the day of resurrection.
• When Christ returns, we will be raised bodily from the grave.
• Our new body and soul will be united and we will be with the Lord forever.
... For the Lost
Now we turn to briefly consider the fate of those who die without Jesus Christ. The bible is perfectly clear that those who reject Jesus will burn forever in the lake of fire. For the unbeliever, death begins an experience of unending conscious punishment.
We can summarize the fate of the lost in four short statements:
1. At the moment of death the soul of the lost is sent to hell where it is in conscious torment. In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus told of a rich man who upon his death went to hell and suffered in the flames of torment. It does not matter whether you think this passage is literal or figurative. If you say it is literal, then it must be a terrible punishment. If it is figurative, the figure itself is so awful to consider that the reality must be much worse.
2. That punishment is eternal. The Bible teaches an eternal punishment for those who do not know our Lord. Mark 9:43-48 speaks of the fire that is not quenched and the worm that does not die—a reference to the continuing existence of human personality in hell.
3. The body is raised at the Great White Throne judgment. Revelation 20:11-15 describes the awesome scene as the unsaved dead are raised to stand before God and receive their final sentence of doom.
4. The unsaved are then cast into the lake of fire where they will reside forever, eternally separated from the presence of Almighty God. If this is unbearable to think about, then let us by all means do whatever is necessary to make sure that such a fate does not befall us or the ones we love the most.
This is the final destiny of those who do not know Jesus Christ. To make it more personal, it is the final destiny of your friends and neighbors, your loved ones, your parents, your brothers, your sisters, your children, if they die without Jesus Christ. And it is your destiny if you die without Jesus Christ.
Let that thought linger in your mind. The reality of hell is more than just a theoretical doctrine. There is a place reserved in the lake of fire for anyone that doesn’t accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
We have shown that the Bible teaches that there is consciousness the second you die and that every soul goes to either Heaven or Hell. The one thing to always keep in mind is this:
What happens when you die depends on what happens before you die.