To a Christian death is not something to be feared but an event to be anticipated. As with birth or graduation or marriage, death is a transition from one stage of life to another. Following this earthly life we Christians look forward to eternity in Heaven with our Savior who loves us and has provided for us a place of rest and comfort. "Let not your heart be troubled: ye 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3)

In Genesis 3:22-24 we discover that God physically prevented Adam and Eve from eating from the tree of life because he did not want them to be forever trapped in a life on earth in their fallen state. The plan is to permit us a brief lifetime on earth in which to establish our relationship with God, followed by an eternity of reward.

The prospect of death remains a bit frightening. God has placed within us a healthy caution regarding the unfamiliar. However, in the case of death, we have God's Word to assure us that physical death is, for the Christian, a promotion beyond our greatest imagination. The following is a rather clinical discussion of what the Bible has to say about death.

Everybody! (Hebrews 9:27).

The Bible tells us that humans consist of body, soul, and spirit. Body is physical, a temporary habitation on earth for the soul/spirit (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). The soul/spirit combination is eternal. It is what makes us conscious - one might say,"the real me".
When a person reaches the end of life on earth the body dies and is disposed of according to local custom. The eternal soul/spirit lives on.
Dr. C.I. Scofield differentiates soul and spirit in his notes on 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

Although the words "soul" and "spirit" are sometimes used interchangeably in Scripture when referring to man (Job 7:11) a distinction is observed in some passages. They are declared to be divisible (Hebrews 4:12). The difference between the two terms seems to be that the spirit is that which "knows" (1 Corinthians 2:11) and is capable of God-consciousness and communication with God (Proverbs 20:27) whereas the soul is the seat of the affections, desires, emotion and will of man (John 12:27).
For convenience we will use the term soul to represent the soul/spirit combination in the remainder of this study.

3. WHAT HAPPENS TO MY SOUL (The real me)?
There is a holding place for the eternal soul awaiting resurrection. It is called in the Old Testament, "Sheol", and in the New Testament, "Hades". In the King James version of the Bible the names Sheol and Hades are usually translated "Hell" or "the grave". Many newer translations retain the names Sheol and Hades.

Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) provides insight into Sheol as it was before Christ's resurrection. Some would discount this parable as only a story meant to illustrate a point, but even so, Christ would not be guilty of inaccuracy. The information is reliable.

Notice these points.
A. There were two compartments,
one for the righteous dead - here Jesus called it Abraham's Bosom and in Luke 23:43 he called it Paradise -
and another for the wicked dead frequently referred to in the Greek text as Geenna or Gehenna (Mark 9:43-48).
It is interesting to note that Gehenna was the name commonly applied to the local dump outside of Jerusalem. Garbage was cast into the vale of Hinnom where it was reduced by fire and worms.
B. The residents were conscious and aware. They could see one another, even from compartment to compartment.
C. Their ultimate fate was already sealed when they arrived at Sheol. The wicked began receiving retribution, being in torment, while the righteous were being comforted.
D. The wicked could no longer deny that there is punishment for sin. In their newfound clarity of understanding they did not wish the same fate for their loved ones and begged for intervention on behalf of those loved ones.
E. There is a great gulf fixed over which no one can pass. The dead are not promoted from one state to the other.

When Jesus died his body was placed in the tomb and his soul went to Paradise (Luke 23:43).
Jesus is no longer in Sheol because he was resurrected, ascended to Heaven and now is at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:31-32; Acts 1:9-11; Acts 7:55-56).
The Apostle Paul desired to be "Absent from the body" and to be "Present with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Phlippians 1:23-24). One may infer that the Paradise portion of Sheol has been transported to Heaven (Ephesians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

Sheol is not the final destination of the soul. Every soul will be resurrected at a later time and will stand in one of two judgements followed by final disposition. One of the judgements will be for the believers in Christ (John 3:1-7) and the other for the leftovers. The key point is that whichever judgement a person stands in is determined by the decisions made by that person during his/her lifetime. Once a person's life on earth has been expended, no amount of prayer or money or wishing will change the course (John 5:25-29).

A. Believers in Christ have the promise that Christ will come again and receive them unto himself
(John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57;. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). (It should be noted here that "sleep" is a euphemism for "death". See John 11:11-14.).
B. Believers, having being made righteous through the Blood of Christ
(1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 3:5-7; Revelation 1:5; Revelation 7:9-17) will be called before the Judgement seat of Christ to be judged according to their works, not to determine their ultimate destination for they are already saved, but to receive reward for their service to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:12).
C. The unbelieving dead will be resurrected at a later time and they will face a terrifying judgement. Read Revelation 20:11-15.

If you are uncertain of what awaits you at the Judgement, it is not too late to achieve certainty. As long as you are alive and consciously able to make choices, all the hosts of heaven are rooting for you to make the decision to invite Christ into your life. Read Luke 15:3-24; Revelation 3:20.
Don't know how to go about it? Just talk to God as if he were standing beside you. Admit that you are a sinner and need his salvation. Ask Jesus to forgive you and to take control of your life. Then go to your pastor and tell him what has happened. He will be a great help to you as you begin your new life.

This page contains an excerpt from The New Scofied Reference Bible, 1967 edition, published by Oxford University Press.
It may be purchased from Amazon.com

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This page updated 08/30/2009