What Happens When You Die?
What does the Bible teach about re-incarnation?
Re-incarnation is based upon two premises, neither of which are true. First: human beings purify themselves through their own righteous acts. Second: There is an immortal soul which survives bodily death.
The Bible teaches that salvation is through faith in Christ. (Eph. 2:8, Rom. 3.24-31) Death is a sleep until the glorious resurrection (1 Thess. 4:15, 16, 1 Cor. 15:51, 54). There is no second chance after death (Heb. 9:27). Now is the time for salvation (2 Cor. 6:2).
If the dead are asleep, how could the Witch of Endor bring the prophet Samuel back from the dead to speak to King Saul (1 Sam. 28:15)?
There are three important facts to observe about this story:
- God's clear command through the entire Old Testament period was that spiritualists be driven out of the land of Israel and be put to death. The word of God unmasks all spiritualism as the work of demonic, satanic forces (see Deut. 18:10-15, Isa. 47:13, 14).
- Saul had already rejected the Prophet Samuel's counsel. He had inquired of God and received no answer (1 Sam. 28:6). The Specific reason Saul sought out the Witch of Endor was because he received no answer from the Lord. What Saul saw was not Samuel. Notice carefully the Bible declares the witch saw "gods ascending out of the earth verse 13, and Saul "perceived he saw Samuel. (1 Sam. 28:14). Since the "dead know not anything” (Eccl. 9:5), Satan masquerades as the form of dead loved ones imitating both their forms and voices (Rev. 6:14).
- The ultimate result of Saul's visit to the Witch of Endor was not repentance, confession of sin and life but despair, discouragement and death (1 Sam. 28:16, 20, 21, 31:3, 4, 9, 10). Deceived by Satan, he surrendered his soul to demons.
Doesn't the Bible teach that Jesus was the "first born" of all creation and as such a created being not co-existent with the Father from eternity?
The text in question is Col. 1:15 which calls Jesus the first born of every creature. The Greek word here is prototokos meaning the pre-eminent one-the one who has the privileges and prerogatives of God. Jesus is first born not in the sense of time but in the sense of privilege. All the privileges of the first born are His. David was the eighth son of Jesse, yet called the first born.
Jesus declared that He was the "I Am" (Jn. 8:58) meaning the self existent one. He said, 'before Abraham was, I Am." Isaiah the prophet calls Him the everlasting Father (Isa. 9:6). Micah declares that His origin is from everlasting (Mic. 5:2). John affirms, "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God." (Jn.1:1).
Jesus had the privileges and prerogatives of God. He thought equality with God not a thing to be grasped while the world was lost, so He voluntarily left heaven to become a man. He' dwelt in human flesh, fought temptations' battles as we fight them, and overcame in our behalf (Phil. 2:5-11, Heb. 2:14, 17).
Is the soul immortal?
The Bible uses the word "soul” approximately 1600 times and never once uses the expression "immortal soul". The word mortal means subject to death. The word immortal means not subject to death. The Bible expressly states "The soul that sinneth it shall die" (Ezek. 18:4). Jesus declared that both the body and the soul could be destroyed in hell (Matt. 10:28).
Immortality is an attribute of Divinity. Only God is naturally immortal (1 Tim. 6:15, 16). Satan's first lie in the Garden of Eden was regarding death. The evil one stated that the effect of disobedience was not death but life. He said, "you shall not surely die" (Gen. 3:4). God's word says, "the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Death is the absence of life. Sin brings forth not eternal life in hell, but total, absolute, banishment from the presence of God by annihilation.
The Bible is clear. Man is mortal (Job 4:17). We seek for immortality (Rom. 2:7). The righteous receive immortality as a gift from our Lord at His Second Coming (1 Cor. 15:51-54). Sinners receive their eternal reward as well. "Sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death (Jas. 1:15). The choice then is between eternal life and eternal death.
Doesn't Paul imply that an individual goes directly to heaven at death by stating that he "desires to depart and be with Christ" and "death is gain" (Phil. 1:21, 23)?
The Bible does not contradict itself. Paul doesn't state one thing in one place and another someplace else. The apostle is clear. At the Second Coming of Jesus, the righteous dead are resurrected to receive their eternal reward (1 Thess. 4:16, 17, 1 Cor. 15:51-54). In Phil. 3:20,21 the apostle points out that "our citizenship is in heaven from whence also we look for the Savior the Lord Jesus Christ who shall change our vile body that it might be fashioned like His glorious body."
Again his desire is the Second Coming of our Lord. Writing to his friend, Timothy, the apostle declares from this same Roman prison, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:7, 8). Paul longed for the return of Jesus when he would see his Lord face to face and be ushered into eternity.
Yes, death is gain! For the apostle it meant freedom from the pain of a weary body, deliverance from the bondage of a Roman prison, and security from the temptation of Satan. To Paul, death was a sleep with no passage of time. The next event after closing his eyes in the sleep of death was "to depart and be with Christ." Since there is no conscious passage of time from death to the Second Coming, for Paul, death meant closing his eyes in sleep and waking up to be with his Lord.
What does Peter mean when he talks about Christ preaching to the spirits in prison (1 Pet. 3:19)?
To understand this text it is necessary to read the entire passage (1 Pet. 3:18-22). Verse 18 reveals that Jesus the divine Son of God who was put to death for our sins was "made alive" through the power of the Holy Spirit. Verse 19 makes a transition and declares that it was by this same Holy Spirit that Christ spoke to the spirits in prison. When did he preach to these spirits in prison?
Who are the spirits in prison? Verse 20 tells us! In the days of Noah, the hearts of men and women were only evil continually. They were in bondage to evil spirits. The same Holy Spirit which raised Jesus from literal death appealed to men and women possessed by evil spirits who were spiritually dead in the days of Noah to bring them to spiritual life. The Spirit of Christ spoke through the prophet preaching the gospel to men and women trapped in spiritual prisons (1 Pet. 1:10-12).
The mighty power of the Spirit opens the prison of sin so the captives go free (Isa. 61:1). 1 Pet. 3:21 makes the illustration even clearer. The experience of the flood is likened to baptism. Just as the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from death to life, just as the Holy Spirit led Noah's family into the ark, preserving them from death and leading them to life, so the Holy Spirit works awakening spiritual life, convicting men and women of sin, providing power for a changed life and leading them through the waters of baptism.
In Noah's day, the Spirit led men and women from death to life.Today the Spirit delivers men and women from Spiritual prisons leading them from death to life all because of the mighty power of the resurrected Christ.
What does Paul mean by the expression "absent from the body and present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:6, 8)?
In 2 Cor. 5:1-11, Paul contrasts the earthly perishable body subject to sickness, diseases, and death with the glorious, eternal, immortal body which God has prepared for us in the heavens. The expression "absent from the body" means absent from the mortal body with its earthly infirmities. The expression present with the Lord means present in the glorious immortal body received at Jesus second coming.
2 Cor. 5:4 gives us a clue when the apostle longs for "mortality to be swallowed up of life." These words echo the words Paul wrote earlier in 1 Cor. 15:51-54, "we shall put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality." In 2 Cor. 5 as well as 1 Cor. 15, Paul longs for the immortality bestowed at Jesus' Second Coming (See also 2 Tim. 4:6-8).
What does Rev. 6:9-11 mean when it describes the souls under the alter crying with a loud voice saying "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood?"
Personification is a common Biblical method of describing situations with symbolic language. After Cain killed Abel, the Lord said to Cain, "the voice of your brother's blood cries to me from the ground (Gen. 4:10). Was Abel's blood really speaking? No! Not literally. The language communicates God's faithful loving, tender concern for His martyr Abel and Cain's accountability for his sinful act.
According to Heb. 12:24, "The blood of Jesus speaks better things than that of Abel." It communicates forgiveness, mercy, and redemption. Certainly the blood of Jesus is not literally speaking. The language communicates God's message of redemption. In Rev. 6, God clearly communicates that He has not forgotten His faithful martyrs through the centuries.
Their blood symbolically cries out for God to bring justice upon their persecutors and to reward the faithful ones with eternity. In the Bible, the word soul often means "person or people" (Rom. 13:1, Ezek. 18:4, Acts 27:37). It also means life (see Heb. 13:17, 1 Pet. 4:19, Matt. 10:28). Thus Rev. 6:9 could read, "the lives of those people martyred for Jesus, symbolically like Abel's blood, cry out from the ground for justice." There will be a final judgment and God Himself will set all things right!
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man goes immediately to hell and Lazarus to heaven. How do you explain this parable if the dead are sleeping (Lk. 16:19-31)?
It's important to notice this is a parable. It is the fifth in a series of parables. (the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost boy (Lk. 15), and the unjust steward (Lk. 16:1-11). Parables are designed to teach great moral principles. Each feature of the parable is not to be taken literally. For example, we do not all have wool and four feet like sheep. We are not metal like a silver coin.
The question in each parable is what are the great moral lessons. We get in deep trouble if we attempt to take each detail of the parable literally rather than seek the lesson Jesus is trying to teach. Let's assume that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a literal story. Do people actually have conversations between heaven and hell? Can those in heaven see people burning in hell? Can they hear their screams? Do souls actually have fingers and tongues as described in the parable? Abraham must have a large bosom to contain all the individuals who go there?
To take the parable literally is to create huge problems. Heaven would be a terrible place if we beheld the constant, ever present suffering of our friends. Why did Jesus use this story? What lessons was He trying to teach? The Jews had a common valley of darkness picturing salvation as fleeing to the security of Abraham's bosom and eternal loss going to destruction.
Jesus used this story to teach three lessons. First, the Jews believed riches were a sign of God's favor and poverty a sign of His displeasure. In the story, the rich man who the Jews thought was blessed of God ends up in hell and the poor man in heaven. Jesus reversed the expected outcome.
- Riches gained by greed, dishonesty or oppressing the poor are not a sign of God's favor at all.
- The parable describes a great gulf fixed. Jesus clearly communicated that there is no second chance after death. The decision made in life determines our eternal destiny.
- Jesus points out that if the Pharisees rejected the clear teachings of God's word regarding salvation, they would also reject such a mighty, supernatural spectacular miracle as one rising from the dead.
The Jews were always asking Jesus for a sign. He gave them the greatest sign. A short while later, He raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11:11-14, 43, 44). As the result, the Jews became threatened and attempted to kill Lazarus (Jn. 12:10). They also became so angry at Jesus they were so deceived that they plotted to destroy Jesus as well. They had read the Bible with a veil over their eyes. (2 Cor. 3:14-16) They had failed to understand that "all the scriptures" testify of Jesus (Jn. 5:39). When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, they did not believe. His words in Lk. 16:31 were prophetic: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." What an appeal! What an urgent warning. Scripture is our final authority. Jesus used a popular Jewish story to illustrate this powerful truth, thus all the Bible harmonizes beautifully.