What Happens When We Die?
God's Word, the Bible, says, "We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words."1
A Daily Encounter subscriber enquires: "The Bible states that when Christ comes back that he will raise the dead in Christ. Does this mean Christ will raise the Christians or the non-Christians? Before my mother died she said to me, 'Honey I will soon be happy when I am with your baby brother.' My brother died when he was four months old and my mother lived with the guilt that she may have rolled over on him. That was years ago when sudden infant death was not known about. So is my Mom now with Christ?"
Hello Jeanie (name changed). When Jesus came to earth 2,000 years ago his coming covered a period of 33 years. He has promised that he will come again and this time it will cover a period of some seven years. First it is with what the theologians call the Rapture.
This refers to all the Christians who have died (and their souls have gone on to Heaven to be with the Lord) when their bodies will be raised and the Christians who are still living will be caught up together with them in the air to go to heaven to be with Jesus. This is the beginning of the Second coming of Jesus. Back here on earth, however, will be the beginning of the seven-year great tribulation and the entrance of the Antichrist. At the end of this seven-year period we will return with Christ to the earth to rule and reign with him for the next thousand years. After this God is going to create a new heaven and a new earth and all the true followers of Jesus will be together with the Lord for all eternity.
Those who have died and are not Christians; that is, those who have never received Jesus as their Savior will be raised at the end of the thousand years and then, before the Great White Judgment Throne of God, will be judged for their sins and will have to pay the just penalty themselves because they refused or failed to ask for and receive God's forgiveness. They will then be cast into Hell (whatever and wherever that may happen to be) and be there forever without any hope.2
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you for your promise that if I am a true follower of Jesus, you will take me to be with you in Heaven when I die, and that when you come again, my body will be raised and so shall I ever be with the Lord. And thank you for dying in my place to pay the penalty for all my sins, and forgiving me, so that I know I will never be sent to Hell—the place that is prepared for the Devil and his demons. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."
Note: To be absolutely sure that you have received God's forgiveness for all your sins and God's gift of eternal life, and know that you will go to Heaven when you die, be sure to read the article, "How to Be Sure You're a Real Christian" at: www.actsweb.org/christian.
1. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV).
2. See Revelation 20:12-14 (King James Version)