top of page
  • Writer's pictureBrian O'Kelly

49 - What happens when we die?

2. What happens when we die is a question that I’ve had cause to ponder lately.

a. We all die.

b. We’ve all lost people we love.

c. Some deaths seem more tragic because of the “goodness” of the person.

i. Innocent Children

ii. Good fathers/mothers etc.

d. Some people we mourn less than others.

i. We don’t miss them because they are evil. Murderous dictators, serial killers, child abusers. Sometimes an abusive parent, etc.

ii. We have some sense that what happens to them isn’t good and that they will get justice.

3. The focus of much of the revival teaching of the early-mid twentieth century was focused on getting to heaven and avoiding hell.

a. Jonathan Edwards – Sinners in the hands of an angry God.

b. DL Moody

c. Billy Graham

d. Christianity focused on this is an immature Christianity.

i. Hell avoidance – Fire Insurance

ii. Pascal’s wager- Does God exist and what are we risking if we are wrong?

iii. Instead – Love God and being a servant of the King.

1. Love of a spouse

2. Love of parents or children

3. Love of an employer

4. So the, what happens when we die?

a. We will begin by exploring the state of the dead. Conscious or unconscious?

b. What is heaven like

c. Lastly we will explore hell and the three Christian views of hell.

i. Eternal Conscious Torment

ii. Annihilation – Conditional Immortality

iii. Universal Reconciliation

5. State of the dead.

a. Is it as simple as heaven or hell?

i. Yes, but one of the questions we will explore when we get to the three views of hell and whether hell is a forever place.

ii. It’s a view of every Christian that heaven is a forever place.

b. Is man intrinsically immortal?

i. Created in the image of God

ii. Daniel 12:2-3 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

1. Does it say they are everlasting or that their contempt is everlasting? We will examine that in more detail when we get to annihilation or the conditional immortality view of hell.

iii. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

c. Soul Sleep:

i. The Christian doctrine of "soul sleep" is a belief held by some Christian denominations, particularly Seventh-day Adventists, and at least one group that is heretical, the Jehovah's Witnesses. This doctrine suggests that upon death, the human soul enters a state of unconsciousness until the resurrection.

ii. In contrast to the traditional Christian belief in an immortal soul that continues to exist consciously after death, proponents of soul sleep argue that immortality is a gift that God grants only to those who have faith in Jesus Christ and are resurrected on the Day of Judgment.

iii. The main biblical passages used to support the doctrine of soul sleep include:

1. Ecclesiastes 9:5 "For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten."

2. Ecclesiastes 12:7 "And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it."

3. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who [c]sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

4. Acts 2:29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

5. Acts 2:34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:

‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at My right hand,

35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’

6. Daniel 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake

iv. These passages

1. suggest that the soul is not inherently immortal

2. awaits resurrection and judgment by God

3. between death and resurrection, the soul is in a state of unconsciousness, akin to sleep.

d. Arguments against soul sleep:

i. Conscious afterlife:

1. Luke 23:43 "Today you will be with me in paradise"

2. 2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

3. Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man:

a. Luke 16:19-23 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

b. The whole Parable continues to verse 31 of Luke 16

4. The Transfiguration account

a. Whole account is in Matthew 17:1-8

b. Here is the first part Matthew 17:1-4 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, [a]let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

c. Parallels in Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36

5. Luke 20:37-38 But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”

6. Revelation 6:9-10 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

7. Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

8. John 5:24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

ii. Immaterial nature of the soul: Some theologians argue that the human soul is an immaterial and spiritual entity distinct from the physical body. Therefore, its nature allows for an independent existence after death, regardless of the body's condition.

iii. Early Church Fathers' writings: Critics of soul sleep point to the writings of early Church Fathers, such as Augustine, Tertullian, and Justin Martyr, who advocated for the belief in an immediate afterlife for the soul.

iv. Some Gnostics argued that since the body and soul are separate it didn’t matter what the body did, it wasn’t the soul.

v. It’s argued that since the believer appears to be conscious after death so it must be for the unbeliever.

6. Heaven:

a. Heaven is understood as the ultimate destination and eternal dwelling place for believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

b. The specifics of heaven are not fully revealed in the Bible

i. Symbolic and poetic language

ii. varying interpretations and emphases

iii. common thread across Christianity is the hope and assurance that heaven is for all who put their faith in Jesus Christ.

c. Dwelling place of God:

i. 2 Chronicles 30:27 Then the priests, the Levites, arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard; and their prayer came up to His holy dwelling place, to heaven.

d. Beautiful

i. Revelation 4:2-8 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. 3 And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

6 Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. 8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,

Lord God Almighty,

Who was and is and is to come!”

e. Communion with God, Bliss, Happiness:

i. believers will experience a close and intimate relationship with God

ii. the fulfillment of humanity's deepest longing to be in the presence of the Creator, enjoying unbroken fellowship with Him.

iii. Revelation 21:1-4 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

f. Eternal Life:

i. Heaven offers believers the promise of eternal life, free from the limitations and struggles of this earthly existence. It is a state of existence without pain, suffering, sin, or death.

ii. John 6:48 I am the bread of life

iii. 2 Timothy 4:18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!

iv. 2 Timothy 4:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

v. John 5:28-29 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation

vi. Titus 1:2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began

g. A place where God’s will is done:

i. Perfection and Holiness: Heaven is a place of perfect holiness and righteousness. In this realm, believers are purified and made completely righteous through the work of Jesus Christ, so they can dwell in God's presence without sin or impurity.

ii. Matthew 6:10 Your kingdom come.

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

h. Reunion with Loved Ones:

i. Many Christians find comfort in the belief that in heaven, they will be reunited with their loved ones who have also placed their faith in Christ. The concept of a joyful reunion with family and friends who have passed away is a significant aspect of Christian hope.

ii. Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16 is the only verse we have about this:

1. It’s in a parable.

2. Parables are not necessarily true historical events but stories to illustrate.

3. This parable May be more about man’s unbelief than about the nature of heaven. Even if a man were raised from The Dead you wouldn’t believe.

iii. Matthew 8:11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

i. A new body:

i. Philippians 3:20-21 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

ii. 1 Corinthians 15:42-43 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

iii. 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

j. Heavenly Rewards/Our home:

i. The Bible speaks of heavenly rewards for faithful service and obedience to God during one's earthly life. These rewards are not earned through merit but are expressions of God's grace and generosity.

ii. John 14:1-3In 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. 3 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. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

iii. Mathew 6:19-20 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

iv. Matthew 5:19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

k. New Creation:

i. Some emphasize the idea of a new heaven and a new earth, where God will renew and restore the entire created order. This perspective suggests that heaven is not just an otherworldly realm but a transformed and redeemed earthly existence.

ii. It seems that heaven is a separate place from the new Jerusalem

1. 2 Peter 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2. Revelation 21:1-4 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

l. Worship and Praise:

i. Heaven is depicted as a place of continuous worship and praise to God. Believers are described as singing praises to God and celebrating His glory continually.

ii. Luke 15:7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

iii. Revelation 4:8-11 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,

Lord God Almighty,

Who was and is and is to come!”

iv. 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:

11 “You are worthy, O Lord,

To receive glory and honor and power;

For You created all things,

And by Your will they exist and were created.”

7. Conclusion

a. Today we’ve explored heaven

i. Soul Sleep appears not to be the teaching of Scripture.

ii. Heaven is the destination of the believer

iii. Next week we will discuss the three views of hell.


bottom of page