What happens at the moment of death? Does your soul go immediately to heaven or paradise or maybe even to hell? Do you return as another person or creature? Or do you blend into the universe, forgotten and unknown for the rest of eternity?
There are many ideas and beliefs about the moment of death. Regular Beyond Today presenter, Darris McNeely, is going to challenge everything you may have heard, comparing it with the one source that provides the truth.
Jesus said "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Isn't it time you discovered the truth of what happens immediately after you die?
On Beyond Today, we're going to join Darris McNeely on location at the Greenlawn Cemetery in Milford, Ohio, to face the great unknown and explore what happens The Moment After You Die.
You see here a cemetery—a place of the dead. We go to cemeteries to visit the graves of families and friends. We go to mourn, to grieve and to remember.
We have so many ideas about what happens at death. What I have noticed is no matter what the idea or belief most have, it does not seem to comfort and set us free.
I once knew a lady who was afraid to live and she was afraid to die. But one day her fear of death was less and she decided to attempt suicide. She failed. While she was recovering, she told me with tears in her eyes, what she had in mind when she tried taking her life. She said she wanted to see what was on the other side. She wanted to cross over, as some describe, and finally find out the truth.
She was a Christian. She had heard what Christian churches say about death and the hereafter. She had also dabbled in the ideas of parapsychology and popular thought. She had heard of people who have near death experiences and come back to tell about it. Her overwhelming troubles and curiosity drove her to try and see the truth for herself.
What do you think she experienced? What do you think was on the other side?
Before you answer that, consider what you have always thought about the moment of death. Be willing to suspend your traditional belief for the answer that might lead to truth and freedom.
Many believe that at death there is complete annihilation. One ceases to exist. There is no life beyond in any form. Memory ceases and there is no more existence now or forever.
This is the extension of evolutionary thought, that life is nothing but a physical chemical existence with no spiritual dimension. And so, sincere atheists believe there is nothing at death.
But this not where most people are. Most people believe in something. And increasingly today, we see aspects of New Age, Buddhism and nature religion blend together to create an idea of life extending beyond the grave in some kind of mix with the elements of nature.
Listen to this excerpt of Mary Elizabeth Frye's often quoted poem, "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep," which says the following:
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I do not die.
When Princess Diana died in that tragic Paris auto accident, tens of thousands expressed their grief by laying flowers and messages at the gates of London's Buckingham Palace.
One message seemed to speak with the voice of the dead princess: "I did not leave you at all. I am still with you. I am in the sun and in the wind. I am even in the rain. I did not die, I am with you all."
Walk through any cemetery and you will see inscriptions that echo this type of belief. Many Christians and well meaning people of faith have adopted such beliefs to relieve their grief or find comfort in the face of death.
Some adopt these ideas as variations on the mistaken belief that we have an immortal soul that escapes the physical body at death.
Remember the lady I told you about who wanted to see what was beyond this life? She was influenced by this idea of a soul that survives the body and lives beyond the grave.
Something I have noticed at funerals is people will place a letter or a poem or some favorite possession of the deceased into the casket to be buried with them. Some may do this thinking the dead will read or need the item while others just do it only out of sentiment as an aid in grieving.
I admit that when my father died, I thought for a moment to put one of my dad's favorite fishing lures into his casket with the corpse. His one love in life was bass fishing and he left behind dozens of lures used in catching the big ones. I had no illusion that he would need it in the grave. It was just a sentiment that perhaps would have helped our family laugh a bit in the grieving process. So I do understand why you might want to do this.
Now, this could be carried to an extreme. I read of one widow who was having her husband's remains cremated. She put into the coffin two cans of the spray adhesive that the dead man had used to paste on his toupee. The cans exploded in the heated oven and bent the furnace door. Not a good idea!
I'll tell you why these types of ideas find growing acceptance today. It's because there is a rejection of the false teachings of established religion about heaven and hell. Many reject the vague idea of going to heaven because they see no purpose or connection in this present life. Search the Bible for proof that we go to heaven after death and you will not find it. I know, I have studied the teaching and it's not there.
Some of you have loved ones, who have died and you sincerely believe you will see them again in heaven. But ask yourself: What are you going to do with them for all eternity? Sing? Dance? Stare at God?
Search your Bible and you will see God spends more time telling us what we should be doing now, in this life, preparing for something beyond our wildest dreams. But more about that later…
Now what about the idea of people going to hell? Well, a lot of people can't wrap their minds around this belief either. They can't reconcile the idea of a loving God consigning people to eternal torment in a fiery hell. Many have also come to think that this life is enough of a hell and they reject the teaching. Even the Catholic Church has altered its teaching about a literal hell. In 1999 Pope John Paul II stated that hell is symbolic and figurative of "the complete frustration and [the] emptiness of life without God." He added, "Rather than a physical place, hell is the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy." He said hell is "a condition resulting from attitudes and actions which people adopt in this life."
But what does God say?
In the modern day rejection of the traditional heaven and hell doctrines, we see a disbelief in the idea of a final judgment—that God will pass judgment on both righteous and unrighteous lives. The Bible clearly teaches that all humans will be judged and that judgment is final. What many are confused about is when judgment takes place and what it really means. The true God of judgment may be far different than what you have been led to believe. The truth is, God is a merciful and compassionate judge. What He has planned for you is far better than an eternity in heaven or hell.
What does the Bible say about the moment of death and what happens when the body dies? Let's look at Scripture to see.
In Psalm 146, it says "His spirit"—speaking of man—"departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish."
The book of Ecclesiastes chapter 9 says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work [nor] device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going."
These scriptures say there is no thought, no consciousness at death. It's pretty plain.
In one of the plainest statements the apostle Paul says of the dead, "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."
Death is like a sleep. There is no conscious thought. There is no knowledge of the living grieving. The dead are not aware of this world or any other existence for that matter. The moment you die, your thoughts cease.
Now, some of you may be thinking right now about something Jesus said on the subject. He told the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in paradise. We'll discuss this in a minute. But first listen to this message about today's free literature offer. Beyond Today co-host, Gary Petty, will tell you more about it.
You know it's a question all of us ask at one time or another: What happens to me when I die? We have a booklet that can help you answer that question: What Happens After Death?
This booklet doesn't begin with death, but with the wonder of life. It tackles questions like: Why are human beings different than animals? And what is the purpose for your life? It is only when you understand God's purpose for creating human beings that you could begin to grasp the reality of life after death.
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Well let's rejoin Darris McNeely at the Greenlawn Cemetery as he explores The Moment After You Die.
Jesus made a statement that is often misused as proof that we go to heaven the moment after we die. Here is what the gospel tells us.
As Jesus Christ hung dying, He told a convicted criminal being crucified with Him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke:23:43). Now many people think Jesus assured the man he would go to heaven with Him that very day. But is this really what Jesus meant?
A fundamental principle for sound Bible study is to carefully check the context. Notice the specific wording of the man's request: "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom" (Luke:23:42). Notice that the thief expressed no expectation of immediately going to heaven with Jesus at the moment they died.
He may have already known something about the nature of the Kingdom of God. That it would be a literal kingdom to be established on earth by the Messiah. Jesus Himself had previously given an entire parable.
He said, "...because they thought that the kingdom of God would immediately appear," in Luke 19.
Jesus also taught His disciples to pray, "Your kingdom come" (Luke:11:2). This Kingdom is the Kingdom that Jesus will establish on earth at His return, not a location in heaven to which we go when we die.
Notice also Jesus' response to the man, telling him, "...you will be with Me in Paradise." Understanding the nature of the biblical use of the term paradise is crucial to understanding this passage.
The Greek word here translated paradise, means an enclosed garden or a park. This same word was used in references to the Garden of Eden. Where it is used in the New Testament, it refers to the place of God's presence.
Jesus tells us, the tree of life is located in the midst of the Paradise of God in Revelation. Revelation chapter 22 explains that the tree of life is to be in the New Jerusalem. God will come from heaven with this New Jerusalem (Revelation:21:2-3) after the resurrections of the dead mentioned in Revelation 20. Only at that time will men dwell with God in this paradise.
We can see that the paradise Christ mentioned, where men will dwell with God in His Kingdom, is to be a future time.
How do we know this was Christ's meaning? Again, as noted above, Jesus plainly said He was going to be dead and buried for the following three days and nights, after which He clearly told Mary, that He had not yet ascended to heaven.
Putting together the relevant scriptures, we can see here the truth of the matter. The robber, facing imminent death while being crucified alongside Jesus (Luke:23:39-41), sought comfort and assurance. Jesus provided it, telling the man, "Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise." The paradise of which Jesus spoke wasn't heaven, but the Eden-like world to which the man would be resurrected according to God's plan.
Jesus never said nor implied that the dying man would be in paradise or heaven on that very day. Christ was encouraging him by solemnly assuring him that a time would come, in God's future Kingdom on earth, when the man would be resurrected and would see Jesus again.
And that friends, is what you will know, the moment after you die. The next conscious moment after death will be in a resurrection. This truth is taught throughout the Bible. It is what Christ taught and it is what the earliest Christians believed. You can know this truth; it will set you free from fear and sorrow.
When Jesus came preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, He came among Jews who believed in the Old Testament scriptures. They believed that the dead would be resurrected at a distant time when God would make judgment and remake the world. The dead would be brought back to life in visible bodies.
That is what Martha understood Christ to be saying when they talked at the tomb of her dead brother Lazarus.
She said: "I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." (John:11:24)
Christ taught the resurrection from the dead. The Jews came back to Him with a trick question. In His answer, Jesus affirmed the truth of this fundamental biblical teaching.
In Matthew 22 (verses 22-33), it says, "The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: ‘Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.'
"Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like [the] angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?" God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.' And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching."
Here Christ speaks of the resurrection as a future event with a certainty and in some detail.
Christ speaks of a reward for the people of God at the time of the resurrection, speaking of being "repaid at the resurrection of the just" (Luke:14:14).
The teaching of your Bible and the hope of all the dead is the resurrection. A bodily resurrection at a future time when all things would become new and a great restoration of all things would occur.
This belief in the resurrection is what fueled the apostles and the early Church with fire and determination to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. The apostles saw the resurrected Christ and knew the reality that death had been conquered.
They knew no fear.
Christ had told them, be not afraid. They saw His resurrection and knew death, the greatest of enemies, had been defeated. Their lives were transformed. They were changed men and women.
This same change can come to you with this understanding of what happens at death. The truth of the resurrection can change your life.
By understanding that God will resurrect the dead for a far greater purpose than can be imagined by the false teaching of heaven or hell. The truth of the resurrection changes your life! When you get the truth about death right, then the life we have, now becomes all the more important.
Death, both as a fascination and question, is a part of the cultural air we breathe.
"What do you think happens when we die?"
Movies like Hereafter , speculate about the afterlife. But as we have seen, once we settle the matter of what happens at death, we can turn our attention to the healthy aspect of living with purpose and meaning today in this life.
The resurrection fits into God's plan to bring the dead back to life for a potential role in His Kingdom, which will be on this earth, not in heaven. When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, He was not speaking of a place to which one escapes when this life ends. He was speaking of God's rule coming to this earth and replacing the kingdoms of this world. He was speaking of God coming here, not humans going to heaven.
Now what does this mean for you? It means living a righteous, hard working life now, in the present, in preparation for the world to come. It means understanding God's true purpose for all human life. Get this truth right and it is the key to a successful purpose filled life, now, today!
The apostle Paul says at the end of 1 Corinthians 15 (verse 58), the resurrection chapter of the Bible: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
What we do in this life will not be lost in the resurrection.
So where does this leave us? We have seen that at the moment of our death, the Bible teaches that thoughts and consciousness cease. There is no knowledge of anything in and beyond the grave. Death is like a sleep from which one awakes in a resurrection. We will not be in heaven or a hell. We will be on this earth in a far different world than what we now have.
With this knowledge of a resurrection, we do not have to fear the unknown. The future life is secure in God's hands, but it leaves us with a choice; a choice as to how we live today. This program is called Beyond Today . While we focus on the world to come, beyond today's problem plagued world, we also provide you the tools and the knowledge to live a happy, productive and successful life today.
You do not need to fear death and the future. God says it is secure. He wants you to make the right choice today in your life.
Now we're going to discuss more details of this subject. I'll join you later, after I send you back to our studio with Beyond Today co-host, Gary Petty, for some final comments.
When you order your free copy of What Happens After Death? we will also send you a subscription to The Good News magazine. In The Good News we not only tackle life's most important questions, but we give hopeful solutions to life's daily problems. We'll help you understand the confusion of world events and explore the Bible as God's answer book for your life.
You can receive a free copy by calling: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632. Or you can read What Happens After Death? online at BeyondToday.tv .
All of our literature is provided free as a public service. Be sure to get your free copy today. And if you have an iPad, you can download many of our booklets through the Apple iBook App.
Well Darris McNeely, has joined me here in the studio where we will continue to discuss The Moment After You Die.
Now Darris, course most people have some belief of what happens after death--no matter what the religious background is--but what's missing in what most people actually understand about the life after death?
I think Gary what is missing most with people is a hope. We live in desire of hope. We want a future. And it must be a sure hope that really does satisfy. And that seems to be what is missing, even though people, feel they have certain beliefs about what happens at death and the moment you die. But, for so many, as we talk, as we express ourselves and as we look around, it's evident that even what people believe doesn't always provide that sure hope.
And when you really do look at the Scriptures and understand what the truth of the resurrection, of the body that is clearly spoken of in the Scriptures—what it explains what it means. Then, you have your, your anchor in that sure hope that no other explanation, no other philosophy, no other idea from any other religion or philosophy or idea can really provide, other than what the Scriptures show us to be the resurrection from the dead, as it tells.
You know, of course both you and I are pastors...
... and we have done many, many funerals. I'm amazed how many people come up to me after a funeral and say: Wow! That was so encouraging. That was so hopeful. When they finally realize what the Bible actually teaches. Now when we look at religion today, even in United States, many people are mixing ideas together; New Age ideas, reincarnation ideas.
Why is it that the traditional teaching about heaven and hell is not holding up?
Well, the idea of hell doesn't hold up because, as I said in the program out there in the cemetery, people feel like they're living a hell today! Of a, you know, their life is created, you know, so many problems or so many stresses and they can't image of a just, merciful God providing a place of eternal torment. Now we've covered that before in other programs here but that doesn't satisfy.
And even the idea of a heaven, as I find with people, does not satisfy. And as you say, I've done many funerals for individuals and sat and talked at the bedside of many people with differing beliefs and listened to their stories. And they talk of heaven but there's still certain fears. There's uncertainties because even the idea of heaven as it is traditionally taught and believed is so ill-defined, as to really be devoid of that hope, again that sure hope, that we need to understand what happens after we die. But also, how to live our life today. And that's where again, understanding the resurrection, that God is going to bring back to life the dead for a far greater purpose, is what satisfies beyond anything that one can really anchor their life in.
But I find a lot of people say if my loved one's in heaven, why can't they contact me? Why can't I contact that person?
Well and that's what leads to people to trying to do so, in various means or even looking to signs.
That they have had a contact or some indication from someone that they're okay or has been watching over their life, and again it's sought to reassure us, but it doesn't really give us the anchor that we need in our own life. You know, at the beginning of the program out in the cemetery, I talked about the fact we go into the cemeteries for various reasons, to remember, to mourn. It is a place of the dead. But is also, the Bible talks about that being a place to learn. And when we go there, for whatever reason, it should be, in a sense, ultimately to bring us back to understanding that, listen we go on with our life, but let's go on with meaning.
Let's live our lives with purpose. And let's come to understand the godly purpose for human life and get that understanding because that then will prepare us for the eternity that God does have in mind for everyone who has ever lived, when they accept and understand the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
What is it like in the resurrection? What does the Bible say? I think of 1 Corinthians 15. It talks about the resurrection. How does it describe the resurrection? What will it be like when people are actually brought up out of the ground and brought to life again?
Well the Scriptures, there in 1 Corinthians 15 talk about a bodily resurrection. There is going to be an awareness by those resurrected of who they were, what family they were a part of. It will not be with the suffering with which they lived or died. It is going to be with a different body and a healed life. But they will know, and they will understand, not only where they came from and who they were, but what they can become. So it is a, it is a bodily resurrection. It's not something that's ethereal and vague. It is what Paul describes there in terms of a body that is sewn and then will be raised incorruptible.
And what an understanding to be resurrected and know there is a God. There is a Creator.
The true God.
The true God.
The true God.
Right. That keeps us from these, you know, all these different ideas keep us from God. Even searching for our loved ones by being able to contact them. When you think about it, it keeps us from searching for God, who is the only answer that we really have.
It really deceives us and becomes something that is another barrier between our understanding of the true God of creation, the God of the Bible, the God of life and the God of Jesus Christ.
And remember, you can receive your copy of What Happens After Death? and your free subscription to The Good News magazine by calling: 1-888-886-8632. Now write this down: 1-888-886-8632. Or you can read What Happens After Death? online at BeyondToday.tv . Now if you go to BeyondToday.tv , you can explore Beyond Today programs on a wide variety of topics.
On this program we have learned what happens the moment you die. We have learned that what you may think happens, doesn't. We have learned the truth about a resurrection from the dead, by the power of God in His name.
Benjamin Franklin wrote this epitaph for himself many years ago:
The body of
B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.
Wise old Ben Franklin was closer to the truth than he may have realized.
The hope of the dead is the resurrection. At the moment of death, the body sleeps in waiting that event. This is the truth, and it can set you free from fear, guilt and worry.
The moment you die is not the end of it all. God will bring you back in a resurrection. Understand this truth and it makes all the difference. It gets your life on track for success today, right now! Get this question answered and then get on with the living.
For Beyond Today , I'm Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.