What happens after death? Whatever you may think you know can be challenged from the one source that gives the real answer.
[Darris McNeely] 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. On this program, we will examine 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?
Join us on Beyond Today as we look at the great unknown and explore “The Moment You Die.”
[Announcer] Join our host Darris McNeely and his guests as they help you understand your future on Beyond Today !
[Darris] 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 nor set us free.
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.
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’ve always thought about the moment of death. Be willing to suspend your traditional belief for the answer that might lead to truth and freedom.
You see, many believe that at death there is complete annihilation. One just 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 is not where most people are. Most people believe in something. And increasingly today, we see aspects of New Age, Buddhism and nature religion all blend together to create an idea of life extending beyond the grave in some kind of mix with the elements of nature.
Years ago 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. It said: “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.”
When you 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 to 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 people 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 very good idea!
I’ll tell you why these types of ideas find growing acceptance today though. It’s because there is a rejection of the false teachings of established religion about heaven and hell. Many reject the vague ideas of going to heaven because they can see no purpose or connection in this present life. And today’s modern mind cannot accept the judgement in the false concept of an ever-burning hell for sinners. And both these traditional concepts should be rejected. Search the Bible for proof that we go to heaven or that we go to hell for an everlasting torment after death. You will not find those teachings in your Bible. I know, I have studied the Bible. I have studied these traditional teachings. They are not found in the Bible.
Now 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? Ask yourself this: What does your present religious belief tell you about the connection between your life today and the concept it teaches of anything beyond this life? The job of religion is to help us make sense of life on earth today. Showing the meaning and the purpose that God has for creating this earth and human life on it. If your church does not teach you the biblical truth on this subject, then you should seriously consider its value.
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—he 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 also said that 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 the judgment takes place and what the judgement really means. The true judgment of God 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 then say about the moment of death and what happens when the body dies? Well let’s look at a few scriptures to see.
In Psalms 146:4 Psalms 146:4His breath goes forth, he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
American King James Version×, it says “His spirit”—speaking of man—“departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.”
And in the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 9:10 it 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” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 1 Thessalonians 4:13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
American King James Version×).
What Paul is saying here is 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. When Jesus hung on the cross near the end of His life, He told the thief that was on the cross next to Him that he, the thief, would be with Him, Christ, in paradise. Jesus made a statement that is often misused as proof that we go to heaven the moment after we die. But here is what the gospel tells us.
As Jesus Christ was 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 Luke 23:43And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, To day shall you be with me in paradise.
American King James Version×). 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 this man’s request: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42 Luke 23:42And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
American King James Version×). 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 the Kingdom of God would be a literal kingdom to be established on earth by the Messiah. Jesus Himself had previously given an entire parable in which He said, “…because they thought that the kingdom of God would immediately appear,” this is in Luke 19:11 Luke 19:11And as they heard these things, he added and spoke a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
American King James Version×.
Jesus also taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2 Luke 11:2And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
American King James Version×). The Kingdom of God 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 that term paradise is also crucial to understanding this passage.
The Greek word here translated paradise, it means an enclosed garden or a park. 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 that the tree of life is located in the midst of the Paradise of God in Revelation. Revelation 22:2 Revelation 22:2In the middle of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bore twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
American King James Version×explains that the tree of life is to be in the New Jerusalem, and God will come from heaven with this New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2-3 Revelation 21:2-3 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
American King James Version×) after the resurrections of the dead that are mentioned earlier 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 on this earth.
There is an additional point to understand. In His ministry Jesus plainly said that He was going to be dead and buried for three days and nights (Matthew 12:40 Matthew 12:40For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
American King James Version×). He gave this as the one sign that He was the promised Messiah. Christ’s body lay in a tomb for that period of time. He did not go directly to heaven. Even the morning after His resurrection He clearly told Mary, that He had not yet ascended to heaven (John 20:17 John 20:17Jesus said to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brothers, and say to them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
American King James Version×).
Putting together the relevant scriptures, we can see here the truth of the matter. The robber, facing imminent death while being crucified along Jesus (Luke 23:39-41 Luke 23:39-41 39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If you be Christ, save yourself and us.
40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Do not you fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation?
41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man has done nothing amiss.
American King James Version×), sought comfort and assurance. And Jesus provided that, 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 did He imply 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 my 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’s 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 John 11:24Martha said to him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
American King James Version×).
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 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” (Matthew 22:23-33 Matthew 22:23-33 23 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,
24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed to his brother.
25 Now there were with us seven brothers: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife to his brother:
26 Likewise the second also, and the third, to the seventh.
27 And last of all the woman died also.
28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
29 Jesus answered and said to them, You do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying,
32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.
American King James Version×).
Here Christ speaks of the resurrection as a future event with 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 Luke 14:14And you shall be blessed; for they cannot recompense you: for you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
American King James Version×).
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 they 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.
How you might ask?
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 a question, is a part of the cultural air that we breathe today.
> What do you think happens when we die?
[Darris] You see, 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 back 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, 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. Again, get this truth right and it’s the key to a successful purpose filled life, now, today!
The apostle Paul says at the end of 1 Corinthians 15, the resurrection chapter of the Bible, he says: “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” (1 Corinthians 15:58 1 Corinthians 15:58Therefore, my beloved brothers, be you steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
American King James Version×).
What we do in this life will not be lost in the resurrection.
So where does this leave us now? We’ve seen that at the moment of our death, the Bible teaches that thoughts and consciousness cease. There is no knowledge of anything beyond the grave. Death is like a sleep from which we awake in a resurrection. We will not be in heaven. We will not be in a hell. We will be on this earth in a far different world than what we have today.
And 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 . And 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.
We’re going to be joined by the Beyond Today panel to talk about what happens at the moment you die. First, let’s review some of what we’ve covered today:
1. Scriptures show there is no thought, no consciousness at death. It’s very definitive.
2. The teaching of your Bible and the hope of all the dead, is the resurrection. Christ said, it’s certain.
3. And, we’ve also seen how we live this life today, is so important in our own resurrection .
4. You do not need to fear death and the future. God says it’s secure and He wants you to make the right choices today in your life.
I am joined now by my fellow Beyond Today hosts, Gary Petty and Steve Myers. We’ve been talking about the moment when you die.
We’re all pastors. We have conduced any number of funeral sermons through our careers. And one thing I always find in my case, when I don’t talk about the traditional ideas of heaven and hell, it actually has a very encouraging impact. It’s a different message and people understand what’s taking place.
[Steve] So many times, especially at those difficult times of a funeral, people aren’t sure what happens. They’ve heard things. They’ve learned things growing up, but they’ve never gone to the Bible to prove it for themselves. So, when you go to the Word of God and you read directly out of this Word, and you read about the hope of the resurrection, it really turns that light on for people. And they do have that hope and they can see the truth of the Word, and I think it can really can change everything.
[Gary] Something I found amazing is how many times I’ve been with funeral directors after the funeral. And they come up and they say, I’ve never heard that. I’ve heard hundreds of messages from the Bible but what you said was right from the Scripture, and it must be true. And I remember a woman coming up to me one time and said, you talked about why we die. You talked about why Jesus Christ came so we can be resurrected. And she said, I don’t hear the gospel taught even much in my church let alone at a funeral. And really, the funeral, a funeral should be about the gospel of what God is doing and about the resurrection.
[Darris] It’s one of the most effective places by which you can teach the truth, teach the gospel. And I’ve had the same experience and you see literally even the tears begin to dry up as people are encouraged by what the truth of the Bible does say about this subject.
Why do you think that today, as I mentioned in the program, even the traditional concepts of heaven and hell are not satisfying people and they’re looking elsewhere for understanding and comfort?
[Steve] Well, I think if people are genuine and they really look to the Word, they begin to doubt those traditional cheap teachings because they’re just not there. And when you begin to see that, especially you know, we’ve been to funerals where we hear someone who wasn’t exactly of the greatest character, and yet the minister who conducts the service talks about how wonderful they are and preaches them into heaven. And that immediately sends doubt into people’s minds. Well how could that possible be? And really, what does the Bible say?
And I think that’s what it all comes down to—what does the Word of God actually say? That gives comfort. That gives encouragement. It’s not just something that’s phony and fake and oh, we’ll put a smiley face on somebody’s life. When in reality, there is hope. There is a plan. There is a purpose. And when you read it from the Word of God, that makes a huge difference.
[Gary] You know, I think you’ve talked about preaching somebody into heaven. I think the problem most people have is the traditional concept of hell. Why would God take a good person, maybe someone who never heard about Jesus Christ, and torture them or put them in a place of torture forever? And they struggle with that, not realizing that there is no ever-burning hell. That’s not where people go right now. They wait a resurrection to be judged later. But, the concept of hell is not in the Scripture in the way that it’s traditionally taught.
[Darris] You know, I referenced the so-called resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15. What exactly does it give us the insight about the resurrection? What will that resurrection be like?
[Gary] One of the things I find interesting is the way Paul describes that, is he talks about having a body that’s like the moon and then having a body that’s like the sun. And of course, he’s not using it as a scientific explanation. We know today, the moon is just rock. The sun is powerful and generates energy. But he makes his point. He looks at this lesser light and this greater light, and he says, we’re just like this little moon now. But then, we will have bodies that have energy and we’ll be spirit. It’s—he’s trying to capture the amazing truth of what we will be like.
[Steve] It gets to the heart of the plan. That God wants us in His family. We’re not going to be kinda like an angel or a little baby cherub or something like that, floating around heaven. We’ll be spirit-born children of God and it points to that very thing. We will be different and we’ll be like Him. And so, talk about the wonderful hope that we have.
[Darris] Yeah, it’s the truth and the truth will set you free.
Throughout today’s program I’ve given you much to think about regarding what happens after death. While many people are confused and even fearful about death—you don’t have to be! You can know fully what’s ahead— if you look to God and rely on the authority of His Word, the Bible.
I hope you will examine carefully what you’ve heard today. You can do this by ordering a copy of our free Bible study aid, What Happens After Death? This helpful, easy-to-read booklet will give you much more information on this vital subject. It can also provide great comfort in grasping the genuine, biblical facts about what’s beyond the grave. To be sure, you and your loved ones really need this study aid to help you discover the truth about this important topic!
To request your free copy of What Happens After Death? pleasecall toll free, 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Or go online at BeyondToday.tv or write to us at the address that is shown on your screen [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].
And, when you order your copy, we’ll also send you a free subscription to Beyond Today magazine. Each bi-monthly issue of Beyond Today is filled with practical articles to strengthen your family and help you better understand the Bible and what’s ahead for our world.
Again, to order our free study aid, What Happens After Death? and your free subscription to Beyond Today magazine, call 1-888-886-8632. Or go online to BeyondToday.tv to read or to download them.
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 and had it placed on his tombstone. It says:
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
Corrected and improved
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 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 living.
For Beyond Today , I’m Darris McNeely. Thanks for watching.
[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to BeyondToday.tv . Please join us again next week on Beyond Today !