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Life after Death

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Faithlife Study Bible What Happens When We Die?

What Happens When We Die?


Each day that passes brings us one day closer to death than before. We are warned: “it is destined for people to die once, and after this, judgement” (Heb 9:27). Death comes for us all. Neither wisdom nor wealth can prevent it. As Psalm 49:10 states, “For he sees that the wise die, together with the fool and brute they perish, and leave their wealth to the next generation.” James also comments on the inevitability of death: “you who do not know what will happen tomorrow, what your life will be like. For you are a smoky vapor that appears for a short time and then disappears” (James 4:14). We all face the same end, unless Jesus returns first.

Why Death Exists

It seems that death exists because of sin. The thief on the cross said, “And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for what we have done” (Luke 23:41). Romans 5:12 agrees: “just as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death spread to all people because all sinned.” While Genesis is not precisely clear that following sin, death came to the world, it seems based on Paul’s thoughts that when sin entered, death stayed. Death exists not because God doesn’t love us or isn’t powerful enough to destroy it; it exists because of sin.

Death, though, does have one advantage—it leads toward resurrection one day: “flesh and blood is not able to inherit the kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruptibility” (1 Cor 15:50). Physical death will one day lead to believers in Jesus living forever in glorified bodies with God.

Also, death itself will one day be destroyed forever; it will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:14). Revelation 21:4 promises that eventually, “mourning or wailing or pain will not exist any longer. The former things have passed away.”

What Happens After Death

Judgment ultimately comes to all, to the believers comes resurrection to life and to unbelievers resurrection to death (Rev 21:11–15). This is why death is such a pressing matter: life is the time to make a decision for Jesus.

Jesus told the thief at His side on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Not only did the thief receive eternal life, he received eternity with the Lord himself. Jesus also taught that the moment we die physically, eternal life with God continues (Luke 16:22; John 11:26; Phil 1:23). After believers in Jesus die, they are forever and always with Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul said, “We … prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” Following death comes the experience of Jesus’ victory over death.

Believers in Jesus will ultimately gain imperishable, glorified, spiritual bodies (1 Cor 15:42–44) and be like Jesus in this way (1 Cor 15:49). We will know God and each other as we are known (1 Cor 13:12). And we will eat of the tree of life and live forever (Rev 22). For those who trust in Christ, there is hope after death.


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